Saturday, December 24, 2011

Merry Christmas!!

Merry Christmas everyone! I hope you're all having a wonderful holiday season and enjoying it with family and friends. Here's our Christmas card for this year. We had a lot of fun dressing Darcy up as Santa for this photo shoot.  Everyone has really enjoyed the card who's received it.

Merry Christmas!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Cherry Limeade Jello Shots

As you may know, I get a lot of traffic on my blog for the Lemon Drop Jello Shots that I made a couple of years ago. Well they're now like my signature item and I love making them.

For the Christmas party, I decided to mix things up and create a jello shot that was more Christmas-y and fun.  I decided on a cherry limeade flavor! Instead of using lemons and lemon jello, I used limes and cherry jello. It worked out really nicely and I think they had a wonderful flavor. Everyone gobbled these up at the party.

Cherry Limeade Jello Shots
- 8 large limes
- 2 packages cherry Jello (3 oz each)
- 1 cup boiling water
- 1 cup citrus vodka
- 1/3 to1/2 cup lime juice (depending on desired taste)
- 1/2 cup ice cold water

Cut the limes in half lengthwise. Squeeze the juice out into a separate container and set aside. Use a spoon to scoop out all of the insides and pulp. You can use a paring knife to help separate the inside, but be sure not to cut through the peel. Once you have them all completely juiced and cleaned out, place each of the halves into a muffin tin, with the open sides up.

Prepare the Jello mixture by mixing 1 cup of boiling water with two packages of cherry Jello. Stir until the Jello has completely disolved. Then, add the 1 cup citrus vodka, 1/2 cup of strained lime juice that you got from the limes, and 1/2 cup ice water. Stir until cooled.

Pour the Jello mixture into each lime half so that they are completely full. Carefully move the muffin tin to the fridge and chill for at least 4 hours, until hardened.

Once the Jello is firm, and you're ready to serve, cut each half into three slices. Turn the lime halves over on a cutting board and then make each slice in one fluid motion using a very sharp, warm, non-serrated knife. Share with friends and enjoy!!

Monday, December 19, 2011

Christmas Party!

This past Saturday, we had our 3rd annual Christmas party at our house and it was so much fun! I just wanted to share some of the details and pictures with you today. I'll post all of the new recipes soon :) I had a lot of fun preparing for this party. I have enjoyed decorating our house for the holidays and this was just another excuse to put up even more decorations.

I added a wreath to the inside of our bay window in the kitchen last week. I made this wreath out of the extra branches from our Christmas tree. It was a thrifty addition but I like how it brings more decorations into the kitchen.

I also updated our kitchen chalkboard to say Merry Christmas!

Then, I made Darcy a Christmas bow tie to wear to the party. I made this with a little bit of fabric that I got from JoAnn's and it was so easy to make. It slipped around one of his old collars and he actually liked wearing it!

I made a lot of food for the party and we were pretty surprised that everyone managed to eat almost everything! A lot of these things went over really well, here's what we had:

Buffalo Chicken Dip Bites
Mushroom and Asparagus Tarts
Veggie Tray

Petit Fours
Pecan Sandies
Christmas Cookies

Specialty Drinks
Cranberry Champagne Cocktail
Cherry Limeade Jello Shots

I made drink stirrers for the cocktails with straws I ordered online from Garnish and little flags that I printed.  These were really easy to make and so fun at the party.

I made Christmas colored jello shots for this party too! My lemon drop jello shots are always a hit, but I decided to make cherry limeade jello shots for this, since they're red and green. These were sweet and sour, but not too strong!
Cherry Limeade Jello Shots
One of the drink stations
Some of the food
Modeling the champagne cocktails
Me and Darcy in front of the Christmas tree
Santa Hat Brownies
It was a really great party with lots of food, drinks and fun with friends! We played Dirty Santa as usual and it was fun as always!

Hope you're enjoying the holiday season and have a Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 5, 2011

Christmas Decorations

We've gotten almost all of our Christmas decorations put up at home! It's really starting to feel like the holidays. Decorating our own house is so much more fun than an apartment.  

We started last weekend when we picked out our Christmas tree and put it up. We had a lot of fun picking out our tree, but the one we picked out ended up being a little taller than our ceiling... so we had to trim the very top of it for our angel to fit. 

This year, we chose to add a little bit of silver to our red and gold collection of ornaments. We hung our stockings on the mantle and added some garland.

This weekend, we hung wreaths on all of our windows. I found a great deal on 24" wreaths and red bows at AC Moore with coupons.  I found on Pinterest that using clear suction cup hangers is one of the best ways to hang wreaths.  This works well with our windows because the bottom sash tilts in and you can remove the screen from the inside.  We were able to put the wreaths up from inside fairly easily and so far, they're working really well!

We have some other decorations throughout the house, including a small lit tree in the foyer.  We also have greenery on the banisters on the stairs and a wreath on the front door. 

And, we got our Christmas cards in the mail this week from TinyPrints.  I'll be mailing them out to our family and friends this week!  Darcy even helped us make them ;)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake

This cake was inspired by the amazing Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake that I made at Christmas last year. I've been dying to make another, similar cake.  While looking for something to make for Thanksgiving, I found a lot of pumpkin cakes with cream cheese frosting. So, I thought, I bet that would be amazing with a layer of cheesecake in the middle!

This cake is moist and has the perfect amount of spice. It really goes well with the creamy cheesecake layer and sweet cream cheese frosting, garnished with pecans. I hope you get a chance to try this! 

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake
- 2 1/2 bars of cream cheese (20 oz), softened
- 3/4 cups sugar
- 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest,
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/4 tsp coarse salt
- 2 eggs
- 1/2 cup sour cream

Pumpkin Cake:
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
- 1/4 cup canola oil
- 4 large eggs
- 1 can pumpkin puree (15 oz)
- 2 cups all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1/3 tsp nutmeg
- 1/3 tsp ginger
- 1/2 tsp salt

- 4 tbs butter
- 1 package cream cheese (8 oz)
- 1 lb powdered sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 cups pecan pieces

Make the cheesecake
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese on medium until fluffy, scraping down side of bowl. Gradually add sugar, beating until fluffy. Beat in lemon zest and juice, vanilla extract and salt. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down side of bowl after each addition. Beat in sour cream.

Line the bottom of the cheesecake pan with parchment paper. Pour in filling and bake until just set in center, about 45 minutes. Remove pan and let cool 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around edge; let cool completely. Cover; chill for at least 2 hours. You may also wrap in plastic wrap and freeze if you'd like to assemble the cake another day.

Bake the cake
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coat two 8" round cake pans with cooking spray and dust with flour.  

Combine granulated sugar, brown sugar, and oil in a bowl.  Beat with a mixer on  medium speed for 2 minutes.  Add eggs and beat until well blended. Add pumpkin puree and continue to beat until thoroughly blended. 

Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt in a medium bowl.  Gradually add flour mixture to pumpkin mixture. Beat until well blended.  

Bake at 350 for 30 minutes or until a pick inserted in the center comes out clean.  Cool in pans for 10 minutes; then remove from pans and cool completely.  

Make the frosting
Beat cream cheese, butter, and vanilla together in a large bowl with an electric mixer until combined. Add powdered sugar and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes.

Assemble the cakePlace bottom layer on cake stand. Apply a thin layer of frosting. Remove cheesecake from freezer or fridge and unwrap. Place cheesecake layer on top of the frosted, bottom layer of the red velvet cake.

If the cheesecake is wider than the cake, and it is necessary to to trim it, use a serrated knife around the edge of the layer. Top with another layer of frosting. Place top layer of cake on top of the cheesecake, and coat with a generous layer of the cream cheese frosting to act as the crumb coat. Be careful not to get any red velvet crumbs in the bowl of frosting!

Refrigerate approximately 30 minutes, then frost with as much of the remaining frosting as necessary.  Garnish sides of cake with pecan pieces.  Keep refrigerated before serving. 

Source: Original Creation, components modified from Beantown Baker and CookingLight

Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake on the dessert bar at Thanksgiving!

Ps, if you're not in the mood for pumpkin cake, try the original: Red Velvet Cheesecake Cake, mmmmmm! Perfect for Christmas!!

Monday, November 28, 2011

Thanksgiving Recap

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving and relaxing weekend. We had a really busy couple of days and I really enjoyed spending time with our families and friends. 

We hosted for our families on both sides and had 12 people for dinner on Thanksgiving. All of the food was really delicious and our turkey came out beautifully! I don't have many pictures from the meal because I was super busy preparing everything then eating.  But, here's what our turkey looked like before heading in the oven for 3+  hours.  I really wish I had a picture from afterwards, but oh well!

We had so much food. We started out the day with tons of appetizers. This included: bruschetta, crudite platter, spinach dip, stuffed mushrooms, and snacks.  I was really excited to put the spinach dip inside this super cute "Turkey Bread" from La Farm Bakery! 

For dessert, we had a lot of options too. I made an original cake, Pumpkin Cheesecake Cake. It's a pumpkin cake with a whole layer of cheesecake in the middle. I can't wait to share more pictures and the recipe with you tomorrow!

I had worked on the tablescape for a few days leading up to Thanksgiving, so I had a lot of time to take pictures. I made flower arrangements inside pumpkins, inspired by pictures on Pinterest. 

Then, each person had a unique gourd with their place card on a napkin at their place setting. 

I also added mason jars with flowers, candles and more gourds to the table, to complete the look.

After dinner we even had some time to take some pictures for our Christmas card this year!  I can't wait to send the card out to our friends and family!!

Darcy's ready for Christmas!!!
We had a busy and fun rest of the weekend, but it was great. I hope everyone has a wonderful week this week!  I can't believe it's almost December!! 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Cabinet Wine Lattice

Remember this project? ...Yeah, the one that we started back in MAY!  Well, it's finally finished and what a relief that is. This wasn't a complicated project, but it was easy to ignore for a while once we were almost done, so that's why it took us so long to finally get it completed.

Of course, we went through many phases and it took hiring some outside help, but at least we're done and can enjoy the finished product now.

First, we removed the doors of the cabinet above the fridge during the cabinet painting prep work. We also removed the divider that was between the doors and the shelf in the middle of the cabinet.  We filled the holes with wood putty and painted this open cabinet as we did the exterior of the rest of the cabinets.

We ordered wine lattice from The Hardware Hut and had it cut to size and installed by a handyman in our area.

Then, I added a small piece of trim to the top to finish everything off. I sanded, caulked, and repainted.  Then, we filled it with all of the wine that we have at the moment.  I'm really enjoying this as it makes our kitchen feel more custom and fits our needs.

FYI, it turns out that wine storage above a refrigerator can be quite controversial and some advise against it.  However, I have checked that the temperature does not fluctuate in this space above the fridge, which could damage the wine stored there. Our fridge vents on the front, below the doors so this is not a problem. Also, we don't plan to store very expensive bottles of wine here, it's more for decorative and casual use.

p.s. Happy 1.5 year anniversary to my wonderful husband, Kevin!
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