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festivities

9 In festivities/ holiday/ style

gift guide: the unicorn life

I’ve obviously gotten great joy out of living this unicorn life, and since the holidays are truly the season of giving, I’m sharing some of the glittery goodness with y’all this Black Friday. I’m kicking off a series of 5 holiday gift guides today with all things shimmery, metallic, sparkly,  unicorn…

unicorn-gift-guide

 

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0 In festivities/ lifestyle

spoiling my valentines, long distance

galentines-ready-to-mail

One of the things I like least about living in Los Angeles is that the majority of my closest girlfriends don’t. Several are still in New Orleans, others in Denver and DC, NYC and Chicago. If we were all in LA, I’d totally be hosting a festive floral Galentine’s lunch, but I had to be a little more creative and employ USPS to spoil my sweeties this Valentine’s Day.

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Planning ahead, I had scored a tarte lipsurgence gift set at ulta during their awesome holiday sale. I broke it up, choosing one for each girl, and used my Silhouette to cut little triangular boxes out of pink glitter damask and chevron card stock, as well as some recycled Vera Bradley file folders. I also included a nail polish or pair of mini polishes, and  some classic conversation hearts!

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Finding any excuse to practice my handlettering, I had a little fun decorating them. I’m a total Targetaholic, and am still loving these gold-and-white washi tapes and labels from Sugar Paper‘s holiday collection. And the dollar spot came through with some darling Valentine’s stickers to add a little more love to these pretty pink packages.

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I’ll own it’s a totally manufactured Hallmark holiday, but regardless, I adore these ladies, and loved sending them a little sweetness this Valentine’s Day.
loveRavayna 

1 In festivities/ food/ recipes

a bacon bouquet

pig-candy-bacon-bouquet-for-you

I may be a sucker for nearly any flowers, but not everyone feels that way. David has zero interest in almost all of my floral arrangements, that is, except for when I make a candied bacon bouquet. It’s a perfect Valentine’s Day treat for anyone, especially an enthusiastic carnivore.

candying-the-bacon

One of our favorite restaurants at home in New Orleans, Elizabeth’s, makes the most amazing praline bacon. Over the years, I’ve refined my hot-and-sweet candied bacon recipe- we served twenty pounds of pig candy on our wedding dessert buffet, and I make it regularly for friends, family, special occasions and no reason whatsoever.

wrapping-the-pig-candy

For such an impressive display, it’s not an unreasonable amount of work. Yes, drilling holes in the bottom of your mini-muffin pan (wearing eye protection, pleaseandthanks) may take a minute, but that just gives you the ability to whip up a batch of bacon roses anytime.

pulling-the-petals makin-bacon-bouquet

 

Candied Bacon Roses

 

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Ingredients

  • 1 lb thin cut applewood smoked bacon
  • 2 cups dark brown sugar
  • cayenne pepper
  • Aleppo or other chile pepper, optional

Supplies

  • mini-muffin pan
  • electric drill
  • Several stems of artificial roses (3 in pictured bouquet, from dollar tree)
  • aluminum foil
  • cookie sheet

 

Preparation 

  1. Preheat oven to 375′. Carefully drill drainage holes in the bottom of each well of the muffin pan. Wash and dry well, and place on foil-lined cookie sheet.
  2. Mix brown sugar with enough cayenne/pepper to have an intense sweet-spicy balance,  to your liking. We like ours hot, but start with a half teaspoon or so.
  3. Working with one slice of bacon at a time, dredge both sides of bacon in spiced sugar, pressing to adhere. Gently shake off any excess, and roll slice up into a rose bud shape. Place into muffin pan, and repeat until pan is full.
  4. Bake for 25 minutes, until rendered and deep brick red. You may need to lift rosebuds on occasion to let grease drain. They will firm as they render, but not fully crisp until cool.
  5. Meanwhile, strip blooms from floral stems and wash stems well. Place cooled bacon roses on stems, arrange pleasingly, and spoil your valentine deliciously.

 

loveRavayna

 

2 In festivities/ recipes

vanilla squared marshmallows 

marsh-hotcocotray

I’d always been intimidated by homemade marshmallows, until I discovered that they’re astonishingly easy with the help of a candy thermometer and stand mixer. I first made these marshmallows last holiday season, and they may have ruined me for commercially-made ones forever. They’re irresistible by the handful,  super soft and flavorful, and they quickly go molten and so delicious when roasted or topping a hot drink.

marsh-sugarpour punchC-bourbonmarsh-vanillascrape

The name’s a bit punny. For serious flavor, I use homemade bourbon vanilla, along with scraping in a whole vanilla bean and adding a touch of almond for the NOLA nectar homage. I cut them into cubes mostly for speed and ease, and I find being generous with the starch-and-sugar mixture super helpful- I even fill a shaker with it.

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I’m all about the edible treats as holiday gifts… I make and share small batches of goodies all season long. So I filled sweet little holly-print boxes with marshmallows and curled shiny red ribbon for festive treats to be given to friends.

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These marshmallows melt so incredibly, they elevate simple hot cocoa to a fantastical treat. I behave like a five year old and just keep piling marshmallows into my cup.  Despite sticky-fingered snacking and the distraction of Elf, we even managed to get a few presents wrapped, so I’ll call it a winter evening success.

 

Vanilla Squared Marshmallows

(adapted from Alton Brown’s homemade marshmallows

Ingredients

  • 3 packages unflavored gelatin
  • 1 cup ice cold water, divided
  • 12 ounces granulated sugar, about 1 1/2 cups
  • 1 cup light corn syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 whole vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon bourbon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
  • 1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • nonstick cooking spray

 

Preparation 

  1. Empty gelatin and 1/2 cup of the water into bowl of stand mixer with whisk attachment. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and powdered sugar.  Spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with cooking spray. Add some of the sugar-cornstarch mixture and shake about to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan. Return excess to the bowl, set aside.
  2. In a small saucepan, combine remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, attach candy thermometer to the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, about 7 minutes. Watch carefully and immediately remove from heat.
  3. Start the mixer on low. While running, slowly pour the hot sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture- be careful! Once all of the syrup is added, increase speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes- it will be steamy at first.  Add the vanilla and almond extracts during the last minute of whipping.
  4. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan, using an oiled spatula if needed to spread evenly. Dust the top with enough of the sugar-starch mixture to lightly cover, saving the rest for later. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.
  5. Once set, turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board or counter dusted with sugar-starch. Cut into strips and then squares using a pizza wheel. Lightly dust all sides of each cut marshmallow with the remaining mixture. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks.

marsh-hotcocotray

The cocoa I serve is adapted from this one– I add cinnamon and a sprinkle each of cardamom and cayenne. It makes a rich semisweet cocoa that is perfect with the melting marshmallows. Feel free to thin with more milk or sweeten further, but homemade cocoa is so easy and delicious the packets simply don’t compare.

 

loveRavayna

 

 

0 In festivities/ home/ recipes

home for the holidays

decktheH-plated-long

As much as I love latkes, I can’t eat them for 8 nights straight if I want to fit into my clothes. So I make a point of experimenting with and serving other foods with Jewish and Israeli foods as we celebrate Hannukah.

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Having made several variations of chocolate babka in the past, Smitten Kitchen’s simplification of Yotam Ottolenghi’s krantz cakes are hands down the best. I decided to up the ante a notch by raiding/catching up on my Valrhona x Trader Joe’s chocolate calendar  and including several different dark varieties, and it was a scrumptious life choice.

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The cutting and twisting stage can be a little iffy, but refrigerating the dough to stiffen the butter makes all the difference. And as long as you get it into the pan in some fashion, it will rise up just dandy. And yes, I have to use a mug of water to humidify my microwave as a rising drawer- even in sunny SoCal, our house is an icebox.

decktheH-bobka-done1decktheH-bobka-presenting1

I lose all self-control around this yumminess- that little pan of ends was history before I’d even finished glazing the loaves. With Hanukkah falling early this year, we’re celebrating the miracle of light as we prepare and decorate for our annual holiday open house, which we’re hosting this weekend.

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The babka made for some scrumptious Hanukkah bush decorating fuel. The moist and tender brioche was swirled generously with melted chocolate, and warm slices paired perfectly with glasses of icy cold milk.

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We don’t go too overboard with holiday decor. As much as I love the way it looks, I have limited patience for the untangling and wrangling, putting up and taking down, organizing and storing, and David even less so.  My mom is a holiday superdecorator and I’m nowhere near her level,  so I’m just grateful that she gifted us the majority of those gorgeous vintage glass ornaments.

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But I loooooooveee the smell of a live tree in the house, so every year we wind up at the tree lot. It’s the same story, different year- I try and talk David into a 9 footer or the like, he laughs in my face. Then we inspect no less than a dozen (more reasonably sized) trees until I find the perfect one. And once we get it home, I’m hanging onto the mantle or teetering on the arm of the couch to perch the sparkly fleur de lis on the top.

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There’s a lot of love on this little table. The chanukiah was a wedding present, and my mother in law crocheted the tablecloth as a gift for me. We collected the pinecones hiking in Big Bear during our 2nd wedding anniversary getaway, then cleaned and glittered them.  I can’t help but smile when I see it all- it’s simple but special.

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David got me a new MacBook Air last month, and his new camera body arrived a few weeks ago. Since we’re already using and loving our big gifts this year, we’re exchanging  smaller treats each night. Some are useful, like the previous night’s Restoration Hardware foot duvets (graphite for David, grey for me), some are indulgent, like these gorgeous rose gold and brown abalone Kendra Scott earrings, and some are silly, like the box of practical jokes and disguises David proceeded to open.

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With all the travel I’ve clocked this year (24 round trips in 2015) it’s been really amazing to have put up the suitcases for the year.  To just spend some time around the house, making it fun and festive, just gives me all the warm and fuzzy feelings.

loveRavayna

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