Throwback | diy holidays

Christmas sled

We found this vintage sled in the garage when we moved in – I knew it would be a perfect to add a little holiday spirit to our porch!

This holiday season has varied a little from our norm…

Usually, we’d be knee-deep in greenery and cookie baking by this time in December. But, this year, we have no place to put a Christmas tree yet because apparently it’s not super simple to renovate a 145-year-old kitchen, or something. And, obviously, cooking is hard when your new oven is still shrink-wrapped in the garage. So, my living room still looks like the pic below, but, with some help from my awesome mom who has been visiting (who, side-note, will paint your kitchen cabinets until 6am for you, and do your laundry…) at least the outside of the house is looking festive!

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The filter makes this pic look way more serene than it feels irl… But, the end of our sea of boxes is near!

Things are different, BUT, I’ve found comfort in some old and new traditions – some of which I’ve shared on FreshlyMinted in the past! And, a white-and-grey-and-butcher block-and-harringbone – and subway tile- rustic farmhouse kitchen is now totally within sight… so I can be patient a little longer ;)

In the meantime, here are a few of my favorite throwback holiday posts and projects:

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Handmade Holiday | Rustic Boxwood Garland & Mini Wreaths, Newsprint Tree, Perfect Christmas Bow and Popcorn garland (I used holly for my garland this year – much more prickly, but just as lovely!)

Salt Dough | Gift Tags & Ornaments 

Secret Holiday Treats | Aunt J’s Top Secret Chocolate Mint Cookie Recipe

A Cookie-Swappers Daydream | Salted Mudslide Cookie Recipe

Enjoy!

{California} Citrus Salad

Alex BrosSo, let me tell you a story. It’s about how I’m bad at Twitter. But it’s more interesting than it sounds, I swear.

(<—Alex and his bros. This is important to the rest of the story….)

It happened one day when I was watching late-night Cooking Channel TV, and this new show, Rebel Eats, came on. The host reminded me of someone, and I couldn’t pin it down… and then it hit me. HE WAS OUR FRIEND ALEX. But not really, of course. He just talked like him and acted like him and even sort of looked like Alex and his brother.

Justin shots(This is Justin… some similarities, right?)

So, what did I do? I sent this tweet to Alex:

JustinTweet1And then, I went calmly to bed. Until, that is, when I woke up at 5:30a.m. for my morning exercise class and saw a little twitter notification… it was this:

Justintext2And, I almost died. I forgot the cardinal rule of twitter….. anyone can find anything. And, the gig was up. I had insulted a Food Network star. Actually THE Food Network Star. Publicly. I frantically texted Alex to commiserate, but he wasn’t much help:

Text salad 1And then this. This was my pitiful too-early-in-the-morning attempt to salvage the situation:

justintext3Yep. Facial hair. That’s all I got. But, in my defense, you can see that the Green’s have the corner on the market. But, Justin and I can never be friends. So, now you know how truly communication-inept I can be, and how NOT to make friends with a celebrity. The end…

Oh, and the salad connection? Alex is actually an awesome experimental chef when he’s not too busy being a Law/MBA student in San Diego, CA. And, he’s a great friend of the family (remember when we visited his family’s home in Canada?). Well, this is his creation… And it’s a darn good one. Enjoy!

Citrus Salad

California Citrus Salad
Serves 4

Ingredients:

  • Spring Mix (1 lb.)
  • Lemons (2)
  • Strawberries (10-15)
  • Dates, Frozen for easy chopping (10)
  • Avocados (3)
  • Trader Joe’s Champagne Pear Salad Dressing – Feel free to substitute another favorite if you don’t happen to have a TJ’s nearby… like me. *Sob* (3/4 cup)

Directions:

  • 1) Cut lemons into thin, 1/8 inch slices; remove seeds; quarter the slices (The juice mixes with other ingredients as you cut, adding bright flavor!)
  • 2) Cut strawberries into quarters after removing tops
  • 3) Cut dates in half; remove pit; quarter them, then rough chop into small, quarter-inch pieces
  • 4) Cut avocados in half; remove pit; cut the fruit of each half by rough chopping into pieces that are about an inch long and half an inch wide
  • 5) Place spring mix into a large salad bowl
  • 6) Add additional ingredients
  • 7) Pour salad dressing over top
  • 8) Toss salad and serve
  • Enjoy!

So, have you ever met or insulted a celebrity? Do tell… it would make me feel better. Plus, Justin is probably somehow reading this now and disliking me even more ;)

What we’ve been up to…

Wow. Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Easter came and went.

And the 4th of July.

I missed this, but we’ve had a fabulous rest….

Though time is speeding by, we’ve filled it with everything from home projects to vacations, dinner parties to volunteering. It would take way to long to totally catch you up so we can get back to some fun stuff, so instead, here are a few pictures:

Volunteering with Service League for the Mazza Museum – a really magical place.

VolunteerMazza

Super Bowl Paleo fun with homemade cauliflower pizza crust (you know you’ve Pinned it, too…), and coconut-coated baked chicken nuggets. Verdict? We ate it allllllll. 

CauliflowerPizza

Our spare room (aka, the really-nice-storage-space-with-a-desk) actually turned into a real room. With a bed. That my mom and I refinished. And a mattress. Come visit?

Bedroom

The Husband’s parents got visit and sleep on a real bed. Made the whole redecoration totally worth it. That, and always being able to walk into a room with a bed that’s made. That’s pretty great, also.

TheParentsVisit

And there was the local chili cook-off. It’s a big deal. And mostly delicious.

ChiliCookoff

We dressed up like Superman and Lois Lane for a charity gala… and didn’t enjoy it at all (obviously… ;) JK – best thing we’ve done this year! And doesn’t the Husband make a dashing Clark Kent? Oh, that curl...

Lois&Clark

I got the chance to visit my Great-Grandmother. And, THIS is her wallpaper. A recent visit to Anthropologie made me realize how much I love it, and totally wish I could copy it or frame it or something… grandmaswallpaperI flew from cold, cold Ohio to bright blue California for a little family get-away. What a difference a few hours makes!

flighttocali

…I saw these mountains.

calimountains

…and walked along streets like this.

Cali

..and stuck my toes in an icy desert oasis.

California13

Celebrity encounter #1: Saw the Author of “The Language of Flowers”, Vanessa Diffenbaugh, talk about her New York Times Best Seller. She signed my book, “To Rachael, with Tulips…”

LanguageOfFlowersI got glasses. For the first time. Luckily, I just have to wear then when trying to see a ppt presentation or driving at night… or when I want to feel nerdy-chic.

glassesWe went home for Easter, and both wore fabulous footware.

Easter

…and mom made pies.

Easter Pie

We joined the County Club, and I’m learning to love golf. Or, attempting to. At least this place is totally lovely and we get to hang out outside and say, “let’s go to the club for dinner….” I’ve sort of always have wanted to say that…

Country Club

We’re super active in our local Young Professionals organization. It’s lots of fun, and has a ton of neat activities that we have the opportunity to lead. From around here? Check it out!

FYP

We saw BOB DYLAN. Just look at that silhouette… the hair.

Dylan

We went to Traverse City, Michigan and Camped. And ate.

Traverse City food

And my little sibs came to visit while my parents went on a 30th Anniversary trip. And we canoed, tie-dyed, watched a drive-in movie, swam… And ate.

Donuts with kids

Then we went to Cincinnati. And watched baseball. And ate.

FindlayMkt.

So, lots of fun. Lots of adventures. Lots of food…. and I’ve missed sharing it all! So, though we’ve got a full calendar, and plenty of relaxation penciled into our summer schedule, I’m going to do my best to keep up… And, the Husband wants to write a post about his theories on the best way to get a deal when garage sale-shopping. I’m serious.

So, I had to catch you up, first ;)

P.S. I also ate lots of this – my new favorite concoction: Oatless oatmeal. Packed with protein, perfect for smothering with fruit and nut butters. Recipe to come!Oatless oats

Salted Caramel {Brownie Bites}

Every once in a while, you stumble upon something unexpected,  but totally life-changing. Often, its a new best friend, a profound novel, a moving song…

For me, it was salted caramel. And more specifically, these perfect bite-sized treats.

Everyone you share these with will thank you. And, they’ll think you’re super-fancy, ’cause everyone knows stuff like sushi, brie, that Asian hot sauce stuff, red wine, hummus and salted caramel makes you fancy. Proven fact.

Perfect for your next Holiday party, cookie swap, gift-wrapping marathon, or to eat delicately while watching Home Alone for the 1,000th time…

Dark Chocolate Caramel Brownie Bites with Salted Caramel Buttercream

Based on this recipe

Makes 4 dozen bites

Ingredients:

Brownies:

  • 2 boxes of brownie mix (I recommend the Ghiradelli dark chocolate mix – it’s my secret weapon…)
  • A piece of soft caramel for each brownie bite (I used a local confectioners homemade caramels, and cut each into fourths for a piece of caramel about the size of a dime, and 1/4″ thick. You can use any soft caramels, and adjust to taste)

Frosting:

  • 2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 12-20 caramels
, depending on size
  • 2 T. heavy cream
  • 
2 c. powdered sugar
  • kosher sea salt

Directions:

Brownies:

  • Preheat oven to 325. Mix brownie batter as directed.
  • Lightly grease mini-cupcake pan, and fill cups 1/3 full with batter. Place a caramel in each, and fill the rest of the way with batter. Be sure to cover caramel.
  • Bake for 15 minutes, let cool, and gently remove from pan.

Frosting:

  • First, melt the caramel with the heavy cream. You can pop it in the microwave for 30 second increments, until the caramel is smooth. Allow it to cool in the fridge for about 20 minutes.
  • Whip the butter for about 30 seconds on med-high speed, until fluffy. Add in about one cup of powdered sugar, and mix until combined. Once the caramel is cool to the touch, turn the mixer on medium speed and then drizzle the caramel into the frosting, reserving just a little to top the brownies. Beat until fluffy.
  • Add the other cup of powdered sugar and the salt, a 1/4 to a 1/2 t. at a time, mixing and then tasting after each addition to make sure you don’t add too much. A little goes a long way!
  • Use a pastry bag, or a baggie with the tip cut off, to pipe a little of the frosting in a swirl on top of each cooled brownie. Top with a hint of a drizzle of the reserved caramel, chocolate shavings, and another little dash of sea salt.
  • Enjoy!

{Biscoff} Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

There is just something about Thanksgiving.

The family, the history, the stories, the shopping, the parade, the naps…

<;– My mom's amazing dry-erase art from my family's visit last weekend! If you couldn't tell, that's me,the husband and a plate of cookies…

Oh yeah, and the FOOD!

This year, go beyond the pumpkin pie and turkey… not too far (let’s face it, grandpa won’t dig tofu or quinoa), but far enough to make people think you’re fancy.

It’s nice when people think you’re fancy. Particularly when it takes very little actual effort. Kind of like these cookies.

Most people have tasted those lovely, sweet, slightly spicy little cookies that are handed out on Delta flights – Biscoff. What you may not know is that you not only can find the cookies at your local grocery store, but you can also find Biscoff spread.

This creamy concoction tastes like pulverized cookies mixed with peanut butter – Totally dreamy, and full of possibilities. Put it on your oatmeal, toast, yogurt, apple slices or pancakes. OR, you could make these fluffy perfect-for-Thanksgiving little cookies.

From cookie, to spread, and back to cookie again. You’re just completing the circle of life.

Biscoff Pumpkin Oatmeal Cookies

From this recipe – yet another great Pinterest find!

Makes 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
  • 1/3 cup Biscoff Spread (or Trader Joe’s Cookie Spread)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 cups old fashioned oats
  • Optional Add-ins: Chocolate chips, pecans, dried cranberries…

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper and set aside.

2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, and salt. Set aside.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, add the butter and sugars. Beat until creamy and smooth, about 3 minutes. Add the pumpkin and Biscoff spread and mix until combined. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until smooth.

4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and slowly add the dry ingredients, beating only until blended. Stir in the oats.

5. Form the cookie dough into rounded tablespoons and place them 2 inches apart on the baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until cookies are golden and just firm around the edges. Let the cookies cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes and then remove with a spatula onto a cooling rack.

Enjoy, and Happy Thanksgiving!

{Decadent} S’More Trifle

If you have to feed a crowd, this is your dessert. If you need to make something easy, this is your dessert. If you want to make people smile when you walk in the room lugging this bowl with you, this is your dessert. If you love the feeling of marshmallow fluff between your fingers, this is your dessert.

Actually, you really don’t have any excuses. Just save yourself the trouble, and make this now. Trust me… your smiling friends will thank you.

How can you not drool over this picture?:

Gooey S’More Trifle

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages of brownie mix (I use Ghiradelli – it’s the BEST)
  • 1 packet of instant chocolate pudding
  • 1 large tub of light whipped topping, thawed (see – this dessert is practically a health food!)
  • 1/2 box of graham crackers, crushed
  • 2 large containers of marshmallow fluff
  • 2 Hershey’s candy bars
  • 1 cup of mini marshmallows

Directions:

  • Bake brownies as directed. Let cool, set aside.
  • Make pudding using 1/2 milk required, let set. Once firm, mix entire tub of whipped topping, set aside.
  • Break cooled brownies into chunks, use as the first trifle layer in the bottom of the bowl. Follow with a layer of marshmallow fluff, then crushed graham crackers, then pudding mixture,. Repeat until bowl is full. (Hint: It might be easier to spread fluff if you scoop it into a piping bag, or baggie with hole cut at the tip. Remember – it doesn’t have to be pretty!)
  • Top bowl with broken-up candy bars, and mini-marshmallows.
  • Get a really big spoon, and enjoy!

This could also be perfect for the “kid’s table” at Thanksgiving…. come on, admit it. Everyone knows we’ll never “graduate”. But, with awesome kid food like this, who wants to ? ;)

Spicy-Sweet Roasted {Pumpkin Seeds}

To be honest, I’ve never had much success with roasting pumpkin seeds…

Unless, of course, by “roasting” you mean creating a clump of gunk charred beyond all recognition, or some soggy things that get stuck in your teeth and are a little slimy. If that’s the case, I usually nail it.

BUT, this time, my seeds were a resounding success. They tasted awesome, had the perfect *crunch*, a delightful honey-smokiness, and a pretty caramelized color…

Almost as beautiful as the Husband’s “Avenger” pumpkin.

So, grab up those discount-pumpkins, scoop ’em out, and enjoy these awesome little treats! Perfect for get-togethers, on salads, or a before-dinner snack…

Spicy-Sweet Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Makes about 1 cup

Ingredients

  • Pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • Kosher salt and pepper
  • 1 pinch cinnamon
  • 1 pinch cumin
  • 1 pinch cayenne
  • 1 pinch chili powder
  • 1-2 tablespoons honey

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Remove seeds from pumpkin. Discard membranes and spread seeds on baking sheet. Bake for about 10-15 minutes – this will make them nice and crisp!
  • Remove from oven. Toss seeds with olive oil, honey and spices to taste – don’t be afraid to be liberal with them. The more flavor the better…
  • Return to oven and roast coated seeds until golden, about another 10-15 minutes. Watch very closely to prevent burning, and stir several times during cooking. Let cool, and enjoy! Keep in an airtight container, and much on ’em for over a week.

P.S. The Husband makes a pretty cute Gondolier, no?

…now if I could only get him to STOP singing “‘O Sole Meio”…