Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Tasty Tuesday: Homemade Cranberry Bliss Bars

Last week, I mentioned my love for Starbucks Cranberry Bliss Bars. Their moist yet crumbly texture with juicy cranberries and yummy icing can lure me to a Starbucks from miles away. So the other day as I was searching for recipes to use during the holiday season, imagine my excitement when I found this homemade spin on my Christmastime love [via SeriousEats.com via Cakespy as an adaption of a recipe by Mr. Breakfast]. Read on for the mouthwatering recipe below. I can't wait to try this one out for some DIY gift deliciousness this Christmas!

Photo Credit: Jessie Oleson

- makes 16 bars -

Ingredients for cake base:

2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/4 cups brown sugar, firmly packed
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup white chocolate, coarsely chopped (I used Lindt)
1/4 cup candied ginger, finely chopped

Ingredients for frosting:

4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (optional)
dash of salt

Ingredients for garnish:

1/3 cup white chocolate (either chips, or coarsely chopped bar chocolate)
1/2 cup dried cranberries


1. Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly grease a 9x13 pan.

2. Make the cake. Beat butter and sugar together until fluffy; add the vanilla and eggs, one at a time, stirring well after each addition. Sift together flour, ground ginger, nutmeg, and salt and then add to the butter and sugar mixture, beating until fully incorporated. This will be a very thick batter. Fold in the cranberries, chocolate and ginger. Spread the batter in the pan and bake for about 30 minutes or until light golden. Let the cake cool before adding the frosting.

3. Make the frosting. Using the paddle attachment on an electric mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese together until fluffy; add the lemon zest, vanilla, and salt; add the confectioners' sugar bit by bit until the frosting has reached your desired consistency (you may need less than the suggested amount). Spread the frosting evenly over the cake, and scatter the cranberries on top of the frosting immediately.

4. Make the drizzle. In a double boiler, melt white chocolate; once it is smooth, use a spoon and drizzle across the top of the frosted and cranberry-festooned cake.

5. Slice the bars immediately after applying the white chocolate drizzle. Slice in half lengthwise, and then slice into four equal parts horizontally. Slice each rectangle in half diagonally, and you will end up with 16 triangle-shaped bars.



Monday, November 23, 2009

Etsy Monday: Vintage Christmas Lights

I know, I know. Old-fashioned Christmas lights are not only a possible fire hazard, they are a serious energy waster. But darn it if they aren't beautiful works of art! How can you resist something that brings back amazing childhood memories and makes your holiday decorating gorgeous and unique? I've rounded up some of the best Etsy has to offer in the way of vintage Christmas lights.

Photo Credit: Etsy Seller REdesignkc

Photo Credit: Etsy Seller TraceyAnns

Photo Credit: Etsy Seller 1951Model

Photo Credit: Etsy Seller glamourama

All of these are so fun and would look great mixed in with some more eco-friendly options like LED lights. Do you use any vintage strings of Christmas lights in your holiday decorating?


Thursday, November 19, 2009

Thirsty Thursday: Festive Flavours

Don't you love when the holiday lineup is unveiled at your favourite coffee shop? When the festive cups are brought out and the counter is lined with gingerbread men and candy canes? You may not know about the secret love I harbour for Starbucks' Cranberry Bliss Bar, but I will save that for another day. This post is an ode to my love for yummy yuletide beverages. I must say, I don't really branch out though when it comes to these drinks, but here are my favourites during The Season.

While I'm a little sad that Starbucks has done away with my beloved Peppermint Hot Chocolate [it's now something you can get year-round], it's really the red cups that do it for me. Seeing the first red cup of The Season really gets me in the Christmas mood. How can you not feel festive when you see one of these babies?Photo Credit: Starbucks

I hit up Williams Coffee Pub every Sunday night when I go watch the boy play hockey. Normally, I get a steamed white hot chocolate with loads of whip, but during The Season, I pick a Candy Cane Hot Chocolate. Mmm-mmm!

Photo Credit: Williams Coffee Pub

Those adorable little gingerpeople always call my name as I place my order, but I've been able to resist them so far [I don't know how long I can hold out for though!].

An identically named drink from Second Cup is another of my go-to hot bevs during The Season. The boy surprised me with one out of the blue yesterday and it honestly made my day! The whip they use at Second Cup is my favourite, so I make sure it gets piled on. Second Cup has a huge lineup of holiday drinks during The Season, I also like the Noel Nog, but I rarely order it since I love my hot chocolate too much!

Photo Credit: Second Cup

Any of these coffee shops, especially Williams, provide an excellent location and backdrop for an intimate gift exchange with a few girlfriends, or a post-skate/toboggan meet-up over the holidays. You can choose one of their delicious festive drinks, enjoy the ambiance and best of all there's no cleaning up afterward!

What is your favourite hot beverage of The Season?


Monday, November 16, 2009

Real Party: "celebrity"

Photo Credit: jessica laine celebrations [all photos]

On Saturday, my company Party Animals Party Planning did a celebrity themed party for a wonderful client just west of Toronto. 13 seven-year-old girls enjoyed an afternoon of dressing up, designing their own t-shirts, playing games and singing songs from Hannah Montana and Camp Rock. Here are some pictures from the party!

The loot bags were set up to imitate a "swag table" from a celebrity event. The girls chose their own bag and filled it with the various items on the table. They thought it was so cool to be able to pick their own loot and it made each prize more special for them instead of just getting a bag of random treats.

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