Affordable Bubbly

My favorite champagne by far is Veuve Clicquot - however, if you are hosting a NYE party, $40 a bottle may not be in your budget.  Here are some of my other favorite sparkling bottles that won't break the bank or result in the dreaded cheap champagne hangover...  There's absolutely nothing worse than a cheap champagne hangover - they tend to set in for me pretty much an hour after my first sip... 

Spanish Cava wines are a fantastic affordable alternative to champagne - one of my favorite cavas is the Freixenet Cordon Negro Brut - find it as low as $10 a bottle on sale at your local grocery store.

I discovered William Wycliff Vineyards Brut Champagne while on our honeymoon in Jamaica - I've never been able to find any at a retail store, but I've run into it since at a few different "bottomless champagne" brunch venues...  You can order it online by the case for as low as $5 a bottle!  This stuff is smooth and delicious without the cheap wine after-effects! It's amazing...
Korbel is always a safe bet for only $12 a bottle (I also love that it comes in mini bottles - these would be super cute for a midnight toast)

At half the cost of the Veuve (and from the makers of Cristal) the Roederer Estate Brut is a fancy but still much more affordable bottle to ring in the New Year. 


Upcycled Necklace

This past weekend, I was under the weather, but fortunate enough to be at home where my mom made me soup and lots of hot tea with lemon and honey :-)

I spent much of my time resting and messing around with some jewelry.  I took an old cluster bead necklace similar to this one and modified it to something more interesting/stylish.  I got so excited to tackle this project that I neglected to take a "before shot".  This picture is nearly identical to what the necklace looked like before except for the color of the chain and the beads:

The necklace I started out with had a series of smaller clear beads, and some larger different colored beads.  I removed all but the clear beads from the chain, creating individual strands isolating the other colors on graduating lengths of chain, which I later connected together.  The only tools I needed were some pliers and wire cutters (that come in any basic jewelry making kit)

Here is the resulting "new" necklace:

It's fun to buy jewelry that has been heavily discounted for the beads/materials and potential they hold if only re-arranged in a different way...  Or just go to work on some old pieces you never wear!


Fancy Grilled Cheese

Browsing through this list of grilled cheese recipes from Martha Stewart inspired me to make a few of these for lunch - especially since I had many of the ingredients already at home...

First, butter one side of each slice of toast for grilling:

My favorite of the two I made was the Gruyere, Prosciutto, Arugula, and Tomato on White (sourdough for me)

I didn't have any apples, but I made a modified version of the Sage, Fontina and Apple sandwich on Rye with pear in place of the apple...

Both were delicious!  A classic grilled cheese sandwich is always fantastic, but it's fun to try new ways of dressing up an old favorite... :-)


A to Z

These alphabet crafting beads are the sweetest beads you'll ever meet - they are cheerful and never grumpy :-) Use them to make sweet jewelry for your loved ones (and maybe just a few things for yourself too!)

I made matching necklaces for my sister and I - I love how the sophistication of the delicate gold chain mingles with the playfulness of the colorful beads...

Happy Holidays!!!


Gem Stickers

These gem stickers are a fantastic embellishment to any gift wrapping job:

They add such a festive and elegant touch!


Boxed Cake Mix Cookies

Do you have some cake mix just hanging out in your cupboard? Think outside of the "box" and try making these delicious cookies

You will need:
       1 box cake mix (I used Betty Crocker's Super Moist yellow cake mix)
    1/2 cup butter
    1-2 tablespoons milk
       1 teaspoon vanilla
       1 egg
       1 cup chocolate chips

Instead of chocolate chips, I chopped up half a bar of chocolate:

Mix all the ingredients together:

Bake for 10-15 min in a preheated 350°F oven:

I have always loved yellow cake mix, and this new take on using it is fun and unexpected!


Nigella's Lasagne

My sister just got into town from NY and I was excited to make this Pumpkin & Goat's Cheese Lasagne for her, a recipe shared on NPR by the beautiful and talented Nigella Lawson.

I was able to procure all the ingredients from my local Trader Joe's save for the oh-so-unimportant pumpkin. Ya, no big deal, just a minor ingredient...!  I decided to be daring and substitute the pumpkin in the recipe with butternut squash (I have made a butternut squash & sage bread pudding in the past, so, since there was sage in this recipe, why not?)

I really enjoyed making this meal; the timing involved was perfect for staging things and not getting too overwhelmed.  It does not require any fancy ingredients or techniques... The most arduous task was chopping the onions and garlic.  Using the butternut squash had the added benefit of coming in pre-cut cubes from Trader Joe's!  

Making the pumpkin filling takes an hour of simmering once you have all the ingredients set up to go.  You can use this time to prepare the tomato sauce and cheese mixture.  

Layer the lasagna as described: first some tomato sauce at the bottom of your pan, lasagne noodles, pumpkin mixture, cheese mixture, noodles, repeat twice (reserve the tomato sauce when layering) and then cover with the remaining tomato sauce.  Top with fresh mozzarella. 

You can wash all your dishes while the lasagne bakes in the oven for an hour - personally, knowing all the dishes are done increases the pleasure of a meal tenfold!

Did you make this dish with the prescribed pumpkin? Let me know how it turned out!



How darling is this idea? My incredibly stylish friend has incorporated her light switch plate into a group of framed art on the wall... brilliant!

Mascarpone Dates wrapped in Prosciutto

This past weekend, I spent some much needed quality time with one of my closest friends.  She prepared this amazing appetizer that I am definitely adding to my repertoire! All you will need are dates, mascarpone cheese, and prosciutto...

First, pit the dates:

Next, stuff them with the Mascarpone cheese:

Finally, wrap each date with a slice of prosciutto:

They are now ready to go into a preheated 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for about 10min (or when they are slightly golden and juices are running):

They are ready to serve - amazingly easy and fantastically delicious!


Brie & Pear Pizza

I recently went to one of my favorite wine bars in Santa Monica, Bodega, and had the most amazing pizza - It was a brie cheese & pear pizza topped with fresh spinach.  I have not been able to stop thinking about it!

On my way home stopping at Trader Joe's, (hopefully you are fortunate enough to live near one) I decided it was time to attempt recreating this meal.  I grabbed some of their pre-made fresh pizza dough (it is fantastic and comes in 3 varieties: whole wheat, plain, and herbed), a block of brie (light brie! who knew?), a few pears and a bag of arugula (grocery bill: under $10 - LOVE this store!)

Thinly slice your pears and brie (I used one pear, but probably should have loaded it up with two) :

Next, roll your dough on a lightly floured surface:

Then, I rubbed the dough with olive oil and covered it with 2 thinly sliced garlic cloves before layering - first with the brie slices and then with the pears (next time, I think I will layer some pears or caramelized onions as described in this recipe before the cheese as well). 

Bake in the oven according to your pizza dough instructions (mine took about 15min at 450 degrees Fahrenheit) 

Cut pizza into slices and top with arugula (or spinach) before serving

I love the way the sweetness of the cooked pears accompanies the cheese - I will definitely be experimenting with more brie/pear recipes!


Manhattan c. 1874

1874 was an eventful year:

- New York City annexes The Bronx.
- Levi Strauss & Jacob Davis receive a U.S. patent for blue jeans with copper rivets.
  The price is $13.50 per dozen
- Mathew Evans & Henry Woodward patent the first incandescent lamp with an electric light bulb
- The Manhattan is born at the Manhattan Club in New York!
  (it was also the first drink to use vermouth as a mixer)

Not only is this one of my favorite drinks, I also feel that whiskey is especially festive this time of year.  There are many variations of a Manhattan; here are the three basic types: a classic sweet Manhattan (with sweet vermouth), the dry Manhattan (with dry vermouth), and the perfect Manhattan (equal parts dry and sweet vermouth). 

(Read up here for some fancier interpretations on making this drink)

The basic recipe (serves 2) is as follows:

        4 1/2 ounces rye or bourbon whiskey
        1 1/2 ounces vermouth
              2 dashes Angostura bitters
              2 Maraschino cherries

Stir ingredients over ice (or break the rules and shake them) then pour over cherries.
For a festive flair, I coated the rim with agave nectar and dipped it in organic sugar.

    Enjoy discovering your own "perfect" Manhattan... Cheers!


    Baked Mac and Cheese Balls

     Making doughnut holes earlier this week must have inspired my desire to create these mac and cheese balls... Since I think I've done enough deep frying for one week, I'm trying a baked version instead!

    All you need to create this meal is to make your favorite mac and cheese recipe (like this one); when it has cooled, shape into balls, coat with an egg wash (1 egg & 1 Tbsp water) and cover in panko crumbs (I used the Italian seasoned variety). 

    Bake on a lined baking sheet in a pre-heated oven set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit for about 15-20min or until the crumbs are golden/crispy on the outside.

    You can serve alongside marinara sauce for dipping - I chose to serve them with some roasted tomato bisque... delicious!

    Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...