Wednesday, December 19, 2012

All I Want For Christmas

Since I already have my two front teeth, I have some other items on my Christmas wish list this year.

First, a Chemex coffee pot. They're beautiful and functional.
This umbrella would make even the rainiest day a little brighter. Merde.
Aren't these chevron blankets lovely? I want the cozy orange one.
I'm a little obsessed with this cheese knife set by Laguiole. Perfect for a wine and cheese party with friends or for a special evening with your special someone.
 This necklace? Oh my goodness.
 I swooned when I saw these recipe cards.  Rifle Paper Co's wares are so pretty and girly.
 Finally, this luxuriously soft cashmere scarf. Be still my heart. 
Speaking of Christmas, we head home to Texas in the morning! The best present of all is spending the holidays with my sweet husband and our families. And eating as much TexMex as we can physically manage.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Just a quick update on things up here in the Northeast. Christmas is right around the corner, our shopping is almost done, and I can hardly believe it, but we head home to Texas on Wednesday. I can't wait!

1) Things are pretty frosty around here in the mornings (and in the afternoon too for that matter).
2) Friday night we attended our first Christmas party of the season, a White Elephant gift exchange hosted by fellow Texans Kevin and Andrea. The party was complete with festive decor, twinkly lights, wintry sangria, lots gift stealing (it's all in good fun, right?), and even some lotto ticket scratching (Kevin was $15 richer at the end of the evening).
3) My husband looks adorable in a Santa hat. And yes, I'm rocking a snowman mock turtleneck.
4) We took an airplane adventure on Saturday afternoon, this time to the booming metropolis of Keene, NH.
5) The Keene Airport actually has an Indian restaurant attached to it. This is anything but your usual airport fare.
6) The Lamb Vindaloo was wonderfully spicy, and the garlic naan was loaded with a ridiculous amount of garlic (probably not the best for a first date, but it's pretty great when you've got a guy hooked for the long haul).
7) I'm really enjoying this English Breakfast Tea from our trip to London this past summer
8) I worked from home all day Sunday to prepare for a big meeting coming up this week. That wasn't so fun, but my husband got us Five Guys cheeseburgers for dinner, so that helped.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cranberry Orange Cake with Vanilla Crumb

I bought a little basket of fresh cranberries at the Medford Winter Farmers Market last week, not quite sure what I would do with them. They were just so shiny and vibrant that I couldn't pass them up. Alas, they sat languishing in the fridge all weekend until, finally, inspiration struck.

I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks, Rustic Fruit Desserts, and flipped through a couple cranberry recipes. One in particular was calling my name -- the Cranberry Buckle. Now, buckles are basically cakes with fresh fruit studding the batter and a crumb topping. This one involves one of my favorite power couples in the baked goods world -- cranberry and orange zest. I tweaked the recipe a bit to avoid a grocery store run, and then brought it to work for our annual Holiday Treat Week (after snagging the first piece for myself of course). It's a wonderful balance of sweet and tart and would be perfect addition for Christmas parties, dinner with the family, or a brunch with friends.
Vanilla Crumb 

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup + 2 Tb white sugar
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 in cubes
1/2 Tb vanilla extract

Combine flour, sugar, salt, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Combine on low speed, until the texture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle the vanilla over the mixture and mix briefly until incorporated. (This can also be done by pulsing the ingredients in a food processor)

Cranberry Orange Cake

1 Tb unsalted butter, to butter baking dish
1 cup Vanilla Crumb (recipe above)
1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs
3/4 Tb vanilla extract
1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-in square baking pan

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), cream the butter, sugar, and orange zest on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. 

Stir in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the yogurt in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. 

Fold in 1 1/4 cup of the cranberries, and then spread the batter into the prepared pan. Distribute the remaining 3/4 cup of cranberries over the cake, and sprinkle the crumb topping over the cranberries.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm on top.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Catching Up With Friends

There's nothing to fix what ails you like spending a weekend with friends. Granted, an obscene amount of food, cocktails, movies, homebrewed beer, and a rousing game of Jenga don't hurt either. After many busy months, we got to spend a weekend with our  friends Kurt and Nina. They came piling in the house with enough bags of food and games to last us a good month, and that was in addition to what we had in work in our own little kitchen.

For starters, we tried our hand at homemade pretzels. Surprisingly, the whole process was easier than I expected (with the help of my talented husband and a stand mixer), and I had so much fun rolling them out and twisting them.
Once they were done, I made a jalapeno cheese dipping sauce, and the large pile of pretzels quickly dwindled away to a few stragglers. Pretzels and cheese sauce are always a good idea.
Kurt and Nina also brought their world famous Reuben Dip (if it isn't world famous, it should be), and we spent the afternoon snacking, sipping on Hemingway Daiquiris (make one immediately), and letting the boys enjoy a cigar out on the back porch.
Meanwhile, a couple beautiful racks of ribs were hanging out in the smoker. When dinner time rolled around, they were finally ready.  Speaking like the Texan girl I am, you really haven't lived until you have smelled the aroma of spice-rubbed meat fresh off of a smoker full of mesquite. 
As you can see, we've successfully gotten our New England friends hooked on glorious smoked meat.
We sidled up to the table, next to our little Christmas tree, and enjoyed a fabulous meal of ribs, loaded mashed potatoes, and horseradish peas.
Once we couldn't eat another bite, we watched Men In Black 3 (which is surprisingly good -- funny, entertaining, and even sweet) and we played some very competitive rounds of Jenga (hats off to Nina, our crowned champion, with 5 consecutive losses -- undefeated at being defeated). We then managed to find room for a bowl of my great-grandmother's peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream.
Sunday morning, we started the day with coffee, mimosas, and an oh-so-easy-to-whip-up green chile breakfast casserole with hash browns  Kurt and Nina eventually headed back north to New Hampshire, and we spent the remainder of the day relaxing around the house. That evening we enjoyed our annual Christmas tradition of watching Love Actually (the movie that we watched on our first date, five years ago yesterday) while snuggling on the couch. Am I the only one that gets tears in their eyes roughly every 10 minutes during that movie? I love it. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Medford Winter Farmers Market

Exciting things are going on in Medford, y'all! This past Thursday evening, we checked out the first ever Medford Winter Farmer's Market. Previously, the market would close up in October not to be seen again until June, requiring us to drive over to the Somerville Winter Farmers Market, with it's painful lack of parking,  if we wanted fresh, local foods in the winter months. But no more!
The market is a cozy little affair in the Medford Square Hyatt Place Hotel parking garage. I know it sounds weird, but it works well enough. It's out of the wind and cold, and there's plenty of room to wander around admiring the different wares. It's less expansive than Somerville's (which is admittedly pretty awesome despite the lack of parking), but the ease of access is worth its weight in gold. There were vendors selling local cheeses,wine,  grass-fed meats, fresh eggs, local honey, baked goods, produce, and even handmade pastas and raviolis! 

We came away with quite a haul: a couple boxes of ravioli, some spinach, acorn squash (to be roasted with some Vermont Maple Cream we have stashed in the fridge), cranberries, honey, and some eggs. I'm so excited to have something like this in town finally!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dersh's Texas Peach Cobbler

I received another surprise in the mail this week. A jar of homemade canned peaches from my sweet friend Laura, a fellow Texan who now lives in the LA area. It was like receiving a little jar of summer, a little sunshine in the midst of our dreary, cold winter.
She also tucked in the box a printed recipe for Peach Cobbler, scanned from the Homesick Texan cookbook. A woman after my own heart. I can't wait to give it a try this weekend. And while I shouldn't share the Homesick Texan's recipe with you, I can share a recipe that is even more special to me: my great-grandmother Dersh's cobbler. It's as easy as pie (or cobbler? to whip up and oh so good.

4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar, divided (plus a little extra for sprinkling on top of the cobbler)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup (4 Tb) butter (plus a little extra for dotting the top of the cobbler)
1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Let the peaches, 1 cup of sugar, and water come to boil in a pan. Remove from the heat and let stand while you put together the dough.

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients (including the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar). Add milk. Mix and pour into the bottom of a buttered baking dish. (I recommend using a deep baking dish to avoid a bubbling over nightmare. I use a 2.5 qt round baking dish).

Pour/dip your hot peaches and juice over the dough. Sprinkle with a little more sugar, and dot with butter.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until some of the dough rises to the top, browns a little, and the juice is bubbly.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Wintry Weekend

Happy weekend! Man, did I need a couple days off. It's been a crazy week at work with yet another crazy week coming up. We kicked things off with a quiet Friday evening at home. I tried a new recipe, a Smoky Minestrone Soup, that really hit the spot.
After dinner, we mixed ourselves a cocktail and watched The Five Year Engagement. I had heard mixed reviews, but I have to admit, I liked it. A little quirky, a little more serious in spots than I expected, but overall sweet and very funny. How perfect is their (spoiler alert!) wedding at the end of the movie?!
(photo still from The Five Year Engagement)

Saturday, my husband gently shook me awake, telling me it was snowing outside. For the first time this year, I was excited about the snow.  I jumped out of bed (ok, I slowly dragged myself out of bed), we poured ourselves big mugs of coffee, plugged in the Christmas tree lights, and admired the view.  It was lovely and magical, swirling outside the window and dusting our neighborhood.
After a quiet afternoon,  it was time to venture outside the house. We bundled up and headed into town to meet friends for dinner. We had a great time talking and catching up with Brent, Liz, and Peter, and most exciting of all, we got to meet Liz and Peter's adorable little newborn, Henry.

We kicked off Sunday morning with a favorite West Medford treat -- bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwiches from Magnificent Muffin and Bagel Shoppe. It's a tiny little shop, full of locals who seem to have known each other for years. The walls are lined with photos of neighborhood children, and the glass-front counter is full of the largest muffins you'll ever see. My favorite are the cranberry orange muffins, but I can rarely pass up an opportunity to get one of their bagel sandwiches.
The plan for this afternoon is to make a big batch of tortilla soup from Homesick Texan's cookbook (one of my absolute favorite blogs and cookbooks) to share with two friends who have recently welcomed sweet little babies into their families, and this evening I'm making a peach cobbler just for us, made from homemade canned peaches sent to us by a friend living in California. Some things are just too good to share!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holiday Goodies

We received a surprise in the mail this week, a Christmas present from some very sweet friends! We opened the box to find it chock full of beautiful and festive sweets. The mitten cookies are the cutest, the brownies are vanishing quickly, and the Molasses Clove cookies are my absolute favorite. Turns out, these delights are from the Dancing Deer Baking Company, right here in Boston. Who knew? Such a cute gift idea.