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!

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{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 ;)

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!

{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”…

Autumn {skillet} Dinner

Well, I’m older.

{<-Flowers, dinner, presents, drinks}

But, I guess 26 isn’t so bad…

Each year, my special day seems to kick off the fall season in my mind. Instead of dreaming of lazy summer evenings, ice cream, and days at the pool, I think of going for a run in the crisp sunshine, hearty comfort food…and presents. (And, who am I kidding, I think about ice cream every season.) :)

My awesome Husband and my fun family made my day great. The Husband and I had a date night complete with sushi, my favorite local pecan tart with vanilla gelato, tickets to see the Zac Brown Band and a weekend getaway. And then, we caught up with my parents and siblings for lunch at Local Roots and…. drum-roll.Jeni’s SPLENDID Ice cream!

{Sunday lunch with the Family!}

This restaurant was perfect – patio, zucchini fries, black bean burgers, calzones… everything was delicious, and we had a blast laughing, telling stories and just being together. Of course, the anticipation of the best ice cream on the planet also made things a little more exciting…

Jeni’s trio with salted caramel, brown butter almond brittle and black coffee… euphoria.

{All the best things: Jeni’s, little sisters, husbands, sunshine…}

Well, after this delightful waltz into the season, I was ready for some authentic fall flavors at home… and after that ice cream (and multiple other birthday-related treats that will remain unnamed), I was also ready for some vegetables. Lots of them. Plus, who doesn’t love dinner that can be made in one pan?

Win-win-win.

Perfect for a quick weeknight dinner, and great for leftovers, this salty-sweet dish will make you want to jump in crunchy leaves, wear a scarf, drink a pumpkin spice latte and sit by a campfire all at the same time.

Autumn {skillet} Dinner

Serves 4, Based on this recipe

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 4 tsp olive oil (I used 1/2 garlic-infused olive oil, if you don’t have that on hand, just add a clove while cooking the chicken)
  • 1-2 Chicken or Turkey sausages, chopped
  • 1 1/2 c Brussels sprouts, trimmed and quartered
  • 1 med sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 med onion, chopped
  • 2 Golden Delicious apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 3/4″ cubes
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 tsp chopped fresh thyme, oregano, sage (and/or whatever else you have in your garden!)
  • 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 c reduced-sodium chicken broth
  • 1/8 tsp salt
  • 1/3 c dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c real maple syrup

Directions:

1. SEASON chicken lightly with salt. Heat 2 teaspoons of the oil in large nonstick frying pan or cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken and cook until lightly browned and cooked through, about 5 minutes. Transfer to plate.

2. RETURN pan to heat and add remaining 2 teaspoons oil. Toss in sausage, and cook until starting to brown, about 2 minutes. Add Brussels sprouts, sweet potato, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until crisp-tender, about 5 minutes. Stir in apples, garlic, fresh herbs, and cinnamon. Cook 3 minutes. Pour in 1/2 cup of the broth, bring to a boil, and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Add reserved chicken and remaining 1/2 cup broth. Drizzle with maple syrup, add dried cranberries, and season with the salt and black pepper as needed. Cook until hot, about 2 minutes.

Enjoy!

{The fresh herbs, colorful ingredients and super-simple steps make this dinner a winner}

I can’t forget a Happy Birthday shout-out to my Father-in-law! We reallly enjoyed that classic DQ ice cream cake… mmmm. Happy 60th!

And, lest I neglect to mention it, FreshlyMinted has turned 1!

Those summer {nights}

Our summer has sped by, and I have to say that this might have been our best yet…

We began armed with plans for a dream vacation and a “summer bucket list”, and we’re wrapping up with armfuls of memories, adventures and new friends.

<– Bucket list #7: Paddle down the Blanchard (between going to a drive-in movie, and the local old-fashioned root beer stand for hot dogs and floats).

Our recent events have included some of our oldest and dearest friends. Hannah, along with a very special guest, came up to visit! We were over-the-moon to have the opportunity to sip wine on American soil with Hannah and Federico. Our patio didn’t have quite the ambiance of our Roman terrace, but we still laughed just as much, and talked about everything from Italian politics to high school dances.

It was positively marvelous.

{Federico finds Orvieto on the map at the ice cream shop}

Thinking of what to do during their evening with us, we knew we couldn’t compete with some of the sights and eats of Boston and Philadelphia (spots they saw before they arrived), so, we went for the unique instead of the classic and Hibachi at the Japanese Steakhouse for dinner it was.

Federico had never seen anything like it, and thinking about the idea of catching flying egg in your mouth around a table – through his eyes – made us all roar with laughter. After dinner, we ran to a famous local chocolate and ice cream shop for their renowned dark chocolate covered pretzels, sea salt caramels and truffles. Then, we made a stop at The Wine Merchant for a good American wine to share.

{Kitchen laughs at the end of the night, old pictures, wine and chocolate on the patio, and Andrew’s new belt – an amazing, generous, handmade gift from Federico’s shop!}

We browsed albums of embarrassing old pictures, talked about our trip and theirs, took turns swapping questions, and soaked up as much of one another as possible before we were parted again…

It was a sweet, rich time.

This weekend, we were surrounded by friends again!{Summery drinks + summery food + laughing friends = Perfection}

We hosted a few members of “the Gang” for one of their crazy, old-fashioned fun, foodie-filled visits. Cole, Steph and Dan joined us for an evening of cocktails and grilled pizza on the patio, a round of golf (boys) and a morning run and lunch (girls) and a yummy Sunday send-off brunch. As always, we had a blast!

Steph brought an amazing cocktail with her to share. A refreshing mix of grapefruit juice, tequila, a splash of ginger ale and a wedge of lime – portion according to taste;) – try it for your next patio party!

Dinner was inspired by my mom’s amazing hostess feats, as well as the Mellow Mushroom Pizza Bakers menu (a gang favorite in Columbus). I made the dough the night before, we grilled it, and topped it with a fun array of toppings – everyone got to choose their own!

Grilled ‘Za Party How-To:

Dough:

I used this recipe for the dough with a few modifications – perfect for a Friday night because you can make it the evening before, let it rise in the fridge overnight, set it on the counter after work, and form into a chewy, perfect crust!

-Recipe-

Makes about 4 small pizzas – I doubled the recipe for the five of us so we could each have one, plus a few extra to sample :)

  • 2 C. plus 2T of bread flour (or, make a wheat crust using substituting 1C whole wheat flour and 1C white)
  • 1 Packet of Instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 t salt
  • 1 C warm water
  • 3 T Olive Oil
  • 2T Honey
  • Combine flour, yeast and salt in bowl of stand mixer and whisk until homogenous. Add water, knead with dough hook for about ten minutes until ball is smooth and elastic and comes cleanly off the sides of the bowl (will be stuck to the bottom of the bowl). Cover mixer bowl with plastic wrap, and refrigerate over night. Dough should double in size.
  • The next day, remove from the refrigerator with floured hands and drop dough onto floured work surface. Roll into a log and divide into four pieces. Form each piece into a ball, and place in an oiled container. Lightly oil the tops of the balls, and cover with plastic wrap. Allow to rise at room temperature for until doubled in volume – about 30min to an hour.
  • Use your hands to form each ball into a smallish “rustic” round crust shape, oil one side generously, and place on a cookie sheet for transport to the grill.

Cooking method:

Pre-heat the grill, then turn burners to low (about 350* worked for us). Flip the crusts from the cookie sheet onto the hot grill, and brush the other side with oil as it cooks. After just a minute or so, flip, and cook briefly on the second side. Then, remove from the grill and take inside for toppings!

Toppings:

We used Pesto and BBQ chicken, turkey sausage, spicy Italian ham, bacon, pineapple, mushrooms, caramelized onion, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, artichoke hearts, feta, Gorgonzola, fresh and cured mozzarella and provolone.

Use a spoon to spread sauce – BBQ, Pesto, Garlic olive oil or red sauce all work well – then add cheese (it will melt better if added first), and toppings. Transport back to the grill, and use a lower heat and close the lid just until cheese is melted and toppings are warmed through. If your grill is equipped with a shelf inside, this may also be a good option for melting/warming the garnished pies.

And, Enjoy!

Paired with a fun selection of craft brews, hummus and salsa, my go-to Cooking Light spinach and artichoke dip, Tuscan bean salad and mixed fruit, we had a great time sitting on the patio and munching on this spread!

The party ended with a Sunday breakfast was made with the boys in mind. They woke up to sticky buns in the oven, scrambled eggs, bacon, biscuits and fruit.

Those gooey, pecan-topped buns are worth it, though…. I used low-fat biscuts, so they’re practically a health food, right? An awesome Pinterest find, we had them first on Christmas morning last year. Try them (they’re soooo easy): Cinnamon Pecan Sticky Buns

I hope your summer has been fun-filled as well. What have you been up to?