Moet & Chandon Champagne Cave Tour, Epernay, France

Avenue de Champagne, Epernay, France

It's New Year's Eve! There are three major things on my mind, and I'm willing to bet a lot of you are thinking about those same things: the year 2013, the New Year to come, and Champagne! 2013 was a great year for us. Among the many wonderful things we did was visit Epernay, France, where we took a tour of the Champagne caves at Moet & Chandon. In Epernay, there is actually a road called Avenue de Champagne, and the road is lined with Champagne houses from Moet & Chandon to Pol Roger to Perriet-Jouet.


Soup Sundays: Tomato Soup With Sausage, Spinach, And Potatoes

Tomato soup with sausage, spinach, and potatoes

While this is the most wonderful time of the year, which requires eating tons of cookies and candies, there's always room for a little something savory and maybe a tad healthier too, right? I made this hearty soup last weekend during the snowstorm, and it was the perfect thing to warm up with and fill up on. So take a brief break from all those sweets (and all the shoveling and ice scraping) and try this festive red and green soup.


Mini Peppermint Mocha Cupcakes

Mini peppermint mocha cupcake

I love peppermint mochas. As soon as Starbucks starts offering them (even if it's in November; yes, I'm one of those people), I start drinking them, and I don't stop until they go off the menu. I love the combination of coffee, chocolate, and peppermint. It reminds me of stirring a candy cane into hot cocoa, like I did when I was a kid. But it has more grown-up coffee flavor too. Thinking about how much I love these flavors together, I decided to put a spin on my favorite winter coffee drink and turn it into a cupcake.


Homemade Christmas Nonpareils

Homemade Christmas nonpareils

Making homemade Christmas gifts can be a lot of fun, but before you head down that road, there's something you should know: Ever since I first shared my homemade caramels, I have not been allowed to show up for Christmas without them (the only exception was last year because we moved into our house the weekend before Christmas and I didn't have a kitchen or any of my supplies, and even then, I almost wasn't let off the hook). So tread lightly into this territory. Your homemade gifts might be so well received that people will look for them year after year. Of course, that's not necessarily a bad thing if you enjoy making and giving homemade gifts as I do.


Dinner At BOKX 109, Newton, Mass.

BOKX 109, Newton, Mass.

I recently got invited to dine at the chef's counter at BOKX 109 in Newton, Mass. Every time I turn around, I hear about another restaurant in Newton and my list of Newton dining spots to check out is forever growing. BOKX 109 has been on that list for a long time, and I was happy to finally make it over there.

The restaurant, which is located inside Hotel Indigo, features imaginative spins on steakhouse staples and gets creative with New American cuisine (modern takes on traditional recipes).


Seeded Focaccia

Seeded focaccia

I am back with another awesome bread using the Harvest Grains Blend from King Arthur Flour. I just might be addicted to this mix. Luckily, that's not a bad thing since it's chock-full of seeds and grains.


Dinner At 29 Sudbury, Sudbury, Mass.

29 Sudbury, a restaurant in Sudbury, Mass., from Greg Hill (of WAAF) and Evan Deluty (chef/owner of Stella), opened back in August, and I finally had a chance to check it out last month. The idea behind the restaurant is to bring the Boston dining experience to the suburbs. Who doesn't want great food without the hassle of driving into the city? The menu features modern American cuisine with Italian influences. And many ingredients for the dishes are sourced in and around Sudbury.

Housed in a historical building that was stripped down to its studs and renovated, the restaurant has two floors and showcases reclaimed wood and the work of local artists. It has a casual yet upscale feel to it.

Artwork at 29 Sudbury, Sudbury, Mass.


Cheddar-Beer Bread

Cheddar-beer bread

This post is seriously overdue. I made this cheddar-beer bread way back at the end of October. I'm sure it can be tailored to suit any time of year, but I made it with Octoberfest and thought it was absolutely perfect for fall. People say that you can't really taste the beer in beer bread, but you definitely can in this one.


Bavarian Pretzel Sliders With Kayem Minis

Bavarian pretzel sliders with Kayem Minis

We are big fans of Fenway Franks in this house (and at the ballpark!), so when Kayem offered to send me a Box O' Meat, it was a no-brainer. Kayem not only makes Fenway Franks (the official franks of the Boston Red Sox) and the official franks and sausages of the New England Patriots and Gillette Stadium but is a local company, with corporate offices and manufacturing plants in Chelsea and Woburn.

The Box O' Meat contained Polska Kielbasa, Patriots Bun Size Beef Franks, Old Tyme Beef Franks, and Kayem Minis Beef Cocktail Franks plus everything I needed to make Bavarian Pretzel Sliders with Kayem Minis (sauerkraut, Jarlsberg cheese, pretzel rolls, and Dijon mustard).


Scenes From Thanksgiving 2013

Thanksgiving dinner

We celebrated Thanksgiving day with Jeff's family at his parents' house, and I made sage-roasted butternut squash and a cheesecake topped with cranberry curd and a bittersweet chocolate drizzle.