Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A message from Gina

On Deceomber 7th I received this facebook message from my sister:

Hey Francesca!
I wanted to send this to you in a message so you could try making this for your blog. I made it yesterday and packaged them in cute containers to give out for Christmas. EVERYONE LOVED THEM...They told me they would pay me to make more. Its sooooo easy and fun to make. I attached the girls blog with the recipe. If you have time and want to make something please try this:) Love you.

Gina then asked me every other day if I had made the popcorn yet. No, I hadn't...much to her disapproval. So on Christmas Eve Gina walked me through the 10 steps of making this Caramel, Pecan, White Chocolate Popcorn. Um, Yum.

Caramel Corn with Pecans and White Chocolate
From Our Best Bites (They have a video you can watch too)

12 Cup popped popcorn (about 1/2 C kernels), you can use air popped or natural microwave popcorn.
1 Cup roughly chopped pecans
1 Cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 Cup honey
1/2 Cup stick butter
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 Cups white chocolate, melted

Step 1: Place popcorn and chopped pecans in a very large bowl and set aside. And, preheat your oven to 250.

Step 2: Combine brown sugar and cinnamon in a big, microwave-safe bowl. Like a 2-quart bowl or Pyrex measuring bowl. Chop butter into chunks and place on top of sugar mixture. Pour honey over the top of everything. Microwave on High for 30 seconds.

Step 3: Remove bowl from microwave and stir to combine. Place bowl back in the microwave and heat for 2 minutes. 
Step 4: After 2 minutes in the microwave your caramel (because that's what you are making) should be really bubbly.

Step 5: Add vanilla and baking soda. 

Step 6: Pour the mixture over the popcorn and pecans. Stir well. Really really well. For a long time you need to stir well. 

Step 7: Line a baking pan with foil and spread the popcorn on it. 

Step 8: Bake for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes. This is how your popcorn gets crunchy, so check the consistency by tasting. 

Step 9: Once done, remove popcorn from oven and drizzle white chocolate all over it. As much as you want. Yummm. 

Step 10: Once it is completely cool break into pieces and you can package it in cute containers like my sister and give it as a gift...or you can can keep it. Enjoy!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Buon Natale!

That's Italian for Merry Christmas. Yes, I totally typed it in Four semesters of Italian in college, an Italian father, a thorough viewing of the Godfather trilogy, and great-grandparents "off the boat" and I have to look up "Merry Christmas" from a free translation site. Nevertheless, we had a wonderful Natale Italiano with my family.

 Some delicious appetizers (yes, mostly olives, we are an olive eating family, which is usually weird for people outside the family). This was followed by baked ziti, meatballs and sausage. Yum!

No Italian meal is complete without some Biscotti.

Biscotti, are those hard cookies that are perfect to be dunked in coffee, hot chocolate or milk! There is always a bunch sitting at the register at Starbucks. But, these are better, if I do say so myself.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! It is currently 74 degrees and sunny. All the windows in the house are open and our Christmas Palm Tree is swaying in the breeze. Nonetheless, I love hot drinks, they are so holiday-ish and cozy. This Spiced Apple Cider is no exception. 

Spiced Apple Cider

-1 Gal. Apple Cider
-1 cup brown sugar, packed
-6 oz. frozen orange juice
-2 cinnamon sticks
-3 whole cloves
-3 whole allspice

Combine all ingredients in a large pot heat on medium until just beginning to boil and than simmer for 15 minutes. Or, serving at a party? Use a large crockpot on low. 

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree...Again

Continuing with the party details...

Our amazingly huge Christmas tree!

Ok...maybe not. But it's cute!

Decorating our book shelves.

Bradley picked up some greenery from Home Depot...did you know they just throw that stuff away! You can get it for free! That made my holiday a little brighter!

Guests were greeted by my homemade wreath.

Festive snacks.

Holiday flowers. I love having live flowers in the house (That comes from my mom).

Even your water should be pretty!
But my favorite detail was the favors!


And packaged!
Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree...

Well we hosted our first and only Christmas party of the year. It is a lot of work, especially when you have a "vision." Unfortunately, I don't have many pictures because I was down to the wire getting everything done...I sent Bradley out an hour before people came to buy a punch bowl...but it was a lot of fun and I accomplished my "vision."

One of my favorite details was a Cupcake Christmas Tree.

Can you tell what this is? I think it looked better in real life...

More to come! 

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Walking in a Winter Yogurtland

I love date night. Also, you should know, I have mad ice skating skills.

Here, I was posing for the camera and I wanted to balance on one know to look cool.... because holding on to the wall and balancing on foot is super cool, in case you were wondering. This was the result. And Bradley just happened to catch it on camera.
"I have a feeling you are going to be really bad at this and I am going to be Aaa-mazing!" -Bradley as we are walking in to the ice skating rink. 
After ice skating we went to....

Wait for it....

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Have yourself a merry little cupcake...

Now that school is coming to a close for the holiday seasons there are a lot of things I want to do. First on my list is painting my nails red. My manis and pedis need some tender loving care and are crying to be a part of the holiday festivities. Second, I need to buy a holiday scented candle (As you can see this is a very pressing list). Third, I need to replenish my candy cane stash as I used all mine to create my Christmas Cupcakes decorations.
I love peppermint. I even have Limited Edition Peppermint Scented body wash. Too much information? I love my "limited editions" too. I can't resist a Limited Edition. 
Oh the chocolaty decadence! The cupcake is this recipe and the frosting is this recipe

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

I think I'll move to France...

I think I will drop out of school, sell everything I have and move to France, where I will carry a French baguette in my purse, eat chocolate like it's my job, and pitch a tent at the top of the Eiffel Tower. I will wear totally awesome boots every day of my life and to fit in I won't shave. Definitely beats studying 13 hours a day...can you tell I've reached my limit?
Thankfully, I have a study buddy!

And this cutie (who is also a study buddy, but way better at staying concentrated for long periods of time. Like right now, he is studying away, I'm writing this post...) who takes me to get the Limited Edition Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake from Chik-fil-a (love love love makes me super happy). Definitely a highlight of the Christmas Season!

Also, it is freezing here! What happened to Christmas in shorts?

But, thankfully, I have this fur ball to keep my feet warm...and those lovely slipper socks. (By the way, I am wearing jeggings....can I please tell you that I LOVE them. The comfort of leggings the style of skinny jeans. The end.)

So because I have no life/time right now, and because it's, "31 degrees at the most famous beach in the world" (said the country music radio station this morning), I made Tomato Basil soup.  Even though I don't usually like tomato soup I have fond memories of it. It's like the winter wonderland food of choice. It just makes me think of winter and snow and grilled cheese and panera. I really liked this recipe. You should try it.

Tomato Basil Soup
Slightly adapted All Recipes 

  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can chicken broth
  • 18 fresh basil leaves, minced--  plus a couple dashes of dried basil, to taste
  • 1 heaping teaspoon sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream (I used 1/2 cream and 1/2 skim milk)
  • 4 T butter
 In a large saucepan, bring the tomatoes and broth to a boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Add basil and sugar. Reduce heat to low; stir in cream and butter. Cook until butter is melted.

I'm going to bed. Oops, I mean I'm going to study...

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Random picture of my pup and some soup

To say this week has been overwhelming is an understatement...but the good news is finals and papers and school will be finished by FRIDAY!!  So just five loooong days of studying and writing and pulling information out of my bu....books. I cannot believe how fast this semester has gone by! I want to reminisce like every 4 hours but...I'll save it for the day (Friday! remember?) I'm actually finished with classes and can begin the holiday festivities in full free spirit! Maybe I'll be able to read those books I bought right before I started school...which was not a smart move.

I'm sorry...he's the most adorable thing!

Anyway, because it's been soo crazy around here I've been on the hunt for fast, easy, easy recipes. And I'm here to tell you I've found the ultimate one! Well, actually a friend gave it to me, her and her husband have eaten it for 6 meals this week (by choice)! Wow, if that doesn't sell you on it there is nothing that will. That sold me.

Broccoli Cheddar Soup

-2 (14.5 oz) cans of Chicken Broth
-2 cups milk
-4 tablespoons corn starch
-1 big bag of frozen broccoli (16 oz)
-8 oz of cheddar cheese, cubed

1. Bring broth to boil.
2. Add frozen broccoli and bring back to boil. Reduce to low, cover and simmer for 5 minutes.
3. In a separate bowl (or large measuring cup) add milk (I used 11/2 cup skim milk and 1/2 cup cream) and corn starch, mix until corn starch is dissolved.
4. Add milk to broth, stir and bring to a boil for one minute.
5. Add cheese, stir until melted and combined
6. Serve and be amazed!
7. Discuss how you will never eat at Panera again even though they have those awesome new perk cards (not sure what to call them) and you keep getting free food!