The Best of the Best of 2013

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As we wind down 2013, we’re all being bombarded with the “Best of”, “Worst of”, and “[Just wish it would go away already]” 2013 lists that always come around this time of year.  Many, however, are at least mildly entertaining, useful, or otherwise worth the read.  Here are a few lists that I’ve deemed the “Best of the Best of 2013″:

Wishing a happy and healthy New Year to you all! I hope you’ll come back to visit in 2014! xo

Cranberry Walnut Cookies

DSC02529 2I spent a very snowy Saturday afternoon baking these white chocolate,  cranberry and walnut cookies for two holiday parties.  My mom often makes a similar recipe this time of year, so there is something about cranberries and white chocolate that always reminds me of Christmas. Walnuts or macadamia nuts (your choice) add the perfect amount of texture and savory to this recipe.  The below recipe yields roughly 2 dozen cookies. I doubled it, and highly recommend baking a larger batch if you can bring them to work or another event, as they go fast!

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You Will Need:

  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 1 cup dried cranberries, chopped
  • 3/4 cup white chocolate chips
  • 3/4 cup walnuts or macadamia nuts, chopped
  • parchment paper

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Directions:

1.  Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. With an electric mixer, cream the butter and both sugars together until smooth. Add the vanilla and egg, mixing well.

3.  Sift together the flour and baking soda. Spoon the flour mixture gradually into the creamed sugar mixture.

DSC025244.  Stir in the cranberries, white chocolate chips and macadamia nuts. Drop by heaping spoonfuls, about 2 tablespoons, onto the prepared baking sheets, 2 inches apart.

DSC025265.  Bake until lightly golden on top and the edges are set, 12 to 15 minutes. Cool on the sheet about 5 minutes, and then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6.  Eat and enjoy! If baking ahead of time, be sure to store cookies in an airtight container or bag.

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Happy Holiday Baking! xo

*Recipe adapted from Food Network

Weekly Recap: Bring on Christmas

Happy Saturday every lovely body! What are you up to this weekend? Josh and I have casual plans to get our Christmas tree today, celebrate a couple friends’ birthdays tonight in Brooklyn, then see the Magritte exhibit at the MoMA tomorrow with my in-laws.  I hope you all get to enjoy some time with family and friends this weekend!

703817dd5b82c356a0e84fc9d32e2c27Herbin, Auguste (1882-1960) – 1902 The Roofs of Paris in the Snow

Worth checking out:

 

 

My Rent the Runway Review

This past weekend, Josh and I headed to Philadelphia to attend the wedding of one of his close childhood friends.  The invitation noted “black tie invited”  so naturally I seized the opportunity for a bit of dress up! Josh rented a tux, and I debated on buying a gown.  Having heard of Rent the Runway, I went to browse the site for some suitable options as a possible substitute for actually purchasing a full length gown, one that I would probably only wear once (especially if pictures were taken since us girls can only be photographed in something once ;-) )

My first impressions of the site were positive – it allowed me to search dresses based on my size and body type (hour-glass).  Each dress has numerous user reviews that provide their measurements and size worn with pictures, which made it easy for me to gauge whether a dress would work on my body type or not. (Read: If it looked great on a 5’9″ size 2 with 32A boobs, it was probably not the dress for me. On the other hand, 5’3″ and 36D? Now we’re talking…)

Having narrowed down some potentials, and not being able to try anything on immediately, I quickly sent out an email blast to many of my trusted gays and gals to get their opinions on which to order.  Based on their feedback, I was able to decide on the below two:

RTRErin Fetherston / Badgley Mischka

So here’s one of the best things that helps ease your mind a bit about whether the dress will fit or not – you get to choose 2 sizes in your “main” dress, and then the second dress rental is only $40 more instead of the full price (so your package arrives with three dresses total).  Most dresses range in price from about $100 to $500 to rent, and you can rent them for 4 or 8 days.  Because the wedding was over a holiday weekend and the dress could not be shipped over Thanksgiving, I had to do an 8 day rental in order to receive it before the event.  However, the price increase for the longer rental time wasn’t that bad, and I almost felt better getting it a few days prior to the wedding in case I had to make an emergency trip to Bloomingdales for a suitable alternative! Another side note – if none of the dresses fit or work for you, you can put them back in the mail immediately and receive a full refund!

When the dresses arrived, both were perfectly clean and in beautiful condition.  Also, both fit! There was a small debate among the female members of my family on which dress, but we settled on the black Erin Fetherston for a few reasons (1. It was an evening wedding in November so the black was more seasonably appropriate, 2. I didn’t know that many people attending the wedding and didn’t want to draw too much attention to myself, and 3. It was a really stunning black dress – hard to tell from the picture but the lace is almost an iridescent gold and green).

So, here we are, Josh in his tux and Erin in her Erin gown!:

1422404_10101745631986370_1417892238_nQuite the good looking pair, aren’t we?

When finished, I just returned in the provided UPS shipping package that came with the dresses, already paid for! It was a nice and easy return policy, which was much needed after all the travel and hustle and bustle of Thanksgiving week. I will without a doubt be using Rent the Runway again for my next formal event!

Wishing you all a lovely week! xo

**Please note: This post was in no way paid for or promoted by Rent the Runway.  I simply wanted to share my experience, as I had many friends ask me about it afterward!

Southern-Style Baked Beans with Braised Pork Belly

We’ve had quite the chilly week up in the northeast, with temperatures only guaranteed to get colder over the coming weekend. If you’re looking for a warm and filling meal with little to no prep time, look no further.

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You Will Need:

  • 1 large white onion, chopped
  • 1 can (425 g) navy beans or other white bean, rinsed and dried
  • 1 can (425 g) red kidney bean or other red bean variety, rinsed and dried
  • 1-2 lbs pork belly, skin removed and cut into small 1/2 inch cubes
  • 2/3 cup of molasses
  • 4 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tbsp EVOO
  • 1 1/2 cup water

baked beans

Directions:

  1. Set oven to 325˚F.  In a large oven-safe pot (a dutch oven is ideal for this), add EVOO, onion, garlic, and pork belly over medium high heat.  Cook until pork belly is slightly browned on all sides, and onions are translucent, about 5 -7 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, mix together molasses, brown sugar, black pepper, mustard powder, chili powder, cloves, and paprika.  Add the mixture, as well as the beans, to the dutch oven or pot.  Pour the water over the top to make sure the meat and beans are covered, and stir everything together well so that the sauce is well integrated.
  3. Place the pot into the oven covered and cook for 2 hours.  Remove lid, stir, and cook for an additional 30 minutes uncovered.
  4. Serve with warm bread or on its own and enjoy!

 

Wishing you all a warm and happy weekend! xo