Sunday, December 18, 2011

How: Candy Cane Place Card Holders

Candy Cane Place Card Holder

Christmas is my favorite holiday.  For lots of reasons.  One reason is that my parents host a framily* get together and it is always a wonderful time.  For the last few years, I have prepared a few of the appetizers.  Last year I made little signs to label the apps.  This year I decided to step it up a notch and make these candy cane place card holders to fancy up the app labels. These took me maybe 15 minutes from start to finish.  Super easy and also awfully cute, if I do say so myself.

Start with two candy canes.
Glue the two candy canes together to create the label holder.
Glue on a third candy cane so the holder can stand on its own.
Add labels or place cards and ta-da!
(Yes, these are the apps I'm making for Christmas dinner.)

What You'll Need:
Small candy canes, three for each place card holder, unwrapped
Glue gun
Index cards or other heavy paper for the labels
Ribbon, optional

1. Place a dot or small stripe of glue along the side of one candy cane and press the second candy cane against the first.  Hold for a few seconds until the glue has cooled.
2. Glue the third candy cane to the back of the first two so that the holders can stand on their own.
3. If using ribbon, now is the time to add a little bow around the three candy canes.
4. Make place cards or food labels out of small tags cut from index cards, or other heavy paper, and pens.
5. Place finished cards in the candy cane place card holders.

* Framily = friends who are family

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Recipe: Winter Sangria

Winter Sangria
Citrus, cinnamon, and cloves.

Winter Sangria
Based on Cooking Light's Winter Sangria recipe.


6 tangerines -- 4 juiced and 2 sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
1 cinnamon stick
4 whole cloves
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup triple sec
1 bottle dry red wine, such as cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, merlot, or zinfandel

In a large pitcher, combine juice of 4 tangerines, tangerine slices, lime slices, lemon, slices, cinnamon stick, cloves, sugar, and triple sec.  Stir to combine.  Pour in wine and stir to combine. Refrigerate for a few hours, preferably overnight. Cheers!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Recipe: Artichoke and Mushroom Crusted Chicken Breasts

I will be the first to admit that I usually buy pre-made chicken breasts for dishes that call for chopped or shredded chicken.  I think it is worth the extra cost because then I don't have to touch raw chicken.  Ew.  Sometimes I even avoid a chicken recipe altogether.  This recipe just goes to show that I will do most anything for artichokes, mushrooms, and cheese.  We enjoyed this chicken dish with a side of roasted fingerling potatoes and asparagus.  It was delicious and well worth having to touch raw chicken.

Oh, and if you don't like mushrooms you can either 1) suck it up and give them a try in this recipe because they are chopped up small and mixed in with artichokes and cheese or 2) omit the mushrooms and substitute chopped spinach for an artichoke and spinach crusted chicken.


Artichoke, mushroom and cheese mixture.

Chicken breasts topped with artichoke, mushroom, and cheese mixture.

Artichoke and Mushroom Crusted Chicken Breasts
Adapted from

Serves: 4
Total Time: 25 minutes


  • 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 cup chopped artichoke hearts
  • 1 cup chopped crimini mushrooms
  • 1/2 cup shredded sharp white cheddar
  • 1 tablespoon mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

  1. Pound the chicken breasts between saran wrap to an even thickness.  Salt and pepper both sides.
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook the chicken breasts until browned and cooked through, approximately 5 minutes on each side.  
  3. While chicken is cooking, mix the artichoke hearts, mushrooms, cheese, and mayonnaise together in a bowl. 
  4. Once chicken is cooked, remove from pan and onto a baking sheet.  
  5. Top each chicken breast with the artichoke and mushroom mixture. 
  6. Broil the chicken in the oven for approximately 5 minutes, or until the artichoke, mushroom, and cheese starts to brown.  Watch the chicken carefully so that it does not burn. 

Friday, December 2, 2011

Recipe: Roasted Red Pepper Soup

Sure, you can buy soup ready to heat up and serve in two minutes but this soup is so easy and delicious that it is well worth a little extra time in the kitchen.  Also, you control the salt content, versus the grocery store offerings which are chock full of sodium. 

Roasted red pepper soup w/ a sharp cheddar and gruyere grilled cheese.

This soup is perfect for lunch or dinner with a grilled cheese on the side.  Or, if you are having guests over, leave the soup simmering on the stove with a ladle, mugs, and spoons standing by.  People tend to congregate in the kitchen so you might as well let them serve up their own portions of soup to enjoy before the main course. 

Soup on the stove.

This recipe is adapted from Sunset magazine. 

  • 3 red bell peppers, halved and seeds removed
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 28-ounce can whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • salt and pepper
  • Optional toppings: tabasco sauce, creme fraiche, chopped parsley

  1. Preheat the broiler. Place the red pepper halves, cut side down, in a baking pan and broil until the skins are black and blistered, about 10 minutes.  Let cool on pan for 10 minutes. 
  2. While red peppers are roasting, heat a large pot on the stove over medium heat.  Add the olive oil and the onion and cook, stirring often, about 5 minutes. 
  3. Add the garlic and cook an additional 2 minutes. 
  4. Add the tomatoes (undrained) and the paprika. Bring to a low simmer and cook, stirring occasionally until the red peppers are ready.
  5. Peel the roasted red peppers, add to the pot, and simmer for 5 minutes. 
  6. Puree the vegetable mixture with an immersion blender* until smooth.  
  7. Stir in broth and lemon juice and cook over medium heat until hot. 
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
  9. Ladle soup into mugs or bowls and add any optional toppings. 

*If you don't have an immersion blender you can also puree the vegetable mixture in small batches in a food processor or blender. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Giving Thanks

Thanksgiving Dinner | 2010
Is it just me or did Thanksgiving totally sneak up on us this year?  Maybe it is because, at least in California, the weather was screaming summer until November 1st or so.  Or maybe it is because I have a new job that has kept me busy with not as much time to think about the impending holiday season.  Whatever the reason, Thanksgiving is just around the corner and, as per usual, it has me thinking about all the things I have to be grateful for in my life.

Here is a list, in not particular order, of just 20 of the things I am thankful for.  Always.

  1. Love. 
  2. Being married to the love of my life -- my most favorite person ever. 
  3. Family.
  4. Framily -- friends who are family.  Sometimes family are the ones you choose.
  5. A snuggly orange cat named Stella, who is currently keeping my feet warm.
  6. Fabulous friends who are fun and caring and make me laugh so hard and so much. 
  7. Karaoke. 
  8. Music. 
  9. Those who fight for human rights and equality.
  10. Choice.
  11. Photography.  
  12. Art. 
  13. Books.
  14. Living in California. 
  15. The opportunity to do work that makes me feel good.
  16. Days off work. 
  17. Our home.
  18. Access to fresh food. 
  19. Having all of the things I need. 
  20. Having some of the things I want. 

Grateful for what's understood, 
And all that is forgiven; 
We try so hard to be good, 
To lead a life worth living. 
Grateful for each hand we hold
Gathered round this table.

Thanksgiving Song, Mary Chapin Carpenter

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Recipe: Black Bean Burgers with Roasted Peppers and Spicy Aioli

Beans drained and rinsed.
Roasted bell peppers.

Spicy Aioli.

Mashed black beans.

Red onion, green bell pepper, and garlic.

Green bell pepper, red onion, and garlic mixture.

Grilling the burgers and red onion slices.

Black Bean Burgers with Roasted Bell Peppers and Spicy Aioli

Serves: 4


  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 red onion, halved
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 green bell pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 1 red bell pepper, seeded and quartered
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon chili powder, divided
  • 1 tablespoon + 1 teaspoon ground cumin, divided
  • 1 teaspoon + a few dashes hot sauce, such as Tabasco
  • 1/2 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise or sour cream
  • Optional toppings: cheese, grilled red onion, avocado or guacamole, sauteed mushrooms, salsa

Spicy Aioli
  1. Combine 1/4 cup mayonnaise or sour cream, 1 teaspoon chili powder, 1 teaspoon cumin, and a few dashes hot sauce in a small bowl and stir to combine. 
  2. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. 
Roasted Bell Peppers
  1. Preheat the broiler and line a baking sheet with foil. 
  2. Place the red bell pepper and half the green bell pepper, skin side up on the baking sheet.
  3. Broil until the skins begin to turn black, approximately 10-15 minutes.  Remove from oven and place in a plastic bag or container, sealed, for 10 minutes. (This will make the skins much easier to remove.) Remove the peppers and peel.  Thinly slice and set aside.
Black Bean Burgers
  1. While the peppers are broiling, prepare the black bean burgers.
  2. Preheat an indoor grill or skillet over medium heat.
  3. Pour the drained and rinsed black beans into a medium size bowl and mash with a fork. 
  4. Cut one half of the red onion into large chunks and place in a food processor with the garlic and remaining green bell pepper.  Process until finely minced.  
  5. Add the onion, bell pepper, and garlic mixture to the beans and stir to combine.  
  6. In a small bowl, combine the egg, 1 tablespoon chili powder, 1 tablespoon cumin, and 1 teaspoon hot sauce. Stir to combine. 
  7. Add the egg and spice mixture to the beans and stir to combine. 
  8. Stir in the bread crumbs, a spoonful at a time until the mixture begins to stick together.  
  9. Divide the mixture into four equal portions and form into burgers.  Put the burgers on a parchment paper lined plates, cover in plastic wrap and put in the refrigerator until ready to cook. 
  10. Thickly slice the remaining half of the red onion to grill or cook in pan. 
  11. When ready to cook, rub both sides of each burger with a little olive oil and place on grill or in pan.  Cook for 8 minutes per side or until each side begins to brown and the burgers are cooked through.  Cook the red onion slices along with the burgers. 
  12. Top each burger with spicy aioli, a slice of grilled red onion, roasted bell peppers, and additional toppings of choice.
This recipe was based on the Black Bean Veggie Burger recipe at

Monday, November 14, 2011

Recipe: One Minute Mug Brownie

This is a super simple and fast way to make a single serving brownie.   

This is dangerous information.  It is delicious but not the least bit healthy.  Consider yourself warned.  

Flour and brown sugar.

Seriously, if you would like to stop reading now, I won't be offended.  

Dry ingredients.

Or, if you are interested in a quick and not-quite-as-unhealthy dessert option, consider checking out my previous Cake in a Cup post.

Brownie batter.

If you still want to know how to make the easiest, quickest, and most perfectly fudgy chocolate brownie ever, then read on.  

Warm and fudgy mug brownie.

But it is not healthy at all and you have been warned. 

So yum.

One Minute Mug Brownie
Adapted from


  • 1/4 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons milk or water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • Whipped cream (optional)

  1. Combine flour, brown sugar, cocoa powder, and salt together in a microwave safe mug. 
  2. Add milk and vegetable oil and stir together until no lumps remain. 
  3. Microwave for 60 seconds, checking after 30 seconds. The brownie should be firm but still a bit soft in the middle.  
  4. Remove from microwave and top with whipped cream, if using.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Photos: Brunch

A group of girlfriends and I get together for regular brunches, cocktail parties, etc.  Most of the parties have become tradition, including theme and time of year.  These are a few of my favorite photos from yesterday's brunch.

French cheese plate.


Pastries, mimosa, and an egg bake.



All you really need for a delicious brunch.

I thought the lighting in the kitchen made for some great photos.

It would be weird if the day didn't end with handstands.

Our next brunch will be in December, between Christmas and New Years, and I will be hosting.  I have already been brainstorming ideas for food and beverages including a bloody mary bar and a fruit, yogurt, and granola bar.  What can I say, I love a good "build your own                  " bar.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Recipe: Avocado, Tomato, & Cilantro Salad

Avocado, tomato, and cilantro salad. 


  • 2 avocados, seeded, peeled, and diced
  • 2 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Combine all ingredients in a medium size bowl and stir to combine.  
  2. Cover and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to let the flavors mingle.
    Served w/ carne asada, nonfat refried beans, low fat sour cream, salsa and a tortilla.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recipe: Artichoke and Olive Pasta

Artichoke and olive pasta, topped with crumbled feta.

Although I usually like to have a recipe to get me started, this pasta was a delicious result of feeling a bit more confident about playing around with ingredients that I thought would go well together.  Success!

Artichoke hearts.

Delicious kalamata olives.

Tomatoes, onion, and garlic.

Artichoke and olive pasta.

Serves: 6


  • 16-ounce box of fettuccini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 6 roma tomatoes, seeded and chopped
  • 1 can artichoke hearts, roughly chopped
  • 1 cup kalamata olives, roughly chopped
  • Handful of parsley, chopped
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
  • Salt and pepper 
  • 1 lemon, juiced

  1. Cook pasta according to package instructions. 
  2. While pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. 
  3. Add onion and garlic and cook until onion is softened, a few minutes. 
  4. Add tomatoes and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for an additional 10 minutes, stirring often. 
  5. In a large bowl, combine the artichoke hearts, tomato mixture, pasta, olives, and parsley.  
  6. Add lemon juice, salt, and pepper, to taste. 
  7. Divide pasta among bowls or plates and top each serving with crumbled feta.

Friday, November 4, 2011

How: Party Poofs

Party Poofs!

Party Poofs, aka tissue paper pom poms, instantly transform a room into a festive space for the party of your choice -- birthday, bridal shower, graduation, whatever your party de jour happens to be.

I made five of these fun decorations for my friend's baby shower tomorrow.  The first one took a while but once I got the hang of it, I busted out the other four in just a few minutes each.

Materials: tissue paper and floral wire.
Fold eight sheets of tissue paper in 1.5-inch accordion folds.
Fold the floral wire around the middle of the tissue paper and twist tightly.
Trim the ends -- either rounded (as shown here) or pointed.

Carefully separate the layers.
Continue to carefully separate all of the layers. 
Fold and twist the floral wire to make a loop for hanging.
Finished polka dot party poof!
Trimmed ends.  Pointy on left, rounded on right. 

  • Tissue paper: 8, 20x30 (or size preferred) sheets per poof 
  • Floral wire
  • Fishing line, for hanging

  1. Stack 8 sheets of tissue paper together. 
  2. Starting at one of the shorter ends, make 1.5-inch accordion style folds across the entire length.  
  3. Fold a 12-inch piece of floral wire around the middle of the folded tissue paper and twist to tighten. 
  4. Trim the ends of the tissue paper, either rounded or pointed. 
  5. Carefully separate each later, lifting away from the center.  
  6. Once all the layers are opened, fold and twist the excess floral wire to create a loop. 
  7. Tie a piece of fishing line to the wire loop for hanging.
  8. Repeat with remaining tissue paper.