Thursday, November 29, 2012

Holiday Planter Update

I remember our first Christmas in Atlanta.  As soon as the Thanksgiving turkey was put away, I ran to Costco and and bought a fresh evergreen wreath.  I immediately hung it on our front door, excited about the familiar sights and smells of Christmas.  Three days later, my fresh wreath had turned brown and the needles fell off every time I opened the front door. Apparently, I hadn't taken into consideration the change in climate.

Now that we are back north, I was so excited to find evergreen pots at Costco which I knew would be preserved all winter by the frigid cold!

The original pots were lovely, but a little plain.  Having recently been through a few holiday house tours, I decided to dress them up a bit to give them a more designer feel.

I added some dried hydrangeas fresh from the garden. (Thanks, mom!)
Some red twigs (Michael's or the florist),

And some seeded eucalyptus (florist).

A burlap bow (Michael's) tied it all together.

A small amount of effort made this planter go from fine to fabulous!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Paper Straws

I try not to go shopping on Black Friday and here's my top reasons why:
  1. Given the choice, I would rather sleep in.
  2. My husband won't go with  me.
  3. My mom won't go with me.
  4. The shopping frenzy forces me to buy more than I should.
  5. I end up just buying things for myself.
  6. None of which I actually need.
  7. If I stay home, I can watch my husband put up the Christmas tree.
  8. Which is usually very entertaining.
  9. Like observing the 15-year old son try to secure the top-heavy angel on the tree.
  10. Stripped down to a t-shirt and boxers.
  11. Because balancing on a ladder is a very sweaty job! 

  1. Having said this, I usually find a reason to sneak out of the house at some point.  
  2. Like this quick trip to Michael's where I found these super cute paper straws.
  3. I promise that I will use them every day.
  4. And not save them for a special occasion.
  5. Because that's what paper straws are for.
  6. To make every day special.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Fresh Pumpkin Pie Tartlets

Pumpkin is something that one assumes just grows in the can at the grocery store.  I mean, how many times have you made a pumpkin recipe with a real pumpkin from the pumpkin patch?  Can a person even do that?  After the girls asked me if they could bake a pumpkin pie with their halloween pumpkins, I decided to find out.

Step One.  Don't use your Jack-O-Lanterns.  To bake a pie, you must first go to your Farmer's Market or grocery store and get a pie pumpkin.  Pie pumpkins are cute and little, about 6'" - 8" in diameter.  Like the one that you don't see pictured here.  Sorry about that.

Step Two.  With a serrated knife, saw the pumpkin in half vertically and scoop out the seeds like this.  Oh, sorry. Still no picture. Save the seeds for Roasted Pumpkin Seeds!

Step Three.  Line a baking sheet with parchment and put the pumpkin on the baking sheet cut side down.  Bake at 375 degrees for about 1 1/2 hours or until tender.

Step Four.  When the pumpkin has cooled, scoop it out and put two packed cups of pumpkin into a bowl.

Step Five.  At this point, you might begin to realize why you previously just used a can opener.  Long stringy fibers will emerge!

Step Six.  Regroup and pour all the pie ingredients into a blender.  Blend on high until all the stringy thingies are gone.

Step Seven.  Go to your refrigerator and pull out your ready made pie dough.  In my house, this is the only way it comes.  Roll out some little discs, about 6" across.

Step Eight.  Press dough into greased, jumbo muffin tins.  These are meant to look rustic, which is a fancy word for no need to be perfect here!  Pour Pumpkin Pie custard into crusts until they are 2/3 - 3/4 full.

Step Eight.  Bake at 375 degrees for 20 - 30 minutes or until set.  

Step Nine.  When cool, Tartlets should be easily pried out of the muffin tins.

Step Ten.  Top with a squirt of Redi-Whip in the can.  It's our favorite!

These fresh, tasty tartlets are the worth the extra effort.  But if you are short on time, just skip steps 1 - 5 and used 2 cups of Canned Pumpkin!  It's a tasty recipe and worth a try!

Fresh Pumpkin Pie Tartlets
Adapted from Paula Deen at The Food Network


  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups fresh, pureed pumpkin, mashed
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg plus 2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) melted butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger, optional
  • 1-2 piece pre-made pie dough
  • Whipped cream, for topping


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Roll pre-made pie crust into six-inch rounds.  Press Rounds into greased, jumbo muffin tins.
For the filling, with a hand mixer, combine the cream cheese with a hand mixer. Add the pumpkin and beat until combined. Add the sugar and salt, and beat until combined. Add the eggs mixed with the yolks, half-and-half, and melted butter, and beat until combined. Finally, add the vanilla, cinnamon, and ginger, if using, and beat until incorporated.  Pour the batter into a blender and blend until smooth.
Pour the filling into the prepared pie crusts and bake for 25 - 30 minutes, or until the center is set. Place the pies on a wire rack and cool to room temperature. Top each piece with a generous amount of whipped cream.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Pecan Pie Bars

After my girls' First Communion recently, we invited the Grandparents and Godparents over to our house for a Southern Celebration! I thought it was only appropriate to take all that we loved about The South and integrate it into our new life in The North.  For the celebration, I brought out all of the Southern paraphernalia that my Atlanta friends had given me at a going away party and displayed them throughout the kitchen and dining room.  

Of course, what Southern dinner would be complete without Pecan Pie?  Baked in the form of a bar, instead of a pie, these bring you all of the deliciousness of the pie - without the commitment of an entire slice!

Why don't y'all try these for Thanksgiving?
You'll be glad you did!

Pecan Pie Bars
Adapted from


2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup butter or margarine, cup up
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup butter or margarine
4 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 1/2 cups chopped pecans
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Coat a 13" x 9" pan with cooking spray.  Line bottom with parchment, making sure paper comes up sides.  Combine flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl, cut in 3/4 cup butter thoroughly with a pastry blender until mixture resembles very fine crumbs.  Press evenly into the greased and lined 13" x 9" pan, using a piece of plastic wrap to press crumb mixture firmly in pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 17 to 20 minutes or until lightly browned.

Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, and 1/2 cup butter in a saucepan; bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring gently.  Remove from heat.  Cool slightly.  This is important or you will end up with scrambled eggs!  Stir one-fourth of warm mixture into beaten eggs; add to remaining warm mixture.  Stir in pecans and vanilla.  Pour filling over crust.  Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes or until set.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack.  Holding onto parchment, remove bars from pan and cut into bars.