Monday, December 21, 2009

Go Nuts This Holiday Season!

Before you hack into your ham, tear-up the turkey, or rip into the rib roast, how about a spicy yet sweet snack to hold the troops over until Christmas dinner time? This effortlessly easy recipe hails from my favorite Food Network scientist and chef, Alton Brown and has been an absolute hit every time I prepare it. These delectable little pecans can be served along side your appetizers at any cocktail or dinner party or could be strategically placed around the house in pretty little bowls to keep every one's hunger monster at bay. Alton suggests these piquant pecans would make perfect gifts for anyone on your list- place them in a festive tin box or holiday glass jar first as presentation is key!

Spiced Nuts


1 pound pecan halves, fresh

1/2 stick butter, unsalted

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried orange peel

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon cumin

1/2 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar

3 tablespoons light brown sugar

2 tablespoons water


In a large skillet, lightly toast the pecan halves over medium for 4 to 5 minutes, just until they begin to brown. Add butter and allow it to melt. After the butter has completely melted, add cayenne, orange peel, cinnamon, cumin, salt, dark brown sugar, light brown sugar, and lastly, water. Stir until well mixed and water has cooked off. Pour spiced nuts onto a lined cookie sheet and spread them out as much as possible to dry. Cool completely and box up for "tasteful" gifts or drop them in granny's crystal nut dish for pre-christmas dinner cocktail hour. However you decide to serve these nutty nibbles, there are sure to please all palettes!

Eat, Drink and Be Merry this holiday season and be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!

Monday, December 7, 2009

5 "Spirted" Gifts for 5 Dollars!

With the holly-jolly month of December in full swing, the wine flows like water, the beer bubbles as it brews, and the cocktails are being shaken and not stirred. Besides the sound of my waistline and tolerance growing, I also hear my credit card weeping! We all know nothing brings a little Yuletide cheer to a party like a bevy of adult beverages, but these costly concoctions may break the bank! If you are like me, the purse strings are being pulled a little tighter during the many holiday shopping excursions so budget friendly gifts are at the top of my list. Here are some fun , festive, and $5.00+ gift suggestions to help you stock their bar with out hocking your car! Bottom's Up!

Bejeweled Martini Glasses- I know you have all seen them, sitting there glistening in the curio cabinet of a hoighty-toighty boutique, looking to pricey to even touch! Why don't you spare the MasterCard and make this blinged-out-beauty for a fourth of the cost? All you will need is a little ingenuity, patience, and super glue! Visit your nearest discount store such as the Dollar Tree or Big Lots and pick out a well-shaped, clear or translucent martini glass. You will also need to pick up a pack of rhinestones and super glue, which yes- I have found at both the Dollar Tree and Big Lots before! Clean the surface of the glass thoroughly before you commence to gluing and with the assistance of a pair of tweezers, start designing! Anything looks fabulous in rhinestones- polka dots, a swirl or perhaps spell out the word "Diva!" After the glue dries completely, carefully package and present the glittery glass to your guest with a copy of your favorite martini recipe. Be sure to tell the recipient that their new found glass is hand-wash only or else her diamonds may be swimming in the dishwasher!

Bag O' Christmas Cheer- Let's all take lesson from Bacchus and share with the world our love of wine! A bottle of wine is perfect for a hostess gift as they can either chose to uncork it at the party or keep the bottle for their own private collection. Now, what others may call "good wine" doesn't come cheap, but with a little investigative work- the fruits of your efforts will pay off. Comb the discount bins of your local wine and spirits store as many brands are put on clearance to make room for new brands. I guarantee you will find a decent bottle of wine for $3.00-$4.00. Brands such as Sutterhome, Lindermas, Don Luciano, Corbett Canyon, Little Penguin, Andre, and Verdi can frequently be found with a below $5.00 price tag. There is actually a brand at Wal-mart I recently started buying for my "house wine" called "Oak Leaf" which is sold for a whopping $2.97 a bottle! Both the Shiraz and the Cabernet are EXCELLENT for my reddies and I would most certainly recommend the Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio for all my white wine drinkers. No matter the wine, no matter the vintage, your wine needs to be presented glamorously! I have scoped out stunning cloth wine bags both at the Dollar Tree and at Wal-mart, complete with velour lining and rhinestones! If budget allows, tie on a inexpensive ornament or wine bottle opener to your pretty little package and wait for the smiles!

Funky Felt Coasters- This project caught my eye on several websites and I just had to share it with my fellow divas! Depending on the color tastes (or even home decor) of your recipient, raid your local craft store for several sheets of felt in coordinating colors. You will also need thin cork board, tacky glue (or hot glue) and a small hole punch. Cut coaster-sized circles or even squares from your felt and use your hole punch to "design" your coaster. Cut your cork using the same circle or square template you used for the felt and apply a thin layer of glue to the cork. Adhere your felt and clean up your coasters by trimming the edges. For extra flair, scallop the edges of your felt before gluing it to the cork. It allows a little bit of the cork to peek through for a kitchsy and rustic kind of look! Bundle the coasters up with a beautifully tied ribbon or tuck them away in a sheer organza bag. These coasters will be sure to make their debut at many parties to come!

Santa's "Spirited" Stocking- Santa, "candy is dandy but liquor is quicker!" Why not fill all the of age good boys and girls stockings with something they REALLY want this year?! During the holiday season, liquor stores begin going bananas with the sales and end up practically giving away their inventory. In most cases, right near the cash register area, the stores will feature baskets of discounted mini or airplane bottles as my dad lovingly refers to them. I would say this time of year, you could probably find mini bottles going for $1.00 or less, top shelf not included! Dig for the best deal and price depending, stock your soon-to-be best-friend's stocking to the brim with an array of these delightful little bottles. Once again, shop around at those discount stores to find a spectacular stocking to stock with spirits as a part of your gift, you take up the slack where Santa leaves off!

Sassy Salt for Margarita Maniacs- The epicurean in me is a sucker for all the gourmet flavored salts out on the market now. Coconut, espresso, jalapeno and black truffle are just a few infused salts that have been taunting my taste buds! Why not translate this costly, culinary concept into couture margarita rimming salts for the Margarita enthusiast in your life?! Pick up a box of coarse salt from your local grocer and let your imagination run rampant in the spice aisle. A few great combos that come to my mind for Margarita salt would be:
  • Coarse Salt + Chipotle Powder = Cha-Cha Chipotle Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Dried Ginger = Thai Ginger Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Dried Lime Zest = Lime Fresco Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Red Pepper Flakes = Fire Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Dried Lemon Peel = Sunny Salt

  • Coarse Salt + Dried Tangerine Peel = Tantalizing Tangerine Salt

Start with a 1/4 Spice and 3/4 Salt ratio, adjust to suit your taste. Pour your newly concocted custom salts in metal favor tins, tiny cork-topped jars or even a series TEST TUBES. Ideally, your gifting container should be glass or transparent as these salts are not only tasty but beautiful to look at. Be sure to label each flavor of rimming salt and include a recipe for the world's best MARGARITA!!!

Whether your gift ends up being one of these bar-oriented beauties or not, a personalized, hand-written note is always a must. For your recipient to know you took time out of your crazy and chaotic life to sit down, make them a gift and write a simple note of good tidings, can be one of the most heartwarming events of the season.

Let me know how the gifting goes and "be sure to stay tuned, dahlin's!"