Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pop the Bubbly

Since tonight is a very champagne-y holiday you should brush up on your champagne serving.



Chill to 40 or 45 degrees. 
The first step is to make sure the champagne is chilled correctly. According to Napolitano, the best serving temperature is about 40 to 45 degrees Fahrenheit.

Use an ice bucket. 
If you need to chill a bottle quickly, get a bucket, fill it with ice and water, and stick the bottle inside for about fifteen minutes. Never put a bottle of champagne in the freezer to get it cold, as it could explode. 

Turn the bottle, not the cork. 
Here's the trick to opening up a bottle of champagne: turn the bottle while holding the cork, rather than vice versa. Never use a corkscrew or cork pull like you would with an ordinary bottle of wine. The carbonation of the champagne creates pressure in the bottle that could send the cork flying across the room -- or into your eye.

Save the bubbles for the glass. 
Remove the cork carefully; you want to hear a soft, muffled pop. The softer the pop, the more carbon dioxide you preserve. And since the carbon dioxide bubbles are what make champagne special, you don't want to waste them by spraying foam all over the place locker room style. 

Serve in a tall flute. 
Serve champagne in a tall flute or tulip shaped glass. Pour only about an ounce into a glass and then wait for the rise of the bubbles to subside. Pour again, filling the glass about two-thirds full. Return the bottle to the ice bucket until you serve again. 

text from fineliving.com

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

8 Great from 2008: Elizabeth + Kevin

Elizabeth + Kevin

all images from Romance of Flowers 

Monday, December 29, 2008

8 Great from 2008: Allison + Jeff

Allison + Jeff

images from Arthur Remanjon 

Sunday, December 28, 2008

8 Great from 2008: Sarah + Ben

Sarah + Ben

Saturday, December 27, 2008

8 Great from 2008: Betty + Jarrett

Betty + Jarrett

all images from Arthur Remanjon 

Friday, December 26, 2008

8 Great from 2008: Lindsey + Christopher

Lindsey + Christopher

8 Great from 2008

We've had an amazing year and in celebration of all of the fantastic weddings, parties, and celebrations we present:
8 Great from 2008
  Photos of some of our favorites from this year.
Enjoy!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Cookies!

Gingerbread Cookies


Ingredients
6 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for kneading
6 tablespoons baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 tablespoon ginger
Pinch of salt
5 tablespoons butter
3/4 cup honey
1 3/4 cups sugar
Juice of 2 lemons
Zest of 1 lemon
Zest of 1 orange
2 eggs

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

Sift the flour, baking powder, spices and salt together in a large bowl, and set aside.

In a small saucepan combine the butter, honey, sugar, lemon juice and the lemon and orange zest. Bring this to medium heat and cook until the butter has melted and the sugar has dissolved. Let cool to about room temperature and beat in the eggs.

Make a well in the flour/spice mixture and add the egg/sugar mixture to the well. Using a fork, begin to gradually incorporate the flour into the egg mixture. When the flour has mostly been incorporated, turn the mixture out onto a clean work surface and gently knead until the mixture is smooth and homogenous. Knead in a little more flour if the dough seems sticky. Chill dough for 1 hour or overnight.

Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to an even thickness of about 1/4-inch. Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place on a lightly greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet and bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cookies are firm and lightly browned. Let the cookies cool for 3 to 4 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack.

When the cookies are completely cool decorate, as desired.

Cook's Note: If you are planning to hang the cookies, make a hole for the string before baking.

Makes about 60 cookies.

image and recipe from the Food Network

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Perfect for Christmas Morning

Baked French Toast Casserole with Maple Syrup
Ingredients
1 loaf French bread (13 to 16 ounces)
8 large eggs
2 cups half-and-half
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash salt
Praline Topping, recipe follows
Maple syrup

Directions
Slice French bread into 20 slices, 1-inch each. (Use any extra bread for garlic toast or bread crumbs). Arrange slices in a generously buttered 9 by 13-inch flat baking dish in 2 rows, overlapping the slices. In a large bowl, combine the eggs, half-and-half, milk, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt and beat with a rotary beater or whisk until blended but not too bubbly. Pour mixture over the bread slices, making sure all are covered evenly with the milk-egg mixture. Spoon some of the mixture in between the slices. Cover with foil and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, preheat oven to 350 degrees F and bake for 40 minutes.  Serves 6-8 people.

Spread Praline Topping evenly over the bread and bake for 40 minutes, until puffed and lightly golden. Serve with maple syrup.

Praline Topping:
1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup chopped pecans
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Combine all ingredients in a medium bowl and blend well. Makes enough for Baked French Toast Casserole.

image and recipe from foodnetwork. recipe from Paula Deen

Monday, December 22, 2008

Holiday Cocktail

Frosty the Caramel Apple Pie
1-1/2 oz. vodka or tequila 
1 oz. Hiram Walker Butterscotch Schnapps 
1-1/2 oz. apple cider 
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice 
Apple slice for garnish 
Crushed graham crackers

Preparation:
First, rim the lip of a chilled cocktail glass with your crushed graham crackers. 
Pour all the liquid ingredients into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. 
Shake well. 
Strain into your chilled cocktail glass. 
Garnish with an apple slice.
Note: Serve over ice in a large wine goblet.

recipe and image from fineliving.com

Sunday, December 21, 2008

A Trifle Better Than Rachel's

Everyone remembers that episode of "Friends" when Rachel made the trifle.  The pages of the recipe stuck together and her dish was combined some sort of meat casserole.  Well, at least Joey liked it.  Let's hope your trifle turns out better than hers.
Chocolate Cherry Trifle
Ingredients
2 (approximately 2 ounces each) chocolate pound cakes
1/2 cup black cherry jam
1/2 cup cherry brandy
2 cups drained bottled sour cherries (Morello recommended)

Custard:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate minimum 70% cocoa solids, chopped
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon milk
1 1/3 cups plus 1 tablespoon heavy cream
8 egg yolks
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/3 cup cocoa

Topping:
3 cups heavy cream
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate

Special Equipment:  Large wide trifle bowl

Directions
Slice the chocolate pound cake and make jam sandwiches with the cherry jam, and layer the bottom of a large wide trifle bowl. Pour over the cherry brandy so that the cake soaks it up, and then top with the drained cherries. Cover with cling wrap and leave to macerate while you make the custard.

Melt the chocolate on low to medium heat in the microwave, checking after 2 minutes, though it will probably need 4 minutes. Or you can place it in a bowl over a pan of simmering water. Once the chocolate is melted, ser aside while you get on with the custard.

In a saucepan warm the milk and cream. Whisk the egg yolks, sugar, and cocoa in a large bowl. Pour the warm milk and cream into the bowl whisking it into the yolks and sugar mixture. Stir in the melted chocolate, scraping the sides well with a rubber spatula to get all of it in, and pour the custard back into the rinsed saucepan. Cook over a medium heat until the custard thickens, stirring all the time. Make sure it doesn't boil, as it will split and curdle. Keep a sink full of cold water so that if you get scared you can plunge the bottom of the custard pan into the cold water and whisk like mad, which will avert possible crisis.

The custard will get darker as it cooks and the flecks of chocolate will melt once the custard has thickened. And you do need this thick, so don't panic so much that you stop cooking while it is still runny. Admittedly, it continues to thicken as it cools and also when it's chilling in the refrigerator. Once it is ready, pour into a bowl to cool and cover the top of the custard with cling wrap to prevent a skin from forming.

When the custard is cold, pour and spread it over the chocolate cake layer in the trifle bowl, and leave in the refrigerator to set, covered in cling wrap overnight.

When you are ready to decorate, softly whip the cream for the topping and spread it gently over the layer of custard. Grate the chocolate over the top.

Makes 16 servings.


image and recipe from Food Network.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Go Eco Part 2

5 more Eco Friendly Resorts

Amanpulo, The Philippines
"Amanpulo is part of the lush Amanresorts group, a pioneer in promoting environmental responsibility since its first resort, Amanpuri, opened in Phuket, Thailand, in 1988. The company's properties are typically located in secluded island paradises where guest activities are focused on the natural world, and Amanpulo is no exception. But its environmental commitment is wide-reaching, especially within the local community. The kitchen sends food waste to local pig farmers, and the resort buys back the ensuing pork for staff meals. Amanpulo also offers the services of its staff physician to locals free of charge in case of medical emergencies, and awards two full, four-year Filipino college scholarships each year to local students who can't afford to continue their studies."



Jardim Atlantico, Portugal
"The Jardim Atlantico hotel on the island of Madeira has been eco-friendly since it first opened in 1993; the 30 environmental awards it's won since are a testament to its dedication. Conservation programs include super-energy efficient systems, constant monitoring of the hotel's impact on the surrounding landscape and a reforestation initiative.

There's also an 8,000-meter "Barefoot Walk," essentially a reflexology massage with every footstep. Guests walk along a path strewn with pinecones, mud, sand, pebbles and the leaves of laurel and eucalyptus trees; each element possesses unique healing properties. At the end of the path is a traditional Madeiran irrigation channel to refresh your feet after the walk."


Palm Key, Ridgeland South Carolina
"Palm Key is a low-impact marshland resort in South Carolina's Lowcountry that's perfect for nature lovers. Guests can wander through 3-1/2 miles of nature trails in the resort's maritime forest, where thousands of birds congregate at a time. The resort refrains from using chemicals on the lawns or landscape and has designed inverted crown roads throughout the property to protect the run-off into the marshlands."


Post Ranch Inn, Big Sur California
"This 100-acre nature preserve is home to a number of indigenous species, including several that are rare and endangered, including the California condor, wood stork and Western Pond Turtle. Guests can hike, bird watch and play amateur astronomer, but that's just the starting point. At Post Ranch Inn, bed sheets in the 40 rooms are made from 100 percent organic cotton, and the resort vehicles are all hybrids. The inn also provides on-property housing to 90 of its employees in an effort to reduce traffic and carbon emissions."


Tabacon Grand Spa Thermal Resort, Costa Rica
"Spa treatments at Tabacon use materials, such as coffee and coconut body scrubs and volcanic stone massage, which have been revered by local Mayan and native peoples for millennia. But the resort's practices behind the scenes are just as environmentally sound. Tabacon has pledged to become 100 percent carbon neutral in 2009, and is well on its way towards that goal. It has cut electricity consumption at the resort by 35 percent in just two years and has launched an ambitious tree-replanting program to offset the carbon generated by guests' transportation to the resort."






text and images from fineliving.com

Friday, December 19, 2008

Go Eco Part 1

Whether you're looking for your honeymoon or just a great trip for 2009 - here are some suggestions for resorts that are Eco-Friendly.

Bucuti Beach Resort, Aruba
"Environmentally aware couples who want a healthy dose of green with their luxury should head to Bucuti, an upscale couples resort where a dedicated employee Green Team encourages guests to participate in beach cleanups and recycling contests. All of the water used in showers, sinks and baths is collected in a grey-water recycling system, treated and then used to irrigate the grounds.
Bucuti is held up as an eco-friendly example in the travel industry, and managers from other resorts often visit to learn how to implement cutting-edge environmental practices at their own destinations."

Machaca Hill Lodge, Belize
"Machaca Hill Lodge at the Laughing Falcon Reserve is an 11,000-acre private nature reserve with plenty of opportunities for eco-tourists: miles of marked nature trails to explore; bird and wildlife watching; and kayaking and canoeing on the Rio Grande. The Lodge's environmental practices include composting, recycling and using non-toxic cleaners and pest control. Machaca Hill also has its own organic farm to supply vegetables, herbs and Valencia oranges to its restaurant."


Hyatt Regency Bonaventure, Weston, Florida
"The Bonaventure was the first property in its county to earn certification from Florida's Green Lodging Program for its eco-friendly initiatives. Within a month of replacing the incandescent light bulbs with compact fluorescent bulbs in all 501 guest rooms and common areas, the resort's energy bill was cut by more than $30,000. The hotel uses Smart Cars to ferry guests around, and the kitchen staff recruited a local elementary school to plant an organic herb garden."


Kauai Marriott Resort and Beach Club, Hawaii
"The Kauai Marriott Resort & Beach Club has tackled a massive energy drain common to resorts: It heats a 26,000 square-foot swimming pool solely via renewable energy. A power plant that consists of two propane-fueled Caterpillar engines produces 30 percent of the resort's power. The cast-off heat generated by the engines warms the 850,000-gallon swimming pool year-round. And at the Aupaka Terrace restaurant, guests use biodegradable, potato-based plastic flatware at the beachfront dining patio and tote take-out orders in containers made out of 100 percent biodegradable corn-based plastic."


Crystal Mountain Resort, Thompsonville, Michigin
"A year-round resort often presents more environmental challenges than one that opens seasonally, due to extreme changes in temperatures and diversity of activities. Resorts with a golf course and downhill skiing can consume an inordinate amount of energy to maintain the trails and greens. Crystal Mountain Resort buys enough wind credits to power their high-speed chairlift entirely with wind power, which keeps 174,000 pounds of carbon dioxide pollution out of the atmosphere. The resort's golf courses have been certified by the Michigan Turfgrass Environmental Stewardship Program, a statewide program with environmental guidelines that exceed state requirements."


Stop back tomorrow for 5 more resorts!
text and images from fineliving.com


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Snow!

If you're getting married in the winter, in the North, in Alaska, or at the Ice Hotel then you should probably think about some snow appropriate footwear.
Never fear - the perfect boots are out there.  You can get your outside photographs without losing your toes to frostbit or soaking through your heels.  Plus, they'll make for cute pictures and that's what it's really all about.

Juicy Couture Snowzip Boot

Ugg Snowpeak Tall Boot

Cole Haan Air Alexa Boot

Helly Hansen Skuld Boot

Ecco Winter Zone Boot
Who even knew there would be so many options for white boots?  All from Nordstrom.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Single Ladies Put Your Hands Up

Christina writes...
Get ready everybody.  I have a sinking feeling we're in for a lot of Beyonce's "Single Ladies (Put a Ring on It) song.  It has all the makes of the "perfect" bouquet toss song.  So come on single ladies - put your hands up.
And just in case you forgot the lyrics - here they are from SNL when they did the video re-make.  Hilarious.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Rings Around

Shopping for Your Wedding Ring


In the midst of your wedding plans, don’t forget to buy one of the most important elements of your big day – your wedding band. As fun as it is to buy new jewelry, your wedding ring is going to stay with you until death do you part. So, make sure you pick something you love. Here are a few things to consider before you make the big purchase.
Considering Cost
Although wedding rings tend to be less expensive than engagement rings, the price can skyrocket depending on what you are looking for. Two things will determine the cost of your wedding band: the type of metal you choose and whether or not you want any stones. Platinum is a heavier and more durable metal so it will be more expensive than gold. Also, if you want to have diamonds or other gemstones on the ring, it will add to the cost. Some brides prefer a simple wedding band without any stones, while others may love the sparkly look of the eternity band, with small diamonds all around. If you can’t buy exactly what you want now, remember there will be plenty of anniversaries ahead for upgrades.  

Ring Compatibility
Before you go shopping for your wedding band, consider your engagement ring. Do you want something that will match? Are you going to wear them together or separate? Does the wedding band style sit comfortably next to your engagement ring? Depending on whether or not you are going to wear both rings together, make sure they are a compatible fit. Some jewelry designers can make bands that are curved in shape to fit snuggly next to your engagement ring. Or perhaps you don’t want to wear both of them together, which gives you the freedom to choose any style your heart desires.
Suit Your Style
Odds are you’re going to wear your wedding ring every day, so make sure to pick something that suits your day to day style. Do you normally dress trendy, casual, or conservative? Choose a ring that matches your wardrobe. A conservative dresser may pick the classic gold or white gold band, while a trendy dresser may choose a set of stackable rings in different shades of gold such as yellow, white and rose. There is also the difference between brushed or polished wedding bands. A brushed ring gives a more modern look while a polished ring looks classic. Just remember, this piece of jewelry is going to be part of your everyday wardrobe, so choose a style that reflects your personality.
To Match or Not to Match?
If you and your fiancĂ© can’t agree on a ring style, don’t fret. There is no rule that says a couple must have matching wedding rings. With so many different styles out there, it’s only natural to like different things. For a unifying element, choose bands in the same kind of metal like platinum or gold. Or have your rings engraved with a message that is special to both of you. Be as creative or traditional as you’d like. Whether you choose identical bands or completely different styles, it will be a symbol of your love and that means more than anything.

image and text from thebrideandbloom.com

Monday, December 15, 2008

Holiday Drinking

A twist on the traditional.

Mulled Pom-Apple Cider


Ingredients
4 cups pomegranate juice
3 cups cider
6 dried pears
6 dried apples
2 to 3 strips orange zest
5 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
5 allspice berries
1 star anise
Brandy, rum, vodka or port

Directions
Put the pomegranate juice and cider in a large non-reactive pot along with the dried fruits, orange zest, and spices. Warm gently over low heat, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, about 30 minutes. Take care not to let the mixture boil. Serve in clear mugs or glasses with spices and dried fruit, and add a splash of your favorite liquor.

image and recipe from foodnetwork.com