December 18, 2014

Easy Eggnog Custards


As a half Polish gal, we celebrate the Wigilia which is the traditional meatless Polish Christmas Eve Supper.  This is the first Christmas without my grandmother, Mary, who passed away earlier this year at the ripe old age of 102.  Nothing could ever slow her down and she was one heck of a cook! I KNOW she will be looking down on my siblings and I as we make the pierogi for next Wednesdays meal...nudging us to roll the dough thinner...thinner...to meet her pierogi standards!

I can not imagine how many pierogi mt grandmother made in her lifetime, both personally and at her church where she always helped out making thousands and thousands for their annual pierogi sale.  I wish today I could go and film them in the act...I don't think there was ever a person under 75 in that kitchen!

Every year since my kids have been about 4, they make a dessert to present on Christmas Eve, as a matter of fact I've gotten all the cousins into it.  They come up with something...and feel excited and empowered that they contributed to our favorite night of the year!  Plus we get SO many selections to choose from and nibble all evening long!  Calorie are non-existent on Christmas Eve and Christmas after all!

My son Connor, who just turned 13 discovered Creme Brulee last year and boy does he love it!  I however have always said I won't make it at home...that is one of the very few things I won't...Ir's our special out to dinner treat!  So we compromised....he is making Eggnog Custards for Christmas Eve.

How many times do YOUR kids ask to eat cookie dough, cake batter and any other sweet treat you are whipping up?  How many of us say no...no!! You can't...there are eggs in there and you will get sick! 


Did you know that by choosing Safest Choice Eggs...you can say yes...YES!!


Safest Choice Eggs are pasteurized via a warm water bath which eliminates the risk of Salmonella in your eggs before they ever even enter your kitchen! How awesome is that?? Cookie dough for everyone!  Here is how they do it!

Join in the fun & deliciousness of Safest Choice Egg's Dozen Days Of Nog as they and we celebrate this holiday season!  You just may be inspired by some fabulous recipes being shared there!

Connor & I did a test run of his Eggnog Custards playing off of how my grandmom made her simple custards (no stove action necessary) and joined in the deliciousness of  Dozen Days of Nog!  This recipe is SO simple and can be made ahead of time and cooled in your cold garage or fridge until serving time.  You literally have 6 minutes of prep then into the oven they go!

You can spike this with a little bourbon if you like and turn them into Boozey Bourbon Eggnog Custards!  Now were talkin'!!

This post was sponsored by Safest Choice Eggs, however the opinions expressed are all my own.

Easy Eggnog Custards
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup eggnog (your own or store-bought)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup sugar
2 large Safest Choice Eggs plus additional 2 yolks
1 teaspoon of cornstarch
A couple shakes of nutmeg

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly butter or spray your ramekins.  In your mixing bowl combine the above ingredients, beat on high for 1 minute.  Pour mixture into your ramekins.  Place ramekins in a deep baking pan or dish and fill it up with 3/4 inch of hot water and bake for 45-55 minutes or until custards are set.  Allow them to stand at room temperature to cool down and either serve a little warm, at room temperature or chill for later.  I like to enjoy my custard slightly chilled.

Optional (we like it): Dust a mixture of equal parts cinnamon, nutmeg and powdered sugar over-top at serving time and enjoy!!


I hope your holidays are egg-celent!!


December 17, 2014

Sauteed Cranberries & Cream Cheese Crostini

It was love a first glance for me and this Handmade 18x9' Olive Wood Cutting Board made by Carre and sold by Cuttingboard.com my  board was carved from a single piece of natural olive wood.  Can you see the colors, the curve and how smooth it is?


"Carre is an artisan woodworking with roots in Provence, France, that specializes exclusively in olive wood products. The company takes care to source their olive wood from non-fruit bearing trees that have reached the end of their production cycle. Each piece is handmade and completely unique, so items will all show slight variations from the photos"

Carre is just one example of the quality offerings at Cuttingboard.com.

Take a look at a few more of the boards the carry (my olive wood is the bottom left):




If you are looking for that perfect holiday gift for someone on your list or maybe you just want to surprise someone special any time during the year. Whether you are Bobby Flay or a fledgling cook everyone needs one (or two or three) in their kitchen!

CuttingBoard.com is a boutique retailer of cutting boards and butcher blocks. What makes this web sites offerings different is that all of their beautiful products are 100% environmentally friendly and have been harvested from renewable resources. As a genuine small business, Cuttingboard.com take pride in ensuring that their customers are always happy when shopping with them.

CuttingBoard.com features the web's best selection of curated cutting boards and butcher blocks. The owners, Mike & Grant, have personally selected and chosen their offered products after handling and seeing each piece with their own eyes. Many of the their products are sourced from independent artisans and woodworkers that only make limited runs of each product. In addition, Cuttingboard.com also carries high quality knives and kitchen accessories that will accentuate the kitchen of any home chef.

CuttingBoard.com is proud to source products that are certified sustainable, renewable or reclaimed. They believe in a commitment to quality and environmental stewardship, so all of the products in their store adhere to these principles. They are also a member of 1% For the Planet and donate a portion of each sale to charity toward environmental causes.

I was lucky enough to select one of their cutting boards for this post and I have my eye on another. You however, need to check out the holiday sale Cuttingboard.com is having at the moment (through 12/21)  you don’t want to miss it, head on over and shop or drool or drool & shop!

OR

Guess what?? 3 lucky people will win a new cutting board from Cuttingboard.com, you can enter via the Rafflecopter below. One of you will win a gorgeous 18 x 12 Maple Cutting Board with Grips from John Boos and two of you will win a beautiful 16 x 12 Proteak Edge Grain Octagon Cutting Board!




a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sauteed Cranberries & Cream Cheese Crostini 

Cranberries:
2 cups of fresh cranberries
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup sugar
1 TBS fresh lime juice
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp ginger
Pinch of salt

Crostini:
French or Ciabatta Baguette sliced into 1/4 inch thick slices
6 oz cream cheese
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp sugar
Optional: Fresh Rosemary, Cilantro or Parsley

Combine cranberries, water 1/4 cup of sugar and lime juice in a small pot, bring to a boil.  Reduce to a simmer and simmer until it begins to thicken, about 5 minutes.  Add in the seasonings, stir and remove from heat.

Preheat your oven to 375.  Bake your baguette slices on an ungreased baking sheet for 3-6 minutes depending on your preference for the level of "toast & crunch" you prefer for your crostini.

In a small bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar and cinnamon and if you like some finely chopped fresh rosemary, cilantro or parsley.

When ready to assemble your Cranberry & Cream Cheese Crostini simply smear each baguette slice with some of the cream cheese mixture, top with the cranberry mixture and sprinkle a little garnish if so desired.


The Magic Of Christmas #TwinHillsSanta

Can you feel it?  This time of year there seems to be a little extra magic in the air, people smile more, have longer conversations, hold doors open and find ways to do more kind things for people. Its the holidays!  


I had the idea to reach out to some blogger friends of mine and ask them to tap some of their collective contacts to pull off a fantastic holiday surprise for 21 children who live in a small remote village in Alaska where one can only get in or out by bush plane or a small boat via the rough Nushagak River. Over 20 bloggers from PA, NJ & DE jumped on board and #TwinHillsSanta began to take off.

I thought to myself, bloggers and brands work together all year long...how amazing would it be if we teamed up for a holiday pay-it-forward-initiative.

We actually only started this initiative about a month ago, pretty darn late...especially when we were shipping everything about 4000 miles! I am no stranger to organizing holiday surprises, its something I have done for at least the past 15 years - anywhere from helping out 1 child to organizing the complete holiday giving for 5 full families its something that I love doing, its a great example to my children and others as well and it makes me so happyI But long distance...whew...what an undertaking!


A friend of mine, Dani, took a position in the village teaching this year, Dani didn't know what to expect when she packed up and moved from Pennsylvania, however she has already fallen in love with the people, their culture and Alaska.


She has 16 students ages 4-13 and the village has 5 additional kids under 4. There are no places for the 76 residents to work or shop, so they live simply.  They don’t have much.  As a matter of fact while discussing Christmas and Santa recently one day in school, one of the younger kids said simply “Santa doesn't come to Alaska.”  


Let that sink in for a second….



This year...these kids have one heck of a surprise in-store for them!! And I am so very happy and grateful...THIS is what the holidays are about to me :)


We reached out to some of our contacts and I am so humbled and thrilled to share with you that they hopped right on board!  


Lee Jeans is sending clothes to the kids, those kids are going to be so excited and well dressed!!


CVS Pharmacy is sending all kinds of personal products from toothbrushes to scrubbies and body washes, & shampoos to chapsticks, candy, small toys and much more!


Nuby USA jumped in to send the younger children sippy cups, infant and toddler toothbrushes & toothpaste, toys and fun feeding plates & utensils!  


Tyrrells English Chips (who has the most fun website BTW)  sent cases of their crazy delicious chips - those kids are going to be happily crunching away with a new-to-them snack!


And speaking of snacks, Pretzel Crisps sent cases of their crazy-good pretzels - Boy are the kiddos in for a tasty treat! I see new fans just ahead!


Educational Insights was happy to send the kids learning games, reading games, puzzle toys and more.  These kids are going to be happy, busy and fine tuning their skills as they play!


Kind Snacks shipped some of their healthy AND tasty Kind Bars to the kids, those will get them pumped up and full of energy!


And DecoArt sent a bunch of craft supplies to the kids who I hear are LOVE making things and crafting any chance they get, they are going to be blown away!


How awesome are these 7 companies who said YES to pay-it-forward!  When stories like this reach my ears it makes me an even more loyal customer OR it makes me want to try/support a brand I am not familiar with!  Thank you all!


All of the bloggers involved made sure every kids will get a new pair of pajamas, hats, scarves, gloves and more!  Then additional friends, some bloggers and many not heard what was happening and either grabbed USPS flat rate boxes or hopped on Amazon to send stuff the kids way!

Then I posted it on my personal Facebook Wall and within a couple of hours and other 15 of my friends...some who I haven't even seen since high school jumped right on board! My heart hurt from happiness and excitement for these kids!


I can’t wait to share more specifics, which I will do in January once I get the intel from Dani as to how it all went.  The pilot who flies in and out of Twin Hills with deliveries won’t know what hit him and neither will the post office!  



Magic is in the air!!  
When people come together...great things happen!


Thank you Lee Jeans, CVS Pharmacy, Nuby USA, Tyrrells English Crisps, Pretzel Crisps, Educational Insights, Kind Snacks and DecoArt for making THIS a very special Christmas for 21 children, who I know are going to be so very grateful!

In my neck of the woods I would also like to thank Schneider Dental who also sent toothbrushes and toothpaste up North as well as the many friends that jumped in to do an amazing thing!!



Oh!! Can I share where I think my personal need to do good things for people who are not usually on any holiday list came from? None other than Donny Osmond. But that is another story :)


Happy Holidays to you and your families...Thanks so very much for your support, comments, shares of my recipes and encouragement all year long!!

XO

December 15, 2014

Caramelized Onion Ham & Jarlsberg Flatbread Pizza


The holidays are just about here whether we are ready for them or not...How are YOU making out?


Me...I'm so-not-ready!

For one, I feel like ice hockey has taken over of family's life!  Lets see, in the last 6 days we have had 2 practices, a clinic and 3 games...crazypants!! Between that, other activities, play-dates, my husbands birthday and just life in general...I can't catch my breath!

One thing I won't sacrifice is eating tasty meals...Well of course I won't since "food" is what I think about 50% of the time, lol!  No matter how busy we are, there is always time for meals that taste great and leave you thinking, mmm-m! That was good!

This easy Caramelized Onion Ham & Jarlsberg Flatbread Pizza is one of those.  You can have it for breakfast, lunch or dinner.  You will feel satisfied and you might just do the happy food dance!

My just turned 13 year old son tells me "I could eat this every day and mom, if this were on a menu I would order it all the time!"  SO there you have it straight from a brand-new teenagers mouth!

Start with pre-made flatbreads, I usually buy a 4-pack and the kids are plenty full splitting one (I just put an egg on each side for them), you can also customize each flatbread for each person with little effort.  The kids say hold the onions while my husband says slather it up with onions for me babe.  Easily accomplished!  You can add some veg like shredded Brussels sprouts, asparagus tops, fresh baby spinach...whatever you like.

One thing we all agree upon is the cheese.  My whole family enjoys Jarlsberg cheese, it melts nice, and has great flavor, so I start with a bowl of freshly shredded Jarlsberg (usually one of the minions...err I mean kids does that part for me) and we go from there.

Cheese is a big part of our life and around the holidays it seems its everywhere and I for one can never get enough!  What's your favorite way to use Jarlsberg Cheese?  Submit your favorite cheese pairing HERE for a chance to win some Jarlsberg of your own, plus a $25 gift certificate to Wine.com and fun party kit. Enter daily now until December 31st!

This post has been sponsored by one of our favorite cheeses...Jarlsberg!  Whether you are using Jarlsberg "in" your dishes, on a cheese plate or just popping a hunk into your mouth...its a great go-to cheese for the holiday season and beyond!



Caramelized Onion Ham & Jarlsberg Flatbread Pizza
1 onion (red or Vidalia)
2 TBS butter
2 store-bought flatbreads
Olive oil
Salt & pepper
1 cup shredded Jarlsberg
3/4 cup deli ham pulled apart or chopped sliced ham
2 (or more) eggs
Parsley or Cilantro for garnish

Slice your onions and saute them in the butter over medium heat for 12-15 minutes or until caramelized to your liking.  Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 400 degrees and very lightly brush your flatbreads with olive oil, season with salt & pepper and sprinkle with the cheese. Place caramelized onions atop each flatbread, place bundles of either deli or sliced ham across the flatbreads and bake for 6 minutes.

While the flatbreads are baking, in a small fryng pan, cook your eggs sunny-side up for 2 minutes and season with salt & pepper.  Once the eggs are stable enough, transfer them atop the flatbreads and continue cooking for 2-3 more minutes or until the eggs are done to your liking.  Garnish with herbs and serve.

Enjoy!

December 11, 2014

Homemade Wild Hibiscus Liquor - Food Gifts

Looking for a unique Holiday Food Gift?


Presents, cookies, food gifts, cocktails & appetizers are the things that are on my mind at the moment...actually every December those are the things that are on my mind! Of course I have to shop, shop and shop too since I have kids, however the rest all gets me excited! What cookies are we making, what food gifts are we giving, what holiday cocktails and appetizers will be be serving and bringing during the holidays, etc!  I think about it all, ask my family for their suggestions and the list making begins!

THIS post is a two-fer! Its a holiday food gift AND a cocktail...some of you may even consider it an appetizer, lol!   Guess it all depends on the day!

Have you had the opportunity to try Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup yet?

I was introduced to Wild Hibiscus this past summer at the Eat Write Retreat Conference. At first I was like what ARE those things?? And no way am I eating/drinking one! Then I manned up and OMGosh they were delicious! I think I literally ate 7 or more of them that first night (sshhh)!  They have been on my mind since then and lucky for me I was sent a fun holiday surprise from Wild Hibiscus and started playing around with those flowers and syrup.


The flowers remind me a little of a fruit roll up...sorta. They are delicious and so very different! Plopping a flower in a glass of champagne is such a gorgeous offering at a party and the ooh's and aaaah's will begin for sure! You can top a cheesecake, mini cheesecakes, ice cream, goats cheese and so much more with the flowers and the syrup too! Delicious!

If you are looking for a super-trendy signature drink for your holiday gathering or any gathering for that matter...one that will have your guests buzzing, check out all the cocktail recipes using Wild Hibiscus!

I decided to make a liquor so that it would be at the ready in my fridge for the holidays...both to gift and to use for drink making.  I decided to call my first creation The Wild Flower :)  Bottoms up!

If cocktails are not your thing, Wild Hibiscus also makes some wonderful teas!  Just ask my 10 year old niece who has become obsessed with the blue ones especially. That girl is a true tea lover!




Wild Hibiscus Liquor
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1 TBS fresh lime juice
1/2 cup Everclear 151% Proof (grain alcohol)
1/2 cup Wild Hibiscus syrup
4 Wild Hibiscus Flowers

First, in a small pot, make your simple syrup by combining the sugar and the water.  Heat it until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear. Allow the mixture to cool, then add in the lime juice, Everclear and the syrup.  Mix well until fully combined.  Taste and if you choose add in some more Everclear to make it a bit stronger (1 TBS at a time...its some strong stuff).  Decide what you will store the liquor in, fill it then add 4 of the flowers.  Keep in the fridge until using.


The Wild Flower Cocktail
Ice
1/2 cup Wild Hibiscus Liquor
Sprite Zero or club soda
Spritz of fresh lime juice
Lime wedge

Fill a tumbler with ice followed by the liquor, soda and lime juice, give it a good stir and garnish with a lime wedge.  If you want it a bit stronger, just add a bit more liquor.  Cheers!!

What else can you do with Everclear (grain)?  How about making some of my super popular Apple Pie Moonshine or my Chocolate Liquor - both make fabulous food gifts!! 


Enjoy!

December 8, 2014

Easy Bourbon Cherry Pie Filling & Holiday Food Gifts

I guess by now you have realized I think about food almost all the time so I am sure it will come as no surprise that I LOVE making and gifting food gifts for the holidays!


It makes me happy!  

Now, I will say that once or maybe twice...especially in the beginning of this holiday tradition, I may have gone a lit-tle nuts with pulling off my vision...picture me covered in flour at 2 am, sweaty brow hair & kitchen a complete disaster and I had to go to work the next day.  Yup. True story!

Since then I have learned that simple and memorable are best!

This deliciously easy Bourbon Cherry Pie Filling makes a perfect food gift!  It's simple, pretty and delicious!  You could use it for pie filling, to top a cheesecake, over ice cream, as a topping for English muffins or straight off the spoon (my favorite).  Whatever you would use that canned pie filling for from the baking aisle of your grocer  - you can use this for & more!

If you want to omit the bourbon, that's fine too - of course that is how I make it for my kiddos and speaking of the kids, this is SO simple it can be made 100% by them.  My kids have always enjoyed taking control of making a few things to gift at the holidays.

Looking for more Christmas ideas? Over the next week, 25 bloggers will be sharing their creative ideas with you for recipes, decor, crafts, printables, and holiday traditions. Each day 5 new posts will go live so make sure you come back to check them out! At the end of our 25 Blogs of Christmas, we will be hosting a HUGE giveaway for a $250 Amazon Gift Card!





Homemade Cherry Pie Filling
4 cups of cherries
2 TBS water
1/4 cup bourbon
2/3 cup sugar
2 TBS cornstarch
1/4 tsp cinnamon
Dash of salt

Pit and halve your cherries.  Place them, the water and the bourbon in a pot and over medium heat bring them to a simmer and allow the mixture to simmer for 12-15 minutes or until the cherries release their juices. Meanwhile in a small bowl whisk your sugar, cornstarch and seasonings vigorously until fully combined.

Add your sugar mixture into your cherries, stir well and return to the heat for an additional 3-4 minutes or until mixture thickens.  Taste and adjust flavor to your preference.  Allow mixture to cool then spoon into a large mason jar (or 2) and keep in the fridge until using.  Keeps for a week in the fridge.

Colleen's Notes: If you want to omit the bourbon, substitute 3 TBS water for it and 1 TBS fresh lime juice.  Also, depending on the freshness of your cherries they may yield more juice at different times of the year.  If they yield a lot of juice...just simmer them a bit longer.  If they don't yield enough, add in a bit more water.