Monthly Archives: December 2012

Best Wishes in the New Year!

NewYear2013

Donut Burgers, Again

DonutBurgersThis is a fun little recipe I came up with for Easter Brunch that was such a hit, I’m planning to bust it out again for New Year’s morning.  I’m thinking they’ll go quite nicely with some fresh eggs from the Ladybirds, and something a little bubbly to drink (perhaps a pretty pink Kir Royale?  My new favorite cocktail!)

To make 30 donut burgers, you’ll need:

-30 glazed donut holes

-2 lbs ground sausage meat

It’s overwhelming, I know.

Form the sausage into little balls (about the size of a ‘super ball’–you know, the kind you used to get out of the machine at the supermarket?) and then flatten it into little patties and cook them in a pan until they are done to your liking.  Let them cool a bit on a paper towel to drain, and then gently slice your donut holes in half.  Build your burgers, people!  Of course, I recommend trimming them out in some festive ribbon-adorned toothpicks, but maybe that’s just me!

Kir Royale Love

Kir RoyaleA few months back, we stumbled upon the brunch experience at Wistaria Restaurant, and noticed a cocktail on the menu that we were strangely unfamiliar with: the Kir Royale.  Upon badgering our poor waiter, we discovered that it was a champagne cocktail made with Créme de Cassis (a currant liqueur).  Sign us up.

After several glasses amongst us, and more badgering, our lovely waiter delivered us the hastily-scrawled recipe.

After several glasses amongst us, and more badgering, our lovely waiter delivered us enlightenment in the form of this hastily-scrawled recipe.

To make one of these lovely, lovely cocktails, you will need:

-1 bit of orange peel, to rub the inside of the glass before pouring, and also to use as garnish

-1 blackberry, or other berry for floating prettiness

-1 oz Créme de Cassis liqueur (or some other sort of dark berry liqueur would do just fine)

-Extra-dry champagne/sparkling wine

According to the waiter, you’ve got to rub the inside and the rim of the glass with the orange peel, and then let the glass rest.  Then you pour in your liqueur, top with champagne, and float your garnish.  It’s as simple and brilliant as that.

The Texan sips his manly drink.

The Texan sips his manly drink with proper form.

 

 

A Great Read: Vertical Vegetable Gardening

Vert Veg Gardening

Christmas came early for me this year with a sneak preview of the amazing Chris McLaughlin’s newest book: Vertical Vegetable Gardening (officially launching on New Year’s Eve). Let me tell you something here: I know some stuff when it comes to gardening–I’m no horticulturist, but I know stuff.  This book?  I learned me things.  Things that have changed me forever (like the ‘Caveman Sun Blueprint’, but I’m getting ahead of myself).  With a disarming mixture of practical knowledge and wit, Chris not only enlightens us on the space-saving fun and functionality of vertical gardening, but delves into the mechanics of healthy, organic gardening practices in a refreshingly approachable way.

My over-eager post-it note-taking skills.

My over-eager post-it note-taking skills at work.

The real guts of Vertical Vegetable Gardening, is, of course, vertical vegetable gardening.  Chris sings the praises of growing things up instead of out, and for me, living and gardening in my snug 7500 sq foot lot, this is pure, unadulterated genius.  She not only divulges what types of veggies and herbs are great for growing upwards, but how to also integrate those that are ‘vertically challenged’.  The book is chock-full of plans and directions on how to build simple supports, containers, and displays, and for anyone who is not so handy, suggestions on which ready-made options to buy.  My gardening-senses are tingling….I feel some projects coming on!

A painfully blank expanse of Farmhouse fencing just begging for a hanging gutter herb garden.

A painfully blank expanse of Farmhouse fencing that I think is just begging for a hanging gutter herb garden (see pg. 36 in the book for an example).

Another expanse of fence that I have already strung with wire to entice the Morning Glory vine.

Another expanse of fence that I have already strung with wire to entice the Morning Glory vine….I’m thinking with a little more wire (and a Morning Glory haircut), this might be a perfect spot for some beans to ramble up in the spring.

My pile of salvaged, leftover, and scavenged materials, just waiting to be turned into some funky vertical garden elements.

My pile of salvaged, leftover, and scavenged materials that I just can’t wait to turn into some sort of funky vertical garden elements.

But Chris is so very much more than her space-saving vertical vegetables….I adore her take on composting.  I am new to the practice (and, rather fixated on it, at the moment), and subsequently, I have done a lot of research on it as of late, trying to ascertain the composting ‘path of least resistance’.  There’s a ton of information out there, and it is usually so overwhelmingly scientific that the cogs in my brain jam up and the little hamster abandons his wheel for a two week hiatus in Barbados.  I digress.  Chris humanizes composting so brilliantly that I seriously want to hug her.  She doesn’t fuss over her compost, she doesn’t take its temperature daily like it may be ovulating–and with a couple of her easy-to-grasp guidelines, it turns out just fine.  I can handle that!  The hamster’s island vacation has been cut short.  He’s not even tan.

Vert Veg Notes

Oh, post-its, how I love thee….

I mentioned the ‘Caveman Sun Blueprint’.  Yep, just another priceless nugget of brilliance I am taking away from this book!  I have long-struggled with tracking the sun patterns in my yard, in fact, I have wasted many a day writing endless lists of which beds get what amount of sun/shade at what time of the day.  No more.  The blueprint is such a better way!  How does it work, you ask?  Well, you’ll just have to read the book, now, won’t you?  Muhahahaha!

Vertical Vegetable Gardening is available thru Amazon and all other major book sellers on December 31st (available now for pre-ordering)!  Check out Chris McLaughlin on her website www.ASuburbanFarmer.com, on Farm Chick Chit Chat, and follow her on Facebook and Twitter for more on the life and times of this funny and brilliant suburban farmer-lady.

Jalapeno Bark

Spicy ChocolateIs anyone beginning to see a pattern forming here?  I may be in a rut.  But I like my rut.  It’s cozy in here.  This recipe is basically a hybrid of the recent Bacon Bark and White Chocolate Jalapeno Cookies.  Why not, I ask you?!

You will be needing:

2- 12oz bags of white chocolate chips (or 3 if you like a lot of white chocolate)

2- sticks unsalted butter

1- cup brown sugar

1/4-cup finely minced fresh jalapenos (about 1 large pepper)

1- fresh jalapeno finely sliced

sea salt to taste

festive sprinkles to pretti-fy

Begin by preheating your oven to 350 degrees.

Mince your first jalapeno in a food processor (or by hand if you are a patient person), reserve.  Cut the second jalapeno in half lengthwise, then finely slice it up–make these slices as thin as is humanly possible, and reserve.

Mince.

Mince.

Slice.

Slice.

 

Line a cookie sheet with tinfoil, then scatter about half (or however you feel is enough heat) of your minced jalapenos.  If you like your sweet salty, toss a little sea salt across the foil, too.

Salt & Peppers

In a medium saucepan, over medium heat melt your butter fully.  Once it is melted, add the brown sugar and stir until it is completely dissolved.  Now let this mixture come to a boil, stirring all the while.  Once it is boiling, keep stirring anywhere from 2.5 to 5 minutes, or until the mixture starts to become fluffy, thick, slightly darker, and starts to get fragrant—don’t let it burn!

Melted butter with the sugar just dissolved.  Start your timer.

Melted butter with the sugar just dissolved.

Once it starts boiling, it quickly gets fluffy and thick.

Once it starts boiling, it quickly gets fluffy and thick.  Keep stirring.

This is about done--the color is darker, and you should just be starting to get wafts of caramel off of it.

This is about done–the color is darker, and you should just be starting to get wafts of caramel off of it.

Pour the caramel across your prepared cookie sheet, letting it spread evenly over the entire thing as best as you can.  Now pop the sheet in the oven for 5 minutes.

Spicy Caramel

Pull it out, and spread your two bags of white chocolate chips evenly across the layer of caramel.  Depending on how big the sheet is, or if you want an extra thick layer of white chocolate, spread more than two bags.  Pop the sheet back in the oven for another 2-5 minutes.

Chips

When you pull it out, the chips should be good and soft.  Smooth and even out the chips.  Now sprinkle the remainder of your minced jalapeno across the white chocolate.  For an added kick, sparingly add the fine slices of jalapenos.  Crack a little more salt across it, if you’d like, and for some added flare, a few sparkly green sprinkles.

Smooth

Smoooooth.

Add your pepper slices, leftover minced peppers, sea salt, and sprinkle bling.

Add your pepper slices, leftover minced peppers, sea salt, and sprinkle bling.

Put the whole thing in the freezer for several hours, or until good and set.  When it is ready, peel the tinfoil off and break it into large pieces and store it in the fridge until ready to serve.

It's really quite lovely, isn't it?  Too bad it hurts when you eat it!

It’s really quite lovely, isn’t it? Too bad it hurts when you eat it!

Snow Dogs

Chancey-Snow-Pants

A little bit of winter cheerfulness….there is just nothing quite as joyful as dogs playing in freshly-fallen snow.  My mom lives in the local mountains, and they got a nice little dump last week–just in time for a quick weekend visit from the Farmhouse mutts.

Chance surveys his snowy domain.

Chance surveys his snowy domain.

Abbie practices her boxer stance.

Abbie practices her boxer posture.  And her camouflage.

One of my mom's sweet labs pauses to bat his eyelashes at me.

One of my mom’s sweet labs, Dudley, pauses to bat his eyelashes at me.

You have to physically pry this dog out of the snow.

Chance is way too comfortable in the snow.  DNA test results be damned!!–this mutt’s got some sort of snow dog in him.

It's not too cold for a little nappy-nap.

It’s not too cold for a little nappy-nap.

Abbie tries to will Chance to play with her, but he's 13 and too mature for those sorts of shenanigans.

Abbie tries to pressure Chance to play with her, but he’s 13 and far too mature for such shenanigans.

She's about to put that theory to the test, though....

She’s about to put that theory to the test, though….

....and it's GAME ON.  Look at that self-satisfied grin on the white-dog's mug!

….and it’s GAME ON. Look at that self-satisfied grin on the white-dog’s mug!

Don't mess with Chance's peaceful snow time!

No one messes with Chance’s peaceful snow time!

Suffer the wrath!

Suffer the wrath of the grizzly!

Oops!  Dudley accidentally runs through the warpath.

Oops! Dudley accidentally runs through the warpath and gets a boxer-thump meant for Chance.

This one doesn't miss its intended target.

This one doesn’t miss its intended target.

Snow Play

Abbie wanders off and we lose sight of her in the snow.

Abbie grows bored and wanders off to blend in with the snow.

There she is.

This is Chance standing just outside the threshold of the door, coming just close enough to obey the 'come here' command, but refusing to get out of the snow.

This is Chance standing just outside the threshold of the door, coming just close enough to obey the ‘come here’ command, but refusing to get out of the snow.  Saucy little mutt.

White Chocolate Jalapeno Cookies

Christmas Cookie?

They look innocent enough, don’t they?  I just love a cookie that bites back.

Holiday Spice

You will need:

3/4 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. granulated sugar
1 egg
2 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. cornstarch
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1 cup white chocolate chips
1/2 cup minced fresh jalapenos
Let’s do this!
Start by preheating your oven to 350 degrees F.
Cut 5 fresh jalapenos in half lengthwise.  This is decision time.  If you can’t handle much heat (don’t make these cookies!!), remove all the seeds and pith from the peppers.  If you like some spice, leave about half of them.  If you have intestines of steel, leave them all.
Some May Like it Hot
Coarsely chop your pickings, toss them in the food processor, and mince them up into pretty fine-sized pieces.  Set aside.  And, for the love of all that is holy, do not rub your eyes.
Chutney from Hell
In the bowl of your trusty stand mixer, cream together the butter and both sugars until fluffy and light in color. Add in egg and vanilla and blend.
Miss Gertie does her part.

Miss Gertrude makes her contribution.

Next, in a separate bowl, mix together flour, cornstarch, baking soda, and salt. Slowly add this mixture to the wet ingredients until just blended.  Stir in white chocolate chips and jalapeno paste.
Using a tablespoon, drop dough onto a prepared baking sheet.  For a little extra snazzle, sprinkle on some festive sprinkles, and pepper the tops with extra chips.
Bake for approximately 10 minutes, until barely golden brown around the edges. Remove from oven, let cool, and enjoy the sweet, sweet burn.
Spicy Sweetness

Fronch Porch Festiveness

Be Merry.

Another batch of holiday decorations to share!  I’ve already posted pics of our light display, but I thought I’d show how it all looks during the daylight hours, too.

Front Porch

My twist on a holiday color scheme? Coral, mint, and cream. These are some of my favorite colors and a subtle nod to the iconic Christmas red, white, and green. The tart coral-orange of the front door is echoed in the rocker pillows and rug, while shades of mint show up in the wreath and the ceramic pots planted with glorious cream poinsettias.

Front Door Vignette

Farmhouse Wreath

The wreath has undergone a few changes since I first put it out….originally it was filled with little white pom-pom embellishments, but sadly, a five-day-long rain extravaganza kind of did those in.

Merry

Now, in addition to some strands of tiny rice lights, the wreath is sporting a festive banner made from paper stencil letters (from Home Depot), coated in mint-green glitter and strung on baker’s twine.

Boot Vignette

I really love cream-colored poinsettias. And red ones, and pink ones, and multi-colored ones….this year, I practiced some Herculean restraint and just went with the cream. Throw in a few white pansies, my standard porch lanterns, and my dad’s childhood show-riding boots, and we’ve got ourselves a nice, quirky little vignette.

Love them boots.

Love them boots.

More front porch

The twiggy window stars look adorable during the day, and strung with rice lights, look great at night, too!

Poinsettias

The front planters get a dose of holiday color with the addition of cream poinsettias, white pansies, and white ornamental kale tucked in amongst the preexisting lavender and sage.

Front planters

And let’s finish this post off with another glimpse of how it all looks lit up at night….Cheers!

Gold and Silver Lights

DIY Tinfoil Icicles

Icicle Ornaments

That’s right.  Icicles from tinfoil.  For this project, you’ll need a few simple ingredients: tinfoil (you don’t say!), white glue, glitter of your choosing, and wire ornament hangers.

Glue and Glitter

I chose to do a base coat of pale blueish white iridescent glitter, with a sprinkling of silver glitter over the top of that.

I like to attempt to contain my glitter in a folded sheet of paper.

I like to attempt to contain my glitter in a folded sheet of paper.  Attempt.

Tinfoil

Unroll a sheet of tinfoil approximately the length you want an icicle to be.  When in doubt, go long, because they can always be cut down before you coat them.  Cut your piece of foil from corner to corner once to create two triangles.

Tinfoil roll

Start rolling the tinfoil to resemble an icicle (or a sloppily rolled sheet of tinfoil).

Tinfoil Tube

You should end up with a pretty bad-looking, vaguely icicle shape.

Now you want to start compressing that thing into a more realistic icicle shape.  Compact it down as much as you can; the thinner it is, the more realistic it will look.  Take care to let it gradually taper from one end to the other.

Now you want to start compressing that thing into a more realistic icicle shape. Compact it down as much as you can; the thinner it is, the more believable it will look. Take care to let it gradually taper from one end to the other.  They don’t need to be perfectly straight.

Now, repeat, repeat, repeat until you have as many as you want, or until you can't take it anymore, whichever comes first.

Now, repeat, repeat, repeat until you have as many as you want, or until you can’t take it anymore, whichever comes first.  Trim some of them to make varying lengths.

Take one icicle and liberally coat it in a good layer of white glue.

Take one icicle and liberally coat it in a good layer of white glue.

Roll that gluey icicle in your glitter.  For mine, I gave it a liberal coat of the light blue glitter, then sprinkled silver over the top of that.

Roll that gluey icicle in your glitter. For mine, I gave it a liberal coat of the light blue glitter, then sprinkled silver over the top of that.

Brilliant!  Now, do that to all the rest of them, and then let them all sit and dry thoroughly.  Once they are dry, coat all sides liberally with a clear gloss spray to give yourself the best chance to not get glitter everywhere.

Brilliant! Now, do that to all the rest of them, and then let them all sit and dry thoroughly. Once they are dry, coat all sides with a clear gloss spray to give yourself the best chance of not getting glitter everywhere.

If your hands don't look something like this when you are done, you didn't do it right.  Or, you know....you wised up and wore gloves.

If your hands don’t look something like this when you’re done, you didn’t do it right. Or, you know….you got clever and wore gloves.

Once the clear coat has completely dried, use a small nail and hammer a hole through the thick end of the icicle.

Once the clear coat has completely dried, use a small nail and hammer a hole through the thick end of the icicle.

Then choose your ornament hook and string it up.

Then choose your ornament hook and string it up.

Easy Icicles for the Tree

They look especially marvelous on a tinsel-y tree. I love a good tinsel-y tree!

Icicles and Icicles

So pretty and glittery!

So pretty and glittery!

Our Wintery Mantel

Cheers!

Just wanted to share some photos of our completed holiday fireplace mantel decor….

Holiday Mantel

A nice little jumble of earthy elements like pine cones, evergreen, and branches, all lit up with fairy lights, candles, and some silvery mercury-glass elements.

Icicles

Homemade icicle ornaments continue the mercury glass vibe.

More Icicles

DIY tinfoil and glitter icicles….click here for the tutorial!

Mantel Details

The crocheted doilies were made as a wedding present for us by the Texan’s grandmother and great aunt.  They are just too pretty to use, so I framed them and hung them on the wall. Usually they reside in the guest bedroom, but they look so much like snowflakes that I thought they’d go well with the holiday decor here.

Miniature Winter

The old glass plant terrarium contains a miniature winter scene.

Hello, Frosty

Oh, hi Frosty!

Gnomey

Mantel Detail

More icicles, doilies, and other odds and ends. A small rosemary tree makes everything smell yummy!

Mercury Glass

There is just something magical about mercury glass and candlelight.

Wintery Things

The framed radiator grill that is peeking out from behind the display is my decorative disguise of the ugly center channel speaker that the Texan insisted must reside directly below the TV. Along with 600 hundred other surround-sound speakers carved into every corner and wall of the living room. I conceded that battle.

Holiday Mantel

All the wintery goodness topped off by my glittery, reclaimed wood ‘CHEERS’ sign.

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