Sunday, December 29, 2013

Basset Hound Cookies & Almost 2014

It's hard to believe the holidays passed so quickly.  We have had such a great week with our families, our friends and our squeaky clean dogs (Christmas baths for everyone!).  Delicious dinners, warm fires, sparkling trees... I sure do love Christmas but this year felt especially cozy.  We're lucky to have a few more days off to enjoy some quiet time at home before getting back to normal.

We were invited to dinner with friends last night and I usually bring dessert when we go.  There aren't any leftover Christmas goodies here (oops) but I was still in the mood to bake cookies so I busted out my brand new basset hound cookie cutter.  How cute are these little maple hounds?

We're gearing up for 2014 (maybe I'll stay up til midnight on NYE this year?) by cleaning all of the dusty nooks & crannies of this house, packing up our holiday decor, and enjoying all of the tasty treats we can get our hands on before the obligatory new year's resolutions.  Enjoy & stay hungry!

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Merry, merry Christmas from us to you & yours!

Wishing you a day filled with love, peace, cheer, & sweet treats.  Here's to hoping you get everything you wish for!

Monday, December 23, 2013

A Polar Bear Stocking for Baby Will

A few years ago, I made Jesse a felt Basset Hound stocking.  I've been saying all month that I'd get around to making Baby Will his own stocking and I finally did:

If you're comparing this side by side to my Basset Hound stocking, I guess you could say I'm a one trick pony when it comes to stockings.  Blue background?  Check.  Felt animal with a red bow?  Check.  Oops.  Similarities aside, I love this little guy.

The actual stocking is a teal corduroy fabric and the polar bear & snowflake are felt.  I drew a polar bear shape onto some paper and used it to cut out the felt.  Unlike the Basset stocking, I sewed this together using the machine for the stocking, which was traced from my stocking, cut out, and then sewn inside-out.  I sewed the bear together and then attached to the stocking by hand.

As for actually stuffing this stocking, here's what we've got so far.  Some necessities (like outlet covers and bibs) paired with some fun stuff to enjoy, too.  If anybody has suggestions on some little items for a  9 month old (how did that happen?) to have fun with, please let me know!

Happy Christmas Eve Eve!

Aunt Deb & Uncle Mike's Italian Christmas Cookies

This time during the year I frantically check the mail (multiple times a day) in hopes I'll find a little care package filled with delicious homemade goodies from my Aunt Deb & Uncle Mike.  It finally came, filled to the brim with an amazing assortment of Italian cookies... and they were more delicious than ever.  

I'm not even just saying that.  I think they sprinkled a little magic Rudolph dust in them or something.  These were soooo delish.  Some are sweet, some are chocolatey, some are more like lightly sweetened biscuits you have with coffee.  I love them ALL...they just make Christmas for me. They also send a batch of homemade Chex Mix, but I totally forgot to photograph it.  Mainly because I ate it too fast.

It's so special that they take the time to make these and send them to their loved ones.  You know these must take FOREVER to make, so I make sure I shove them in my mouth take my time when enjoying them. 

Thanks guys for another delicious batch.  Stay hungry! 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Christmas 2013... Almost There!

Remember when I posted last week and said it was crazy to mention "last minute" when we still had soooooo much time until Christmas?  Welp, I've changed my stance and it's full-on Christmas mania around here.  I'm 75% done with writing & mailing my cards, 50% done with my gift buying, 25% done with wrapping, and 0% done with cookie baking.  Yikes.  The good news is, we're 100% done with tree buying:

We went last weekend and it was beautiful & snowy.  Will kept trying to climb out of the Ergo so he could catch snow in his mouth.  Does this make me look like I'm about to drop him?  No babies were harmed in the buying of this tree.

Once home, we got to work putting up all of our favorite ornaments accumulated over 7 years of living together.  Here's a little special something that Jesse put in my stocking last year.  Nothing says "Christmas spirit" like a cross-stitched Omar Little.

This also gave me a chance to review all of the ornaments I made in 2011 for my "one handmade ornament a day" project.  Some of them are a little sloppy (I'm looking at you, Christmas Cookie Ornament), but some I still love.  Here's my very favorite:

I'm having all of this new mother anxiety about Will's first Christmas.  We have to get a picture with Santa, even though I really don't want to go to the mall.  He needs a really special stocking, even though I can't find the perfect one anywhere.  What about a "First Christmas" ornament?  I'm trying to calm my inner nutcase and just enjoy evenings by the fire, snuggles in his soft Christmas pajamas, and Home Alone on TV.

How's your Christmas prep going?  Stay cozy & stay homey!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

The Last Minute Christmas Card Hunt (Thanks, Shutterfly!)

I feel crazy calling anything "last minute" when it comes to Christmas 2013.  It's December 10 for goodness' sake.  But since this is our first year with a kid (Hi, Willbo Baggins), we decided that this will be the first year we send out photo cards.   And with photo cards comes ordering the cards in advance, waiting for them to ship, writing out addresses, and actually mailing them to my loved ones.  Not to mention actually finding a picture of my family where I don't have crazy eyes everyone looks good at the same time.

Last Thursday night, I realized it was time to choose from our not-exactly-perfect family photos and finally order our cards.  After my success with buying photo Thank You cards for Will's baptism on Shutterfly, I decided to go that route again.  Yesterday afternoon, I had them in hand and was able to start writing out notes and addresses.

Cards are even more on sale now than they were on Thursday when I ordered them.  Saving on the cards means you can spring for expedited shipping (which is how I got mine so quickly)!

I'll share our actual cards once we get them out in the mail to everyone (with 65 cards going out, I have a LOT more addressing to do today), but here's my favorite part of the cards... there's room on the back to write out notes.  I love sending Christmas cards with handwritten notes inside, so this is a compromise... I get to show off Will the Baby in his finest winterwear AND pen a quick, personalized note of thanks & good wishes to our friends and family.

Also speaking of Christmas cards, either we've become very unpopular this year (totally possible) or I'm not as behind on cards as I thought.  All we've received so far in the Christmas card arena is 2 cards from companies Jesse works with (bonus: one came with a HUGE box of chocolates) and 2 cards from friends.  I'll be checking the mailbox daily and hoping to add to what we've got on the fridge so far.

 How are you doing your cards this year?  Traditional Christmas cards?  Email?  Photo cards?  Not at all?  Let us know and stay homey!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Foodie Stocking Stuffers

Ah...tis the season for stocking stuffers.  Have you guys ever been to Crate & Barrel and spent 30 minutes alone just staring and playing with all of the little kitchen utensils?  No?  Just me?  Cool.

Well anyway, I thought it would be a good idea to feature some of the cool little tools they have because they just happen to make amazing foodie stocking stuffers.  Check it.

1. Hot Chocolate Molinillo Frother.  I love this little tool.  It froths up milk or hot chocolate and is would just looks so cute in my kitchen drawer.


2. Collapsible Funnel.  I've been needing a funnel lately and this one is perfect.  Since it's collapsible, you won't have any issues storing it in your drawer.  Perfect for jamming, canning, or for adding fresh lemon juice to your water bottles, etc.

3. Egg Timer.  I received this as a wedding gift from my Sister in Law Holly and use it all the time.  Everyone loves a perfectly cooked egg and this tool makes it fool proof. 

4. Dual Citrus Squeezer.  There is nothing like fresh squeezed juice, but it is SUCH a pain in the butt to juice lemon and  limes by hand.  Hello dual citrus squeezer.

5. Avocado Slicer.  I totally saved the best for last.  This tool does it all, it slices the skin, and then pits AND slices perfectly even avocado slices.  Ta Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.

 Stay hungry!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Christmas Cookie Swap Ideas

I LOVE the idea of doing a Christmas Cookie Swap.  Mostly because it's an excuse for friends to get together and drink catch up and celebrate the season with some booze homemade goodies.  Plus, who has the ability to make multiple kinds of homemade Christmas cookies from scratch, besides a super hero or my Aunt Deb?  AUNT DEB AND UNCLE MIKE I'D BETTER STILL BE ON THE MAILING LIST FOR THE COOKIES THIS YEAR.  No pressure.  But seriously, I'D BETTER BE.

Here are some yummy Hardly Housewives tried and true recipes to inspire your cookie swap this year.  And if you don't have a cookie swap, start one! Nothing says Christmas like spiked eggnog, cookies, and friends.  Sorry.  I haven't had a drink in 3 weeks and I'm starting to twitch. C'mon now.  This is the high calorie, judgment free zone....right?

Anyway, here are the cookies.

1.  Super Simple Cinnamon Roll Cookies.  These are SO simple to make and are one of my absolutely favorites.  They remind me of my Nonnie Connie and they always appear in my Aunt Deb's cookie box each year.

2. Rudolph Nose Cookies.  These are tradition in my family.  They are labor intensive, but very special oh and frickin' delicious.  Homemade fudge frosting anyone?

3.  Five Layer Bars - an oldie but a goodie, these are another one of my favorites. Each layer of sweetness is another layer of lurve.

4. Lauren's Peanut Butter Stuffed Cookies.  I don't really know what else I need to say about these.  There is peanut butter...INSIDE a chocolate cookie.  You're welcome.

5. Oreo Truffles.  Yeah.  These are pretty amazing.  My cousin (in law) Lesley introduced me to these a couple of years ago and I just couldn't stop eating the little mo'fo's.  I'm pretty sure the entire source of my 5 lbs Christmas weight gain was pure Oreo truffle.

We'd love to hear about some of the cookies you're planning on making this year.  My goal is to make three cookies I've never made before by the time Christmas rolls around.  I love making homemade treats as gifts and I have LOTS of people I need to make treats for this year.

Stay hungry!

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Kraft Paper Table Runner

Last week, Jesse & I hosted a Thanksgiving dinner for 22 people.  It went off without a hitch - delicious, cozy, and fun - and I actually want to do it all over again.  The food was great but I can't take much credit for that (thanks to my family & to Jesse, turkey fryer extraordinaire), so I'll focus on the way we turned our breakfast nook & living room into a table for 15 adults (the kids sat on pillows around our coffee table, decked out with paper & crayons).

Our regular dinner table fits 6 people, so we used some folding tables and borrowed chairs to create one very long table for Thanksgiving dinner.  I wanted to have a cohesive element among the hodge podge of chairs, the tables of varying widths, and the mismatched cloth napkins and so I used kraft paper-style wrapping paper (cut in half, width-wise) to run the length of the three tables.

The brown paper managed to be rustic enough to tie in the mums I had running down the table and the various fall-hued napkins.

Place cards were just simple cardstock cut and folded in half.  I didn't think through last year's seating very well - it had my family on one half of the table and Jesse's family on the other half.  Jesse requested that this year we shake it up a bit and mix the two crowds (everyone knows each other anyway).  We spent a few minutes the night before the meal deciding who would go where and it seemed to work out well (vegetarians seated together, my brother the teacher next to Jesse's cousin the teacher, etc).

Here it is right before we ate (next year I may do it buffet style with so many guests but this year we served it family style).  You can see in the top of the photo how the tables are uneven but the runner helped to draw the eye away from that.

I hope you all had as great of a Thanksgiving as we did.  And with Thanksgiving 2013 in the books, I'm ready to move full steam ahead with Christmas prep around here!

Monday, December 2, 2013

5 Delicious Chicken (or Turkey!) Soups

A little over two weeks ago, I came down with what I thought was the worlds worst flu - temps ranging from 98 to 104 in a matter of 30 minutes, hot sweats, cold sweats, warm sweats, you name 'em sweats, horrible body aches, and a cough that would rival Walter Whites from the first few episodes of Breaking Bad.  Yeah.  Not.  Cool.  Not cool at all.  Especially because I found out that it wasn't the flu at all - but full blown, knock your winter socks off, pneumonia.  Brute.

In light of my inability to cook and/or blog, or do much of anything for the past two weeks, I thought it would be a fun idea to highlight some soul satisfying soups that one might be craving with the flu, or...pneumonia.  Also, if you have left over turkey, just swap out the chicken for your leftovers from Thanksgiving!  Ta daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa.  Here we go now.

1. Buffalo Chicken Soup

Slow Cooker Spicy Buffalo Chicken Soup | #tailgating

2. Chicken Pot Pie Soup


3. Chicken Sausage, Kale, and Cannellini Bean Soup

Chicken Sausage White Bean and Kale Soup

4.  Thai Chicken Soup

Thai Chicken Soup |

5. Chicken Tortilla Soup

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Never underestimate the power of a homemade soup.  So the next time your significant other or friend is feeling less than their normal fantastic selves, whip them up a batch of one of these soups and leave some on their doorstep or nightstand, depending on if they'll let you see them in their current state. 

They'll thank you. 

Stay hungry (and healthy)!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Graciasgiving to the Rescue

It's Caitlin here, since poor Jaisa has pneumonia, but this gives me a chance to rave about how beautiful Jaisa's Thanksgiving recipes from last year look.  In 2012, Jaisa pulled together a bunch of delicious side dishes that include traditional Thanksgiving recipes with a Mexican twist.  

With just a few days until Thanksgiving dinner, I'm sharing these tasty recipes for some last-minute planning. It's intimidating to serve a Thanksgiving dinner (and tough to be a guest bringing a delicious yet unique side dish).  Here are the best of the bunch, starting with stuffing, and with Jaisa's tutorials you'll be ready for Thanksgiving in no time.  De nada.

I loooooooove cornbread stuffing.  As a vegetarian, I don't add the andouille and chorizo that Jaisa calls for in this stuffing recipe, but I must admit that they probably make the whole dish even tastier.  Whenever Jesse sees recipes like this from Jaisa he curses the day I decided to become a vegetarian.  With or without the sausage, give it a try.

andouille & cornbread stuffing

Chipotle sweet potatoes look amazing (& include the story about how Jaisa learned to spell "potatoes" correctly).  I don't like super sweet, syrupy sweet potatoes but love how Jaisa mixes spicy with a dash of sweet for this easy Thanksgiving side dish.

chipotle sweet potatoes

Gratin made with poblano chiles, corn, & potatoes (oh, and a lot of half & half).  Looks heavenly.

poblano, corn, & potato gratin
Last up is Jaisa's cranberry salsa, which I think I'll be trying this year (scroll down to see it served over cream cheese which is what I'm thinking).  Ditch the canned stuff and give it a shot.

cranberry salsa

Gracias, Jaisa, for dreaming up these delicious dishes and sharing them with us.  Stay hungry!

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Crostini

This.  IS SO GOOD.  Ok, officially the last crostini post (at least for a while)...and I may have saved the best for last.  Crispy baguette topped with creamy, cheesy, buffalo chicky.  

 And you know what?  You guys aren't going to believe it. 

Instead of cream cheese, I used nonfat Greek yogurt to make the topping nice and creamy.

And Charlie couldn't even tell!  Thank you, thank you, ladies and gentlemen.  You can take your seats now.  No, seriously.  Sit down. 

YUMMM I wish I had more of these.  So delicious.

Here's the recipe:

1 Rotisserie Chicken, Skin remove and meat pulled
1/2 Cup of Non Fat Greek Yogurt
2 Tbs of Hot Sauce of Choice
1/2 Cup Cheddar Cheese, Shredded
1 Baguette, sliced thin for crostini
Chives, optional

Toast baguette in oven at 400 degrees until lightly toasted.  Meanwhile, mix rest of ingredients in a bowl.  Top each crostini with dollop of filling.  Place back into oven until cheese begins to bubble and become golden, about 8 minutes. Finish with chives and serve immediately.

Stay hungry!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Over-Door Decor Hanging & Gourds Galore

Jesse & I are hosting Thanksgiving again this year and gearing up for a table to fit 22 people.  Though I should have more pressing issues on my mind (like, you know, cooking turkey for that many people), I'm (of course) most interested in how to make my house feel cozy & autumnal for all of our guests.

Last year I posted about hanging a wreath over the glass door leading into our mudroom.  The secret is a Command Hook upside down on the back of the glass.  It's not QUITE time for full throttle Christmas decor yet, so I strung up some ornamental corn & ribbon.

Here's a close up shot (a little confusing because the glass is reflecting the side of the house):

Besides our corn-decor, we've also gone nuts with gourds everywhere.  Hanging out with our mice candleholders, joining a photo of Will the Baby in our mudroom, sitting in a flowerpot on the front step...

As usual, I'm dreaming of a fancy and elaborate table setting for Thanksgiving but I know that, for the sake of my sanity, we'll need to go simple.  I'm thinking more gourds, more corn, and a few flowers.  Stay tuned and stay homey!

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A Visit to Eataly

I was in NYC this past weekend celebrating my 30th (!!!) birthday and had some down time on Saturday afternoon to go meet one of my friends at Eataly.  Though Eataly opened while I was still in the city and working two blocks away, I had never been before and we decided to go for lunch.

I should preface this by saying that if I did still work two blocks away from Eataly (which is on the corner of 5th Avenue and 23rd Street), I would never choose to go on a Saturday afternoon at the beginning of the holiday season.  It was super crowded and full of tourists.  Like overwhelmingly crowded.  But if you can get past the crowds (or go during off hours), it really is an amazing place.

Offering the most incredible selection of both fresh and packaged Italian foods, it reminded me of the food market Jaisa & I visited while in Madrid.  Or like a very high end, very Italian version of Pike Place Market in Seattle.  There were fresh veggies (while killed my theory that this was only a place for tourists), desserts, all sorts of canned and jarred meats and fish, oils, cookbooks, housewares, and SO MUCH PASTA:

My friend Sarah and I met inside and beat the crowds downstairs by heading up to Eataly's rooftop bar, Birreria.

We found a spot at the bar and ordered some drinks.  After relaxing a bit upstairs, we headed back down to the market to get some food and shop around.  Not pictured, because although the crowds had died down a bit by then, it was still super crowded and hard for us to find a place to sit.  So we ended up with more wine.  It should be called "Drinkaly," amirite?

Luckily our two glasses of asti spumante came with a mini cheese and crackers plate as well.  We sipped our wine, enjoyed the cheese, and then left Eataly without having actually eaten a whole lot.

I have to be back in the city later this week and am thinking about making a trip to Eataly during what I would imagine is a quieter time.  Any suggestions on how to beat the crowds there?  Any of Eataly's restaurants I should try?  Let us know and stay hungry!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Prosciutto Goat Cheese and Black Cherry Crostini

As promised, I'm going to continue on our little tour of Crostiniville.  Costini is fun and super easy to make, and the different combinations are endless.   Sometimes I just lay in bed and dream up different combos.  I'm weird.  I know. 

Check out this one:  crispy crostini topped with tangy goat cheese, tart black cherry preserves, and salty smokey prosciutto. There are too many yums in that sentence.  Can't even handle it right now. 

Adding a little fresh thyme makes a beautiful garnish and adds a bright fresh taste.

Imagine this with a bottle glass of pinot noir?  Excuse me, Day, can you be Friday again, please?

Here's the recipe: 

Toast thinly sliced baguette in a 400 degree oven until very lightly toasted.  Spread with a thin layer of goat cheese and top with thinly sliced prosciutto and a dollop of tart preserves (dark cherry works great, but any other flavor would work great too).  Sprinkle with a little fresh thyme and serve immediately.

Stay hungry!