Saturday, December 31, 2011

Homemade Irish Cream


Okay, this may be a day late and a dollar short,
but here is a super delicious recipe that makes a great hostess gift
for that New Year's Eve party you might be attending tonight....


Homemade Irish Cream...

I found it on Facebook last night,
courtesy of Recipegirl, who posted it courtesy of Tasty Kitchen,
which is in The Pioneer Woman's website...

You know how much I love Ree....


Her recipes have not failed me yet...

So last night, while I was hanging out with a friend
in the kitchen as the kids destroyed each other via the Wii,
I made the Irish Cream... 

Let me tell you, oh multitasking friend,
you can do this while drinking your Pinot Grigio,
eating pita chips and having a meaningful conversation... 

The recipe is that easy and very quick...

The only challenge is to have the proper vessels
to house this fabulous elixir.
I thoroughly washed the dead soldier bottle of wine
we just killed and used it, with a little festive decoration...


I call that sustainable thinkin'!

The recipe fills 1 1/2 wine bottles of intoxicatingly yummy goodness...

So, perhaps the thing to do is to scour your kitchen cabinets
or go to Target, Kmart
or The Container Store to find smaller bottles
to maximize your gifting potential...

Don't forget to squirrel away some for yourself,
because you are going to want to keep a good amount of it...

It will be so lip smacking good over ice, vanilla ice cream or a warm brownie....

It might be better than...
well, you know what I am talking about...

So if you have the time,
whip up some Irish Cream for your favorite party host tonight
and they may be your BFF for 2012....


IRISH CREAM

Recipe Description

Instead of going to the store to buy some Bailey’s, try your hand at making your own. It was quite easy and very good!

Preparation Instructions

1. In a small bowl, mix together the espresso, cocoa powder, cinnamon, powdered sugar, and 3 Tablespoons of heavy cream. Stir until dissolved and set aside.
2. Pour all the remaining ingredients into a large bowl, then add the cocoa espresso mixture.
3. Use an immersion blender to incorporate all ingredients together for 20-30 seconds until your mixture is smooth. If you do not have an immersion blender a traditional blender on pulse or puree will work as well.
4. Pour it into your favorite sealable containers. Let the drink sit overnight for all the flavors to blend together.
5. Be sure to give it a good shake before using and enjoy your homemade Irish cream for up to 2 months. Store in refrigerator.
Source: 6 Bittersweets

Ingredients

  • 1 teaspoon Instant Espresso Granules
  • 1-½ Tablespoon Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
  • ½ teaspoons Cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoons Powdered Sugar
  • ¾ cups Heavy Cream, divided
  • ¾ cups Milk
  • 1 can Sweetened Condensed Milk (14oz)
  • 1 teaspoon Honey
  • 1-½ cup Irish Whiskey
  • 1-½ teaspoon Vanilla Extract

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Over and Out....


Pine needles...

I'll be finding them in June when I lift the rug
or swish the drapes away from the wall.... 

No matter how much I vacuum, those pesky evergreen leaves persist.... 

I don't know about you, but by December 27th,
I am ready to strike the Christmas set.... 

To me, the remnants of the holiday remind me
that the festivities are over
and it makes me a touch sad... 

And with the tree ever withering and dropping clouds of needles
at the slightest breeze, I am motivated to change the scenery... 

So, yesterday, while play dates were coursing through the house,
video games roaring, little feet running,
I packed up Christmas... 

This morning, my burly husband, who looks very much like a lumberjack lately,
what with the flannel shirt and two weeks growth of scruff,
heaved Mr. Tree out the back,
like he does, with relish, every year...

He is rather hunky, ain't he...?

We do anticipate this tree tossing event.... 

Take a look...
video

I am not a huge believer in Feng Shui,
but I have to say that the lack of clutter
and the return to open spaces has a lovely, calming effect on me... 

So much so, that I may just stay in the Asian theme

and make this for dinner.....


Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Knuffle Bunny


It came to me as I was tucking Kate into bed tonight...

She was parroting out lectures of being happy with whatever Santa brought,
even if it was not EVERYTHING she asked for...

Amazing and frightening when you realize
your kids actually listen to what you say...

Hell, I asked Santa for a new roof and that didn't happen,
but hey, he gave me a pair of ice skates...


In fact, it was an ice skates kind of Christmas this year...

Jack, Kate and I all received skates...

Woo hoo....Wrigley Rink, here we come!

Anyway, I digress... 

Kate really wanted a Knuffle Bunny,
a main character in one of her fave Mo Willems books...

Uh huh, my five year old has favorite authors...
And apparently makes as many costume changes as Cher....


 My favorite is the shiny leopard print biketard....classy.

The dealio is, that I remembered tonight that
I did buy her a plush Knuffle Bunny from Amazon.com... 

And then it hit me that there is a whole box out there
of STUFF; gifts that I didn't wrap and give... 

Crap!

I saw them at the factory weeks ago and then,
Poof!
 Btw, Christmas over Skype is a good thing.....

Anyway, out of sight, out of mind with the box.... 

This kind of thing happened to my mom in 1985...

They were living in Florida
and I was a college student at U of I.

I flew home for Christmas break, full of excitement...

On Christmas Eve we opened gifts
and it became clear that Mom bought all the gifts
for my brother and my dad... 

I had about four presents to their fifteen,
which was so weird...

Now, you have to understand that I have the most awesome mom,
who has treated me like a princess my whole life... 

She would tie herself to the tracks for me...

So, for her to skimp on my present pile
was like a dagger to her heart...

What happened?

She forgot a box that was hidden somewhere...

It showed itself about April and we laughed...

My kids were in no way slighted this Christmas,
thanks to very generous grandparents,
but I noticed the lack of Santa gifts as we were setting them out...

Tom even tried to "merchandise" the piles
to make them look more plentiful...

Damn, that Knuffle Bunny!

Now it's gonna bug me all night...

Where is that #%@ box?

If found, should I save the gifts for the next event?

Nah...I can't wait that long....



Speaking of waiting,
most yeast recipes require lots of waiting
and this cinnamon roll recipe is no exception...


But, OH...is it worth the wait....

That Ree Drummond is my new idol...

She rocks. 

Recipe: Cinnamon Rolls, courtesy of The Pioneer Woman

Ingredients

  • 1 quart Whole Milk
  • 1 cup Vegetable Oil
  • 1 cup Sugar
  • 2 packages Active Dry Yeast, 0.25 Ounce Packets
  • 8 cups (Plus 1 Cup Extra, Separated) All-purpose Flour
  • 1 teaspoon (heaping) Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon (scant) Baking Soda
  • 1 Tablespoon (heaping) Salt
  • Plenty Of Melted Butter
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • Generous Sprinkling Of Cinnamon
  • _____
  • MAPLE FROSTING:
  • 1 bag Powdered Sugar
  • 2 teaspoons Maple Flavoring
  • 1/2 cup Milk
  • 1/4 cup Melted Butter
  • 1/4 cup Brewed Coffee
  • 1/8 teaspoon Salt

Preparation Instructions

For the dough, heat the milk, vegetable oil, and sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat to just below a boil. Set aside and cool to warm. Sprinkle the yeast on top and let it sit on the milk for 1 minute.
Add 8 cups of the flour. Stir until just combined, then cover with a clean kitchen towel, and set aside in a relatively warm place for 1 hour. After 1 hour, remove the towel and add the baking powder, baking soda, salt, and the remaining 1 cup flour. Stir thoroughly to combine. Use the dough right away, or place in a mixing bowl and refrigerate for up to 3 days, punching down the dough if it rises to the top of the bowl. (Note: dough is easier to work with if it’s been chilled for at least an hour or so beforehand.)
Preheat the oven to 375°F.
To assemble the rolls, remove half the dough from the pan/bowl. On a floured baking surface, roll the dough into a large rectangle, about 30 x 10 inches. The dough should be rolled very thin.
To make the filling, pour 3/4 cup to 1 cup of the melted butter over the surface of the dough. Use your fingers to spread the butter evenly. Generously sprinkle half of the ground cinnamon and 1 cup of the sugar over the butter. Don’t be afraid to drizzle on more butter or more sugar! Gooey is the goal.
Now, beginning at the end farthest from you, roll the rectangle tightly towards you. Use both hands and work slowly, being careful to keep the roll tight. Don’t worry if the filling oozes as you work; that just means the rolls are going to be divine. When you reach the end, pinch the seam together and flip the roll so that the seam is face down. When you’re finished, you’ll wind up with one long buttery, cinnamony, sugary, gooey log.
Slip a cutting board underneath the roll and with a sharp knife, make 1/2-inch slices. One “log “will produce 20 to 25 rolls. Pour a couple of teaspoons of melted butter into disposable foil cake pans and swirl to coat. Place the sliced rolls in the pans, being careful not to overcrowd. (Each pan will hold 7 to 9 rolls.)
Repeat the rolling/sugar/butter process with the other half of the dough and more pans. Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover all the pans with a kitchen towel and set aside to rise on the countertop for at least 20 minutes before baking. Remove the towel and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until golden brown. Don’t allow the rolls to become overly brown.
While the rolls are baking, make the maple icing: In a large bowl, whisk together the powdered sugar, milk, butter, coffee, and salt. Splash in the maple flavoring. Whisk until very smooth. Taste and add in more maple, sugar, butter, or other ingredients as needed until the icing reaches the desired consistency. The icing should be somewhat thick but still very pourable.
Remove pans from the oven. Immediately drizzle icing over the top. Be sure to get it all around the edges and over the top. As they sit, the rolls will absorb some of the icing’s moisture and flavor. They only get better with time… not that they last for more than a few seconds. Make them for a friend today! It’ll seal the relationship for life. I promise.













Sunday, December 18, 2011

The HEAT was On!


What a weekend! 

It started with my son and our sitter nearly burning down the house,
but ended on a sweet note, literally...

I guess these days, most fireplaces are the ventless kind... 

Our woodburning kind is not,
a detail lost apparently on my son and our sitter... 

Those crazy things called flues do a great job of sending the smoke out of the dwelling,
but they need to be opened... 

Yeah.... 

First of all, Jack has been threatened with bodily harm
for even contemplating fire without us present,
but he convinced our poor sitter in his highly pursuasive and devilish way
to create some ambiance via the hearth... 

While I was fifteen minutes into my painting and pinot grigio at Bottle and Bottega,
a unique place to escape with friends, drink and be creative,
I received the panicked call that smoke was billowing out of the house
and that the fire alarm could be heard in Gurnee... 

After I instructed my son on flue operation
and explained how to turn off the alarm,
the nice firefighter from Tower Ladder 21 assured me that all was fine,
that this kind of thing happens ALL the time
and that I needn't come home... 

Which was good news because I didn't want to come home.... 

The wine was cold and my work of art just begun... 

Bad mommy, you scold? 

No, Tom was speeding home
so why have two of us on hand to admonish the crap out of Jack
and send the sitter home early? 

Let's just say that all parties were extremely sorry
and have most likely learned a memorable lesson...

I hope... 

It's still smoky in the house and I seem to have this unexplainable urge
to camp and roast marshmallows,
but it is what it is....

Friday was better... 

HEAT hosted its first employee Christmas party at the factory... 

45 guys and their significant others cleaned up,
looked festive, enjoyed tasty food and cold bevvies
to excellent tunes spun by DJ Mike Tolva...
 

I decorated the factory on a dime
and assembled some giveaways for the crowd... 

It was a fun night dancing, laughing and posing by a bad a$$ SWAT truck.... 




Saturday we were invited to dinner at a friends
and enjoyed excellent company and amazing food... 

Good eats, great friends and the holidays are what it's all about....

And today Mom helped me make truffles for the teachers... 

This year I did not make too many home made gifts as I ran out of time... 

So, this year, it was just the truffles and some cookies... 

Hope they like 'em because I seized up two batches of chocolate
before I finally got it right... 

How hard can it be to melt chocolate? 

Apparently  I am not the master of this technique... 

I ordered the boxed and monogrammed ribbon ahead of time
and bought waxed tissue paper from The Container Store... 

Tuck in a giftcard from Starbucks and I'm done!

Hope you had a fun and productive weekend...
 
Christmas is less than a week away!


Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Keeping Up With the Stewarts.....



Do you feel the pressure? 

The pressure to be perfect during the holidays?

It's amusing to read the magazines that tout,

"35 Ways to Beat That Holiday Stress" on page 71,
 all the while including editorial pages of glorious all white themed holiday trimmed homes
in Madison, Wisconsin or  Fairfield, Connecticut... 


The editors lay out pages and pages of amazing Christmas cookies,
prepared lovingly in their test kitchens, crafts,
"You Can Make at Home, in a Jiffy!" 
and festive holiday outfits, plucked right out of Bergdorf's...
  

I know, I know, those pages are meant to inspire our holiday spirits,
provide us with great ideas to make our holidays sparkle... 


Sometimes, though, they rather bombard me with messages to get it all right this year...

MORE cookies! 

MORE parties! 

BETTER holiday cocktails! 

Craftier HOMEMADE crafts! 


HOTTER party shoes with a more SPECTACULAR dress! 

Yikes.....

Forget Calgon...take me to Chinatown! 

One year in my distant past, I spent an unlikely Thanksgiving in San Francisco's Chinatown
with my boyfriend at the time and his parents... 

It was a bustling part of the city and we ate a fantastic Chinese dinner... 

Looking out the window, Chinatown's residents
paid no mind to the American holiday... 

They weren't angst-ridden over their heritage turkeys,
their pecan cornbread stuffings... 

It was just a regular day...

So refreshing...  

While I love the fun and festivities the holidays bring,
I need to force myself to savor the little kid stuff
and to forget about all the crazy trimmings... 

The kids just anticipate Christmas... 

They do love the Advent bags I made
and they wonder each morning where Fred the Christmas Elf is hiding... 

BTW, remembering to move him around each night is a bit of a chore
until I see Kate searching for him every morning.... 

The kids enjoy the holiday TV movies
and hope for snow daily.... 

So what if my friend just made every cookie in this month's Bon Appetit

Who cares if we weren't invited to any Christmas parties this year? 

I don't have to stress about Spanx and mani/pedis, now do I? 

And, really, most Christmas crafts look far better on the pages of Better Homes and Gardens
than in reality.... 

In the word of The Grinch,
"And the Grinch, with his Grinch-feet ice cold in the snow,
stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags. And he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before. What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.” 

So, after this week of mailing out packages to family out of town
and the throwing of our first ever employee Christmas party,
I will sit on the couch, a kid on each hip
and savor our time together, playing games, watching "Elf", going ice skating or whatever..... 

Martha may have a perfect Christmas, but I'll bet my imperfect Christmas is more joyful..... 

And, I hope yours will be too!   

Today was a lemony kind of day... 
I made two lemon recipes you might like to try...
One was even from Bon Appetit!

COCONUT-LEMON LOAF courtesy of www.familyfun.go



Moist, delicious and versatile, this bread can be served for breakfast with yogurt, fruit, or applesauce on the side. And it's enough like cake that it makes a tempting dessert, especially when topped with the optional Coconut-Lemon Glaze. Makes 10 servings. 
Ingredients
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon lemon extract
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) sweetened flaked coconut
  • Coconut-Lemon Glaze (optional)
Instructions
  1. Line a 9- by 5-inch loaf pan with waxed or parchment paper (or grease and flour it), then set it aside. Heat the oven to 350ยบ.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, melted butter, oil, lemon zest, lemon extract, vanilla extract, and milk.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk the eggs and the buttermilk until evenly blended. Set the bowl aside.
  4. In a medium-size bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt. With a wooden spoon, stir about a third of the flour mixture into the sugar mixture, then alternately add half of the remaining egg mixture and half of the flour mixture, stirring after each addition just enough to blend. Stir in the coconut.
  5. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spoon. Bake on the center oven rack until a toothpick inserted into the center of the bread comes out clean, about 45 to 50 minutes.
  6. Remove the pan from the oven and put it on a cooling rack for about 15 minutes, then remove the loaf and place it on the rack to finish cooling. When the loaf is completely cooled, in about two hours, apply the Coconut-Lemon Glaze, if using. Makes 10 servings.



LEMONY SLICE AND BAKES courtesy of Bon Appetit Magazine

Lemony Slice-And-Bakes

Ingredients

Cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 2 tablespoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 large egg yolks

Icing

  • 1 1/4 cups powdered sugar
  • 2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
  • Food coloring (optional)
  • Sanding sugar (optional)

Cookies

  • Whisk flour and salt in a medium bowl. Using an electric mixer on medium-high speed, beat butter, sugar, lemon zest, and vanilla in a large bowl, occasionally scraping down sides, until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add egg yolks; beat just to blend. Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture and beat, occasionally scraping down sides, just to blend. Divide dough in half; roll each half into a 10"-long log about 1 3/4" in diameter. Wrap in plastic and chill until firm, about 1 hour. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled.
  • Arrange racks in lower and upper thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Unwrap 1 dough log. Using a sharp, lightly floured knife, cut log into 1/4"-thick rounds. Transfer to prepared sheets, spacing 1" apart.
  • Bake until cookies are firm and golden brown around edges, 16–18 minutes. Let cool for 1 minute, then transfer to wire racks and let cool completely. Repeat with remaining dough log, using cooled baking sheets and new parchment paper.

Icing

  • Whisk sugar and 2 Tbsp. juice in a small bowl, adding more juice by 1/2-teaspoonfuls if too thick. Add coloring, if desired. Spread or drizzle icing over cookies. Decorate as desired. Let stand until icing sets, about 10 minutes.
    DO AHEAD: Can be made 3 days ahead. Store airtight at room temperature.