Friday, December 25, 2009

December 25th

Merry Christmas Everyone!

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Thursday, December 24, 2009

Hot Chocolate Cake

I've been busy...

...making this

I call it Hot Chocolate Cake

I promise I will post the recipe but for now I need to head to the gym and prepare to indulge in this decadence later today.

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

My Favorite Christmas Cookie

These are my absolute favorite Christmas Cookie. I love the combination of cranberry and orange and the sugar on the outside gives them a little sparkle. Perfect for Christmas!

Cranberry Orange Cookies
makes about 3 dozen

Sugar Mixture:
1/3 cup sugar
1 t freshly grated orange peel
(Instead of the orange peel, this time I used the left over sugar from rolling the candied orange peels I made. It was infused with the orange flavor and worked really well.)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1/4 t baking soda
1 cup sugar
3/4 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg
1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
1 T freshly grated orange peel

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Combine sugar mixture ingredients in a medium bowl and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine flour, baking powder and baking soda; set aside. Combine sugar, butter and egg in a large bowl and beat, at medium speed, until creamy. Reduce speed to low and add flour mixture. Beat until well mixed. Add cranberries and orange peel and continue to beat until just mixed.

Shape dough into 1" balls and roll in the balls in the sugar mixture. Place 2" apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten the balls with the bottom of a glass to 1 1/2" circles.

Bake for 7-11 minutes, until edges are very lightly browned, Do not over bake, the best part about these cookies is the soft, chewy texture. Cool for about 1 minute before removing from cookie sheet (they will be soft when they first come out of the oven).

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Monday, December 21, 2009

Breakfast of Champions

Paired with a Clementine fruit salad this would make a great Christmas morning breakfast; hearty and flavorful and super easy to make for a crowd.

Biscuits and Gravy
makes 4 servings (but can easily be doubled or even tripled)

8 biscuits*
1 lb breakfast sausage roll (such as Jimmy Dean)
2 cups milk (I use 1 or 2%)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
(if you want to add a little kick sprinkle in a little cayenne pepper too.)

Cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, breaking apart as it cooks, until browned.

Mix in the the flour, 1 T at a time, until completely mixed. Slowly stir in the milk and cook until thick and starting to bubble. Stir in salt and pepper to taste (and cayenne, if desired).

*For the biscuits I usually make drop biscuits because they are so darn easy. This time I made the buttermilk biscuits from Pioneer Woman Cooks but I have to say I didn't love them and I think I will go back to drop biscuits in the future. It didn't help that I overcooked them a tad. There's something about a kitchen full of people that makes it impossible for me to remember what I have put in the oven. Good thing I don't work in a professional kitchen.

Here is a recipe for drop biscuits that I like (this makes about 12-15 biscuits):

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 t baking powder
1 t kosher salt
1/2 t baking soda
5 T cold, unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup regular or low-fat buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper of aluminum foil.

In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda. Using a pastry blender, two knives or your fingers (I go with the finger method) add the butter to the flour mixture and mix until crumbly. Add the buttermilk and stir until combined. The dough will be very sticky.

Drop heaping tablespoons of the dough onto the baking sheet and bake until lightly golden and cooked through, about 12-15 minutes.

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Sunday, December 20, 2009

A PW Cooks Giveaway! Winner

Good Morning.

I was so excited about choosing the winner of the PW Cooks giveaway this morning that I was up at 7 AM and I am supposed to be on vacation!

Anyway, I'll get to it. I went the boring route and used to generate the number and the winner is:

Heather from Squirrelbread!

(Heather I sent you an email, please respond with your shipping information and I will try to get it to you by the end of the week!)

Thanks to everyone for entering. I wish I could have given a book away to all of you!

(Twila, do not despair, there is a consolation prize on its way to you!)

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Saturday, December 19, 2009

Candied Orange Peels

These candied orange peels make me smile because two years ago, at Christmas time, I went online searching for a recipe for them and landed on Use Real Butter. I had no idea at the time of the vast world of food blogs and URB quickly became my favorite. She really opened my eyes to the world of food blogging and was a big inspiration for me to start TWM.

It is important to blanch the peels at least three times (I usually do four) in order to take away the bitterness. Any small amount of leftover bitter flavor is zapped by the chocolate dip.

Dark Chocolate Dipped Candied Orange Peel

4 oranges
3 cups sugar
1 cup water

1 cup sugar for rolling
8 oz semi-sweet chocolate for dipping

The method I use to get the peel off the oranges is: Cut each orange in quarters and then cut each quarter into quarters. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the flesh out of each piece. Cut about half of the pith off of the peel and slice the piece of peel in half lengthwise. Repeat, repeat, repeat. This is messy work, be prepared.

Place the peels in a large saucepan and cover with cold water. Heat on high until the water comes to a boil. Pour off the water. Repeat two or three more times. Combine sugar and water in the saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the peel and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer until peels are translucent (at least 30 minutes, probably longer). Remove the peels from the syrup with tongs and roll in sugar. Shake off excess and set on wax paper to dry. Once the peels are dry dip half in melted chocolate.

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Friday, December 18, 2009

Snowflake Sugar Cookies

It has been a baking extravaganza around here the last couple of days. So much so yesterday that I didn't get a chance to post anything. I gave away gift bags of a variety of goodies to all of my coworkers today.

I find a lot of sugar cookie recipes can be pretty bland and have a poor texture. This one is easy to work with, has a great texture and is delicious! The trick is not over baking them. My first batch usually comes out well but if I get anxious and try to bake the second batch when the sheets are still hot I will often get them a little on the brown side. In my opinion if these are brown at all they are overdone.

Sugar Cookies
makes 3 dozen medium sized cookies

2 sticks (16 T) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 t pure vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (plus more for work surface)
1/4 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt

Combine the flour, baking soda and salt in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat the butter and sugar in the bowl of and electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the egg and beat until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Mix in the vanilla. reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the flour mixture. Mix until just combined. The dough will be stiff.

Shape the dough into a flat 1" thick disk. Refrigerate, wrapped, for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees.Roll out the dough on a floured surface to 1/4" thick. Cut into shapes and bake on a parchment lined baking sheet for 10-12 minutes. Cool completely on baking sheets.

Royal Icing:
makes 1 cup (enough for 2-4 dozen cookies)

2 cups confectioners' sugar
1 large egg white (or equivalent amount of dried egg whites if you don't want to eat uncooked egg whites)
1/2 t lemon juice

In a large bowl, combine the sugar, egg white and lemon juice. Add water 1/2 t at a time (stirring well between additions) until it reaches the desired consistency. Store in airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 days.

If you want to decorate your cookies like the ones I made start with a thicker icing that you can pipe around all of the edges of the cookies. When that hardens dilute the remainder of the icing and flood the cookies. When that hardens you can pipe a contrasting color over the top, again with a thicker icing. There are really great step by step photos and beautiful cookies here.

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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Cookie Mix in a Jar

So, remember how I said I tied for best outfit at the Ugly Holiday Sweater Party? Well, this was my awesome prize!

It is a cookie mix in a jar. The other winner got the baked cookies but the party hostess knew that I would enjoy baking the cookies as much I would enjoy eating them!

The recipe is from Domino Sugar's website and they have several varieties. They also have the recipes on little cards that you can print out and attach to the jar. My friend recycled holiday cards from last year to make the tags. So clever!

I think this is a fantastic gift idea for friends or co-workers.

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Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Deliciously Simple and Healthy Appetizer

There is still time to enter the PW Cooks signed cookbook givaway! Do it here.

Do you still have a holiday party to attend this season? Do you have to bring something to share? This is a deliciously simple and healthy appetizer that will impress your fellow party goers.

I have already attended all of the parties this year that I needed to bring something to but I really wanted to share this here so I whipped these up the other day and then ate them for lunch! It was sort of fun and out of the ordinary.

It may be hard to find cherry tomatoes at this time of year but grape tomatoes are usually available all year long. Also, if your market has an olive/antipasti bar that is a great place to look for the small fresh mozzarella balls.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Mozzarella, Tomato and Basil Balls
from Fine Cooking
makes 16

8 thin slices prosciutto, halved lengthwise (get this at the deli counter)
8 large basil leaves, halved lengthwise (or 16 small leaves)
8 small fresh mozzarella balls (about 1" in diameter), halved
8 grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra-virgin olive oil

Lay 1 piece of prosciutto flat on a work surface and put a piece of basil on top at one end. Top the basil with a piece of mozzarella and tomato, matching the cut ends to form a ball. Season lightly with salt and generously with pepper and rolls the balls up in the prosciutto. Secure the end with a toothpick and place on a serving platter. Repeat with the remaining ingredients. Drizzle with olive oil and serve. (These will keep at room temperature for up to 1 hour before serving.)

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Monday, December 14, 2009

The Coolest Wreath on the Block

First off, if you haven't entered to win the PW Cooks signed cookbook give away you can do it here.

Now, I'm excited to share this wreath that I made with the help of a friend a couple of weeks ago. She has recently been getting into paper crafts and has made some really beautiful things. She made a wreath like this in the fall and I asked her to show me how. It is so simple and the end product is really impressive.

All you do is apply glue (with a glue stick) to one diagonal corner of a sheet of regular printer paper and roll it tightly with a wooden dowel (starting with the not glued corner and ending with the glued corner. Once you have made about 100 of them apply them to a doughnut shaped circle cut out of cardboard. At this point you can spray paint the whole thing whatever color you want. The center circle are additional doughnut shaped cardboard cutouts wrapped tightly with yarn and glued onto the first circle.

At first I was just going to go with the teal yarn but I thought it was a little more festive with the red added.
I guarantee it will be the coolest wreath on the block.

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

A PW Cooks Giveaway!

The Ugly Holiday Sweater party was a blast and I actually tied for best outfit and won a sweet prize! I am going to share it here sometime this week. When you win at something like that it shouldn't really be an honor because it basically means that you looked the ugliest. But I was proud to accept and I think I really owe it all to my leg warmers, which, by the way, were totally functional since it was so freakin' cold last night!

How could I not have had a great time with these four lookers as my escorts for the evening!

The other excitement of the day was that we took a trip down to the city (it still surprises me every time we go how easy it is to get there!) and we met the Pioneer Woman! The book signing was at 11:00 and I was pretty sure it was going to be packed so we got there about an hour early and were glad we did. Even so we had about 50 people in line in front of us. The wait wasn't too bad though because we met a couple of really nice people and chatted it up all the while. The two women in front of us were a mother (The Everyday Woman) and daughter (The Farmer's Daughter)and both bloggers from CT! The girl behind us was from Brooklyn and she gave us a great tip that if we went out the back door of the building we were in (The Chelsea Market, such a cool place!) that we would be directly under the High Line, which is a new park in Manhattan built on an old rail line. We had been wanting to see it but didn't think we would be able to on this trip.

PW looked beautiful and is so gracious. I can't imagine the energy it would take to sit there all day signing book after book after book, and still manage to connect with each individual person.

I got my copy of her cookbook a couple of weeks ago and so far have made her Chicken Pot Pie and her Buttermilk Biscuits. The book is definitely heavy on the comfort/cowboy food but those are the recipes that we return to time and time again throughout our lives. It is the type food that can warm up a bitter cold day and join friends around the table.

I am not going to post this recipe today but I am going to do one better for one lucky reader. I am giving away a signed copy of The Pioneer Woman Cooks cookbook!

Just a leave a comment below and let me know, What is your favorite comfort food? and you will be entered to win. I am going to choose the winner next Sunday the 20th and will announce it here.

Please, one entry per person and good luck!

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Saturday, December 12, 2009

Ugly Holiday Sweaters

Every year our friends throw an "Ugly Holiday Sweater" party. That is where we are headed tonight. I have approximately 2 minutes to do this post so I thought I would share a few pics from last year.

Hilarious! And so much fun.

My outfit hasn't changed much this year (I searched for a new sweater but couldn't find one nearly as ugly!) but I did add some turquoise leg warmers that I picked up in NYC today!

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Friday, December 11, 2009

A Christmas Miracle!

Tonight I am celebrating because today I became an Architect!

For the past 16 months I have been studying for and taking the seven most grueling exams of my life and today I received my final pass letter! It is the best Christmas present I have ever gotten!

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Thursday, December 10, 2009

Cookie Truffles

I was disappointed in myself that I didn't get a post done yesterday but then I remembered that this is my blog and I can to whatever I want with it. So I stopped giving myself a hard time and instead was happy that I had a jamb packed day which concluded with a lovely dinner with great friends.

I am starting to get in to the sweets that I plan on making for holiday gifts. The first is a deceitfully decadent treat. It looks and tastes totally gourmet but it's actually made with only three ingredients (four if you count the sea salt on this version) and can be changed up very easily. All it is is a package of cookies, a package of cream cheese and semi-sweet chocolate. I'm telling you, deceitfully delicious!

The original "recipe" uses Oreos but I changed it up a little here and used Nutter Butters and, to make the peanut flavor really pop I sprinkled a little sea salt on top. I'm not going to lie, they are not too good for the waistline but they are great for the spirit. My friend ate one last night and said it was like crying in public. Um, is that a good thing?

Cookie Truffles
makes 3 dozen

1 package Oreos, Mint Oreos or Nutter Butters (do not use double stuff Oreos)
1 8oz package cream cheese, at room temperature
16 oz semi-sweet chocolate (it is better to use a bar than chocolate chips as they do not melt very well)

Crumble the cookies into fine crumbs (or process in a food processor until very finely chopped). Mix with the cream cheese until well combined. Refrigerate mixture for at least 1 hour. Roll into 1" balls and refrigerate again until well chilled.

Melt the chocolate in a double boiler or in the microwave and dip the balls until completely covered. Set aside until chocolate is hardened. (I think these just get better with time so if you can wait a day or so they are really amazing!)

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Tuesday, December 8, 2009

The 8th Day

It's day 8 of the advent and I don't have it in me tonight. I had a killer spinning class and then came home and made 72 cookie truffles. I will post that soon and you will not want to miss it. They are amaizing!

Also, don't forget to stop by on the 13th when I will be doing my first give away! I will give you one hint now, I will be getting the item at an event I am attending on Saturday.

Hmmm, what could it be?

I hope to be back in the saddle tomorrow.


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Monday, December 7, 2009

I am not proud.

I have two confessions to make.

The first is, I am really pushing to publish this post today, I would much rather be curled up on the couch right now. Which leads me to my second confession...

I am addicted to the terrible Christmas movies on the Hallmark Channel and Falalala Lifetime. I don't know what it is about them. I would never put up with the terribly predictable story lines and bad acting at any other time of the year but it is something about the Christmas theme that just gets me. Jer laughs at me and mocks the movies by making sure at the end that they all lived happily ever after. I am happy to report that they did.

But, I will push through and finish this post tonight. Tonight I will resist the Santas who are dreaming of a life down south and the single mothers looking for love by Christmas. But tomorrow all bets are off.


I made this cake for Thanksgiving but wanted to save it to post now. I guess it is technically dessert but I think it would make a great addition to a breakfast or brunch spread. It really has the texture of a coffee cake.

Cranberry Upside Down Cake
modified from Dorie Greenspan via Playing House

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 t baking powder
1 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t salt
14 T (1 3/4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 6 T sugar
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
2 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (it frozen do not thaw)
2 large eggs
1 t vanilla extract
1/3 cup whole milk
red current jelly, for glazing

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, place a rack in the center of the oven.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, cinnamon and salt.

Melt 6 T of the butter in a small saucepan. Sprinkle in 6 T of the sugar and cook, stirring, until the mixture comes to a boil. Pour the mixture into the cake pan and scatter the nuts and then the cranberries evenly of the sugar mixture.

Beat the remaining butter (8 T) in a stand mixture with a paddle attachment until smooth. Add the remaining1/2 cup sugar and continue to beat until pale and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Add the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add half of the dry ingredients, mixing until just combined. Mix in the milk and then the remaining dry ingredients. Spoon the batter over the cranberries and smooth the top.

Bake for 40-45 minutes in a 8" pan or 35-40 minutes in a 9" pan, until the cake is golden and a knife inserted in the center come out clean. Turn the cake out onto a serving platter. If any berries stick to the pan, scrape them off and return to the cake.

Warm the jelly in a small saucepan over low heat, or in the microwave. Gently brush over the hot cake.

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Christmas Tree

It's day six of the advent and today I want to share some pictures of our Christmas Tree. We just put it up today. I love this part of the holidays!

When we brought it home it had some ice on it from our first snow of the season! It was so pretty we were wishing it would stay.


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Saturday, December 5, 2009


To me the holidays go hand in hand with citrus fruits. When I cut into one it just smells like Christmas. And, during this season, when it is so easy to reach for a cookie or a piece of chocolate is it especially important to keep a lot of fruit around the house. One of my favorites is grapefruit and, beside being delicious, it is packed with health benefits not the least of which is its ability to raise your metabolism! It has been found that this fruit, which is packed with vitamin C reduces insulin levels and promotes weight loss! Or in the case of the holiday season, can help level things out. So go pick a few up and enjoy!

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Friday, December 4, 2009

A Decadent Holiday Side

It's day four of the advent and I thought I would share a recipe that would make a decadent side dish for any holiday party or menu. You really don't need to worry about all of the heavy cream and butter and cheese because it is so rich that a little bit is all you need. The sauce came out just perfect, thick and creamy and gooey. Mmmmm.

Caramelized Shallot and Crispy Sage Macaroni and Cheese
makes 6-8 servings

1 lb orecchiette pasta
2 T olive oil
2 large shallots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 T butter
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups Gruyere cheese
1 t kosher salt
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage

Cook the pasta according to package directions.

Heat olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook 15-17 minutes, stirring frequently until deep golden brown. Add the garlic and cook 1 additional minute. Set aside.

Meanwhile, melt 4 T of the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the flour until smooth and until mixture starts to brown, about 1 minute. Whisk in the buttermilk and cream, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and mix in cheeses and salt. Cook 5 minutes or until cheese is melted and mixture is smooth.

Melt remaining 1 T butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add sage, saute 1 minute and turn off heat.

Mix pasta, shallots, cheese sauce and sage in a large bowl and enjoy!

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Thursday, December 3, 2009


I took these beauties...

...and turned them into this.

And it was gooood.

And that is all I am going to say about that.

Cranberry Apple Streusel with Crystallized Ginger
modified from Fine Cooking
makes 8 servings

For the streusel:
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted
1/4 t salt
6 T unsalted butter, melted

Combine the flour, sugar, walnuts and salt. Using your fingers blend the butter into the flour mixture, set aside.

For the filling:
4 Granny Smith Apples, peeled, quartered and cut into 1/4" pieces
1 3/4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries
3/4 cup + 6 T. granulated sugar
3 1/2 T all-purpose flour
1 T very finely chopped crystallized ginger
1/4 t ground cinnamon

Heat oven to 350 degrees.

In a food processor, pulse the cranberries and 3/4 cup of the sugar until coarsely chopped. In a large bowl, combine the remaining 6 T sugar with the flour, ginger and cinnamon, breaking up the ginger clumps with your fingers. Toss in the cranberry mixture and apples.

Divide the filling evenly between 8 small baking dished or place in one 8"x8" baking pan. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the apple mixture, pressing into small lumps as you sprinkle.

Place on a baking sheet lined with aluminum foil and bake until the streusel is deeply browned and and the filling the bubbling at the edges, about 30-40 minutes if you are using individual dishes or 65-75 minutes for one large dish.

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Wednesday, December 2, 2009

A Dinner Dressed Up in Red and Green

I didn't realize when I was making this meal how Christmasy it was going to look. It really wasn't until I opened the photos on my computer and the red and green leapt off the screen. Beside the delicious colors of the meal the flavors were fantastic. I had the pomegranate juice leftover from the side dish I made for Thanksgiving and it played so well with the shallots. It was super quick and easy too. A nice to meal to have in your back pocket during the craziness of the holidays.

Pork Chops with Pomegranate Pan Sauce and Garlicky Green Beans
from Cooking Light
makes 4 servings

For the pork:
1/2 t garlic powder
1/2 t kosher salt
1/2 t ground cumin (I love cumin with pork chops!)
1/4 t black pepper
4 4oz boneless pork loin chops
2 t olive oil
1 large shallot, chopped
3/4 cup pomegranate juice
1 T sugar
1 T balsamic vinegar

Heat the oil in a large, nonstick skillet over medium high heat. Combine the first four ingredients and sprinkle on both side of the pork chops. Place the pork chops in the skillet and cook until cooked through, about 3 minutes per side. Set aside and cover with aluminum foil.

Add the shallots to the pan and cook 45 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the juice, sugar and vinegar and bring to a boil. Cook until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes. Serve with the pork.

For the green beans:
3/4 lb green beans, trimmed
1 T butter
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/4 t kosher salt
1/4 t black pepper

Cook green beans in boiling water until crisp-tender. Drain and set aside. In a large skillet melt the butter, add the garlic and saute until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Toss with the green beans, salt and pepper.

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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

25 Days and Counting

Okay everyone,
I am going to change things up here on TWM for the month of December. I am going to be posting once a day with holiday crafts and food and events, sort of like a blogger advent calender.

To start things off I am posting an actual advent calendar that I made. I started this project over a year ago and didn't get it done in time for last Christmas so I made sure to have it done this year. When I was growing up my Grandma gave us an advent calender that had a pocket for each day and there was a little mouse that you moved from pocket to pocket. I loved that thing and remember racing down stairs in the morning to move the mouse. I wanted to make something in that spirit, something I knew I would have for a long time.

This is, obviously, a Christmas tree and there is an ornament for each day. I had so much fun making it and, thankfully, got a lot of advise from my Mother-in-Law who has been quilting for a couple of years now.

I think this would make a fabulous gift if I had it in me to tackle another one. Maybe next year.

So here we go, I hope you come back often this month to see what is in store; and definitely mark your calenders for the 13th when I will be doing my first give away! I am not going to say what it is just yet but I am very excited about it!

Yippee and God help me on this marathon!

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