It's the most wonderful time of the year! No, not Christmas: engagement season! I was just in Barnes and Noble and witnessed every table was a young lady or young couple with a stack of bridal magazines. If that was you, or if that is going to be you soon, let me save you some time. Bridal magazines tend to fall into three categories: eye candy, real world, and the best of both worlds. Pretty soon you will figure out which is which and you'll know which ones to skip over and which ones to buy, but to get you started here are my top three:
If you find yourself wrestling with how much is too much or too little to spend on wine for your holiday celebrations, then you'll want to keep this guide on hand:
Throwing a party? Spend under $20.00 a bottle.
More intimate gathering? Between $30.00-$50.00 a bottle.
Host/Hostess gift or treat for yourself? Splurge on bottles $60.00 and up.
Jenn gave me this insulated wine bag (pictured below) as an early Christmas gift (early, because I ripped open the box as soon as I saw it). The bag comes complete with a corkscrew hidden in the front zipped pocket. A discreet way to bring a $60 bottle of wine to the $20 bottle of wine party #justsayin.
Every holiday season, my contribution to the family
dinner is a home-made pumpkin pie. I made my first
pumpkin pie six years ago (has it been that long?) and it was surprisingly
delicious, so I’ve made them ever since and experiment with new recipes
every year. This year, the Caramel Pumpkin Pie recipe that I found on Starchefs.com
was the biggest crowd pleaser. Above is the photo of the pies I made for
Thanksgiving (yeah, I’m still working on the presentation, but the taste I have
down pat). Now you know what to bring. Wine? Nah, it’s too easy.
Be sure to use
solid-pack pumpkin puree, not pie filling, which can have additives, including
sugar. Per serving: 335 calories, 3 grams protein, 19 grams fat, 39 grams
carbohydrate, 281 mg sodium, 91 mg cholesterol.
Double-Crust Pie pastry (store bought)
One-half cup evaporated milk
One- quarter cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy or light cream
Three-fourths cup packed dark-brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
2 cups canned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
One-half teaspoon ground nutmeg
One-eighth teaspoon ground cloves
One-fourth teaspoon salt
3 eggs, at room temperature
2 teaspoons vanilla
Whipped cream for garnish (optional)
1. Position rack in bottom third of oven. Heat oven to
2. In a small saucepan, heat evaporated milk until small
bubbles appear around edge of pan. Remove from heat.
3. Prepare caramel: Place granulated sugar in a
large heavy saucepan. Heat over medium heat, without stirring, until sugar
begins to melt. Tilt pan all around and continue melting until syrup is medium
brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from heat. Carefully add hot milk all at once;
mixture will bubble up, then subside. Stir in cream, brown sugar and honey;
stir to dissolve sugar. If clumps do not dissolve, simmer briefly, stirring, 2
minutes. Cool to room temperature.
4. Place pumpkin puree in a large bowl. Sprinkle with
cornstarch, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and salt; stir to blend. Whisk in eggs,
one at a time. Stir in caramel and vanilla. Turn filling into pie shell. Place
on baking sheet.
5. Bake in heated 425 degree oven 10 minutes. Lower oven
temperature to 325 degrees. Continue to bake about 45 minutes or until center
of filling is set. Turn oven off. Leave pie in oven with door partially open.
Let cool completely, 2 hours. Serve with whipped cream if you wish.
I can't wait. I'm going to check out the Holiday House NYC today. I want to touch, feel and be fully inspired by all of the eye candy that will be on display. However, if you can't make a trip to the Holiday House, or don't want to shell out the $35 admission fee (I know, it's steep, but it's for a good cause), check out photographer Rikki Snyder's page on Houzz.
Some hotels and venues will deter you from stocking your own wine by charging you a corkage fee. In DC that fee can be anywhere between $20-$25 a bottle. I say, pay it. Here's why. Let's say a decent bottle of wine costs you $25 at your local wine warehouse (not including the discount you may get for buying in bulk). At said hotel/venue the same bottle of wine is going to cost you $82. Even with the corkage fee, you're still saving approximately $30 per bottle, and serving your guests a decent wine. Unfortunately, knowing this, some hotels will require that you consume all of the alcohol on site, so if at the end of the night, you have a case and a half of wine left over, you either have to drink it all or lose it.
There is another downside too: the hassle factor. You have to purchase the wine, have
it delivered to the venue/hotel, and if you're able to leave the premises with your left over case and a half, you still have to return it to the supplier for a refund (assuming you don't want to keep the wine and they're not chilled, of course). Is it worth it? you decide.
With Thanksgiving thankfully behind us, and New Year’s Eve parties ahead, it’s time to get ready to shine.
This four-week challenge was created by the editors of Live
Fast Magazine to help you look your best for Coachella. I use it whenever I’m
counting down to a big event and I want to look fabulous. It is a great
challenge that forces you to make a lifestyle change when it comes to eating
(if only temporarily #nojudging).
At-home bar carts are still popular this holiday season, which is good news if you bought one last holiday season, and even better news if you're planning on entertaining this holiday season.
Of all the articles on the interwebs about stocking the at-home bar cart, I found this one on The Intentional Apartment to be the most useful. Light on the pictures, heavy on the text. Just the way I like it! (Click here if you prefer it the other way around).
This year, I am not designing a holiday dinner table. In part because I don't have one. I donated my existing dining table and chairs to a deserving family, or at least that's what I'd like to think the Salvation Army folk did with it, but judging by the way they dragged it out of my home and threw it on the truck, I'm doubting it still exists in one piece.
This year, I am celebrating the holidays in the homes of family and friends, and will limit all of my entertaining to this blog.
I love the added sophistication a classic cocktail brings to a well-planned dinner party, and I've always loved a dry martini, especially when it's dressed as beautifully as the one pictured above. I can almost hear those sleigh bells ringing.
3 ounces Absolut Elyx vodka
Dolin dry vermouth
3 small green olives
Shake the vodka with ice and strain into a chilled
Martini glass that’s been rinsed with vermouth. Garnish with 3 small olives on
a cocktail pick.