Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Two Bite Tuesday ~

My daughter, Brandi happens to do a really mean...and by that I mean really good to-die-for, ganache chocolate covered strawberry. These days, she's keeping herself pretty busy so when I needed a gorgeous and special Thank You gift, I discovered this incredible gem from Incredible Berries. They are every bit as beautiful and delicious as they look. Don't they look just divine?

First Bite ~ Fall Harvest Berries from Incredible Berries by Golden Edibles.

When I purchased this next bite, I thought I would be using it only to make mini cheesecakes. I never imagined how great a find this really would turn out to be.

Second Bite ~ William Sonoma "Magic" Mini Cheesecake Pan...oh how I l.o.v.e. this pan.
I love these little wine jelly topped dreamy cheesecakes. They bring an extra bit of sophistication to your dessert table.

I am really excited to try this gorgeous cranberry and white chocolate snowflake topped cheesecake.

And finally, I love this little lemon lime cake created in Stephanie's Kitchen using the mini cheesecake pan. All three of these desserts will be served at our Christmas Tea in a couple of weeks.

Friday, November 19, 2010

We have a winner!

Congratulations Suze!

Comment #21 generated by random.org belongs to Suze and your sweet little golden pumpkin is on its way and I do hope you enjoy it as part of your Thanksgiving holiday decor.

Thanks so much to everyone who took the time to stop by and enter.  These are so easy to make and such fun that I purchased some additional velvet in burgundy, black, and cream and I plan on making more of them so stay tuned in the coming weeks for another fun giveaway! ~ Blessings, Janet

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Garden Surprises ~ What's purple & white & shaped like an egg?

So I hesitated to pull this beautiful lush eggplant from my raised bed because, even though it too late in the season to produce any fruit, it began throwing these adorable little purple flowers. I loved looking at it and it wasn't hurting anything so I let it grow. A few weeks later I was looking through the plant...just in case :-) and there they were; three adorable egg shaped purple and white striped baby eggplants!
My "Ornamental Eggplant"

Cute little babies, aren't they? Now my favorite way to eat eggplant is, of course, breaded and fried, Southern Style like my dad makes. However, since we are attempting to consume more healthy foods, I'm going to try this recipe I found in a new issue of Woman's Day Comfort Foods...I know, doesn't sound healthy, but you decide. I'm posting the recipe so you can try it too...if you like :-).
Ratatouille & White Beans (served with polenta or crusty bread)
Ratatouille & White Beans

1 medium eggplant (1 1/2 lb)
3 Medium zucchini (1 1/2 lb)
2 bell peppers
2 large leeks, chopped
1 can (28 oz) fire-roasted diced tomatoes, drained
1 can (8 oz) tomato sauce
1/4 cup golden raisins
2 T olive oil
1 T minced garlic
1 t dried oregano
1/2 t each of salt and pepper
1 can (15 oz) cannellini beans
1/4 cup sliced fresh basil
2 T red wine vinegar

1) Cut eggplant, zucchini and peppers into 1-in pieces; place in a 6-qt slow cooker, Add leeks, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, raisins, 1tablespoon oil, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Toss until well mixed.
2) Cover and cook on low 6 to 8 hour or on high 4 to 5 hours until vegetables are tender. Add beans; cook on high 15 minutes more. Stir in remaining 1 tablespoon oil, fresh basil and vinegar.
3) Sprinkle with additional sliced basil, if using. Sever over polenta or with crusty bread.

Just in case your interested in the Nutritional side of it: 241 cal, 9 g pro. 40 g car, 10 g fiber, 6 g fat (1 g sat fat), 0 mg chol, 718 mg sod.

Sounds easy enough for one of those crazy week nights. ~ Blessings, Janet

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Thanksgiving Traditions

I may have mentioned it before, either here or over in my Journal, but I am really a sucker for tradition. I love things that I can count on. Maybe it's because I'm insecure, or maybe it's because I'm a control freak...or maybe I'm just sentimental :-) but I can make a tradition, or maybe it's actually a ritual, out of just about any activity. Years ago I decided that Rick and I would make a tradition/ritual out of roasting our turkey.
Photo via Rick's sister, Kathy Way (on her piece of Heaven)

It starts at the grocery store. We pick out the biggest 11 turkeys (Rick's idea) that we can find and we donate 10 of them to our local Salvation Army. (Rick really loves that part :-). I love it too, but I really love that he loves it :-). Then on Thanksgiving Day, Rick and I work together to prepare the turkey. He cleans the bird while I chop up and prepare all of the makings for the stuffing. We talk about the wild turkeys on our property back in New York and how he thinks that the turkey should actually be the national bird. (Something we sort of disagree on). We use Susan Branch's wonderful Roast Turkey recipe every year. We preheat the oven to 450 and then turn it down when the bird goes in the oven. We start with the turkey upside down and then turn it after an hour and a half. Rick is the baster meister and he lovingly (okay, methodically ~ he's an engineer) bastes the turkey with melted butter every 20 minutes for the next two point something hours, until it begins to make it's own basting juices.
Photo via Janet Ellis

I don't know if it is the recipe, or the love that goes into creating this meal, but it is the moistest, most flavorful and tender turkey I have ever eaten. There is a school of thought that believes that food that is lovingly and consciously prepared actually tastes better and is better for you. It kind of makes sense in an organic and God centered way, don't you think?

So now I'm off to create lists, and shop, and decorate...~ Blessings, Janet (and clean and do laundry :-/)

And don't forget to enter my Thanksgiving Lynne Bonnell inspired Velvet Pumpkin Giveaway ~ Tomorrow is the last day :-)!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Two Bite Tuesday ~ I'm Having an Affair and All That Glitters

I have a confession to make. It's been going on for years, decades really. This is really hard, but...okay...here it is. I'm in love. And you're probably thinking, You tramp, that's not love, that's lust. I'm sorry to say that this is real love, the kind of unconditional love that every woman yearns for, the kind that loves you back. The kind that makes you think of Paris in the spring; or summer, or fall, or winter for that matter.

First Bite ~ We met in the frozen dessert section of our local grocery store in...uhh...well, around 1992 and I never looked back.

Meet my love {Sorry Cheese Guy}
I love waking up with you ♥
It feels so good to get that out in the open. I feel like I can breathe again. And I hope this isn't too shocking, but I'm inviting him over for Thanksgiving. He will fit in just perfectly among the pumpkin and apple pies and Dad's pecan bars. Which brings me to my next sinful find.

Second Bite ~ You probably noticed that the little gems above are not homemade ~~~~ gasp! I don't care...I love them...and to dress them up and make them a bit more presentable for the holiday I discovered Edible Gold! Now, I wasn't raised in a cave somewhere. I knew it existed. I just didn't know it was affordable for a typical middle class woman like myself. I thought you could just get it in Steven Bruce's $25,000 Chocolate Sundae. But lo and behold...it's everywhere! Sur la table, Michael's, ABC Cake Decorating. and all over the internet! Wow Steve, you've got quite the gig there. I know, I'm sounding a little bit like Kelly Pickler here when she discovered that people ate lobster :-).

All I want is a Band of Gold
Can't you just picture them now though...lined up neatly in a row on white serving tray, glistening, beckoning...come bring me your sweetness {Those are lyrics from the song "With you I'm Born Again} I don't know why, but chocolate...and gold seem to elicit memories of old love songs. ~ Enjoy

Oh...and here's a pic of that pricey sundae ~ Just in case you didn't see it back in 2007. There are no words for the insanity. I'll take my $6.00 whole box of mini chocolate eclairs thank you. :-) and I'll top them with my own gold.
Photo courtesy of Mail Online
And I almost forgot...don't forget to enter my Luxurious Velvet Pumpkin Giveaway! After reading this, you may want the gold one! :-) ~ Blessings, Janet

Monday, November 15, 2010

{Giveaway} ~ Win an adorable handmade Luxurious Velvet Pumpkin!

So here it is, my first solo giveaway! As you know I fell in L.O.V.E. with Lynne Bonnell's lovely handcrafted velvet pumpkins earlier this month. I even bought two of them and then decided that I wanted more. But at around $40 a piece, it was a little spendy so I went about figuring out how to make them. I showed them off at our Fall Family Brunch and now I want to share one of them with one of you! They are 6 - 7 inches wide made of a soft velvet and are topped with real pumpkin stems. They come in either the majestic purple, sun-kissed gold, or earthy brown (you decide :-)

Sun-Kissed Gold
Majestic Purple
Earthy Brown

How to Enter:
{Please leave a separate comment for each entry}

Just leave a comment letting us all know what you are Thankful for this year.

There are so many things I have to be thankful for that I could post a whole year of blogs about it. I'm sure you could too :-) So I'll just share that I'm thankful to be hosting Thanksgiving Dinner this year and that Rick will be taking the week off so that we can enjoy the preparation together.
Please don't forget to leave your email address so that I can contact you immediately if you win! I'd like to mail this Adorable Velvet Pumpkin out on Friday so you get it before Thanksgiving! :-)

Extra Entries

1. "Like" The Skinny on Mini on Facebook and leave us a comment here letting me know.
2. Follow my blog, let me know you're a new follower by leaving a comment
3. Follow Skinny on Mini on Twitter and leave a comment letting me know you're a follower.
4. Tweet, Facebook or Blog about this giveaway and leave me a link to your tweet or post.
1. The giveaway will run from Monday, November 15, 2010 to Thursday, November 18, 2010 at 11:59 pm (MST). Any entries after this time will not be considered.
2. One winner will be chosen using Random.org.
3. The giveaway is open to U.S. residents only.
4. The winner will be contacted on Friday, November 19, 2010. If you do not leave your email address in your entry I will not be able to contact you and I will have to choose another winner.

Good Luck!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Two Bite Tuesday ~ The Vinegar Tasters and Fancy Butter

There's been so much going on lately and I've had so may great finds that I had an interesting time choosing just two to share today. Finally though, here they are:

First Bite ~ Since discovering Balsamic Vinegar a few years ago, I've become a bit of a vinegar snob, maybe snob isn't the right word. Enthusiast works better. Snob implies that I know what I'm talking about, and I don't. I just know what I like :-). These vinegars come from Cucina Olive Oils, an adorable little olive oil and vinegar shop just a few miles from my house. The shop really is like a little wine tasting room with vats of flavored olives oils from around the world on one side and vats of flavored vinegars on the other side.
Photo via Janet Ellis
It is pomegranate season here in the southwest and my grandmother has a tree abundant with big juicy ripe fruit. Yeah! I love the sweet/tart flavor of Pomeranian (I mean pomegranate :-/ Have never eaten a Pomeranian )and it is really just lovely in a salad. It is also lovely in a balsamic vinaigrette dressing. That's the first bottle. I also chose a cinnamon pear because it just sounded like it would make either a delicious dressing for a beautiful pear Gorgonzola salad or a nice glaze for a fall dinner.

 Second bite ~ This little goodie comes from a little shopping excursion to ABC Cake Decorating last week. I was just going for some candy gift boxes and you can't just walk in there and not browse. I ran across these little candy molds in the shape of turkeys and poinsettias, and while I'm not into molding candy, I thought that serving turkey shaped butter pats for Thanksgiving and poinsettia shaped butter pats for Christmas would be a nice touch and they were only a couple of dollars a piece.

The picture doesn't really do them justice but the butter came out really cute. Use real stick butter, allow it to soften so that you can spread it into the molds. Check it for air pockets on the front (learned the hard way) and then pop them in the freezer for a bit to harden. Then just pop them out of the molds. I did a few for our Family Brunch and they turned out pretty cute. What do you think? A nice little touch without a whole lot of effort.
Turkey Butter Pats
I think I'll do up a bunch ahead for Thanksgiving and Christmas and store them on sheets of wax paper. They'll be so cute at every place setting. By the way...still working on that Velvet Pumpkin Giveaway...Brandi is at Disneyland as I write this, so I may have to go it on my own and I've never done one by myself. We'll see how it goes if I can figure it out in the next couple of days....stay tuned :-)))

Monday, November 8, 2010

Family Fall Brunch ~ A New Family Tradition

I wrote a little about the importance of creating and maintaining traditions in my Journal last week and I wanted to share a new one we have just created to keep our family connected during this busy fall season. We decided we would do a simple brunch so that we could just relax and be able to connect without really having anything else going on. The boys (Rick, Christopher and Sean) spend a little down time bonding over football, while Brandi and I do what we love doing ~ together; hanging out in the kitchen, making pretties, and trying out new things. The kids all came over yesterday and we enjoyed this adorable simple little brunch. Brandi and I both L.O.V.E a pretty setting, so we brought out her newest Fall Collection from Tweedle Dee Designs and I'd love to share it with you here.

So first we start with her simple yet sophisticated invitation and favor tags. I love the rich color palette she chose with the Napa Valley Grape, Pumpkin Orange, Earthy Autumn Browns, Olive Greens and Sun Kissed Golds. Just gorgeous.

Photos via Brandi Van Leer
 Like most families, we have a lot of family recipes and as you know, I am compiling a Through the Seasons family cookbook and I was happy to see Brandi adding recipe cards to her collection. It is such a great idea for families to pass down those beloved recipes, don't you think? How do you pass along your favorites?
Photo via Brandi Van Leer

Our brunch was simple: We started with Mimosas, Coffee, and Cranberry Juice along with adorable Mini Donuts and Homemade Cinnamon Rolls and then went on to Fluffy Scrambled Eggs, Big Flaky Biscuits and Turkey Shaped Butter Pats, Maple Bacon and Sausage and Aunt Mary's Potatoes. I love Brandi's labels too. They always give a gathering that extra special touch.
Photo via Brandi Van Leer
And, of course, no one goes home empty handed because there are always plenty of leftovers to send along. Brandi's little leftover tags solve the problem of which container goes home with whom. Everyone has their favorite dish and you can't tell which food is in which containers so these will be an awesome little help.I love this idea...and they are so cute!

Photo via Brandi Van Leer
 Remember the adorable velvet pumpkins I wrote about last week here and here? Well, here they are! Super simple, super cute and I am absolutely in love with the colors! They are a perfect little addition to my fall decor. Thank you Lynne Bonnell for your wonderful inspiration. I ♥ you :-)
Photo via Brandi Van Leer
Didn't they turn out adorable? I've got enough fabric to complete a few more. Brandi generously offered to loan me a space to sell them in her Etsy Shop...still thinking about that one :-) But, I thought it might be fun to do a giveaway. What do you think? :-)

If you are as in love with Brandi's adorable Fall Collection as I am, you can buy the downloadable files over in her Etsy Shop. She's got them at 50% off and at just $9.50, that's a screaming deal! I know, shameless promotion for my daughter but I just have to share something this adorable, right? :-)

Keep going and don't miss out on my weekend report of Candace's birthday gathering. It was so cute that it deserved it's own post as well...so it's double fun today! Enjoy! ~ Blessings, Janet

Happy Birthday Candace {Part I}

You'll recall that on Friday I was getting ready for a couple of sweet gatherings we were either attending or hosting over the weekend. My good friend Candace turned 55 on Saturday and we enjoyed a little gathering in her gorgeous backyard. I love Candace's backyard. She's got giant pine trees, citrus and apple trees, and a huge purple flowering jacaranda. At dusk, Hunt turned on the  mini lights and the yard just glittered and sparkled. It was just beautiful...and inviting. Hopefully I have more pics coming from her camera, but these are a couple of the dessert trays I contributed. Happily, everyone enjoyed them.

Créme Brûlée and Russian Cream

Light and Fluffy Chocolate Mousse
Strawberry topped Mini Cheesecake
Her favorite colors (minus lime green :-)
It was a delightful party and she was thrilled with all of the fun party foods everyone contributed. They included a delicious grilled cherry smoked bacon wrapped shrimp (Delish!!!!), perfectly seasoned and sauced meatballs, a cheese platter to die for, bruchetta that made me want to watch Eat, Pray, Love again, an edible fruit arrangement fit for kings, amazing local succulent olives and tangy tummy tingling caper berries (YUM!)

Friday, November 5, 2010

Weekend Gatherings

With brunch on Sunday and my very good friend, Candace's birthday gathering tomorrow, it is looking like a busy weekend. Candace called me earlier in the week and wanted to do a small gathering for her birthday...my favorite kind :-). I'm sort of an introvert so me + big crowds = anxiety². She asked for no gifts, just a variety of my mini desserts sooooooo here's what I'm planning.

Photo via Janet Ellis
I know it doesn't look very exciting yet, but I needed to see what desserts would present well in the mini serving dishes. So here's what I'm thinking: Mini Cheesecake, Russian Cream, Cream Bruleé, Chocolate Mousse, and some sort of fall dessert. Maybe a Mini Apple Cobbler or Mini Pumpkin Tart. What do you think?

This is the other project I have going for Sunday's brunch. I love the little velvet pumpkins I wrote about here and I actually bought two of them (a sage and a cream) over at Domestic Bliss. They are on my bedside table...so cute. I wanted more for my hutch...and at $20-$40 a piece, I thought making them would be fun.

Photo via Janet Ellis ~ Pumpkin Project
I chose three colors of velvet; a gold, purple, and brown that all go fabulously with Brandi's Tweedle Dee Designs, Fall Collection. I found the real pumpkin stems over at Mother Nature's Farm for 25 cents. I can't wait to see them finished. I'll be sure and post pics so you can see too! Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Two Bite Tuesday ~ Living Artfully

On Sunday I had the pleasure of attending the Holistic Health Fair which was held at The Southwest Institute of Healing Arts where one of my good friends, Terry Parvan of Winifred Street was showing her beautiful affirmation art. It was only her second show and people were flocking to her table. As I wriggled my way through the crowd and approached her table, I saw why.

First Bite ~ I spied this sunny yellow acrylic original with the affirmation I AM AUTHENTIC. It spoke to me and told me exactly where it wanted it's forever home to be. So I brought it home and lovingly placed it on the wall in my office where I can look up at it many times a day. It is a beautifully gentle reminder to keep it real.

Photo via Janet Ellis ~ Original Acrylic by Terry Parvan and Winifred Street
All of the backgrounds on these fabulous works of art are yellow. Terry then layers each piece in a beautiful palette of color so they really will go with any decor. Genius!  She says that she wants to spread a bit of sunshine around the world. Each piece is infused with love and as a new owner I can tell you, I feel it. It's like getting a {{big}} hug every time I look at it.

Second bite ~ This adorable find is inspired by Lynne Bonnell, another inspiring local artist. I have been putting off decorating my home for the fall season because I am just not feeling the old stuff. It just seems tired. No wonder, it's like a decade old! So when I saw these gorgeous, scrumptious, deliciously beautiful velvet pumpkins I fell in L.O.V.E. Seriously beautiful, yes? Yes!

Photo via The Willows
You can find Lynne's gorgeous pumpkins over at The Willows, a local boutique and I am just trying to decide what colors to purchase. They even come in turquoise! Be still my heart ♥!