White Chocolate Cranberry Cake – A Modern Fruitcake

When I got married, my mom gave me a little notebook with favorite baking recipes from our home.  Last year, I shared our childhood banana bread recipe from this book.

Another favorite is this recipe for a cranberry white chocolate cake.  It has the perfect blend of moistness with sweet and tart flavors, and it’s always a hit at the holidays.  It originally came from a Baker’s chocolate ad in an magazine, though we’ve tweaked it a bit over the years.

Ingredients:

  • 7/8 c butter
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar, lightly packed
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 3 Tbsp orange juice
  • 1 Tbsp grated orange rind
  • 2 c all-purpose flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries
  • 6 oz white chocolate chips

Directions:

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  • Grease and flour a 9″ tube or  bundt pan
  • Beat butter and sugars with electric mixer
  • Beat in eggs, orange juice, and rind
  • Beat in flour and baking powder
  • Stir in cranberries and chocolate chips
  • Bake 1 hour
  • Cool in pan for 10 minutes.  Turn onto a cooling rack to cool completely.

A book of family recipes makes a gift that will become a family treasure | Jewels at Home

I make this cake every year for our holiday party, and it has become a popular tradition!

Modern fruitcake recipe: Cranberry white chocolate cake | Jewels at Home

Modern fruitcake recipe: Cranberry white chocolate cake | Jewels at Home

What are some of your childhood holiday favorites?

“Jewels”

Mad Men Party – Menu

It’s hard to pick a favorite thing about our recent Mad Men- themed party, but the food was a definite hit. Do check out the other posts on the pre-party brainstorming and the Mad Men party wrap-up for more ideas.

To Drink

True to the spirit (haha) of the show, I’ll start with the drinks! Steve played bartender for much of the evening, which I think satisfied his connection to the TV series – he mixes himself a drink in one of our roly poly glasses for each new episode.

Mad Men Party Bar Menu including both classic and whimsical items | Jewels at Home

Mad Men Party Bar Menu including both classic and whimsical items. No one went for the Mountain Dew…

Mad Men party bar set-up with menu and collection of vintage Dorothy Thorpe glasses | Jewels at Home

Mad Men party bar set-up with menu and collection of vintage Dorothy Thorpe glasses.

In the dining room, we had a dry bar including some fabulous California-themed vintage glasses from our local thrift store.  I love the whimsical art with Sally Draper serving drinks.  It’s from Dyna Moe’s book, Mad Men: The Illustrated World.

Mad Men Party dry bar set-up with vintage glasses and Mad Men-inspired art  | Jewels at Home

Mad Men Party dry bar set-up with vintage glasses and Mad Men-inspired art.

Fab vintage glasses for a Mad Men party | Jewels at Home

Fab vintage glasses for a Mad Men party.

To Eat

Besides an array of appetizers set out in “chip and dip” format, Steve and I each had our pet projects for the evening’s menu.  His was definitely more refined – a Beef Wellington.  Since we were eating buffet style (and serving 25), he made a “deconstructed” Beef Wellington, and it was perfection!  His have-to side dish was a wedge salad with blue cheese.  I confess to eating just the blue cheese and bacon, but the wedge did look good on the table…

Mad Men party menu.  Deconstructed Beef Wellington | Jewels at Home

Deconstructed Beef Wellington

Mad Men party menu.  Classic wedge salad | Jewels at Home

Classic wedge salad.

My retro dishes of choice were a Waldorf Salad – modernized with some dried cranberries – and a Jell-o mold.  I did look up some traditional Jell-o salads, but I couldn’t bring myself to put vegetables into gelatin, even for the sake of authenticity, so I made mine with canned Mandarin oranges and strawberries.  It was delicious and definitely a nostalgia item for many in the room.

Mad Men party menu.  Contemporary Waldorf salad with dried cranberries | Jewels at Home

Contemporary Waldorf salad with dried cranberries

Mad Men party menu.  Jell-o mold with strawberries and Mandarin orange slices | Jewels at Home

A mid-century housewife moment: Jell-o mold with strawberries and Mandarin orange slices.

20130512-224423.jpgMad Men party menu.  Jell-o mold with strawberries and Mandarin orange slices | Jewels at Home

A big thank you to our friends who came back in time with us for a fun evening!

Mad Men party menu: Jell-o mold, Waldorf salad, Beef Wellington, wedge salad, and more | Jewels at Home

“Jewels”

Ninjago Birthday Party – Part 1

Pulling off a birthday party is like an athletic event (or at least I imagine it to be, not actually being athletic) – I work like crazy and then crash afterward. It’s always worth it to give our boys a day to remember. Here’s the first post on our seven year old’s Ninjago birthday party. I put details on the party activities in a separate post.

A complete guide to a Ninjago birthday party, with ideas for decorations, activities, food, and party favors.  {Jewels at Home}

Ninjago birthday decorations

I still like the feel of a paper invitation, like the ones I made for our firefighter birthday party, but sometimes the convenience of an online invitation is hard to resist.  Luckily, evite has this Lego-themed invitation, and I added a Ninjago drawing by our birthday boy, to complete the look.

Ninjago birthday party blog post with decorations, food, and activities, from Jewels at Home.

Customize an online invitation for your Ninjago birthday party.

For decorating the house, I hung our reusable birthday banners, customized with pictures of green Ninjago Lloyd ZX.  I had in mind to do balloons with stuck-on Ninjago eyes, but I ran out of time!

Ninjago birthday party blog post with customized decorations and tons of ideas.  {Jewels at Home}

Customized Ninjago birthday banner.

I printed signs for the activities using Bonsai font and mounted them on green scrapbook paper.  Each child got a Ninjago eyes T-shirt to wear when he arrived.  This was their main party favor, and the shirts were a hit!  It was really fun to see all the little Ninjagos running around the house together!

DIY Ninjago T-shirt party favors and many other ideas for a Ninjago birthday from Jewels at Home.

Celebrate your Ninjago fan's birthday with the DIY Ninjago eyes shirts!  Tutorial and more ideas from Jewels at Home.

I failed to capture the partying kids in any decent poses – they were moving too fast! but here’s the birthday boy’s little brother sporting his custom shirt. You don’t need to make your own shirts to have great Ninjago accessories.  I have definitely picked up a lot of Ninjago and other Lego shirts and toys at great prices on Zulily.com!

DIY Ninjago eyes T-shirts and many other ideas for your Ninjago birthday party.  {Jewels at Home}

Ninjago birthday food ideas

As you can see from the sign in this picture, I had wanted to arrange fruit into a Serpentine, one of the Ninjago enemies, but due to limitations of daylight savings time, I just piled the fruit on a plate, and it was all gone in an instant anyway – I told you those Ninjago are fast!

For lunch, we had a variety of Japanese and Japanese-inspired fare, including California rolls and avocado rolls from the local supermarket, homemade Spam musubi by Steve, and plenty of gyoza dumplings, which were the kids’ favorite.

Ninjago birthday party ideas, including decorations, food, and activities.  {Jewels at Home}

Ninjago birthdy party food: gyoza, musubi, and rolls.

Ninjago birthday party ideas, including decorations, food, and activities.  {Jewels at Home}

Instead of a cake, I made sushi using Rice Krispies.  These Rice Krispy treat sushi are decorated with fruit roll-up for the “nori” and Swedish fish and fruit gummies for garnish.  They were a lot of fun to make, though time-consuming.  If you do it, I definitely recommend making a half batch at a time, as the Rice Krispy treats kept hardening before I could shape them all, and I ended up with several leftover globs.

Rice Krispy Treat sushi made from Rice Krispies cereal and candy.  More ideas for a Ninjago birthday party at Jewels at Home.

Rice Krispy Treat sushi made from Rice Krispies cereal, fruit roll-up, Swedish fish, and other treats. So cute!

Tons of ideas for a Ninjago birthday party, complete with decorations, activities and food, from Jewels at Home.

Happy birthday boy at his Ninjago-themed party!

Ninjago Birthday Activities

These were a blast, and you can read all the details in this post!

Happy birthday to our dear son!  I am glad it was such a fun day.

“Jewels”

Ultimate Pretzel Almond Bark

Warning: this stuff is addictive!

One day, Steve brought home some chocolate- and caramel- coated saltines, and I couldn’t stop eating until the the bag was gone!

When I saw recipes for caramel and chocolate pretzel bark, I knew it was going to be the perfect sweet, salty, creamy, crunchy treat. I based my recipe on the Salted Caramel Pretzel Bark from Mama Says What and I added almonds and some subtle spices to give it an extra rich taste.

ULTIMATE Almond Pretzel Bark recipe with a secret ingredient! {Jewels at Home}

ULTIMATE Almond Pretzel Bark recipe with a secret ingredient!

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz mini pretzel twists
  • 1 1/2 cups roasted salted almonds
  • 16 oz semi-sweet dark chocolate chips or 16 oz bar baking chocolate, chopped
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne (my secret ingredient for a little kick!)

Instructions

  • preheat the oven to 350F
  • line a baking sheet with aluminum foil
  • layer pretzels and almonds on the foil (pictured below, top right)
  • in a pot on the stove, melt butter and stir in brown sugar. Bring to boil and keep stirring until smooth and thick.
  • Pour caramel over the pretzels and almonds (pictured below, middle left)
  • bake in oven for five minutes
  • sprinkle cinnamon and cayenne evenly over the mixture
  • add chocolate on top and bake for another couple of minutes to melt
  • use a spatula to smooth out the chocolate (pictured below, middle right)
  • cool for 10 minutes at room temperature and move to the freezer for at least two hours
  • break into small chunks
ULTIMATE Almond Pretzel Bark recipe with a secret ingredient for extra kick! {Jewels at Home}

Easy steps for making the ULTIMATE Almond Pretzel Bark recipe with a secret ingredient for extra kick!

For maximum freshness, store the bark in a container in the freezer.  Mine is in the chest freezer in our basement, and I would like to say that I burn enough calories going up and down the stairs to justify this treat, but that’s probably wishful thinking…

“Jewels”

Gifts in a Jar – Put a Lid on it!

Steve likes to say that everything sounds better when spoken in a British accent… My version is that everything tastes better when it came in a pretty package. I love a project that can reuse an old item in a beautiful way – upcycling at its best! For the holidays this year, I decided to make a variety of gifts in a jar to give to our neighbors and the kids’ teachers. I saved glass jars of various shapes and sizes, and I’ll show how to clean and prep them below.

Here are a few ideas for how to make your own gifts in a jar:

How to clean jars for reuse:

  • start by peeling off as much of the label as possible
  • soak the jar in done water and peel off more of the label
  • if there’s sticky residue left, spray the jar with Goo Gone or vegetable oil and let it sit before a rubbing off the rest of the label
  • run the jars and lids through the dishwasher, using a mesh laundry bag to keep the lids from flying around
  • I finished off by spray painting any labels that had printing on them, for a clean look
Great ideas for gifts in a jar.  Step one: clean and prep your jars. {Jewels at Home}

There are so many ideas for gifts in a jar. Step one: clean and prep your jars.

Tips and recipes for gifts in a jar.  {Jewels at Home}

Another tip: make a funnel from clean card stock to help layer ingredients more neatly.

Some more pictures of our dressed up holiday gifts:

Ideas, tips, and recipes for DIY gifts in a jar. {Jewels at Home}

Homemade apothecary jars filled with bath salts make a wonderful gift for a shower, hostess, or any occasion.

Ideas, tips, and recipes for DIY gifts in a jar. {Jewels at Home}

Ideas, tips, and recipes for DIY gifts in a jar. {Jewels at Home}

I really love having something handmade for the holidays, and making several of the same gifts made the project more doable.  The only real-world caveat I have is that these were very heavy to carry into school.  Add our toddler in the baby carrier on my back, and I definitely broke a sweat.  It was all worth it, though I might recommend a wagon if you are trying this…

“Jewels”

Sesame Noodles with Chicken

I’ll admit I’m not the main cook in our family – thanks, Steve! – but I do have a few dishes that I rely on to get a good, healthy meal on the table, and this is one of them. Our whole family loves the taste of this take on Chinese sesame noodles, and I love that you can pack it full of veggies that the kids will eat.  Since it can be served cold, it’s also a good meal to make ahead for hectic weeknights.

Ingredients:

For the noodles:

  • 5 medium carrots
  • 1.5 bundles buckwheat noodles
  • 1 cucumber
  • 2 stalks green onions
  • 1 1/3 pounds boneless, skinless chicken meat

For the sauce:

  • 1/2 cup tahini, peanut butter, sunflower butter or a combination of these
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger powder
  • 1 Tbsp rice vinegar
  • 2 tsp chili paste (I leave this on the side, when cooking for the kids)

Instructions:

  • Boil the chicken until cooked. Cool and shred
  • Shred carrots to similar width as noodles using mandolin or food processor.  Boil until soft, about 10 minutes.
  • Slice cucumbers into thick strips with a mandolin or knife.
  • Slice green onions into long strips with a knife.  Place in the bottom of a colander or sieve.
  • Boil noodles according to instructions.  Drain in a colander over the green onions, to soften the green onions.
  • Mix all the above in a large bowl and then prepare the sauce (see below)

Here are the ingredients (sans chicken), waiting to be mixed:

Recipe for sesame noodles full of vegetables!  {Jewels at Home}

Sesame noodles full of vegetables!

Mix the ingredients for the sauce together and then stir into the noodle mixture.  You can serve this dish hot, cold, or anywhere in-between.

Asian sesame noodle recipe with lots of veggies the kids will eat! {Jewels at Home}

Asian sesame noodle recipe with lots of veggies the kids will eat!

H0pe you enjoy this addition to your family’s menu!

“Jewels”

 

My Favorite French Toast – Panettone French Toast

I don’t spend that much time in the kitchen, so if you find a recipe here on Jewels’ blog, you be assured it will be easy to make.  I love French toast, and this is my favorite way to make it come out perfectly delicious every time!

Perfect French Toast made with panettone bread | Jewels at Home

The secret is to use Italian panettone bread.  Its rich, sweet flavor is the perfect starting point for French toast.  Here’s the easy recipe that will serve 6:

  • One panettone loaf – this time around, I actually found a loaf with chocolate chips!
  • 1 cup yogurt
  • 6 eggs, beaten
  • Butter for pan frying

To prepare the French toast,

  • slice the panettone bread into 1″ thick slices.  You can do this the night before and let the bread dry out a bit.
  • heat the pan to medium-high and melt butter
  • beat the eggs and beat in the yogurt
  • dip the slices of breast into the yogurt-egg mix
  • pan fry on both sides until lightly brown

Perfect French Toast made with panettone bread | Jewels at Home

Perfect French Toast made with panettone bread | Jewels at Home

Bon appetit!

Jewels

Hot Chocolate Mixes in a Jar

For our teacher gifts this year, I made a variety of gifts in a jar.  I’ll share the rest soon, but the hot chocolate mixes were the most popular, so let’s start there.

Beautiful and delicious recipes for hot chocolate mixes in a jar.  {Jewels at Home}

I made three different mixes:

  • double chocolate hot cocoa
  • peppermint hot cocoa
  • mocha hot cocoa

Here are the recipes. I made them a little less sweet than other recipes out there – they’re still plenty decadent, don’t worry, and I did not put in powdered milk, since many people have a preference for alternative milks like soy milk, rice milk, or almond milk. I made some in almond butter jars , which hold 1.5 cups each, and some in pasta sauce jars, which hold about 2.5 cups.  I used the same recipe but added marshmallows in the larger jars.  For each recipe, layer the ingredients for a festive look.  To finish off the jars, I printed some labels with ingredients and instructions and them stuck them on decorative papers and finished off the gift with a ribbon.

Double Chocolate Hot Cocoa Recipe

  • 3/4cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (the mini chocolate chips will melt more easily)
  • optional: 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows

Beautiful and delicious recipes for hot chocolate mixes in a jar.  They make great gifts! {Jewels at Home}

Peppermint Hot Cocoa Recipe

I enjoy a hint of peppermint in my hot chocolate, but I didn’t want this recipe to be too strong. These Ghiaradelli peppermint bark chocolates made the perfect addition.

  • 3/4cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (the mini chocolate chips will melt more easily)
  • 3 Ghiaradelli peppermint bark chocolates, chopped
  • optional: 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows

Beautiful and delicious recipes for hot chocolate mixes in a jar.  They make great gifts! {Jewels at Home}

Beautiful and delicious recipes for hot chocolate mixes in a jar.  They make great gifts! {Jewels at Home}

Mocha Hot Cocoa Recipe

  • 3/4cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup chocolate chips (the mini chocolate chips will melt more easily)
  • 2 servings instant coffee powder (I used decaffeinated)
  • optional: 1/2 cup of mini marshmallows

Beautiful and delicious recipes for hot chocolate mixes in a jar.  They make great gifts! {Jewels at Home}

Instructions:

These are the same for all the recipes.

For the mixes without marshmallows: “Mix ingredients thoroughly.  Add 1/4 cup mix to 1 cup of hot milk.  Stir and enjoy.”

For the mixes with marshmallows: “Mix ingredients thoroughly.  Add 1/3 cup mix to 1 cup of hot milk.  Stir and enjoy.”

Beautiful and delicious recipes for hot cocoa mixes in a jar.  Perfect gifts!  {Jewels at Home}

I will warn you that these gifts are very heavy!  I walked around school this afternoon with baby J in the Ergo carrier on my back and a tray of 15 glass jars.  Truly ’tis better to give than to receive!

It was worth it, though.  I hope our teachers enjoy their gifts.  Hot chocolate by the fire is just the best!  Trust me, I’m speaking from experience.

“Jewels”

 

Recipe for Homemade “Whole Foods” Chunky Granola

I love this granola from Whole Foods. It’s very chunky and nutty and tastes delicious with yogurt and fruit or on its own. There are only a couple of problems with this love affair that have led me to try making our own version… 1) this little container costs $7 and we can go through it in a couple of days; and 2) the walnuts were my favorite part, and they’ve taken them out! Steve would probably add a third reason, which is that I used to steal all the walnuts out of the granola anyway (I also leave all the cashews in the mixed nuts, so he ends up with just cashews, but I digress…) In any case, I’m very happy to have figured out how easy it is to make this granola economically at home with extra walnuts to (theoretically) leave enough for everyone else.

Whole Foods Chunky Granola.  Recipe for a homemade version from Jewels at Home.

Here is the ingredient list. It was probably a bit ridiculous to try to recreate the granola from this list, since it has the basic ingredients of virtually every granola, but I thought I would give it a try. I don’t usually do a lot in the kitchen, but I was feeling inspired by the granola recipe from My Modern Asian Family, which I have tasted… and yum!

Whole Foods Chunky Granola.  Recipe for a homemade version from Jewels at Home.

To get a starting point for the ingredient portions and technique, I looked at this chunky granola recipe from Thyme2Cook and played around with it. Here’s our current version, and I’m very happy with the results. I am finding the copycat recipe just as addictive as the inspiration, which may or may not be a good thing!

Jewels’ Chunky Nutty Granola

In a large bowl, mix together

  • 4 cups rolled oats
  • 2 cups walnuts
  • 1 cup almonds (I used whole almonds but will try a 1/2 cup slivered almonds next time, since some of the kids didn’t like the big chunks)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
Chunky Nutty Granola recipe from Jewels at Home.

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl.

In a separate microwavable bowl or in a saucepan (I used a glass measuring cup), mix

  • 1/2 cup of canola oil
  • 3/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

Heat the second mixture in the microwave for about 40 seconds or on the stovetop until warmed through, and stir in, mixing until smooth

  • 1/2 c whole wheat flour (or rice flour, for gluten-free)

Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and stir with a big spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly mixed and wet.

Chunky Nutty Granola recipe from Jewels at Home.  Whole Foods recipe copycat.

Coat the dry ingredients with the wet mixture.

Spread on a large lightly greased cookie sheet.

Bake for 25 minutes at 325 F. Stir.
Bake another 25 minutes at 225 F. Turn off oven and leave granola in for one hour.
Take it out, let cool, and store in an airtight container.

Chunky Nutty Granola recipe from Jewels at Home.  Whole Foods recipe copycat.

Finished granola. Yum!!

Recipe for a chunky nutty homemade granola {Jewels at Home}

Recipe for a chunky nutty homemade granola {Jewels at Home}

 

Bon appetit!

“Jewels”