Sunday, December 29, 2013

To a Sweet New Year: Citrus Champagne Meringues

While each culture has their own unique New Year's traditions, the including of champagne or some variety of spirited bubbly on the holiday menu seems to be a custom which is a popular theme throughout the world. 
With the frenzy of Christmas behind us but still riding the sugared Christmas cookie craze, I thought it would be fun to use some sparkling spirits to whip up one more sweet confection to help ring in the upcoming year.
For me, with the passing years, boisterous gala celebrations have given way to quieter evenings at home (Admittedly I slept through the last few midnights) but adding a celebratory treat can make even an evening donning PJ's in your living room feel festive.
In this recipe, I gave a nod to the effervescent Mimosa (a superbly simple mix of champagne and orange juice), subbing in a tad more special blood orange juice for the regular variety and, in the interest of thrift, a rose Spumante in place of real champagne.

label created with an adorable image from vintage holiday crafts

This is a basic meringue recipe which, although can tie up the oven for a good amount of time, really isn't very difficult to make. In addition, it can be endlessly adapted using a variety of flavors, extracts or add ins.
I originally used this very forgiving recipe for peppermint meringues (which were delicious) found at the fun blog Memories by the Mile and have since used it often as a starting point for experimenting with a different flavor combinations.
Here, I used a cookie press with an icing adapter for elegant swirls, but have also made them by simply dropping spoonfuls right onto tray for quick and easy cloud like puffs.

Citrus Meringues with "Champagne" Frosting

for the meringues
2 egg whites
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup sugar
juice from 1 small orange or blood orange
food coloring if desired
      preheat oven to 225

In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites until foamy.
Sprinkle with salt and cream of tartar and beat until soft peaks form
Add sugar and orange juice and beat until stiff peaks form. I also added 2 drops of neon pink food coloring to enhance the color.
pipe in circles (creating a well in center for frosting)onto parchment or foil lined cookie sheets
This took a bit of practice

Bake at 225 for 90 minutes
Turn off oven leaving meringues inside with oven door slightly ajar about another hour or until cooled

Citrus "Champagne" Frosting
adapted from Sweets with Sara

Simple ingredients and some accessories
I added a sprinkling of pearl and silver sprinkles for a bubbly effect
Display with festive noisemakers and mini bottles of bubbly
A straw is spruced up with a Bonne Annee banner and gold star accent 

Though sweet, these meringues have a light airy texture

For a how-to for the easy vintage inspired noisemakers (which I reused in this post) and for other New Years idea's you can flashback to Pennywise's last year's Auld Lang Syne
$ store party favors get a makeover
leftover clear ornament globes 
create a "bubbly" tablescape

and now for the blooper shot,
Chloe took advantage of my split second absence to sample the treats

Wishing Everyone the Sweetest of
New Years!

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Season's Greetings

Joy, Peace
and the 
of the 

and the 
Happiest of New Years

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Christmas in Cape May

While famous as one of the oldest summer seaside resorts on the East Coast, Cape May, New Jersey is also a delightful place to visit long after the temperature starts to drop.
I recently paid a quick visit to this charming Victorian destination for a fun winter girl's getaway (leaving flip flops and swimsuits behind), and thoroughly enjoyed experiencing this unique town decked out in its holiday splendor.
In December many historic inns and private houses open for tours; beautifully decorated and brimming with ideas and inspiration for celebrating Christmas by the sea.
clockwise from top: a starfish tree perched on a porch gives a nod to the sea and a traditional fruit wreath might have adorned the same house a century ago. (exterior private residences)
Antique toy animals in shades of ivory perch on a mantle and old skates hold a spray of greens (both The Cherry House c1849) Touches of beach grass accent one of the many window boxes along Ocean Drive

Shell and Sea Glass Christmas Tree
I saw many lovely shell and sea glass holiday ornaments, decorative accents and mini Christmas trees in the lovely boutiques in Cape May but with a little patience, you can make your own version using just a few simple supplies.
You'll need
Clear Plastic cups or clear plastic cone used for doll making
(They were sold out of Doll forms at my craft store so I resorted to a DIY)
Assorted shells, moss, faux pearls and sea glass
Flameless votives
Sand and/or snow
Seaside accessories 
If using plastic cups as a base, start creating tree shape by turning one cup upside down. 
Trim rim and base off of 2-3 other cups and cut all the way up side so you have an flexible section of plastic.
 Form sections into gradually smaller cones, taping securely. (This takes a bit of trial and error.)
Sections can then be stacked and taped together creating a cone shape.
 I taped the middle section only on one side so it could be hinged open and a flameless votive can be easily layered onto the first cup as well as placed underneath for extra lighting.

Using hot glue, arrange shells, moss, pearls and sea glass to cover cone, assuring sure middle section can still be hinged open if desired.
Top with a starfish and let glue harden completely!
Your tree can simply be set in a layer of sand arranged on a tray, plate or cake stand but I chose a lantern for a nautical setting (ikea shoppers will recognize it - I simply spritzed a couple of sections before assembling with hammered copper spray paint) Arrange sand, shells and accessories, popping flameless votives in the tree for holiday glow.

for more about Cape May pop over and visit our post

Wishing Everyone a Magical Holiday Season!

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Truffle Mice - 1st Annual Christmas Cookie Exchange

Maybe it's Christmas magic but for some reason, the humble mouse takes on a special charm around the holidays. These often maligned little creatures suddenly appear everywhere in various Yuletide incarnations; stores brim with mice ornaments decked in holiday finery, mice star as charming characters in holiday books and their likeness is even made into culinary treats.
So when I was lucky enough to be included in The Everyday Home's 1st Annual Cookie exchange to share a  holiday cookie recipe, I immediately thought of these sweet confections inspired by our furry friends.  
There are hundreds of sweet "mice" treat recipes online in a variety of delicious styles and flavors. I simply adapted a classic truffle, popping on almond ears, a tail and friendly face. Though perhaps technically not a cookie, but seeming more than a candy, truffles are an easy and festive addition to your holiday treat repertoire. There are dozens of basic truffle recipes, I adapted mine from this version from the the Cook Republic, increasing the amount of coconut for easier modeling.

White Chocolate Coconut Mouse Truffles
for the truffles
1 1/2 cup Coconut Flakes*
1 cup white Chocolate chips (or bars, broken up)
1/2 cup Heavy Cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
(coconut or almond extract works too)
extra coconut for rolling
for the accents
slivered almonds
colorful string licorice 
(the string variety wasn't unavailable at my store
so I cut regular twizzlers to size)
mini chocolate chips
Truffles are best stored in the refrigerator until ready to enjoy or give away.
Melt white chocolate and cream over low heat, stirring occasionally until smooth. 
Add vanilla extract and remove pot from heat to cool slightly. 
Add coconut flakes, stirring well and chill in refrigerator until firm (about an hour)
*I quickly ground coconut in my mini food processor to create a finer, fluffier consistency 
(sometimes shredded coconut can be a bit stringy)
Once firm, scoop out a spoonful of truffle mixture and roll in plain coconut forming mouse shaped bodies. (Add more coconut if necessary to retain shape or if truffle mixture becomes too sticky). Add slivered almonds for ears. 
I placed my mice in mini paper baking cups for easy handling and gifting.
Pop on mini chip eyes, a sprinkle nose and licorice tails. 
You may need to reshape mice as you go.
These treats are fun to display with other sweets or fruit. 
A whimsical accent is "pound cake" cheese. 
Simply slice a wedge of your favorite store bought or homemade pound cake (lemon adds an authentic yellow hue) and form holes in different sizes with a melon baller, straw or cocktail stirrer.

A Sweet Gift
Charming packaging turns these into a sweet holiday gift. 
Simply add your own label to craft store treat boxes or tins and pop on a ribbon. 
 I created this label using images from the The Graphics Fairy and The Old Design Shop.
Line a candy box with wax paper and pop in mice and a mini pound cake "cheese"

Variations on a Theme
Not a fan of rodents? Truffles also make fun snowman: using black licorice for arms, orange licorice for a nose and mini chocolate chip buttons or...
Pressed for time? Simply roll mixture in coconut and pop in a fun snowflake liner for easy truffle "snowballs".

These are such an easy and versatile treat.
 Using different extracts or flavorings, you can adapt them 
to different occasions.
Looking for a more grown up version? 
Try a Guiness and Bailey's Irish Cream truffle 
(I made some for St. Patrick's Day) 
 lavender chocolate version for an afternoon tea.

Also On the Cookie Tour Today!
And for even more fun cookie recipes check out the rest of the 1st Annual Cookie Exchange featuring a week's worth of sweet treats perfect for the holidays.
simply click cookie schedule, check out a great pecan cranberry recipe and then and scroll down for links.

Our winners are

Many Thanks to all for participating in our holiday giveaway! 

Our winner of the French postcard set is:
The Refeathered Nest

And the winner of the Cat and Macaron painting is:
Pat in NY

....but since it's more fun when everyone wins, Botanic Bleu and Moments in Grace will be getting a mini 3 pack of my French postcards as a runner up Prize!
Simply send me a message in my contact form on the sidebar stating where you would like your prize sent and I will get them out ASAP.
*Please note: Mother nature has doused us with unusually heavy snow so my trip to the post may have to wait until our town thaws out!

Wishing Everyone a Happy Holiday Season and please check back later in the week for the 1st annual cookie exchange!
Sneak Peak
I'll be making Coconut Truffle Mice

For a full list of bloggers and a fabulous cranberry pecan cookie recipe from from The Everday Home, click here

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Joyeux Noel Giveaway

With the season of giving upon us, I thought a giveaway, however humble, would be a fun choice to coincide with the announcement of my new Etsy shop,
Le Beau Chaton
 While admittedly warned as a young student, not to pursue the career of "starving artist", few things compete with the delight of creating items by hand and being able to share them with others even if your boutique is only a small corner in cyberspace.
Le beau chaton features affordable original paintings,
 whimsical handcrafts and photography 
designed to add a little Joie de Vivre to your day.
 I'd love you to drop over for a visit!

The Giveaway

Joyeux Noel Postcards
This set of six postcards printed on linen finish paper features an original antique toned photograph with vintage graphic and french holiday greeting. They come with envelopes and can be mailed as a Christmas card, used to spruce up a gift, or even hung on a tree or garland.
Miniature painting 
Fluffy and the Macaron Tree 
This original painting was created on a mini 2x4 canvas and features a curious cat eyeing a tree of delicious Macarons. The painting was done in acrylics with vintage inspired stamped accents, metallic gold paint and a fun Pom Pom hanger. The pastel colors are reminiscent of the famous french confectionery.

To enter the Giveaway, simply leave a comment below stating which prize you'd prefer to win by December 9th 2013 and two winners will be chosen via a very random and low tech "name in a hat method".

Thanks so much for visiting!
 Make sure to pop back for 
more holiday fun!
Coming Soon
If holiday planning has you working up an appetite, don't miss the Everyday Home's First Annual Cookie Exchange with a delectable selection of holiday cookie recipes from 30 bloggers. I'm so thrilled to be included in this fun event!

Wishing everyone the happiest of holiday seasons