December 12, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
Is anyone else completely freaked out by the fact that we’re now officially under two weeks until Christmas? I still have a ton of shopping to do compared to this time last year, and I don’t even have the house fully decorated yet. Craziness! But that’s ok, because I’ve got another installment of the gift guide for you here today so we can all try to get back on track with our shopping. Today we’re talking gifts for her! For your best friend, your sister, your mom. Or, heck, add these picks to your own wish list! I did a little something different with this year’s guide for the ladies, focusing on a few different genres of gifts, moving from the ladies who love to cook at the top, to gifts with more of a boho vibe to gifts for the totally glam lady in your life. Either way, there are lots of pretty things here!
p.s. If you missed them, be sure to check out my picks for hostess gifts, fabulous gifts for inlaws, awesome gifts for guys, pretty gifts for girls and fun gifts for boys.
[Gifts for Her | 1: Apron | 2: Mixing bowl set | 3: Silicone utensils | 4: Vanilla bean flake salt | 5: Pepper cutting board | 6: Gold bracelet | 7: Splatter tote | 8: Makeup brush set | 9: Too Faced eyeshadow palette | 10: Chanel Chance Eau Tendre | 11: Lipstick stain mug | 12: Bliss sweater | 13: YSL Lip Gloss | 14: Sugar tinted lip treatment | 15: Pouch wallet | 16: Charcoal candle | 17: Brass key ring | 18: Rose geranium citrus bath salts | 19: Porcelain measuring spoons.]
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December 11, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
I’m sharing a bit of our Christmas tradition with you today and I sincerely could not be more excited. In our area here in Upstate New York there is nothing that marks the start of the holiday season more than the emergence of the famed Tom and Jerry bowl! If you have no idea what that means, I’m about to fill you in. If you’re already familiar with the classic Tom and Jerry, you’re probably already squealing with joy. Because that’s what happens as we stomp off our snowy boots and make our way inside to sip that first Tom and Jerry of the season. While my favorite version is served up at The Crystal, you will find them in bars and restaurants all over the region. They are only served from Thanksgiving through New Year’s day and then they’re gone for another year. I think that’s absolutely part of their magic, because they conjure up the joy and cheer of the season. Plus, they’re just incredibly delicious!
In short, the Tom and Jerry is a thick boozy drink made with a batter and served hot in a mug. While made with eggs and loads of spices, it’s really nothing like egg nog, which is a common question. The ingredients are similar, but egg nog has milk and/or cream and the preparation method is quite different, making a Tom and Jerry an experience unto itself. (That said, we have a killer egg nog recipe if that’s what you’re after!) I believe they’re also really popular in the mid-west, specifically in Wisconsin so I’d love to know how you drink your Tom and Jerrys in other parts of the country! Here in our neck of the woods, this is how we do it. Many thanks to my mom for helping me with this post. We spent a lot of time working on this recipe to make sure our method was precise so you can easily recreate it at home. Now, let’s make our batter and get to sipping!
For the Batter
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 cup of confectioner’s sugar (or super fine sugar)
- 2 tsp vanilla
- Large pinch of cloves
- Large pinch of cinnamon
- 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
For the Drink
Begin by separating your eggs, placing the whites and yolks in separate clean, dry mixing bowls. It’s important to make sure the bowl containing the whites in particular is very clean and completely dry. Also, you need to make sure you don’t have even a speck of yolk in with the whites or it will affect the consistency of the batter, which is key to making this drink really special.
In a mixing bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer), set to whipping the egg whites. We want them to end up very very thick, not just frothy. Once they’ve thickened up a bit, begin adding 1/2 cup of the confectioner’s sugar, a spoonful at a time. Continue whipping until very stiff peaks form. You want the whites to be so thick that they wouldn’t dump out of the bowl if you turned it upside down. This might take as long as 10 minutes, depending on your mixer, etc. Just keep whipping! If you have a stand mixer, this is when you can set the mixer and start with the next step.
In the bowl with the egg yolks, add the remaining confectioner’s sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Whisk to combine well. When your whites are super stiff, add the yolk mixture to the whites and fold gently to combine. Do not whisk this mixture and do not beat it or stir it with any kind of vigor. It’s meant to be really thick, at least as thick as cake batter, and over mixing or whisking will make it thin and runny.
Each drink is prepared individually when you’re ready to serve. Start by warming your mugs by filling them with hot water and allowing it to set for 30 seconds or so. Then dump out the water and spoon a generous amount of batter into each mug. For smaller mugs like mine shown here, about two tablespoons is appropriate. Then add your rum and brandy at a ratio of 1:1. For these little mugs that amounts to about 1/2 shot of rum and 1/2 shot of brandy. Then pour hot water over top until the mug is full. Add a bit of freshly grated nutmeg on top and serve with a little spoon or an ice cream stick. Do not mix the drink before serving! As you add the booze and hot water, the batter will rise to the top and you’ll have a drink that’s kind of separated into layers. This is exactly what you want.
Some people, like me, like to have a couple of little spoonfuls of the batter first. Then I take a few sips. As I make my way down the mug, I take my spoon and start mixing the batter into the rum, brandy and water mixture. Other people like to mix their drink thoroughly before drinking. It’s totally a personal preference, which is why I advise not mixing before you serve them up. While utterly delicious, the tradition behind the Tom and Jerry is really what makes people go crazy about them. They’re sweet, rich and definitely guaranteed to warm you up on a cold winter’s night. (Hot booze will do that to you!) This isn’t really a drink you make just one or two of, it’s more of a group thing, which is what makes it perfect for holiday gatherings. As you can probably tell, I’m a serious fan. Feel free to switch up the spirits, too! Some places make them with just rum, others with cognac and I’ve even heard of making them with bourbon. Do whatever you prefer, but I always recommend a high quality liquor.
Many thanks again to my mom for helping me craft this post! We spent a long time in the kitchen this past weekend perfecting this recipe so it’s as close as can be to our favorite Tom and Jerry. For anyone who is local, our batter is still not quite like it is at The Crystal (and as we all know, they’re crazy secretive about how they make their batter), but my mom, stepfather and I all agree this is our favorite Tom and Jerry recipe after theirs. So there’s that! I’ll take second place when it comes to this one. If you try this out, please tag me in a photo on Instagram and use the hashtag #sweetestcocktails! I would absolutely love to see what you’re mixing up this holiday season.
[Photos + recipe by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion.]
December 10, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
Because we’re getting ever closer and most of us are starting to kick our holiday shopping into high gear about now if not already, I’m bringing you a double dose of The Gift Guide this week! Today we’re talking all about gifts for boys. Much like my gift guide for girls, I tried to put the emphasis here on well designed, high quality items that go beyond the typical toy aisle. I also like including gifts that encourage little brains and little hands to get active in some way so an awesome set of blocks and a cool DIY superhero mask kit were must-haves here. While working on this guide I had the assistance of my resident little dudes (ages 12 and 13) and these picks are approved by them as either things they would love now or would have loved when they were younger. In fact, they even spent some time browsing with me and hand picked a few of the items on this list. You can’t beat that stamp of approval!
p.s. If you missed them, be sure to check out my picks for hostess gifts, fabulous gifts for inlaws, awesome gifts for guys and pretty gifts for girls.
[Gifts for Girls | 1: Pajamas | 2: Earbuds | 3: Superhero craft kit | 4: Wooden ABC block set | 5: Bear | 6: Superhero book | 7: Teddy bear hoodie | 8: Wooden bowling set | 9: Wooden rattle | 10: Cabin hat | 11: Junk food notebook set | 12: Wash brush flush art print | 13: Frog hand puppet.]
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December 10, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
This post was sponsored by Frito-Lay. Thank you for supporting the sponsors that so
generously help The Sweetest Occasion keep on keepin’ on!
The holiday season is my favorite time of year to get crafty and, incidentally, it’s also my favorite time of year to host friends and family! Today I’m excited to be working with the Frito-Lay “Season’s Sweetings” SMARTFOOD DIY Challenge to share this fun little DIY project with you. Inspired by classic popcorn garlands (and the SMARTFOOD® brand’s two new holiday flavors, SMARTFOOD Cinnamon Brown Sugar Popcorn and SMARTFOOD Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn Popcorn) we’re making little mini popcorn wreaths that make really darling place cards for all of your holiday entertaining needs. Bonus! They also double as ornaments so you can use these to trim the tree, too.
- SMARTFOOD popcorn flavor of choice
- Floral wire or similar thin gauge wire
- Small shipping tags
- Fresh rosemary
- Scissors or wire cutters
Begin by cutting a length of wire about 10″ long. This is longer than you’ll need, but it will make sure you have plenty to work with as you go along. Then start threading your popcorn onto your wire, one piece at a time. For mine I used 14 pieces of popcorn for each little wreath.
Alternately, mix up the look by making a few wreaths that combine popcorn and fresh cranberries. We’re drawing from classic Christmas decor as our inspiration here, so you can have fun and include whatever you’d like. Little gum drop candies would be adorable, too! (Oh and snacking while crafting is completely encouraged. The boys helped me make these and they’re in love with the SMARTFOOD Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn Popcorn!)
At this point if you want to add a little something extra to your wreaths, you can use the ends of the wire to attach a couple of rosemary sprigs. If you happen to have a bit of pine or boxwood trimmings available either of those would be perfect. To finish off the wreath, gather the ends of your wire and twist together to secure. Make sure everything is nicely secured and then trim to ends of the wire.
When you get to this stage, your wreaths are ready to rock it out on the Christmas tree as really fun ornaments that are easy enough for the kids to help you make. Or, take it one step further and attach a small shipping tag. Tie the ends of the tag around the top of the wreath, tie securely in a knot and trim the ends. Pen a name on each tag and you’re ready to set the table! (Plus, both the SMARTFOOD Cinnamon Brown Sugar Popcorn and SMARTFOOD Sweet and Salty Kettle Corn Popcorn flavors make great party snacks!) As a third option, you could use these tied to packages as really amazing gift tags, too.
And now it’s your turn to get crafty! The folks at SMARTFOOD popcorn want to see how their yummy snack flavors are inspiring your holiday decor this year! Share your awesome holiday-themed craft creations using the hashtags #SmartfoodDIY and #SweetEntry for a chance to win a $250 gift card (see official rules at Fritolay.com.) That’s right! You can win a $250 gift card! To get started, follow Frito-Lay on Instagram and Twitter where they’re sharing loads of fun party and crafting ideas all season long. I can’t wait to see what you make!
[Design, photos + styling by Cyd Converse for The Sweetest Occasion.]
This post was sponsored by Frito-Lays Season’s Sweetings. Read more about our editorial policies.
December 9, 2014 | by Cyd Converse
I’m jumping up and down excited to welcome back Melina of Sugary & Buttery today with her monthly recipe. Today Melina is sharing these amazing chocolate cheesecake Christmas trees, which I’m convinced are actually too cute to eat! But surprise, they are entirely edible and promise to be insanely delicious. I love this recipe, because it’s the type of thing where the kids (whether they’re your own or nieces and nephews) can get messy with you in the kitchen and then taste their own handiwork when they get done. Also, don’t let these fool you – they’re surprisingly simple to make so you don’t have to be Betty Crocker to pull these off. If you make yourself some cheesecake trees the day before, you can plate them and use them as part of your centerpiece at a holiday party, too. Bottom line, these are amazing and I really hope you give this a try! Many thanks to Melina for sharing and be sure to pop over and pay her a visit this holiday season, because I know she’ll be making many delicious things!
Makes 6 trees
For the Filling
- 1 pack cream cheese (8oz)
- ½ cup powdered sugar
- 1-1/2 cups milk chocolate chips
- 1-1/2 cups whipped cream
- 1 large Hersheys milk chocolate bar
For the Coating
- 1 egg white
- 3-4 cups powdered sugar (or more)
- 4 cups shredded coconut
You will also need 6 ice cream waffle cones
Break up the Hersheys chocolate bar into a bowl and melt it over a double boiler. Line the cones with chocolate by filling up a cone with melted chocolate, turning upside down and letting the chocolate run back into the bowl. Place the cones in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to let the chocolate harden. This step is important to seal the inside of the cones and prevent moisture of the cheesecake filling to soak the cones. (Also, if you want different sized trees, trim some of the ice cream cones down before starting.)
Melt the chocolate chips. With a hand mixer, whisk the cream cheese and sugar until fluffy. With your mixer on medium speed, add the melted chocolate into the cream cheese mix. Add the whipped cream and whisk until well combined. Transfer the cheesecake into a piping bag with a round tip attached. Carefully pipe the cream cheese into the cones, making sure to fill them all the way down to the tip of the cones. Refrigerate for about 2 hours.
Whisk together the egg white and the powdered sugar, adding enough sugar to make a thick paste. Brush the outside of the cones with the icing and roll them in shredded coconut. Place on a plate with granulated sugar and decorate as you wish. (I found this little deer cake topper on Etsy.)
[Photos by Sugary & Buttery for The Sweetest Occasion.]