Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Baked Brie

Hello Everyone!  I hope you all had a fabulous holiday ~

We were surrounded by friends and family all weekend.  Once the big day finally arrived, it was as if time finally slowed down and we could all breath again - taking in all the moments.  Santa arrived right on schedule and did not disappoint. Despite the fact that my son had a horrible rash, as a result of an allergic reaction to amoxicillian, he was as happy as could be on Christmas morning. His eyes wide with wonder as he saw the empty cookie plate and glass of milk that we put out the night before.  He tore through each gift like his life depended on it and said "OH Wow" probably about a hundred times.  I know these moments will not last forever, so for now I have to soak up every second.  He was red and itchy, but when he realized that Santa had read his letter and brought him exactly what he wanted, he didn't have a care in the world.  He has a new best friend and his name is Santa. 

The best part was that we actually had snow...for about 5 minutes!  We were standing in the kitchen and I looked out my slider and saw snowflakes!  We couldn't believe it.  But in the time it took me to run to the bedroom to get my camera it was over : ( 

Someone was definitely sending us a message though.  We really did have a white Christmas after all. 

Well....sort of.

It seems like this week everyone is walking around like zombies - all tired and haggard (or maybe they are just too full from all the eating...)  It's been a slow week at work, as half of my office is on vacation.  As for me, I'm tired but can't rest until after New Years.  Too much to do.  We are planning a New Years Day celebration at our house with our closest friends and I couldn't be more excited.  It's going to be a pizza party!  I'm going to make the dough in my new bread machine (so excited!!!! thanks Mom!!!).  I see lots of bread in our future!

In case you are having a celebration of your own, here is an idea for an appetizer that you will love. 
Baked Brie.  I made this on Christmas eve and everyone loved it.  It's really easy to make and tastes delicious. 

You will need:

1 wheel (about 2 lbs) Brie
1 cup chopped walnuts
3/4 cup brown sugar
1 package frozen puff pastry (thawed)
1 egg (for an egg wash)

In a medium bowl combine the chopped nuts with the brown sugar.

Lightly flour your work surface.  Place 2 sheets (one box) of puff pastry on work surface, one on top of the other.  Using a rolling pin, adhere the two pieces together.  Continue rolling until the pastry is very thin.  Place the Brie in the center to make sure the pastry is big enough to cover it. 

Top the Brie with the sugar and nut mixture, covering the entire top of the cheese. 

Pull up the sides of the pastry up to cover, and gently "wrap the cheese". 

Transfer to a foil lined cookie sheet and brush with an egg wash. 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Bake Brie for 30 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional
25-30 minutes.  The pastry will puffed and dark, golden brown....


Slice pastry with a serrated knife and pull back to reveal the melted cheese, brown sugar, and nuts inside.  YUM!

Serve with crackers. 

Enjoy ---

I hope you all have a happy and safe New Years.  I have been mentally making my resolutions and I have some BIG ones this year.  I always love the start of a new year because it's the perfect time to wipe the slate clean and start fresh - in all areas of my life. 

I'm praying for strength, peace, and hope in 2012.  I wish you all the same as well. 

Happy New Year Friends!

Be back soon xo

Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Eve Eve Dinner

Pancakes anyone?!  With all the rushing around tonight, the night before Christmas eve, we decided to keep it simple and do one of our favorite things - breakfast dinner!

Tonight I'm going to give you my secret to (what my son thinks are) the best pancakes in the world....


Put 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and 1 heaping  kitchen teaspoon of brown sugar in the batter.  Turns plain old pancakes into something really wonderful. 


I'm off to get a good night sleep tonight, as tomorrow will be very busy.  I still have two appetizers and two deserts that need to be prepared in the morning.  First up - baked brie in puffed pastry.  I will share the recipe with you right after the holiday - just in time for New Years!  : -)

Merry Christmas to all! 

Danielle xo

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Memories of Christmas Past

I was doing a little scrapbooking tonight and thinking about all of the happy Christmas' I have had over the years.  Sometimes it's hard to believe how fast time has gone by.  It seems like only yesterday I was the one who was anxiously waiting for Santa.  And now, as I watch my son sleep, I know in his heart he is the one who is dreaming of what is to come on Christmas morning.  In a blink, we went from here to there - and we didn't even realize it.

My memories of Chrstimas' as a child are with me always.  Our Christmas Eve open house parties and how much fun they were.  My parents invited everyone!  My mom's buffet table with the red and gold plaid tablecloth that only came out on Christmas.  The aroma of turkey and apple pie drifting through the house while my mom and Nana worked busily in the kitchen.  Being allowed to open ONE gift on Christmas eve and what a thrill that was.  Lying in bed that night positive I heard Santa's bells on the roof and the excitement of Christmas morning knowing that Santa really did come!  All of us on Christmas morning - my parents, my sisters and I, and my Nana (who lived with us) - opening our presents.  My Dad making us laugh and my mom still "trying to wake up" as she smiled and sipped her tea.  We were together and grateful for it. 

Over the years things have changed.  We grew up and the world changed. But luckily some things remain the same.  I still help decorate my parents Christmas tree every year and I still set the table for Christmas dinner with my mom's china.  I always thought it was so special.  I still do : )

And most importantly, the love and unity we felt still remains.  Gathered around the Christmas tree, wrapping paper flying, all the memories and warm feelings come rushing back.  I know because it happens every year. 

New traditions start but nothing can ever replace the old ones. They are forever in my heart. 

Christmas' past. How lucky we were.  How lucky we are. 

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

All is Merry and Bright

Five days before Christmas and all is merry and bright.  My tree is glowing and there is a new - or old - Christmas special on every night.  Tonight we watched Alvin and the Chipmunks Christmas (circa 1981).  Everyone fell asleep but me.  I had to watch it till the end so I could see them sing the Christmas Song.  It was worth it.  Another reason I love this time of year.  Timeless classics. 


If you are doing any entertaining this week and are looking for a quick desert, I have a recipe for you.  This is called chocolate saltine bark.  It's so delicious (habit forming actually) and no one ever knows it's made with saltines.  It's the perfect combo of salty/sweet.  It's super easy too!

On  a large cookie sheet lined with foil, spread one sleeve of saltines in a single layer.

Melt 1 1/2 sticks butter with 1/4 cup sugar.  Boil 1-2 minutes until sticky/syrupy.

Pour evenly over crackers.

Bake at 400 degrees for just a few minutes until turning brown.

Take out of oven and sprinkle with one 12 oz bag of chocolate chips.

(I used Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate chips, but use whatever kind you like - you could also use white chocolate as well : )  

Put back in the oven for 1 minute.

Take out of oven and spread softened chocolate chips with the back of a spoon or spatula.  Sprinkle with 1 cup chopped walnuts (or slivered almonds) and 1 cup dried cranberries (Crasions). 

Place cookie sheet in fridge to set.  When cold, peel off foil and break bark into pieces.   Store in an airtight container. 

It's as simple as that.  Serve this with a pot of coffee when family comes by to see your tree. 

Or serve as a treat to yourself for all your hardwork.  Being an elf isn't easy.  Chocolate helps. 

Thanks for stopping by and I hope all is merry and bright in your corner of the world. 

Danielle xo

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

December Nights

December nights are my favorite kind.  Cold and frosty on the outside and warm & fuzzy on the inside.  Holiday classics on the TV, a whistling kettle, and a flickering flame. Candles take on a whole new meaning in December.  They bring comfort, warmth, and sweet holiday scents. 

There is always something to do.  After dark I turn into one of Santa's elves. 

There are so many things to do it's easy to become overwhelmed with the stress of it all.  I try to keep myself calm by slowing down and doing just a little at a time.  That way there is no rush and I can actually enjoy the process.  I'm happy to say that this year is sailing along just fine.   Whew!

Right now I'm in the "did I get enough?" stage.  I keep asking myself if I should "get a few more things".  I'm fighting the urge to make another trip to the mall.  I'm still undecided at this point weather or not it's a good idea.  Everything that needs to be done is done, all that's left are extras.  But aren't extras the best part?  I always find the best things when I'm not looking for them. 

The other night I set myself up at the coffee table to do our Christmas cards. 

I'm so happy with our picture this year!  It was taken at Santa's Village in NH over the summer. 

I can't do anything "Christmas-y" without hot chocolate!  I added a big spoonful of marshmallow fluff to boot.  Marshmallows are good, but some December nights call for fluff : - )

Everywhere I turn there is a happy face.  Weather it's a child, snowman....

or a caroler.  They are in every corner.  During the day they are bright and chipper, and at night they make us feel loved and keep us company as we drift off to sleep.  I could really get used to these guys.

Outside, all is aglow. While out shopping one day I couldn't resist getting this little tree for our stoop.  I added lights, tinsel (of course) and some pine and winter berries underneath.  During the day he's cute and charming, but at night we have our own little Charlie Brown Christmas tree!

Now all we need is a dusting of snow and my winter scene will be perfect.

I hope you all are enjoying these December nights as much as I am.  Yes, I am tired but we are all in this together.  Just think how bored we will be in March.  Ha, ha....

Yesterday I promised you a new cookie recipe so here goes. 
I made these over the weekend and they didn't last long.  If you like chocolate and mint you will really love these.

Funny story about these cookies ** they were accidentally created in a failed attempt to make whoopie pies by forgetting to add milk to my batter.  Truth be told, good things CAN happen as a result of failure **

Chocolate-Crackle Mint Sandwich Cookies: 

1 2/3 cups flour
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
4 tbs butter
4 tbs shortening
1 cup brown sugar
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla

Beat together butter, shortening, and brown sugar until fluffy and smooth - about 3 minutes.
Add egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.

In a separate bowl sift together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt.

Add half of the flour mixture to the batter and beat on low until just incorporated. Scrape down the sides  and add the remaining flour mixture.  Beat until completely combined. 

Drop tablespoon size balls onto a greased cookie sheet, spacing them at least 2 in apart.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 10 minutes.  Let cool on the cookie sheet for a minute or two before transferring them to a wire rack to cool.

To make the filling you need:

1 1/2 cups Marshmallow Fluff
1 1/4 cups shortening
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tbs vanilla
1 tbs peppermint extract

Beat together the Fluff and shortening.  Start on low, increasing to medium speed until mixture is smooth and fluffy.  About 3 minutes.
Reduce speed to low and add the sugar, vanilla, and peppermint.  Beat until incorporated.  Increase speed back to medium and beat until fluffy, about 3 more minutes. 

Once the cookies are cooled you can make your sandwiches. 

You can add as little or as much filling as you want.  Enjoy!

This batch made about 2 dozen cookies/1 dozen sandwiches.  You could always get more by making the cookies a little smaller (and not eating so much cookie dough : )

I wish you all a very relaxed, cookie-filled, December night ~

Oh Christmas Tree...So Glad You're Back!

Hello Everyone! How are you all enjoying this Christmas season?  Tonight as I type this blog I feel very good.  Tree is up, presents are wrapped, cards are in the mail, and thanks to Internet shopping I haven't completely lost my mind. 

I had so much fun decorating our tree this year and I'll tell you why.  For the past two years we have had a fake tree.  Not my idea and I hated it.  It was too small, too thin, and frankly - looked fake.  I was not a fan.  Hubbie really wanted a fake tree because of the convenience of it.  You can put it up whenever you want, no pesky pine needles to sweep up, and Christmas trees don't come cheap anymore, do they?  I can't argue with that.  Against my better Christmas judgement I agreed.  My Hubbie can be very persuasive.

Now I know for a fact that some artificial trees are stunning.  My parents have a pre-lit tree that literally looks REAL.  It's amazing.  Ours however, not so much.  One of the things I hated most about it was that it looked too perfect.  No tree is a perfect triangle - except for our fake tree, that is.  Hubbie new I hated it. He tried to ignore me on year one.  By year two I was like an annoying bug in his ear - every day telling him how much I hated it.  Over the summer we happened to be talking about Christmas and I thought it was a perfect opportunity to start pleading my case again.  It was evident that this was not going away. It just happened to be one of those beautiful, pink-sky, summer nights.  We were sitting on the front steps and I asked him if we could have a real tree this year.  He said yes and we shook on it.  The die was cast.  Christmas was saved!

I don't think Hubbie thought that once November rolled around I would actually remember our deal and hold him to it.  He was wrong.  He tried to talk me out of it, but he's a man of his word - and this year - he's my Santa Clause.  I'm so happy to have my real tree again! Pine needles are all over the place and I love it!  Life isn't perfect, so why should our tree be perfect?!

Sunday morning all the bins came down from the attic.  I decided then and there that is is my favorite day of the year : - ) 

Another reason I hated our fake tree was that it was so thin I couldn't put all of my ornaments on it.  There was just no room.  Heartbreaking. This year I was able to fit everything on - together again! Here are a few of my favorites...

The kitty on the far right is one of the "little kittens that lost her mittens".  The mother and two sisters are scattered about the tree.  The glass ornament to the left of that is one of my grandmother's antique glass ornaments.  My mother gave me her whole set a few years ago because she knew how much I loved them. I remember them on her tree when I was little. (and my mom had them on HER tree when she was little)  I always thought they were so beautiful.  Still do. I feel very luck to have them.

And thankfully I had help.  I hung the high ones, and my helper hung the low ones.   He seemed to like the idea of hanging all his ornaments on the same branch.  I felt bad, but I had to do a bit of rearranging... it was either that or have one branch laying on the floor : - )

I can honestly say that I have never met a Christmas tree I didn't like - except our fake tree.  Maybe someday I'll change my mind, but for now this tree makes me happy - pine needles and all.  I'll take the mess, and keep it real any day. 

PS look what was on tonight.... 

Less than two weeks to go!  I don't know if we'll be having a white Christmas or not, but one can only hope. 

By the way, if you love chocolate and mint then check back soon.  I have a cookie recipe that you will love.  Promise! 

Danielle xo