Saturday, December 3

:: Greenery, Gift Tags, & Gruyere ::

I heart greenery. You know that stuff that's left over after they trim the bottom branches off your fresh Christmas tree? It's free and it has one-hundred and one uses. Even if you're more of a pre-lit tree family, you can go by the Christmas tree lots and snag some off the top of the free pile. Combine those evergreen trimmings with fresh magnolia branches, holly berries and a few stick twigs and voila! An instant holiday arrangement that will last weeks and possibly the whole month of December outside. Best of all - everything is free!
Friday my mother-in-law CC and her friend Gwynne hosted a ladies luncheon at my house. I'm sad to say that the only picture I managed to snap was of the arrangement above (what is up with that?) Nevertheless, Gwynne had a lot of cute ideas for projects using things that can be found right outside our back door. One of my favorite was her idea of bleaching pine cones. Really wishing I had snapped a picture to show you here, but a word description will have to do. To me they reminded me of pickled wood - almost ash colored. From a distance you might think they were dusted with snow. Anyway, I haven't tried it yet, but it sounds simple enough. Have your kiddos gather lots of pine cones. Then mix 1 part bleach with 1 part water and soak the pine cones 6 hours or more until desired color. After they dry they have a lot of uses. Stack them on your mantle, pile them in a basket, or glue or wire them to a wreath form.
My very creative friend and neighbor Dee brought me a hostess gift tied with personalized popsicle sticks. One says "Merry Christmas" and the other "The ONeals." Is that adorable, or what?? I asked her if I could pass along the idea and she was happy to share. The best part is that the little alphabet stamp kit she used to create them were .97 cents at Wal-Mart!! So quick...go grab yours before they're sold out!
I blogged before about my obsession with Bistro Niko in Atlanta and their melt-in-your-mouth gruyere bites. Well, today I was flipping through my Fresh Market cookbook trying to decide what to bring to a party next weekend when I ran across a recipe for Gruyere Puffs!! Right then and there I packed it up and headed to publix for the ingredients. They were surprisingly simple and (almost) as delicious. (Because let's face always tastes better when someone else cooks it!) If you need a salty bite to bring to a get together this season, try them out.

Gruyere Puffs
(from The Fresh Market Cookbook)

1 C Gruyere cheese, grated
1 C water
5 T butter
1 t salt
1/4 t fresh ground pepper
1/4 t fresh ground nutmeg
1C flour
5 large eggs, at room temp

Preheat oven to 425. Grate cheese. In a medium saucepan bring the water, butter, salt, pepper, and nutmeg to a boil. When butter has melted, remove from heat. Add all flour to the mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until the mixture leaves the sides of the pan clean. Add cheese and beat until incorporated. Beat in 4 of the eggs one by one until thoroughly absorbed. Beat until mixture is smooth, shiny, and firm. Drop by small spoonfuls onto a greased cookie sheet or silpat. Beat remaining egg with 1/2 T water and brush tops of uncooked pastry with egg wash. Bake in upper third of the oven for about 20 minutes or until golden brown and doubled in size. Remove from oven and serve. Make 3 dozen. Recipe can easily be halved.

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