Be a Good Holiday Guest

If you’re lucky enough to not be the host for the upcoming holidays, do your host a favor and bring a thoughtful gift!

If you can bake, try Martha Stewart’s lime meltaways. I blogged about them here.

The Barefoot Contessa’s Orange Chocolate Chunk Cake is really impressive and not too challenging. Food Network has the mini-cakes version that appeared on her show, but the whole cake, which is made in a bundt pan, is found in Barefoot Contessa Parties.

If you’re not really a baker but you can turn on an oven and you own a spoon and an 8×8 pan, you can make some jazzed up brownies. Start with a box of Ghirardelli Double Chocolate brownies and get cracking.  Peppermint Brownies are perfect for the holidays and a cinch to make. Pour half the prepared batter in the pan, layer six large peppermint patties across the pan (or a bunch of smaller ones) and cover with the remaining batter.

Nothing goes better with brownies than peanut butter so microwave a few tablespoons of peanut butter for 15-30 seconds to soften it, pour three stripes across the batter and run a knife perpendicular to the peanut butter to swirl it through. Wowee zowee.

If you know your hosts are wine drinkers, choose a bottle for them to enjoy when they’re not crazed with guests. And please, step away from the white zinfandel! If you’re a wine novice, ask the salesperson for a suggestion and don’t be afraid to communicate your budget (even if it’s $10), there are a lot of good choices at every price.

Of course there are many great websites with beautiful gifts. Check out Terrain, Wisteria, Beekman 1802, and for gorgeous personalized photo gifts that are surprisingly well-priced, you can’t beat Pinhole Press. I bought a ton of gifts there this year.

Happy Holidays!!

Meaningful Mother’s Day

Many of us are sick of sending flowers and buying mani/pedi gift certificates to thank our moms for their love. How about doing something charitable instead? So many charities make it easy as pie to donate online and many will even send a card or message to your mom for you!

Women for Women International is an amazing program that pairs women in war-torn countries with sponsors who donate $27 each month to support them through their education. You can always make a one-time donation (like on behalf of your mom…today).

Image: Women for Women International

Oprah Leadership Academy Foundation – you may be reluctant to donate to something started by a woman so wealthy, but Oprah’s wealth works to your favor! Most (if not all) of your donation goes to the children’s education since Oprah takes care of all the administrative costs.

I also love that they have a registry so you can help provide items the girls need.

Image: Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy Foundation

Oxfam not only gives direct relief of food and money to countries in need, but they also focus on empowering women and families to provide for themselves and their communities. You can buy cool things like a goat! Yes, a goat!

Unicef’s Tap Project is working to help children gain access to clean water. Because in 2010 children are still dying from starvation and dehydration. INSANITY.

Valentine’s Day Wrap Up

Friday we had some friends over for dinner and I made Savory Palmiers, Boeuf Bourguignon, and Molten Chocolate Cakes.

Palmiers look like this:

Image: Real Simple

They are usually made with sugar and served as a dessert but Ina Garten has a recipe for them in Back to Basics that is a perfect appetizer. They are made with pesto, sun-dried tomatoes (which I normally hate), goat cheese and toasted pine nuts. Yum.

For dinner I went with the old standby boeuf bourguignon because it tastes better the next day. I used a few hours of my snow day on Thursday to prepare it and just reheated it over a low flame.

Dessert was so good and deceptively easy. I got this recipe off of Tasty Kitchen, a website where you can swap recipes.

Image: Tasty Kitchen

The recipe says to cook them for 13-14 minutes but I might do 12-13 next time because you want the center to be perfectly melted and I felt like some of mine were too cooked in the middle. Serve them with whipped cream or ice cream and get ready to swoon.

On Saturday Matt and I had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Fiore, in Floral Park. It’s sort of contemporary Italian and we’re never disappointed. In addition to a great variety of specials every night they always carry their two house specialties, roasted duck with strawberries and pork osso buco. Wow. I don’t even open the menu anymore, I just order one of those every time we go.


When Valentine’s Day rolled around, Matt opened a can of romance (pun intended, as you’ll see) and gave me this:

It’s a pretty deluxe garbage can and I couldn’t be happier. I’m a little embarassed to admit that it’s exactly what I wanted.

We also went to an engagement party for Brian and Dana yesterday.


That’s my new dress from the clearance rack at the Gap. Lord knows I love a sale.

That’s one good-looking science department, right?

Glad that Matt got the memo about wearing a striped shirt.

What did you do for Valentine’s Day? Are you a lover or a hater?

Our first Christmas and some before and afters

Now that Christmas is winding down I thought it would be a good time to snap some pictures of our house for the family and friends who haven’t seen it yet. Below are pictures of the living room from the day of our walk through, back in July.

The bay window was covered with vertical blinds (yuck), which we recently replaced with a double curtain rod to hang cotton panels and sheers.

Hey there previous owner! Thanks for not telling us about all the things that don’t work in the house! The dining room is no longer orange. I mean really, orange??

Another glimpse of the previously orange dining room. Oy.

Finally, the plastic blinds we were happy to replace with fabric roman shades. Our fireplace is not in working order (big shock there), but it should be within a week or two when we have the damper replaced. Aren’t the floors pretty?

Here are a few from right after Christmas:

Baxter is in the forefront, happy to show off his favorite room. Those are our new roman shades from Smith and Noble, and those large panels in front of the bay window give us privacy at night but easily open up for a lot of light during the day.

This is a secondary seating area that we use when people visit us (hint: visit us!). That little loveseat thing is called a studio sofa and it’s Nate Berkus for Home Shopping Network. Yes, I bought something from HSN. I ordered it online rather than calling the show to chat with the hosts.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care…and in our case, push pins.

That’s my fake garland. Maybe next year I’ll splurge for the real stuff.

Stay tuned for more before and afters!

Small Appliance Dreams Do Come True

It’s been a very happy Christmas here at the Post/Gottlieb household. My parents were very generous this year (as usual) and gave me what every young, hip, 27-year old wants… a new KitchenAid mixer!!!  They gave Matt the Nintendo Wii system, but strangely forgot to give us the year of marriage counseling we will need because of it. I have already thrown a tantrum because I can’t master Guitar Hero and Matt was overjoyed to figure out how to check the weather on the Wii (because turning on the weather channel is too easy?).

Santa Clauslieb (Santa’s Jewish cousin, aka my husband) gave me the supremo Platinum Keurig and it’s great! Not only does it brew coffee in about 30-seconds with no clean up, but it also has settings for iced coffee!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Foodie Gift Ideas

If you have a foodie or cook in your life who needs a holiday gift, here are some ideas for every budget.

Under $20 Gift:

A Microplane Rasp Grater is only $14.95 and is perfect for zesting citrus fruits, finely grating cheese and chasing your loved ones around the house (I’m just trying to keep your relationships exciting).

Under $50 Gift:

The Rosle Garlic Press is well worth its $39 price tag. This one kicks the Pampered Chef garlic press’s ASS.

Under $100

A Baker’s Basket – put these everyday, super-useful tools together for one kickass gift!

Tempered glass mixing bowls. $38 for ten, ’nuff said.

Shiny, dishwasher safe, and they make a cool clickity clack noise. All-Clad measuring spoons and cups. ($16-$39)

Parchment paper is invaluable when baking cookies. It prevents the cookies from sticking to the pan and makes clean up a breeze! Recently, there has been buzz about the dangers of using non-stick cookware. The chemicals that are released can cause health issues in pets and people. Stick with stainless steel, copper, enamel, cast-iron, etc. and throw some parchment paper on it instead.

You can’t get your food out of the oven without oven mitts. These are from Williams Sonoma and are available in a bunch of colors and patterns ($9-$12). They are machine washable and pretty durable. I accidentally set one of mine on fire and it’s still going strong! (Just so we’re clear, I don’t RECOMMEND setting your oven mitts on fire.)

Under $200 (someone’s been awfully good…)

Le Creuset 5 1/2 quart Dutch Oven – currently on sale at Williams Sonoma for $184. Smaller sized ovens are available for less. Stove top to oven to fridge to sink to … you get the picture. The enamel coating is a dream to clean it comes in a ton of lovely colors. The only downside is that they are really heavy, so they’re not great for the arthritic or scrawny.

The You-Did-Something-Wrong-and-Need-to-Buy-Back-Someone’s-Love Budget

Hello, handsome. This is the KitchenAid 90th Anniversary Stand Mixer, and it’s a beauty. This sucker is heavy ; it’s best for people who have the room on their counter to leave it there.

O Christmas Tree

In a moment of weakness, I let Matt convince me that we shouldn’t get a real tree this year. We have a 4-foot fake one from Target that is quite lovely, but one of the experiences I was looking forward to in our new house was finding a big, beautiful REAL tree to ring in the Christmas season. In his defense, he is totally right that getting a tree at this point is a bad idea.  It’s already December 6 (how did THAT happen?), we have electricians coming to do some major work in our living room this week, and we would have to get all the stuff that goes with a tree – the lights, more decorations, a tree stand, a bigger tree skirt … you get the picture.

To fill the void of having a big tree, I’ll just PINE over this picture-perfect one.

a traditional tree from Pottery Barn

Finally, a video I love about the process of getting, decorating, obsessing about, and disposing of the tree.

Streusel Coffeecake

Here is a recipe I posted back in 2009. I made this cake tonight for Matt to bring to a teacher breakfast tomorrow and I was reminded how great it is for the holidays. It’s amazing and awful. Amazingly delicious and awfully bad for you. I’m fairly certain that one of the Christmas miracles is making you immune to fattening food, right?

While in college, my friend Brittany’s mom used to send over huge trays of fattening, delicious treats for us.  Needless to say, we eagerly awaited her visits. I can’t begin to imagine why I gained so much weight . . .

One of my favorites was this streusel, and she generously shared the recipe with me a few years ago. It came from one of those cookbooks that uses boxed cake mix to make fabulous desserts. Because Matt hates nuts (snicker, snicker), I omit them and bulk up the rest of the streusel topping since that’s really the best part!


1 package (40 cookies) of Chips Ahoy Chocolate Chip Cookies

1 package of yellow cake mix (and the ingredients necessary for that – usually 3 eggs and some vegetable oil but follow whatever it says on the box)

1/2 cup of sour cream

1/2 cup of chopped pecans (optional)

3/4 cup of sweetened, flaked coconut (found by the chocolate chips in the baking aisle)

1/2 cup of packed brown sugar

1.5 teaspoons of ground cinnamon

1 melted stick of butter.

Healthy, right?

Begin by preheating the oven to 350 and prepping your cookies. Place 20 of the cookies in a large ziploc bag, squeeze out the air, and zip up the bag. Then bang the heck out of the cookies with the handle of a spatula. These cookies should be coarsely chopped (broken up into small bits, but not entirely crushed). Set them aside and prepare the cake mix.
Follow the directions for the cake – this box called for 1 cup of water, 1/3 cup of vegetable oil, and 3 eggs. Whisk all that together until it’s combined and smooth and then add 1/2 cup of sour cream and the chopped up cookies. Stir together and admire. Pour into prepared 9×12 pan.

This recipe is pretty large, so it’s great for bringing to a party. For that reason, I often make it in a disposable foil pan which I spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Now you’re ready to make the topping (AKA the best part). Put the remaining 20 cookies in that same ziploc bag and smash them until they’re really crushed. Mix that with the 1/2 cup of brown sugar, 3/4 cup of coconut, 1.5 teaspoons of cinnamon, and the 1/2 cup of pecans if you’re using them. Mix it together with a fork and then pour in the melted butter. Fork it all together until everything is moist.

A side note about brown sugar. Most recipes will call for the sugar to be packed – that means that you have to push it down into the measuring cup to make room for as much as you can.

For example, this measuring cup seemed like it was full until I pushed it all down and really it was only about half full. Missing out on brown sugar would be a SIN.

Sprinkle the crumbs on top and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes (until a toothpick comes out clean). If you notice the topping is browning too quickly, you can cover it with foil while it’s cooking.  Be careful when you’re transferring this to and from the oven. The foil pans are very flimsy! Let it cool completely before cutting it up. You can also drizzle a sugar glaze on the top if you want, but I don’t think it’s necessary.

Printable Recipe