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Photo by gemmarose

I love any sort of hot drink — coffee, hot chocolate, chai tea lattes… If you add alcohol to any of those things, I am doubly happy. And if you know me, you know I also love wine. So how to put all of my favorite things into one glass? Mulled wine. It’s great for a cold afternoon, and a perfect end to a Thanksgiving day where you’ve eaten way too much and are too tired to chew. So don’t.

It’s super easy to make. Once it’s done, put in a crock pot to keep warm. I love that you can serve alcohol in mugs. (I mean, you can technically drink alcohol out of a shoe…) My husband and I got his/hers mugs for our wedding that say “His Better Half”, “Her Better Half”. I drink coffee every day. My husband doesn’t use his. I tell him that’s because he’s not my better half, I am. (He doesn’t care.)

Anyways, here’s the recipe. Everything is to taste, so tweak it to your taste.

You will need:

  • 1 bottle wine
  • 2 cups juice (I used cranberry, but apple works as well)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 oranges, rind removed, cut up
  • 1 lemon, rind removed, cut up
  • Spices: To taste, of course. 2 cinnamon sticks, 1 tsp whole peppercorns, 5 buds of cardamom, 1/2 vanilla bean, 1 tbsp fresh ginger and 1/2 tsp cloves (Whole Foods bulk spice section is a great place to get the spices you need without buying a ton.)

Directions:

  1. Add all ingredients into a pot on stove.
  2. Let boil and then simmer for an hour.
  3. Strain spices out and put in crock pot to serve.  Option: Let everything sit, unstrained, overnight for the flavors to infuse more. Strain in the morning.
  4.  Heat in crock pot before serving in mugs

Enjoy!

~ Dana

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Can you believe Thanksgiving is this week? It seems like it sort of snuck up on us. In case you’re still looking for decorating ideas for your Thanksgiving table, here are some of my favorites.

~Christina

So I went to the Metropolitan Cooking Show, a trade show open to the public where vendors have booths set up for all things culinary. I’m talking about cooking supplies, knives, cake bakers, whatever you can think of… The show also featured cooking demos by stars like Guy Fieri, Giada de Laurentiis, and yes, Miss Paula Deen. (see below)

A few highlights from the show:

The booth for Skinny Girl Margaritas. (No one was skinny.)

Jams, Nuts and Honeys from Northwoods Gourmet Girl. Based in Maine.

Sheep’s milk cheeses from Everona Dairy. They had beer-washed and smoke varieties, among other flavors.

Salts from The Spice Lab. They’re sold at Hill’s Kitchen. The guy was totally cool, and gave me a jar of this really cool Citrus Sea Salt under the table. Seriously, he snuck it to me while his wife wasn’t watching. It is so fragrant, and amazing!!

Parmesan Crisps from Kitchen Table Bakers. You can make them with the recipe here, or just buy them! They were delicious, with tons of different flavors.

Sonoma Syrup Company simple syrups and cheese drizzle. The cheese drizzle (I tasted the balsamic and fig one) are ready-to-go cheese accompaniments. Want to make your own? Check some of ours out here and here.

Salts and Sugars from Salt Sisters. Love the packaging! Super cute. Notice the vanilla bean salt. Really interesting, and way to incorporate this into sweet dishes. Think of a chocolate tart sprinkled with vanilla bean salt. Yum.

The lovely B. Smith was there, repping her restaurant in DC.

A few highlights from the cooking demo:

When I say Paula Deen aint nice, I mean that she is naughty. So funny. I had such a great time watching her.  And all the audience members yelling “I know that’s right, Paula” and “Tell ’em, girl…” did too. And to add to that, Mike Isabella was the warm up act. Not bad. Especially because I loved him on Top Chef and his new restaurant, Graffiato.

Mike Isabella:

  • Mike has a new cookbook coming out called Flavors of a Jersey Italian
  • Giada visited his restaurant, Graffiato the evening before, and supposedly loved it.
  • For Top Chef, he said they didn’t have the 3 minutes it seemed on the show to execute the quickfire challenges. They usually had 5 minutes to think and then 30 minutes to execute. I mean, I feel like I could cook something good in 30 minutes. Just sayin.
  • He said he got on Top Chef by basically smack talking to Tom Colicchio, who he cooked for at a DC Event. He said that previous seasons were embarrassing, and he could cook better than any of those people. He got a call for casting in Philly a few weeks later.
  • He said the fastest Top Chef Contestant hands down was Angelo, who he said was like “lightning” in the kitchen.

Now on to Paula:

  • She didn’t cook at all. Like didn’t touch any food at all. She said “Y’all can turn on the TV and see me cook 3 times a day. Let’s chat.” Loved that. Cause really, do I need to see you melt butter live?
  • She had gum in her mouth that she was going to spit out. She said “Most of those Food Network gals are spitters. But I’m a swallower. ” And she swallowed her gum. Just the image that invokes is gross.
  • Her drunk assistant Brandon was there, helping cook. The reason people call him the drunk assistant is because of when Kathy Griffin visited Paula for her show, My Life on the D-List. (Google it.)
  • She said she loved Kathy Griffin’s visit, except when she hit her in the face with a switch. “That hurt, y’all.” she said. See the clip here.
  • She has a cruise she takes in January with her fans. Maybe her clothing line will include bathing suits and wraps.
  • Her daughter in law used to hate her guts, she said. When she and her current husband got married. Not the case now. She has two new grandsons.
  • They were tieing up a pork roast. When Paula asked if he had learned anything, Brandon said “I learned to tie up meat.” She replied “Well that will come in handy when you get home.” Who knew this woman was so dirty?
  • She’s recently started shelling. You know, sticking shells all over frames and such. Someone clearly has too much time on her hands.
  • She recommends cooking her Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake instead of pie this Thanksgiving. Sounds divine.
  • No update on the clothing line, though. Bummed…

Enjoy!

~ Dana

Happy Halloween! As if you need a reason to eat sweets. Here are some tables we love!

By Amy Atlas, the queen of dessert tables:


By Anna and Blue Paperie:

By Modishly Delish. Love the dead flowers as the centerpiece. Super cute.

By Sweet Scarlet:

Enjoy!

~ Dana

While Christina and I lived together we threw some dinner parties with some great centerpieces. We worked together and everything was lovely. Now that we live on two different coasts, it’s war. Just joking (mostly…). So we agreed to battle it out with $10, a theme and no direction. We each had to come up with a centerpiece that reminded us of summer, since it’s almost over.

Dana’s Centerpiece:

When Christina said that summer was the theme, I immediately thought of sunflowers, even though they just started showing up at my flower spot last week. But their bright yellow color really reminds me of the outdoors. For whatever reason I decided to do something crafty. As my husband will tell you, I always make things more complicated than they need to be. Regardless, I’ve outlined the steps below. Remember how your parents told you that you couldn’t go to college to major in basket weaving, and to get yourself together and pick a major? If you had, it would have come in handy now.

You will need:

  •  2 spools of 2 different colors of ribbon, 1 inch wide – $99 cents each
  • Adhesive (tape, glue dots, whatever you have…) – $0
  • Bunch of sunflowers – $4.99
  • Tall cylindrical vase (Note: You can use any shape of vase that you have that will allow the ribbons to lay flat. Sunflowers are pretty hefty flowers, so I prefer a taller vase, so you can see the vase instead of being covered up by the flowers.) – $0
Directions:

Step 1: Cut the sunflowers to fit the vase. These flowers are pretty thick, so they’re a pain to cut. Scissors may not cut it. (Ha ha..)

Step 2: Cut strips of ribbon (color 1) the height of the vase, leaving 1/4 “ at each end for securing to the vase. Adhere the ribbons around the top of the vase, flush with one another. Leave the bottoms free.

Step 3: Continue putting ribbons (color 1) around the top of the vase until you cover the top.

Step 4: Take the alternate color (color 2) and adhere on the vase under one of the existing ribbons (color 1), flush with the top of the vase.

Step 5: Weave the ribbon (color 2) in and out of the flaps, securing the strip where you started once you get around. Pull down the vertical ribbons (color 1) until they are flush with the top of the vase.

Step 6: Place another ribbon (color 2) under the next vertical ribbon (color 1) over. This strip should be shifted over one, so it is alternating with the row above it. Continue until you get to the bottom.

Step 7: Secure all ends of the ribbons (color 1) on the bottom of the vase.

Step 8: Fill the vase with water and put the sunflowers in it. Enjoy!

Christina’s Centerpiece:

The first image that came to my mind when I thought of the term “summer centerpiece” was yellow flowers.  No specific flower, really. Just yellow. (Funny how Dana and I thought of the same thing — living together will do that…) And then I pictured blue. I wanted something that looked a little country so I picked up a blue-flowered sugar bowl from my local Goodwill and it only cost a few bucks. Gotta love Goodwill for cheap finds.

Oddly, getting the flowers for the centerpiece was the most challenging aspect of this project. You see, I have a full-time job Monday through Friday which means I pretty much only have weekends to get anything done (and if I’m working on anything that requires taking pictures, forgetaboutit.). And not all of my weekends are free for crafting projects so I really have to plan ahead to accomplish anything.

My grandmother suggested the San Francisco Flower Mart which I had never been to but seemed like the perfect place to find a variety of flowers at good prices. I was a little nervous when I first got there because I saw a warehouse of people who seemed to be packing up for the day but right before I gave up I spotted a vendor through one of the doorways.

I was really excited to see such a wide variety of flowers and so many flowers whose names I didn’t know and had never seen before. But of course I was looking for yellow flowers which narrowed my choices considerably. I ended up buying some spider mums which were about $6. I thought that was a pretty good deal.

By no means am I an expert in floral arranging but it is something I’d like to learn to do better. In the meantime, this is what I came up with for the centerpiece:

My grandmother loved it, which is all that matters to me. I left the arrangement at my grandparents’ house so they can enjoy it.

Have Fun!

Casa is participating in Breast Cancer Awareness Month!

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