Home for the Holidays

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef The Runway Chef halls are finally decked! We’ve tied, trimmed, accessorized, greenery-ized, glitzed, and glammed up just about everything we can in the apartment and I couldn’t be happier with the cozy outcome. We decided to go for a woodsy, simplistic theme, using many things we had on hand or found outdoors. Bonus- it made our decorations super affordable! I hope you enjoy these pictures and I’d love to know in the comments if you have decorated your home for the holidays, and, if so, do you have a theme (what is it?) or a favorite decoration.

Happy weekend!

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {Mercury containers and an old copper pot filled with greens + Christmas cookie cutters hung from red ribbon}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {Our homemade Advent calendar (with only a few stars/days left) and Frenchie treat jar (both last seen here)}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {Our entryway table- Santa Claus, the mini tree where we’ve been transferring our Advent stars to, and a box filled with greens, oranges, & wine corks (‘cuz we’re classy like that!)}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {Manger + globe = Joy to the World (Get it??! Get it?!)}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {My golden owl dressed up with a few greens}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {Our rustic, woodsy-themed Christmas tree}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {Tip: For an affordable, easy tree skirt, use a cheap blanket scarf}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {We couldn’t find a tree topper we liked so Mr. RC made this rustic star one out of twigs and twine}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {Record player, Christmas book, and a mini metallic tree

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {Coffee table centerpiece- a piece of birch bark, various sized mercury glass containers with red and green candles, and a few sprigs of greenery}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef {The shape of a deer head cut from gold wrapping paper & attached to a wooden board painted black, a display of mini nutcrackers & greenery, silver stars hung above the couch, and Christmas themed pillows (white furry ones are old ones from Target, the blue velvet & Merry Christmas one are from H&M)}

Home for the Holidays {2014 Woodsy-Inspired Christmas Decorations} || Runway Chef

Date Pinwheel Cookies

Date Pinwheel Cookies || Runway Chef I wanted to write something totally profound and mind blowing to entice you into making these cookies, but the only thing that keeps coming to my mind is, wait for it, it’s totally epic…. “Roll Out”….as in the Ludacris song, not as in “rolling out the dough”. I think it came into my head as I was rolling out the dough for these pinwheel cookies, and it hasn’t left my head since. That was 2 days ago. Also, it should be noted that the only lyrics in my head are “Roll out! Roll out! Roll out!” because I don’t actually know any of the lyrics to the song, nor can I rap. So besides those two little words, the only thing that’s stuck in a blog post that has now been written and rewritten 4 times is that I love these cookies….like a lot….a lot, a lot, a lot. But I bet you already figured that out, because weird, I only put things I love on here (funny concept, I know). Like many of the recipes I share, these date pinwheel cookies are a recipe that my family has been making for years. And for all those years they’ve stayed firmly planted at the top of my list of favorite Christmas cookies, right between Russian Tea Cakes and Rum Balls. With a buttery dough that becomes crunchy while it bakes and a filling that is sticky sweet, it’s hard not to put these at the top of a favorites list. Go on. I dare you. 

Date Pinwheel Cookies || Runway Chef Date Pinwheel Cookies || Runway Chef Date Pinwheel Cookies || Runway Chef Date Pinwheel Cookies || Runway Chef Date Pinwheel Cookies || Runway Chef

Date Pinwheel Cookies
Yields 36
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
1 hr 15 min
FILLING
  1. 1 pound dates, pitted and chopped
  2. 1/2 cup water
  3. 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 cup finely chopped walnuts
DOUGH
  1. 1/2 cup butter
  2. 1/4 cup brown sugar
  3. 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  4. 1 egg
  5. 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  6. 2 cups all-purpose flour
  7. 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  8. 1/2 teaspoon salt
Instructions
  1. Start by making the filling. Combine the dates, water, and 1/2 cup of granulated sugar in a medium-sized saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened and the water has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Remove from the heat, stir in the nuts, and set aside to cool (you can put the mixture in the fridge to speed up the cooling).
  2. To make the dough, cream the butter and sugars together in the bowl of a stand mixer, on medium speed.
  3. Beat in the egg and vanilla until well combined.
  4. In a separate smaller bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Then mix the dry ingredients into the butter mixture and keep mixing on medium speed until everything is well-combined and the dough is smooth.
  5. Divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap, then allow the dough to refrigerate for about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove the dough from the fridge. On a floured surface roll one half of the dough out into a rough rectangular shape that is about 1/4 inch thick. Spread half of the date mixture over the entire surface of the dough, then roll up, lengthwise, like a jelly roll. Set aside and repeat the process with the other half of the dough. Wrap both dough logs in plastic wrap and allow them to chill in the refrigerator until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  7. When you are ready to bake the cookies, turn the oven on to 400 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silpat mat (I prefer the parchment paper for these as the filling can get a bit sticky).
  8. Remove the cookie logs from the fridge and, using a sharp knife, cut the dough into 1/4 inch slices. Place the slices about an inch apart on the cookie sheet, then bake for 8-10 minutes, or until the dough turns golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cookie rack.
  9. Store the cookies in an airtight container.
Notes
  1. I used Medjool dates to make these but I recommend using whatever is cheapest as you'll be chopping them up and cooking them down.
  2. These cookies taste best within the first two days of baking so I usually like to only slice of a few at a time and keep the rest of the dough tightly wrapped in plastic wrap in the fridge until I'm ready to use it. The uncooked dough will last about 2 weeks in the fridge and about 1 month in the freezer, as long as it is well wrapped in plastic wrap.
Runway Chef http://www.runwaychef.com/
 

Recipe Tools

3 Easy Christmas Appetizers

3 Easy Christmas Appetizers || Runway Chef #appetizers After Thanksgiving, I usually try to see if I can survive the rest of the year on cookies and party appetizers (I can’t). They’re two of my favorite food groups, and since the season is overflowing with an abundance of both, it only made sense to try to survive on these delicious little treats alone. My waistline called an intervention and quickly put an end to the “all cookies and appetizers from Thanksgiving to New Years” party. Hey waistline, why you got to be so mean? Just because my all-day, every day app party has stopped, doesn’t mean it has on the blog. Here to help you with your winter layer, or holiday parties/get-togethers/celebrations, whichever you prefer, are 3 easy Christmas appetizers (similar to my 3 easy Thanksgiving appetizers from last year). All three can be made in less than an hour, which means you’ll be on your way to one app happy party in no time.

P.S. To make these all under an hour, here’s the game plan- Tarts first, prep the dates while the tarts are cooking, toast the bread rounds for the pizza immediately after the tarts come out of the oven, turn the oven down and bake the dates, assemble mini pizzas while dates are baking. Proceed to feast.

P.S.S. These all make really great breakfast treats, too, (holiday appetizer brunch bar anyone??), in case you have any leftovers, though that is highly unlikely!

3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Orange Ricotta Fig Tarts} || Runway Chef

Mini Orange Ricotta, Pistachio + Fig Tarts
Yields 12
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 tablespoons of ricotta
  2. 1 tablespoon of orange juice
  3. 1 teaspoon honey (if you prefer a sweeter taste, feel free to add more)
  4. 3 large figs, quartered (see notes)
  5. 1 sheet of puff pastry
  6. Pistachio nuts, chopped
  7. Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whip together the ricotta orange juice, and honey.
  3. To assemble the tarts, cut a square of puff pastry about 3"x3". In the center dab a small amount of the ricotta mixture (about 1 teaspoon). Place a quarter of the fig on top. Fold the sides up and over to form an edge around the filling, leaving the center exposed. Place on the baking sheet and sprinkle with a few pistachio pieces. Continue on until you have used up all of the ingredients.
  4. Baked the tarts for about 18-20 minutes, or until the dough has turned golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on a cooling rack.
  5. When you are ready to serve, place on a dish and dust them with powder sugar.
Notes
  1. For the figs, you can use fresh or frozen. I happened to use the frozen ones from Trader Joe's. Just make sure to fully defrost them and drain off the liquid first.
  2. These can be made 4-5 hour in advance.
  3. Store any remaining tarts in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 2-3 days.
Runway Chef http://www.runwaychef.com/
3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Orange Ricotta Fig Tarts} || Runway Chef 3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Orange Ricotta Fig Tarts} || Runway Chef 3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Orange Ricotta Fig Tarts} || Runway Chef 3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Orange Ricotta Fig Tarts} || Runway Chef 3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Orange Ricotta Fig Tarts} || Runway Chef 3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Bacon Wrapped & Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates} || Runway Chef

Cream Cheese Stuffed Bacon Wrapped Dates
Yields 18
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 16-18 dates, pitted
  2. 4 pieces of bacon, cut into 3" strips
  3. 1/4 block of cream cheese (I use neufchâtel)
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with non-stick foil and set aside.
  2. Split the dates in half (but don't cut completely through). Stuff a small amount (about 1/2 a teaspoon) of cream cheese in the middle, then fold the date back together. Wrap tightly with a piece of bacon, then place the date on the baking sheet. Continue on until you have used up all of your ingredients.
  3. Bake the dates for 15 minutes, then flip them over using tongs, and baking another 2-5 minutes, or until they are crispy and the bacon has fully cooked on all sides.
  4. Allow to cool for at least 5 minutes before serving.
Notes
  1. Store any leftovers in an airtight container or ziplock bag for up to 2 days in the fridge.
Runway Chef http://www.runwaychef.com/
3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Bacon Wrapped & Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates} || Runway Chef 3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Bacon Wrapped & Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates} || Runway Chef 3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Bacon Wrapped & Cream Cheese Stuffed Dates} || Runway Chef 3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Mini Festive Fruit Pizzas} || Runway Chef

Bite-Sized Pomegranate Fruit Pizzas
Yields 16
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Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
10 min
Total Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tablespoons mascarpone
  2. 2 tablespoons cream cheese (I used neufchâtel)
  3. 1 teaspoon of an orange liquor
  4. 1 tablespoon of orange juice
  5. 3 teaspoons honey
  6. 8 small bread rounds, cut in half (see notes)
  7. Pomegranate seeds
Instructions
  1. Place the bread rounds on a baking sheet, cut side up, and toast them for 5 minutes at 400 degrees.
  2. While they bread is toasting, in a small bowl whip together the mascarpone, cream cheese, liquor, honey and orange juice until well combined.
  3. After the bread has finished toasting, allow the rounds to cool for about 2-5 minutes. Once cool, spread each half with a little of the mascarpone mixture (I used about 1 teaspoon per half). Sprinkle with pomegranate seeds and place on a serving tray. Serve immediately.
Notes
  1. Feel free to adjust the honey and liquor deepening on your taste preferences.
  2. For the bread rounds, you can use any of the mini buns found in the bread aisle at your local grocery store. For these I used, Ozery Bakery's Cranberry Orange Snacking Rounds (I'll add a link below).
  3. You can make the mascarpone mixture a day in advance and store it in an airtight container in the fridge.
Runway Chef http://www.runwaychef.com/

Recipe Notes- I used the Ozery Bakery Cranberry Orange Snacking Rounds which you can buy online or at one of these stores (Mr. RC and I are obsessed with these and have been eating the various flavors for breakfast, lunch, dinner and snacks; the flavors of the cranberry orange ones, however, are perfect for these little fruit pizzas), but feel free to use any mini buns or bread rounds.

3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Mini Festive Fruit Pizzas} || Runway Chef 3 Easy Christmas Appetizers {Mini Festive Fruit Pizzas} || Runway Chef

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas! Wishing you and yours a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays full of laughter, love, too much food and lots of presents.

I will be taking some time off over the next two weeks to regroup and rest up, although I still have a few sporadic posts planned and you can of course keep up with all my festivities (by which I mean all my eating, drinking and sleeping) on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

Christmas Traditions

Christmas Trees

It’s hard to believe that we are just a few (5 to be exact) days away from Christmas (ummmm where has this year gone??!!), so I couldn’t think of a more perfect time than now to discuss Christmas traditions. (Also, my face has decided to go haywire so the holiday beauty post I’ve had in my editorial calendar since November clearly wasn’t a viable option.)

Our Christmas traditions started each year with a special advent calendar made by one of my Mom’s friends. The calendar was made from fabric and each day had a pocket. In each pocket was a card with a holiday themed activity for the day (i.e. sing Christmas carols, bake cookies, make a snowman, etc).

My Mom was a regular old Martha Stewart when it came to Christmas. I mentioned here about her extensive Christmas cookie list, but she didn’t stop with just cookies. She would go all out cooking for my parent’s Christmas party, and while I don’t remember every dish, her homemade croquembouche I remember very well. Later in life we also started making a variety of sweet breads every year, like stollen and nut rolls.

Our next tradition was the tree decorating. We would all go as a family to hunt down the “perfect” Christmas tree at our local tree farm. Then the decorating process was a whole night thing, full of appetizers, cookies, and Christmas carols. My Mom added a new ornament to her collection every year and she kept them organized by year, so we would always start with the oldest first, then work our way to the newest and finish with the angel on top. My sister and I also had our own little mini tree which we decorated and kept in our playroom.

The rest of our house was always decorated to the nines, as well. Garland, bows, candles in the windows, multiple trees, themed trees, everything from the books to the candles to the nightlight in the bathroom (a small porcelain Christmas tree) was decorated.

Throughout December we had a variety of other traditions, including watching holiday movies (Miracle on 34th Street was always a favorite), driving around to look at Christmas decorations while drinking hot chocolate, attending a Christmas concert or play, and lots of sledding.

On Christmas eve, we would get all dressed up, have a nice dinner and then head to 8pm Mass (which turned into midnight Mass once we were older). Once we got back home, we were allowed to open one present of our choice, after which we enjoyed some Christmas cookies while my Mom would read us “The Night Before Christmas“. Right before heading to bed (or I should say, attempting to head to bed) we would write our letters to Santa and set out cookies and milk for him and carrots for the reindeer. My sister and I would struggle to sleep (hoping to catch a glimpse of Santa), before finally waking up at some God-awful hour (like 5am), at which point my sleep-deprived parents would usually attempt to make us go back to bed until at least 6. Once we were all up and had ripped through our presents, we enjoyed a nice breakfast that always included a few pieces of Panettone.

Now days, the Mr. and I have carried on some of the same traditions. We still hunt down our perfect Christmas tree (although this year we used our mini tree due to space). We always make a night out of decorating it, with some fun apps and a bottle of wine. Carrying on my Mom’s tradition, we also like to find a new ornament to add to our collection every year. Of course, we watch lots of holiday movies, we obviously make and eat lots of cookies, and we most definitely drive around and look at all the holiday lights. But we have also added a few new traditions of our own. We always buy a gift or two for someone in need (via the Gifting Tree at our church) and we always make it a special point to volunteer this time of year. Christmas eve dinner is always a lasagna/pasta dish. Before we attend midnight Mass, we like to watch a Christmas movie or drive around and look at the lights again. And Christmas day, if we aren’t with the rest of our family, we’re usually lounging in our pj’s, watching movies, cooking up a huge feast, and most definitely always eating lots of Panettone.

What are your Christmas traditions?