thursday things – merry christmas (and happy new year!)

resolution

Happy Thursday! (and Happy New Year!)

I spent my New Year’s Eve on the sofa with FH (Future Husband). That’s my new name for him now.  He loves it (even though he’s probably seeing it for the first time in this post).  My whole plan for New Years was to stay up and watch the ball drop on Times Square with one little hiccup – apparently they don’t broadcast that out here.

Oops.

So instead we ended up eating chinese food and watching a modern family marathon, then switching to watch the ball drop only to be disappointed when just our local news came on, and they didn’t even mention the ball drop.

Christmas was great – I was lucky enough to get a whole week off of work.  FH’s birthday is just a couple of days before Christmas, so I love having the extra time off to spend with him.

This year, I made him a fossil-filled dinosaur cake, because apparently in my head 32 is the new 2. ;)  The cake was inspired by 1 Fine Cookie,used my favorite chocolate cake recipe with a cream cheese frosting that was then covered in pulverized Oreos.

dino cake 2013

I also took him to see The Hobbit: Desolation of Smaug (because it seemed like the kind of movie that dinosaur-loving kids like, right?) :) – Side note: did you know that Stephen Colbert is in there??

Christmas was full of food, movies, presents, and fun :)

xmas tree instagram

The Food

I hosted Christmas Brunch, which this year consisted of:

My usual meat & cheese spread – Chances are if you’ve ever come to my house, then you have indulged in this.  If you come over often, then you might even dread it by now. Seriously though, it’s the easiest, most stress-free and satisfying appetizer you can make! Just get a variety of meats and cheeses along with some sliced crusty bread and voila!

xmas apps instagram

This spread had some salami, prosciutto, parmesan, and I don’t even remember what other cheeses – then some fig jam and pesto on the side – basically a “build-your-own” bruschetta bar.  On the right are some little phyllo puffs I got at Trader Joes – not everything has to be labored over, ya know? ;)

You may also spot some deviled eggs (courtesy of the future sister-in-law) and some olives to the left.

Monkey Bread - This is one of FH’s favorites (OK, mine too).  And, since it’s so indulgent (think cinnamon-sugar meets caramel) I never make it.  Like, ever.  It’s dangerous if there are less than 10 people around to help you consume it.

monkey bread instagram

Cranberry-Orange Muffins - I had actually made these around Thanksgiving with my leftover cranberry sauce and froze them back then.  Thawed them the night before Christmas and voila – good as new!

Ham & Cheddar Frittata – It was actually my first time ever making a frittata and I am pretty sure I’m going to start making them every weekend from now on.  The leftovers heat up wonderfully and made a perfect breakfast for the rest of the week.  I even stuck a piece in between a toasted english muffin and made my own little on-the-go breakfast sandwich in no time flat!

frittata instagram

Honeybaked Ham (our once-a-year treat!)

Bacon – because, what’s brunch without bacon?

orzo salad arugula 9934

Orzo salad and a regular salad – because sometimes you need vegetables.

For the drinks we had mimosas & sangria – of course you could enjoy your juice alcohol-free as well if you prefer… ;)

In other news…

sophie betrayed instagram

The kitties lost their kitty tower on Sunday.  It was a sad day for them.  Sophie took turns staring out the door, where she saw it dragged out, and staring at me with her sad eyes.

Sam, on the other hand, just kept staring at the empty space where it once stood.  ”Maybe it just turned invisible.”  ”Maybe if I just jump there, it will actually hold me up.”

sam betrayed instagram

What kind of cruel human would steal their beloved children’s joy?  If they spoke english, I could tell them that their old cat tree was old and gross and that we had a brand new one on its way.  But they don’t speak english, so they just lay around like sad little lumps and stare at the wall.

I found a new favorite nail polish color – it’s a rich red with a bit of shimmer to it.  (The picture below really doesn’t do it justice, but we have like one light in our whole house so what can ya do).

nail polish instagram

I made it my “holiday” polish – or that’s the excuse I used when I bought it at least.  I don’t usually buy things like nail polish and make-up because there are so many better things I could spend my money on (like cupcakes and chocolate).

One of the gifts I got was this awesome waffle maker.  I recommend it 110%. I give it 6 out of 5 stars.  I love it.

waffle instagram

I’ve already made 10x more waffles than I’ve made for the whole rest of 2013 combined – seriously. In fact, just the other day we had waffles for dinner (with strawberries & whipped cream – a nice healthy meal!)  Plus, FH has been enjoying his endless supply of frozen waffles to reheat for his morning breakfasts.

Another gift that I’m loving is the Hyperbole and a Half book, which you also need to get.

It’s no secret that I love Hyperbole and a Half, but this is seriously the best thing I’ve read in a long time.  I’ve been reading and re-reading it (and laughing hysterically) whenever I find myself sitting idly on the sofa.  It’ll be the best $10 you’ve spent, I promise.

Links I’m loving

tumblr_myjv1jb2q71t5z2fwo1_500

This girl who is making the best out of losing her iPhone by taking pictures of herself posing as her iPhone thief.

For those of us who spend way too much time in the grocery aisle debating which can of tomatoes to buy, The Splendid Table is here to help.

In case you missed it up there – Did you know that Stephen Colbert is in the new Hobbit movie?

J. Kenji Lopez brings us the best chocolate chip cookies (and most extensive research of the science behind them) on Serious Eats.

How Sweet it Is documented all of her 2013 kitchen failures for us – wasn’t that so sweet of her?

BuzzFeed brought us 35 of the most heartbreaking food fails of 2013.

CollegeHumor reminds us that kids are jerks.  All of them.

Notall spiders are scary (some are just plain awesome).

Reddit helped me with my New Year’s Resolutions.

NPR shows us how to build an indestructible gingerbread house (hint: it involves marshmallows and gummy bear blood).

A plea from Bon Appetit begging us to please make their least popular recipe of 2013. (To be fair, it sounds friggin delicious!)

Christmas Cookie Box Roundup

snickerdoodle blondies from wee eats

15730000168

peanut butter sandwich cookies from some kitchen stories

gently-spiced double chocolate cookies from movita beaucoup

cranberry + orange cookies from a periodic table

vanilla sugar cookies from life tastes good

molasses spice cookies from minimally invasive

brown butter oatmeal toffee cookies from elephant eats

meyer lemon roll-out cookies from every little thing

deep dish pistachio + plum jam thumbprint cookies from of agates and madeleines

giant peppermint florentine cookies from shikha la mode

world peace cookies from wee eats

peanut butter + jelly + potato chip thumbprint cookies from spoon fork bacon

hazelnut shortbread cookies from playing with flour

s’mores cookies from wee eats

chai-spiced pistachio snowdrop cookies from savory simple

hot chocolate on a stick

DSC_7795edit

We recently had a cold snap here, which I hear is in store for the rest of the country as well.  (I don’t know what that means, because I’m pretty sure it’s actually “winter” for the rest of you, but that’s what the weather man said.)  I don’t know about you, but I can’t think of a better way to warm up than a nice cup of hot chocolate.

Not just any hot chocolate, but THE BEST HOT CHOCOLATE IN ALL THE LAND!

I know this because I was told so by my co-worker when she had some.  And also from those who received it in their Christmas baskets.

Oh, and it’s way more fun than regular hot chocolate, because it’s on a stick!  How fun is that?  Just stir it into hot milk (note: really hot milk, unless you want to eat the fudgey leftovers like I some people do).

It’s so good it’ll warm you right up.  It will warm your tummy and your heart.  Especially when served in an adorable, heart-warming penguin cup.  (BF took this pic with his iPad)


penger

This is nice to enjoy while warming your toes with your loved one, or as quietly as possible standing in front of the fridge.  I store mine in the fridge because I think it stands to reason they should last longer that way.  In the event that they hang around long enough that their shelf-life becomes a concern.

Did I mention that it’s also delicious on its own as a fudge-pop?  Like a lollipop made of fudge.  Fudge on a lollipop stick.  Whatever.  Or, ya know, as a cube of not-hot chocolate.

You should always taste for quality-control.  You wouldn’t want to gift a sub-par product, would you?

DSC_7789edit

Hot Chocolate on a Stick

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk (1 1/4 cups)
  • 3 cups semisweet chocolate (chopped chocolate bars or chips)
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened baking chocolate, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract (or extract of your choice)
  • Marshmallows
  • Lollipop sticks

1. Line an 8″ x 8″ pan with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

2. Heat the cream and condensed milk over low heat until steaming.  Remove from the heat and stir in the chocolate.  Set aside for 10 minutes while the chocolate melts.

3. After your 10 minutes have passed, return the pan to the burner and whisk over low heat until the chocolate has completely melted.  Whisk vigorously until the mixture is thick and shiny.  This is where you can add extract, if you wish.   I added a teaspoon of vanilla extract, you could make peppermint hot chocolate with peppermint extract, or hazelnut with hazelnut extract… you get the picture.

4. Pour the chocolate mixture into the pan and shake the pan to level.  Set aside overnight (I stored mine in the microwave… with the microwave off, of course).

5. Remove your chocolate from the pan by pulling your foil handles (if you covered the pan in foil), or you can turn it upside down if you like.  If you didn’t line your pan (aka – didn’t follow step #1), gently go around the edges of the pan with a butter knife to loosen the chocolate, then remove it from the pan.

6.  Slice into 1″ to 1-1/2″ cubes (I actually tried to size mine to the diameter of my marshmallows).  Heat a knife in hot water and wipe dry before each cut, for smoothest cuts.  Stick a lollipop stick into the center of the marshmallow, then the center of each chocolate block.  I wrapped mine in cellophane bags that were made for “cake pops” (the bags and sticks actually came together as a cake pop kit, but the sticks were a little shorter than I’d have liked.)

7. When you are ready to consume your hot chocolate, just stir it into 8 ounces of hot milk -plus or minus a couple ounces, depending on how chocolatey you want your hot chocolate.

soft and chewy candy-filled cookies

DSC_7738sm

It’s the last weekend of 2012, and I apparently fell off the face of the earth for the week of Christmas.

Oops.

But these were able to bring me back.

Lucky for you, because now I’m able to share these delightful goodies with you, for our last installment of COOKIE MADNESS.

DSC_7731sm

I’m sure you thought cookie madness ended with Christmas.  Don’t worry, I did too.

But then, well, like I said… these happened.

photo (7)

Giant, soft, chewy, candy-filled cookies.  Oh, and you don’t need to wait for butter to soften, because it’s melted.  Oh, and you don’t need to use a mixer, just a sturdy whisk and your arm. Although, if you’ve been slacking off at the gym (like some of us lately), you may want to pull out your hand mixer.  It’s easier to lift than the Kitchen Aid anyway.

Oh, and they’re completely delicious.  Did I mention that?

DSC_7745sm

Soft and Chewy M&M Cookies 

[ Printable Recipe ]

  • 2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt (scant)
  • 1 ½ sticks (12 tablespoons) unsalted butter, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1 cup packed brown sugar
  • ½ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 egg + 1 egg yolk, room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 to 1 ½ cups mix-ins (chocolate chips, m&ms, even dried fruit if that’s the way you roll)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F and line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.

Mix the flour, scant ½ teaspoon salt, and baking soda in a bowl and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk the butter and sugars until they are thoroughly blended.  Add the egg, extra yolk, and vanilla.  Continue stirring until mixed.

Add flour mixture and continue mixing just until dough forms.  Once ingredients are incorporated, gently fold in your mix-ins.

Scoop into dough balls (1/4 cup portions for 18 large cookies or 2 tablespoon portions for 36 smaller cookies).

Roll each ball in your hands, and then gently pull the ball apart at the center, creating two equal-sized half-balls.  Press both halves back together with the jagged edges (what used to be the center of the ball) facing up. Try not to feel too ridiculous while doing this.  Clearly it’s totally normal, right?

photo (6)

Place the new mutant dough-“balls” on your baking sheet. If you’re doing large cookies, I’d leave at least 2 inches in between each.  Large cookies will probably be about 4 inches in diameter, “smaller” cookies will be more… regular-sized.

Bake for 15-18 minutes until lightly golden and just set.  Cool the cookies on their baking sheet at least ten minutes to finish setting.  Move to cooling rack to finish cooling completely.

Makes about 16 large or 36 small cookies

[ Adapted from Cook's Illustrated: The New Best Recipe ]