December 22, 2012

EAT: old-fashioned lemon bread

Happy Holidays! break some bread with your loved ones.

The best thing to happen to lemon... since sliced bread!  The lemon, much like the pumpkin (previous pumpkin martini post)  is very versatile.  As you might have read, it made its appearance on the blog before in the lemon detox water post, well here it is again, this time in bread.  Baking bread is easier than I thought. 

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder (forgot to picture above)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2/3 cup (5 fl.-oz. can) nestle carnation evaporated milk
  • 1/3 cup olive or vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel (about 1 lemon - reserve lemon for later use)
  • lemon syrup glaze

For the glaze: combine 1/3 cup granulated sugar and 1/4 cup of juice (1-2 lemons) in a small, heavy-duty sauce pan.  Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly for about 5 minutes or until sugar is dissolved and a light syrup is formed.  Keep aside until you are ready to pour over your bread.  

Grate some lemon peel that will go right into your bread mixture mix. 

Preheat oven to 350° F.  Grease and flour baking pan.  I used the baking pan from the Martha Stewart line (below) that is safe to bake in the oven - I also used a regular 8 x 14 baking pan.  One loaf to gift and one loaf to eat! 

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder and salt in large bowl. Beat eggs, evaporated milk, oil and lemon zest together in medium bowl. Pour egg mixture into flour mixture. Stir until just combined. Pour into prepared pan.  

And then bake! for 55 to 60 minutes or until wooden skewer inserted in center comes out clean.  One for you and one for me. 

Using the skewer, poke numerous holes in the hot bread, piercing all the way to the bottom. Slowly drizzle the hot lemon syrup over the bread (syrup will soak into the bread).  It should be a glistening, lemony glaze.  

Cool on wire rack for 15 minutes; run knife around edge of bread. Remove bread to wire rack to cool completely and then it should be ready to eat!

I used the same packaging I used for the chocolate hazelnut bread pudding, the lemon bread is packaged and ready to gift!  Now go break some bread with your loved ones. Happy Holidays!

December 16, 2012

DIY: rosette and pom pom push pins

I spotted some really pretty ceramic flower pins at Anthropologie and wanted to make some of my own (mostly because they were a little too pricey for me).  They are incredibly easy to make and I even threw in some gold pom poms for some added sparkle and fun. 

Here's what you'll need:
- Rosette embellishments (I got mine at Michaels - $3.99 for a 16-pack)
- Pom Poms (also Michaels - $1.69 for a 15-pack)
- Thumbtacks and pushpins
- Superglue

This is as complicated as it gets - dab some glue on the top of the thumbtack/pushpin and pop the rosette/pom pom on top.  I like the look of the flat thumbtacks, but the pushpins are great for anything you need to hang (keys, jewelry, etc.).  Let them dry for a few minutes and you are all set!

These also make really cute stocking stuffers - pin a few on a piece of decorated cardboard and package it up.  Enjoy!

December 13, 2012

EAT: chocolate hazelnut bread pudding

First things first: pre-heat oven to 350F.  Then follow along for pictures and directions. :)

This is challah bread (Jewish braided egg bread). You can use a bread to your liking but this one is suggested because of its crust, firmness and rich egg flavor. 

Ingredients: (8-12 servings)
  • 1 (14 oz)  loaf challah bread, cut into 1 inch cubes (12 cups) 
  • 1/2 cup bittersweet chocolate pieces (1 hershey size bar), break into pieces
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 8 eggs (6 egg yolks, 2 whole eggs)
  • 1 cup Nutella spread
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar (plus 1 table spoon to add with brown sugar)
  • 4 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt (forgot to add in picture but you know what salt looks like)
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 1 cup hazelnuts - toasted and crushed or chopped
  • whip cream or ice cream optional but recommended

Cut the challah bread into 1-inch cubes the best that you can.  The braided texture is just a bit tough to cut through but it doesn't have to be perfect. Toast the bread cubes until dry and crisp, but not overly brown to get all the moisture out of the bread.

In a mixing bowl, whisk together the milk, cream and 4 egg yolks and 2 whole eggs (no more than 2 whole eggs! make sure you get just the 4 egg yolks), nutella, 3/4 cup of granulated sugar and 4 teaspoons of vanilla extract.    

And then, add the dry bread cubes into the mixture.  Then throw the bittersweet chocolate pieces in the mix. Stir well to make sure that all the bread soaks up the cream/egg mixture. 

Before you transfer your soaked goodness into a pan (here I used a 9 x 13 cake pan but a smaller one could have been used), make sure the pan is greased up real good.  As you can see in my picture on the sides, I buttered up the pan real good. Transfer the mixture to a buttered baking dish and pack down tightly.  Pour any cream mixture that may be left in the bowl into the pan.  Mix together the remaining light brown sugar with the tablespoon of granulated sugar.  Then sprinkle the sugar mixture  over the top of the bread pudding. 

Then put pan in the oven and bake for 350F for 25 minutes or  until it has firmed up a bit and the top begins to crisp a little (that's why the crust on the challah bread is perfect for this). And voila, it's THAT simple!

While you wait, you can lightly toast your hazelnuts on a pan and chop them up to prepare to garnish  your completed bread pudding. :)

Serve in bowls with whipped cream and sprinkle with the hazelnuts!  It adds texture to the pudding and crunchy deliciousness. 

To give as gifts for those ballin on a budget like me, I got these cute bakery packaging from Kmart from the Martha Stewart holiday crafts line. I just scooped enough bread pudding to fill right up to the top so when you close with the cellophane wrapping, the chocolate doesn't get all messy. 

Peek-a-boo! I see you! You, sweet deliciousness.

All wrapped up and ready to gift.  A DIY holiday gift baked with LOVE.  

For a finishing touch, I printed out customized labels with heating instructions and best served with suggestions and a short personalized note. Hopefully better than giving that fruit cake. 

December 11, 2012

DIY: 5 minute beaded bracelet

Got 5 minutes?  Make a beaded bracelet!  I saw this simple black beaded bracelet on one of my fav bloggers (Chiara Ferragni of the blonde salad) and decided I needed one too.  After grabbing the supplies I made this bad boy in a jiffy. 

Here's what you'll need:
- Beads (I got mine at Walmart for less than $3)
- Stretchy jewelry string (I used size 0.5mm - you can get this at Michaels for less than $3)
- Scissors
- Super glue (optional)

Measure out some string - make sure you give yourself plenty of length in order to tie the knot.  The great part about making your own bracelet is you get to customize it to your wrist size.

Place the beads on the string until you have the desired length.  Tie a tight double knot and place a drop of super glue on it to make sure it stays.

BAM!  FIVE MINUTE BRACELET.  Oh yeah you go girl!

December 6, 2012

DIY: ginger & epsom salt detox bath

HOT stuff coming through!  Here's a great idea (or gift idea) for anyone who loves SWEATING it out in hot baths, saunas, massages and hot yoga.  This natural detox bath is super simple and rids the body of toxins through your skin.  Here's the breakdown:

Epsom Salt (magnesium sulphate): find it in the garden center or pharmaceutical dept. of discount stores or local drug stores
- eases stress and relaxes the body
- relieves pain and muscle cramps
- aids muscle and nerve function
- relieves constipation
- eliminates toxins from the body

Baking Soda (sodium bicarbonate):  find it in the bakery isle or in bulk at the swimming pool/chemical area of discount stores
- balances an over acidic system
- leaves skin soft
- aids the body in magnesium absorption

Ginger: powder or fresh grated
- "heats" the body
- increases circulation
- opens pores for release of toxins

Run a hot bath and dump it all in.  Then put on some Alicia Keys - cause girl, you are gonna feel like you are on fire!  Not really, but you will SWEAT and you may feel your heartbeat get strong.  If it gets way too hot in there, run some cold water to cool down.  Sit back and relax for 20 min or so (no more than 30). 

Take it easy when you get out - your body has been working hard and you may be lightheaded.  No lotions or serums tonight, as your body will continue to detox and sweat for a few hours even after the bath (see below for the after-bath of me - I've never sweat so much while reading before).

Make sure to hydrate with TONS of water - you will be thirsty as heck.  You may feel lightheaded when waking as well (possibly even flu-y) - but this is a good sign of releasing those toxins.  Continue to drank that water!
P.S. This detox can be a powerful one - do not take it if pregnant or have heart or health issues.

Have fun sweatin it up!

December 5, 2012

BEAUTY: shine bright like a diamond!

Add some sparkle into your life this holiday season.  From the wise words of Rihanna, shine bright like a diamond. 

Nails: OPI color "die another day" with Essie glitter.  Dress: Asos

November 29, 2012

DRINK: Art of the aperitif, The Lillet

The moment I tasted this delicate, refreshing wine-like drink, I imagined myself at a Frenchman's house being served endless glasses, working up my appetite for a meal that is about to ensue. The Lillet (French, pronounced lil-lay) is an aperitif wine. The name itself exudes sophistication.  It can be found at any major spirits and wine shop as Lillet blanc or Lillet rouge.  It is James Bond's favorite "secret" ingredient, and fitting for a sophisticated secret agent as himself.  In the novel Casino Royale, the fictional secret agent added the Kina Lillet into his martini instead of vermouth and a lemon peel instead of an olive.  And thus was born a refined martini invented by a spy.  Bond eventually calls the drink, the now famous "Vesper" cocktail,  after the novel's female leading character Vesper Lynd.  Adding a touch of French can classy-fy anything Oui, Oui.  And now you ask, what is an aperitif?

As wiki simply puts it, an aperitif is an alcoholic beverage usually served before a meal to stimulate the appetite.  A fancy word for a drink served as appetizer, if you will.  It is a French word derived from the Latin verb aperire, which means “to open".  To open your palate for the feast that is about to commence.  After a drink, no one really cares, but I'm here to tell you anyways.  Champagne, prosecco and other sparkling wines are sometimes served as aperitifs.  Classic aperitif cocktails are the Martini, the Manhattan, the Old-Fashioned and the Sidecar.  Champagne is sparkling wine but not all sparkling wine is champagne just as all scotch/bourbon is whisky but not all whisky is scotch or bourbon.  But I digress.  All aperitifs are appetizers but not all appetizers are aperitifs.  Toma(y)to, tomato, you get it. :)

Like prosecco,  you can enjoy the Lillet by itself or in cocktail.  Unlike the Lillet,  prosecco is Italian and sparkling (fizzy) and is usually used to make the famous Italian cocktail, the Bellini.  I took inspiration from the French cocktail called the Sidecar (one of the only claimed good cocktails to come out of Prohibition era) which is usually made from cognac and made up my own version with Kentucky whiskey bourbon instead and took James Bond's lead and added some French Lillet! After some research, I found a drink similar to my version sans the Lillet.  It's called a Scotchsicle after the orange cream popsicle aka the Dreamsicle.  So I think I'll name this drink the "Kentucky Dream".   It's like a burly Kentucky cowboy (Makers Mark) had a lovechild with an elegant French model (The Lillet).  Seems appropriate?  There must be a better name ... please feel free to leave a fitting name in the comments or email!  To help inspire a name,  see below for my creation and instructions. 

Ingredients:   (per serving)

  • 2 ounces whisky (I used Makers Mark.) 
  • 1 ounce Lillet blanc (magical, secret ingredient)
  • 3/4 ounce orange juice (or orange liqueur)
  • 3/4 ounce vanilla liqueur (vanilla syrup or vanilla vodka)
  • Ground cinnamon, for dusting.
  • Cinnamon stick for stirrer, tangerine or orange for garnish. 

Directions:  Combine ingredients in a cocktail tumbler with ice. Shake and strain into a cocktail glass! Easy. Or serve on the rocks. Serving it this way, the taste will be more diluted because of the ice, but that's how I like my drinks so you serve it how you like it! Garnish with a light dusting of powdered cinnamon sugar.  Add a cinnamon stick as stirrer and cut orange slices (I used a tangerine here) for side garnish. You  can squeeze the orange into drink or use it to rim the glass.  

Thanks to the The Lillet, I am now a recent convert to art of the aperitif -- which just means I would like to adopt the European custom of not being in any hurry to eat.  Serve the Lillet on its own as a true aperitif and dine like the French or add a splash into your bourbon and drink like an American.  Either way, have yourself a merry little dreamy drink,  perfect for the holiday season!  

xoxo,  cheers!

November 25, 2012

DIY: lavender scented flannel heating pad

BRRRRRRR!!  Texas winters are a joke, but I surely do hate being even a little bit cold.  I have a couple of rice heating pads I made last year that I use all the time.  I keep one in a ziplock bag in the freezer to use as a cold compress for sore knees after a hard run/bike ride and for puffy eyes.  I leave my second one out to warm up as a heating pad on a cold night (or for cramps - *wink wink).  The flannel material is super soft and comfortable against your skin.  It's fairly easy to make one yourself - they also make really great gifts during the holidays!

What you'll need:
- a sewing machine
- flannel fabric - I chose a different pattern for the front/back, or you can use the same pattern throughout (I bought mine at
- rice
- your favorite scented oil

Start by cutting your fabric flannel to the size you want.  When factoring in size, add in approximately one inch to your width/height to account for sewing seams.  Mine was roughly 7"x13" for a 6"x12" size heating pad.

Lay the two fabric pieces inside out on top of each other in order to sew the two pieces together.  Sew three of the edges and leave the top open.

Next, flip the fabric back inside out (it should look like a big pocket now).  Sew the same three edges from the outside to reinforce the sides.

After the edges are done, you'll want to sew your heating pad "sections".  Measure out the width size of the pockets you want (mine were roughly 4" wide) and sew the middle seams.

Now that you have the shell of the heating pad done, you'll need to prepare your filling.  I used rice, but you can also use other fillings (flax, lentils, etc.).  I needed roughly one cup of rice per section of my heating pad - this will vary depending on the size of your sections and how stuffed you like the heating pad.  Throw the rice into a ziplock bag and add some of your scented oil (the scent fades as you use your heating pad, so be generous).  Shake it up and then it's ready to go!  Fill'er up each section - you may want to use a funnel so minimize spilling.

Next up, it's time to seal the deal - tuck your edges in and pin them to keep it in place.  I keep the pins in and as I'm sewing, take them out one by one before it hits the foot of the sewing machine.  One way of keeping the rice at bay while you sew is by pinning the material just above where the rice stops as well.

Aaaaaaannd voila!!!  You have a heavenly smelling, beautiful heating pad that you can snuggle up with all winter. =)

You can also find additional instructions at thegreenwife, which is where I initially got details on how to make the heating pad.

November 15, 2012

WEAR: chunky chains, spikes and delicate little thangs

Hi, I'm a jewelry junkie and here are my current obsessions:

clockwise from top left:

Jennifer Zeuner Gold Curb Chain Ring - $86

Kenneth Jay Lane Polished Lobster Claw Necklace- $220

Alimonada Statement Chain Bracelet - $36.90

Alimonada Spike necklace - $19

Alimonada Single Knot Knuckle Ring - $19

Alimonada Autumn Braid - $34.90

Brandy Pham Maddy Scallop Cuff in gold - $158

November 12, 2012

DRINK: pumpkin heads

'Tis the season to be ...a pumpkin head. Even as early as October, right before Halloween rears its frightful head, I already find myself awaiting the arrival of everyone's fall favorite flavor, The Great Pumpkin! Fall and pumpkins are quite synonymous,  I feel The Pumpkin ushers in the season of hoodies, boots, sweaters, colorful foliage and delicious offerings.  When it makes its ritual appearance at Starbucks in their pumpkin spice chai latte, you know Autumn has made its grand entrance. And I welcome it with open arms's cuddle time. haha.  In addition to being a lovely porch decoration, it's a kitchen favorite. Our round, orange friend, is oh so versatile! Along with pumpkin pies, there is pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cake, even pumpkin beer. You name it, the pumpkin has its reach far from its humble home in the pumpkin patch. 

The summer has its signature drink of spiked watermelons, the winter has its spiked egg nog, so the fall rightfully should have its own spiked pumpkin drink. My favorite is the pumpkin pie martini.  Vodka, my clear spirited friend, is just as versatile as the pumpkin!  It's obvious they should go hand in hand. There are many recipes out there for this decadent and potent cocktail, but here is my own version that works best for me. It's great to see you Autumn. We toast to your leader, the ruler of this season, The Pumpkin.  I present, the pumpkin pie martini!

Ingredients: (per serving)

  • 1/2 oz Cream Liqueur (choices: Bailey's, Starbucks, Godiva, Emmets)
  • 2 oz Vanilla vodka (choices: Stoli, Absolut, Smirnoff, Skol)
  • 1 oz Pumpkin liqueur (or pumpkin spice syrup or pumpkin puree)
  • 1 tsp Whipped cream
  • Garnish: cinnamon sugar, cinnamon stick, honey graham cracker
Directions: Pour the cinnamon sugar onto a plate. Crush and crumble a piece of honey graham cracker over the cinnamon sugar (like the picture below).  Then, wet the rim of the martini glass and twist the rim in circles to coat the rim with the mixture. [If you don't want to coat the rim, you can also just sprinkle the mixture right on top of the poured drink.]  Set aside,  fill a tumbler halfway with ice and combine all the ingredients. Shake and then strain into the cinnamon sugar rimmed martini glass. Add a wallop of whipped cream on top ...and then chug! j/k. Anyhow, drink accordingly to your liking.

Tips:  The whip cream melts fast into the drink so you can put the whip cream on an uncrushed graham cracker and float the graham cracker on top. Eventually the cracker will dissolve too, but keep in mind if you do this, your martini will be more on the chunkier side.  

To make the drink less strong (why?!), substitute the pumpkin liqueur for pumpkin spice syrup or pumpkin puree or add 1/2 oz of heavy cream or half & half instead of the cream liqueur.  You could also substitute rum for the vodka.

You can use a cinnamon stick or stick a graham cracker into the whipped cream for garnish.

Interesting fun fact: Colonists sliced off pumpkin tops; removed seeds and filled the insides with milk, spices and honey. This was baked in hot ashes and is the origin of pumpkin pie. :)

xoxo, cheers!   

November 9, 2012

DRINK: natural lemon detox

When life gives you lemons, you.....detox!  My diet usually consists of eating clean and healthy during the week, and splurging on the weekends.  This often means by Monday I'm feeling heavy, bloated and pretty much gross from whatever it is I decided was a good idea to eat/drink over the weekend (fries? yes! pasta? why not! brunch buffet? mmhmm! one too many cocktails? YOLO!).

I've been hearing about the great benefits of using lemons as a detox-er for quite some time now and have taken to having a warm cup of water with lemon first thing in the mornings (it's the best time to have this, or before meals).  Such an incredibly simple drink to put together - and totally worth it given all the benefits you get from this digestive aid and liver cleanser:

- alleviates symptoms of indigestion, stomach pain and bloating while aiding the bowels in eliminating waste efficiently
- helps control diarrhea and constipation
- contains citric acid, calcium, magnesium, vitamin C, bioflavonoids, pectin and limonene which promotes immunity and fights infection
- can be used as an antiseptic mouthwash for ulcers or a sore throat

Why aren't we drinking this stuff by the gallons!?  Have yourself a daily dose by squeezing the juice of half a lemon into warm filtered water (add a touch of sweetener if you'd like).