Friday, December 31, 2010

Happy New Year's Eve!

Hope everyone will be celebrating tonight to bring in the New Year! I know that people all around the globe follow different traditions for New Years Eve. I wanted to share a little Spanish tradition that my family always adheres to at exactly 12 pm. Right at the very moment when the ball drops, and the clock strikes midnight, each person eats 12 red grapes. Each grape is meant to give you good luck for each month of the New Year. You should give it a try! 
 photo source: grapes

If you are celebrating out (in a restaurant or otherwise), place 12 grapes in individual zip-lock bags and bring them for all of your family & friends to enjoy!  Wishing everyone good luck in the New Year! 

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

All About Champagne...

Since champagne is the beverage of choice on New Year's Eve, here’s a quick guide to make your champagne selection easier:
  • Brut: extremely dry (less than 1.5% sugar)
  • Extra sec or extra dry: dry (1.2-2.0% sugar)
  • Sec: slightly sweet (1.7-3.5% sugar)
  • Demi-sec: sweet (3.3-5.0% sugar); dessert wine
  • Doux: very sweet (over 5.0% sugar); dessert wine
We all know that champagne should be served chilled (refrigerate for two hours before serving). But be careful not to over-chill your champagne; otherwise you will dull both the flavor and the bouquet.

To keep your champagne sparkling after the party is over, use an inexpensive metal champagne stopper. If you don’t have one of those handy, drop a stainless-steel needle or pin into the bottle, then fasten a balloon over the top with a rubber band. This will maintain the effervescence for about two days.

In lieu of champagne, you may want to try a sparking wine, here are five to try.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Christmas craziness has ended; gifts have already been hastily ripped opened and enjoyed. But because holiday parties don’t end on Christmas day, I’m going to continue to share some great holiday desserts. Hopefully you will share one or two of these with your guests! 
The Recipes: 

Monday, December 27, 2010

Wine Label Printables

Wine is a great gift to bring over to a holiday party. Choose your favorite brand and personalize your bottle with a festive label. Just pick your label below, print on adhesive-backed paper, cut and stick them on your bottles.
Print the "Making Spirits Bright" label 
Print the "Drink & Be Merry" label
Print the "Cheers to the New Year!" label

Here are some more options... 
For the labels in the picture above go here to get the free printables. Print on paper, cut out the labels and wrap them around your favorite bottle, adhering with double stick tape.

If you don't have a favorite wine or can't decide which one to gift, take a look at this list of good gift wines at every price.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Biggest Tree of All...

I hope everyone had a wonderful Christmas with their families! On this day, the day after Christmas, my family usually heads into the city to see the Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center.


What do you do with your family for Christmas weekend?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

We Wish You a Merry Christmas!

It feels like Christmas came especially fast this year. I certainly hope that everyone has finished all of their Christmas shopping by now! I plan to spend the next week with family-first in New Jersey and then heading down to South Carolina to be with my fiancĂ©’s family. 

I thought it was appropriate to share these Buche de Noel (Yule Log) recipes with you today since it is traditionally served on Christmas (at least in France). I think these logs are ready for the fire =) 

I wish everyone a wonderful and a very Merry Christmas!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Where Does the Fish Fork Go? (Table Setting Guide)

If you are having guests over for Christmas, you may be interested in this table setting guide. This guide will be helpful for a more formal Christmas dinner. Keep in mind that for each kind of food you will be serving (eg: soup, fish, salad, etc.) there are certain positions for your tableware. Don’t be afraid to use the good china. If you have been waiting to use your good china for the day the Queen arrives on your front steps, it’s time to put it to good use! Christmas is the perfect opportunity to take it down from your china cabinet. It will feel very special to see your beautiful china set out on the table for friends and family to enjoy.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Christmas Breakfast

Christmas morning and the day after Christmas are two days when my family enjoys a relaxing breakfast with the whole family. My aunt, cousin and grandma usually stay over for Christmas weekend and I always look forward to breakfast. On our breakfast table we have: eggs, bacon, toast, an assortment of fruit, cranberry bread, an apple coffee cake with a high amount of cinnamon (my father has an extreme addiction to cinnamon), and some leftover Christmas cookies. Below are some great recipes to accompany your breakfast meal. 

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

DIY Gift Tags

I’m sure many of you are in the midst of wrapping all of your Christmas gifts. I still need to finish some of my shopping! Here are some great gift tag ideas you can use, which kick it up a notch from the average stickers found in the store. 

For the crafty: 
The How To:

For those in a rush:  
Easy, printable labels for those with less time. 
Printable Sheets: 
Monogram Gift Tags (for every letter of the alphabet) 

For the Green Conscious: 
Be environmentally friendly this year and recycle scraps of wrapping paper and turn them into gift tags. 
Use this template to trace tags onto scrap paper or you can create your own shapes & designs.

For the Money Givers: 
If you are planning on giving someone money, a gift card, or a small gift, this is a fun alternative to using a regular card & envelope: 
Create your own paper stocking

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Dessert Table

I created this lovely table for a good friend of mine. She thought that a dessert table would not only be a perfect addition to her holiday party but that it would create an area for people to gather and mingle. I stayed within a mainly red and white color palette. The bright white exuded a feeling of wintry, frosty snow. Decorative aspects of the table focused on everything cranberry. The backdrop had a wintry cranberry feel; a tree made of fresh cranberries along with cranberry balls placed atop of glass candle holders were a showstopper. While my blogs are meant to give you all ideas, I myself got the idea to decorate with cranberries from my previous blog entry, Decorating with Cranberries.

Cranberry iced tea was presented in glass bottles for guests to serve themselves. The table was not short on candy, there were: white chocolate covered pretzels, peppermint mints, chocolate mints, gum balls, jordan almonds, sixlets, large swirly lollipops, chocolate dipped candy canes, twizzlers, red chocolate stars, and white chocolate snowflakes. A feast for the eyes! Christmas is pretty much synonymous with baking cookies, so I made sure to include a good variety of cookies as well, such as: candy cane thumbprint cookies, Christmas tree almond sugar cookies, lemon-coconut snowball cookies, and vanilla meringues. Guests also had candy favors to take home with them. The “Christmas treats to go” were a hit as guests tried to narrow down their choices of treats to bring home. A great time was had by all! 

Monday, December 20, 2010

Handheld Desserts

Large customized cakes always impress your guests. However, when you're the host you may not have time to find the cake cutter, slice it into pieces and parcel out to all the guests. These individual desserts are meant to be grabbed & enjoyed.  One less thing to worry about while you’re entertaining is good in my book.

* Try a few of the recipes below to create a decadent dessert buffet.
1. Dark Chocolate-Raspberry Cakes
2. Bittersweet Chocolate Tartlets
3. Chocolate Truffles
4. Coconut Cupcakes 
5. Individual Chocolate Cakes
6. Fruit-Filled Hand Pies
7. Mini Raspberry and White Chocolate Whoopie Pies
8. Deep, Dark Brownies
9. Meyer Lemon Raspberry Cupcakes

Friday, December 17, 2010

Showstopper Desserts

Instead of going out to the store to purchase your desserts for your holiday party, try making them yourself! Your hard work will be rewarded with a great sense of accomplishment and the many compliments you'll receive. Here are some cake recipes that are sure to impress your guests. 
Sources (from top left to bottom right): 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Delicious Dinner Rolls

Cloverleaf Honey-Wheat Rolls

At first I was a bit intimidated to try this recipe, since I had never made rolls before. So I made sure to follow the directions as written and... they came out wonderful! In fact, my fiancĂ© gobbled up the first batch within two days and I already have been asked to make quite a few more batches (the second batch was much easier)! Make sure to give this recipe for Cloverleaf Honey-Wheat Rolls a try. They would be a great addition to your Christmas dinner.  

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Hot Chocolate Desserts

Cold weather makes me wish I had a fireplace in my apartment to sit next to and keep me warm. Of course, if I did have a fireplace I couldn’t imagine sitting there without a nice hot cup of hot chocolate. However, instead of enjoying a cup of hot cocoa, take a look at some of these desserts inspired by this favorite winter beverage. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saving Money for the 12 Days of Christmas

December is by far my favorite time of the year. I just love the holiday spirit, contagious cheer, and spending time with friends and family. Even though it feels wonderful to give gifts to those we love, it can be a little disconcerting once the holiday season is over to see the damage suffered by our bank accounts.

You might enjoy some homemade gift ideas. While it may take more time to make gifts than to purchase something at the store, the extra effort is much appreciated. To make this work, choose a gift that the recipient will enjoy and pay special attention to the packaging. Get ready to preheat the oven because below are some great DIY gift ideas.   

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Winter Wedding Favors

Favors are usually the last thing on someone's mind when planning a wedding. Since winter is quickly approaching, I thought I would share some ideas for wedding favors. 
Sources: snowflake wedding cake candle, snowflake candle, snowflake bookmark, snowflake key chain

Here are some winter inspired place card holders:
Sources: snowflake ornament, snowflake holder

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

8 Holiday Trifles

Trifles have great presentation potential. Stacked layers in varying color combinations make a bright and refreshing dessert that will be admired by all. If you are heading over to a holiday party this month, you may want to bring one of these trifles. It will certainly please a crowd. 

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fall Dessert Table

Fall is one of my favorite seasons and worthy of celebration. So before it draws to an end, take some inspiration from my recent Fall Dessert Table. To create this look, I used a golden yellow tablecloth that is embossed with tone on tone leaves. Above the table, I placed a series of bottles that I painted black and filled with a single blossom of yellow amaryllis. The centerpiece is made up of a prominent glossy-black urn filled with an assortment of branches, some of which were still hanging on to their weather-beaten leaves. My nature-inspired miniature fallscape centerpiece needed a little boost which I supplied by hanging perky bright yellow leaf-shaped chocolate lollipops from the branches....just charming!
The table featured a combination of full, warm fall flavors, such as: caramel, apple, pumpkin, and cranberry. Jumbo pumpkin muffins are in a large basket flanked by 'Fall into chocolate' bars. Arguably, everything tastes better on a stick! Here we have brownie pops dipped in chocolate and sprinkles and what could be better than apple pie pops. What a treat these warm apple pie pops were... a toasted crust popped into your mouth surrounded by warm baked apple. Both the apple and brownie pops were a huge hit! A perfectly shaped leaf bowl is piled high with white yogurt pretzels that taste even better than they look. Oatmeal chocolate chip cookies are stacked and tied together on one side of the table, while mini cranberry muffins are lined up on the opposite end.

Above, caramel popcorn balls are proudly assembled in large glass containers. An assortment of candy topped off the dramatic presentation that featured woven baskets, acorns and custom turkey tags. A festive mood was set and the colors, textures and fragrance inspired warm cheer. What a great way to kick-off the holiday season. 

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Decorating with Cranberries

Cranberries are wonderful, inexpensive little fruits that can be used to liven up holiday entertaining & decorating. This time of year, cranberries are most often used to garnish beverages. Here are a few different ideas for using cranberries…   
A dramatic table centerpiece (top left photo): Using half toothpicks, skewer fresh cranberries to various sizes of foam balls, available at local crafts stores. Cover the foam completely with berries. Rest the balls on top of shapely glass, silver, or mercury glass candlesticks to create statuesque topiaries.

A fabulous mantle (top right photo): Fill glass vases with cranberries and candles.

A joyful forest (bottom left photo): Use pearl-head pins to attach cranberries to a foam cone. Start at the top and then spiral the fruits around the cone down to the base.

A floating candle display (bottom right photo): Make an amazing candle display with cranberries and water. Place a silk rose bud in the bottom of a vase (place small weights inside the bloom) and then slowly fill the vessel halfway with water. Gently place a handful of cranberries on top of the water and then add a floating votive to the center.

You can also create a cranberry garland: String fresh cranberries into a simple garland using a needle and monofilament line. You can string only cranberries or intersperse popcorn or wooden beads in between to bring a variation of texture. Hang them on your mantle, around a metal chandelier, or on your Christmas tree.

Here are some ideas for entertaining with cranberries:
Festive silverware: Place your silverware on a red napkin, bind with green ribbon, and decorate with cranberries, leaves, and mini pine cones.

Place Cards - Sprinkle cranberries into votive candle holders. Cut out paper circles and write each guest's name on a circle. Trim paper circles with red and add one to each votive for a creative place marker.

Ice chips – Freeze cranberries with just enough water to cover them. When water is completely frozen, remove from tray, break into pieces, and add to your ice bucket.

all sources from BHG

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Christmas Tree Desserts

Nowadays Christmas trees for sale are popping up all over the city. I'm sure many of you have already started to trim your trees. Here are some ideas for Christmas tree inspired desserts.

For an easier way to make Christmas tree cupcakes, pipe green frosting high, decorate, and top with a shimmering star.

Everything is cuter on a stick! 
Source: christmas tree cake pops

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

10 Peppermint Desserts You'll Love

Peppermint just screams holidays. Using crushed candy canes or peppermint mints is a great way to add festive color and a refreshing, cooling flavor to your desserts.
  1. Peppermint-topped Brownies
  2. Peppermint Layer Cookies
  3. Peppermint Patties
  4. Candy Cane Cake 
     8. Peppermint Bark
    10. Little Peppermint Cakes - This is an easy fix. Just take pound cake (you can use a store bought one) and top with a white chocolate peppermint topping.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Hanukkah Ideas

Hanukkah is early this year, so it's best to prepare early! This table uses the traditional Israeli colors (blue and white) with silver to give it a shimmering, elegant look.

Below are some great favor & gift ideas:
  1. Celebrate the Festival of Lights by giving out wrapped candles and matchboxes
  2.  Stylishly wrap your gelt
  3. Create dreidels out of paper and fill them with all kinds of goodies 
  4. Dreidel gift-card holders are a perfect way to dress up your gift 
Now for some fun eats: 
Dreidel, dreidel, dreidel, I made it out of…. marshmallows! These edible dreidels would be fun to make with the family and since they have so few ingredients, you should not hesitate to try them. They simply require: marshmallows, chocolate kisses, pretzel sticks, and dark and white chocolate.
These festive sugar cookies would definitely brighten up your dessert table

Try a challah bread pudding for dessert. Keep in mind that you can substitute the raisins and cherries with different types of dried fruit.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Pie Bars

Since Thanksgiving is upon us, I’ve been thinking about other variations of the classic pie… specifically, pie bars. These little bars are easier to make than the real deal and are much easier to serve and eat. I'm all for less messy food when I'm eating so I think I will give these bars a try. Since I haven't made pie bars before, I looked online for some inspiration. Below are photos of different flavored pie bars that I thought looked delish!
Now to choose a flavor.... I'm thinking blackberry.    

Friday, November 19, 2010

Sticky Gooey Caramel

Caramel is a great fall flavor, full of warmth and richness. Of course, I’m hoping to have some wonderful caramel goodness in my Thanksgiving dessert table. I must say that one of the items I was most impressed with from my Halloween dessert table was the caramel popcorn. It was delicious!
I will definitely make this again for the upcoming holidays. For Thanksgiving, I’m thinking about re-introducing caramel popcorn but in the shape of popcorn balls.

Take a look at these popcorn balls on sticks. These are great to serve at parties or you can wrap them up and tie with a ribbon so guests can take home as a favor. The best part about having them on a stick is… no sticky fingers!