Buh Bye 2011

I wasn't planning to do a 2011 year in review. I feel like the entire news and blog world is buzzing with reviews, roundups, best of's, and goodbyes to the year. These kinds of posts and articles simultaneously make me feel happy and sad, but such is life I suppose. Happy to think back on fun times, but sad to know that another year has come and gone.

But when I thought about all that has happened over the last year, I thought it was worth taking one more look back at it. It was a good year!

I ate delicious pancakes...

 

I did a lot (and I mean, a lot!) of cooking...

I made the ugliest cake ever...

Shaun and I went to Atlanta, where we ate amazing food, attended a Falcons-Packers playoff game and drank ourselves into a sugar coma at the Coke museum...

I made a lot of cupcakes...like this Banana Cupcake with Nutella Frosting...mmmm

and these Malted Chocolate Cupcakes

 

I ate a lot of whipped cream

I fell in love with smoothies...

...and made some delicious Irish eats...

I helped Lindsey make 350 chocolate truffles for her engagement party...

 

I told you all about how Shaun and I met and fell in love...

...and all the details of our dream destination wedding in Aruba

 

 I went crazy with this Chocolate Cookie Peepza Pie

We took a trip to Madrid...

..and Zurich & Zug

Kimberly graduated from law school...and passed the Bar!

I made some delish summery dishes

I made some amazing bar desserts...

like these pretzel crusted brownies with buttercream

pineapple coconut dream bars...

and layered Oreo cake bars

We celebrated our 3rd anniversary

took a trip to Aruba

I started a new blog with my sisters. If you haven't seen it yet, please check out The Peach & The Pit! Some big changes happening with that in the coming days...

We took a trip to New Mexico to celebrate my cousin's wedding...

Hosted a virtual cookie swap with some A-mazing bloggers!

and baked a whole lotta cookies and holiday goodies

had a wonderful Christmas with my family...

and overall a healthy and wonderful 2011! This year I posted 84 recipes on the blog...wowza! I just tallied it up and can't believe that number. My project for this weekend is to work on updating the recipe page for you!

I hope that you all have a wonderful and safe new year's eve tonight! Have a blast!

Cheers!

Rachel

What Are You Doing New Year's Eve? + Foodie Penpals

Hi all! After a bunch of days off, today I'm heading into work for the day (boo!) and then seeing the tree at Rockefellar Center and having dinner with a group of my favorite ladies (yay!)! I'm so excited!! It's an annual tradition and it's so fun to look forward to directly after Christmas...it's like Christmas is still a thing, even though it's passed.

 

On another note, tomorrow is New Year's Eve! I have a serious love/hate relationship with New Year's, and definitely with New Year's Eve in general, but I am excited for 2012. I think it's going to be a great year! As usual, Shaun and I don't have much planned. We will probably make a bunch of food at home, watch a movie, and then head over to a party that our building is throwing (down the hall!). I love this because it means no driving on the most dangerous night of the year, no crowds at New York City bars, and no spending a whole lotta $$$ on overpriced pre fixe dinners. What are you doing for New Year's Eve?

Oh, and I found this sweet little video that you've probably already seen, but I'm sharing it anyway because it makes me happy :) I love ZoDash (can we make that a thing?) and Joseph Gordon Levitt...they are just too cute and this song is so sweet...

 

Today is also Foodie Penpal reveal day! Foodie penpals was started by the lovely Lindsay @ The Lean Green Bean. Lindsay is one of my favorite bloggers turned friend. Her blog is filled with healthy food and she is just oh so sweet! Foodie Penpals is a way for bloggers and non-bloggers to join up every month and get paired with another person. You prepare a box of goodies (no more than $15 worth) and send to your match on a specified date. You then also receive a box of goodies from another person. It is so fun to not only receive a box of surprise goods, but to also put together a box of fun stuff for another. If you want to join up for next month, be sure to check out Lindsay's blog for more details!

Meanwhile, I got a whole lotta delicious and wonderful things from Rachel @ My Naturally Frugal Family! I was so excited to receive this box of goodies and have enjoyed everything single thing inside it.

I opened the box to find an incredibly sweet Christmas card...

...milk chocolate almond toffee pieces (which Shaun and I devoured immediately) and avocado oil kettle chips

I adore all of the fun chips that Rachel included...like these kale chips and sweet potato chips!

a pumpkin cheeseball mix...I think I will be making this for New Year's Eve! Yum!

some Justin's chocolate peanut butter...I could eat this stuff by the gallon with a spoon...

and my very favorite item of the bunch...Biscoff spread! I had been wanting to try this stuff for a while but somehow hadn't gotten around to it! It's delicious!

and here's the money shot...

So there you have it. All of my yummy penpal goodies. Thank you Rachel!

I hope you all have a fantastic (and very safe!) New Year's!

What are YOU doing New Year's Eve?

xo,

Rachel

PS - Thank you for all of your sweet comments on my Christmas Eve dress! I put together a little fashion breakdown for you below:

Dress: Urban Outfitters

Long cardigan: Nordstrom

Black round-toe pumps: BCBG via Neiman Marcus Last Call

Tights: Duane Reade

Bangles: Alexis Bittar

 

Scenes from Christmas

Hi there! I've spent the last bunch of days eating, hanging with family, spending time with my favorite west coaster, eating, sleeping in, cooking, not blogging, baking, watching TV and...eating some more. Sorry I've left you hanging over the last few days, but it was necessary for me to take some time off from everything! I hope that you all had a wonderful Christmas! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope that you had a lovely long weekend :) I don't have too much to tell you about today, other than to share some scenes from the big weekend. I hope you enjoy!

I'm sad that Christmas 2011 has come and gone...but am so happy to have had such a great bunch of days with the fam! And now...onto New Year's!! Hope you all had a great one!

 

 

Christmas Eve Eve

Hi everyone! I'm sure your traveling or out celebrating or doing lots of other fun things rather than blog reading today.

But!

I wanted to pop in for a quick post just in case you are in fact doing a little reading, and you know I always have a million things to say anyhow. Plus, I can't leave you just before Christmas! First up, I want to say Merry Christmas! And send you a virtual Christmas card from Shaun and me. This is the card that I designed and we sent out to friends and family and I want to virtually send it to you as well:

I took this photo last Christmas right after the giant snow storm last Christmas. I used my brand new camera at the time and really fell in love with everything about this photo. The soft colored lights, the snowy outdoor terrace, the dimly lit background...It looks like Christmas to me! So Merry Christmas, from The Humistons!

Today I'll be cooking up a storm for celebrations over the next few days. Here's the plan:

1. Christmas Eve

We'll be spending the day and evening at my parents house for their annual giant Christmas celebration. For dinner, we do a round of cold appetizers and then a round of hot appetizers instead of a big dinner. We all love to cook in this family, and so the hot appetizer thing came about so that we could all make dishes and no one person would be slaving over a huge dinner...which everyone is usually too full to eat anyway. I'm making a duo of chicken salad. For the cold course, I'm whipping up a batch of chicken salad veronique to be served on crackers. Grapes, tarragon, roasted chicken...this is really my favorite chicken salad ever!

For the hot course, I'm testing out a new idea. I'm taking the traditional chicken salad and making buffalo style! I plan to do a play on buffalo chicken dip - but with more chicken than cream cheese - and fill up lettuce wraps with them. Then, I will drizzle a bit of blue cheese on top. What do you think?

I'm also making my upside down carmelized potato and parsnip tart (which is then cut into bite sized pieces and served warm). I made this last year and it was a hit!

2. Christmas Day.

We spend Christmas Day with Shaun's family and for the occasion, I'm whipping up a little feta cheeseball with all the fixin's! Adorned with olives and crackers, this cheeseball from My Baking Addiction is my favorite new appetizer. It's soft, salty and perfect on my favorite Club Multigrain crackers. For dessert? I'm whipping up some chocolate cupcakes with vanilla buttercream. I just need some chocolate cupcakes in my life. Perhaps I'll garnish them with a chopped up candy cane? Only time will tell...

3. Day After Christmas Eve

We'll also be spending this day with Shaun's family and for this, I plan to do my famous ultimate pizza dip:

...and I'm going to attempt a white chocolate Oreo cheesecake. I found a Betty Crocker recipe that I really want to try. For some reason, cheesecake has been calling my name! I'll let you know how it all comes together.

As you can imagine, I'm a little overwhelmed just thinking about all of this cooking today! Not to mention that Shaun and I have our holiday date night today which is actually turning into date afternoon & night because we are hitting a showing of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo at 3:20 today. Now I'm off to get my food shopping done so I can get cookin'!

I hope you all have the best Christmas ever! And if you don't celebrate Christmas, I hope that you have a fantastic, wintery weekend and just enjoy some time with friends and family! It's my favorite time of the year!

xo,

Rachel

Easy Appetizer: Baked Goat Cheese & Crackers

Last night I had the place to myself and though I hate it when Shaun isn't around, it was nice to have some along time to wrap Christmas presents and watch the girly Christmas movies that Shaun just isn't into. Somehow, I made it through half of the Muppets Christmas Carol, Love Actually, Scrooged and about a third of The Santa Clause. Not too shabby, if you ask me!

Last Friday evening, we invited our parents over for a little holiday dinner at our place. I had worked on the day of the party, so I was determined to keep things completely simple and quick to prepare, yet still chic enough for a dinner party. Shaun's mother was bringing a spinach dip appetizer and so I just added a couple of other things to the table. When I found a baked goat cheese recipe from Martha Stewart, I knew this was the ticket! I made a bunch of changes to the original recipe and the result was nothing short of delicious, sophisticated and simple.

Baked Goat Cheese & Crackers
6 oz goat cheese, in log form
black pepper
paprika
thyme
parsley
cooking spray
crackers of your choice (I recommend Club Multigrain crackers)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a very small baking dish or ramekin with cooking spray. Cut goat cheese into large rounds and sprinkle with spices, repeating for each layer of the goat cheese rounds. Bake for 10 - 15 minutes and serve with crackers.

Yum! I can't wait to make this again next week when Shaun and I are on our little holiday staycation! Have a great Thursday, everyone! Today is my last day in the office for the year, and thus, the countdown is on!

Question of the Day:

What are you favorite easy apps?

Starting New Traditions

In case you don't already know this about me...I'm sort of a traditionalist. I am conservative (yet politically liberal), sometimes prim and proper, and there's nothing I love more than having traditions year after year. Maybe it goes back to my hatred for change?

Anyhow, Kimberly did a fantastic post yesterday about our family's holiday traditions and just about all of them are the same ones that I love and look forward to each year. It all kicks off on Christmas Eve morning and lasts until very late on Christmas night. It's a lot of fun, but admittedly for Shaun and me, it all revolves around both of our family's traditions (you can read all about that in last year's how we spend the holidays post)...which doesn't leave a ton of one on one time for the two of us and our own traditions.

So we started a few small traditions for our own family of two to enjoy and look forward to every year.

First, we kick off the season with Christmas tree shopping on the weekend after Thanksgiving. Since we've been married, we get our tree at the same place (the 14th Street Garden Center in Jersey City, which surprisingly always produces a great tree!).

 

We tie it up on the roof of our small sedan and cart it home where we proceed to have a little tift while trying to set it up in the tree stand. We then tag team the lights and decorations, while watching football.

 

As of last year, we started a new tradition of having a holiday date night on Christmas Eve Eve. On December 23rd, we've vowed to keep the night open to doing something fun together, just the two of us. For holiday date night 2010, Shaun took me to a fancy schmancy dinner at Edward's in Jersey City.

 

Unfortunately, I then spent the rest of the evening wrapping gifts and watching The Grinch, while he was locked in the bedroom (since it was his gifts being wrapped!). This year, we're going to an early showing of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (obviously extremely romantic and holidayish, but I don't care! I cannot contain my excitement!) followed by dinner at one of our favorite spots, the Lighthorse Tavern in Jersey City.

 

 

Lastly, we have our own tradition of opening our gifts during the wee hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning...usually around 1AM after my family has gone to sleep. Neither of us like to make a spectacle of our gifts, and so we open them on our own, just the two of us, in the quiet, dark house. I love this time of the night!

And that pretty much sums it up! Of course, many of our traditions (ours and our family's) may change slightly once we have kiddos running around - and maybe new ones will be formed! - but for now, I'm happy to bask in all of these things and soak up the season!

Questions of the Day:

What are your favorite holiday traditions?

Do you have any new ones that you are instituting this year?

Two Holiday Treats: Peppermint Bark Shortbread & Homemade Marshmallows

The countdown is on to Christmas! And I realized that I still have so much to tell you about! So today I'm going to get right down to business (or bid nid, if you will) and tell you about 2 fun and delicious holiday treats that I hope you'll try!

Immediately following the Virtual Cookie Swap Party, I just couldn't get many of the cookies out of my head. The number one on my list? Hailey's Candy Cane Shortbread! Some may say that shortbread isn't that exciting, but I really love it in any version. I'm not really a huge chocolate eater, and so a cookie like shortbread is simply perfect to me. Buttery, sweet, delicious. Hailey's idea to add candy canes just got my mind reeling. I used her exact recipe, but took it one step further...I added in 1/4 C semisweet chocolate chips and 1/4 C white chocolate chips for a peppermint bark flavor.

The result? I loved them! The candy canes added just a hint of crunchy peppermint, while the chocolate added some...well, chocolatey goodness. Head over to Hailey's blog for the original recipe and add in the chips if you like! Also, for crushing those pesky candy canes, I just peeled of the wrapper, placed them in a small zip top bag and went to town on crushing them up. Easy as pie...er, cookies.

Next up on the list...homemade marshmallows! I had been wanting to make marshmallows for quite some time now, but felt completely intimidated. When Shaun found and DVR'd an episode of Good Eats for me where Alton tells viewers all they need to know about the gelatinous bits of yum, I knew it was destiny. So I made them, directly from Alton's recipe.

Though it took a little skill and quickness to actually spread the marshmallows into the pan without making a giant mess of myself and my kitchen, these were incredibly easy and so worth every moment of preparation. They make store bought marshmallows look like...well, complete garbage, to be honest. Add these to hot cocoa, coffee, or just simply pop them like it's your job. You won't be disappointed.

So there you have it. Two fun holiday recipes that I'm totally crushing on this week! I hope you give them a try! Have a great day everyone :)

Questions of the Day:

Do you still have a lot of baking on your holiday list? Aside from some cupcakes for Christmas day, I'm pretty much done with mine!

What are your plans for this week?

 

Secret Recipe Club: Chicken Noodle & Corn Casserole

I was pretty excited when I drew The Kitchen Witch as my Secret Recipe Club blog for December. I instantly fell in love with her gorgeous photos, fun blog design and sweet sense of humor. The only problem? Choosing only one recipe for the reveal!

With all of the holiday craziness, last weekend I had planned to only make one or two dishes for the week. I wanted something that was semi-healthy and that would last for multiple meals and thus something of the 'tray' variety was needed. When I saw Rhonda's recipe for chicken noodle & corn casserole, I knew it would be love at first bite. And it was. The corn adds a bit of sweetness, while the chicken and noodles add some earthy heartiness.

Chicken Noodle & Corn Casserole
*Adapted from The Kitchen Witch
3 C chopped cooked chicken breast (I seasoned & baked 3 breasts, then cubed)
1 16 oz. pkg egg noodles (I used Ronzoni)
1 can (15 ounce) corn kernels, drained
1 can (14.75 ounce) cream style corn
2 Tbsp butter
1 medium onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
2 Tbsp flour
1 1/2 C skim or low fat milk
1 C reduced fat sour cream
1 tsp dried sage
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tsp dried parsley
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C seasoned panko bread crumbs

Cook the egg noodles according to package directions (I undercooked them by about a minute). Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, melt the butter and saute the onions and celery over medium heat until soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Whisk in the flour and cook for about a minute, whisking constantly. Slowly whisk in the milk until fully combined. Bring mixture to a light boil. Turn off the heat and stir in both corns, sour cream, herbs, salt, pepper, chicken and noodles. Pour into a greased baking dish, sprinkle the top with panko and bake for 20 minutes. Yields about 8 servings.

Dig in!

We ate this for a number of dinners and lunches and enjoyed every bite! Thanks to Rhonda for this great recipe! I also think it could easily be changed up to add any flavors you like. Substitute the corn for any vegetables, like green beans, asparagus, bell peppers...or all of the above!

So there you have it. My Secret Recipe Club reveal for December! Hope you have a great week! It's going to be a busy one with Christmas only 6 days away...but I'm soaking up every moment!!

Questions of the Day:

Have you ever made a great casserole?

How was your weekend? We spent ours partying it up on Friday and Saturday nights, and then relaxing big time all day yesterday!