There’s a steaming mug of spiced cider and a Christmas movie on TV calling my name, so I’ll keep this short and sweet. Searching for gifts is my favorite part of the holiday season (tied with the delicious food, cozy time with my family, pretty lights everywhere and old timey music). I love finding the perfect present for someone I love, wrapping it up and placing it under the tree, then seeing their reaction when they open up a unique, heartfelt and useful gift. Every gift idea in this guide checks those requirements, and every purchase supports independent brands and the talented makers behind them.
To get you started on your shopping, these are my picks for a few of the special people in your life: the epicure, the best friend, the homebody, the gentleman and the new mama. I hope this guide makes gift shopping, and supporting small businesses, a little easier this year. Happy holidays!
If you’re in the market for an easy to make, crowd pleasing dessert this holiday season I’ve got you covered with these fudgy, maple tea-frosted brownies. They’re perfect for Friendsgiving potlucks when you don’t want to be the fourth person to bring pie, and you can make them a day or two ahead of time; they’ll still be plenty fresh, rich and chocolatey when you serve them. I think brownies should be very dense and chewy, and that’s exactly what these are. Anything else is just chocolate cake in my book! Brownies also mean plenty of decadent chocolate flavor and these won’t disappoint the most avid chocoholics at your table (after all, I made them by melting down a whole bag of chocolate chips).
These also have seasonal flair thanks to a generous layer of Stash Maple Apple Cider tea-infused buttercream. I love flavoring buttercream with tea because the butter readily absorbs the tea’s flavors, so the end result is like a sweet and creamy version of my favorite cup of tea. It’s tastier and much more interesting to serve than your typical vanilla buttercream and can make an everyday dessert something uniquely tasty and worthy of your holiday table. Maple apple cider is one of my favorite Stash teas to drink this time of year; I love it for its naturally sweet maple, cinnamon, apple and caramel flavors so it only makes sense to turn it into dessert. I think my Thanksgiving guests will agree! Continue Reading
A lot of the past week has been spent dealing with a water-leaking-through-the-ceiling-and-subsequent-costly-repair situation. Normal me would be a little stressed but calm and collected. Increasingly pregnant and emotional me, however, has a much lower threshold for meltdowns and seeing our 90% remodeled living room torn down to the studs almost pushed me over the edge. Honestly, when Bisou started meowing like crazy to alert us to the indoor rain my first impulse was to lay on the floor and cry. My second impulse was to distract myself with pie, and that’s the one I acted on. Whew! I filled a buttery crust with a mountain of fresh apples, lots of cinnamon and a hefty drizzle of homemade caramel, then baked it to golden, mouth watering perfection. And it was gooooood. So good, in fact, that we temporarily forgot all about the plumbing disaster and that’s saying something!
You may have seen me post about these pink apples a couple weeks back on instagram; they’re called mountain rose apples and you can find them at a handful of Hood River orchards and Portland-area markets in the fall. They have sweet, bright pink flesh (really, they’re that pink in real life!) and a satisfying, crisp bite. I look forward to them every year and have been dreaming of turning them into pie since last fall (when I used my supply in this baked oatmeal). If you can’t get your hands on pink apples, any sweet-tart, crisp apple will work perfectly for this pie. I mean, what apple wouldn’t go with gooey salted caramel and a buttery, flaky crust? You can’t go wrong.
It’s been cold, gray and rainy here in Portland and when dreary weather hits the Northwest, there’s only one thing to do: embrace it, because it’s not going anywhere for the next several months! To me, that means bundling up, staying inside and eating and drinking everything cozy and indulgent – like this rich and silky black forest hot chocolate. If decadent, made-from-scratch hot chocolate isn’t made for this season then nothing is. This one’s a mix of melted chocolate, cocoa powder, vanilla and milk that’s been infused with Stash’s Black Forest tea. It warms you up from the inside out and is the perfect accompaniment to wool socks, a good book or your latest Netflix binge (anyone else excited about the new season of Stranger Things?).
This was my first time trying black forest in non-cake form and I’m happy to report it’s just as tasty in a mug! The tea’s chocolate and cherry flavors aren’t overpowered in the hot chocolate–instead, you get a nice, subtle taste of black forest in every sip. It’s a black tea, too, and I very much appreciate the little caffeine kick now that the days are shorter and I have trouble staying awake past 5 pm. This hot chocolate is super rich thanks to the melted chocolate I stir in, so I like to keep the other flavors on the subtle side. But feel free to add a few more tea bags when you infuse the milk for even more black forest flavor! The same goes for the whipped cream–I only used a couple tea bags to infuse the cream because I didn’t want it to turn “tea” colored, but for a stronger flavor you can always use more. The lesson here is that you can’t go wrong with chocolate, cherry and vanilla. Mmm. Continue Reading
First off, I know that post title is a bit of a mouthful. And that’s the pared down version! I also wanted to tell you right off the bat about the peppery watermelon radishes, crunchy, pink pickled onions, tender kale and nutty pepitas. Suffice it to say this grain bowl is bursting with flavors, colors and textures and is my new favorite make-ahead (and eat for days in a row because I’m hooked) meal. We’ve been stuck in a dinner rut for a while now and seem to make the same basic pastas, soups and pizzas week after week, and those old standbys have been tasting…blah. I’ve had very little appetite the whole time I’ve been pregnant (weird, huh) so the biggest motivator behind this grain bowl was making something really healthy and super flavorful, so even when I’m not that hungry I’m excited to eat it. And it worked! This is the first meal I’ve eaten in a couple weeks that I haven’t forced down half of, then passed off on Ponny, my dutiful husband/human composter. I’ve even gone back for seconds.
Let me tell you why. First, the corn salad – my inauthentic yet addictive version of esquites – is incredibly creamy yet fresh tasting, with a little bit of char on the corn and a sprinkle of cilantro and red onion. The chickpeas are wonderfully crunchy and flavorful thanks to a dash of cumin and cayenne. I love pickled red onions on anything and everything. Who wouldn’t!? And then the dressing. At first the cilantro is really bright and in your face and then, magically, it mellows out to a creamy, nuttiness with a subtle kick of garlic. It ties the whole thing together and I’m tempted to put it on every sandwich, bowl, pizza and sundae I make from now on. I cooked the brown rice in vegetable stock, so even the base of this bowl is extra savory.