Nat’s Winter Birthday

It was only fitting that Nathalie’s December birthday continue the Winter Wonderland theme that engulfed her home.  After all the Christmas decorations were complete, we kept the momentum going setting up for her birthday dinner.  The tables were covered in white linen and set with adorable snowflake themed paper plates from Ikea.  Since the birthday girl was outdoing herself with a delicious meal of Chicken Parmesan and Lasagna, I took care of the dessert table.  It was a wonderful night filled with family, friends, and lots of food.

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Mini Cheesecakes

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White Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

When it came to this dessert, I was so exhausted that I didn’t have the energy to make a filling.  I just bought vanilla pudding cups, blended it with approximately 1/2 C of the frosting to disguise it and called it a day.  This was by far the best tasting cake I have ever made.  It was so delicious and the filling actually made it light.  The frosting was heaven just keep it cold, because, as you can see, it started melting as I was frosting it.  Lesson learned.

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The Easiest-Best-Amazing Cheesecake Ever!!

This is a go to for any event.  I feel sneaky whenever people compliment it because it is so easy and there is nothing to it.

 

2 8oz. packages of cream cheese

3/4 C sugar

2 eggs

1.5 tsp vanilla extract

7-9 graham cracker sheets

1/2 C chopped roasted pecans

3/4 STICK of butter melted

topping of your choice

Preheat the oven to 425°.  Bring the cream cheese to room temp.  I never remember so it’s o.k. if you don’t.   Process the graham crackers in a food processor until fine.  I cannot imagine how one would do this without a food processor and achieve this texture, but you can put it in a heavy duty ziplock bag and beat it to a pulp with the back of a large spoon.  Add, the chopped pecan and continue until you have a fine crumble.  Transfer to a bowl and mix in, with a wooden spoon, the melted butter.  I haven’t met a person that isn’t all about the crust so I give it the same care as the filling.  I like to add some sugar (approx. 1 T) and cinnamon (approx. 1/2 tsp) to sweeten it up. Test the consistency of the crust before proceeding, it should hold if you press it with the back of a spoon. If it is still crumbling, at more melted butter.  Using a tablespoon or large spoon, scoop a mound of crust and put in cup of cheesecake pan or muffin pan and press until you have an even crust.  O.k. let me interject, GET A MINI CHEESECAKE PAN!  I made these for years with a muffin pan and would spend so long trying to neatly scoop out the cheesecake when there were ready.  With the cheesecake pan the bottom pushes out so it is literally a quick press of the finger and you have the neatest  little cake.  If you have a tart tamper it works wonders for pressing down the crust.

For the filling, beat the cream cheese to reduce chances of lumping.  Beat in sugar until fluffy and well blended.  Add eggs, one at a time.  Beat in vanilla.  Pour into each cup, filling it almost to the top.  They don’t rise that much.  Bake for 15 minutes*.  Remove from oven, cool, and refrigerate overnight.  Add whatever topping you like.  I usually make a caramel sauce and top it with a sugar-covered roasted pecan, but I tried caramelizing Amaretto liqueur and topping with a fresh raspberry and that seemed to win people over.

*It is best if you can bake the pan in water, it allows for uniform heating so the cake doesn’t sink in the middle.  I wrap the pan in foil and sit it in an extra large pan with water.  Enjoy!!

A Wonderland In Winter

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Traditionalist is what comes to mind when I think about Christmas decorations and well, my overall design aesthetic.  Call me old fashioned, but with all of the new advancements in technology and our environment, I like to keep some things old school. The typical greens and reds suit me just fine for this festive occasion.  So one would think when my close friend Nathalie (not a typo) asked me to help turn her home into a winter wonderland using white and silver as the color palate, I would be adamantly against it.  Well, that was not the case.  I was insanely excited.  She wanted it to look like a blizzard went through her living room and I was eager to take on the challenge.  I couldn’t wait to use those colors and fortunately for me,  that color combination was pretty popular this season.

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The first thought in my head was snowflakes every where and being on a limited budget, having access to a machine that cuts shapes, and several sheets of white card stock, I knew exactly how I was going to achieve that.  Between my never-ending fishing wire and my Cricut, I was able to hang around 50 snowflakes for  less than $5.  It may not be the pricey, shimmering, hard plastic (or whatever material is used) snowflakes you see in Bloomingdales, but as you can see one can still achieve that frosty look for a (real) fraction of the cost.  I also added tissue paper pom poms to add fluff the mix (How-To video coming soon).

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Ikea, became my best friend for this project.  It was like the store rearranged itself to help me achieve my decorating goal on a tight budget.  I was able to buy two 50 piece silver ornament sets for only $9.99 each.  For the white ornaments, I used both the 99 Cents Only stores and Michael’s (always with my 40-50% off coupons in hand).  I had some leftover feathers from my aunt’s 50th which added more white and uniqueness to the tree.  As a finishing touch to the tree, I called on my Cricut again to make various shape ornaments.  It was just an experiment, but shockingly the paper ornaments look really cool in the tree and in my opinion not the least bit tacky ( that was my fear).

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I switched out the dark burgundy curtains for the Ikea “quick fix” sheer white curtains for only $4.99 a pair which changed the look of the room in the instant they were put up (Open this link in new tab to see the before picture).  To compensate for the fact that we could not indulge our fantasies of chenille throws and plush white faux fur rugs, I opted for Ikea’s $3.99 throws which just so happened to have ends cut in such a manner that they appear like snow at the edge of a rooftop (jackpot!) and also I used $1.99 bath mats on the floor to appear like little snow puddles.  I created a mini North Pole scene, per request, using a packing cylinder on which Nat dutifully painted the silver stripe (the key was to buy the cylinder in white).  A white balloon served as the bulb top, a poster board for the sign base, and of course my Cricut made the pretty letters.

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One of my favorite  pieces was this crepe paper rose wreath, a true labor of love.  The how-to video will be coming soon.

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This $6 wreath, slightly deviated from the color scheme, but the gorgeous rustic door could not be overshadowed.  I just kept it simple and rustic using a $2 frame from Michael’s.  I actually collected the pine cones from the the ground, spray painted them slightly to keep some of the natural look and made little rosettes using ribbon.  The vases (see first image at top of page) were from my home and previously red, but with a lot of spray paint and willow branches I fell in love with this front door.

Overall, I must say this was one of my most favorite and time consuming projects.  It almost made me reconsider the colors I will use for my own Christmas decorating…almost.

Pretty In Pink

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It’s a girl and it’s pink!  Finally someone I know is having a baby girl and embracing pink!  The only difference with this shower was the fact that the expectant guest of honor was also the hostess.  My friend Rachel, like me, has to do it all.  She was doing the decorating, the cooking, that baking, you name it.  Well I just didn’t think I’d be a good friend if I didn’t offer some help and with an over achieving personality like hers, that is all I was going to be doing.  It was funny because a lot of the exchanges were Rachel telling me the one thousand things she wanted to do and me saying “that’s too much”.  Occasionally my suggestions penetrated that strong armor, but most of the time I just gave support.  The shower turned out wonderful and the dessert table was a cavity waiting to happen.

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Each table dawned a hanging centerpiece containing my favorite obsession, hydrangeas.  I was fortunate enough to find a beautiful shade of pink that I snagged at the flower district in downtown Los Angeles for only $6.00 a bunch.  The table top consisted of two  glass vases holding a few simple dark pink daisies allowing the diaper cake (2nd) centerpiece created by the expectant mommy to shine.  Tissue paper pom poms, circle paper garland, and cute little piggy accents rounded out the decor.

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For the dessert table, the guest of honor/hostess prepared cake pops, piggy shaped cookies, and yummy white chocolate dipped pretzel sticks.  I added my favorite cheesecakes (look for recipe in an upcoming post) and a moist yellow cake topped with an Italian buttercream frosting.  I attempted a Bavarian Cream filling, but the texture came out like a custard.  It still was a hit.

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The expectant mother or Miss Overachiever as I have come to think of her, made enchiladas and an amazing corn bean dip that was both gorgeous and delicious.  It was a fun shower with lots of girl talk and overindulging, a perfect way to celebrate a new arrival.