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Sleepless (and Freezing) in Seattle

December 27, 2011 2:15 pm · Posted by Lauren G

I just landed in Seattle yesterday, and it's freezing! (Well not actually freezing but keep in mind that in live in Los Angeles and am from Texas. I don't do well with cold weather.) While I wish I were just wrapped in a huge, puffy parka, here are some great cold weather goods that are actually fashionable that I wish I had right now! I seem to be really in to gray cable knit at the moment...

(roll over to see product details)


Fun Fact: Under the Mistletoe

December 22, 2011 12:02 pm · Posted by Lauren G

© Getty Images

What? It's Christmas time already?  How did the year fly by already? Last year I found out all about Santa Claus, but what are some other great Christmas traditions? I've always had a love/hate relationship with mistletoe. Did you know that it's actually a parasitic plant? Ya...that means that it grows attached to or inside the branches of another tree or bush. While the plant was originally considered a pest since it can kill its host plant, it's recently been recognized for its ecological importance. Many animals eat the leaves, shoots, and berries, which actually led to this plant getting it's name. "Mistel" is the Anglo-Saxon word for "dung" and "tan" means "twig." Put together, it basically means dung on a twig (gross) since mistletoe is commonly spread by birds "dropping" seeds on a branch.

So how did it become a tradition to kiss under a plant called "dung on a twig?" Well, people don't actually know, but there are a lot of traditions surrounding this parasitic plant. The first ancient tradition comes from the Druids living in Britain around 100 A.D. They thought that mistletoe could perform miracles like cure diseases and protect people from witches. They even thought it could help people and animals have more babies. So the Druids had a special ceremony that would happen in late December or early January. Priests would cut mistletoe out of oak trees and then give the mistletoe to people to hang in their houses so that it would ward off evil spirits. Later, when Christianity became widespread in Europe after the 3rd century AD, the mistletoe plant was somehow integrated into the new religion.

The whole kissing thing might come from a Viking legend. Around 800 A.D., the Viking god, Balder, was killed with a poison made from mistletoe. His mother, Frigga, was able to bring him back to life by reversing the effects of the poison. Afterwards, she kissed everyone who walked under mistletoe because she was so happy to get her son back. This custom was later integrated into Christmas with the story of St. Nicholas meeting his true love under a mistletoe.

So, I hope you all have a special moment under the mistletoe this year (and that you enjoyed the really awkward picture above). Happy Holidays!


(Inspired by Wikipedia and How Stuff Works)

Filed under: Tradition, Christmas, fun Tagged with: tradition, kissing, mistletoe, christmas, fun

Homemade Laundry Detergent

December 20, 2011 12:51 pm · Posted by Lauren G

Judge me all you want, but yes, I made my own laundry detergent and I love it! It's incredibly cheap, pretty easy to make, and works just as well as the store-bought kind.

1 cup washing soda

1/2 cup borax (optional)

1 bar soap (I had Lever 2000 on hand, but any kind will work. This is perfect for that last bit of soap that's too small to use)

Approximately 3 gallons water

A large container with lid for storage


Cut bar of soap into small pieces. A box grater works really well for this.

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil.

Add soap gradually and stir to dissolve.

Add 3 gallons of warm water to storage container.

Add washing soda, soap solution, and borax (if desired).

Let detergent sit for 24 hours.

Use approximately 1 cup of detergent for a large load of laundry.


Sorry I don't have pictures of the finished product. I dragged the bucket into the laundry room and the lighting is terrible. The consistency of the detergent will depend on what kind of soap you used, and can range from water to firm like Jell-o. Just be sure to mix well before use.

Filed under: Laundry, DIY, fun Tagged with: borax, washing soda, laundry detergent, laundry, soap, fun, diy

Rum Balls

December 15, 2011 3:29 pm · Posted by Lauren G

Here's the last and final item on my Thanksgiving menu (I didn't think my turkey was that interesting). Rum balls are extremely easy to make and are perfect for the holidays. Be sure to keep them in mind for Christmas!

1 (9 inch) week old cake - cooked, cooled and crumbled. I used chocolate cake, but any cake can be used depending on desired flavor. Strawberry is fun and unexpected.

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

3 (1 ounce) squares semisweet chocolate, melted

1/4 tablespoons dark rum (can be modified to your liking. I like it a little more rummy...)

5/8 cup ground almonds (Much finer than in my picture, almost the texture of flour)

1 (1.75 ounce) package chocolate sprinkles (jimmies)


To  prepare cake crumbs, bake cake according to directions. Crumble and toss daily for a week. Keep covered. In a pinch, you can dry your cake crumbs in the oven set to 250 degrees, tossing periodically, or make your life easy and buy an old bakery cake from the grocery store.

In a large mixing bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cup cake crumbs, cream, melted chocolate, dark rum, and ground almonds.

Form mixture into small balls and roll in sprinkles. It's a littly messy, which is why I don't have pictures. I've also rolled my rum balls in a combination of sprinkles and chopped nuts. Dipping them in chocolate is also delicious.

Store in refrigerator.


(Inspired by allrecipes)


Filed under: rum ball, Yum, recipe Tagged with: jimmies, rum ball, Yum, almonds, sprinkles, rum, chocolate, recipe

Apple Cranberry Stuffing Muffins

December 13, 2011 3:15 pm · Posted by Lauren G

My favorite part of any Thanksgiving feast is the stuffing, so naturally, I was in charge of it this year. I found this awesome recipe and modified it into single serve muffins (even though I had 2).

1 1/2 cups cubed whole wheat bread

3 3/4 cups cubed white bread (Feel free to use different kinds of bread such as sourdough or baguettes. This recipe is also perfect for your slightly stale bread)

1 pound ground turkey sausage (most any sausage will work in this recipe)

1 cup chopped onion

3/4 cup chopped celery

2 1/2 teaspoons dried sage

1 1/2 teaspoons dried rosemary

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1 Golden Delicious apple, cored and chopped

3/4 cup dried cranberries

1/3 cup minced fresh parsley

1 cooked turkey liver, finely chopped

1 1/4 cup turkey stock (can be modified depending on desired consistency)

1 egg

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degree F (175 degree C). Spread the white and whole wheat bread cubes in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Bake for 5 to 7 minutes in the preheated oven, or until evenly toasted. Transfer toasted bread cubes to a large bowl.

In a large skillet, cook the sausage and onions over medium heat, stirring and breaking up the lumps until evenly browned. Add the celery, sage, rosemary, and thyme; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes to blend flavors.

Pour sausage mixture over bread in bowl. Mix in chopped apples, dried cranberries, parsley, and liver. Drizzle with turkey stock, egg and melted butter, and mix lightly. Spoon into paper-lined muffin tins. Bake 25 minutes or until top crusts.

(Inspired by allrecipes)



Maple Pecan Butter

December 8, 2011 12:22 pm · Posted by Lauren G

This Maple Pecan Butter is the perfect enhancement to the Sweet Potato Tamales. It brings out extra sweetness and the pecans add wonderful texture.


1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup toasted pecans, finely chopped
3 tablespoons maple syrup
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Refrigerate until solid, about 2 hours.


(Inspired by Bobby Flay)

Filed under: BUTTER, Yum, Thanksgiving, recipe Tagged with: pecan, maple, Yum, thanksgiving, butter, recipe

Sweet Potato Tamales

December 6, 2011 12:17 pm · Posted by Lauren G

First item on the Thanksgiving menu were these sweet potato tamales. After going visiting Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill in Las Vegas, my mom found this recipe that's perfect for the holidays. They definitely take a lot of work, so be prepared for the time and effort you have to put in. However, it's fun to get a bunch of people together...nothing like some family bonding over Thanksgiving!

Sweet Potato Tamales
40 dried corn husks

24 dried corn husks
4 cups fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 small onion, chopped
1 ½ cups chicken stock
1 stick unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon shortening, melted

1 large or 2 medium sweet potatoes (roasted at 375º for about 1 hour or until soft, peeled)
4 ounces yellow cornmeal
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
½ teaspoon ground cloves
2 tablespoons maple syrup
3 tablespoon honey
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Two hours before you form the tamales, clean the husks under running water. Soak them in warm water for 2 hours, or until softened.
2. Puree the corn, onion, and water in a food processor. Add the butter, shortening. Transfer the mixture into a bowl and add the cornmeal. In the food processor, combine the sweet potatoes, cinnamon, allspice, cloves, syrup, honey, salt and pepper. Using a large rubber spatula, mix the sweet potato and cornmeal mixtures until combined. The mixture will be a lot looser than you think it should be, but when the tamales are steamed it will dry out. Place mixture in the refrigerator while you prepare the corn husks. (Colder masa is easier to handle)
3. Remove the corn husks from the water and set aside 40 husks for rolling the tamales. The best husks for this tend are softer and larger. Drain and pat dry. Tear the remaining husks into 1-inch wide strips to be used for tying. Coarser husks work best for tying. Lay 2 husks flat on a work surface with the tapered ends facing out and the broad bases overlapping by about 3 inches. It works best to use a wider husk as the bottom layer. Place about 1/3 cup of masa mixture in the center. Bring the long sides up over the masa, slightly overlapping, and pat down gently to close. Turn the top husk with the masa over and roll into the second husk. Tie each end of the bundle with a strip of corn husk, pushing the filling toward the middle as you tie. Be sure to tie as tightly as you can as the masa tends to expand while steaming and pop the ties off. Trim the ends to about 1/2 inch beyond the tie.
3. Arrange the tamales in a single layer on a steaming rack, cover tightly with foil, and steam over boiling water for 45 minutes.

To Serve: slice a slit on top of each tamale and push both ends of the tamale toward the middle to expose the masa. Top each with a heaping tablespoon of pecan butter. (Recipe coming on Thursday...)



(Inspired by Bobby Flay)

Filed under: tamale, Yum, recipe Tagged with: tamale, sweet potato, Yum, thanksgiving, recipe

10 Most Popular Cupcake Flavors

December 1, 2011 11:03 am · Posted by Lauren G

10. Vanilla: Even though the word "vanilla" means "ordinary," this flavor will always be a classic

9. Pumpkin: You usually can't find this flavor until October, but it's popularity throughout the holidays got this flavor on the list

8. Banana: While this isn't really my favorite flavor, banana is surprisingly popular because it's easy to combine with a lot of different flavors

7. Coffee: Like banana, coffee easily offsets sweet flavors like vanilla, chocolate, raspberry, etc.

6. Chocolate: Who doesn't love chocolate?

5. Lemon: Probably one of my favorite cupcake flavors, it's the perfect combination of tangy and sweet

4. Peanut Butter: Perfect with chocolate frosting, but for something new, try honey

3. Carrot Cake: Carrots have more sugar than any other vegetable, and carrot cake is the perfect way of convincing myself that I'm eating more vegetables

2. Red Velvet: These originally get their red coloring from a chemical reaction of cocoa powder with an acidic ingredient like buttermilk

1. Chocolate & Vanilla: The most timeless of flavor combinations. Who can resist a yellow cake with chocolate frosting or a chocolate cake topped with vanilla?


(Inpsired by TLC)


Red Velvet Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting

November 29, 2011 12:27 pm · Posted by Lauren G

I finally made the second most popular cupcake flavor according to TLC. (Stay tuned for the next post about TLC's 10 most popular cupcake flavors).

2 1/2 cups flour

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

4 eggs

1 cup sour cream

1/2 cup milk

1 tbsp. red food coloring

2 tsp. vanilla extract


Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting:

1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup butter, softened

2 tbsp. sour cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1 (16 ounce) box confectioners' sugar


Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Mix flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in medium bowl. Set aside.

Beat butter and sugar in large bowl with electric mixer on medium speed 5 minutes or until light and fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time. Mix in sour cream, milk, food color and vanilla. Gradually beat in flour mixture on low speed until just blended. Do not overbeat. Spoon batter into 30 paper-lined muffin cups, filling each cup 2/3 full. (I actually did 24 regular muffin cups and 24 mini cups. I didn't have any mini muffin liners, so I just used a butter spray.)

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted into cupcake comes out clean. Cool in pans on wire rack 5 minutes. Remove from pans; cool completely. Frost with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting.

Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting: Beat cream cheese, softened, butter, sour cream and vanilla extract in large bowl until light and fluffy. Gradually beat in confectioners' sugar until smooth.


I like to store my cream cheese frosting in a resealable bag. Then, I can store it in the refrigerator, cut the corner, and use it as a piping bag to ice the cupcakes right before I'm ready to serve them. To make transfering the frosting into a bag easier, I used two binder clips to attach my bag to the inside of a measuring cup (see picture above).


(Inspired by allrecipes)


Fun Fact: Thanksgiving

November 24, 2011 1:01 pm · Posted by Lauren G

Every year on the fourth Thursday of November we stuff ourselves with turkey, graving, and stuffing (my personal favorite) of course. You probably remember your 4th grade play where you and your friends dressed like Pilgrims and Native Americans and said something about making life long friends on Plymouth Rock. Well you weren't entirely off. Thanksgiving is a combination of European and Native American celebrations at the end of a harvest season to give thanks for a good harvest. There is evidence of a harvest festival thrown by Spanish explorers in Florida in 1565, but the he Thanksgiving tradition has actually been traced to a 1621 celebration in Plymouth, Massachusetts. In 1623, there wasn't enough food to feed over 100 of the colonists, but the Wampanoag Native Americans taught the Pilgrims how to fish and gave them seeds.

It wasn't until 1863, by presidential proclimation, that the first Thanksgiving was celebrated on the same day by all the states. Before that, each state decided when to celebrate on their own. In order to foster a sense of unity between the Northern and Southern states, Presdient Abraham Lincoln proclaimed Thanksgiving to be on the final Thurday of November. Then, on December 26, 194, President Franklin D. Roosevelt agreed to sign a bill into law with Congress, making Thanksgiving a national holiday on the fourth (not final) Thursday in November with the reason of giving the country an economic boost.

So, Happy Thanksgiving! Stay tuned to see what my family made for our Thanksgiving meal :)

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