Friday Faves

photo 3-15 {hot cocoa cookies}

How is this the last Friday before Christmas? Are you ready? I have pretty much everything checked off my list, but I keep feeling like there’s something (or some things) I’m forgetting. I do have a dinner party for 23 to worry about on Monday, and then Christmas Eve dessert for 25. Any ideas?  I’ve been too busy trying to process the Serial finale to worry about entertaining.

I’ve decided not to stress out about it, though, because Christmas should be fun, not stressful. Right? Wishing everyone a calm, peaceful weekend.  I hope yours is filled with yummy treats and lots of time spent with your favorite people (and maybe a manicure). And if you need any last minute entertaining tips or gift ideas (or maybe just want to see a picture of my favorite little guy):

photo 1-29 {easy idea for hostess gifts}

photo-102{satsumas at the market}

photo-94 {loving my new “Grace” Glassybaby}

photo-96 {Coop’s first Christmas photo}

photo-98 {special wrapping paper for my little buddy…}

photo-99{and my new little buddy to be!}

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Jamie Oliver’s Arugula and Radicchio Salad

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If you’re wondering who posts a salad recipe the week before Christmas, when the food blogosphere is nothing but cookies and cinnamon rolls and chocolate covered marshmallows, well, that’s a really good question. I actually did quite a bit of holiday baking over the past week, but I did it all in such a hurry that I forgot to take pictures.  I made these cookies and these biscotti and this hot chocolate mix (although not the marshmallows) – and I would encourage everyone to try all of them, as they are all amazing (especially the biscotti!).  I know that a lot of us, however, have cookie exchange cookies and secret santa treats and eggnog from the work elevator coming out of our ears, and perhaps a tropical vacation on the horizon, so I thought it might be a good time to take a little break and eat some greens.  And yes, in case you were wondering, the eggnog elevator is an actual thing (thanks to my friend Kristy for reminding me about one of the [few] perks of my old job this morning).

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My friend Ellie made this salad for a book club dinner a few years ago, and I’ve been copying her ever since – especially during Christmastime, when the red and green colors are perfect for holiday meals. Jamie’s recipe is pretty loose – a “handful” of arugula, a “glug” of olive oil. I love not having to measure, especially in a salad when you should be tailoring it to your liking. [Sidenote: Jamie refers to arugula as “rocket,” which is what they call it in the UK (if you’re interested, here’s why we have different words for the same thing). “Rocket” makes me think of the quarter I spent studying abroad in London, where we ate a lot of rocket pizza – yum. But I digress.] Anyways, this salad literally could not be easier – especially if you buy the pre-washed arugula like I did. Dump your arugula into your salad bowl, add some thinly sliced radicchio (very thinly sliced, as it can be bitter), parmesan, nuts, oil and vinegar, salt and pepper. The pine nuts are optional, but I would strongly recommend them (personal preference). Jamie also suggests red onion and/or bacon as additions. Toss everything together and you have a salad that’s sure to impress all of your holiday dinner guests – or will be the perfect weeknight dinner salad for days when you ate christmas cookies for breakfast and lunch.

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Jamie Oliver, previously: Eggplant Parmesan

One Year Ago: Rum Cake!

Arugula and Radicchio Salad, from Jamie Oliver

Serves 4

One package (or four large handfuls) arugula
One small radicchio, thinly sliced
Grated parmesan cheese
Toasted pine nuts
Extra virgin olive oil
Balsamic vinegar
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Toss the arugula and radicchio in a large salad bowl with parmesan and pine nuts. Drizzle olive oil and vinegar to taste (Jamie does a 3:1 oil:vinegar ratio, which is the correct way to make a vinaigrette; I do more like a 1:1 as I like my dressing light and less oily). Sprinkle a small amount of salt and pepper, also to taste. Toss well. Serve the salad topped with additional parmesan and pine nuts.

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Friday Faves

photo 2 {love my new Christmas candle (and so does Oprah!)}

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!! I was shopping downtown yesterday for the first time in a while, and all of the lights and decorations (and of course the big tree!) made me so happy.  I did 99% of my Christmas shopping online this year, and while I didn’t miss the crowds or the parking, I guess I missed out on a little Christmas spirit.  Or perhaps I can appreciate the ambiance more since I’m not running around trying to buy a million gifts and then getting back to my car before I have a $35 bill at the garage (or a parking ticket!).

How are your Christmas lists coming along? I thought about writing a gift guide (every blog must have one, right?), but when I started thinking of ideas I realized they were either what I’ve already bought for everyone on my list or what I hope to receive myself (although, they’re all really good gifts so maybe that’s ok?!?!). Anyway, I linked to a few of my favorite already-written gift guides instead (below), plus maybe a few things I wouldn’t mind finding under the tree on Christmas morning. You know, just in case Santa is reading. Happy Friday!

  • Cup of Jo gift guides: Mom, HusbandSister, Brother, Kiddos, Best Friend.  Lots of clever ideas on these lists – especially for guys, who are always hard to shop for!
  • I still love my friend Yoona’s gift guides from a few years ago – for men and women.
  • I really wish I had thought to write this blog post myself. Every year I get dozens of these cards, and every year I debate calling the culprit (aka my friend or relative who was kind enough to send me a Christmas card) and giving them a helpful tip on how to use (and not use!) an apostrophe. It seems kind of mean so I never have the nerve, but really I think it would be the right thing to do. Hopefully they will just read this instead.
  • My goals for hostess gifts, neighbor gifts, etc: homemade hot chocolate mix, homemade marshmallows, and gingerbread biscotti.
  • Things I wouldn’t mind finding under the tree (and probably no one else would either): this hat (which I didn’t even know I wanted until I saw it last night), a good hair dryer and flat iron and/or curling iron, anything from Jo Malone (the new unisex fragrances are kind of amazing), magazine subscriptions (I love Martha Stewart, Bon Appétit, People, Vanity Fair – or what about the Sunday New York Times?) And of course, my all time favorite gift to give and to receive: Glassybaby.

photo 2 {My favorite new Christmas accessory: red lipstick. I’m only about five years late to this party.  I love these two (lipstick queen and besame, plus liner).  Next I need the matching gloss and then probably this one (in “scoundrel”), which Mindy Kaling claims everyone can wear}

photo 4 {getting in the spirit – care packages for my two favorite college freshmen}

photo-95 {power outage + glassybaby}

photo 1 {my little buddy loves Mariah just like his auntie}

Gingerbread Maple Muffins

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I looked at my calendar this morning and realized the Christmas countdown has officially begun. Two weeks from today! Are you ready? I have good years and bad years in terms of Christmas preparedness – some years I have my shopping done well before Black Friday; other years, not so much.  Last year I had 200 Christmas cards stamped, addressed, and ready to go out on December 1st, yet somehow I found myself at the mall on Christmas Eve with quite a few people left on my list. This year, I’m not even sending cards, but my shopping is complete and everything is wrapped and under the tree. Some presents even have personalized wrapping paper (because I couldn’t pass up the Minted sale entirely). All that’s left to do is bake a few hostess gifts – and come up with an idea for the cookie exchange I’m going to on Monday. And while I probably should be working on those two projects, I saw these muffins on Instagram the other day and decided I should probably make them instead.

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I just started to write the sentence “I’m not really a gingerbread fan, except for…” and then listed quite a few things – so perhaps I’m a bigger gingerbread fan than I once thought.  Gingerbread lattes are one of my favorite things about the holiday season, although I’m only allowed to get one per week (have you seen the calories?) – so a one-pump-gingerbread Americano is my almost-as-delightful alternative. I also really love gingerbread biscotti. Outside of Starbucks, though, I don’t normally get too excited about gingerbread. My mom usually makes it for dessert on Christmas night, and it’s delicious and festive, but I always thought once a year was enough for me. However, when these muffins popped up on my Instagram feed last week, I wondered if there might be a place for gingerbread beyond Starbucks syrup.

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The answer is yes. These muffins are light and airy, not too sweet, and not too spicy – the perfect treat for a cold and rainy December day. They also couldn’t be easier to make – I had them in the oven less than ten minutes after I confirmed I had all the ingredients on hand, and out of the oven twenty minutes later. Which means that in half an hour you can bake a delicious homemade treat and make your house smell amazing and Christmas-y. Incidentally, they would also be perfect for hostess gifts – as muffins or as adorable mini loaves (and they’re a lot easier than the homemade marshmallows I’ve been eyeing). So no matter how on top of your Christmas prep you may or may not be, these muffins are a great way to get you in the spirit – and possibly a way to cross something off your to-do list at the same time.  Happy Baking!

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Muffins, previously: blueberry, pumpkin, pear hazelnut, carrot zucchini

Gingerbread Maple Muffins, from How Sweet It Is

Yield: 12-16 muffins

Ingredients:

2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
2/3 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1 large egg
1/2 cup molasses
1/3 cup maple syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
2/3 cup milk
turbinado sugar for topping

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with liners (or spray with PAM for baking). In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking pwoder, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt, and cloves. Set aside.

In a larger bowl, whisk together the brown sugar and egg. Once combined, whisk in the molasses, maple syrup and vanilla extract. Stir in the melted butter until fully combined. Add the dry ingredients and stir until just combined – do not overmix! Before the dry ingredients are fully incorporated, stir in the milk until you have a smooth batter.

Scoop the batter into the muffin tins, filling them up about 3/4 of the way full. Top each with a generous sprinkle of turbinado sugar. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the muffin tops are golden brown and fully set.

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Friday Faves, Black Friday Edition

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{stockings for Coop and Baby (Girl) N – stockings, jammies, bottles (with candy!), ornaments and ornament kit (here, here, and here), personalized book, teethers, toys – and I’m just getting started!}

Happy Black Friday! I hope you’ve recovered from yesterday’s festivities (green smoothie for breakfast?). I had one of the best Thanksgiving nights in recent memory thanks to the Seahawks game (and this hilarious post-game interview).  And now we need to gear up for Christmas!  I’ll be spending my Black Friday on the couch with my laptop – so many good deals out there, and not one single crowd/line/parking nightmare to deal with. In case you need more convincing:

  • 25% off at Madewell (thru Sunday).
  • 30% off at J. Crew (plus 40% off sale and 50% off Factory, thru Sunday).
  • 30% off Lucy (thru Sunday).
  • 40% off C. Wonder (thru Monday). Sorry Tory! So many cute gift ideas!
  • 50% off at Gap/Banana/Old Navy (Gap: today only; Banana: 50% off only one item, the rest is 40% off; Old Navy: in store only, although lots is on sale online).
  • 25% off at Hanna Andersson (for my mommy friends – or if you’re a crazy auntie like me). This one is in store only, which is a bummer. But potentially worth it, depending on how many kiddos in your life need Christmas jammies!
  • 50% off at Kate Quinn (also for moms/baby gift givers – thru Monday).

photo 1 {not to brag, but: my most successful pie crust to date!! 100% from scratch! (I finally figured out how to keep it from shrinking during par-baking and am pretty proud of myself. I’m sure 99.99% of you don’t care, but if you’d like my newfound secrets let me know)}

photo-85 {for when you need a break from shopping: happy hour red + glassybaby at Liam’s in the village}

photo-88 {my favorite christmas treat}

photo-91 {baby genius, all tuckered out from his first Thanksgiving!}

Holiday Rum Cake

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Happy Rum Cake Blog Post Day, everyone! This cake is one of my all time favorite things to make, and thus I had every intention of posting the recipe as soon as possible (or rather, as soon as seasonally appropriate)…but of course somehow this blog fell off my radar after Thanksgiving and all of the sudden it’s December 20. Yikes. (Let’s not even talk about how my Christmas shopping is going – double yikes).

But anyways. Let’s talk about rum cake, shall we? This recipe is courtesy of my friends Courteney and Kyle, or perhaps more accurately courtesy of their mom Cyndie, since of course they got it from her. I listened to Courteney talk about her mom’s rum cake all throughout college, but never actually tried it until Kyle served one at a Christmas party a few years ago. Alcohol in desserts isn’t usually my thing (weird, I know), but one boozy, buttery bite of this cake and I was hooked – as is everyone who tries it. It’s quick and easy and makes a great holiday dessert or hostess gift, which is why I meant to post this earlier in the season for everyone’s benefit – better late than never, though, right?

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Two recipes featuring boxed cake mix within one month, how embarrassing. I’m going to have to get a little more gourmet in January to make up for it. The “butter golden” boxes can be hard to find, though, so when I see them I have to stock up.

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This cake really could not be easier to make – start with the cake mix, add eggs and oil, a box of pudding mix to make it extra moist and yummy, and of course rum in lieu of water.

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Just blend all five ingredients together and pour into a bundt cake pan.

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Cyndie’s tip is to grease the pan really well with the “PAM for baking” spray – this ensures that the cake won’t stick to the pan at all, which will make it easier for the cake to soak up the glaze.

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Making the glaze is the fun part – just dump a little more rum in a saucepan, along with water, sugar, and a stick of butter. Heat until the butter is melted and then bring the mixture to a boil – make sure to boil for the full two-three minutes so that at least some of the rum cooks out (a quick google search re: how much alcohol remains in rum cake after baking was inconclusive, but at least some of it evaporates, right?).

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Pour the glaze over the cake and let it all soak in. Flip the cake, sprinkle with powdered sugar, and voilá, the easiest and most festive “semi-homemade” cake you could ever want or need.

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Cyndie O’Brien’s Christmas Rum Cake

For cake:
One box Duncan Hines Butter Golden cake mix
One small box instant vanilla pudding
4 eggs
1/2 cup Crisco oil (vegetable or canola oil will work)
1/2 cup dark rum, such as Meyer’s

For glaze:
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup rum
1/4 cup water
Powdered sugar (for dusting), optional

To make cake:
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.  Spray bundt cake pan generously with “PAM for baking,” or grease and flour the pan well. Mix all cake ingredients well – I usually use an electric mixer and blend it for a couple minutes, but you can do it by hand if necessary. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 50-60 minutes.

To make glaze:
When the cake is almost finished baking, melt the butter in a saucepan with the sugar, water, and rum. Bring mixture to a boil and let boil for two to three minutes – watch carefully as it boils over easily if you aren’t stirring constantly.

To finish:
Once cake is out of oven, pour the glaze over the cake while it’s still in the pan – let the glaze soak into the cake and drain down around the edges where the cake will have pulled away from the pan a bit – this will allow the glaze to coat the sides of the cake and give the whole thing a nice buttery, rummy crust. Let the glazed cake cool in the pan for a minimum of 20 minutes (longer if possible). Flip the cake onto a cake stand or serving platter and dust with powdered sugar.

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I love making this cake in my mini bundt cake pan as well – one recipe makes six mini cakes, and they make the perfect dinner party dessert as well as great gifts. I’m also going to make bite sized cakes once I get my hands on this pan – anything for portion control! I’ll hopefully update with photos soon – there are six days left between now and Christmas (yes, I’m counting today and Christmas Day), which means there are plenty of opportunities for rum cakes of any size.

Update: bundt, mini bundt, and bite-size bundt:

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Wishing everyone a wonderful and relaxing holiday. Thanks to the lovely O’Brien ladies for letting me share their recipe! And happy rum cake baking to everyone!