Tag Archives: Family

The Perfect Holiday Cookie

snowmancookies

Thanksgiving is (almost) over! For those of us relaxing while our family sleeps off their turkey-coma, it is hard not to start thinking about the holidays. Many of our fondest childhood memories consist of spending time with friends and family, baking delicious holiday cookies and eyeing the beautifully wrapped presents under the tree.

Embrace nostalgia and create the perfect holiday cookie that tastes delicious and is easy to decorate. Instead of displaying a gingerbread house, cut sugar cookies using some snowman, tree and star cookie cutters to set up a festive and tasty holiday scene. Scatter some coconut shavings or crinkled strips of paper for snow and place holiday candies behind the cookies, so they stand up all night long.

When making holiday cookies, remember to:
* Cream the butter and vanilla together. Doing this beforehand will encapsulate the vanilla and prevent flavor loss.
* Chill the dough in the fridge before shaping it. This will make for a softer, moister cookie that is less likely to spread when baking.
* Remove cookies from the oven a few minutes early, as they will continue to cook on the sheet.
* Let the cookies cool completely before you begin to ice them.

Try this recipe to make three dozen perfect holiday cookies, using vanilla and peppermint extracts to provide a completely unique flavor your entire family will enjoy. 

Classic Holiday Sugar Cookies                                                                                            

3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup superfine sugar (purchase at store or process granulated sugar for about 20 seconds in a food processor)
2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
3 1/4 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon peppermint extract
2 eggs
1/4 cup confectioners’ sugar (for dusting work surface)
1/4 cup all-purpose flour (for dusting work surface)

Position oven rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 F. Line two large, heavy light-colored baking sheets with parchment paper; set aside.
In a medium bowl, whisk flour, baking powder and salt until blended; set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add butter, sugar, cream, vanilla and peppermint extracts; beat with a handheld mixer on medium speed until fluffy, which should take about two minutes. Scrape the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce speed to medium-low; add eggs one at a time and beat after each addition. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the dry ingredients one half at a time.
Divide dough into two even pieces, then press each piece into a disk shape. Wrap them tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour. Dough should be cool and firm but easy to work with.  
In a small bowl, whisk confectioners’ sugar and flour until blended; set aside. Working with one piece of dough at a time, place on a clean, dusted surface. Roll dough to about 1/8-inch thickness. Use cookie cutters to cut shapes and transfer with a thin offset metal spatula to prepared cookie sheets. For even baking, do not overcrowd cookies. Gather remaining dough, cover with plastic and chill. Continue with second chilled dough.
For best results, bake one sheet pan at a time until done, which should take about 10 minutes; remove and place cookies on wire racks to cool. Decorate and store in an airtight container.

Peppermint Glaze and Peppermint Piping Icing

1 1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 tablespoon meringue powder
2 tablespoons water
1/2 teaspoon Nielsen-Massey Pure Peppermint Extract (may substitute with Nielsen-Massey Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract)
Variety gel food colors

In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and meringue powder. Add water and peppermint extract, stir until smooth. Glaze cookies in desired colors and set aside to dry before piping. For the piping icing, remake the glaze recipe and add additional confectioners’ sugar, one tablespoon at a time until desired consistency is reached. Divide icing into small bowls; add desired gel colors. Select pastry tips, prepare pastry bags and creatively pipe icing onto glazed cookies.

The Breast Choice

bellaweb1Any cancer sucks. Breast cancer doesn’t cause any more heart ache, pain, or agony than lung, bone, skin or any other cancer. Breast cancer just happens to cause a change in the two things that as women we value a lot. A whole lot. Our boobs and our hair.

As I’ve traveled this breast cancer journey there are two questions that have been asked more than any other. “Are you getting reconstruction?” and “What are you going to do with your hair?” For the past year the only reply I had that made sense was, “I have no idea”. At the time it worked for both questions; now I have a little more experience and can, hopefully, provide a little advice for anyone just starting out on this road. Just remember – these are YOUR decisions and the only opinion that matters is yours and your doctor’s.

I’ll start with the hair. Not everyone going through breast cancer needs chemotherapy so not everyone loses their hair. Everyone diagnosed with cancer, however, thinks about their hair from the beginning. For those of us who did have chemotherapy we view our hair differently. “It’s only hair” or “it’ll grow back” are comments that makes me want to wash a mouth out with soap and possibly stab someone with an ice pick. I also now have less patience for anyone having a bad hair day. It’s a hair day so it’s all good. In the grand scheme of life versus death, yes it’s only hair but as women most of us aren’t excited about going bald. When you’re already sick, having a good hair day means a lot.

If I had a dollar for every person who asked me what I was going “to do about my hair” I’d be rich or at least be able to pay for a really great haircut and a really good bottle of wine. I’ve always been tempted to answer back with, “I don’t know, what are you going to do about your hair?” Until hair actually grows back no one knows what they will do with it so please don’t ask. Just pile on the compliments and leave it at that. No matter what a bald head looks like tell her it’s beautiful.

The question of reconstruction is a little touchier. I didn’t want to lose my breasts and I still miss them. They weren’t perfect but they were mine and I liked them. I knew that I wanted some type of reconstruction so I researched my options, talked to friends who had already went through it, met with more than one plastic surgeon and finally made a decision that worked for me. I’m very lucky that the people around me gave me the space to explore options and make my own decision. I’m also thankful that my perfect plastic surgeon, Dr. Kurtis Moyer (aka Dr. Gorgeous) has been upfront with me every step of the way and gave me tough love when I was whining and kept me focused on the big picture. Albeit not big boobs, but boobs I can live with.

Having reconstruction is not like having augmentation so take the time to make the right decision for you. Not for your husband, partner, family or doctor. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it or at least put it off until you are sure. I know that putting it off isn’t easy. If you’re like me you want to get through and get to the other side. This is a decision you’ll live with forever (you don’t want to go through this more than once). We’re lucky that right here in Roanoke we have a wide range of options such as implants, TRAM/DIEP (gut fat), latissimus dorsi (back fat), gluteal free (butt fat) or TUG (thigh fat) flaps. Just remember that regardless of the type of reconstruction, your breasts will never be the same. Ever.

I wanted so badly to get everything done as soon as possible so I know that waiting is no fun. But sometimes it’s better to wait. You may need to wait until you’ve finished with chemo or radiation, until pathology reports are back or until a time when your mind and body starts to recover from the trauma of diagnosis and surgery. Your boobs – your decision – make your best breast decision for you.

Tara Nepper is a one-year cancer survivor, wife, mother of four, nana to three and happy to be an advocate for self-examinations, enjoys raising funds for research and is getting used to life after cancer.

Enhance Classic Thanksgiving Fare

Family and friends make Thanksgiving special, but it’s the food that’s always the center of attention. From juicy turkey and creamy potatoes to zesty cranberries and buttery rolls, nobody leaves the table hungry. This year, delight guests by making the classic foods they love but with a few simple twists that will leave taste buds dancing.

Appetizers
When guests arrive, give them something to nibble on as they visit and watch the parade or game. A cheese platter that features three to five new varieties will get everyone talking. Select a range of flavors to tempt every palate, such as pairing soft brie with a crumbly blue and premium extra-aged cheddar cheese.

Accompaniments
The cheese shouldn’t stand alone, so be sure to complement it with fresh fruits. Instead of simply placing bite-size pieces on a plate, create fruit cornucopias using sugar ice cream cones. Simply spoon fruit into the cones and arrange the mini cornucopias on a platter for a beautiful seasonal presentation that’s easy to grab and enjoy for party guests young and old.

Drinks
Apple cider is a holiday must-have to quench Thanksgiving thirst. This year, add some interest to your beverage offerings with a themed drink that expands on the sweet cider flavors. For example, an autumn sangria is the perfect seasonal offering that’s as cheerful as it is refreshing. Start with sparkling wine and add in a splash of cider with freshly sliced pears and apples. Finish with a few cranberries and sprinkle some nutmeg on top. For young guests or those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks, simply swap out wine for alcohol-free sparkling juice.

Cranberries
Cranberries are a Thanksgiving staple, but most people take a small spoonful and move on. If you want to add new flavor to cranberries so guests will be asking for seconds, different spices and additions could mean lip-smacking results. Sweet citrus fruits like oranges taste heavenly when cooked down with cranberries. A splash of port can bring new depths to the classic dish, too. Allspice, cinnamon, nutmeg and even chili powder can add surprising flavor. If you want to add texture, crushed walnuts add crunch and complexity to the sauce.

Potatoes
Thanksgiving menus often include several potato dishes. The secret to enhancing potato dishes is adding cheese for an indulgent result. For example, the complex flavors of crumbled gorgonzola folded into sweet potatoes make a rich dish that guests will love. Upgrade standard mashed all-purpose white potatoes (russet, Idaho, etc.) by sprinkling in freshly grated parmesan or cheddar for extra kick.

Dessert
No matter how full you are after your Thanksgiving dinner, there’s always room for dessert. Instead of or in addition to pumpkin pie, try pumpkin cupcakes or pumpkin cheesecake. Add new flavor to apple pie or apple crisp by mixing shredded cheddar cheese into the apple mixture prior to baking. Guests will ooh-and-ahh over how the sharp cheddar flavor enhances the sweet apple filling.

Need inspiration? Try these two delicious recipes perfect for enhancing any Thanksgiving table.

recipe1Cheddar Apple Crisp
Makes 8 servings.

Ingredients:
4 cups apples (crisp and tart such as Braeburn), peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/3 plus 1/2 cup brown sugar, firmly packed, divided
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup flour
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup butter
1 cup Black Creek cheddar cheese, shredded

Instructions:
Preheat oven to 350 F. Combine apples, lemon juice and 1/3 cup brown sugar. Arrange in buttered 8 or 9-inch square pan. Combine dry ingredients and cut in butter until mixture is crumbly; gently mix in cheese. Sprinkle evenly over apple mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, garnish with shredded cheese.

recipeBaked Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry Gorgonzola Gremolata
Makes 6 servings.

Ingredients:
6 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 cup melted butter
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley
1 lemon, zested
1 clove garlic, minced finely
3 tablespoons minced pecans
3 tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries
1 scallion, minced
2 ounces Stella gorgonzola, crumbled (If you prefer a milder flavor, use 2 ounces crumbled blue cheese instead of gorgonzola)

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 F. Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Flip over and return to oven to bake until tender – about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

When cool enough to do so safely, peel sweet potatoes. Place in a medium skillet over low heat with butter, salt and maple syrup for 5 minutes, basting the potatoes with the butter mixture occasionally. Lightly smash the potatoes until there is an even consistency. Hold over low heat.

To make the gremolata: In a small bowl, toss together parsley, lemon zest, garlic, pecans, cranberries and scallion. Gently fold in the cheese.

Move sweet potatoes to a serving dish and sprinkle with the gremolata. Serve hot.

 

For a great gluten-free Pumpkin Cheescake recipe, pick up the November issue of Bella Magazine!

Spoil Fido for the Holidays!

collarThere is nothing wrong with wanting your pets to look their best for your holiday gatherings! However, we all know that sometimes the coats, shirts and dresses can be a little too much– especially if they have thick fur and are already warm.

That’s why we love these adorable collars from lazybonezz! Not only do they add a little festivity and class to your pet, but they do so without making them too hot and itchy. There are collars with bow ties, flowers, fringe, and many more unique styles!

And if you are looking for another reason to spoil Fido this holiday season, check out their high quality toys, beds, and feeding dishes. Check out their website for a full list of products. It’s a win-win– your pet will enjoy the comfort and you will love the quality!

Grab our November issues while you still can for more great holiday finds!

Money Saving Tips for Holiday Travelers

bellamagazine‘Tis this season for long lines, crowded airports and bustling lobbies. Travel during the holiday season is almost always a harried event, especially when overbooking or inclement weather completely disrupts travelers plans. According to NerdWallet, 20 percent of the holiday flights from 25 of the busiest winter airports were either delayed or cancelled over the past five years.

While you can’t do much about the inconvenience caused by a cancelled flight, you can take a few measures to make your holiday travel experience less expensive. Here are several tips to help you and your travel party save money during the most wonderful (and costly!) time of the year.

  1. Use your warehouse club card.
    If you have a membership to Costco or Sam’s Club, consider booking through their travel portals for discounts on airfare, lodging and rental cars, as well as deals on cruises and activities. Costco has deals like 10 to 20-percent off rooms at Hyatt and Best Western properties, as well as discounts and coupons from several rental car companies. Sam’s Club advertises average savings of 15 percent on hotel rooms, and 10-percent off rental car rates.
  2. Factor in all the fees.
    If you opt for cheaper airfare, you may be slapped with lots of additional fees, like checked baggage, priority boarding, seat selection and even carry-on luggage. Make sure to read the fine print and account for all the fees before booking. It’s possible flights that appear to be more expensive will save you money in the long run.
  3. Price-track for the best deal.
    Comparing airfare prices among different carriers is key to getting the best deal on your flight. However, this process can be time-consuming and frustrating, which is where Pintrips.com comes in. This site compares prices on travel with real-time price-tracking, and offers an added social element to help you coordinate with your family and friends. You should also keep price-tracking after you book; Southwest offers refunds for itineraries that drop in price after purchase, and other airlines do as well, depending on the difference amount.
  4. Use a Hotel loyalty program.
    Using rewards programs from hotels and hotel-booking sites can yield discounts and free nights. For every 10 nights you book through Hotels.com, for instance, you get one night free when you’re part of their rewards program. I recently used my free night in Spain and saved $300! For travelers in need of last-minute accommodations, check out the HotelTonight app; it offers high-end hotel rooms for cut-rate prices.
  5. Redeem your rewards.
    According to Colloquy, a loyalty intelligence consulting firm, $16 billion in rewards go unredeemed every year. These rewards aren’t just perks; you earn them as a result of your spending, so it’s wasteful not to use them! Redeem your credit card or airline miles for gift cards to help pay for your holiday travel, or figure out how to use miles for flights or even restaurant meals.
  6. Buy discount gift cards.
    For dining, entertainment, airfare and hotels, you can save on your travel needs by using discount gift cards. Restaurant.com offers gift cards for 40-percent off face value to local eateries when you enter zip code. You can also enjoy that family holiday movie outing for less: Warehouse stores offer bundled gift card deals for movie theaters, like a 10-pack of tickets to Regal Cinemas for $84.99 (less than $8.50 per ticket!) from Costco. Use any leftovers as gifts!
  7. Use dining coupons to save on food when traveling.
    Look into daily deals for restaurants and movie theaters via Groupon or LivingSocial for 40 to over 60-percent off your dining experience. Tap into restaurant coupons using Coupon Sherpa, which offers discounts to national restaurant chains that you can find in most major cities, like a free appetizer at Olive Garden or a free breakfast entree from Bob Evans with entree-and-two-drink purchase.
  8. Price one-ways and book separately.
    Before you search exclusively for round-trip tickets, price one-way tickets from multiple carriers to see if you can get a better deal. This strategy also enables you to apply reward miles to one leg of the trip if you don’t have enough to cover the cost of a round-trip ticket. Also, book group tickets separately; reservation systems must price group tickets the same, meaning if there are only two bargain tickets left and you’re booking for four travelers, you miss out on those savings!
  9. Buy someone’s cancelled reservation.
    A unique way to save on hotel lodging is to buy a cancelled reservation. RoomerTravel.com connects you with other travelers who are stuck with a hotel reservation they can’t cancel, and facilitates your purchase of that reservation for up to 25 percent below market price. Enter the city or zip code where you’re visiting to look for available reservations.
  10. Rent your room or house while you’re away.
    You can rent your house while you’re away using services like HomeAway and AirBnB. The average cost is $65 per night, and you can use the money earned to help offset the cost of your trip and other holiday expenses. If you’ve never listed your home before using one of these sites, read AirBnB’s Decide to Host to learn about the process and the details you need to consider.
  11. Research airport parking and transportation.
    AirportParkingReservations.com provides a current list of available parking lots and going rates helping you find more affordable long-term parking. You can read reviews to ensure a safe location. Also, don’t get stuck at the airport destination with no ride to your hotel or family’s home, or you could get stuck paying a premium for a cab service. Consider shuttle services or even seek car shares via Zimride.
  12. Get reimbursed for delays or cancellations.
    There’s nothing worse than finding out your flight is delayed or cancelled, especially during the holiday season. With AirHelp, you can receive compensation for delayed and cancelled flights, lessening the blow to your budget and making the inconvenience more bearable. The service takes 25-percent of your haul if you are compensated, but nothing at all if your claim is rejected. With the potential to receive up to $800 for your troubles, it’s worth a shot!

 

Holiday Gift Idea: MapIsArt.com

tray1Looking for a special gift that will let someone know how much they mean to you this year? Personalize an item from Map Is Art!

Use the location of your first date, a happy childhood moment, or even your current address to create a unique design that your loved one will treasure for years to come!

We chose 1 Market St, SE/Roanoke, VA 24011 for this gorgeous tray. Stay tuned to our Facebook page in the next few days for your chance to win it!

Stylish Thanksgiving Dinner Necessities

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and we want to share our favorite dinner party necessities with you! Check out this list of unique kitchen and dining items to put the finishing touches on your holiday meal:

runnerHeat Resistant Table Runner with Removeable Magnetic Chalkboard Labels: 
The perfect accessory to decorate your table AND offer functionality! This heat resistant table runner from GUS is filled with heavy duty polyester batting to accommodate hot dishes while protecting your table. Place all of your dishes along the runner and write the name of each or its ingredients on the removable chalkboard labels. Chalk pencils sold separately.

Casserole Carrier with Insulated Lining: 

Made of Recycled Coated Cotton, with sturdy rope handles and faux leather trim, this Carrier is perfect for transporting all your favorite dishes from a large lasagna to Grandma’s recipe for everyone’s favorite stuffing! Insulated interior keeps food hot and is easy to wipe clean.

cozysWine Bottle Cozy Set of Two:
Made of felt, elastic and chalkboard fabric, these wine bottle cozys help preserve the ideal temperature of your favorite red, white, or bubbly. You can even write the wine type on the chalkboard fabric so you don’t need to take the cozy off to see what you’re about to pour! Perfect for dinner parties and events. Chalkboard pencils sold separately.

All of the above items can be purchased at www.greatusefulstuff.com.

And, for your cooking needs, you have got to check out this Dual Grater from Kuhn Rikon. You can do two types of grating using this tool and it is collapsible for easy storage! It sports a textured handle for a safer gril and an ultra sharp stainless steel grater. It is available on Amazon.

 

Host a Chocolate Tasting Party!

485x485_wine_pairing_kit_closedThis holiday, host a chocolate tasting party!

What is a chocolate tasting party? We’re glad you asked. It is a unique celebration in which you and several friends gather together to pair high quality chocolate with wine, discuss the pairings and jot down notes. You and your guests will learn more about the items you are tasting in an inexpensive and fun way!

If you don’t know where to begin, try a helpful wine pairing chocolate kit from TCHO. It includes chocolates and tasting grids for four tasters. All you have to do is add a pairing wine (or two), mild crackers (for cleansing palates between samples), and pens.

box_sf_heart_485_1They also offer great gifts for those of us not attending a chocolate tasting party. Let’s be honest, no party is complete without chocolate! TCHO sells several gift boxes, but our favorite is “I Left My Hearts in San Francisco.” It comes in two sizes and contains pure notes paired with chocolate, nutty, berry, and bright notes.

For more information on the products TCHO offers, visit www.tcho.com.