Thursday, December 30, 2010

Cocktails & Countdowns

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PART OF THE FUN (OK, almost all of it) about New Year celebrations is drinking bubbly. Usually I pass on champagne because I find it to be too bland. It's not that I have it too much; in fact I rarely drink sparkling wine or any of the fancy schmancy stuff. For the holidays, I like to use flavored liqueurs and champagne to make glittering drinks... so for those of you eager to label me a lush, put a cork in it! ;-)


DRYNESS & SWEETNESS SIMPLIFIED:











This is a Strawberry cocktail that uses demi-sec wine (although any sparkling wine will do, really). It's fruity and delicious!

INGREDIENTS
  • 4 fresh strawberries for garnish, 4 hulled and diced strawberries, distributed evenly
  • 4 teaspoons grenadine syrup
  • 4 ounces strawberry liqueur
  • 1 bottle sparkling wine, demi-secs pair well with desserts (and strawberries!)  

Photo source unknown--but I will attribute if it's yours!

Goodbye 2010, Hello 2011. Be happy and safe everyone!

love,
M A R G A R E T

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Giveaway Winner!

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There weren't too many entrants, but that's great for everyone who entered. :-) A big congratulations to ★ Janey ★ for winning the Christmas package! Please contact me at thebitesizebaker@gmail.com to receive your prize and to let me know which charity you would like to donate to.


Thanks once again to everyone for entering!

http://www.rjrlaw.com/

12 Cookies & Crafts of Christmas

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Q BJECTIVELY SPEAKING, Christmas is the one occasion where parties and cookies will be measured against everyone's fondest childhood memories. OK, maybe I should lighten up on the melodrama, but it's hard to deny the headache that present-hunting or baking can sometimes elicit. Stuff your face and your stockings with my favorite DIY Christmas cookies and crafts.

1. Cinnamon Tree 
A great use of cinnamon besides for adding flavor is to use the bark! What you'll need: cinnamon sticks, hot glue gun, twine, mini stars (you can find these wherever they carry scrapbook making supplies), three buttons, plaid fabric, three consecutively long Evergreen leaves. I would suggest cutting approximately 1.5", 2", 2.5" pieces.



2. Snickerdoodles
Cinnamon is also used in so many Christmas classics, my favorite being snickerdoodles! This recipe makes the most pillowy golden brown cookies.

Ingredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour 
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder 
  • 1/2 tsp. salt 
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar 
  • 2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature  
1. Mix together flour, baking powder, and salt. 
2. Mix butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar in separate bowl, then add 2 eggs and flour mixture. 
3. Form 18-20 balls, combine cinnamon and 2 teaspoons sugar and use to coat dough balls.
4. Leave about 3" of space between cookies, because they spread! Bake at 350° for 13 minutes.



3.  Santa Gift Tags
These are a cinch to make and therefore a perfect project to do with kids. Draw/paint personalized Santa faces on card stock/watercolor paper. Cut the faces out, making sure to leave room for the beard. Tie together short pieces of white yarn approximately 1.5" long with another piece of yarn, and tape to the back of Santa's face.



4. Cool Jewel Cubes
Bling your drink with these dazzling ice cubes! I've already made Cranberry "garnets", "emeralds" (a drop of green food coloring does the trick), Apple "Topazes", and "Diamonds" (just water!)... the possibilities are endless. You can find the ice cube mold by Fred here



5. Snowman Donuts
I found these donut hole snowmen over at partyperfectblog.blogspot.com. They didn't mention what they used for the snowman's face, but I used some brownie crunch sprinkles for the eyes and mouth. For the "carrot" nose, I used some orange tootsie rolls and shaped them into Frosty's nose!



6. Doily Snowflakes
I doubt it was an accident that doilies resemble snowflakes. Look around the house for any crocheted doilies you have stored away, or you can create your own. Paper doilies hang more elegantly, but you could use crocheted doilies for a bunting that would add some charm to a bare table or wall. I needed last minute bags for presents, so I took out my scissors and beautified some ordinary red bags.




7. Nutty Reindeer Ornament
I'm pretty "fawned" of these darling deer ornaments I help put on the tree this year. ;-) Gather some unshelled walnuts, peanuts, pom poms, and googly eyes for this ornament. Add a festive bunch of fabric between the "antlers" and you're all set!



8. Chocolate Crinkles
Chocolate lovers won't be able to resist this one. It's moist, gooey, and bursting with flavor without being too strong. The snowy white confectioners' sugar provides the perfect winter touch too.

Ingredients
  • 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate, melted using a double boiler.
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • splash of milk
  • 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar

    1. Use a double boiler to melt the chocolate.
    2. Combine flour, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt in one bowl.3. Mix butter and sugar, then adding in eggs, vanilla, and melted chocolate, then flour and milk.
    4. Refrigerate dough until firm, which takes 1-2 hours depending on the settings of your fridge.
    5. Form about 20 balls, and roll in confectioners' sugar.
    6. Turn oven to 350° and bake for 13-15 minutes.



    9. Pasta Angel Ornaments
    Behold, pasta-haired angels... a twist on your angel-hair pasta! What you'll need: wooden bead for the angel's head, Rigatoni for the body, Bowtie aka Farfalle pasta for the wings, Elbow macaroni for the arms, Acini de pepe for the hair, clear glue, hot glue gun, white spray paint, gold glitter, string, and a fine gold pen to draw on your angel's face.

      


    10. Pumpkin Cookies
    Why limit pumpkin to Halloween or Thanksgiving? These pumpkin cookies adapted from Martha Stewart's Cookies book have a vanilla-ey icing and you can top them with these gingerbread men that I gave away here.

    Ingredients
        •    1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
        •    1/2 teaspoon baking powder
        •    1/2 teaspoon baking soda
        •    1/2 teaspoon ginger
        •    3/8 teaspoon nutmeg
        •    1/2 stick unsalted butter
        •    1 cup brown sugar
        •    1 egg
        •    3/4 cup canned pumpkin
        •    1/2 cup evaporated milk
        •    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    *For the icing, use 2 cups confectioners' sugar, 1/2 stick unsalted butter, 1/8 cup evaporated milk,  and 1 teaspoon vanilla extract.
    1. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg.
    2. Mix butter and sugar until fluffy, then add eggs, then add pumpkin, evaporated milk, and vanilla. Lastly, add flour.
    3. Bake cookies for 12 minutes at 375°.



    11. Claus Cookies
    Sugar cookies are a must-have for Christmas! My favorite holiday treat are these Claus Cookies. Using egg paint with a drop of red food coloring, you can opt for a lighter treat than with icing.  And you know what this means--more cookies! A win win situation. You can decorate these with white nonpareils, snowflakes, coconut shavings, icing, or whatever else you have on hand.



    12. Petit Four Presents
    These petit fours are--quite literally--Christmas presents for your mouth! I didn't have my camera  handy when I made mine, but here are some fabulous looking ones from aperfect-bite.blogspot.com. Check her out! You can use Wilton Fondant with Oreo cakesters and it takes no time at all.



    Happy Holidays, everyone!
    XO, MARGARET

    Friday, December 17, 2010

    Christmas Giveaway... for You & Charity!

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    Happy Friday, guys! I'm happy to announce that I have some Christmas goodies for one lucky winner!


            

    Jessie Steele Bib Audrey Cupcakes Apron & Gingerbread Boy Icing Decorations.


    And because people who own computers are not the only ones who deserve prizes, I am also offering the winner $20 to a charity of their choice. I'm sure a ton of you have ADD, so I'll get straight to the details on How to Win!

    1. Follow me on Twitter here and retweet the following: I entered to win a Christmas package + $20 for charity from @bite_size_baker! http://bit.ly/hkpsIf 
    2. For an additional entry, leave a comment letting me know what you would use the gingerbread icing decorations for and/or what charity you would donate to!
    3. You can also earn another two entries if you follow my blog via Google Friend Connect.

    Don't forget, you can retweet multiple times for more chances to win. Contest will close at 12 PM PST on Saturday, December 25th.  A winner will be chosen at random and announced on the blog.


    Good luck everyone!
    XO, MARGARET

    Thursday, December 16, 2010

    Peanut Noodles

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    HABIT, OR PERHAPS the lack of good Asian cuisine within close proximity, has me constantly experimenting in my own kitchen. I love anything that involves peanut sauce, which always conjures up memories of the dish my Mom always brought to potlucks, one with an unmistakably fragrant peanut and sesame sauce. Gourmet Magazine had a recipe with peanuts and noodles that seemed pretty promising, so I adapted my own version. 



    Firm tofu, red bell pepper, Persian cucumbers, green onion, and garlic.



    Buckwheat soba noodles.


     

    Toasted black sesame seeds, chili powder, and ground ginger.



    Peanut sauce--tangy and sweet. In other words, heaven.




    Just like Mom's!


    I used 3/4 of a brick of firm tofu, a medium sized red bell pepper, five green onions, one large clove of garlic, a few tablespoons of sesame seeds (enough to stud most of your noodles), and enough noodles to serve 4 hungry people. There are no hard and fast rules in this recipe except for the peanut sauce. Make sure to purée everything to form a good emulsion.

    • 1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
    • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
    • 2 tablespoons sesame oil
    • 1 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    • 1 tablespoon ground ginger 
    • 1/4 cup lukewarm water
    • 1/4 cup soy sauce
    • 1 tablespoon honey

    I aim to bake next week... so stay tuned! :)
    MARGARET

    Monday, December 13, 2010

    For the Love of Vintage

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    EVER SINCE my parents taught me the word "discount", I knew I was destined to save and scrimp my pretty pennies. If it were up to her, my mom would never even throw out the expired ketchup packets she swiped from Mickey D's many moons ago. My parents always bought the best for me and my sister, but their garage sale-going ways somehow stuck with me to this very day. Ever the collector, one of my favorite hobbies is estate-examining, Goodwill hunting, and flea-market frequenting.



    Centerpiece floral bowl by Haeger, $13.



    Tribal purse from India, $10. 
    Tooled leather purse from Africa, Brahmin purse, from Momsy.



    80's textured turquoise cocktail dress, $35.



    70's purple pleated dress, $6.


    Reasons to Shop Vintage:
    • Unique! Vintage is a euphemism for OLD, aka not current! Trendsters need not read on; for nonconformists, it means you're way less likely to see anyone else with the same thing.
    • Affordable... most of the time. Most of the time pre-loved items are cheaper because they're secondhand. Some vintage items can be much pricier if they are antiques. I take precautions and wash or dry clean items before wear, and I don't buy things where the ick factor, whether real or imagined, is just too great--like shoes, socks, or lingerie.
    • Reuse, reduce, recycle. Instead of buying something new, why not scour the thrift shops first? Buying secondhand means conserving natural resources used in the production of a new item, like fuel for shipping or energy to produce. Furthermore, pollution (factory emissions, dumping of dyes or chemicals) is not an issue, and you are saving those items from going into a landfill. If you are interested, look into popular stores like Buffalo Exchange or Crossroads Trading Co. that allow you to buy and trade in used clothing.
    • The hunt! I get an adrenaline rush haggling and scoring awesome deals, waiting with baited breath to hear a counteroffer. I also enjoy talking to the seller about the history of the item because it lends a more personal quality to what I'm purchasing.

    xo,
    MARGARET

    Thursday, December 2, 2010

    Better Together: Salt and Pepper

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    JUST WHEN I thought I had exhausted my list of Christmas gift ideas, I stumbled upon a salt and pepper set that my sister had given me. I am a collector (not synonymous with hoarder), and these might be my new favorite thing to find, especially since I drool over kitchenware on the regular. Another great thing? These would make cute wedding presents too! Here are a few of my favorites:



    1. Balance Salt and Pepper Set, $34. charlesandmarie.com2. Jonathan Adler 'Mr. and Mrs. Muse' Salt and Pepper Shakers, $48. jonathanadler.com3. Peas Pass the Salt and Pepper Shakers, $21.99. modcloth.com4. Sleepy Sow Shakers, $12.00. anthropologie.com.

    Summer Salad So Sweet I Want it In Winter

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    CAN YOU BELIEVE it's December? It's also hard to believe that I'm still eating salad when it's this cold outside, but try my recipe and you'll understand!

    Avocado, Corn, Tomato Salad
    Salad Ingredients:
    - 2 avocados, cubed
    - 1 cup cooked corn
    - 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
    - 1/4 cup red onion, finely chopped. (*Make sure to do this step well or you'll end up with one spicy salad!) 

    Dressing Ingredients:
    - 2 tablespoons grapeseed or olive oil
    - 2 teaspoons lime zest
    - 3 tablespoons finely chopped cilantro
    - Splash of lime juice
    - Salt and pepper to taste

    This salad is so good that it makes the accompanying teeth chattering worth it. I love how easy it is, how there are no leaves in it (having salad sometimes makes me feel like I'm eating grass), and the fresh factor.

    Enjoy!
    MARGARET