December 2015 archive

christmas parade

I’m getting this post in just in time. :) I know Christmas is over and the year is almost over, but the Christmas season flew by so quickly that I never had the chance to post these pictures from the downtown Christmas parade at the beginning of the month. My parents have pictures of me at the Christmas parade as a toddler in my plaid smocked dresses and Will always marched in the parade with our high school band, so we were both flooded with memories when we went back. The best part of the parade was watching the cute kids in front of us cheer and get so excited about each float, dance group and band that passed. Enjoy these last memories of the Christmas season and have a wonderful, happy New Year’s Eve!

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

 

These kids in front of us were the cutest!  They loved the parade and danced the whole time!

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

The Christmas Parade always makes me excited and happy about the season to come :)

baked brie bites

I hope you all had very merry, wonderful holidays and are enjoying some relaxation as we gear up for the New Years holiday this week! We made so much food last week for all kinds of Christmas celebrations, including these easy and quick baked brie bites.

Golden and flaky with gooey cheese and sweet jam, baked brie bites are quick, easy, and delicious, but look sophisticated at your appetizer spread.  www.passthecookies.com

When I was in school, this time between Christmas and New Years was the best. Just free time with few obligations, meant for relaxing and taking things slowly. I love the bustle of Christmas and New Years, but it was always nice to have that break between the hubbub to slow down and enjoy the time. I help cook and bake for weeks leading up to Christmas, but once we get past December 26th I don’t want to do much complicated baking and cooking. This means my perfect New Years Eve food is easy and simple.

Golden and flaky with gooey cheese and sweet jam, baked brie bites are quick, easy, and delicious, but look sophisticated at your appetizer spread.  www.passthecookies.com

I made these baked brie bites for a secret Santa party, a family appetizer night, and a dinner party with friends. They look fancy but are so so easy to throw together, and are absolutely delicious. Every time I pulled out a plate of these baked brie bites this holiday season I have heard raves, which makes the ease of making them that much sweeter. They take about 20 minutes to throw together, including cooking time!

Golden and flaky with gooey cheese and sweet jam, baked brie bites are quick, easy, and delicious, but look sophisticated at your appetizer spread.  www.passthecookies.com

Golden and flaky with gooey cheese and sweet jam, baked brie bites are quick, easy, and delicious, but look sophisticated at your appetizer spread.  www.passthecookies.com

These bite-sized baked brie bites are perfect to throw together when visitors want to swing by at the last minute. They are both savory and a little sweet with the addition of the jam. You can alter them to fit your fancy with different jams, jellies and preserves, but right now I have been loving them with raspberry and fig jams, and cranberry sauce.

Golden and flaky with gooey cheese and sweet jam, baked brie bites are quick, easy, and delicious, but look sophisticated at your appetizer spread.  www.passthecookies.com

Golden and flaky with gooey cheese and sweet jam, baked brie bites are quick, easy, and delicious, but look sophisticated at your appetizer spread.  www.passthecookies.com

Golden and flakey with gooey cheese and magenta jam oozing out of each bite, baked brie bites are such a delicious addition to your appetizer spread. They look so sophisticated piled on a platter next to a glass of champagne, perfect for your New Years celebration – I know they will be at ours!

Baked Brie Bites

1 wheel or 8 ounces of brie
Raspberry jam (apricot and fig are great too)
1 package puff pastry sheets (2 puff pastry sheets)

Egg wash (optional)
1 egg
1 tablespoon milk or cream

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Lightly flour a cutting board and unfold one of the pastry sheets onto the floured surface. Keep the other pastry sheet in the fridge while you work with the first sheet. Cut the pastry sheet into 2-inch columns then cut each column in half. You will have about 10-12 rectangles.

Cut the brie into small slices (you will need 20-24 pieces total). Place each puff pastry rectangle onto one of the prepared baking sheets and place the brie in the center of the top half of the rectangle, leaving a small dough border around the cheese. Place a dot of jam on top of the brie slice. Stretch out the bottom half of the dough rectangle slightly and fold it over the cheese and jam. Fold the edges of the dough over the bottom or press down around the edges with a fork to seal the pastry pockets. Repeat this process with each rectangle of dough then with the other pastry sheet and the rest of the brie.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg and milk. Brush the tops of the pastry dough with the egg wash (optional) and bake for 12-15 minutes, or until golden brown on the top. Allow the brie bites to cool for a few minutes before serving.

christmas outfit

I know I sound like a broken record, but I can’t believe Christmas is only a few days away! I’m both taking the day slowly and getting tons done – my favorite way to do it. I wore this Christmas outfit to a few Christmas parties we went to last weekend. We had three in one day and it was the perfect amount of dressy for our fanciest one but not too overdressed with some flats for the others. I love this full green skirt for the holiday events. It would be a great Christmas Eve or Christmas dinner outfit tomorrow or Friday :) While the skirt might not be readily available in your closet, I’m sure most people have a black turtleneck or long sleeve shirt (or even short sleeve with this crazy weather) that you can pair with a fun necklace and some heels to recreate most of this look. Have a non-stressful final day of preparation and an early merry Christmas!

Pulling out a fancy Christmas outfit for festivities this year.  www.passthecookies.com

Pulling out a fancy Christmas outfit for festivities this year.  www.passthecookies.com

Pulling out a fancy Christmas outfit for festivities this year.  www.passthecookies.com

Pulling out a fancy Christmas outfit for festivities this year.  www.passthecookies.com

Pulling out a fancy Christmas outfit for festivities this year.  www.passthecookies.com

Pulling out a fancy Christmas outfit for festivities this year.  www.passthecookies.com

Skirt: Choies (similar here, here and here; similar in red here; maxi version here) | Turtleneck: J. Crew (similar here and here) | Shoes: TJ Maxx, similar here, here and here; similar in flats here and here | Necklace: old, similar here, here and here | Earrings: old, similar here, here and here | Lips: Clinique Chubby Stick in Bountiful Blush

flourless chocolate cake with peppermint whipped cream

I figured out what you need for your Christmas dessert buffet this year. Dense, super rich flourless chocolate cake with peppermint whipped cream.

Rich flourless chocolate cake with peppermint whipped cream and crushed candy canes is the perfect Christmas dessert for all of your friends and family.  www.passthecookies.com

Crush up some candy canes from your stocking and your cake is the star of the party. Chocolate and peppermint is such a great combination and perfect for Christmas day. This cake is beautiful and even more delicious than it looks. Each bite is like eating a slice of chocolate truffle with fluffy, wintery whipped cream. The sweet whipped cream pairs wonderfully with the rich dark chocolate. It sweetens the cake just enough to make each bite delicious without being over-the-top. The perfect combo.

Rich flourless chocolate cake with peppermint whipped cream and crushed candy canes is the perfect Christmas dessert for all of your friends and family.  www.passthecookies.com

Rich flourless chocolate cake with peppermint whipped cream and crushed candy canes is the perfect Christmas dessert for all of your friends and family.  www.passthecookies.com

Powdered sugar on chocolate desserts always reminds me of snow. I think the stark contrast of the airy white powder against the solid dark chocolate is beautiful. I loved adding the crushed peppermints to really make it look like a winter wonderland dessert. The peppermint almost blends in with the powdered sugar but the small bits of red stripes make it pop just enough to make this cake festive. You can sprinkle powdered sugar all over the cake or get fancy and make a snowflake cut out then dust on the sugar for a really impressive look.

Rich flourless chocolate cake with peppermint whipped cream and crushed candy canes is the perfect Christmas dessert for all of your friends and family.  www.passthecookies.com

Rich flourless chocolate cake with peppermint whipped cream and crushed candy canes is the perfect Christmas dessert for all of your friends and family.  www.passthecookies.com

I could eat this peppermint whipped cream by the bowlful. It tastes so fresh and cool and is a great contrast against the deep chocolatey flavor of the cake. The pairing is delicious and essential for your highest flourless chocolate cake enjoyment. If you want it to look a little more like your candy canes, add a few drops of red food coloring and swirl with a spatula before serving it. You can also add a bit of crunchy texture by folding in finely chopped peppermints or candy canes. Just writing about it makes me want to eat the whole bowl.

Rich flourless chocolate cake with peppermint whipped cream and crushed candy canes is the perfect Christmas dessert for all of your friends and family.  www.passthecookies.com

This cake is velvety, smooth, rich and dense – all of the qualities a flourless chocolate cake should possess. One of the best parts is that it is also gluten free, without any substitutions! One of the tricks to making sure it is smooth and velvety is to bake it in a waterbath, like you would a cheesecake. Pull it out of the oven while it still jiggles in the middle; it will firm up as it cools and become the perfect texture. When you are done you will have a fudgy dark chocolate truffle cake, ready for peppermint and Christmas festivities.

Rich flourless chocolate cake with peppermint whipped cream and crushed candy canes is the perfect Christmas dessert for all of your friends and family.  www.passthecookies.com

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Peppermint Whipped Cream
8 eggs, cold
1 pound (about 2 2/3 cups) dark or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped*
16 tablespoons (2 sticks) butter, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
2-4 tablespoons strongly brewed coffee or espresso, room temperature
Powdered sugar, for topping
Peppermints or candy canes, crushed, for topping

Peppermint Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons-1/2 cup powdered or granulated sugar
1-1 1/2 teaspoons peppermint extract

*I tried this cake with 72% chocolate, hoping to get a very rich cake but it was too bitter. Try a chocolate less than 72% for a sweet, not bitter cake.

To make the Flourless Chocolate Cake
Coat an 8 or 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray and line with parchment paper. Spray the sides of the pan. Use two rectangles of aluminum foil to wrap the outside of the pan, so water can’t get in between the sides of the springform. Set the wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan or large casserole dish. Bring a pot of water to a boil.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the eggs on medium speed until they have doubled in volume. This should take about 5 minutes.

Bring water to a boil in a double boiler or a large pot. Pour the chocolate, butter and coffee in the top of the double boiler or in a large heatproof bowl and set over the boiling water. Let it melt, stirring a few times to bring all of the ingredients together. It should be smooth and warm after a few minutes.

Use a large spatula to gently fold one-third of the foamed eggs into the chocolate mixture. Fold in the remaining egg foam in 2 additions until there are no egg streaks. The chocolate mixture should be much fluffier now.

Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and smooth the top with your spatula. Place the roasting pan in the oven and pour boiling water into the pan until it comes about halfway up the sides of the springform pan. Bake the cake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the cake has slightly risen and the edges are beginning to look like a brownie. The center should still be wobbly, it will set as it cools. You don’t want to overbake, otherwise it will lose its velvety texture, so make sure to check it. Remove the cake from the water bath and set on a wire rack to cool. Cover the pan and refrigerate for a few hours, or overnight.

Before you serve it, run a kife between the sides of the cake and the pan. Undo the sprinform pan and remove the ring that creates the sides of the pan. Transfer the cake by sliding two spatulas under it and carefully moving it to your final display plate, or by inverting it onto a sheet of waxed paper then turning it right side up onto your serving plate. Right before you serve, dust the top of the cake with powdered sugar and crushed peppermints or candy canes. Serve each slice with a dollop of peppermint whipped cream. The powdered sugar might start to melt into the cake after a while, sprinkle more on next time you serve it to make it look nice again.  The powdered sugar is also great for covering any cracks in the top of the cake ;)

To make the Peppermint Whipped Cream
Pour the cream into the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the cream on medium-high speed for a few minutes, until soft peaks form (the cream forms peaks but the peaks fall and don’t stand up on their own when you pull the whisk out). Add the powdered or granulated sugar (both work, but the powdered sugar disolves into the whipped cream more easily) and the peppermint extract. Continue to whip the mixture on high speed. Taste along the way to see if you need to add more sugar or peppermint extract. Remember that the cake is very rich and only sweetened by the chocolate, so if you used very dark chocolate you might need sweeter whipped cream to compensate. Whip the cream, sugar and extract until stiff peaks form. Serve right away or store in an airtight container in the fridge. It is best if used immediately, but will save for a few hours to a day if kept cold.

 

Cake slightly adapted from Cook’s Illustrated Baking Cookbook

stocking stuffers under $35

My favorite Christmas morning tradition is opening stockings with all of my family next to a blazing fire and a beautifully lit tree on Christmas morning.

Stocking Stuffers

When my siblings and I were little, we would hand out everyone’s stockings so we could all open them at the same time. There is something exciting about stocking stuffers. There are so many options that you can fit in a stocking and it is always exciting to see the fun little items that fill all of the nooks and crannys. As usual, stocking stuffers are the last things I think of when I’m Christmas shopping so I still have plenty to get. I’ve rounded up some stocking stuffers that you can grab before Christmas below – and the best part, they are all less than $35!

I think it is so fun to get beauty products in my stocking. It’s like a little treat that you don’t have to justify at all. Nail polish, lipstick, the beauty blender (which I have only heard raves about!), face mask and lotion are all the perfect little beauty items to fit in a stocking and pamper the recipient.

Do you know a gold lover or a glam gal? There are so many great gold gifts out there right now! This gold USB cord and cord taco are so fun, and actually practical (I know I’m not the only one who loses my cords and finds them tangled in my bags). The gold Swell bottle is so cute and, like I mentioned in the Gift Guide for Him post, it is so well made. If you are looking to have a hot drink, this gold monogrammed mug is cute, popular and on super sale right now (only $7.50!)! I have one and it makes me happy every time I use it. Get one for your stockings before it’s gone!

Gift Guide for Stocking Stuffers

Accessories are always a great way to fill space in a stocking. These stud earrings are fashionable, a great price, and would go with so many outfits. I love the tassel key chain too (I have one on my gift list). Wouldn’t it be cute hanging out of the top of the stocking? :)

We always get a pair of pajamas on Christmas Eve or first thing on Christmas morning. These pj shorts and pjs would be wonderful stocking stuffers and are all affordable! Another tradition my sister and I try to carry out throughout the rest of the year is letter writing. Since we don’t live near each other it is fun to write snail mail every now and then and feel like we are pen pals. These cards would make great mail and can fit well in a stocking. I love everything Rifle Paper Co. makes, so in addition to the cards, I might just grab the desk calendar too :)

For the guys (why are they so difficult?), socks always make a great stocking stuffer. With the recent release of the new Star Wars movie, I’m not below grabbing movie related paraphernalia. This is one of my favorite Star Wars shirts out there right now. When he’s not wearing a t-shirt, this shaving kit is a great little way for him to stay well-trimmed. My brother has it and not only is it great when you use it, it also looks nice in the bathroom. Win-win. Speaking of facial hair, this Beardos game looks hilarious. Card games are one of the best stocking stuffers because you get a fun small item that you can then play with all of the family later in the day.

As I mentioned before, the cord taco looks so handy, and would go well with the cord roll-up from the gift guide. Instead of the gold, you can get it in brown, black, or a variety of colors. Finally, for that plane ride home, after a long few days, it might be nice to have a drink. With this carry on cocktail, you can make that happen :)

I’ve linked even more ideas below! What do you love getting in your stockings?

casual christmas

I can’t believe Christmas Eve is only 1 week from today!  December has flown by!  I still have so much to do and so many errands to run.  I wore this outfit a few weeks ago when Will and I went to a Christmas parade and it was the perfect combination of festive and casual for a day of running from one thing to the next.  I’ll probably pull out this casual Christmas combination again next Wednesday when I’m inevitably running around doing everything I thought I would have accomplished by today ;)

Simply having a casual Christmastime! With only a week until Christmas eve and still so many errands to run, this casual Christmas outfit is the perfect amount of both comfort and festivity! :) www.passthecookies.com

Simply having a casual Christmastime! With only a week until Christmas eve and still so many errands to run, this casual Christmas outfit is the perfect amount of both comfort and festivity! :) www.passthecookies.com

Simply having a casual Christmastime! With only a week until Christmas eve and still so many errands to run, this casual Christmas outfit is the perfect amount of both comfort and festivity! :) www.passthecookies.com

Simply having a casual Christmastime! With only a week until Christmas eve and still so many errands to run, this casual Christmas outfit is the perfect amount of both comfort and festivity! :) www.passthecookies.com

Simply having a casual Christmastime! With only a week until Christmas eve and still so many errands to run, this casual Christmas outfit is the perfect amount of both comfort and festivity! :) www.passthecookies.com

Shirt: J. Crew thrifted (similar here, here and here) | Scarf: Old Navy (plaid version here) | Boots: Via Spiga (similar here, here, here and here) | Purse: Dooney & Bourke (similar here, here, here and here, and cheaper similar here) | Coat: Banana Republic last year (similar styles here, here and here) | Nail polish:  Essie Rock at the Top | Lipstick: MAC Lady Danger

adult hot chocolate with peppermint, gingerbread and eggnog marshmallows

Last week my younger sister turned 21. Since it is December and we have to celebrate a 21st birthday properly, I give you homemade adult hot chocolate with peppermint, gingersnap and eggnog marshmallows.

Boozy adult hot chocolate with peppermint, gingerbread and eggnog marshmallows are a divine treat for a cozy winter night in or a fun holiday celebration!  www.passthecookies.com

Woah. I am usually a tea person, but there is something about December, the crisp air and the festivities that make me crave a good hot chocolate. Add a little booze to celebrate a certain 21st birthday, the holidays, or just winter night, and you can’t go wrong. This hot chocolate is amazing, I just want to dive in. It is rich, deep chocolaty goodness in drink form, perfect for snuggling up next to the tree with a classic Christmas movie. The flavors of the Irish cream and frangelico make the flavor even more complex and comforting. Double, triple, quadruple the batch and it is great for a holiday crowd.

Boozy adult hot chocolate with peppermint, gingerbread and eggnog marshmallows are a divine treat for a cozy winter night in or a fun holiday celebration!  www.passthecookies.com

The marshmallows create so many delicious combinations. The peppermint marshmallows go really well with the marshmallow vodka hot chocolate, and a touch of peppermint extract, while the eggnog marshmallows are delicious with the frangelico and Irish cream hot chocolate mixture. Gingerbread are good with any of the hot chocolates and really delicious when dipped in melted chocolate.

Boozy adult hot chocolate with peppermint, gingerbread and eggnog marshmallows are a divine treat for a cozy winter night in or a fun holiday celebration!  www.passthecookies.com

Boozy adult hot chocolate with peppermint, gingerbread and eggnog marshmallows are a divine treat for a cozy winter night in or a fun holiday celebration!  www.passthecookies.com

Boozy adult hot chocolate with peppermint, gingerbread and eggnog marshmallows are a divine treat for a cozy winter night in or a fun holiday celebration!  www.passthecookies.com

If you are looking for a thoughtful gift for your coworkers, make a batch of one of these marshmallow recipes and package them up with some powdered hot chocolate. If you gift the combo in a cute mug, they can even use the gift as a 3pm pick-me-up (you know we all need it).

Boozy adult hot chocolate with peppermint, gingerbread and eggnog marshmallows are a divine treat for a cozy winter night in or a fun holiday celebration!  www.passthecookies.com

The hot chocolate is divine with or without alcohol, but such a great treat when you add it and some huge marshmallows. I can’t wait to enjoy some with my newly legal sister :) Stir it up with a candy cane and enjoy the season! Happy birthday, Lane!

“H” mug from here, “W” mug from here, striped bowl from here.

Adult Hot Chocolate with Peppermint, Gingerbread and Eggnog Marshmallows

Hot Chocolate (serves about 6)
6 cups milk
3 tablespoons sugar
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla (or peppermint extract for peppermint hot chocolate)
9 oz. chocolate, chopped (about 1 ½ cups) (I like dark, but you can use whatever you like)
4-6 ounces of either frangelico, Irish cream, marshmallow vodka, or a combination

Peppermint Marshmallows
1 cup cold water
3 packages plain gelatin powder
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
a pinch of salt
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
red food coloring (optional)
powdered sugar, for dusting

Gingerbread Marshmallows
1 cup cold water, divided
2 packages unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
⅓ cup dark corn syrup
⅓ cup molasses
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of ground cloves
powdered sugar, for dusting

Eggnog Marshmallows
1/2 cup water
3 packets unflavored gelatin
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup eggnog
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons light corn syrup (can use all maple syrup instead)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼-½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
Powdered sugar, for dusting
Ground nutmeg, for dusting

To make the Hot Chocolate
In a small saucepan, heat the milk, sugar and vanilla over medium-low heat until the sugar has fully dissolved. Do not let the milk come to a boil. Add the chocolate and stir until almost fully incorporated. Remove the mixture from the heat and continue to stir until all of the chocolate has completely melted.

Stir in frangelico, Irish cream and/or marshmallow vodka and serve immediately with marshmallows.

To make the Peppermint Marshmallows
Spray an 8×8-inch pan or a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and dust with powdered sugar. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, pour ½ cup of the cold water. Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the water and let it sit for about 10 minutes while you prepare the next steps.

In a medium saucepan combine the remaining ½ cup of water, the sugar, corn syrup and salt over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves then stop stirring. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to 240 degrees F, using a candy thermometer to check (if you don’t have a candy thermometer you might be able to use a clean meat thermometer).

Once the mixture reaches 24o degrees, remove it from the heat. Turn the electric mixer with the gelatin mixture on a low speed and carefully stream the hot sugar mixture into the bowl while the mixer is running. Beware of hot sugar that might splatter if you pour it too quickly or into the whisk! Add the peppermint extract and gradually increase the speed of the mixer to high. Beat on high for about 8-10 minutes, or until white and very fluffy. The mixture should have tripled in volume and will look like marshmallow cream at this point.

Spread ⅓ of the marshmallow fluff into your prepared pan, drop a few drops of red food coloring on top of the batter and lightly swirl (not too much, you will stir it again and you want them to have streaks of red rather than be solid pink). Repeat these steps for the next third and again for the final third of marshmallow batter. Dust the tops of the marshmallows with powdered sugar and let rest for 8 hours, or overnight.

After they have set, coat a sharp knife with nonstick cooking spray (for easy cutting) and cut the marshmallows into cubes. Roll each marshmallow in a bit of powdered sugar to keep them from sticking to each other. Marshmallows keep well in an airtight container for about 1 week.

To make the Gingerbread Marshmallows
Follow the instructions for Peppermint Marshmallows, replacing light corn syrup with the ⅓ cup of dark corn syrup and ⅓ cup of molasses in the sugar-syrup-water mixture. Add the vanilla when you would otherwise add the peppermint extract. After about 8 minutes of whipping, add the spices to the fluff and continue to whip for the remaining 2 minutes. This time your fluff will be brown, rather than white.

Spread all of the marshmallow fluff into your prepared pan and dust the tops with powdered sugar. Let them rest for 8 hours, or overnight.

After they have set, coat a sharp knife with nonstick cooking spray and cut the marshmallows into cubes. Roll each marshmallow in a bit of powdered sugar to keep them from sticking to each other. Marshmallows keep well in an airtight container for about 1 week.

To make the Eggnog Marshmallows
While these are similar to the other two marshmallows there are enough ingredient changes that it is easier to detail the recipe again. Here we go!

Spray an 8×8-inch pan or a casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray and dust with powdered sugar. Set aside.

Pour the water into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Sprinkle the gelatin powder over the water and let it sit for about 10 minutes while you prepare the next steps.

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, eggnog, and maple and corn syrups over medium heat. Stir until the sugar dissolves then stop stirring. Increase the heat and bring the mixture to 240 degrees F, using a candy thermometer to check (if you don’t have a candy thermometer you might be able to use a clean meat thermometer).

Once the mixture reaches 24o degrees, remove it from the heat. Turn the electric mixer with the gelatin mixture on a low speed and carefully stream the hot sugar mixture into the bowl while the mixer is running. Beware of hot sugar that might splatter if you pour it too quickly or into the whisk! After about 8 minutes of whisking, add the vanilla and ground nutmeg and whisk for another 2 minutes. Your mixture will be fluffy and white, like marshmallow cream.

Spread all of the marshmallow fluff into your prepared pan and dust the tops with powdered sugar. Let them rest for 8 hours, or overnight.

After they have set, coat a sharp knife with nonstick cooking spray and cut the marshmallows into cubes. Roll each marshmallow in a bit of powdered sugar to keep them from sticking to each other. Marshmallows keep well in an airtight container for about 1 week.

link love

I am loving all of the Christmas decorations around :)  The lights, greenery and trees make me so happy.  Right now we have a tiny tabletop tree, but someday I can’t wait to fill a room with a big, beautiful, decorated tree, maybe even with a color theme.

link love 12.08.2015

 via

I love this article by fellow-Triangle bloggers on loving thy neighbor.  It reminds us that, especially in this holiday season, we need to think of all those around us and their situations, good and difficult.

If you haven’t seen Loren Hope jewelry, check it out asap.  The Rhode Island-based company makes gorgeous, vintage inspired jewelry with rich colors and metals.  And with Hope in the name, how can you go wrong ;)  This interview with the founder is a little peek into the behind-the-scenes workings of the company.

There is an all out holiday-themed bar in DC!  They have sections decked out for Christmas, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa, and libations to match each holiday.  The bar is festive right down to the glassware, cocktail names, Christmas train running through the bar, and the bartenders’ Santa hats.  To all my DC friends, pleaseeeeee go for me and report back!

I am a sucker for a good gingerbread house (or a gingerbread village if you’re really into it).  This funfetti gingerbread house is so cute and fun!

Lastly, as a resident of a small space, I always appreciate tips on how to decorate without overwhelming the space.  These ideas for holiday decorating in a small space are wonderful.  We have already nailed the tabletop tree and added cheer to the door, but I love the idea of decking the windows with more than just candles!

Have a wonderful weekend, filled with the holidays :)

Gift Guide for Him

I always struggle with gifts for guys in my family. They are so difficult to shop for sometimes. I love giving gifts, but I want to feel like I got the perfect gift, and sometimes I struggle with that for the men. Fear not, I figured out some good ones! I hope this gift guide for him helps you avoid my perpetual struggle!

Of these gift linked below, 15 of the 24 items are less than $50 and all except the Bose are under $100 (and the Bose is just $120)!  I have linked similar options to the items in the picture to help you out with different prices and some variety.  Happy gifting!

Gift Guide for Him

For the stylish guy in your life (or the guy you want to lend some style tips to ;) ), a reversible bow tie, plaid tie and monogrammed cufflinks are perfect options.  I love the plaid shirt and cable knit sweater, and with such classic style, they are perfect for any guy’s wardrobe.

This Mophie external battery and the leather cord organizing roll are both great for the tech savvy guy, and so useful!  I was introduced to the Mophie external battery when I went to NY with my friends a few months ago.  Some of us forgot our chargers (guilty) so we only had about 3-4 chargers between 7 people.  On top of that, we all listened to music during the entire half marathon, which really drained our phone batteries.  While we sat in the park after our race, one of my friends pulled an external battery out of her bag and let us charge our phones.  It was amazing and so cool that we could charge our phones in the middle of a park!  And with so many cords to keep track of, the cord organizing roll would make it easy to pack chargers and headphones and throw the compact carrier a bag.

I included pajamas and socks in the gift guide for her and I stick by that for guys too.  Who doesn’t love a good pair of warm pajama pants and some cozy socks this time of year?  I love the fairisle pattern of the ones in the picture, but I have also had great success with Smartwool and Wigwam socks.  These would be great for any guy on your list.

This whiskey wedge ice mold and Bose mini bluetooth speaker are fun gifts for the entertainer or the life of the party.  Bose makes great products, and with a portable bluetooth speaker, your guy can easily take the party with him wherever he goes.  How cool is the whiskey wedge?!  It is meant to create a large ice cube that will melt slower than individual ice cubes, making your drink cold without watering it down too much.  So smart.

For a guy on the go or an adventurer, I love this weekender duffel bag, money clip and card holding wallet, and the Swell water bottle.  The weekender is a great size for a short getaway or for a whole week, depending on how well he packs.  And, in true Southern fashion, I have to mention that it can also be monogrammed if that is his style (or yours ;) ).  Will has a card holder money clip and loves it.  It is easy to pull out cards and cash quickly when you need it, which is great for guys who are always on the move.  I love the wood pattern of the Swell bottle, though it comes in other colors too.  The stainless steel bottle is easy to carry around, and with a vacuum seal, you can throw them in a bag without worrying about spills.  It keeps drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 and doesn’t condensate.

chocolate dipped shortbread and brownie cookies

One of my favorite holiday traditions is making cookies. In my family we make the same cookies every year, and visiting family brings the same cookies every year. It is wonderful and I love the variety of small delicious treats. One of my favorite cookies to make and eat this time of year is shortbread and brownie cookies are a great alternative to the regular chocolate crinkles that everyone else brings.

Making Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  These chocolate dipped shortbread and brownie cookies are sure to be hits at your holiday parties.  www.passthecookies.com

Growing up my mom always made shortbread for us to give to all of our teachers and for my parents to bring to their coworkers. It uses very few ingredients that you probably have on hand. The recipe is so easy and quick and makes great gifts for neighbors, hostesses, coworkers (or your office potluck) and, of course, is perfect for your cookie plate. You can give a whole round or package a few chocolate dipped cookies in little bags or boxes tied up with ribbon. Mix in some brownie cookies and your friends will love you.

Making Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  These chocolate dipped shortbread and brownie cookies are sure to be hits at your holiday parties.  www.passthecookies.com

Making Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  These chocolate dipped shortbread and brownie cookies are sure to be hits at your holiday parties.  www.passthecookies.com

While shortbread is a family staple, chocolate crinkles have never been a regular on our cookie plate. They are popular at lots of other holiday parties and cookie swaps, and sometimes one of my grandmothers will bring them, but I have never made them myself.

Making Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  These chocolate dipped shortbread and brownie cookies are sure to be hits at your holiday parties.  www.passthecookies.com

I have never loved chocolate crinkles. I think it stems from the fact that I always end up inhaling half of the powdered sugar coating as I try to eat the cookie, which makes for an unpleasant cookie-eating experience. I know, I need to get over that and learn to eat like an adult. But instead, I made brownie cookies, with no powdered sugar topping in sight :)

Making Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  These chocolate dipped shortbread and brownie cookies are sure to be hits at your holiday parties.  www.passthecookies.com

Making Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  These chocolate dipped shortbread and brownie cookies are sure to be hits at your holiday parties.  www.passthecookies.com

While your friends inhale powdered sugar at other parties (that can’t just be me), you can bring the unique chocolate brownie cookie. These brownie cookies are perfectly chewy with a rich chocolaty flavor. Dipped in chocolate and rolled in peppermint or sprinkles they look beautiful on the plate and taste like a dream.

Making Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  These chocolate dipped shortbread and brownie cookies are sure to be hits at your holiday parties.  www.passthecookies.com

I love the way the shortbread and brownie cookies look side by side. The sharp edges of the pale, smooth shortbread contrast with the round edges of the dark, crinkled brownie cookies and make for a wonderful cookie plate. When dipped in chocolate and rolled in chopped nuts, sprinkles or crushed peppermint the once-opposite cookies have a common denominator, tying the whole plate together with a cohesive look but still some variety. Because that’s what a holiday cookie plate is all about ;) Beautiful, delicious variety. I’ll have some of each please.

Making Christmas cookies is one of my favorite holiday traditions.  These chocolate dipped shortbread and brownie cookies are sure to be hits at your holiday parties.  www.passthecookies.com

Chocolate Dipped Shortbread and Brownie Cookies

Shortbread (makes one baking sheet, cut into slices of your size preference)
4 cups flour
1 ½ cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
2 cups butter, softened (4 sticks)

Brownie Cookies (makes about 2 dozen 1-inch cookies)
12 oz. chocolate, chopped (or about 2 cups of chocolate chips)*
3 tablespoons butter
2 eggs
⅔ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt

To assemble
Semisweet chocolate, melted
Sprinkles
Crushed peppermints
Chopped nuts

*These are great with dark or semisweet chocolate. Semisweet chocolate makes them a bit sweeter and dark chocolate gives you a deeper, more chocolaty flavor.

To make shortbread
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large bowl, mix the flour, powdered sugar, baking powder and salt. Add the softened butter to the bowl and use your hands to work it into the dry ingredients. It is important that your butter is soft for this step. The dough should come together as you continue to pull the flour mixture into the butter. Don’t be afraid to get messy :)

Once all of the ingredients are fully incorporated and the dough has come together, divide it in half and press each half in an 8 to 9-inch round pan. Alternately, if you don’t want rounds you can press all of the dough into one cookie/baking sheet. Make sure the dough is evenly spread out in the pan and prick all over with a fork. I like to make pretty patterns, like snowflakes, but the fork holes will disappear when the shortbread bakes so it doesn’t really matter where the fork holes are as long as you have made some. Bake for 30-45 minutes, or until golden. You might find that they cook more quickly on the cookie sheet than they do in the round pans, check on them at about 20 minutes to make sure they are on the right track and aren’t already golden.

While the shortbread is still warm, use a sharp knife to cut it into 12-16 wedges (if using a round pan) or into lots of rectangles (if using a cookie sheet). Cut around the edge of the pan as well. When I make shortbread in a cookie sheet I start by cutting three rows then lots of columns to make shortbread rectangles of all sizes, so guests can have options. Cool the shortbread in the pan on a wire rack. Once it is cool remove it from the pan by inverting the round pan onto a plate or by using a knife or small cake server to remove the rectangles from the cookie/baking sheet.

To make brownie cookies
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.

In a double boiler or large pot, bring water to a simmer. Place 7 ounces of the chocolate (about ½ cup plus 1-2 tablespoons) and the butter in the top of the double boiler or in a small saucepan over the water and stir slowly, until melted and smooth. Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the eggs, sugar and vanilla for 15 minutes or until pale and creamy. 15 minutes may seem like a long time, but it really needs to whip for that long, otherwise your batter will be soupy and your cookies will spread too much.

Add in the flour, baking powder, salt, and melted chocolate mixture and mix to combine. Fold in the remaining chocolate chunks or chocolate chips. Set the batter aside and let it rest for 10 minutes. This helps it become more stiff and easier to scoop. Scoop about 1 tablespoonful of the mixture onto your prepared baking sheet. Bake for about 8–10 minutes or until puffed and cracked. Allow the cookies to cool completely on the trays.

To assemble
Place a piece of wax paper or plastic wrap under a wire rack. Pour melted chocolate, and toppings of choice into their own bowls.

Dip a shortbread or brownie cookie into the chocolate then roll it in one of the toppings. Set the cookie on a wire rack to allow the chocolate to harden. Repeat with the other cookies.

Both cookies can be stored in airtight containers. They stay fresh longer if they are kept in separate containers (shortbread in one, brownie cookies in another). This is a good rule of thumb for most cookies, especially those with strong flavors.

Brownie cookies slightly adapted from here.  Shortbread cookies from a family recipe :)

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