Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Simple (and Relatively Healthy) Recipes for the Holidays

With only a couple weeks until Christmas, I am looking at recipes and trying to figure out what delicious contributions I can make to my family's holiday meals. In the process I realized that I have a few recipes I could share with you might make your search a little easier!


Holiday Floats

Last month I shared a couple signature drinks I have made for previous Thanksgivings. This year I created "Thanksgiving Floats" which are easily rebranded "Holiday Floats". I used Martha Stewart's Everyday Food recipe for Cranberry & Apple Cider Sorbet for these floats. I followed the recipe as it was written with the exception of doubling the recipe. This meant it froze on a different timeline and even though I forgot about it in the freezer and mashed it late, it turned out wonderfully once I put it in the food processor. The flavor is quite strong but really mellows out once made into a float.

The assembly is quite simple. In addition to the sorbet you will need sparkling wine - I personally like Prosecco as it's not too dry or too sweet. Despite what my directions say in the photos below, I think the best way to assemble the floats is as follows:

1. Pour a small amount of sparkling wine in each glass. Allow the foam to subside.

2. Put 1 or 2 (depending on taste) small scoops of sorbet in the glass. I used a melon baller to get the right sized scoop for a champagne flute.

3. Slowly and carefully top with sparkling wine. The combination of the bubbly drink and the cold sorbet really causes it to foam up!

In order to keep the sorbet frozen, I took an ice bucket, filled it with ice, and then placed the bowl of sorbet on top. If you are hosting a party and want this drink to be self-serve, I would recommend doing something similar.


Tortellini Caprese Skewers

1 package whole wheat cheese tortellini
cherry tomatoes (I used Sweet 100s from my garden)
basil, cut or torn into skewer size pieces
Trader Joe's Balsamic Glaze
olive oil
coarse sea salt

1. Cook tortellini according to package instructions. Cool. If you don't have time to allow the tortellini to cool on their own, you can prepare an ice bath (ice & water) and plunge them for a quick cool down.

2. Assemble skewers using toothpicks sandwiching the basil between the tortellini and tomato. Be sure to skewer through the "meatiest" part of the tortellini and tomato for a sturdy appetizer.

3. Arrange dipping "sauces". Balsamic Glaze (can be substituted for a balsamic reduction) in one bowl, good quality olive oil in another, and coarse sea salt in another (or via a salt grinder) with small serving spoons. While I prefer to offer the selection of classic toppings, you could also just drizzle one or the other over a platter of skewers.

Note - I actually originally made these for a picnic at the end of summer but the colors and simplicity make them a perfect appetizer for the holidays!

Caramelized Onion, Gruyere and Bacon Spread
I made this delicious spread last year for Christmas and it was a huge hit! I found the recipe on the Cooking Light website. At only 100 calories for 3 tablespoons, you can feel free to indulge! The creamy cheese, caramelization of the onions and subtle saltiness of the bacon makes this dip seem much more decadent than it actually is.
Something to note - you have to cut up A LOT of onions for this recipe (this is what makes it so low cal despite all of the other delicious ingredients). If you are sensitive to the aroma, you may want to wear eye covering. I had to keep stopping because I couldn't stop crying! Also, I prepped the entire spread the day before with the exception of adding the final layer of cheese. If you are trying to get a number of items ready, just having to pop this in the oven is a big time saver. I served this spread with Trader Joe's Rye Crisps and crostinis.

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light
Side Dish/Salad
Rosemary Mashed Sweet Potatoes with Shallots
This was another great find from Cooking Light! Our main dish last Christmas was a pork roast and these potatoes went wonderfully. I think this dish would go equally well with any number of proteins as the shallots and rosemary really help tame the sweetness of the potatoes.

Photo courtesy of Cooking Light
Christmas Spinach Salad
This is a salad that was inspired by one my friend brought to an event several years ago. I just love the contrast of the pomegranate seeds against the spinach leaves. Unfortunately no photos of this one but I promise it is very simple.
1 bag of pre-washed spinach leaves
feta cheese, crumbled (I like the fat free or reduced fat.)
fresh pomegranate seeds (dried can be substituted but it isn't as good)
walnuts, chopped & lightly toasted
balsamic salad dressing
1. Fill a large bowl with spinach leaves and top with the feta cheese, pomegranate seeds, and walnuts - use your best judgement as to proportions. You want to garnish the salad - not have the toppings in equal proportion to the spinach.
2. Just before serving, toss with dressing or allow everyone to dress their own salads.
I hope these recipes have given you a place to start when planning your holiday meals and gatherings. The options really are endless! I am a crazy Pin-aholic so please check out my Pinterest page for lots more recipe ideas!


Wednesday, December 4, 2013

On the Tart Side's Holiday Gift Guide

Everyone and their brother is doing a holiday gift guide this time of year so I figured I would throw one more in the mix! While I still stand by the advice from my previous gift giving entry - You Shouldn't Have! - A Guide to Gifting - here are some creative items for everyone on your list!

Ladies first....

Gentle Reminders Pencils - Even though we ladies strive to embody all of these attributes, it never hurts to have a little reminder at our fingertips! These cute pencils come in a variety of colors (though I think the gold on white is very chic) and at just $12 a set are perfect for small gifts for co-workers or stocking stuffers. In addition Amanda Catherine Designs, the Etsy shop that sells the pencils, donates a portion of their proceeds to end child sex slavery & exploitation. These pencils are not quite the "write" sentiment? There are several other fabulous designs as well as a number of cute prints for your walls.

Happy Chic by Jonathan Adler Gold Chevron Picture Frame - As a huge Jonathan Adler fan, I was thrilled when he started designing a line for JCPenney! While MY wish list has a number of items from his regular store, you can't go wrong with this adorable $15 frame. The neutral tones of gold & white give it flexibility to work with a variety of different decors. Other stylish frames are priced similarly so you can bring that Jonathan Adler look to your home for a fraction of the cost! Also, right now all of the holiday themed items are on sale! Very cute stockings to dress up your mantel!

Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely All of It - Nothing says friendship more than crazy Patsy & Edina from Absolutely Fabulous! This just released DVD box set includes every episode, every special and lots of extras. While at the higher end (currently approximately $143 on Amazon) it would make a very memorable gift. Don't forget a bottle of Stoli and some champagne sweetie darling!

And now for the Gentlemen....
Antonio Glasses Holder - I am a big fan of anything that makes boring more fun. Lose your shades frequently? Not anymore! What guy wouldn't want to see his glasses perched on top of a moustache? At only $6.99, it also can double as a conversation piece on your entry table. Is it practical? Is it art? It's both! Available at The Container Store.

Recycled Vinyl Record Bookends - Regardless if he uses these bookends to hold up his own vinyl collection or a bunch of encyclopedias, give his bookshelf a facelift! IKC Designs confirms that no viable records are harmed in the creation of these bookends so for $24 a set he can cozy his books up next to some vintage vinyl. One can only hope that such classics as Air Supply and Milli Vanilli end up in your order. These records are coming from my home state of Ohio so you never know what you might get!
Craft Beer Connect - Shopping for a craft beer lover? Give them the gift that keeps on giving with a membership to Craft Beer Connect! Memberships start at just $30 per shipment and you have several options depending on the types of beer you would like to gift/receive. Prefer to do a one time shipment? That is an option too - same options and prices but as single transaction. You can even select your beers if you want! Please read any shipment restrictions carefully as not all states allow the shipment of alcohol.

Don't forget the kiddos!
Fingernail Friends - I remember the year that Santa brought me my first nail polish. It was supposed to be kid friendly however I recall sitting in my parents' bathroom waiting FOREVER for it dry. Kids are not known for being great at the waiting game which is where this product comes in. Choose either Butterflies or Zoo Animals and have fabulous nails in seconds with these great stickers from The Container Store. At just $4.99 they make a great stocking stuffer!

Incog-Neato Moustaches - Movember might be over but kids will love playing with this fun selection of moustaches from The Land of Nod. Hours of make believe await for just $7.95!

What about a gift for the ENTIRE FAMILY?
Zoku Quick Pop Maker - Kids want popsicles, parents want to provide a healthy snack with minimal time and effort - enter the Zoku Quick Pop Maker. You simply store your pop maker (makes either one, two, or three pops simultaneously depending on model) in the freezer and when the popsicle mood strikes, simply fill with your favorite juice, chocolate almond milk, etc. In just seven minutes you will have fully formed popsicles! Each slot can make up to three pops before needing to be fully refrozen. The maker comes with instructions on how to make fancy layered pops if you want to get creative. The single pop maker starts at just $24.95 and is available directly through Zoku as well as Williams Sonoma; Amazon; Bed, Bath & Beyond among others.

Show your favorite Host or Hostess that they truly are the Mostest!
Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato - Last year I traveled to Australia and while there discovered this wonderful, light, sweet sparkling wine - Innocent Bystander Pink Moscato. While a traditional champagne is a safe choice, I think this particular wine is a very fun and festive option for a hostess gift. Rather than a champagne cork, the bottle is topped with a bottle cap which is very unique. In Australia they also serve this wine on draft at bars in fabulous beakers. K&L is selling this wine for just $10.99 a bottle so at this price you can pick up a case!
Journals from Kikki K - Kikki K is another discovery from my time down under - a Swedish themed stationary company based in Australia. Kikki K has the most amazing journals - not just a book with blank pages but one that helps take you on a journey. The two examples I included below are two of my personal favorites. The "A Sentence a Day Journal: Celebrate Today" is a three year journal where you write one sentence about your day each day. It is a wonderful way to reflect on the little things that make up the days of our life. Another favorite is the "Happiness Journal" which provides activities and places to write you monthly objectives to exploring your own happiness. I could go on and on so it is better to just take a moment and see for yourself (I bought my guestbook from this store - it is similar to this book). Prices vary and international shipping is free with orders of $150 or more.


Last but not least a fun item for your office gift exchange!
Misheard Lyrics Coaster Set - I just saw these coasters this week and thought they were just too fun! Coasters with commonly misheard lyrics are an automatic conversation starter - Did you ever think they were singing that? What lyrics did you realize you sang wrong for years? With a price of $20 they are the perfect price point for your gift exchange!

What is the best gift you've ever received? Any favorites for this year you are hoping to find under the tree? Happy Gifting!