Friday, December 15, 2017

Easy Homemade Christmas Gifts- Day 5 Cranberry Apple Chutney

Good morning! Happy Friday, can you believe that we are 10 days away from Christmas? I cannot believe how fast the season has flown by, I just want to stop the clock and savor every minute.

I hope you enjoyed Michele's post yesterday on cheese/charcuterie boards. I think they make a great gift as well as an easy appetizer. We always have a cheese/meat board out on Christmas eve and Christmas afternoon between breakfast and before dinner.

Today is day 5 of my "Easy Homemade Christmas gifts" and I thought I would share my favorite Cranberry Apple Chutney. It is perfect for the upcoming holiday because it is so versatile  seriously it tastes great on almost anything). It is sweet, savory and spicy at same time.

Since I made this 2 weeks ago my husband and I have eaten this with pork chops, black forest ham and cheese sandwiches, on home made biscuits and with a cheese board. It is also delicious over a warmed brie cheese wheel or with Cambazola cheese as well.

Cranberry Apple Chutney


4 cups peeled, cored, and chopped Granny Smith apples
4 cups of fresh cranberries
1 cup dried cranberries
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 cup of sugar
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 cup of water
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon fresh chopped ginger
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground cumin
pinch of cardamon

Sterilize your jars, you will need approximately 4-6, 1 cup jars with vinegar proof lids.

In a large saucepan combine all of the ingredients and stir with a wooden spoon, then place the pan over medium heat and bring to a boil. Once mixture boils turn down the heat a little to let the mixture cook on at a fast simmer for about 45 minutes or until the chutney has thickened and the fruit is soft.
Spoon into your jars and refrigerate. NOTE: I left mine jars uncovered until they were cooled, then I sealed them and placed them in the refrigerator. I am not sure if this is the proper way to do it so if you know better than use your method.

I hope that you enjoyed my homemade gifts this week. If you need more ideas please visit the post I did yesterday for Michele at Hello Lovely, you will find this and many other recipes including homemade marshmallowscaramelized almond bark with sea saltFairy Food and so much more.

Have a very happy weekend.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Charcuterie Boards with Guest Host Hello Lovely

This post contains affiliate links.

Good morning! Today I am so excited because my beautiful friend Michele of the fabulous blog Hello Lovely is guest posting today! I think this post fits perfectly with my homemade Christmas gift theme this week. After all do you know anyone that wouldn't love a beautifully and artfully arranged Cheese board? Please welcome the wonderfully talented Michele. 

Beautiful colorful cheese boards and charcuterie platters with wine by Hello Lovely Studio

Hello, lovely Pinecones & Acorns friends! I'm Michele of Hello Lovely, and I feel truly blessed and honored to trade places with Elizabeth today on this beautiful blog which has inspired me for years. Whether she is sharing a scrumptious dessert recipe or her love for tartan, I always come away uplifted by Elizabeth and as though I have just visited a friend whose heart has caused my own to glow with warmth. Isn't that what the best bloggers do?

While I mainly spotlight lovely interior design inspiration and timeless and tranquil home decor on my blog, I also share personal stories from my kitchen and DIY home renovation projects. Today, I'm dishing on my current obsession: easy cheese, charcuterie, and graze boards for simple casual entertaining.

Whether you refer to these as cheese boards, cheese platters, charcuterie boards, or graze boards, it's all just delicious-speak to me! I mean, what is easier than assembling your favorite cheeses, nibbles, and nuts and serving them casually with wine, cocktails, or alcohol-free punch? Guests love these!

Easy Holiday Appetizer Ideas

Beautiful colorful charcuterie and cheese platters with apples and pears by Hello Lovely Studio
Easy Holiday Appetizer Ideas for Holiday Entertaining - Hello Lovely Studio
I assembled the cheese boards you see here for my son's 26th birthday dinner, and you'll find a shopping list at the end of the post. The boards are easy to find online, and here's a lovely one made of olive wood:
Olive Wood Rustic Cutting/Cheese Board
Olive Wood Cheese Board
 I couldn't resist snapping a still life, and you see I didn't even bother with a fancy floral arrangement. This is a branch from the burning bush just outside the front door.
Still life with vintage door, apple, pear, and aqua bottle with branch by Hello Lovely Studio
Easy Holiday Appetizer Ideas for Holiday Entertaining - Hello Lovely Studio

 How to Assemble a Beautiful Cheese Board

1. PLATTER MATTERS. Select a beautiful board or three.
Shop for new wood or marble boards or trays with a smooth surface.
2. CHOOSE THE CHEESE. Decide on a few different varieties of cheese, charcuterie, fruits, nuts, crackers, etc.
In terms of cheese, there are honestly no rules you must abide by beyond simply choosing what you love. If a stinky cheese gives you a headache, do not consider it! I love fruit-studded cheeses, and it doesn’t hurt that they add a great variety of color. As for charcuterie, I love the ease of pre-sliced coppa, proscuitto, and salami.
3. SLICE THE LOVELY. Slice some of the strawberries, pears, charcuterie, and cheese.
If there’s any secret at all, it’s this: leave some of the fruit and cheese whole, and also slice some of it. A few strawberry, fig and pear slices will add interest and beauty to the board. Slice the charcuterie thinly (if it didn’t pre-sliced) and dice some of the cheese into bite-size chunks. Simply style apples and pears on the table around the board for color and added beauty. Prepare the grapes: with kitchen shears, cut the stems for small individual bunches.
4. JOYFULLY ASSEMBLE! Artfully arrange ingredients on the board.
Begin with the largest items (cheese, meats, crackers) and then fill in, paying attention to what pleases your eye as far as color. Have fun with it!
Serving wine with this delish? I like to leave choosing wines to Martha Stewart Wine Co
Beautiful cheese boards on white farmhouse table with wine
Easy Holiday Appetizer Ideas for Holiday Entertaining ; Martha Stewart Wine

Colorful tablescape with cheese boards and wine by Hello Lovely Studio
Easy Holiday Appetizer Ideas for Holiday Entertaining - Hello Lovely Studio
Peaceful vignette with vintage door, branch, and farmhouse table with cheese and wine by Hello Lovely Studio
Easy Holiday Appetizer Ideas for Holiday Entertaining - Hello Lovely Studio
Cheese platters with fruit and candlelight on a white farmhouse table by Hello Lovely Studio
Easy Holiday Appetizer Ideas for Holiday Entertaining - Hello Lovely Studio
Easy Holiday Appetizer Idea: Cheese Boards by Hello Lovely Studio
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Beautiful cheese boards and wine on a white farmhouse table by Hello Lovely Studio
Easy Holiday Appetizer Ideas for Holiday Entertaining - Hello Lovely Studio

Feeling inspired for your next Holiday gathering of friends or dinner party? Love a good cheese board?

I hope you'll visit Hello Lovely, where Elizabeth is my guest, and thank you so much, Elizabeth for the hospitality!

Peace to you right where you are.


* Shopping List *
Wine – Martha Stewart French Rose
Triple creme brie, cow’s milk
Longhorn Colby – cow’s milk
Chèvre – goat milk
Canadian Cheddar – cow’s milk
Parmigiano Reggiano – unpasteurized cow’s milk
Wensleydale with Cranberries – cow’s milk
Peppered Salami, SalamiCoppaProscuitto
Kalamata olives, green olives, red and green grapes,
dried cranberries, pears, strawberries, blueberries, figs
Roasted peanuts, Smoked almonds

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

Easy Homemade Christmas Gifts- Day 3 Ice Cream Sauces

Post contains affiliate links. 

Williams Sonoma plates and spoon old, others available

Good morning how is your week? I hope that you liked the the first two days of easy homemade Christmas gifts, if you missed them be sure to check out the Peanut Brittle and the scrumptious Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts.

Today I am sharing two sauces that can be used over ice cream, cakes, drinks or to eat by the spoonful. 

Weck's Jar, Williams Sonoma plates and spoon

Salted Dark Chocolate Hot Fudge 


3 oz. bittersweet chocolate
3 Tablespoons unsalted butter cut into pieces
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3/4 cup of heavy cream
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
Pinch of sea salt

In the top of a double boiler melt the chocolate and the butter together. When the mixture is completely melted remove from the heat and add the cocoa powder.

In a medium saucepan combine the cream, corn syrup, sugar, salt and bring to a boil. Be careful not to let this burn, it comes to a boil quickly. Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and the chocolate mixture. Scrape into a bowl and press a piece of plastic wrap over the surface. Let cool for 20 minutes. You can store this is a glass jar for up to 3 weeks in the refrigerator. 

Bourbon Pecan Salted Caramel
Recipe from Garlic & Zest

1/3 cup pecans 
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 tablespoon light corn syrup
3 Tablespoons PLUS 1 Tablespoon of bourbon, divided
3/4 cup of heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon fine sea salt


Preheat oven to 300. Place peacan on a baking sheet and toast for 10-12 minutes. Transfer the pecans to a cutting board and chop. Set aside.

In a medium saucepan place the sugar, corn syrup and 3 tablespoons of bourbon. You do not need to stir. 

Have the whipping cream near the stove so it is ready for use. 

Over medium to medium -high heat bring  the mixture to a boil, you can swirl it a little. The mixture will turn from light colored to light brown to amber. From amber to burnt comes really fast so watch the sugar mixture. Once mixture is amber color pour the cream into the center of the pan, the mixture will bubble. Once the bubbles calm a bit stir vigorously with a wooden spoon, then add the nuts and the salt, mix. Let it cool for 10 minutes then add the bourbon and mix again. Once cooled pour into a glass container. You can store for up to 2 weeks in the the refrigerator. 

As always, I hope that you try these recipes. If you do let me know, I think you will really enjoy them. 

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Easy Homemade Gifts- Part 2 Peanut Brittle

Good morning and welcome to day 2 of Easy Homemade Christmas gifts. Today I am going to share the easiest peanut brittle recipe with you. If you do not like peanuts, than use whatever nuts you like, almonds, pistachios, etc. 

This recipe could not be easier, you basically place three ingredients into the pan and let it do its thing, occasionally you swirl the pan until the mixture looks caramel brown. I should warn you that the difference between caramel brown and burnt is about 20 seconds, so you do have to watch the mixture or you will have a burnt mess.

Peanut Brittle

Recipe from Nigella Lawson

1 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup light corn syrup
1 cup peanuts( or nuts of your choice)
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 Tablespoon soft butter
11/4 teaspoon baking soda

Line a baking sheet with foil, or parchment and butter it. Place it near the stove so that it is handy when you need to pour the hot mixture. 

Put the sugar, water, and corn syrup into a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil gently, then turn the heat up and let it boil for 8-10 minutes, swirl the pan, do not stir, a couple of times until the syrup has turned a golden brown. Be careful not to burn it. 

Take the pan off of the heat and with a wooden spoon, stir in the nuts, then vanilla, butter and baking soda. The mixture will bubble up so be careful,  but be sure to mix well. 

Pour the mixture onto the waiting pan and spread it out a little. 

Let cool and then break into pieces. You can store the candy in an airtight container or box, or bag to give as presents. 

Do you have a favorite nut brittle recipe? Is it similar to this or even easier? I would love to hear about it or any other food gifts that you make and give. 

In case you missed Day 1, Union Street Cafe Bar Nuts, you can find the recipe HERE.

Have a great day!

Monday, December 11, 2017

Easy Homemade Christmas Gifts- Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts

Good morning! I hope that you had a great weekend. Were you one of the lucky ones that got a little or a lot of snow? Sadly we did not get one flake, lots of rain and really cold weather but no snow.

It was gray and rainy, the perfect kind of weather to stay home and make things. I have a long list of people that I bake or make things for and I decided this year to try a few recipes. 

So this week I am going to share one or even two a day with you. That way if you have people that you like to give homemade food gifts to there is time to try them out.

I love nuts and think that they are an easy and delicious gift to give. In addition to just giving a beautiful tin of these nuts you can add them to a bottle of wine or champagne or even a basket with cheese and homemade crackers.

Whatever you do make sure that you make an extra batch for your own house because they are a great snack or appetizer to serve with drinks when people stop by over the next few weeks.

Union Square Cafe Bar Nuts
Recipe from Once Upon a Chef


2 1/2 cups of mixed unsalted nuts (pecans, walnuts, cashews, pistachios, etc)
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 Tablespoons dark brown sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Toast the nuts until lightly toasted and golden brown, about 5 minutes.

In a large bowl mix together the butter, rosemary, cayenne pepper, brown sugar. Add in the warm nuts and then sprinkle with the salt. Toss to coat. These nuts are delicious served warm.

That's it, the whole recipe takes about 10 minutes and they are spicy and sweet and scrumptious!

They look beautiful in clear cellophane bags tied with ribbon or in a holiday tin with a clear window so that your recipients can see what they are getting. 

I hope that you try them. 

Have a great day!

Saturday, December 9, 2017

Friday Favorites from Camille Styles, Cup of Jo, A Spicy Southern Kitchen, French by Design and More

Post contains affiliate links. 

Good morning! How was your week? Are you getting ready for the holidays? I have my house decorated, I have watched a ton of Christmas movies, wrapped and sent all of my gifts but the baked ones and now I am getting to the fun part, baking and eating!

I made 4 batches of nut brittle yesterday, along with 3 different spiced nuts, a cake and a loaf of bread. Next week I have about 10 batches of candy, 6 kinds of cookies, 3 cheesecakes and a tart to make. It's my favorite part of the holiday. Have you been baking? 

Image a Cup of Jo

I love sandwiches and this Croque Madame is right up may alley. 

Image HERE

My husband has been doing all of the cooking while I have been under the weather and last Saturday he made on of my favorites, French Dip sandwiches using this recipe from A Spicy Southern Kitchen and the best news, its made in a crockpot. 

Image from Ikea via French by Design

I love Christmas so much that I put up multiple trees in my house and on the years that I am hosting Christmas every guest room gets its own tree. For those of you who are short on space, do not like real trees or just want to try something new, this post Alternative Christmas Trees from French by Design might interest you!

Image Private Newport

If you like making pomanders here is a great post from Bettie at Private Newport. I love to make them but I have yet to figure out how to keep them from molding. If you have tips I would love the hear them. 

The Rules of Magic: A Novel (The Practical Magic Series)

Speaking of books. I have 2 great recommendations of books to give friends and loved ones for Christmas!

The first, Valerie's Home Cooking: More than 100 Delicious Recipes to Share with Friends and Family is one of my new favorite cook books.

From the back cover:

As the current star of her Food Network show, Valerie's Home Cooking, and co-host of the network's Kids Baking Championship, as well as having spent years acting on television, Valerie Bertinelli has made a name for herself in households across America. But to really know Valerie, is to spend time in her kitchen. 

Inspired by her family's cooking legacy, Valerie specializes in showing fans how to make dishes their own families will love that are for the heart and soul. As she often says, there's a story behind every recipe and Valerie shares them in this gorgeous cookbook, where home cooks will find more than 100 recipes that are easy to make and innovative--they're just as fresh, vibrant and down to earth as Valerie herself. Many of these classic comforting recipes have an original twist like Bloody Mary Tea Sandwiches, Lobster BLTs, Quick Rotisserie Chicken Gumbo, and S'mores Popcorn. These mouthwatering dishes will become your go-tos, whether you're having breakfast or lunch on your own, friends are joining for last-minute cocktails and small bites, or the whole family is coming together for a hearty dinner and dessert.

I have been a fan of Valerie since One Day at a Time and have watched her show of Food Network. What I love about this book is that the photos are beautiful and the recipes are easy. There are cocktails, breakfasts, snacks, lunch, dinner and dessert recipes. Many of the recipes are comfort food, my favorite sort of meal, macaroni and cheese, pasta, sandwiches and there are also recipes that my husband would love for steaks, lamb chops and tenderloin.

If you know someone that loves easy, family friendly meals than this is a beautiful book to give them for Christmas.

The second book I was given by Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest opinion. It is called The Comic Book Story of Video Games: The Incredible History of the Electronic Gaming Revolution and I think it is going to be perfect for my nephew for Christmas! If you have a "gamer" in your family than this is the book for them. It tells history of computers and games, contains details about the programmers and the companies behind the technology and so much more. IT is everything that you would ever what to know about video games and more in an illustrated in comic book.

And last but not least and interesting article: 31 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Setting Next Years Goals

I hope that you have a great weekend. If you have something that you would like to share, a movie, book, podcast, or perhaps a favorite Christmas recipe please do!

Thursday, December 7, 2017

Winter Coats and Cold Weather Looks

This post contains affiliate links. 

Good morning! The weather here is just starting to turn cold, yesterday it was 69 and today it is going to be in the 40's and rainy. They say by Sunday it will be in the 30's, maybe we will get some snow! The cold weather has me getting out my cold weather gear. Having lived in Wisconsin I think I am ready. I put together a few of my favorite looks that are similar to coats and clothes I already own. Just in case you want to shop the sales. 

Don't you jut love a beautiful black winter coat

 This military inspired coat by Ralph Lauren can be dressed up or down and it looks fabulous on. I love it with the tall boots. Throw on a plaid scarf and some leather gloves and you are ready for a day at work, date night or a day shopping.

I have been a Barbour fan ever since my first trip to Scotland in 2001. These sturdy jackets keep out the frigid air and keep you warm. Over the years I have gotten several but I think my favorite it the plaid wax jacket. 

As a scarf some casual jeans(these girlfriend jeans are some of my favorites) a sweater and some booties and you are ready for a day out.

On really cold days runny back and forth to yoga or taking my pups for a walk I break out the quilted down jackets. I have short and long and they are both nice and toasty.

What is the weather like in your area? Has it gotten cold yet? What is your"go to" jacket or coat on a cold winter day? Do you prefer wool, or down?

Of course I always accessorize with a plaid cashmere scarf and some warm mittens.

I hope that you have a great day! 

Please say a prayer for all those in the path of the fires in California. So many have already lost their homes and everything they own. 

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Little Things...Happy St.Nick

Good morning! Happy St. Nick! I hope that you found your shoe, slipper or your stocking filled with all sorts of goodies from St. Nick this morning. I have been lucky enough to find my stocking filled with nuts, candy, small gifts and an orange every year since I was a child and today is no different. That is just one of the little things that I enjoyed this week. 

I marveled at the super moon. I took a day off and never opened my computer.  I am finally starting to feel better after 3 weeks. This little snowman which my mom gave me. I started baking for Christmas. I read a great book. I walked at the ocean. 

As I said last week I am trying to take stock and enjoy the "little things." I hope that you take time today and throughout the holidays to enjoy to enjoy them as well.

Have a great day!

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

the feast of st. nicholas

ALL IMAGES ST. Nicholas Center

Do you know what today is? The eve of the Feast of St. Nicholas! Tonight is the night you put your shoes or stockings out so that St. Nick fills them up with all sorts of treats!

 I have been celebrating St. Nicholas for my entire life, and my mother before her, and her mother too, it is a custom that my family brought over from Germany. In many places where St. Nicholas is prominent his feast day is the day you receive your gifts, not Christmas. 

For those of you not familiar with St. Nicholas, here is an abbreviated history, Nicholas was born in the third century in the village of Patara. His wealthy parents died while he was very young and being the devout Christian that he was he set about giving away his inheritance, to the poor, needy and suffering people in his town. He was raised by his uncle who was a member of the clergy and he dedicated himself to serving God, while still young he became the Bishop of Myra. He became known throughout the land for his generosity to those in need and his love for children as well as his concern for sailors and ships. In fact he is the patron saint of children and sailors.

There are many tales and legends of the life and deeds of St. Nicholas which help us to understand why he was so loved and revered. One famous story tells the tale of three young girls who had no dowry, their father was a mean and nasty man and said that with no dowry he could not keep them, he would have to sell them as slaves. Nicholas heard this and tried to think of ways to get them money, without offering charity, as he knew the father would not take it. Mysteriously, on three different occasions, money appeared in their home.  The bags of coins where thrown in an open window, and  landed in their shoes drying by the sill. Hence the reason we put our shoes out!

Some people say it was bags of money, some people say gold balls , that is why you see three gold balls sometimes represented as oranges as the symbol of St. Nicholas, hence the reason  you always find an orange in your shoe or sock along with your other goodies. It is also the reason St. Nicholas became known as a gift giver.

St. Nicholas Center

The anniversary of the death of  St. Nicholas also became a celebration of his life, December 6th or if you follow the Julian calendar December 19th. So on the eve of his celebration we leave out our shoes or stockings and a few carrots for his horse or donkey and hope that in the morning we will find some treats, if your bad all you get is a few twigs or some coal.
We do also celebrate Christmas, this was just a little visit from the great man to make sure that we were being good, apparently we were because we always got an orange, and lots of treats.

What about you? Do you celebrate St.Nick? What are your family traditions? I love hearing all about other peoples traditions or traditions from your country. Do share please!

I hope you have a great night, get your shoes out, you never know if you are going to get a visit from old St. Nick!

This is from the St. Nicholas site but you can make your own at Wordle.
If you are interested there are fabulous books written on St.Nicholas, and also how the Saint transformed into the modern Santa Claus, Pere Noel or Father Christmas. Whatever you know him by, he was a lover of children whatever your age! You can also find lots of information at the St. Nicholas Center where there are images of the man, a history of his life and of course suggestions for celebrating his life.

All images from the St. Nicholas Center.

Dorie Greenspan's Holiday Bundt Cake

Good morning! I hope that you had a wonderful weekend. Mine was relaxing, a little baking, visiting with friends and a few Christmas movies. 

I am beginning to bake my holiday gifts and one of my favorites is "an all in one cake" from Dorie Greenspan. This cake tastes like Thanksgiving and Christmas in one cake, it is sweet, tart, and delicious and in addition to a delicious dessert on your holiday table it makes an excellent hostess gift or a gift for your neighbors and friends. They can eat it for breakfast on Christmas or desert. 

Holiday Bundt Cake

2 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp/ baking powder
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp.grated nutmeg
pinch of salt
11/4 sticks(10 Tbsp)unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
11/4 cups canned unsweetened pumpkin puree
1 large apple, peeled, cored, and finely chopped
1 cup cranberries, halved or coarsely chopped
1 cup chopped pecan
6 Tbsp. confectioners sugar
2 Tbsp. maple syrup

Center a rack in the oven. Preheat to 350. Coat two 6" (6 cup capacity, each) bundt or fluted tube pans with bakers spray. 
In a large bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda, nutmeg and salt. 
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat both sugars and butter until light and fluffy, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing 1 minute after each one. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low and pumpkin puree and the chopped apples. The mixture may look curdled, that is ok. Add the dry ingredients, mix only until they disappear into the batter. Then turn off the mixture and with a spatula, mix in the cranberries and the pecans. Pour the batter into the pans and smooth the tops. 
Bake for 30-40 minutes or until a tester inserted ingot he center comes out clean. Transfer cakes to a wire rack let cool for 10 minutes before unmolding to rack. Let cool to room temperature. 

Sift the confectioners sugar into a bowl and gradually add the maple syrup until you have an icing that falls easily from the spoon. Pour icing over the cakes. Enjoy. 

I like to wrap mine in cellophane, tie with a bow, add a holiday plant and you have a ready made gift!

Have a great day!

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