Our Favorite Holiday Season Centerpieces

The holiday season is finally here! We’re so excited to be fully in the swing of decorating and we’re already dreaming up some ideas for our holiday table this year. As always, you can go as ornate or as simple as you want, but there are some key elements we love to include in all of our holiday tables this time of year! The first on the list is greenery. The natural greenery that matches the winter holidays is just perfect. With this as your base, you can really carry it through the holidays and into the winter as well. We also really like including candles. The just really give that warm, cozy feeling! Other things to think about are adding in pine cones, berries, or even some ornaments, bells, or candy canes. Go wild and create that perfectly magical winter wonderland right in your dining room!

Last Minute Planning for 4th of July Activities

Image Source: Jeff Hunter

Image Source: Jeff Hunter

With the 4th of July right in front of us, we cannot wait to celebrate with our friends and family! Here are some last minute holiday activities and ideas to add onto your 4th of July agenda.

Image Source: Pier 1

Image Source: Pier 1

Fireworks are the most associated image with the 4th of July, so check to see if there are any local firework shows close to you! Some places even have firework shows the whole week after the 4th, so if you don’t have enough time on the big day, you’ll have another chance to go later or even hit multiple shows throughout the week.

Food is also a big part of this holiday. Whether you’re going to a party or hosting your own, there are so many food options to choose from! Some 4th of July classics are: hamburgers, hot dogs, potato salad, s’mores, etc. You can also make some cute America themed dishes, such as parfaits with blueberries and strawberries, banana, blueberry, and strawberry fruit kabobs, or even dying frosting blue and red and using it atop vanilla cupcakes. Check out our full BBQ line up for some more inspiration!

Image Source: Sandlapper Cornhole

Image Source: Sandlapper Cornhole

In the height of summer, the weather is way too beautiful to be stuck inside. There are a ton of different yard games you can pick up at a local store. We’re huge fans of cornhole and ladder toss. You can always go old school and have a classic water balloon fight to help beat the heat.

No matter what you decide to fill your 4th of July with, we hope you have a happy and safe 4th of July!

Make a Splash with Your 4th of July Decor

We’re just days away from one of the most patriotic days of the year! If you’re hosting this year, you’ll want to add a bit of patriotic flair to your decor. That’s where we come in. We’re here to share some of our favorite patriotic decor images to help inspire your decor designs, too!

Your Valentine's Day Outfit Inspiration

IMAGE SOURCE: GAL MEETS GLAM

IMAGE SOURCE: GAL MEETS GLAM

Whether you have reservations for a fancy dinner or you’re grabbing a casual brunch this Valentine’s Day, there’s tons of trendy directions you can take your outfit in this year! Blush is super in right now, so add the tone into your look! Mix a classy white blouse up with an adorable pink peacoat and some light-wash boyfriend jeans. The distressed look is so on trend right now, but if you want to dress it up a little, opt for more classy accessories, like blush booties and some dainty rings. If you’ll be spending the night outside, add a knit scarf or beanie to stay warm and cozy!

Try out a red or pink satin top with the same distressed denim if you want to get a little bit more festive. Layer some simple necklaces for an elegant and classy touch against the denim, and style your hair with some tousled beach waves and a messy braid. The unexpected textures make for an original and charming look that’ll definitely impress.

If your date night plans involve something a little more elaborate, skip the plain dress and step out in something bolder. Slip on a little black dress with embroidered rose details, or pick up something with a flirty pattern, like pin-stripes or anything floral. A timeless pair of red heels and an oversized wrap coat will tie everything together effortlessly! Don’t be afraid to mix a little pop of red in with your pink, or vice versa. It’s a holiday after all, and the combo looks adorable! Make a bigger statement with your pink outfit with a bold red lip or red tassel earrings, or add an extra Valentine’s touch with a pink mani-pedi!

Unique Valentine's Day Gifts For Him

IMAGE SOURCE: CROSLEY RADIO

IMAGE SOURCE: CROSLEY RADIO

Struggling to find your man the perfect gift? You’re not alone! Every year Valentine’s Day approaches too quickly, and us girls have no idea what to give our hubby who seems to own everything. To help prevent further panic, we’ve come up with 10 gifts he is sure to love and appreciate!


STAR MAP

If you’re looking to do something even more romantic than a mixtape, a great option is a star map from the night you met. The Night Sky is just one company that offers tons of different looks and customizable options that anyone would love, all from the exact date and location of your choosing. You can add the constellations, pick from different color schemes, and add a little message. Not only will your gift be super sweet, but it’ll look great hung up on the wall, too!

SUBSCRIPTION BOXES

An adorable way to remind your guy that you’re thinking of him is a subscription box. There are tons you could treat him to! The beauty of subscription services is that you could buy him a few months worth, or you could treat him to one month of a few different ones, so he can see what works best for him! Dollar Shave Club is a great one if your guy is a little too obsessed with his beard (or doesn’t seem to care for it at all). Birchbox Man is another great idea if you want to go beyond just razors, since it features everything from cologne to skincare. Or, if you want to be super sweet, you could deliver some chocolate right to his doorstep with Candy Club!

PERSONALIZED GIFT BASKETS

If you’re not too sure about committing to a candy subscription box, but you don’t exactly want to settle for a cheap box of random chocolates, a great option is to hand-pick a basket of sweets that you know he’ll love! Toss in a gift card to grab that new video game he’s been talking about, too - it’s thoughtful, affordable, and his man cave will be stocked with his favorite treats.

OLD-SCHOOL VINYL MIXTAPE

Mixtapes are a classic Valentine’s gift, especially if your guy loves music. So why not kick it up a notch with something a little more unexpected, like a mixtape on vinyl? Freestyle Vinyl will totally personalize a record for you - they’ll even buy all the songs so you don’t have to! Impress your guy with some of his favorite songs, or make a custom mix of the ones that remind you of him with an adorable sleeve featuring the two of you!

SPORTS GEAR AND EXPERIENCES

If your guy is more into sports games than video games, a pair of tickets to his favorite sports team’s next game isn’t only easy, it’s also bound to be a fun date night for the two of you, too! Grabbing some last-minute tickets is a win-win, but it can also be expensive. If you’re trying to be more conservative with your budget this Valentine’s Day, grab him a new jersey sporting his favorite player’s name. There’s some really unique limited edition ones out there, too, like the NFL’s new Salute to Service line, that he’d definitely appreciate.

QUALITY SUNGLASSES

Anyone who does a lot of driving (or vacationing on the beach) needs a good pair of sunnies, but chances are your S/O doesn’t have a nice, quality pair that’s also on trend. Treat him to a new pair of sunglasses for Valentine’s Day! QUAY Australia is just one affordable brand that always has the best up and coming shades, so shop around with one of their many discount codes and pick what you’d like to see your guy in!

DESIGNER SMARTWATCH

Everyone seems to have an Apple Watch now, but if you’re looking to treat your S/O to something a little more professional with all the same capabilities, pick him up a designer smartwatch - the Michael Kors ones are gorgeous, and usually on sale. Men will always appreciate a nice piece of jewelry, especially when it doubles as a notification center and fitness tracker.

YETI COOLER OR MUG

If your guy is a big fan of the outdoors, consider picking him out a top-of-the-line YETI cooler for his summer camping trips! If you can’t justify splurging on a cooler, grab him a YETI mug to keep his coffee hot at the office, and his drinks cold at the beach!

COLOGNE

Chances are, your S/O probably already has his own staple scent. A no-hassle gift is to stock him up on his go-to cologne! If he hasn’t found one yet, head over to Sephora, try them all, and pick for him. You could even get a small starter kit that lets him sample a handful, and offer to pick up the full size of his favorite.

AN UNEXPECTED EXPERIENCE

If you’re looking for something completely different, Cloud9 Living has tons of deals for some of the craziest experiences out there. Treat him to something he’s always wanted to try, like indoor skydiving, or make a romantic date out of it and book a helicopter ride at sunset over your city!


Spanish Paella is the Valentine's Day Dinner You'll Love

IMAGE SOURCE: STYLE ME PRETTY

IMAGE SOURCE: STYLE ME PRETTY

Valentine’s Day is quickly approaching, and you probably have no idea what you and your man should do for dinner. This year, opt for a satisfying and intimate meal at home instead of a fancy and overpriced restaurant! We wanted to stay away from the stereotypical spaghetti and meatballs or steak dinner, so we chose a dinner that is just as delicious and rich-- paella! This Spanish paella dish is spicy, flavorful, and bold! Cook it together or surprise him with a romantic dinner, either way you both will love it! (Recipe adapted from Food Network)


RECIPE

Servings: 2

Total Time: 2.5 hours

Combine ½ tbsp. smoked paprika and 1 tsp. oregano in a small bowl. Rub over 1 lb. of cubed chicken breast and marinate in the refrigerator for 1 hour.

IMAGE SOURCE: SAINSBURY'S

IMAGE SOURCE: SAINSBURY'S

Heat 4 tbsp. oil in a paella pan, or large skillet, over medium heat, and sauté 1 chorizo sausage (thickly sliced) until browned. Remove and reserve. Add the marinated chicken, a pinch of salt and pepper, and brown until cooked through. Remove and reserve. In the same pan sauté ½  diced yellow onion, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, and a bunch of chopped fresh parsley for 2-3 minutes.

Add ½ can (7-8 oz.) crushed tomatoes and 2 tsp. smoked paprika to the skillet and cook until the flavors combine. Fold in 1 ½ cup short grain Spanish rice and add 2 cups broth (chicken or lobster are our choices!) and juice from half a lemon; simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the rice has absorbed the liquid. If the rice has absorbed the liquid too quickly feel free to add more broth ¼ cup at a time.

Add the chicken, chorizo, and a generous pinch of saffron threads to the skillet. Tuck ½ dozen scrubbed mussels and ½ lb. jumbo peeled shrimp into the rice mixture and let simmer until the mussels open and the shrimp cook (about 5 minutes). Add ¼ cup sweet peas (frozen and thawed) to the skillet, mix, and take off the heat and let rest for 5 minutes.

Add more salt, pepper, fresh parsley, and lemon juice to taste! Enjoy!


Gift Wrapping Guide

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Do you have that odd shaped gift you need to wrap but don’t know how, or do you simply want to step up your wrapping game to impress your in-laws? This year, we decided to tackle these dilemmas head on and share our tips with you to help ease your mounting holiday stress! We will cover everything from what wrapping paper to choose, to making your own gift tags, to adding that little extra something to make the recipient awed. So grab a glass of wine, clear a large working space, put on your creativity hat, and get wrapping!


WHEN TO WRAP VS. GIFT BAG
 

If your gift is in a nice rectangular box, wrapping it with paper is the most obvious and elegant choice; however, not all presents are packaged in neat boxes. Your first thought will be to put it in a gift bag, but you don’t have to! Just because the gift does not come in a box does not mean you can’t put it in a gift box! Gift boxes are readily available at craft and hobby stores during this time of year! They come in every shape, size and color you can think of If you are crafty or have extra time, opt for a plain gift box and decorate it with holiday stamps, stickers, or doodles. And remember, when purchasing the gift, never hesitate to ask if gift boxes are available! They usually are and will save you the trouble of having to purchase an extra one.

When your gift is heavy, slightly too large, cumbersome, or you can’t find a gift box, then it is then appropriate to use a gift bag! Use a festive bag and tissue paper or decorate your own bag (as seen below)!


WHAT KIND OF WRAPPING PAPER SHOULD I USE?

Wrapping paper should always be beautiful, festive, decorative, and fun! Here are seven kinds of paper and wrapping paper alternatives!

Kraft Paper

Kraft paper is a form of cardboard that is typically designed for packaging because of its high tear resistance. This paper is great for the crafty gift wrapper who wants to add her own designs! Since it is a blank canvas you can stamp it, draw on it, add stickers or adornments! It is also perfect for those who have to send gifts through the mail. Wrap your presents in kraft paper and place into a shipping box. It is less likely to rip in transit!

Gift Wrapping Paper

Gift wrapping paper is the wrapping paper we all know and love. It comes in millions of colors and designs to cater to the gift recipient. Choose gift wrapping paper if the gift is for kids (because of the bright and bold illustrations), you want a lot of color, you want to make a bold statement, or find a pattern you absolutely love. Make sure to buy at least two gift wrapping paper patterns if wrapping multiple gifts to add dimension under your tree!

Newspaper

For a sentimental look, use newspaper! The black and white colors look classy, and are a great juxtaposition for a bright bow. Plus, it’s environmentally friendly to recycle! Be sure to layer at least two pieces of paper together so you can’t see through to the gift.

Paper Grocery Bags

Paper grocery bags are a budget and environmentally friendly alternative for kraft paper! Use the same way you would kraft paper.

Old Maps

Have a bunch of old maps laying around or shoved into your glove box? Now you have a perfect way to recycle them! It is great for travel related gifts or gifts for your favorite adventurer!

Fabric

If you have some large fabric scraps you don’t know what to do with you now do! Fabric makes a great gift wrap for round presents; you can simply bundle the gift up in the wrap and tie with a ribbon. Or you can traditionally wrap a gift with fabric, it just takes a little finesse.

Wallpaper

Wallpaper can be used as an alternative for any of the paper product wrapping papers, but it should be noted that it is easiest to use on box shaped gifts because it is so stiff. Wallpaper is an amazing wrapping paper option because it has fun textures you won’t find with any of these wrapping paper options!


WHEN TO USE TISSUE PAPER

Tissue paper is like the supporting actress, important for the project as a whole but not the starring role (that’s the wrapping paper or gift bag). It is especially fun to use for the holidays because of the holiday designs printed on it! Tissue paper can be used in two ways:

As Fluff for Gift Bags

A proper gift bag always has a bunch of tissue paper sticking out from the top. This fluff not only helps hide the gift inside, but also adds the supporting flair to the gift wrapping as a whole. A plain colored gift bag can become more intriguing with bright tissue paper flowing from the top! Or, simple colored paper can be used to highlight the amazing gift bag you chose!

As Protective Cushioning or an Extra Layer:

Tissue paper is also important for protecting fragile gifts. Wrap easily broken presents in a layer or two of tissue to ensure it is safe from chipping or cracking. Wrapping non fragile gifts in tissue paper can act as a barrier against any unknown elements, plus it is an extra fun unwrapping layer for the recipient! Also, use tissue paper to keep items from shifting around in a gift box!


HOW TO WRAP A GIFT OR FILL A GIFT BAG

Before you begin your wrapping adventure make sure to gather all supplies (paper, bag, tissue, tape, & scissors), clear a large working space, and allow yourself enough time to get it done! Once your gifts are wrapped you can begin working on the tags, ribbon, and any other decorations (we will explain how to decorate your wrapped gifts following this section). Note, if decorating a gift bag, decorate it before wrapping the gifts in it.

Wrapping with Paper or Paper Alternative

  1. Cut out a piece of paper large enough to wrap the entire gift and place design side down.
  2. Place gift, front side down, in the center of the cut out paper.
  3. Pull the two longest ends over the gift and tape down
  4. Working on an open end, push the sides of the paper inward to create 45° angle flaps and crease.
  5. Fold down the top flap, then fold up the bottom flap and tape. Repeat with the other end. Make sure you do not have too much excess paper during this step or else your flaps will not match up.

Filling a Gift Bag

  1. Place a layer of tissue paper on the bottom of the bag to keep gifts from shifting inside.
  2. Gently put gift(s) into the bag. If desired wrap gifts in tissue paper first.
  3. Take two layers of completely opened tissue paper, design side up, (here you can be creative and use two different patterns or colors) and pinch the center.
  4. Swiftly lift your hand up so the paper forms a cone shape. Repeat one to four more times depending on how large the gift bag is.
  5. Place the tissue paper into the sides or corners of the bag, pinch side on the bottom, so the gift inside is no longer visible.
  6. Gently fluff the paper to get a voluminous effect.

HOW TO CREATE GIFT NAME TAGS

Name tags are a must-have design aspect for your gift wrapping. This year, try to make your own, or buy a pretty tag to string onto your gift. To make your own you will need card stock, scissors, a hole punch, and markers. Just cut out a gift tag shape in the card stock, decorate with a festive design, and sign the recipients name to it! Punch a hole on the end so you can string ribbon or twine through! You can also decorate your tag with stamps, stickers, adornment, or whatever else your heart desires! If you do not have time or a creative bone in your body there are plenty of beautiful tags already made- you just have to add the name. Or print gorgeous free tags from Gather & Feast!


THAT EXTRA SOMETHING SPECIAL

Now that your gifts are wrapped they need some pizazz! We’ve created a list of ways to add a little extra to your gift, whether it is wrapped with paper or in a bag:

Ribbon or Twine

Ribbon or twine is a must for your gift. Wrap around your paper wrapped gift or tie the handles together on your gift bag. If using ribbon, make the length longer than needed so you can curl the extra on top. String the ribbon or twine through the gift name tag to secure it on the gift!

Bow

Create your own bow with ribbon or buy a big one from the store. Place in the center of where the ribbon is knotted or in the corner of your gift box/bag.

Adornments & Stickers

You can buy adornments and stickers at any craft shop or online. Tape or glue adornments, or place stickers, on to your gift to add texture, a pattern, or just that extra spark of design. Adornments and stickers are a great way to showcase the hard work and thought you put into wrapping the gift!

Stamps

If using kraft paper or a cardboard gift bag, stamps are the perfect way to create your own design. Keep it simple with black ink and one stamp, or go crazy and do multiple colors with multiple different stamps! Whatever you do it will be beautiful. This is also a way to get your kids involved with the wrapping process. Let them stamp a design onto the paper to give to your family!

Festive Items

Festive items such as holly, jingle bells, pine cones, candy canes, tree sprigs, etc. can be added to your gift! String them through the ribbon or twine or tape in place. It will definitely show your thought and consideration! Plus, it looks professional and stunning!


Warm Sticky Figgy Pudding

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This holiday season we wanted to recreate a classic (and normally unfavorable) dessert into modern and delicious dish, so we are bringing you some figgy pudding! Dating back to 16th century England, figgy pudding is traditionally a cake filled with raisins, currants, and brandy! To give this dessert a modern twist, the raisins are substituted with figs and a warm sticky caramel sauce is poured over the cake to make it resemble a (bread) pudding by today's standards. This dessert is sweet, savory, and most importantly delightful!


WARM STICKY FIGGY PUDDING


Total Time: 2 hours

Makes: 12 servings

Ingredients:

For the Caramel Sauce:

  • 2 cups brown sugar
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 14 tbsp. unsalted butter

For the Pudding:

  • 1 ½ cups dried & pitted dates, chopped
  • ½ cup dried figs, chopped
  • 2 cups water
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 7 tbsp. Unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup superfine sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 ½ cups self rising flour
  • 2 ½ oz. dark chocolate, grated
  • Butter for coating ramekins
  • Ice cream or whipped cream for garnish
  • Fresh figs, quartered for garnish
ingredients.jpg

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 350℉.

Add dates, dried figs, and water to a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove pan from heat and stir in baking soda. Let cool for 5 minutes, then puree in a blender.

Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar. Add eggs and beat well. Fold in the four, chocolate, and pureed date mixture.

Put the mixture into  buttered ramekins, filling halfway or slightly under. Put in the oven and bake for 40 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean.

Prepare the sauce by stirring sugar and heavy cream in a saucepan over low heat. Simmer until the sugar dissolves. Raise the heat to bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 5 minutes. Add the butter and stir until incorporated.

Remove the ramekins from the oven and let stand for 10 minutes. They may be served in the ramekins or unmolded onto a serving plate. With a paring knife cut a cross into the top of the puddings for the sauce.

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Pour sauce into the cross in the center of the puddings, then pour more sauce over the puddings and allow to soak in slightly. Garnish with fresh figs, vanilla ice cream, or whipped cream. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Notes & Tips:

Create your own superfine sugar by placing granulated sugar in a food processor and pulsing until sugar becomes fine.

Create your own self rising flour: for each cup of flour add 1 ½ tsp. baking powder and ¼ tsp. salt and whisk until combined. For this recipe add 3 ¾ tsp. baking powder and ¾ tsp. salt to the 2 ½ cups of AP flour.

If you don’t have ramekins, you can make the puddings in a greased Bundt or muffin pan!

To add a little adult flair to your figgy pudding, add 1-2 tbsp. rum extract to your batter in the same step as adding your eggs.


Recipe courtesy of Food Network

Cinnamon Star Bread

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Do you need some food inspiration for that upcoming holiday party you volunteered to bake for? We’ve got the perfect recipe for you! This cinnamon star bread is festive, easy to make, and wow worthy. This bread recipe can either be an appetizer or dessert, and its filling is versatile! In lieu of cinnamon, use some gingerbread or apple pie spice. To make it more savory use jams, cheeses, or pesto! There are endless combinations we hope to inspire you to use for this star bread!


CINNAMON STAR BREAD


Ingredients:

For the Filling:

  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 tbsp. cinnamon

For the Dough:

  • 2 cups AP flour
  • ¼ cup potato flour or ½ cup instant mashed potato flakes
  • ¼ cup nonfat dry milk
  • ¾-1 cup lukewarm water
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. instant yeast
  • 2 tbsp. sugar
  • 1 tsp. salt
ingredients.jpg

Directions:

Sift AP flour, potato flour, and dry milk through a strainer into a large mixing bowl (skip the sifting step in using instant mashed potatoes).  Add the rest of the dough ingredients into the bowl and mix and knead using a mixer, your hands, or a bread machine until soft and smooth. (We used a bread machine, which took about 50 minutes.)

Place the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and let rise for 1 hour until nearly doubled in size. Then, divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, shape each piece into a ball, and allow to rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, mix together the sugar and cinnamon (filling ingredients) in a small bowl.

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On a lightly floured piece of parchment paper, roll 1 piece of dough into a 10 inch circle (it doesn’t have to perfect!). Brush a think coat of beaten egg on the surface and evenly sprinkle ⅓ of the cinnamon-sugar mixture, leaving ¼” of bare dough perimeter.

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Roll out a second circle, the same size as the first, and gently place on top of the filling covered circle. Brush with egg and sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar as before. Repeat the layering process, leaving the top circle bare. Make sure to reserve some egg to brush over the star once it’s shaped.

Place a 2 ½”-3” round cookie cutter, can, or drinking glass in the center of the dough circle as a guide. Press lightly into the dough to make an imprint and remove it. Using a sharp knife or scissors, cut the circle into 16 equal strips from the outside of the dough to the imprint (be sure to cut through all layers!).

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Using 2 hands, pick up 2 adjacent dough strips and twist away from each other twice so the top side is facing up again. Repeat with remaining strips of dough so that you have 8 pairs of strips.

Pinch the pairs of strips together to create a star-like shape with 8 points. Transfer the star on the parchment paper to a baking sheet. Cover and let rise until puffy, about 45 minutes. While rising preheat the oven to 400℉.

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Brush the star with a thin coat of beaten egg and bake 12-15 minutes until it’s golden brown with dark cinnamon streaks (the center should register 200℉). Let cool for 10 minutes before serving! Dust lightly with powdered sugar if desired.


Notes & Tips:

The dry milk and potato flour/flakes ensure the dough retains moisture. If you do not have dry milk, you can replace the water with lukewarm regular milk. If you don’t have potato flakes, omit this ingredient and decrease the amount of water used to ¾ cups. Your star may be slightly paler in color.

This bread can be baked and frozen for up to 1 month. Once it’s cool, wrap it airtight and store in the coolest part of the freezer. When you want to serve, thaw at room temperature then heat in the oven at 350℉ for 15 minutes until warmed through!

Find a gluten free version here!

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Let us know how your star bread turned out and what flavor inspirations you used!

Recipe courtesy of King Arthur Flour

National Hot Chocolate Day: Chai Hot Chocolate

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Happy National Hot Chocolate Day! To celebrate we’ve decided to share this amazing Chai Hot Chocolate recipe from Now, Forager! Although this recipe takes a little time and finesse, don’t feel daunted! It is easy and definitely worth it! And be sure to read our personal notes and tips at the end to help ease some of your initial hesitations!


FROTHY CHAI HOT CHOCOLATE WITH MILK CHOCOLATE GANACHE

Total Time: 8+ hours (includes ganache cooling & firming time)

Makes: 2 (7 ounce) hot chocolates

 

FOR THE CHAI MILK CHOCOLATE GANACHE:

In a small saucepan bring ½ cup heavy cream, 6 cardamom pods (lightly crushed), ⅛ tsp. black peppercorns (lightly crushed), 6 whole cloves, 1 star anise, ¼ of a vanilla bean's seeds and scraped pod, a pinch of fleur de sel, and 2 tbsp. loose leaf Assam tea to a strong boil. Remove from heat, cover, and let steep for 15 minutes.

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Meanwhile, melt 6 oz. of 38%-46% milk chocolate over a double boiler stirring occasionally. Set aside once melted.

Strain steeped cream into a clean bowl and discard spices. Measure amount of cream and transfer back into the saucepan. Add more heavy cream (about ¼ cup)until there is again ½ cup of total cream. Bring to a simmer and then pour over melted milk chocolate.

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Gently stir the hot cream into the chocolate with slow small circular motions in the center of the bowl. As it emulsifies, make your circles bigger and mix until the ganache is fully combined and smooth. Let the ganache cool at room temperature until firm (about 8 hours or overnight). To speed up the firming process, you can allow your room temperature ganache to firm up in the refrigerator.

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FOR THE FROTHY CHAI HOT CHOCOLATE:

Place the ganache into a high speed blender and set aside.

In a small saucepan bring ¾ cup whole milk and a pinch of fleur de sel to a boil. Pour over the ganache in the blender and let sit for 1 minute before placing on blender lid.

Blend on high for 15-20 seconds until frothy. Pour hot chocolate into a mug and add a star anise and light dusting of cinnamon for garnishes.

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NOTES & TIPS:

All of these spices can be found in the spice aisle of your grocery store. To help save on cost, most of these spices can be found for considerably less at local Asian grocery stores!

Fleur de sel can be substituted for any course sea salt, although it will not be as crunchy or flavorful. Fleur de sel can be ordered on Amazon if it’s not available at your grocery store.

Don’t skimp on the quality of your milk chocolate! The chocolate ganache is the star of the drink and you want its sweetness to be balanced! Cheap chocolates will make your hot chocolate overly sweet. We used Ghirardelli Milk Chocolate Chips.

If you don’t have a heat resistant bowl to create a double boiler, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave 30 seconds at a time and mixing between each interval.

Any remaining ganache can be stored in the refrigerator for up to 1 month. This is especially great if you want to make this recipe last a few days!

For extra frothy chai hot chocolate, make each serving separately in the blender! (That is, place only ⅓ of the ganache and ¼ cup of the hot whole milk into the blender at a time.)


Winter Wedding Inspiration Board

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There are endless ways to capture winter and the holidays on your big day. To help you get inspired for your winter wedding, we’ve come up with a variety of winter themed wedding details! This season is all about greenery, dark red accents, and whimsical decor. So, if your wedding is Christmas themed, play up the green and red color palette. If it’s a winter wonderland theme, add more lights and faux snow elements! There is no shortage of winter elements to brighten your special day!