Friday, December 30, 2011


One of my contributions to this year's family Christmas festivities was a yummy cranberry-citrus cocktail mixer. This recipe is so easy and the result so delicious! It was a hit with everyone.

The Mixer
1. Finely grate the zest of one large orange and one lime. In a small saucepan, combine the orange and lime zests with 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1/2 cup water. Bring to a boil, stirring. Make sure sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. 
2. In a large container, put 2-1/2 cups cranberry juice (don't use cranberry cocktail as that is too sweet; I used Northland 100% cranberry juice). Stir in sugar water/zest mixture. Refrigerate, covered, at least one hour (I let mine steep a few hours). Strain and pour mixer into an airtight bottle. Can be kept in the refrigerator up to one week.

Cranberry-Citrus Cocktail
For each cocktail, combine in a shaker filled with ice:
4 ounces cranberry-citrus mixer
2 ounces vodka 
Shake well and strain into a chilled martini glass.
For a smaller drink, use 2 ounces mixer with 1 ounce vodka.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Sweet and Spicy Almonds

Every year at the holidays I make sweet and spicy almonds. They are the perfect blend of sweetness and heat (thanks to cayenne pepper!) and are always well received by family and friends. The recipe, from Everyday Food, is frequently requested so I thought I'd share it here. Double or triple the recipe so you'll have enough to serve at your New Year's Eve party. Enjoy!

Sweet and Spicy Almonds

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spread 2-1/2 cups unblanched almonds on a rimmed baking sheet and toast in oven about 10 minutes, until fragrant. 

2) In a large bowl, combine 1/4 cup sugar, 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt and 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper. 

3) In a large skillet over medium heat, cook 1 tablespoon honey, 1 tablespoon water and 1 teaspoon olive oil, stirring until combined, about 1 minute. Remove from heat and add almonds; toss to coat. 

4) Transfer almonds to sugar mixture in bowl (do not scrape extra glaze into bowl) and toss to coat. Cool completely in a single layer before storing in an airtight container. The almonds keep up to two weeks (my bet is they'll be gone before then!).

Tip: when measuring the honey, coat the measuring spoon lightly with oil first. The honey will slide off the spoon easily. 

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Christmas Décor

The tree is trimmed, the stockings are hung, the table is set with a wintry theme. A cute little Santa given to me by a friend for Christmas one year has taken his place on a table in the living room. Even though it feels like spring outside (no snow this year), the cheer inside our home and around town clearly feels like Christmas.

Earlier this month marked the one-year anniversary of My Little Bungalow. I'd like to thank everyone, especially my regular visitors and commenters, for all the support and interest you've shown this past year. I wish you and your family a joyous, safe and peaceful holiday and happy, healthy New Year.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Fudge Sauce

Homemade fudge sauce makes a sweet Christmas gift, especially when it's packaged in a cute canning jar and tied with pretty ribbon. I use this easy recipe from Real Simple magazine, found here.


Fudge Sauce

1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
12 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (I use semisweet chocolate chips)
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
In a saucepan, combine heavy cream and corn syrup over medium heat and bring to a boil.
Remove from heat and whisk in chocolate until melted. Stir in the vanilla.
Pour sauce into jars and cool completely before covering or refrigerating, otherwise the sauce will become granular. The sauce keeps up to 1 month in the refrigerator.
To reheat a small amount of sauce (for one or two servings), microwave in a small cup for 10 seconds; check and stir. If needed, microwave another 5 or 10 seconds. Do not overheat!

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Felt Poinsettias

To be quite honest, I am not very "crafty." I love the idea of making things. I clip articles and save interesting papers, ribbons and such with the best intentions of making beautiful things with them. But they tend to sit on a shelf, waiting. I admire people who are good at making things by hand. I want to be like that!

The other day I was on the Better Homes and Gardens website when I came across instructions on how to make these cute felt poinsettias -- a craft that doesn't require any sewing. I thought, "I can do that!" So I did. 

To make these flowers, you need only a few items: paper, felt, scissors, glue. You can use these as ornaments on the tree with a little string attached to the back, or as decoration on wrapped presents.

P.S. I skipped the whole freezer paper step (what is freezer paper, anyway?). Instead, I printed and cut out the flower and petal templates and traced them directly onto the felt using a ballpoint pen. Just be sure to cut out the shapes a tiny bit inside the outline so you don't see any of the pen marks. Couldn't be easier!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Bringing Home a Tree

Two weeks before Christmas is usually when we put up our Christmas tree. Today we went to our local tree lot and picked out a tree. At first we were contemplating a small tree, much smaller than usual. Then we saw another one, not as large as many trees we've had in the past, but it fits our space perfectly. Here it is on top of our Christmas-green Element.

We brought the girls with us; they enjoyed sniffing the garland.

Here is the tree before being decorated. The tree skirt I found at Home Goods last year after what seemed like an eternity of searching for one that didn't cost a fortune. I like the color, the quilting and the little beads all around the edge. The house is already starting to smell like pine -- such a beautiful scent!

Now it's time to decorate while enjoying some egg nog and listening to Christmas music on Pandora. It's a wonderful time of the year, isn't it?

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

My Favorite Kitchen Tools

Recently, as I was busy cooking, I started thinking about the different tools and kitchen items I really love using and appreciate the most. So I thought I'd make a list of my top 10 favorite kitchen tools to share with you.
  1. KitchenAid mixer. By far, this is my favorite small appliance. I've had it for years and it's a dependable workhorse. I have a grinder attachment for it too which is handy for making fresh cranberry-orange relish at Thanksgiving.
  2. Wusthof Classic Ikon knives: a 17 cm chef's knife and an 8 cm paring knife. I especially love the chef's knife, which I asked my husband to buy for me as a birthday present one year. He gets a little nervous when I use it, but I'm very careful -- haven't cut myself yet (knock on wood).
  3. Braun immersion blender. Makes blending right in the pot a snap! And it cleans up easily. My mom gave it to me as a bridal shower gift many years ago. Love it!
  4. Regular, full-size blender. We use it frequently for making smoothies. It's starting to show signs of aging (in the form of an unpleasant smell), so we might be shopping for a new one before too long. Couldn't live without a blender!
  5. All-Clad odd-sized measuring cups: 2/3, 3/4 and 1-1/2 cup measures. These really do save time and are very convenient. I also have a set of odd-sized measuring spoons.
  6. Flat-sided chopsticks. Perfect for leveling off flour, sugar, baking powder and spices when measuring.
  7. Duralex glass bowls. The 11-piece set, made in France, ranges from very small to very large. They are so durable and practical!
  8. My mom's old wooden spoon and potato masher. I've had a special fondness for this particular wooden spoon since I was a little girl. Now I think of my mother whenever I use it. The potato masher is another old tool which makes the best mashed potatoes. I've tried other mashers, but they can't compare to this one. (A tip that I learned from my mom: use onion powder in your mashed potatoes for a special flavor - delicious!).
  9. Microplane fine grater. I use this mostly for zesting citrus fruits. It's also useful for grating fresh ginger.
  10. Pizza stone. I attended a Pampered Chef party several years ago and bought a stoneware baker, which I was never going to use (it was a purchase under pressure). A friend who had the pizza stone offered to switch with me. I use the stone all the time for making homemade pizzas.a
What are your favorite kitchen tools?

Friday, December 2, 2011

Home Fragrance

One of my favorite little luxuries for the home is Goldleaf fragrance mist by Thymes. Goldleaf is an incredibly rich, sensuous and romantic fragrance, described as predominantly floral with oriental and green notes: jasmine, rose, hyacinth and lily of the valley on a background of oak moss and musk. It is truly a lovely fragrance, and would make a great hostess gift at the holidays.

In addition to room spray, I have a Goldleaf candle and hand soaps in the bathroom. Other items in the collection include body wash, hand lotion, bubble bath, and eau de parfum.

What is your favorite home fragrance? Do you lean toward clean scents like citrus and florals, like rose or lavender? Or do you prefer spicy, earthy scents like musk, cinnamon or pine? What's your favorite way to scent your home?

Photo credit: Thymes This is not a sponsored post.
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