Friday, November 30, 2012

It's Christmastime!

I'm so excited that tomorrow is December!  For some reason in my mind, December 1st officially marks the start of the Christmas season.  I loved that Thanksgiving was early this year, because I used this past week to take down our fall decor and start making our home feel like Christmas!  The tree is decorated, the stockings are hung, the wreath is on the front door, and half of my Christmas shopping is already done!  I am ready to fully embrace Christmastime!  Last year we did 25 Days of Christmas (a Christmas-y something each day leading up to Christmas), and while I'm not as prepared this year with something for each day, I want us to soak up as much Christmas spirit as we can.  Our plans so far: finish decorating our house, the parade downtown, Christmas parties, a concert, more shopping, an ornament exchange, and lots of baking!  This year I'd also love to find some fresh mistletoe for our house.  And maybe even get crafty and make a Christmas present or two.  What do you have planned for this holiday season?

(image from here)

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Black Bottom Pumpkin Pie

Right before Thanksgiving I went to my very first pie exchange.  Brilliant, right?  Everyone brings a pie, you all eat a little taste of each one (there were 7 total), and then you all take home a piece of each pie.  It was the perfect way to start off a food-filled weekend, and I got to taste some delicious pies.  I made this black bottom pumpkin pie - a gingersnap/cinnamon graham cracker crust, then a layer of chocolate, then a pumpkin cream filling, all topped with maple-infused whipped cream.  I love vamping up traditional recipes, and this turned out great!

Black Bottom Pumpkin Pie
1/2 cup chopped pecans
1 cup cinnamon graham cracker crumbs
1 cup crushed gingersnaps
1/2 cup butter, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
2 cups whipping cream, divided
3/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup flour
2 eggs
4 egg yolks
2 cups milk
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup maple syrup
garnish: semisweet chocolate shavings

Stir together chopped pecans, graham cracker crumbs, crushed gingersnaps, and melted butter until blended.  Press crumb mixture on bottom, up sides, and onto lip of a slightly greased 10-inch pie plate.  Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes or until lightly browned.  Transfer to a wire rack, and cool completely (about 30 minutes).

Microwave the chocolate chips and 1/2 cup whipping cream in a small microwave-safe bowl at high 1 minute or until melted, stirring at 30-second intervals.  Spoon chocolate mixture over bottom of cooled pie crust.  Cover and chill 1 hour or until chocolate mixture is set.

Meanwhile, whisk together sugar and flour in a heavy 3-qt. saucepan; add eggs, egg yolks, and milk, and whisk until blended.  Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, 8-10 minutes or until a pudding-like thickness.  (Mixture will just begin to bubble and will hold soft peaks when a whisk is lifted.)  Remove from heat, and whisk in pumpkin and vanilla extract.  Transfer to a bowl.  Place plastic wrap directly on warm filling (to prevent a film from forming); chill 30 minutes.  Spoon pumpkin mixture over chocolate; cover and chill 8-24 hours or until filling is firm.

Beat remaining 1 1/2 cups whipping cream at high speed with an electric mixer until foamy; gradually add syrup, beating until soft peaks form.  Spread or pipe over pie.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

source: recipe slightly adapted from Southern Living, November 2012

Tuesday, November 27, 2012


We had a great Thanksgiving.  We joined in the masses traveling and headed up to Virginia on Wednesday night.  We were able to spend Thanksgiving with my family and the day after with Caleb's, and then parts of the day with both on Saturday.  We went shopping, ate too much, and just enjoyed being together and relaxing.  I didn't take many pictures--I was too busy just enjoying the moment--but here's a few from our time there.  I'm still wrapping my mind around the fact that Thanksgiving is over and Christmas will be here before we know it!  We are hoping to start decorating for Christmas tonight :)  How was your Thanksgiving?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Words I Like: On Cooking

As I was busy in the kitchen making pies last night, this passage that I love came to my mind.  More cooking is probably happening this week than any other week of the year, so I thought it would be fitting to share:

"But while cooking demands your entire attention, it also rewards you with endlessly sensual pleasures. The sound of water skittering across leaves of lettuce.  The thump of the knife against watermelon, and the cool summer scent the fruit releases as it falls open to reveal its deep red heart.  The seductive softness of chocolate beginning to melt from solid to liquid.  The tug of the sauce against the spoon when it thickens in the pan, and the lovely lightness of Parmesan drifting from the grater in gossamer flakes.  Time slows down in the kitchen, offering up an entire universe of small satisfactions." - Ruth Reichl, in Garlic and Sapphires

(image from here)

Monday, November 19, 2012

Around Here, Lately

{a little shopping here & there}

{gourds + afternoon sunlight}

{Paula Deen}

{a full garage}

{white peppermint mochas}

{our decorated mantel (finally!)}

{Clemson v. NC State}

{changing leaves in our front yard}

{so thankful to have each other}

Friday, November 16, 2012

Chipotle Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney

Ohh this pork.  A friend made this for us when they had us over for dinner a couple months back, and it was so delicious I stole the recipe.  I had never made a dry rub for pork before, but it is so easy and so flavorful!  I made this when my parents visited several weekends ago, and dinner ended up being a group effort:  the guys grilled the meat while we women put together the chutney and the side dishes.  This has definitely risen to the top of our favorite dinners list!  

Chipotle Pork Tenderloin with Apple Chutney
Apple Chutney
1 Tbsp butter
3 apples, peeled, cored, and sliced into chunks
1/4 cup dried cranberries
3 Tbsp brown sugar
3 Tbsp cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp dried mustard

Melt butter over medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet.  Add the apples and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the apples are lightly browned.  Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and cook until the liquid is gone and the apples are tender.

Grilled Chile Pork Tenderloin
2 pork tenderloins (I got them in a package of 2 at the store)
1 1/2 tsp ground chipotle chile pepper
1 tsp salt
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
cooking spray

Turn the grill to medium-high heat.  Rinse the pork loins and pat dry with paper towels.  Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix together all of the spices.  Spray the pork with the cooking spray and rub the spice mixture all over the pork loins.

Grill, flipping once, until a meat thermometer reads 160 degrees in the center (or whatever you're comfortable with). Remove pork from the grill and rest for 10 minutes, covered with foil to keep warm.

Cut the pork into rounds and serve covered with chutney.

source: recipe slightly adapted from Come Sit In My Kitchen

Thursday, November 15, 2012

orange & pink in a box

Don't you just love getting fun mail?  Anything other than a bill or credit card offer is exciting, so I really enjoy sending people notes and packages.  I like my packages to have some sort of general theme, so it isn't just a box of random stuff showing up on someone's doorstep.  you are my fave has a fun series called "in the box" with lots of awesome themed boxes (see all the posts in her series here).  I used Melanie's ideas as inspiration for this "orange & pink in a box" that I sent my friend Aimee last week.  The cosmetic bag was my starting piece (it's more orange and pink than it looks in this pic), and then I just gathered other pink and orange things that I thought would brighten up Aimee's day :)

P.S. Last year's Birthday in a Box!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

J.Crew Factory Sale!

I sat down last night to edit my post for today but got distracted by this J.Crew Factory sale - and it's too good not to share!  Have you shopped at J.Crew Factory store online?!  It's relatively new (the last few months), and it's J.Crew factory store prices from the comfort of your couch!  Through next Tuesday (11/20), take 30% off your entire purchase at J.Crew Factory online AND free shipping - no minimum! with this code: SCOREMORE

Happy Shopping :)

Monday, November 12, 2012

The Weekend

This past weekend we were able to go down to visit my sister Lauren and her family.  As soon as we walked in the door Friday night, the girls couldn't wait to tell us that we were going to the fair with them the next day:)  It was a gorgeous day (actually it was a little bit hot!), and the girls were SO excited to get to the fair and ride the rides.  We had so much fun getting to experience the fair with them!  I got to get in lots of snuggles with Mason and good talks with Lauren, too, while Bradley and Caleb worked in the garage :)  We love every chance we get to be with any of our family, so it was a wonderful way to spend our weekend!  Happy Monday!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Chocolate-Pecan Pie Granola

It's no secret that granola is one of our favorite breakfasts around here (see this & this), so when I came across a new granola recipe in the last Southern Living magazine, I just had to try it.  Surprisingly this does taste a little like pecan pie, as the recipe calls it, but not so much so that it's unfitting for breakfast.  This stuff is addictive, and I've already made two batches in less than one week!  I don't think I've ever repeated a recipe in that short of a time span, so you know this one is a winner:)

Chocolate-Pecan Pie Granola
1/2 cup salted butter, melted
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
3 cups uncooked old fashioned oats
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
1/2 cup toasted wheat germ
4 oz semisweet chocolate chips

Heat oven to 325 degrees.  Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper; set aside.  In a large bowl stir together the melted butter, corn syrup, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt until combined.  Add oats, pecans, and wheat germ, stirring to ensure the mixture is coated.  Spread mixture onto the prepared baking sheet.  Bake 25-30 minutes or until toasted, stirring every 10 minutes.  Cool completely in pan on a wire rack (about 30 minutes).  Stir in chocolate.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days, or freeze up to 6 months.

source: recipe from Southern Living, November 2012

Monday, November 5, 2012

The Weekend

We started off our weekend early by heading out of town Thursday night to visit Caleb's brother and his family.  It was our first time visiting them since they've moved, so we loved being able to see their new house, walk around Duke's campus, and see their life there.  We especially loved being able to spend so much time with our 9-month old niece! She is so cute and has become more interactive since we had seen her last, and we loved getting to be with her.  We headed home Saturday morning so we could make it to a dinner with our community group from church.  Sunday afternoon was once again time to get things done and be ready for the week.  With the extra sleep from daylight savings, I actually feel rested and ready for a week of work!  How did you spend your weekend?