christmas

Cranberry, Goat Cheese & Roasted Garlic Naan Toasts

It probably would have been ideal if I would have posted this before Christmas, since it definitely falls into the category of a “festive” appetizer…but, hey, there’s still time before New Year’s! Cutting the naan into star shapes is totally optional, of course.

Cranberry, Goat Cheese & Roasted Garlic Naan Toasts

1/2 cup of whole berry cranberry sauce
5-6 oz. goat cheese
6 large cloves of garlic
4 pieces of naan bread
olive oil, for brushing

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap your garlic cloves in aluminum foil and bake in the oven for about 25 minutes, until quite soft.

If not using cookie cutters, cut your naan bread into roughly 6 wedges per piece. Cut two pieces of naan on top of each other to ensure that you will have top and bottom pieces that match. Put pieces on cookie sheets, brush with olive oil and put into oven at 400 degrees.

Allow to bake for about 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from oven and allow to cool slightly.

Now you’re ready to assemble.

Squeeze garlic cloves out of skins. Spread a little bit of the roasted garlic (about 1/2 a clove) onto the toast, then top with goat cheese and a teaspoon or so of cranberry sauce. Press a similarly-sized naan toast on top to make a little sandwich. Repeat.

My Favorite Christmas Treat: The Nanaimo Bar

Christmas baking is in full swing at my house. So far we’ve made a couple Cranberry Orange Loaves,  some Andes Mint Christmas Tree Cookies (recipe coming soon), and a big batch of these Nanaimo bars, which are my absolute favorite. I can honestly say that I have had nanaimo bars every year at Christmas since I could eat solid foods. You see, Christmas just isn’t Christmas to me without these delicious treats.

Nanaimo bars are a Canadian delicacy (IMHO!) and originate from a town on the west coast of Canada, in the province of British Columbia. One day I will make a pilgrimage there. They consist of three layers – a chocolate, coconut and nut base, a creamy custard/icing type filling and then a layer of chocolate ganache on top. In my opinion (and in the opinion of many others), you MUST use Bird’s custard powder which is a British product but available in the international section of many grocery stores.

The original recipe calls for uncooked egg in the base of the squares, which my family has never been comfortable with since it’s common for these to sit out on a plate for hours while we graze. So there are a few modifications to the original recipe, also including a slightly thicker chocolate layer and a base made of pecans in place of walnuts. Here it is!

My Favorite Christmas Treat: The Nanaimo Bar

Ingredients

Base Layer

1/2 cup of salted butter
2 oz. semi-sweet baking chocolate, melted
2 cups graham cracker crumbs
1 cup unsweetened coconut
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans
2 tbsp sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg

Custard Layer


3 Tbsp milk
1/2 cup butter (room temp)
3 Tbsp Bird’s custard powder
2 cups icing sugar

Chocolate Ganache Topping

5 oz. baking chocolate (Ghirardelli is my favorite)
1  1/2 Tbsp butter

Melt butter and chocolate together in a medium saucepan.

Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Mix in all other ingredients and return to heat. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, stirring occasionally. Allow to cool. When room temperature, transfer mixture into a square (8×8 or 9×9) baking pan, ideally lined with parchment paper (or you can spray with baking spray).

Press mixture down so that it is compact. Cool in fridge for 30-60 minutes.

Start on your custard filling. Beat together butter, milk, custard and icing sugar until smooth.

Remove base layer from fridge, gently spread on custard/icing layer and return to fridge. In the meantime, start on your ganache layer. Melt chocolate and butter in small saucepan until smooth. 
Remove pan from fridge, pour on ganache layer and gently spread and smooth with a spatula. Return to fridge for 1-2 hours to allow chocolate to harden.
These squares are pretty rich, so I generally cut fairly small pieces. Hope you love them as much as I do!

Home Depot Style Challenge – Behind the Scenes

Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath
The Home Depot Style Challenge

About a month and a half ago, Steph and I got together here in Charlotte to execute our plans for The Home Depot Style Challenge, which we’d been invited to participate in over the summer.

Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath

Here’s how it worked: The Home Depot shipped us a bunch of cool holiday-themed stuff and gave us the assignment of DIY-ing a holiday wreath, and styling the surrounding space. Head over to Beckham + Belle’s post on The Home Depot Blog for more on the DIY!

Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath
Master Light Stringer
Setting Up Our Home Depot Style Challenge Shoot

We actually set up our holiday ‘scene’ on my back patio.  Since Christmas in the Carolinas is often pretty mild (I’m originally from Canada, so it’s all relative…), it’s not unusual to end up sitting outside on Christmas day. So Steph and I thought it would be fun to style an outdoor living room, complete with a comfy blankets, DIY plaid pillows, lights and a hot cocoa & snack bar. Super cozy.

Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath

 

Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath

 

Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath
Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath
Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath

Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath

The lights were a little more effective once the sun went down…
Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath
Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath
Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath
The wreath design was quite honestly Steph’s brainchild (she is quite brilliant). I just helped figure out how we could bring her vision to life!

 

Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath

It took us a while to figure out all the steps, and we messed up once or twice but I’m confident that if we had to make another one, we could really knock it out quickly!

Fail. I blame the old guy in the background.
Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath
This one wanted in on the action, feeling strongly that flowers should be incorporated into the garland.
Feeling ambitious, we even did our very first Beckham + Belle video … as we celebrated the completion of the Home Depot Style Challenge with Kir Royales.

 

Home Depot Style Challenge DIY Wreath

So head over to the Home Depot Blog and let us know what you think! While you’re there, check out all the other great Home Depot Style Challenge projects!

12 Weeks of Christmas: Cranberry Orange Bread

Steph and I have admittedly been a little remiss in pacing our 12 Weeks of Christmas series. We’ll be kicking it into high gear over the next couple of weeks to catch ourselves up.

For this installment, I bring you the most delicious Cranberry Orange Bread. Unlike the Doll Clothes Armoire, this is not something you’re going to want to wrap up for the kiddos BUT it does make a pretty great neighbor gift, especially when wrapped festively. (See above).

With a generous amount of orange zest, fresh cranberries and a little bit of sour cream (my secret ingredient for delicious cakes and breads … see here and here for additional examples), this cake tastes and smells like Christmas morning.

The recipe is for one loaf, so definitely do the math if you’re planning on gifting this to several neighbors.

Cranberry Orange Bread






2 cups of all purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt
zest of one orange

1/4 cup of softened butter
1 cup of sugar
1 egg
2 tbsp sour cream
1/2 cup of freshly squeezed orange juice (you should get enough from the orange you zest above)

1 cup of roughly chopped cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Sift together dry ingredients, add orange zest, and set aside.

Beat butter and sugar together. Beat in egg. Incorporate sour cream, and then the orange juice.

Mix cranberries into flour mixture. Add wet ingredients and mix until just incorporated.

Pour into greased loaf pan and cook for about 45 minutes, until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Serve warm and drizzle honey on top for added sweetness.

DIY Closet / Armoire for American Girl Dolls

 DIY Doll Clothes Closet / Armoire

If you would have told me five or ten years ago that I would one day dedicate my free time to building a doll clothes armoire for my kid, I would have laughed at you. Or mocked you. Probably both.

But here I am, with not one, but two kids, building furniture for my first-born’s American Girl doll (“Sage”) in my [limited] spare time.

This DIY armoire actually kicks off a new series that Steph and I will do for the next 12 or so weeks – DIY Christmas/Holiday Gifts. We’ll be showing you some of our handmade gift ideas that we’ll be making for our nearest and dearest.

There’s no shortage of good reasons to make your own Christmas gifts. If money’s short, it’s a way to save during an otherwise very expensive time of year. If money’s no object, the fact that you took the time to make something shows your giftee that you really love them. Either way, it’s a win!

My daughter had been asking for a closet for Saige for some time. It sounded like an easy enough project to take on. Step one was making sure that I could buy doll clothes sized hangers for Sage’s wardrobe. Duh. Of course you can. Anything you can think of that might be needed/wanted for an American Girl doll already exists (including armoires, if you want to skip this whole tutorial and just order one!!).  I bought my hangers on Amazon – 12 for $6, not bad.

Once I had the hangers, I measured them to see how deep the armoire would need to be to accommodate the hangers. They were right around 7 inches so I went with a 1×8 board for the armoire frame.

Supplies

1 6-ft 1×8 board
1 9 ft .75″ craft board or trim (optional – can purchase in pieces, see cuts below)
1 4 ft .5″ craft board or trim (optional, see below)
1 2ft x 2ft 1/4 inch mdf plywood (for doors)
1 2ft x 2ft 1/4 inch plywood (for back)
4 small hinges (with screws)
2 small cabinet knobs
12″ piece of dowel rod (I used 3/4″)
wood glue
paint of your choice

Directions

Mark two 18″ cut points on your 6 foot board. Also mark two 15″ cut points. I used a compound miter saw to make these cuts – they could also be done with a table saw, jig saw, or regular miter saw (carefully).

Drill a hold into the top of each 18″ piece of 1×8. measure down about 2.5 inches from the top of the board, and center the drill bit. These will be the holes you’ll use to insert the dowel rod, so make sure your drill bit matches your dowel size.

Next, attach your 1×8 pieces to make a frame for the armoire. As you can see, for my design, I had some overhang with my top and bottom pieces. I measured about half an inch in and then positioned the side pieces accordingly. I used wood glue and angle clamps (love these angle clamps … one of my favorite tool purchases!).

 

Please excuse the disaster that is my workshop.

While the glue sets, cut the back and the doors for your armoire. The back should measure roughly 14.5″ x 18.5″. The doors each measure 7″ x 18.5″.

Optional step. I wanted to trim out my doors, to dress up the armoire a little bit. This is where the craft wood came in. I trimmed out each door with the .75″ strips of craft wood (4- 18.5″ pieces, 4 – 7″ pieces).  Miter the edges and glue the trim on. Then I made the cross in each door using the 1/2″ craft wood.

Once the glue is set on the armoire frame, insert your dowel rod through the pre drilled holes. Then glue on the back of the unit.

Paint doors desired color while glue sets. (I painted the inner part of the door a silver color to mimic mirror, and then the door frame purple – my daughter’s favorite color du jour).

Once that glue has dried, mark the location of your screws needed to secure hinges. Drill holes, and attach doors with hinges. (Note: this step is a bit tricky and may take some tweaking. Door 1 went on smoothly for me, but my measurement was off for door 2 and I had to re-drill my hinge holes).

Paint the rest of the unit (inside and outside) your color of choice.

Attach knobs to each door.

Do any necessary paint touch-ups, stock it with hangers and wrap it up for that special little girl on your list!