Wishing You All…

A Very Merry Christmas!

Wrapped

Homemade Eggnog

If you’ve never tried or made eggnog from scratch before, let me urge you to do it. Today. It’s my favorite Christmas drink. You can find my step-by-step photos over on the Tasty Kitchen Blog here.

Reuben is sick today. I hope he feels better soon – it’s sad to see him so miserable.

This evening, if he’s feeling up to it, we’re heading over to Reuben’s family’s house (a few miles down the road) for a new-to-me tradition: a soup party! Sounds like an awesome custom to me. Family members bring a different kind of soup to share. So far I’ve heard rumors of seafood, squash-apple-parsnip and oyster (or was is clam?). I’m planning on bringing my Sausage and Potato Soup.

Another new-to-me tradition: opening presents on Christmas Eve. We’ve always saved our presents for each other for early Christmas morning. When do you open your presents?

I leave you with these beautiful words from the hymn “As with Gladness Men of Old” — it’s not one often sung, but the words are powerful. The tune is the same as “For the Beauty of the Earth

As with gladness men of old

Did the guiding star behold

As with joy they hailed its light,

Leading onward, beaming bright

So, most gracious Lord, may we

Evermore be led to Thee.

Holy Jesus, every day

Keep us in the narrow way;

And, when earthly things are past,

Bring our ransomed souls at last

Where they need no star to guide,

Where no clouds thy glory hide.

Merry Christmas from Reuben & Erica!

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Peppermint Hot Chocolate

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

For some reason, I have been averse to pairing mint with chocolate my whole life. Whenever someone would order a mint mocha or mint chocolate chip ice cream I would inwardly shake my head in wonderment. Why ruin perfectly good chocolate with mint?

Peppermint Hot Chocolate

But I heard people raving about the peppermint hot chocolate at Starbucks. Could I be wrong in my presumption? I decided to give this mint-and-chocolate thing a try.

Am I ever glad I did. The fresh, strong flavor of peppermint lightens the rich, heavy hot chocolate perfectly. Which means you can drink more of this scrumptious beverage without feeling overwhelmed by the creaminess.

Recipe Notes

  • The original recipe suggests chopping your chocolate, but I just used chocolate chips and they melted perfectly.
  • The OR also directs you to bring the milk/cream to a boil and add it to the chocolate. I just put it all in a pot and let it melt together. Worked wonderfully!
  • The peppermint flavor that I used left little grease puddles at the top of my hot chocolate. If you’re a purist, go for a non oil-based flavoring.
  • I added a few drops of the peppermint flavoring to the whipped cream just for kicks. I highly recommend it.

Peppermint Hot Chocolate | adapted from Bon Appetit | makes 4 servings | PRINTABLE PAGE

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup chilled heavy whipping cream, divided
  • 1 teaspoon + 2 tablespoons sugar or sweetener of choice
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips or chocolate bar, chopped
  • 1/4-1/2 teaspoon peppermint flavor
  • candy canes, for garnish

Directions:

1) Place 1/2 cup cream, 2 tablespoons sugar, the milk and chocolate in a small, heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the chocolate has completely melted and is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in the peppermint flavor.

2) In a small bowl, beat the remaining 1/2 cup chilled cream with a few drops of peppermint flavor (optional) until soft peaks form.

3) Serve the hot chocolate with whipped cream and a sprinkling of crushed candy canes. Enjoy!

No-Bake Granola Bars + A Few Favorites

For CFS 3

Hey everyone! Did you survive Thanksgiving?

Methinks you’re gonna need some good, wholesome energy food during holiday prep. These no-bake granola bars are low-fuss so quick to mix up. Make a batch and store in the refrigerator for emergency snacks.

You can check out the step-by-step instructions and recipe over on the Tasty Kitchen Blog here.

Here are a few things I’ve been lovin’ from around the web…

Coffee & Tea Print by Bunny Pumpkin on Etsy

This blog. The photos are just lovely.

Eggs Benedict. Why have I never made this before?!

Woodnote Photography Blog

This lovely kitchen.

Erica Lea Photography

Chicken Noodle Soup from scratch. It’s just good.

Cranberry Cake. Looks so pretty and festive.

This house. And this one.

Lisa Congdon

This sentiment via Lisa Congdon. Just…yes.

Chemex coffee maker. You can buy me one for Christmas, if you want. 😉

Tasting Spoons. I need them in my life.

This engagement session. It’s just – I can’t – It’s lovely.

Catherine Huckerby

Photo by Catherine Huckerby

Open shelving. I want it someday…

Tall gingerbread houses.

Chai Shortbread Cookies with Sea Salt. Omnom.

Tiramisu Cake by Call Me Cupcake. Purdy.

What have you been loving lately?

Simple Sage Stuffing/Dressing from Scratch

Sage Stuffing

Confession: I have a special place in my heart for boxed Stove Top dressing. Granted, my mom doctors it up quite a bit with wild rice and turkey, but there’s just something about it that says “Thanksgiving” to me.

Sage Stuffing

I’ve always wanted to try making stuffing from scratch. Though tasty, boxed dressings are often loaded with unnatural ingredients. But making it myself always seemed a bit daunting. How are you supposed to find a recipe with just the right amount of spices so it’s tasty and liquid so it isn’t soggy?

Sage Stuffing

Then I decided to jump right in and give a recipe a try. To my surprise, it was uber easy and no-fuss.


Sage Stuffing

Will it replace your beloved Stove Top? No. But what could without using high fructose corn syrup, hydrogenated oils and MSG? Is it a good natural, healthy alternate? Definitely yes!

The beauty of this recipe is that it’s a great canvas for your culinary creativity. You could so easily add your favorite ingredients: cranberries, wild rice, turkey, nuts, whatever you please!

Recipe Notes:

If you’re using homemade or low-sodium chicken broth, you’ll probably want to add a little extra salt to the stuffing mixture.

Simple Sage Stuffing from Scratch | adapted from Martha Stewart | Printable Page | makes 4-6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 loaf bread (whole wheat, white, or whatever you please) torn into bite-sized pieces to make about 8 cups
  • 2 tablespoons butter, plus more for baking dish and foil
  • 2 celery stalks, diced
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1-2 teaspoons dried rubbed sage (depending on how “sagey” you like your dressing)
  • 1/2 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

Directions:

1) Preheat your oven to 350° F (175° C). Place the bread crumbs on two rimmed baking sheets and bake in preheated oven until nice and dry, about 14 minutes, stirring & rotating the pans halfway through baking. Set aside to cool (these can be made ahead of time and stored in an air-tight container for up to 1 week).

2) In a medium skillet set over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the onion and celery, season with salt + pepper to taste, and cook until nice and tender, about 8 minutes. Add the sage and celery seeds and cook for an additional 3 minutes.

3) Place the bread crumbs in a bowl and add the sauted vegetables. In a separate bowl, mix together the chicken broth and egg. Add to the bread crumbs and toss together until evenly moistened. If you’re using homemade or low-sodium chicken broth, you may want to add a bit more salt at this point.

4) Place the stuffing in a buttered 13×9-inch pan or a 10-inch cast iron skillet and bake at 350 until warmed and the bread has soaked up the broth, about 25-35 minutes. You can also store the un-baked dressing in the refrigerator until ready to heat.

Honey Roasted Pears

Honey Roasted Pears

I must admit that November is not my favorite month. In Norther Minnesota, most of the colorful leaves are long gone and everything seems brown, grey and cold. I long for the lakes to freeze over so we can go skating and for snow so we can ski.

Honey Roasted Pears

But this is the month to catch your breath before winter settles in. A time to dig out your extra warm coats, boots and sweaters in preparation for the freezing-cold days ahead.

It’s also a time to enjoy warm tea on grey days and hot, filling desserts on chilly evenings.

Honey Roasted Pears

These roasted pears are the perfect little treat for an otherwise gloomy evening. They cook up without fuss and are fantastic with a scoop of good-quality vanilla ice cream. You really must serve them with ice cream.

HONEY ROASTED PEARS | adapted from Sprouted Kitchen | Printable Page | makes 2 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 ripe pears
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
  • good quality vanilla ice cream, for serving

Directions:

1. Preheat oven to 450° F (230° C). Slice the pears in half lengthwise and cut out the centers.

2. In a small cast iron skilled place the butter, honey, vanilla and salt. Bring to a gentle boil and simmer for 2 minutes, stirring constantly.

3. Add the pears to the pan, cut side down. Continue to simmer for 2 more minutes. Turn the peaches over and transfer to the oven. Bake for 12 minutes or until the pears are nice and soft and the sauce has caramelized.

4. Serve hot or warm with vanilla ice cream and the caramel sauce. Enjoy!

Honey Roasted Pears

Product Review: Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil

Tropical Traditions Coconut Oil

Hey ya’ll! Time to talk about coconut oil.

A while back Tropical Traditions contacted me about reviewing their Gold Label Virgin Coconut Oil and becoming a part of their referral program. Now, I was no stranger to this company – my mom had been buying coconut oil from them in bulk for years. We had always been impressed with the quality AND price of their products. So of course I wanted to share it with you guys!

I’m sure ya’ll have heard about how healthy coconut oil is. Back in our health-craze days when we were in our teens, my husband and I ate this stuff like candy. Almost. We still enjoy it for popping popcorn, in soups and on mashed potatoes. If you get the extra virgin coconut oil, it even adds a nice coconut flavor to rice and curry.

And, just so you know, if you order anything from Tropical Traditions by clicking on any of my links and have never ordered from TT in the past, you will receive a free book on Virgin Coconut Oil, and I will receive a discount coupon for referring you. Cool, huh? It’s part of their referral program.

What’s your favorite way to use coconut oil?

Hope you’re having a wonderful week!

xoxo

Erica

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Perhaps I have been spared a bit of the usual hatred for Brussels Sprouts by the simple fact that my mom didn’t cook them much when we were kids. Of course I’d heard so many bad things about this leafy green that I somehow had it in my mind that they were gross and to be avoided.

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Then I saw beautiful pictures of roasted Brussels Sprouts floating around the web. They didn’t looks so bad. In fact, they looked pretty good, delicious even.

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

So I purchased a small bag from our local health-food store and roasted them up. They. Were. So. Good. It is my firm belief that roasting will transform nearly any vegetable into something scrumptious (perhaps with the exception of beets).

00Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts3

These little veggies pack a pretty good nutritional punch as well. Just one cup provides over 100% of your daily intake of vitamins K and C. Perfect for a pregnant me.

If you are an avid Brussels Sprouts hater and have never tried roasting them, may I suggest purchasing a small bag and giving it a try. There’s not much to lose, and you may find that you love (or at least don’t hate) them.

Note: this is a method, not a recipe with specific ingredient amounts. Tailor it to your own tastes!

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts | by Erica Lea | Printable Page

Ingredients:

  • Brussels sprouts
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • good-quality butter for serving, optional (my favorite brand)

Directions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (205° C). Wash the Brussels sprouts and remove the outer layer of leaves and any that are yellow or ugly-looking. Cut off the brown stubs and slice in half.

2) Arrange the sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet or shallow roasting pan, cut side up. Drizzle with good olive oil and sprinkle with salt and fresh-ground pepper.

3) Roast in preheated oven for 15 minutes, flip the sprouts over and cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the sprouts are tender and the outsides are nicely colored.

4) Serve with extra salt and pepper and (my favorite) good-quality butter. Enjoy!

Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts