Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dough or No Dough?

Inspired by Hannah and Matt's progress with their mid-century modernize, Chris and I decided to get crackin' on our own kitchen.  After getting three quotes which were above what I wanted to spend, I ruled out hiring someone to install the cabinets and we are moving ahead with the project to be completed by us and our generous friends and family who have volunteered their services.  Having a kitchen in complete disarray during my favorite baking season has got me thinking about "dough-less" holiday baking.  I still have a microwave and a stove, I am just not eager to be rolling dough or cutting cookies in a half demo'ed kitchen.  So I've done some brainstorming and heavy-googling and found that there are multitudes of holiday recipes which do not involve any dough. Some are as simple as some microwaving and dipping or stirring.  Cookies will just have to wait until next year. 



Christmas Corn Flake Wreaths

1/2 c. butter

40 regular marshmallows

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. green food coloring, or more to desired shade

6 c. corn flakes


Melt butter in large saucepan. Add marshmallows and cook over low heat, stirring frequently until marshmallows are melted. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla and food coloring to desired shade of green. Add corn flakes and blend, stirring and mixing gently until all corn flakes are coated. With 2 teaspoons or buttered fingers, shape golf-ball size portions into wreaths on wax paper. Put 3 red cinnamon candies at intervals on each wreath to look like holly berries. Makes about 24. Store on waxed paper in tins.


White Chocolate Oreo Fudge

18 oz of White Choc morsels (a pkg and a half)
14 oz can of Sweetened Condensed Milk 
1/8 teasp. of salt 
2 cups of coarsely crushed Oreo-type cookies

Line an 8X8 square baking pan w/ foil. Then, in a heavy saucepan over LOW heat, stir & melt the choc morsels, Sweetened Condensed milk and salt together. Be sure to watch it closely, just until it is melted uniformly. Remove from heat and stir in oreo pieces. Pour evenly into 8×8, and chill for a couple of hours. Turn fudge upside down on a cutting board, peel off foil, and cut that into small squares. Store tightly covered/cool place.

Olive watching me cook from her perch over the radiator.  Notice the crazy walls.

Classic Chocolate Fudge  
3 cups sugar 
2/3 cup evaporated milk 
3/4 cup (1 1/2) sticks Margarine 
1 12 oz. pkg. chocolate chips 
1 1/2 cup marshmallow cream 
1/2 cup pecans, chopped 
1/2 t. vanilla 

Combine sugar, milk, and margarine in heavy saucepan; heat to boiling. 
Stir constantly about 5 minutes over medium heat or until mixture reaches soft ball stage (238 degrees). Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients. Stir vigorously until well blended. 
Pour into greased 13 x9×2 inch buttered pan. Cool. Cut into squares. Makes 3 pounds.

Ritz Cracker Thin Mints

1 pound bittersweet chocolate
80 buttery round crackers (I used Ritz shaped like snowflakes)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Using a double boiler method, melt the chocolate coatings over hot tap water for 15 - 20 minutes. Stir . Do not cook or get water into the chocolate.  After it is melted, stir in a couple drops of peppermint flavor into the chocolate.  Dip crackers into the melted chocolate and then place onto a cold cookie sheet and put into the refrigerator to set. (A freezing tray to rest the dipped cookies will keep the bottoms neat looking.)  I sprinkled them with some crushed candy cane.  In a few minutes take them out and package in candy cups. The cookies are best kept at room temperature or a cool dry place away from any odors.

I made all the dishes above and peanut brittle and made tins for my friends, co-workers, and neighbors.  Both fudges made a lot and were a big hit!  I love the ritz cracker things - they taste just like thin mints!  Katie helped by making the caramel corn and those wreath things look more like a grinch face, but taste great.  Overall, the dough-less baking was a BIG success!

More dough-less dishes:

Awesome and Easy Peanut Brittle, Graham Cracker / Saltine Toffee, Spiced Almonds, White Trash, Chex Mix, Peppermint Bark, Buckeyes, Holly Jollies, Turtles, Chocolate covered pretzels, Rice Krispy Treats, Watergate Salad, Icebox Cupcakes

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Birthday Becky!

Happy 22nd Birthday little sister!  Our little brother made Becky this lovely birthday card:



Today is the winter solstice, the longest night of the year!  To celebrate the return of the sun, here are some more fun videos I've been enjoying:


James Franco is such a babe.  I love him.


I crack up at the girl at the 21 second mark every time.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

These are a few of my Favorite Things!

When I get together with my college roomies, one of the very first questions we inevitably ask each other is, "so have you tried any good products lately?"  It is our duty as girlfriends to share our secrets and best finds with one another.  Lately I have been very pleased with different beauty products I have been trying, and while not every product provides the same success to every person, it also may be just what someone was looking for.  Oprah isn't doing her favorite things this year, so in case you are looking for some inspiration, here are some of my favorite things (lately), the 2009 Edition.  These are the things I would recommend to my girlfriends, and now to you: 

Beauty Products 

1. Bobby Brown Long-wear gel eyeliner - the $21 tub looks small, but it lasts a long time.  It goes on beautifully and never smudges. 

2. Trish McEvoy Lash Curling Mascara - similar to Kiss Me, this stuff comes off in "tubes" with a little water, but it is much more dramatic. $28 

3. Origins Skin Care Line - made with all natural ingredients and feels fantastic.  I use the Checks and Balances face wash, Modern Friction to remove dry, dead skin, and the ultra-rich Make a Difference face cream because my skin is crazy dry.   

4. Bare Minerals Moisturizing Mineral Veil Kit- This came with the softest brush I have ever felt and in the winter I need all the moisture I can get 

Electronics 

1. Flip Video Camera - The. easiest. to. use. device. ever.  Ultra-portable, simple to use, great picture quality, and overall great amateur video camera 

2. Blackberry - I am late to the game on this, but after two year with the worst phone on earth, my blackberry feels like it is too good to be true.   

3. DVR - I can no longer imagine life without it.  Because I can't imagine life without Glee, Lost, How I met your Mother, SNL, Always Sunny in Philadelphia, Community, 30 Rock, Modern Family, and The Soup.   

Cleveland 

Lilly's Chocolates - HUGE fan (literally fat fan) - I won the chocolate eating contest this year and I think I have tried every flavor they offer. 

Cleveland Yoga - everyone needs hot yoga in their life.  

Vine and Bean for Sunday brunch - cuz Lucky's is too crowded 

The North Union Farmer's Market - year round farmers market.  come over, we'll walk up

On the Rise Bakery the best sticky bun and coffee in town

C.L.E. Clothing - show some cleveland love

Anything from Room Service or Made in the 216 or Banyan Tree

Media / Websites: 

Sweet Life in Paris by David Lebowitz 

Cook's Illustrated - home cook's best friend.  get a subscription

Lady Gaga - instant dance party

someecards.com - super snark 
mint.com - good for budgeting, everyone needs that 
fatsecret.com - good for tracking calories in/ calories out, if you are into that sort of thing 
barefootfoodie.com - the funniest blog i know

Miscellaneous: 

Olive - adopt a pet in 2010 

Fage - the plain with fresh berries and honey, or the one that comes with cherry and tastes like cheese cake that is really good for you 

GT Kombucha - cuz it is crazy weird and good for you

This is not a thing, but a wonderful way to knot your scarf - Megan shared this with me and says it is European.  Whatever it is, I love it.  Megan helped me make a video to demonstrate the technique:
 
video

Gordon Square Arts District Date Night

Chris and I had such a fun and quirky date night last night in the Gordon Square Arts District.  I have read so many articles and blogs over the last year about how this is an up and coming hip neighborhood in Cleveland and I am fairly familiar with the area with Jenny and Scott living in Battery Park.  And the articles and blogs are right, this neighborhood felt like you had discovered something that many hadn't yet.  I say "yet" because with all the articles out there, this secret isn't going to last much longer, if we can even call it a secret now.  So if you have read about the hype and speculation and you've been there, you know it is all true, and if you haven't been soon, you should make plans to go.  We already have plans with Jenny and Scott to go back on Friday.

Our date night started at the Bizarre Bazar in the 78th Street Studios.  This weekend indie craft show showcases local artists and their handmade goodies.  We picked up some C.L.E. Clothing t-shirts, Christmas ornaments, cards and admired all the jewelry and creativity.  Some of my favorites were greeting cards, including Oddball Press (out of Cleveland Heights) and Candra Squire.  I wish this show was here more than once a year, but sadly it is a holiday season phenomenon (a la Christmas Ale), but off-season shopping can be done on etsy or at our next stops - Room Service and Made in the 216.

At Room Service we were handed a glass of wine as soon as we walked through the door.  Need I say more?  Ok, well this shop is so darn cute I wanted everything in the store.  And then I wanted the owner to come to my house and arrange it for me.  It is like a smaller version of Anthropology with an emphasis on local.  And Made in the 216 - its sister store, down the street next to the Capitol Theater, is all Cleveland based artists.  The owner helped me pick out the perfect house warming / graduation gift for Hannah. (Well I think it is perfect, we shall find out this afternoon.  Chris and I are going down to see her and Matt's new house and lend a hand in the renovation.  You can read about their mid-century modernize here).  We also picked up some more greeting cards at Made in the 216 - I have to keep up on my correspondence.

Next stop - dinner at Happy Dog.  They don't have a good website, but here is a link to Cleveland Foodie's review.  This place is basically your typical Lakewood, townie dive bar, which I say with 100% love because I love me some townie bar.  The chef/owner from Momocho in Ohio City bought it about a year and half ago and now the only food they serve is hot dogs (vegetarian option available) with tater tots and fries.  The kicker is that there are 50 gourmet toppings and sauces to choose from, all for $5 a dog and $2.50 for tots or fries.  PBR's for $2.25 a piece and I am Happy Girl at Happy Dog.  And a happy couple walking out very full, slightly buzzed, and for under $30.  For my dog I tried the habanero pickled red onions, caribbean coleslaw, and brazilian chimichurri.  Chris was more adventurous and had the brazilian chimichurri, hot banana pepper rings, potato chips, and rainbow candy sprinkles.  Sounds crazy but it was good.  To dip our tots, we tried the house made ketchup, black truffle honey mustard, garlic and herb tomato jam, marcella's grape jelly and chile sauce, and the chipotle hollandaise.  Before we even got our food I was texting friends and plotting future birthday parties.  The bartender gave us the low down on a karaoke place, Tina's, right down the street.  So, yeah, I will be back.

Last stop, was the Capitol Theater to see Fantastic Mr. Fox.  This theater is newly renovated and you can tell.  It feels like you are in an actual theater and there is that buzz of seeing a real hollywood picture! (say that with a 1940's accent for fun)  My only complaint is that the seats don't have as much leg room as today's multiplex's, so I was a bit squirmy.  The movie - I loved!!  It is unlike anything I have ever seen and Jason Schwartzman's does the voice of the son, Ash, and was just hilarious. We will be back this Friday to see Avatar 3D (say that in a booming echo voice for fun).   

So thank you Gordon Square Arts District for a fantastic date night, what a great addition to our city!  As we drove home down Route 2 with downtown all lit up on a clear night, I said to myself, "I love Cleveland".

Sunday, December 6, 2009

The Holiday Season

It's beginning to feel a lot like Christmas!  This weekend we put up some Christmas decorations including my little four foot tree.  Which Olive proceeded to climb, over and over again, and knock down, over and over again.  As annoying as it was, it was also the just about the cutest thing ever.

video


Tomorrow is our Holiday Party at work and I signed up to bring dessert for 24.  I wanted to make something simple that would keep well.  I had this treat at Jenny's bach party and it was so yummy and easy that I thought I would try it.  I used Christmas colors, but they can be modified for any occasion.  For example, I saw pink M&M's at the store for breast cancer and thought they would be cute for an upcoming baby shower.  

The nameless treat is just a snap pretzel with a Rolo on top, melted slightly in the oven (like 3-5 minutes at 300 degrees).  Then while the chocolate is malleable, press an M&M - pick your poison, I did regular and peanut - into the Rolo.   Then put them in the fridge to firm back up.  Done.  Enjoy.  Yum.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

My Christmas List

November is over and December, the month devoted to Christmas, has begun.  So I have put together my Christmas List for anyone that is interested.  Let me know if you need my mailing address :)

Here is my first draft.  It is really domestic:

4BPA-Free food containers (Rubbermaid Produce Saver, Easy Find Lids, and Lock It are all BPA Free)

Sad. I know.  Those are really the things I want though.  In case these don't interest people (who isn't interested in composting??), here is a bit more fun list:


That's the best I can do.  I have searched for more exciting things, but honestly, all I can think about is getting cabinets installed, picking out a sink and a faucet, countertops, a new mattress, repairing walls and painting, a snowblower, blinds and curtains, and that's the short list.  It's just gonna be a practical year I guess.