Cozy winter cocktails

 

We’re in the middle of true winter when we could use a cozy cocktail to warm our insides.  Winter is all about being cozy…I find myself searching for warmth from a fire and a ski sweater but a cocktail may be the best way to help ease the midwinter chill. You can sip on a glass of wine any time, but there’s something particularly pleasurable about a cocktail designed for the colder months.

Hot Toddies and Gloggs have been served for centuries because they warm the body and soothe the soul. My favorite winter cocktails are those that remind me of a great day on the slopes. What better way to end the day than looking at the mountains and watching snowstorm with a steaming Hot Toddy? Another thought would be to start a new tradition of an avant ski drink before it’s time for après with an Irish Coffee…spoon a mountain of freshly whipped cream and zip, zoom, kapow! 

Finally there was the great glacier run, smooth and straight, forever straight if your legs could hold it, your ankles locked, you running so low, leaning into the speed, dropping forever and forever in the silent hiss of the crisp powder. It was better than any flying or anything else, and you built the ability to do it and to have it with the long climbs, carrying the heavy rucksacks. You could not buy it nor take a ticket to the top. It was the end we worked all winter for, and all the winter built to make it possible. ~Ernest Hemingway

These are five winter cocktails that should do the trick…Hemingway would certainly approve of your après ski cocktail! 

Irish Coffee:

  • 1.25 ounce Irish whiskey
  • ounces hot, but not scalded coffee 
  • 5/8 ounce Rich Demerara syrup (combine two parts demerara sugar to one part water and cook until the sugar dissolves; keep until needed)
  • ounce heavy cream, softly whipped

Add the Irish whiskey to a tall, heat-tolerant glass, preferably an Irish Coffee glass. Combine the coffee and 5/8 oz. Demerara syrup separately from the whiskey, then add it to the glass with the whiskey and stir gently. Float the whipped cream over the top and grate a bit of nutmeg over the whipped cream. 

Glogg:

  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 & 1/4 cups brandy
  • 12 whole cloves
  • 6 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 orange zest strips
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 1/4 cup blanched almonds

In saucepan over medium heat, combine the wine, brandy, cloves, cardamom pods, and cinnamon sticks. Bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir in the sugar and orange zest. Divide the raisins and almonds among 4 warmed cups or goblets. Pour in the spiced wine through a sieve and serve.

Moscow Mule: 

  • part vodka
  • parts ginger beer
  • Lime wedge for garnish

Fill a glass with ice, crushed or cubed.
Fill the glass 1/3 full with vodka.
Top with ginger beer and squeeze in some lime.

Cherry Lime Hot Toddy:

  • a few dried cherries
  • lime zest strip
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ounces whiskey
  • 6 ounces boiling water

In a mug, combine the lime zest, dried cherries, and sugar. Add the whiskey. Pour in the boiling water, and stir until the sugar is fully dissolved. Sip and enjoy!

Hot Buttered Rum:

  • ounce dark rum 
  • 3 whole cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon dark brown sugar
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • Pad of salted butter 
  • 3 cups boiled water
Boil water on the stove.
Place the cloves, rum, and sugar in cup and gently mix; after mixing, place cinnamon stick in concoction. 
Smear butter inside the cup, just above the rum.
Pour the boiled water slowly over the butter and allow it to melt. Cinnamon stick stays in the cup.

Forget the fire and warm yourself up with one of these hot drinks…extra-boozy concoctions guaranteed to keep you warm.

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Champagne chic

I don’t remember my first glass of Champagne but I’ve always love bubbly drinks. My friend Jen and I would drink Clearly Canadian to ring in the New Year when we were in middle school. Ever since then, my drink of choice has always been bubbly. Champagne was and still is linked to celebration, but we should celebrate life every day. Any time is a good time for drinks that sparkle! 

Everything about Champagne feels right…the freshness, the bubbles, and it’s easy to drink at any occasion. Gigi would agree…

The night they invented champagne
It’s plain as it can be
They thought of you and me
The night they invented champagne
They absolutely knew that all we’d want to do
Is fly to the sky on champagne. 

Champagne tends to be in a class of its own. Sparkling wines are the ultimate in chic drinks…like Chanel’s little black dress (or Marie’s pretty pink one). Marlene Dietrich said, “Champagne makes you feel like its Sunday and better days are just around the corner.

Need more reasons to sip, savor and celebrate? Here are ten things you will be thrilled to know about Champagne…

1. Champagne is from a specific region in France (named Champagne) and is considered the pinnacle of sparkling wine. Its production requires extra years of maturation, and the fruit itself is more expensive. Spanish Cavas and Italian Proseccos are refreshing and delicious, but they lack the depth of Champagnes because they are made from lesser quality grapes, produced in tanks rather than bottles, and not aged as long. Champagne is about 90 miles from Paris and it’s so far north that it’s almost too cold to fully ripen the grapes, which explains the finesse and acidic taste of its wine. 

2. There are about 1.000,000 bubbles in a glass of Champagne. 

3. Hold your glass by the stem and not by the bowl because your hands will warm the champagne up too quickly…And, holding the glass by the stem will make you look oh so chic!

4. Vintage matters! The region in France where Champagne is produced has had erratic seasons for the past fifteen years, so there’s a great difference among vintages. 

5. The best vintages are from: 1996, 2002 and 2008.

6. Chill sparkling wine at a temperature between 46 and 54 degrees Fahrenheit but not until you’re ready to drink it. Champagne shouldn’t be stored in the refrigerator because the cork dries out and shrinks so that the carbonation is able to escape, and other smells from the refrigerator can get in. Keep the cork damp to ensure a tight seal by storing Champagne (and all wine) on its side.

7. Enjoy champagne throughout an entire meal! Many people think they should only enjoy Champagne as an aperitif but that it is not the only way to drink it. Pair your Champagne with many flavors…chicken, seafood, vegetable dishes, fruit, cheese, risotto, tacos and my favorite…pizza! It can bring out new flavors you’ve never tasted in these foods!

8. If you married a bartender, like I did, you’ll know that the goal to opening a bottle is to do it quietly and gently, without the pop. This way you keep the bubbles in the wine. Hold the bottle in your hand at an angle with the neck pointed away from you and others. Grasp the cork between thumb and forefinger, then turn the bottle. When you feel the cork start to give, slowly pull it to  one side so the gas releases gradually. 

9. Champagne makes you more beautiful! It detoxifies the skin with antioxidants, and its lightening tartaric acid helps even out the skin tone and for those with oily skin, its antibacterial properties can help with breakouts.

10. Drinking Champagne can prevent dementia and memory loss. A study at the University of Reading determined that drinking one to three glasses of Champagne each week can boost brain health. 

 

Bubbles, bubbles fizzing in our coupes…keep on popping bottles. If you have a bottle of champagne in your refrigerator, don’t wait for a special occasion to enjoy it…open that bottle and the special occasion will come to you. Celebrate life every day! Santé! xx

Related post:

Champagne in a coupe

Vail: Rites of Spring

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Sunshine, google tans, spring back to winter snow, cold après-ski cocktails on or off the mountain…the only thing not to love about spring skiing is the inevitable end of the season.

The clock bells chimed four times, that meant the lifts were closing. My husband said, “Hurry, we can still get on for one more run.” We weren’t out of steam just yet! The four of us hopped on the Eagle Bahn Gondola to end the day on a high note. If the lifts are running, so were we! It felt like we were the only ones on the mountain. It had just snowed like crazy and it was perfect skiing…powder on top of powder! We wanted to hold on to the day and the season just a little longer. It’s amazing how so much fun can take your mind off your sore feet and bruised shins.

Vail, how I love thee! Let me count the ways…

  1. Thousands of groomed terrain means there’s something for everyone whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or expert skier. Vail has the best and largest ski schools on Earth to help you get your kids to be future expert skiers. It’s nice to see your kids make friends with kids from around the world. Vail is the giant of ski resorts because it offers 195 named trails and it’s world-famous for its “Back Bowls” that span around 3,000 acres.
  2. Ice skating is a fun activity for the whole family. My daughter even skated with her American Girl Doll, Maryellen. Vail has both indoor and outdoor rinks. The Arrabelle in Lionshead steals our hearts with the beautiful scenery, outdoor fireplaces and twinkle lights.
  3. Vail is a foodie’s haven. These are our favorites: Up the Creek (a treasure by Gore Creek serving seasonal fresh farm to plate meals and signature cocktails), Campo De Fiori (authentic Italian cuisine with fresh and local ingredients), Mountain Standard (enjoy a rustic and relaxed atmosphere where the primal cooking method is over a wood fire), Swiss Chalet (traditional European cuisine in a casual mountain atmosphere).
  4. Vail is known for its relaxing spas. I think it’s nice to start out the vacation with a visit to the spa. After a plane ride and unpacking a massage makes you think, Yeessss! The vacation has just begun! The Spa at the Arrabelle (voted #19 of the top 270 spas in the world) was the perfect way to relax into the vacation.
  5. There’s more to Vail than winter…try hiking and mountain biking during the non-skiing months. Use the staff like you would for ski school and hire a tour guide to take you around so you don’t need the trail map. You can rent a bike and ride downhill. The bonus is that there’s a gondola bike haul.

Vail is known around the world as one of the most popular destinations for skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, fine dining, hot air balloons, spas and more. The relaxing vibe and town of world-class athletes makes Vail the perfect place to vacation. It’s the favorite place for serious athletes, foodies, and spa junkies. Experienced skiers and outdoor enthusiasts will agree that Vail is the best and most varied resort. No matter the season, it’s like nothing on Earth!

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It’s not New Year’s Day without Black-Eyed Peas and Cabbage

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It’s time to eat that famous southern dish to assist in your New Year’s good fortune. All the best superstitions are gastronomic. Most American’s know that black-eyed peas and cabbage are a must for good luck and good fortune for the New Year. I don’t think that I’ve ever had a New Year’s Day without them.

For the New Year’s good fortune, a plate of black-eyed peas or other beans is considered auspicious, forecasting wealth and prosperity. We all need luck and money! In the American South, they are traditionally to be enjoyed either just after midnight or sometime on New Year’s Day. Adding cooked greens (the color of money) is said to make them even luckier. Simmered with onion and a meaty ham bone (other options are salt pork, bacon, pig’s feet, hog jowl and ham hock), black-eyed peas are often seasoned quite simply, with just salt and pepper. They may also be made highly seasoned with hot pepper and spices.

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Black-Eyed Pea and Cabbage Soup

  • 1 smoked bone-in ham (about 10 lbs)
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 3 stalks celery, diced
  • 2 red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 garlic, minced
  • 1 lb dried black-eyed peas, rinsed and picked through
  • 2 quarts water
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 T whole cloves
  • 1/2 C honey
  • 1 C coarse German style mustard
  • 1 large head of cabbage, cut into 8 even pieces
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large bowl, soak beans overnight covered by at least 2 inches of water. Drain and rinse beans.
  2. Preheat oven to 350.
  3. Place peas, onions, garlic, salt, and bay leaves in a large pot and add water to pot just to cover beans. Place the ham on top of the black-eyed peas. Combine the honey and mustard, and brush a small even coat on the surface of the ham.
  4. Transfer to the oven. Baste about every 45 minutes with the remaining honey mustard mixture. Bake for about three hours.
  5. Season the cabbage with salt and pepper and add to the pan with the peas. Cover and return to the oven, cook until the cabbage is tender, about 30 minutes.

Every New Year’s Day, my mom would have a pot of black-eyed peas, cabbage and ham cooking on the stove. Aside from their potassium and fiber, the beans impart a bit of luck and the ham and cabbage…the promise of prosperity. This hearty dish delivers dreams in a bowl. Even if you’re not superstitious, having a batch of this soup on hand will feel like a stroke of good fortune.

Hopping John Soup

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TRÈS ASHLEY GIFT GUIDE 2015

 

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It’s not too late to find the perfect gift! Here are some of the most exciting gift options around…each and every item is something mothers, fathers, husbands, kids, best friends, brothers and sisters would love to receive. I really hope you like it. Happy Shopping! xx

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GIFTS FOR THE KIDS 

Stacking Monster Blocks $54.  Stack and create your own monsters with these colorful blocks. Notice the detailed scalloped dowels, scales, robotic diodes, monster heads, hands, feet, patterns and much more. Mix and match to create endless monster combinations.

BB-8 App-Enabled Droid by Sphero $149.95  Bringing a new part of Star Wars: The Force Awakens into your home, BB-8 is the app-enabled Droid whose authentic movements are at your control with iPhone or iPad. BB-8 relates to your interactions, showing a range of expressions and actually perking up at the sound of your voice commands.

Dartboard $140. Five color silk-screened cork with a key hole on the back for easy hanging.  The dartboard will probably be the most popular activity (for children of all ages) in your house.

Elephant Doll House $170. The most charming elephant doll house…notice the trunk is up (that’s good luck). All the best toys are made of wood. These sweet little peg people $24. can be dressed in the design of your child’s choice. A pop up doll house book $24.95 would be a treasure to add to your favorite little person’s library and add to her doll house enjoyment.

Warm up Booties $36.40 For your little dancer or athlete who needs to keep her feet warm in a stylish way.

Rosie Revere, Engineer $9.28 Rosie is a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets who dreams of becoming a great engineer. You can only truly fail, she explains, if you quit.

Playing Cards $12.95 Housed in a pretty box with foil stamping, these cards feature a full spectrum of colors on their face and a uniform black and white pattern on their backs.  The package also includes a mini booklet with history and lore, game instruction, and information about the artists.

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GIFTS FOR EVERYONE 

Black Tipsy Writer $35. The Tipsy Writer is a pen holder weighted by a half brass, half wooden ball. You would amuse your boss or child’s teacher…no matter how much you tip it over, it always finds a way back up.

Matchbox Puzzles (set of three) $12 The Matchbox Puzzles are handmade in Germany and make for a universally appreciated spatial diversion. Matchbox Puzzles are worth stashing in a stocking to give sweet little hands creative potential.

Small Ships $74. Christmas break is the time to create! Pick up the hammer, choose your paints, the nautical vessel of your choice awaits!

Copper Mug $30 (each) Imagine drinking Moscow Mules this winter in front of the fireplace…they are so handsome that you’ll be begging your recipient to invite you over for cocktails!

World Magnetic Travel Map $199. This is a fun way to track your families adventures. It’s easy for young children to use because it’s magnetic…not push pins.

Panini Press $99.95  This Breville panini is a family-friendly machine that accommodates up to four sandwiches at once.  A great choice for that busy family that needs a quick weeknight meal after basketball practice.

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GIFTS FOR MOM, SISTER, BEST FRIENDS… 

Telephone Dial Compact Mirror $30. How cute is this! I imagine the ladies from Downton Abbey would have something like this in their clutch.

Lace Ring $315.  I can imagine my Mom gasping as she opened this beautiful rose gold-plated ring. Aurelie Bidermann’s laser-cut jewelry also comes in silver.

Floppy Brim Fedora $136.50 This navy fedora is classic and chic for that best friend or sister that is super stylish and hip.

Paris Cocktails $19.95 This book is sure to pique the interest of any female Francophile. Paris Cocktails provides an inside guide to celebrating, entertaining and drinking like the French.

Satin Macaron Tea Tin $8.95 For your stylish tea drinking friend that has a fetish for all things French…and tea!

Pajama set $95. These polka dot pajamas are the comfiest and chicest way for your sister to get her eight hours of sleep.

Miu Miu Parfum $86. This is a classic and stylish fragrance…the first for Miu Miu. The girl you give this too must be stylish, sporty, intelligent, feminine, strong, quirky, and playful.

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GIFTS FOR DAD, BROTHER, BEST FRIEND… 

Morning After Cocktail Mix $56. This holiday season, give that notoriously boozy boy their choice of two delicious hair-of-the-dog options…Hellfire Bloody Mary Mix and Giovanni’s Nectar of the Gods Bellini Mix.

Solo Kayak $799.20 Your guy can break this kayak into two pieces, allowing him to easily haul his kayak to his favorite paddling spot and back again in a tight space at home.

Zojirushi Travel Mug $32.77 These new, bigger Zojirushi travel mugs are wide enough to fit your coffee filter holder inside the rim, avoiding messes.

The Golden Age of American Football $33.79 This beautiful book will be very popular on your coffee table.

Leather Football $150. These footballs are built to be used. Individually hand cut and sewn with highly durable thread by Leather Head Sports in Glen Rock, NJ.

Flask Funnel $10. A must-have accessory for your flask. Engraved with the saying, “Don’t waste a drop.” Equipped with a chain to hang over bottles or the top of your flask.

Pomade for his beard $38. This tin should last your man 3 to 5 months. It’s just what he needs for grooming his beard…you can use it on the ends of your hair!

Have a holly, jolly Christmas; It’s the best time of the year. I don’t know if there’ll be snow but have a cup of cheer.

Need more gift-giving inspiration? Check out gift guides from 20142013, 2012, 2011 and 2010 if you need more inspiration. subscriptions are also great for last-minute shopping. Wishing you a holly, jolly Christmas now GET GIFTED!! xx

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Frank Sinatra: Five things you might not know

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This year marks the centennial of the birth of Frank Sinatra, who came into this world on December 12, 1915 in Hoboken, New Jersey and died on May 14, 1998. Sinatra had many nicknames…The Voice, Ol’ Blue Eyes and The Chairman of the Board were a few. Each name represented different sides of his talent, good looks, charm and presence. Sinatra won nine Grammy Awards, performed on more than 1,400 records during his six-decade plus career. It was his honest voice that made the audience feel that he understood them.

When I think of Frank Sinatra, I think of my grandmother. I remember when I graduated from college in May, 1998 (the very month that Sinatra died)…my grandmother kept disappearing to the bar so she could talk to the bartender about Frank. It was as if she was in mourning for the loss of that time in her life.

I imagine that my grandmother would have loved to have been in the audience at The Copa Room in Las Vegas when Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin were on stage…sipping cocktails and smoking cigarettes. This beautiful generation seemed to know how to enjoy life to the fullest.

My grandmother would have loved to have read this book to her great-grandchildren and elaborate on his life and his songs.

My children like to listen to Seriously Sinatra in my car on the way to school. I knew they would enjoy the John Seven book, Frankie Liked to Sing. This is a spunky biography that follows Sinatra as he moves from his humble childhood across the river to New York City, begins a recording career and makes it in Hollywood.

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Reading the book, Frankie Liked to Sing, is a beautiful way for grandparents and parents alike to pass on their love for Ol’ Blue Eyes to a younger generation. “Frankie’s voice made people feel like they could get through hard days and have fun on better ones.”
Perfectly timed to celebrate Sinatra’s one hundredth birthday…here are five things you might not know about Frank.
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1. Frank’s signature cocktail originated in Philadelphia. This drink can be considered a martini, but make sure to hold the olive. It is a rather refreshing, sweet cocktail that is popular in the summer time.
3 oz dry gin
3/4 oz Blue Curacao liqueur
1 oz sweet and sour mix
 
Get a martini shaker. Add a few ice cubes, then add all ingredients. Shake for ten seconds and serve in a martini glass or cocktail glass with a lemon twist.
  

 2. The song My Way is thought of as Sinatra’s signature song but he didn’t want to record it…thinking it was self-indulgent. Remember that scene with Peggy and Don in Mad Men? It’s a perfect moment when Sinatra’s “My Way” comes on the radio, and the two share a dance; it’s a magic moment for Don and Peggy.

3. Frank’s favorite color was orange. He used to say, “Orange is the happiest color.”

4. Frank inadvertently helped name Scooby-Doo. CBS exec, Fred Silverman, found inspiration in Frank’s signature, “Scoo-Be-Do-Be-Do!”

5. Born in a New Jersey, apartment, Francis Albert Sinatra was not breathing when he was born. Baby Frank was thought to be dead and was laid on the kitchen counter while the doctor attended to his mother. His grandma picked up the newborn, stuck him under some cold water, and little Frank sang his first song. Thank goodness for grandma!

His music crossed the decades from World War II to the 1990s. He defined the classic American songbook for decades with verve and panache.

Any song that Sinatra sang was most likely the very best rendition of that song. These are just a few that are linked to this amazing entertainer over his career.

Fly Me to the Moon Frank Sinatra’s “Fly Me to the Moon” was the first song ever played on the moon.

I’ve Got the World on a String There have been many artists who have recorded their own versions but Sinatra’s is the most memorable.

Swinging on a Star “Swinging on a Star” was composed by Jimmy Van Heusen and Johnny Burke and originally sung by Bing Crosby in the 1944 film Going My WayIt has been covered by artists including Burl Ives, Tony Bennett and Frank Sinatra.

New York, New York This love song to New York makes you want to be in a Broadway show.

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas This is the gold star of Christmas songs.

Let it Snow This song helps set the mood for holiday festivities. It’s romantic, happy and everyone likes to sing along.

Luck be a Lady Hearing this song reminds me of when I was in the musical “Guys and Dolls.” It’s full of energy and spunk.

Strangers in the Night Frank Sinatra’s version of Strangers in the Night, can’t be beat…it’s smooth and I imagine my grandparents slow dancing to it.

My Way This song was not Sinatra’s favorite but it sure is a favoirte of fans…one of his most popular hits.

Mack the Knife This song is pure New York!

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May you live to be one hundred, and may the last voice you hear be mine. 

Related posts:

Mary Cassatt: Five things you might not know

Amelia Earhart: Five things you might not know

Nutella Sunday Breakfast…with my little Heidi!

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Cozy fall weekends are for hibernating in your pajamas and watching old movies. This weekend, my daughter and I finished reading the book Heidi together. To celebrate, we made a chocolaty breakfast in bed and watched the movie Heidi (the one with Shirley Temple).

The windows were open and we imagined that we could smell the wild flowers high in mountain meadow where Heidi’s grandfather lived.  Aww, fresh fall air…you can almost smell the Swiss Alps! Weekends are made for hitting the reset button, snuggling with your little reading buddy while watching an old movie and indulging in something chocolatey.

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My daughter let me know that she loves me more than Nutella!  I imagine Nutella is not far behind. Bananas and Nutella go together like Heidi and her grandfather…they compliment each other beautifully! This is one of the most perfect coffee cakes ever. It’s moist and chocolaty sweet…perfect for a Sunday morning.

Nutella Banana Coffee Cake

  • Cake:
  • 1 C of unsalted butter
  • 3 1/2 C flour
  • 2 C sugar
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 C whole milk
  • 4 eggs at room temp
  • 3/4 C sour cream
  • 1 Tbsp vanilla
  • Filling:
  • 2 ripe bananas, smashed
  • 1 C Nutella spread
  • 1/4 C brown sugar
  • Topping:
  • 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
  • 1 C all purpose flour
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 2 Tbsp brown sugar
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 C hazelnuts
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease a 13×9 inch pan.
  2. Melt the 1 C of butter and set aside to cool.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda.
  4. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, eggs, sour cream, vanilla, and add the melted butter.
  5. Using a spatula, mix the dry into the wet until combined.
  6. Layer half the batter into the pan, lay the smashed bananas on top and drizzle the Nutella spread…I microwave my Nutella for 30 seconds to make it pourable.
  7. Layer the remaining batter over the Nutella and banana filling using a spatula, smooth out the top of the batter making sure it’s even and reaches the edges of the pan.
  8. Sprinkle the top with the streusel…smash 4 softened butter, flour, sugar, brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg with a fork.
  9. Bake for 50-55 minutes until set when a toothpick inserted comes out clean.

Your Nutella weekend won’t be complete without Nutella hot chocolate. You HAVE to make this! My daughter said, “Mom, you are the BEST mom in the world” when I served the Nutella banana coffee cake with Nutella hot chocolate. She also asked, “Do you think Heidi had chocolate breakfasts too?” Hmm…with all the goats milk, I’m sure she probably whisked a little Swiss chocolate in there.

Fall Sunday mornings are made for Nutella and Heidi! Wishing you many more fall weekends…may they be full of Nutella, your favorite pajamas and snuggle buddy to enjoy a frothy, creamy, chocolaty Nutella breakfast!

Nutella Hot Chocolate
  • 4 cups whole milk
  • 2 tablespoons Nutella
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • Optional Toppings:
  • Marshmallows
  • Crushed hazelnuts
  • Chocolate chips
  • Extra Nutella
  1. Heat milk in a medium sized saucepan on medium – high heat until beginning to warm and steam. Add the spread, cocoa powder and sugar, and whisk until dissolved and combined. Bring to a gentle simmer while stirring, and take off heat.
  2. Serve with your desired toppings.

Guten Appetit from my little Heidi!

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You’ve Got Mail!!

My husband calls me on the phone, “You’ve got mail!” Those are the BEST three words to hear!! He asks me if he needs to open it to put it in the fridge! That tells me it must be a HelloFresh or CraftedTaste. I can’t wait to get home and see! The day just gets instantly better when there’s a package waiting for you. These five monthly subscriptions make life a lot sweeter and easier. There’s nothing better or more simple than a subscription box…pay a small monthly fee, then wait for a box of goodies to show up at your door. Love it? Keep it! Not so much, cancel or send it back (if it’s a Stitchfix) and move onward!

 

Stitch Fix Box

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This is for the person who wants to update their closet but is maybe pressed for time to shop…think, working mothers with young children! Stitch Fix can step in as your personal stylist. They carefully collect a profile of information outlining your size and style then send you a box of five clothing and accessory items. You’ll pay a $20 styling fee per box, but if you keep any of the pieces, the $20 counts toward your purchase. If you keep all five, you’ll receive an additional 25% off the total price. Stitch Fix gives you the personalized advice you’d typically find in a boutique or higher-end department store but…the stylists rely on the initial survey to make perfect selections. Stitch Fix asks questions like…“How do you prefer clothes to fit the bottom half of your body?” and “What do you like to flaunt? What would you rather keep covered?” Try it, your closet will thank you!

$20/month

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CraftedTaste

Cocktail of the month subscription? Yes, please!! I like to drink seasonally but sometimes get stuck on my same summer cocktails. Crafted Taste delivers amazing craft cocktails from some of the world’s top bartenders. It’s fun to discover a new drink and get to play around with ingredients that might be hard to find on your own. Each kit includes all the full sized ingredients needed to create the cocktail at home, easy to follow instructions, other cocktail ideas you might want to experiment with and recommended food parings. Crafted Taste is all about learning, experimenting, sharing modern cocktails, and expanding your home bar.

 

$130/month

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HelloFresh

My friend Lisa told me about HelloFresh over the summer and I’ve been hooked sense then. I’ve gotten my Mom and my fellow teacher friends hooked too…everyone loves HelloFresh! My husband and I do love cooking dinner, but on busy weeks we sometimes wish there was someone else to take care of the planning and shopping. This is a huge reason of why our family enjoys HelloFresh. It’s perfect for a busy family who loves to eat well. It’s also a no brainer…saving you a grocery store trip! It also works with your budget…three meals for four people at only $129!! HelloFresh delivers great recipes and fresh ingredients to your doorstep weekly or as you’d like them too…there’s no commitment. I love that I can cook quick and healthy meals for my family and everyone is happy!

$60-129/month

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Birchbox

This is the perfect present for your best friend, mom, teachers…One of my favorite packages to receive! Birchbox lets you try high-end beauty samples and discover new products without committing to buying a full-size item. Based on your personal profile, each box will contain five to six travel-size skincare, makeup, and perfume samples, all geared to your specific taste. You might also score some non-beauty extras—think hair ties, water bottles, and ear buds. The company also caters to men…check out Birchbox Man as well.

$10/month

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ThePeriodStore

Tea, dessert, ibuprofen and tampons. What do these four products have in common? They’re all included in The Period Store’s monthly packages. Women can customize their monthly package right before their period starts…just fill out information about their cycles on the website and can customize packages to include your favorite products. Each package also comes along with some painkillers, two tea bags, a 5×7 piece of art and a gourmet treat.

$30/month

These amazing monthly boxes may be a gift from you to you, but that doesn’t take away any of the excitement…just wait until you get the phone call, “You’ve got mail!”

Ice Cream flavors based on your favorite cocktails

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What’s better than an ice cold cocktail on a hot summer day? An ice cream flavor based on your favorite cocktail, of course! In the sizzling month of August, sometimes even a well-chilled and iced glass of Aperol Spritz isn’t enough to cool you down. On those days, it’s best to have a boozy ice cream waiting for you in your freezer.

As someone who eats ice cream nearly every day, I can tell you that it taste so much better when you make it yourself. It’s all worth it when you start scooping.

Making ice cream is very similar to making a cocktail…both require few ingredients…the flavorings and fruit make it special. It’s fun to get creative and combine ingredients to share for all to enjoy.  Fruity liqueurs like Aperol, Limoncello and crème de cassis can give ice cream a distinctive flavor and personality.  For an added unique flavor, use a fresh vanilla bean. The seeds of a vanilla bean impart a floral aroma that goes well with the liqueurs and the scattering of dark speckles add to the beauty of the ice cream. Try these three summer cocktails to turn into ice cream… Aperol Spritz, Kir Royal, and Limoncello Spritzer

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Aperol Ice Cream

6 large eggs
1 large vanilla bean
4 T Aperol
1 ½ C whole milk
1 ½ C heavy crème
¾ sugar
*optional 1/8 tsp orange oil

Separate the eggs in a bowl. Split vanilla bean, add milk, 1 cup of crème, and sugar to a saucepan with the vanilla bean. Add remaining ½ C crème to the bowl with the egg yolks (I like to save the egg whites for breakfast). Whisk the yolks and crème. Temper the egg yolks (add about ¼ C of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture so they don’t scramble). Then add it all to the milk mixture. Stir on medium low heat until the back of a wooden spoon is coated. Add Aperol. Strain custard and discard vanilla bean. Cool, chill, then churn.

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Kir Royale Ice Cream

6 large eggs
1 large vanilla bean
4 T crème de cassis             
1 ½ C whole milk
1 ½ C heavy crème
¾ sugar
1 C rasberries, crushed

Separate the eggs in a bowl. Split vanilla bean, add milk, 1 cup of crème, and sugar to a saucepan with the vanilla bean. Add remaining ½ C crème to the bowl with the egg yolks. Whisk the yolks and crème. Temper the egg yolks (add about ¼ C of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture so they don’t scramble). Then add it all to the milk mixture. Stir on medium low heat until the back of a wooden spoon is coated. Add crème de cassis and rasberries. Strain custard and discard vanilla bean. Cool, chill, then churn.

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Limoncello Ice Cream

6 large eggs
1 large vanilla bean
4 T Limoncello             
1 ½ C whole milk
1 ½ C heavy crème
¾ sugar
*optional 1/8 tsp lemon oil

Separate the eggs in a bowl. Split vanilla bean, add milk, 1 cup of crème, and sugar to a saucepan with the vanilla bean. Add remaining ½ C crème to the bowl with the egg yolks. Whisk the yolks and crème. Temper the egg yolks (add about ¼ C of the hot milk mixture to the egg mixture so they don’t scramble). Then add it all to the milk mixture. Stir on medium low heat until the back of a wooden spoon is coated. Add limoncello. Strain custard and discard vanilla bean. Cool, chill, then churn. Make sure to serve a cordial of limoncello to go with your ice cream. You may even like to pour a tablespoon of limoncello on top of your ice cream.

Summer is about light spirits, fresh fruit and ice cream. Scoop up something cold and boozy and remember that it’s still summer!

 

 

 

Marguerite, the Sun-Maid Raisin Girl

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Around the time I was really pregnant, all I craved was raisin bran cereal. It was comforting to me and made my growing belly happy. It’s suiting that both my children love raisin bran today!

Raisins also remind me of my grandmother. That red box was always there…used in oatmeal, granola, cookies, cakes, bread, and salads. Fresh, chewy and plump raisins are perfect on there own too…enjoying raisins in any way can truly give you a nostalgic feeling and a reason to smile.

My children have an even better relationship with the little red box than I do. They will happily skip down the snack aisle at the grocery store to say hello to their distant cousin, Marguerite, the Sun-Maid raisin girl. “Can we go see our cousin and put her in our basket?” It’s makes everyone smile when they open up the pantry and see her kind face.

My husband’s parents have roots in California that run deep. The very first Sun-Maid raisin girl was a great, great, great cousin on my husband’s Mom’s side.

The Sun-Maid raisin girl came about when Marguerite’s Dad (William Banks) invented a new process for drying raisins and began to deal with the Sun-Maid raisin company. William Banks had a picture of his daughter, Marguerite, holding a basket of raisins…Sun-Maid liked it and decided to use the idea of having Marguerite as the spokes person for raisins! The company bought his photo and she became the very first Sun-Maid raisin girl.

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Marguerite Evelyn Cecilia Banks was born in 1888. She would later change her name to Namara, after her Irish mother’s maiden name, McNamara.

Marguerite Namara was a real renaissance women! Her success as the Sun-Maid raisin girl was only the beginning! She was also a famous opera singer, an accomplished pianist, an artist who studied under Claude Monet and a silent screen movie star. Marguerite’s fast-paced life included running with an eclectic group…she was friends with Isadora Duncan, Rudolph Valentino and Charlie Chaplin.

We know her best as the raisin girl. This is a picture of my daughter dressed as Marguerite for culture day.

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Our favorite raisin recipe to make is oatmeal cookies. Raisin cookies are so comforting with there soft and chewy texture and buttery sweet flavor…it’s a bonus that raisins are a great source of vitamins and iron. These old fashioned raisin cookies are easy and quick to make.  Bake them until the centers are still soft and just beginning to turn brown yet their edges are a lovely golden brown color. Think of Marguerite when you enjoy them.

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

2 sticks of unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon backing soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups rolled oats
2 cups of raisins
1/2 cup pecans

  • preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • cream the butter, sugars, and vanilla in a mixing bowl until light and fluffy.
  • Add the eggs one at a time and beat until smooth.
  • Mix the flour, baking soada and salt together. Add to the creamed mixture gradually and mix well.
  • Stir in the oats, raisins and nuts.
  • Drop by rouonded teaspoonfuls onto greased cookie sheets.
  • Bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  • Cool on the cookie sheets a few minutes before moving them to a wire rack to cool completely.

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Marguerite Namara said in an interview in 1954 that her dream would be “...to live on a farm, preferably somewhere near Monterey. I’ve never before given myself a real vacation, and it would do me a world of good. No telephones ringing, nobody to powder the old nose for, or rouge the lips. Just to go about as is, in old loose clothing, would be close to being in paradise.” 

I imagine that her red bonnet suited her very well.