5 Tips To Update Packaging For Your Holiday Sweets

holiday-packaging-goldenrod.jpg

I received a really awesome inquiry from a friend and blog-reader that I am going to try to entertain. She asked if I have any suggestions on how to package up sweet treats for gifts, that might be more interesting than just putting the spritz cookies (or whatever you made) on a paper plate, and wrapping them in foil. While I do not claim to be a Martha of any kind, I do have some tips that are pretty easy and affordable - and will make it look like you spent hours on Pinterest researching this stuff.

And just a reminder: it isn't your job to make sure these packages are an air-tight situation. Your job is to make cute things and deliver them. Your friend can put them in Tupperware, if they want.

holiday-packaging-goldenrod2.jpg
holiday-packaging-goldenrod3.jpg
  1. Find some cute vessels for your snacks. From restaurant supply stores, to craft stores like Michael's - you can find little boxes that will work great for handing out special treats to your friends and family. Are you going to be doing a ton of these? Look to restaurant supply stores, online or in your city. I bought 50 little white boxes last week for $7.99. These are small, but they'll hold about 5 cookies, or ten little bonbons. Other options?
  2. Use waxed paper instead of aluminum foil. I use waxed paper to line pastry boxes for clients, and I also use it to wrap up small amounts of things, like 1-5 cookies, or an assortment of small things. You can go rustic by wrapping everything up just with the waxed paper and close it with twine or washi tape -- or, line your boxes and/or treat bags with it. It's just so much classier than foil! Even wrap it over a paper plate, secured with tape and foil.
  3. Close your packages with twine. Twine is actually really useful for a lot of things, and you get a big bang for your buck when you buy it. Butcher's twine is usually an off-white color and is tough enough to stand up to heavy use, like for wrapping up big pieces of meat; whereas baker's twine is much thinner and comes in a variety of colors, usually used for wrapping up boxes. Use it to wrap around boxes, or tie up waxed paper packages with it!
  4. Find some nice tape to seal things up! Use Japanese-style washi tape to seal boxes and waxed paper packages. This tape, in my experience, isn't super strong, so you might consider reinforcing it with some butcher's twine, or clear packaging tape. It's so cute, but not always super stick! I also like to use kraft paper-like brown packing tape. It's rustic and super awesome.
  5. Add in cute extras!
    • dd some confetti inside the packages, if you have it lying around. Don't use glitter. Your friends will hate you.
    • Decorate the boxes with anything, even just by saying "To..." and "From...". Use black or grey ink to keep it simple.
    • Tuck something cute into the wrapping, like a feather with glitter on it, or a card with an affirmation or sweet saying.
    • TIE JINGLE BELLS TO IT. I know I would never have the patience for something adorable like this, but damn! Wouldn't it be so cute?!

Photo credits: Imeon Design, Deco Crush

Thursday Sweets: 11.13.2014

saturn-goldenrod.jpg

Daylight Savings Time is really getting to me this year. I had been keeping up a super insane schedule of going to the gym or baking each day by 6am, working throughout the day, then baking again through the evening, until at least 10pm. Oh, well that's just been shot! I always tell people how much I love the fall time change, because it forces me to slow down in the evenings and really take it easy. Well, but what happens when you don't have that choice?! When you actually have loads to do?! It has not been an easy transition, but I think it will get easier soon. I have a wonderful, big order to work on tonight, that will help. 

Want to know my secret for waking up early and getting out of bed for going to gym? I pretend it's the middle of winter, and I'm in Iceland. And it's actually 9am, and not 530am. So, that way, it just seems normal. Do you think maybe I've lost it? Just maybe?

In other news, we as humankind, landed something on a comet. So that blows my mind. My husband and I had a heart-to-heart last night about outer space and planets. It's not that I don't care about learning about it all, but I just feel like it can't be nearly as complicated as it is... So I just feel like I already understand enough of it. Boy. That is not the case. Poor husband was shocked at my knowledge (or lack there of)! We must accept the things we do not know and ask 'why?' when we can. But otherwise, just pretend you knew the moon's size in comparison to the sun.

In honor of this season, let's think like the Danes and latch on to hygge.

My birthday eve dinner request last week was for these banh mi tacos. Best tacos ever. 

I don't know about you, but seeing a comet up close and personal is fricking insane.

Brussels sprout slaw with za'atar crostini? I'm in.

I don't even like sugar cookies, but these are actually beautiful. And they are trashed up.

Two sources led me to find the Local Milk blog this week. This cake with lavender and early grey has me swooning hard.

Our Honeymoon In Iceland: Part I, Reykjavík

Mount Esja. 

Mount Esja. 

View of beautiful Reykjavík from Halligrimskrija.

View of beautiful Reykjavík from Halligrimskrija.

We've been waxing poetic about our honeymoon a lot lately. Imagining what it would be like to drop everything, pack up the dogs, and move to Iceland to open a little bakery. Turns out you don't need a visa for six months. Yes, we've looked that seriously. I don't think our love of that mysterious little island was because of post-wedding bliss, either. We're either happy or sad and although we had the most amazing wedding experience ever, I think we just had one hell of a vacation.

I kept a journal and a pen in my purse, and took it everywhere we went. We wrote down what we did everyday, just like my mom used to do on our family vacations. It always seemed silly, but man. It's so fun to look back at what she typed up of our trip to Europe in 1997. I was a munchkin who thought I was cooler than I really was - as in, I drank my first wine on that trip and wanted to bathe in escargot butter and thought frog legs were the coolest thing ever. I knew that Russell and I needed to do the same thing for our trip. We ended up doing most of the writing in restaurants, or curled up back at wherever we were staying, as something to do while we escaped the cold and, often, wet conditions. It was bliss. And I want to remember it forever. So, what better way than to share it in this space? Maybe you're planning an Icelandic adventure! (I know my girl Teresa of Tremendous Times is and I can't wait for her review.)

Walking on the lake in the center of Reykjavík, completely frozen over. I loved watching kids ride bikes and run with dogs on it. 

Walking on the lake in the center of Reykjavík, completely frozen over. I loved watching kids ride bikes and run with dogs on it. 

Café Loki, with our amazing spread of Icelandic food.

Café Loki, with our amazing spread of Icelandic food.

Fermented shark and Brennevin!

Fermented shark and Brennevin!

February 25: After flying from Nebraska to London, then to Keflavik, with an hour bus ride to Reykavik, we settled in at our PERFECT Air Bnb and ventured out for dinner. One of the awesome things about renting an apartment is that the host will usually leave some information about where to eat - and it's actually helpful information, as opposed to whatever your hotel wants you to know. 

  • SNAPS for dinner. I can highly recommend the bouillabaisse. It was insane. Russell had redfish with cabbage and grapes. Obviously we had chocolate cake with vanilla is

February 26: It was pretty dark when we settled in the day before, so we didn't see that, just outside our apartment, was an insane view of the water and Mount Esja. The cold air woke up our jet-lagged bodies and, god, it was so beautiful. I felt like we were in heaven, looking down at that blue water and the mountain. We walked a lot that day and grabbed little snacks along the way. A walk along the water, no matter how cold, is worth it.

  • Kryddlegin hjörtu for every lunch we had in Reykjavik. It took us a while to find this gem, but, boy, when we did!! They have two locations and we only visited the more casual of the two. It's about $15 USD for lunch, which is very cheap for Iceland. They have four homemade soups everyday, and an amazing fresh salad selection. And you can go back for more as many times as you want. The veggies they use are washed with sacred crystals! We had soups like: tomato, peanut-chicken, coconut curry, chicken curry, Icelandic lamb... it was amazing. Salads included apples with grated ginger and line; apple chunks with yoghurt, dates, and cinnamon. She made yeast-free spelt and barley bread, too. It was amazing.
  • Reykjavik Art MuseumA great respite from the cold, and so well curated. We loved this place. It's set along the harbor and used to be a repair/painting warehouse for boats, so it has some amazing architecture. 
  • Halligrimskrikja -The main church, set up on a hill. Great place to watch for the Northern Lights and sunsets.
  • Café LokiSeriously amazing, unpretentious Icelandic food at this second-floor cafe. We had meat soup, rye bread with lamb paté, herring on toast with hard-boiled egg, haddock with mashed potatoes, sheep head's jelly, roasted turnips, pea and bean salad, and smoked trout with farmer's cheese. Don't forget about the hákarl and Brennevin! Fermented shark is not as disgusting as everyone says.
  • Valdís for ice cream - Vegan blackberry for me, cookies and cream for Russell. Just go there, even though you'll walk 30 minutes at night, when it's freezing cold.
Inside the Reykjavií Art Museum, a former boat warehouse.

Inside the Reykjavií Art Museum, a former boat warehouse.

Northern Lights! Yay!

Northern Lights! Yay!

February 27: Another full day in Reykjavik. And a lot more food. We ended up at Kryddlegin Hjörtu again, of course, and tried some other faves.

  • Baejarins Beztu Pylsur - Insane hot dogs in a food cart. If you've watched a show on Iceland, this was in it. Lots of sauces and lots of crunchy onions. Russell noted in our travel journal that they were playing Rancid, which made him pretty happy.
  • 871 +/- 2, The Viking Settlement Exhibition Awesome museum with interesting technology. I wondered how interested it would be, but I'm glad we went.
  • Shopping! I did some damage at KronKron, KRAUM, and The Icelandic Handknitting Association - and recommend them all.
  • Fiskfélagid, or Fish CompanyThis restaurant was participating in the Food and Fun Festival, where chefs from around Scandinavia and Northern Europe have short residencies in restaurants around Reykjavik. It was difficult to choose just one, but we loved this. We had great food like, chicken skin with apple and vinegar powder; bread with a beet and raspberry jam; Icelandic lobster with german turnip, cucumber, salad purée, and a buttermilk mussel broth; lamb fillet with hay and vegetable ash, marrow powder, and beet gel; and spanish cheese parfait with skyr ice cream, lemon zest meringue, and sorrel sauce. Insanely beautiful and amazing. Service was great.

We saw the Northern Lights this night, the only time of the whole trip. We were walking along the harbor after dinner and just saw some green flashes across the sky, very faint. Then they moved. And then they moved again. We sat outside Harpa Concert Hall for about 30 minutes, just watching the sky move. Back at our apartment across town, we saw the Lights even stronger from our windows. It was as magical as everyone says it is. 

From here, we drove to Vík. Stay tuned!

Orange Blossom Chouquettes

chouquettes-goldenrod.jpg

One thing I really do love about keeping a blog is the creativity it has encouraged for me. I want to think of interesting things for you - both to just think about and encourage your own creativity, but also because I want to keep us guessing about traditional desserts really are. We can think in terms of little bites, celebration pieces (whole cakes), sometimes-savory pastries, decadence, something light, heavily spiced, barely-there spices... The world is our bundt cake, for a lack of a better term. And it's so exciting!

I am SO thankful for the influx of orders I've had lately, but I haven't had as much time to think about lil' things that sound fun and different to make for my own creativity. I spent Saturday catching up on things around the house that have been driving me crazy, that no one else even notices - then on Sunday, I actually got to do some me things. Like, make breakfast (literally have not been making time for that), sit at my dining room table, and look through cookbooks. I didn't actually read them, but they were in front of me and I paged through them, looking at key words, recipe titles, photos, etc. I needed some inspiration and I needed to see what is existing outside of my own world. It was time that I needed to think about the pastries that other people are making. I tend to work in a vacuum, which I think has been hugely successful and awesome for me, but it's important to take trips to the outside world, outside the Internet. Like I said above, I'm trying to think in terms of many different kinds of desserts, not just 'What kind of cake should I make today?' I get stuck in 8"-springform-pan mode and, as fun as that is, it's not interesting after a while. 

chouquettes-goldenrod2.jpg
chouquettes-goldenrod3.jpg

These little chouquettes were perfect for yesterday. They are awesome because, a) you can whip them up super fast (60 mins or less) when you need pastries in a hurry, b) they are essentially just little puffs of serious sugar, and c) I literally just took a bite of one and it actually puffed in my mouth from the trapped air inside. Oh, and the pearl sugar was crunchy, next to the chewy dough. So, if those are interesting prospects to you, these treats are for you.

They are little rounds of pâte à choux dough, that you completely cover in rough, Swedish pearl sugar. They bake up super puffy in the middle, with chewy dough, and slightly caramelized sugar on the outside. They're so divine. The first time I had these was in Portland, as a sample from our friend Meagan who bought them at StHonoré. Traditionally, they are not made with a glaze of any kind, though some people dip them in chocolate. I think these would be delightful for holiday parties, dusted in powdered sugar, or just presented on their own. I made a glaze with orange blossom water and dunked them in sweetened coconut, to make them seriously intense sugar bombs, but that is not required. 

chouquettes-goldenrod4.jpg
chouquettes-goldenrod6.jpg

I fell in love with these sugary little puffs the moment I ate my first one. They actually look like Christmas tree ornaments, so maybe you should try hanging them on your tree. Or just eat them.

Chouquettes With Orange Blossom Glaze

1 1/2 c water

1 stick + 1 Tbsp unsalted butter (or you can use Earth Balance)

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 c all-purpose flour

7-8 large eggs

Pearl sugar

Preheat your oven to 415 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two sheet pants with parchment of silicon mats.

Put the water, butter, sugar, and salt in a heavy-bottom saucepan and put on high heat on your stove top. Stir occasionally and heat until the butter is melted and the mixture just reaches a boil. Take the pan off the heat. Add the flour in all at once and stir vigorously with a wooden spoon. Once all of the flour is incorporated, put back on medium-high heat. Stir constantly for about two minutes. The goal at this point is to cook out as much moisture as you can, thus allowing the choux dough to puff up in the oven. A thin film will develop on the bottom of your pan. "Once you think you've stirred long enough, add another minute," is what my first chef always told me. 

Place in the bowl of a mixer and beat with a paddle attachment. Add in the eggs one at a time, mixing to combine after each addition. Scrape the sides of your bowl as necessary to keep everything homogenous. The mixture should be, after 7 eggs are added, glossy and smooth. If it doesn't fall in a nice ribbon off a spoon, add another egg and mix to combine. Put in a piping bag or a Ziploc bag, and cut the tip off to make the hole about 1/2" wide. Pipe little half-dollar sized circles of dough on your prepared pans. They won't spread too much while baking. Top each with a sprinkling of pearl sugar. Bake for 30 mins, rotating the pans after 15 mins. Let cool.

Glaze: Add 3 tsp orange blossom water to 2 c powdered sugar. Add some almond milk if it needs to be thinned out. I added some yellow food coloring, too. Dunk the cooled chouquettes in the glaze, then into the sweetened coconut. Enjoy!


The Season of Intentional Gatherings

firewood-kinfolk.jpg

This is one of my favorite excerpts of all time. Winter is a really special time, that I have always loved and this sums it up perfectly. With the temperatures dropping quickly and the night coming sooner, I can't help but think of this often. Taken from Issue 2 of Kinfolk

"In summer, gatherings of friends are often spontaneous and imprecise. We might run into each other and spend the rest of the evening eating watermelon in someone's backyard or sharing beers at a favorite pub. There is little distinction between your house and my house, between my front porch and the boulevard. The restaurant blurs into the sidewalk; the day blurs into the night. In winter, the opposite is true: gatherings are deliberate and brave. We arrive at each other's homes wrapped in sweaters and parkas and scarves, our faces and feet aching from the immediate warmth. We peel off our mittens and place them on the stove to dry. We bring foods that re-stimulate our sense of smell and remind us of color: rich red wine, baked sweet potatoes, pecan pie. We are reminded also (and perhaps more importantly) of each other. We have been isolated by the cold and eschewed the outside for days. We've turned inward. Now, together, undistracted by the sounds of the street, committed to our present time and place, locked in by wind and ice, we are enlivened by community. If we could, we'd never leave. 

Winter is the recognition, in the form of a season, that we need each other."

-Nikaela Marie Peters

 

Photo Credit: Dart Photographie

Experience Eating: A November Challenge!

boat-dining-ashley-camper.jpg

This is a reminder for you - and it's a reminder for me, too. And it's a challenge for all of us, too! I wrote last week about about being sure that, when we eat, we try to make it more of an experience and less just about stuffin' our faces or finding some food out just because. What I've realized is, now that I'm thinking more about this stuff, I am making more informed and exciting decisions when I eat. Not that I am eating fancier or spending more money - I think it's actually the other way around. Why would I go out to eat if it's just because I'm feeling lazy? That sure seems like a waste of money, especially when I could snuggle into my home and make something there, even if it's a weird conglomeration of food.

Before you go any further, watch and listen to this video of Anya von Bremzen talking about THE TRANSPORTIVE NATURE OF FOOD. This is in all caps because of how strongly I believe in what she has to say. It will impact your life.

If you are interested in enriching your life, improving things on the daily, and in challenging your community to step up what they have to offer, read on for what this challenge means. It's pretty easy!

  1. Put away your phone for one entire meal per day.
  2. Be the interesting conversationalist at your table. Think of topics of conversation before you eat with other people. 
  3. Slow down, look at your food, appreciate it, and enjoy it - one time per day. Don't rush.
  4. When you eat out, think about whether or not the restaurant is giving you a great experience, or if they are just going through the motions. Do you want more of an experience? Make one for yourself if you can't find one outside your home.
  5. Tell me about it - use #ExperienceEating to tell your friends about what you're doing. 

Happy eating and I can't wait to hear how this goes for you!

Photo Credit: Ashley Camper Photography

His and Hers Sweets: Dia De Los Muertos

his-and-hers-sweets-muertos1.jpg

This is the second post in our His and Hers Sweets blog series with Lovestru.ck Weddings and Events and Jenny Rawson PhotographyDia de los Muertos is a beautiful holiday from Mexican tradition that celebrates the lives of lost loved ones. To bring joy and light into this part of life is so beautiful, I think. Candace and Lindsay, of Lovestru.ck, had the great idea to make this shoot more bridal in nature, by bringing in some models. I love how it turned out! Please enjoy the results.

his-and-hers-sweets-muertos2.jpg
his-and-hers-sweets-muertos4.jpg

About The Pastries: I wanted to do my take on some classic Mexican sweets. Churros are so great because they have such a unique, organic shape - and, instead of doing the classic cinnamon and sugar coating on these, I chose to use cardamom and sugar. I wish you could smell them! The cinnamon cake includes a rich dulce de leche that was infused with star anise and cardamom pods, then roasted cashews were added. Both of these desserts would be unique and exciting additions to any wedding menu.

his-and-hers-sweets-muertos3.jpg
his-and-hers-sweets-muertos7.jpg
his-and-hers-sweets-muertos5.jpg

About The Styling: Even though Dia de los Muertos is known for its bright colors, we wanted to keep the look and feel of the shoot bridal. In the spirit of the holiday, we created a Mexican-inspired altar, or ofrenda, filled with candles and dark red garden roses. We kept everything neutral, so the focus remained on the enticing dulce de leche dripping down the cake and the dramatic dark chocolate accompanying the churros.

his-and-hers-sweets-muertos6.jpg

I love how Candace and Lindsay styled this shoot. Can you even believe how beautiful the painting work is on the model's arms? I want that every day, please. 

his-and-hers-sweets-muertos7.jpg

Thank you to the other wonderful vendors that helped with this Dia de los Muertos photo shoot - the spirit of the photos would not have been the same without their contributions.