Mad Monday | 2.10.14

2.10.14

Well the past couple weeks have been trying. A drain backup in my basement, basketball games, after school tutoring, shoveling snow, ice storms, and snow days….I’m truly over this winter!

So now that it’s February, Valentine’s day is upon us. A day to celebrate your love for someone special. Some think it’s a Hallmark holiday, but others think it has a more meaningful significance.

mean vintage valentine

Whether you celebrate it or not or don’t have someone special, it’s good to just do something nice for someone else. Give a little card or a piece of candy. Something to make someone’s day.

I remember as a kid we used to have Valentine’s parties and you could buy little cards for your friends in school. Or the little two-sided  perforated cards that you bought for your classmates with the conversation hearts that came in a box. You were all excited to go to school the next day with your goodies to share with your friends. Those were the days. Now days, schools have dances and sell roses or cards. That’s all fun and good, but there’s nothing like writing your own little note on the back of the card personalized for your friends.

conversation-hearts-bulk

If you want to be more romantic, try cooking a special meal for your loved one or making them a card by hand. Something personalized shows you took time to really think and feel about them.

Try a special cocktail to share together. Or even better, a signature cocktail or even a jello shot recipe from Jelly Shot Test Kitchen.

Valentine's Jelly Shots
Valentine’s Jelly Shots (via Jelly Shot Test Kitchen)

 

They have recipes for all occasions for all tastes. If you are adventurous and want to try something different, here is a recipe that will get you started. It’s simple and fun, and you could even get your Valentine in on the fun.

Valentines Jelly Pops
Ingredients:
 
Red Layer
1/2 cup boiling water
1 3 oz package strawberry flavored gelatin dessert (sugar free dissolves very easily)
1/2 cup cold water
 
Pink Layer
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 envelopes plain gelatin
1 6 oz container strawberry yogurt
 
White Layer
1/3 cup cold water
1 envelope less 1/2 tsp plain gelatin
1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
8 each wooden coffee stirrers, cut into 2 inch lengths for garnish, if desired
 
Instructions:
These pops are super cute whether they’re made in a silicon mold, or set in a baking pan (I’d use a standard loaf pan – about 8″ x 4″)and cut into squares.  If using a silicone mold, prepare mold by spraying lightly with cooking spray, then wiping each mold cavity clean with a paper towel. This will leave a slight residue to aid in un-molding without affecting the taste or appearance of the jelly pops. If setting in a glass or non-reactive metal baking pan, no prep is needed.  The instructions below are for molds – so if you’re setting in a pan, just pour in the layers!
 
Red Layer: Dissolve strawberry gelatin in boiling water. Add cold water. Pour 1 tsp. of the gelatin into each mold cavity. Refrigerate until firm but not fully set (should be fairly firm, but still slightly sticky when touched – about 20 minutes). While the red layer is chilling, prepare Pink Layer.
 
Pink Layer: Pour water into small saucepan. Sprinkle with gelatin and allow to soak for a minute or two. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in yogurt. Allow to cool to room temperature – you may want to pop the gelatin in the fridge or freezer for a minute or two to help it along. Pour 1 tbsp into each mold cavity. Refrigerate until firm but not fully set (should be fairly firm, but still slightly sticky when touched – about 15 to 20 minutes). While the pink layer is chilling, Prepare White Layer.
 
White Layer: Pour water into a small saucepan and sprinkle with gelatin. Allow to soak for a minute or two. Heat over low heat, stirring constantly, until gelatin is dissolved (about 5 minutes). Stir in the sweetened condensed milk. Allow to cool to room temperature. Pour approximately 2 tsp. into each mold cavity.
Refrigerate several hours or overnight, until fully set. (Overnight is ideal as it allows the layers to fully bond.) Garnish each jelly pop with a coffee stirrer segment to make the “popsicle” handle, if desired.
Makes about 15 jellies.
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Merry Monday | 12.16.13

12.16. 13

Today is Merry Monday!!! Pretty soon the holidays will be over and things will go somewhat back to normal. But if you’ve been procrastinating in decorating your tree, here may be some help with how to make it go by a little smoother and more merrily.

Have a tree trimming party! Invite your friends over to decorate with you, bring an ornament, or just join in songs of the season. It’s a good time to have those you don’t see often or haven’t seen in a while around to share in the joyous holiday spirit.

Serve hot cocoa with marshmallows and chocolate shavings. Try the snowflake shaped marshmallows from Williams-Sonoma and the monogram mugs to add a personal touch to your gathering.

Williams Sonoma Hot cocoa

Or mulled wine for the adults: [recipe here]mulled wine

The menu should be simple. Ask your guests to bring a favorite dish, one that isn’t fussy and is easy to prepare and carry. A vegetable and fruit tray is always a great staple for a gathering. Try with this ranch dip sauce:

Ranch Dip

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup low-fat buttermilk
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley, or 1 tsp. dried parsley
  • 1 tsp. minced shallot, or 1/2 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 garlic clove, minced, or 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt, plus more, to taste
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper, plus more, to taste
  • Dippers for serving: raw cucumber spears or slices, carrots, snow peas, celery sticks, jicama sticks, cauliflower florets, broccoli florets, zucchini slices and bell pepper strips

Directions:

In a bowl, combine the mayonnaise, buttermilk, parsley, shallot, garlic, the 1/2 tsp. salt and the 1/4 tsp. pepper. Stir until blended. Taste and adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper, if needed.

Transfer the dip to a serving bowl. Serve cold or at room temperature with your favorite dippers. Store any leftover dip in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. Makes about 1 cup.

This salad is also a good side for guests.

sonoma chicken salad

Sonoma Chicken Salad

Ingredients

Dressing
1 cup mayonnaise
4 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
5 teaspoons honey
2 teaspoons poppy seeds
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Salad
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts
3/4 cup pecan pieces, toasted
2 cups red seedless grapes
3 stalks celery, thinly sliced

Method

In a bowl, combine mayonnaise, vinegar, honey, poppy seeds, salt and pepper. Refrigerate until ready to dress the salad. This can be prepared up to 2 days ahead.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Place the chicken breasts in one layer in a baking dish with 1/2 cup water. Cover with foil and bake 25 minutes until completely cooked through. Remove cooked chicken breasts from pan, cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, then cover and refrigerate.

When the chicken is cold, dice into bite-size chunks and transfer to a large bowl. Stir in pecans, grapes, celery and dressing.

The good thing is, all these things can be prepared ahead of time, and don’t take a lot of time to make. So this holiday share time with your friends and family and be merry together. Trim your tree and hang your stockings. Happy Holidays!

Be Merry!

Mulled Wine

Mulled Wine
Mulled Wine

Ingredients:

  • 12 whole cloves
  • 2 nutmegs, cracked into pieces with a hammer
  • 2 bottles (each 750ml) dry red wine
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • Stripped zest from 2 oranges and 2 lemons, plus more zest for garnish
  • 3/4 cup fresh orange juice
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 cinnamon sticks

Directions:

Tie the cloves and nutmeg pieces in a small square of cheesecloth, or put them in a large metal tea ball.

In a large nonaluminum pot, combine the wine, sugar, orange and lemon zests, orange and lemon juices, and cinnamon sticks. Add the clove-and-nutmeg bundle. Heat over medium-low heat until steam begins to rise from the pot and the mixture is hot, about 10 minutes; do not let it boil. Remove the clove-and-nutmeg bundle. Keep the wine warm over very low heat until ready to serve.

Ladle the wine into cups or heatproof glasses, garnish with the citrus zest and serve warm. Serves 8 to 10.

*Note: Try Williams-Sonoma Mulling Spices to make things a little simpler.

Merry Monday! | 12.9.13

12.9.13

Today, we are going to share with you the cookie of the day from the Williams-Sonoma blog. For today, the cookie is the decadent meringues!

meringues

Meringues are bits of baked cream of sorts. They are delicate and light, and perfect for cookie exchanges. With meringues for the holiday, you can add crushed peppermint pieces or coconut before baking. And these lovely treats make for a great after dinner treat, or a great passing item for a holiday party. Try this recipe to wow your holiday guests.

Meringues

4 egg whites

1 pinch salt

1/8 tsp. cream of tartar

3/4 cup superfine sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 275 degrees F. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, combine egg whites, salt and cream of tartar and whip on medium speed until egg whites are opaque and just holding their shape. Increase speed to medium-high and add sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. When egg whites form stiff, glossy peaks, whip in vanilla extract.

To shape each meringue, scoop 2 tablespoons of whipped egg whites onto prepared baking sheets. Bake until crisp but not colored, about 30 minutes. Turn off oven and let cool completely in oven.

To serve, arrange meringues on a platter and sprinkle with sugar. Serves 4-6.

This is a great recipe to share with others or pass down as a family tradition. Try making it with friends or kids. For holiday sharing, use a decorative tin or eve a Mason jar with a colorful ribbon. These make great gifts and after dinner snacks. Share with friends and family and have a happy holiday.

Be Merry!