Happy Christmas!

This is in my very near future...

This is in my very near future…

Ladies and gents, I’m taking off. I considered scheduling filler blog posts while I’m away but I just didn’t want to keep posting random stuff, so I’ll just say I’m off to Rochester and then San Diego for the holidays and I couldn’t be more excited about it. I’ll spend my time in Roch drinking too much wine with my mom, laughing my butt off with dance girls, and getting lost in the town I lived in for 20 years. You know how it goes. In SD I’ll be wearing shorts with sweaters (I’ve always wanted to do that!), spending my first warm weather Christmas with The BF’s amazing family, and eating buckets of seafood at Rockin’ Baja Coastal Cantina. It’s going to be a magical vacation and I hope to come back 5 pounds heavier.

Merry Christmas, friends!

Leave a comment

Filed under Miscellaneous

Red Velvet Christmas Cupcakes

Red velvet cupcakes
Red velvet cupcakes are a mystery to me… there is nothing really special about them aside from their color. They’re basically barely-chocolate flavored cake with cream cheese frosting. But when I was trying to come up with a special little dessert for mine and The BF’s honorary Christmas celebration (traveling on Christmas doesn’t really lend itself to hauling around loads of gifts, ya know?), I couldn’t think of anything more perfect than little red colored cakes. And besides that, The BF loves red velvet. So I took a crack at it, threw caution to the wind and added the ENTIRE little bottle of red food coloring, and kind of loved it. Here’s to red velvet. I saw its face, now I’m a believer.

On the menu:
Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting
Makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/4 cup flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1 Tbsp cocoa powder
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 Tbsp vanilla
1/2 cup buttermilk
1 Tbsp liquid red food coloring
1/2 tsp white distilled vinegar
1/2 tsp baking soda

In a small bowl, sift the flour, baking powder, salt, and cocoa powder together.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the butter until it’s soft. Add the sugar and beat until combined. Add the egg and beat until combined, and then add the vanilla and cream the mixture together.

In a small bowl, whisk together the buttermilk with the red food coloring. Beat together on low speed the flour mixture, the butter mixture, and the red food coloring mixture, alternating the flour and food coloring in three separate pours, ending with the flour (i.e.: Add 1/3 of the flour, half the red, 1/3 of the flour, 1/2 the red, then the rest of the flour).

In a small bowl, combine the vinegar and the baking soda. Quickly fold the liquid into your batter and then divide into 12 muffin tin tups until each cup is half full (don’t worry, this batter rises a lot).

Bake for 18 – 23 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center of one cake comes out clean. Let cool on a wire rack completely before frosting.

Cream cheese frosting:

4 oz. cream cheese, softened to room temperature
1/4 cup butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla

Blend cream cheese and butter together with an electric mixer. Slowly add in the confectioners sugar and vanilla until combined. Pipe onto cupcakes (or spread with a knife) and sprinkle with green sugar to finish.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

Caesar Salad with homemade croutons

photo
Sometimes I try to imagine what I will be like as a pregnant lady. I’m YEARS away from finding out (PROMISSSSE) but the images still float through my brain when I think about my eating habits. When I made this dressing… I knew. It became crystal clear. I will not be one of those women who asks her husband to go out at 3am for McDonald’s or who starts to eat oranges with every meal. I will be the woman who can’t shake her need for homemade dressing, and who tiptoes to the kitchen at 1am when she can’t sleep to make a triple batch of caesar dressing and then proceeds to eat it with crackers/a loaf of bread/fingers.

I’m more THAT woman.

Even if you’re not a complete psychopath, you will love. this. dressing. I’m not kidding, The BF said this is the best thing I’ve ever made and that he could drink it with a straw. I’m not ashamed to say we ate 3 bunches of romaine and an entire loaf of white bread worth of croutons because of this dressing… it was straight out of National Geographic.

So… try it. That’s all.

On the menu:
Caesar dressing
Makes 2 cups

2 anchovy filets
2 garlic cloves
1 cup mayonnaise
1/4 cup half and half
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (or the juice from half a lemon)
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra milk for thinning

In a small food processor, blend together the anchovies and garlic. Add the remaining ingredients and blend until the mixture is completely blended together. If it’s too thick for your taste, add milk a Tbsp at a time to thin it out. Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. For best results, let refrigerate over night.

On the menu:
Garlic croutons
Makes approximately 3 cups

1 small loaf of freshly made bread (day old from a bakery is best)
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, halved
2 tsp salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Slice bread into one inch cubes (tip: freeze bread first to make it easier to cut and reduce crumbs). Melt butter and garlic cloves together in a small bowl in the microwave. In a large bowl, toss the bread cubes with the garlic butter until the bread is coated.

Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet. Sprinkle cubes with salt. Bake for 10 – 15 minutes, flipping halfway through, or until croutons are browned on all sides (careful not to burn!)

To make the salad: Grill a plain chicken breast with plenty of salt and pepper, and once cooked slice into thin strips. Wash and chop romaine lettuce into bite-sized pieces, top with chicken, fresh croutons, caesar dressing, and a grate of fresh parmesan cheese.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

Tips for Throwing a Holiday Brunch (plus sweet fruit dip!)

BrunchToday’s post is the last in the holiday brunch series, and I thought I’d offer up just a few more tips on making your brunch a success.

1. Finger foods: Never have I ever seen a holiday home brunch where every single person sat down at a nice, long table complete with place settings and a solid surface to cut their food on. Where’s the fun in that? Keep your food small and finger-friendly, and if you must use utensils, limit it to forks. That way everyone can still eat even if they’re standing, and everyone has a free hand for a cocktail. Duh.

2. Keep it small: No one shows up to a holiday brunch ready to eat their faces off. Okay, MOST people don’t. During the holidays, everyone is up to their ears in cookies from co-workers, sweets at home, and candy cane colored everything. The last thing people want is to be force fed your giant culinary mess. I also like to keep things small so that it’s never apparent how much any one person has eaten. Maybe somebody wants only one slice of apple. Maybe somebody else wants eight pounds of hasbrown casserole. No judgment.

3. Balance the sweet and the savory: One year I attended an office potluck holiday party where someone brought chicken wings… they disappeared in about 3 minutes and at the end of the night there were more cookies and cakes leftover than you could shake a stick at (that’s how that saying goes… right?). The moral of the story is that one cannot live on sweets alone… trust me. I’ve tried. Make sure for every sweet dish, you have a savory.

4. Loosen up: No one cares if your plates match or your house is spotlessly clean. They care that they’re all together under one roof, oftentimes for the only time that year. Forgive the spills, laugh off the food flops, have another cocktail, and remember: brunch is an early meal so you can be asleep by 8. Amen.

The last dish on the brunch menu is one I am a tiny bit embarrassed about… it contains Fluff. That’s right. That disgusting, sticky, white spread that my mom wouldn’t let me have when I was a kid but I would sneak at friends’ houses (sorry, mom). It’s gross. But you know what? It makes a damn fine dip for fruit. And when I started researching “fruit dip” this one came up more than I care to mention. So should you dare to add one of those vintage-labeled jars to your cart at the supermarket, you won’t be disappointed. Cross my heart.

On the menu:
Sweet Fruit Dip
Makes 2 cups

1 7-oz jar of Fluff
1 8-oz package of cream cheese, softened
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon, optional

Add Fluff and cream cheese to a large bowl. Using an electric mixer, blend the mixture together. Pour into a bowl and top with a sprinkle of cinnamon for decoration if you wish. Cut up fruit to serve alongside, such as pears, apples, and grapes.

Leave a comment

Filed under Recipes, Tips

Mini Ham and Gruyere Frittatas

Mini frittatasEggs are by far one of the most difficult dishes to make for a brunch. Unless you hire someone to work an omelet station, you’re probably going to resort to a frittata or quiche to serve to a group. But even then, you have to slice and serve it… and I was kind of aiming for little to no work during this brunch, you get me? Enter personal sized frittatas.

These are hilariously easy, and although gruyere is on the pricey side, it has that decadent flavor that makes this dish taste way more high end than it actually is.

On the menu:
Mini ham and gruyere frittatas
Makes 12 frittatas

8 large eggs
1/2 cup milk
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup grated gruyere
6 oz. smoked ham, diced into small chunks

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a muffin tin with cooking spray.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, pepper, and salt until foamy. Fold in the ham and gruyere. Pour into the muffin tins until the cups are almost full.

Bake for 12 – 15 minutes or until the eggs are puffed up and slightly browned. Serve hot.

1 Comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

Pomegranate Cranberry Bellinis

20121205143341
What would brunch be without a fancy cocktail or ten? I had it in my head to make a pomegranate bellini so I found a recipe to build on, and when I was finished making it… it didn’t look super appetizing. Don’t get me wrong, it was a beautiful shade of berry red and it smelled incredible but it was thick and looked almost like you should eat it with a spoon or over ice cream (and you should). But then I tasted it. And I didn’t want to change a darn thing.

So on the morning of brunch I bought cranberry juice and orange juice to mix with champagne in case everyone was scared of the fruit puree. And you know what? Nobody touched that juice.

On the menu:
Pomegranate Cranberry Bellinis
Makes roughly 24 cocktails

1 1/2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup orange juice
1 cup cranberry juice
Zest of 1 orange (about 1 Tbsp)
1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Add all ingredients to a large pot that has a fitted lid and bring to a simmer. Cook for around 10 minutes, or until the sugar dissolves. Cover pan with the fitted lid and cook for 10 minutes. Once the cranberries burst, remove lid and simmer for another 10 – 15 minutes. Use an immersion blender (or pour into a standing blender) to blend the liquid for 1 minute. Pour through a strainer to remove seeds and excess pulp.

Let puree chill in the refrigerator for at least a few hours so that the puree is cold by the time you’re ready to make your cocktails.

To serve: pour 2 Tbsp of puree into a champagne glass and top with champagne or prosecco. And then drink. your. face off.

Note: Don’t worry if your puree is too thick to pass through a fine mesh strainer. It’ll mix with champagne just fine. And if it doesn’t, you drink the champagne on the top of the glass, and THEN you pour the rest over ice cream and eat it with a spoon. Bon appetit.

1 Comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipes

Pumpkin Bread

Pumpkin breadPumpkin bread is one of those dishes you can make for a brunch last minute in case, say, the bread you planned to make that took you 2 hours the night before, the bread you created specially so that your friend who can’t eat gluten could still enjoy every dish at your brunch, the bread that made your whole apartment smell like incredible grapefruit-scented-vanilla cake for an entire day … yes… that bread… came out like a fat, gooey, undercooked, flat brick.

Womp womp.

So I threw this bread together and told my gluten-free-friend to stay far away. But everyone else swarmed in like vultures. #Success

On the menu:
Pumpkin bread
Makes 1 loaf

1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 eggs
1/4 cup water
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, sugar, and baking soda. In a medium bowl, mix together the pumpkin puree, vegetable oil, eggs, water, and spices. Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients just until incorporated (careful not to overmix).

Grease a 9 x 5 x 3 loaf pan with butter and pour in the batter. Bake for 50 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 10 minutes and then remove and let cool on a rack.

Leave a comment

Filed under Cooking, Recipes