The Christmas Spirit

Friday, December 9, 2016

Last year, we spent Christmas with Adam's parents.  You may remember the little video I made about surprising them.  If you don't, you can watch it here, or I will just tell you a little about it.  


Adam's parents had asked us a number of times to come out for Christmas, and had even offered to buy us tickets.  We decided after a lot of thought that it would be better to stay in Texas.  Then, a few days after letting them know, Adam told me he thought we should surprise them by coming out.  So we did, and it was incredibly wonderful and memorable.  

It did pose a small problem, though.  We wouldn't have any gifts in Utah for Christmas morning.  We packed super light, and couldn't tell anyone to send gifts to Utah for us, so we just left all our gifts in Texas.  

My mother-in-law was so nice and bought us a Christmas book, and gave Fox a book and a stacking toy, but that was pretty much it.  No stockings, no big gifts, no expensive jewelry, nothing.  

Things tend to go better when you feel prepared for them, so I had been mentally preparing to be totally okay with not receiving any presents on Christmas (I really love getting and giving gifts), and thankfully Fox was still young enough he didn't care much about the presents, but I was still surprised with how the day went. 

You know that scene from "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," when the Grinch reaches the top of the hill after he has taken all the decorations and gifts from the Who's, and listens for crying on Christmas morning? And how instead he hears cheerful Christmas singing?  

The Grinch hears it and thinks to himself, "[Christmas] came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags... What if Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. What if Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."


I thought I understood the true meaning of Christmas, but last year, my heart glowed with the feeling of love for that baby born in Bethlehem, the beautiful snow falling outside (that was truly magical), my sweet family, and all the things that I have been blessed with.  It was truly one of the most special holidays that I have ever had, and it came with very little in the way of physical things.



I am not sure if a knowledge that we wouldn't have presents on Christmas made it that way, or if it was just the magic of a snowy morning with soft Christmas lights, or time with my wonderful family.  No matter how it came, I will never forget last year's simple Christmas.  

Mini Brownie Peppermint Cake

Wednesday, December 7, 2016




I saw this amazing brownie cake on Instagram a few days ago, and then I ended up needing a birthday treat for a friend just a few days later.  I realized I had all the things to make a delicious peppermint cake.  And delicious it was! So much better than most chocolate cake.  I don't even like most chocolate cake, so using brownies was a welcome change.  

Mine is certainly not as pretty as the one from isntagram, but there is something lovely about a mini-cake.  Also, using brownies means it doesn't have to be quite as perfect looking as a regular cake (I just made that up, but I will stand by it!).  

AND, I got to eat all the edge bits on the brownies, and I will never say no to those, because YUM! I hope your Christmas season is loaded with tasty baking, gentle snow falling, and brownie edges.  



Mini Brownie Peppermint Cake:
Makes 2-3 two layer cakes

1- 6x9" or 8x8" pan of brownies (boxed or homemade, but mine had chocolate chips baked into the brownies which was a delicious addition)
Peppermint Icing  (see recipe below)
Crushed candy canes
Chocolate chips, melted, then spread on wax paper and cooled until hard

Peppermint Icing:
2 Tbs softened butter
1 3/4 cup powdered sugar (more for a stiffer icing)
1 -2 drops of peppermint flavor
2 Tbs milk

Combine all icing ingredients in a large bowl, and whisk for a minute or so until the mixture is smooth.  Set aside.

Cook your brownies.  Once they have cooled, use a biscuit cutter (or 2 1/2" diameter glass), remove 4 or 6 rounds.  Spread a layer of icing on the top of one brownie round.  Put a second brownie round on top, then spread icing on the top, then around the sides with a stiff spatula.

I did my icing 'naked cake' style, where you skim off the icing so you can see the cake underneath.  The icing is a little runny, so this is the easiest way to do it.

Freeze for about 10 minutes, until the icing is set.

Top with a dollop of soft icing, then add the chocolate pieces and peppermint pieces.

Enjoy!!!


Easy DIY Beeswax Wrap + Video Tutorial

Monday, December 5, 2016


You probably know by now that I am a pretty big advocate of eco-friendly living, so the fact that I have now made 5 beeswax cloths and use them regularly should not surprise you.  

And I honestly love using them.  They are not quite as convenient as plastic wrap, nor do they have quite as many uses, but they really are very good at what they do.  In fact, I have found that my food  stays much fresher when I use the beeswax wrap, instead of plastic wrap.  I almost exclusively use mine to store homemade bread, biscuits, rolls and almost any other bread item.  

I make bread all the time, so it makes sense for me to use them a lot, but you can also use them to cover left overs in the fridge, wrap cheese, fruits or vegetables and probalby lots of other things, that I haven't tried yet.   

They also would make a great and inexpensive gift for the friend who is seeking a minimal or eco-friendly lifestyle.  

And, if you aren't interested in making one, you can always buy something very similar on Amazon.  


               
Materials:

2 1-oz blocks of beeswax (or you can get these beeswax pellets.  I haven't used them, so I don't know how big they are, but it could save you time and effort shredding)
16"x16" square of cotton fabric (make sure it is 100% cotton, so it doesn't melt in the oven)
scissors
cheese grater
a square of cardboard (that will fit in your oven)
1 paper towel

Directions: 

Preheat your oven to 170°F.

Lay out the cotton fabric on the square of cardboard.  Using a cheese grater, grate the beeswax over the fabric, until it evenly covers the fabric, all the way to the edges.  Separate any big clumps that form, and try to get a thin, even layer of shreds across the entire fabric.

Put the cardboard in the oven, and let it 'cook' for about 5 minutes, until the beeswax begins to melt.  Once the beeswax has melted about halfway (you should still see some shreds), open your oven and with a paper towel, smear the beeswax around. Push some of the soft beeswax to the edges of the fabric, and all around making sure that the entire fabric is coated in beeswax.  Let it 'cook' another 3 or so minutes, the beeswax has completely melted.

Remove the cardboard from the oven, and let it sit on your cold stove for about 10 minutes, to let the beeswax set.  Remove the fabric from the cardboard, discard the cardboard, and fold your beeswax to store.  And voilá!  You are done!

Use for wrapping and storing cheese, and bread items.  Beeswax cloth will help keep your bread soft for 2-3 days.  I haven't ever stored cheese in mine, but I know you and, I have heard it works great.

To clean, wash in the sink with cold water and dish soap, and let air dry.






Vegetarian Chipotle Breakfast Bake

Thursday, December 1, 2016

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #VivaLaMorena #CollectiveBias


I love making a beautiful breakfast for my family, especially over the holidays, when we are all home in the mornings, and no one is rushing off to work, school or playdates.  We tend to eat the same thing over and over for breakfast around here, so having something fresh and festive is always welcome.  This breakfast bake (or frittata if you like) is absolutely stunning, incredibly full of flavor and has changed the way I see eggs for breakfast.  

I am not a huge egg person, but omelets and other egg bakes have recently become more appealing to me.  I have long been a fan of chipotle chilis and thought they would be a fun way to add a burst of flavor to this frittata. 

Bacon is the usual go to to flavor egg dishes, but since we eat mostly vegetarian, I needed to find an alternative solutions, and these were perfect!  Just enough spice without being too hot, and tons of authentic Mexican flavor.  The La Morena® peppers are a truly superior ingredient that made this vegetarian dish sing, and can be trusted to produce a fabulous product every time, especially when you have company during the holidays. This gorgeous chipotle frittata is definitely a reason to get family and friends together this holiday season!

La Morena® also has a sweepstakes going on! Check it out here: #VivaLaMorenaSweepstakes  
  

(I found the La Morena® Chipotle Peppers in Adobo - 7oz can at my local Fiesta grocery store)


Crispy Potato pieces

(Fox, our budding photographer, took this photo of the bake in the oven)

Chipotle Breakfast Bake
makes 1- 9" skillet 


1 Tbs olive oil

1 russet potato, thinly sliced
salt and pepper
1 Tbs olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
6 eggs
2 Tbs milk
2 or 3 La Morena® Chipotle Peppers in Adobo - 7 oz can, chopped into small pieces (almost a paste)
1/2 cup black beans
4 oz queso fresco, crumbled
salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 400°F. On a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat, spread out the potato slices and drizzle with 1 Tbs of olive oil, and sprinkle with some salt and pepper.

While they are cooking, heat the oil in a 9" cast iron skillet on the stove, then add the onions too cook for about 15 - 20 minute until they are soft and translucent.   If you don't have a cast iron skillet, you can always cook the onions on the stove in a regular skillet and bake your frittata in an oven-safe dish.

In a medium sized bowl, combine the eggs, and milk.

When your potatoes and onions are done, add a little extra oil to the cast iron skillet and move it around until the bottom and sides are coated (use a paper towel if you have to), then arrange the potatoes in an even layer at the bottom of the skillet.  Top with onions, black beans, queso fresco and La Morena® Chipotle Peppers in Adobo - 7 oz.  Pour the egg mixture over the top, and sprinkle a fair amount of salt and pepper on the top.

Cover with foil (or a metal baking sheet) and bake for 20 minutes.  Uncover and cook for another 10 minutes, until the edges are beginning to brown.

Remove from the oven and serve immediately.  Enjoy!


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One of my favorite Christmas Traditions

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

*This post was done in collaboration with TinyPrints, but all the opinions and photos are my own.  Thanks for continuing to support the brands that make this blog possible! 

Christmas time has always been a magical time of year for me.  There is something very special about putting up the Christmas tree, stringing twinkle lights and pulling out the scarf and coat to go caroling (which I actually haven't done for years... I just like the idea of it).


One my favorite Christmas memories from my childhood was the Christmas cards that we received.  It was always fun to hear my mom talk about who this or that person was, and how she knew that person, and to see cards from friends and family.  We had a specific place that we would always hang Christmas cards, so anytime a new one would arrive, one of us kids would rush to get the tape and hang it up next to the other ones.  I loved watching the collection grow and was always a little sad to take them down after New Year's.

After we got married, it felt like so much work at the busiest time of the year, so I didn't do it.  And didn't do it.  And didn't do it.  Finally, when I was pregnant with Fox, I got my act together and we sent out this card to some close family and friends (and here is last year's card).  I was thrilled with the result and am so glad we did it. 

For me, there are a few great reasons to send out christmas cards: First, it gives me a reason to take family photos, which is always a pain, and hard to get done, but I treasure those photos.  And second, it felt like such a lovely gesture to send out a holiday greeting and something with part of you in it. Third, it definitely helps you stay connected to family and friends that you don't have occasion to see or connect with very often.  My parents had people that they had sent Christmas cards to for years, that they hadn't seen, and I thought that was really cool.  


I always get my cards from TinyPrints, and they do such a phenomenal job.  They have tons of interesting and fun options for customizing your card (like laser cut outs, custom foil work, and a year in review cards), the paper they use is really high quality, you can choose to have a pattern on the back of your card, they have envelope liners (I think there is something really classy about having a nice reverse side of your card and a pretty envelope) and they have even added the option of having them address your cards for you! 

They also have partnered with Baby2Baby that helps provide low-income babies with necessities of life, so for every holiday card, or birth announcement you buy from that collection, they donate some of the proceeds to Baby2Baby.  I really wanted to use a card from that collection, to support that mission, but couldn't find one that worked with our photos this year, but I think that is such an amazing way to give back at this time of year.  

The last two years, I have had so many photos that I liked of Fox (he is just the cutest with that little pull-along pony!), that I just had to do a card with multiple photos, so we chose this card, that felt so clean and modern.  We are so looking forward to sending out such a beautiful card to friends and family this year! 


TinyPrints also has a ton of gorgeous stationary that would make a great holiday gift or thank you notes for after Christmas (it is great if you order them with your Christmas cards, because then they are ready to go after Christmas).  I used to think it was a huge hassle to send out thank you cards, but now I realize what a gracious gesture that is, and I always try to send one after receiving a gift from someone, and love keeping a stack of pretty notecards on hand (slowly, slowly I am becoming an adult...).  I am pretty obsessed with the set I got this year.  I might ask Adam to put them in my stocking for me so I have something lovely to unwrap on Christmas morning.


All of TinyPrints Holiday cards are 50% off this week, so if you are in the market for some gorgeous Christmas cards, head on over and check them out!
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