Berry Strata

>> Wednesday, December 29, 2010

My favorite part about Christmas is the food! When I was younger, I would wait not-so-patiently in the front of the oven for the gooey cinnamon rolls to rise, so I could get breakfast over with. Cinnamon rolls on Christmas was our family breakfast tradition before tearing through our piles of presents. In recent years I've been spending Christmas morning with my boyfriend's family and we usually do different breakfast items each year (cinnamon rolls are still on the list though).

This year I found a Berry Strata recipe from Italian chef, Giada in the January issue of In Style magazine. The recipe looked simple enough and the end product looked delicious, so we decided to give it a try. Here is the recipe:

Berry Strata
(serves 6 with leftovers)

2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 tbsp honey
4 large eggs
1/2 c. whole-milk ricotta (or skim)
3 tbsp sugar
1 c. whole milk (or skim)
1/4 c. orange juice
4 slices bread, torn into 1" pieces
1 10 oz. bag frozen mixed berries, thawed and drained

1. Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Turn off heat, add honey and stir. Set aside.
2. Place eggs, ricotta and sugar in a large bowl. Using a fork, mix to combine and beat eggs. Add milk, orange juice, butter and honey mixture, and then add bread. Stir to combine. Gently fold in berries.
3. Pour mixture into a two-quart baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours and up to 12.
4. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Bake strata until golden on top and baked through, about 40 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes. Spoon into dishes and serve.

End product - delicious!
I wanted to take photos of the process along the way, but didn't have my new camera at the time (it was waiting to be unwrapped. The BF did great!). The nice thing about this recipe is that you can substitute many items for lower fat versions, therefore making it healthier. It's also good for a winter brunch with friends - you can make the night before, refrigerate and pop it in the oven in the morning.


Happy Holidays!

>> Friday, December 24, 2010

I realized I took a hiatus on my blogging, but December been so busy! From Holiday parties to flying up North to visit my family, there hasn't been a dull moment this month.

On this Christmas Eve, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on what a great year 2010 was. I got to visit my family more this year, I made new friends and definitely more memories. I'm grateful to have spent another year of my life with my amazing and patient boyfriend and enjoy more wonderful times with his family. I got to visit some new places and try different things. I don't think there is much more I could ask for. It may seem that Christmas is all about shopping and gifts, but I think the best gift is to have the love of your family and friends and most of all, the memories that go along with it.

I hope everyone has a very merry Christmas and is safe getting to wherever they  may be going this year!


'Tis the Season

>> Wednesday, December 8, 2010

This last Saturday, my boyfriend and I hosted a holiday cocktail party at our house. It was my first "grown-up" cocktail party, and I was excited to entertain all of our friends at our quaint little townhouse. I had to make a spreadsheet to organize all the necessities we needed and I know I was driving Jon absolutely crazy stressing over every little detail (sorry babe). Jon put together the food platters containing everything from Genoa salami, vegetable crudites and chips with salsa. I would say he put any caterer to shame with his outstanding presentation skills. My contribution were the fudge brownies, red velvet cupcakes and Christmas-shaped sugar cookies - Yes, I had to cheat and used the boxed stuff because there simply wasn't enough time to go scratch for everything. I wanted to post pictures of the outcome, but unfortunately it's time to replace my point-and-shoot camera (Santa, are you listening?).

One item on my drink menu was to find some kind of cocktail using gin. I feel vodka and gin are a must-have for any party and can be used interchangeably. While searching on All Recipes for different cocktail drinks, I came across a great one for gin sangria. I thought it was a little odd at first to pair gin with white wine, but I gave it my best shot. Two pitchers later, my guests could not get enough. This is a great drink to make anytime of the year and especially if you're entertaining guests:

Not just for summer days
Lisa's Super Sangria

1 lemon, sliced
1 lime, sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 1/2 cups gin
2 (750 milliliter) bottles dry white wine (such as Chardonnay)
1 cup orange juice
1/4 cup frozen cranberry juice concentrate, thawed
1/2 cup tonic water
3/4 cup pomegranate seeds (from a fresh pomegranate)

Arrange the lemon, lime, and orange slices in the bottom of a pitcher or punch bowl. Pour the gin over the fruit slices; cover. Refrigerate overnight.

Just before serving, pour the wine, orange juice, cranberry concentrate, tonic water, and pomegranate seeds into the gin; stir. Enjoy!


Fab Finds

>> Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Like most red-blooded American women, I love getting a great deal when shopping. I've been following Jennifer's blog The Looks for Less for the last year now and absolutely love it. Her site is dedicated to helping readers find fashion-forward clothes, shoes and accessories at affordable prices.

Of course I'd love to have a closet full of designer duds, but unfortunately my wallet (or credit card limit) doesn't allow for that. When it comes to trends I try to get the best deals, as they generally come and go out of style. Like many savvy shoppers, I'm willing to invest a little more money into classic pieces, and usually find that they mix well with my trendy pieces. I have gotten so many great ideas from Jennifer's blog for mixing current trends with classic pieces, all at a price I can afford.

OK, a little bit of this is tooting my own horn. Often the blog showcases a reader's "Look for Less" submission, which feature an outfit where each piece is priced less than $50. So, on my recent wine tasting trip in Santa Barbara I came up with an outfit that I thought was perfect for a fall day at the vineyards (and definitely budget-friendly).  Today my look was featured on the blog! Check out my look for less. Below is a photo of my outfit as well. Thanks to my wonderful boyfriend for taking such a great shot!