Holiday Gift Guide 2017!

It’s hard to believe it’s already mid December! This fall has flown by and it’s been an eventful past few months in Houston to say the least. From Hurricane Harvey, the Astros winning the World Series, and the first Houston snow in seven years, there’s been a lot going on here. I am very much looking forward to the holiday season, winter break, and 2018.  If you are still searching for gifts for Hanukkah, Christmas, or your white elephant gift exchange, here are some of my favorites for this year! Take a look at my 2016 gift guide too!

  1. Screen Shot 2017-12-18 at 3.27.23 PMCast Iron Skillet (save) Le Cruset (Splurge) – If I could only use one pan forever, it would definitely be my cast iron skillet! It is highly durable and versatile and I love that I can use it on the stove and in the oven. It’s perfect for making a frittata, meatballs, steak, stewed chickens, and so much more. They last forever and get better over the years as the seasoning on the pan develops.

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2) Electric Wine Opener– Total game changer and makes opening wine bottles fun and easy for anyone. Simply press down and voila! Perfect for a white elephant gift exchange and you can find good quality options for $20 or less.

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3) Away Carry on Luggage– For your friend always on the go, this is the ultimate carry-on that I’ve been eyeing for a while. It has a built in battery to charge a USB device anywhere, perfect for when you are held up at the airport. With various compartments to keep you organized, a TSA approved lock, and durability designed for life, it is in a league of its own. Tons of color options so your bag will stand out amongst a sea of black bags.

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4) Fit Bit Flex  – For your relative whose into fitness or looking to up their step game, the Fit Bit flex is the perfect motivator. I’m obsessed with mine which I received as a gift (Thanks, Brittany!). It reminds you to move every hour, can display your texts and calendar reminders, tracks your workouts and sleep, and even has quick workouts built in and meditation routines. Battery life is a plus over the apple watch, and I like that it doesn’t show you emails or more bells and whistles- it is the perfect amount so you aren’t overly plugged in.

5) luster-glass-candles-xHoliday scented candle– When you wish you have a fire place but don’t, a big candle with a wintery smell is the next best thing! I’ve been obsessed with the large silver luster candle from West Elm called “A chill in the air”.  Currently sold out online but can find it in some stores. It seems fresh and wintery and there is something gratifying about lighting a big candle that you know won’t burn out quickly. Anthropologie also always has a great candle selection and they currently have 25% off.

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6) Diffuser– What are the holidays without warm inviting smells? If you can’t have a candle in your office or want something that lasts longer, a diffuser is a great alternative. It also makes the room smell like a spa retreat. I’ve been enjoying using a lavender scented essential oil in mine before bed. My favorite brand is Saje, check out their Good Cheer festive collection. You can set a timer on your diffuser and leave it on while sleeping, unlike a candle!

cooking classes

7) Cooking lessons- Nothing is better than gifting an experience in the kitchen. It’s a great chance to relax with your loved ones and enjoy a meal together while learning new skills. This is a perfect option for your hard to shop for parents, aspiring chef friends, or a bonding gift for you and your significant other.

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If you are looking for a personalized experience my dear friend Morgan, The Foodie Chef, hosts private cooking lessons in your own home! She is so personable, talented, patient, fun, and creative. This is a perfect activity to do with your whole family to enjoy a special meal together while learning new cooking techniques.

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If you are looking to earn a cooking certificate, check out Well Done Cooking Classes in the Heights. I have completed 17/20 courses for my cooking fundamentals certificate there so far and have loved the experience and new skills! It is much more affordable than other cooking certificate programs, the instructors are awesome, and I’ve enjoyed being able to go at my own pace over the course of a few months. They also offer social classes and date night cooking classes.

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8) Blanket Scarf – Perfect accessory to stay cozy when traveling on a plane or headed to the snow. Love this color and texture. Great for friends or your grandma, or anyone who is always cold!

tile mat

9) Tile Mate- Anything finder. For your friend or sibling who is always losing their keys or phone…. this Bluetooth tracker attaches to anything you don’t want to lose so you can find it fast! Even if your phone is on silent and you can’t find it, the Tile mat will make your phone ring and will help you see where you had it last.

GRANOLA

10) My Favorite Indulgence Granola – The perfect hostess gift, stocking stuffer, or treat for your foodie friends. My sweet and talented Aunt Vicki created this delicious irresistible granola that is slow roasted and made in small batches with non-GMO ingredients. It is delicious on top of yogurt, smoothie bowls, or with milk. My favorite flavors are pumpkin-spiced and chocolate-mocha.

Wishing everyone a happy, safe, and meaningful holiday season and new year!

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CourseHorse Cooking Class- Sur La Table!

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I’m finally back from my whirlwind of a trip to New Zealand + Australia and I’m excited to catch up on some blog posts! Soon I will be posting a recap of our adventuress.

A few days before the trip I went to an amazing Tour of Italy: Tuscany cooking class at Sur La Table with my friend, Stephanie.  I was contacted by CourseHorse , a company that offers a wide variety of courses and learning opportunities. CourseHorse is essentially a discovery and booking tool for local classes.  I was amazed at the wide variety of classes they offer including: fitness, languages, life schools, tech skills, professional skills, and cooking.  I was excited about the unique range of cooking classes they  plan to offer in Houston and have been wanting to try a class at Sur La Table so it was the perfect opportunity.  While my class was compensated, all of my opinions are my own and I have already signed-up for another cooking class since I loved the experience so much.

We attended class at the River Oaks Sur La Table location. I knew we were off to a good start when I saw this magical sunset upon arriving.

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The class was small and personalized with only around eight people which really allowed us individual attention with our insightful instructor, Chef Monica Tapia.  In addition to making a three course gourmet meal, I learned tips along the way from Chef Monica about proper knife skills, the best way to cut veggies and meat, how to create the perfect base for soup, and many other kitchen prep tricks.

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When we arrived, everything was already set-up  in portioned out stations with all the ingredients. We each received name tags, aprons, light refreshments, and quickly started working in teams on the first course. I would recommend going with a friend if possible since you do typically work in teams of two, but everyone was also very friendly if you did go on your own.

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Did I mention the class was BYOB?! We brought a lovely Pinot Noir that complemented our Italian feast perfectly. The first course was my favorite with the hearty and healthy ribollita Tuscan soup paired with a pecorino and shaved fennel salad. This soup was seriously to die for and could easily be a meal in itself.  We learned that this soup used to be considered a peasant soup based on vegetables that were easily grown in the garden and made with day old bread. The robust flavors of tomatoes, white beans, a parmesan rind, garlic, pancetta, and onions all made a rich and complex broth. We stirred in kale at the end to get in some extra greens. I already made this soup again since it was so easy and tasty, perfect for a weeknight meal. I also fell in love with this simple salad of freshly shaved fennel with greens. We made a light and zingy lemon garlic vinaigrette which was made for a refreshing side salad.

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Next up we seared Bistecca alla Fiornetina on small grills. These steaks were lightly seasoned with herbs and lemon.  We were pretty full from the first course but these steaks were perfectly seasoned and grilled so it was hard to resist! It was fun getting to taste our dishes throughout the class and it definitely turned into a full dinner, make sure you go hungry!

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We couldn’t end the class without a sweet treat and these indulgent chocolate hazelnut filled donuts were SO delicious.  I had never had Bomboloni before (which is probably a good thing because these are dangerous), but they were so fun to make.  These Tuscan-Style mini yeasted donuts are a great dessert to impress friends with or to enjoy for a special meal. I had never made doughnuts from scratch before and will have to find another excuse soon to whip these up.

I am so glad CourseHorse offers such great cooking classes in Houston and am excited to continue trying more classes. Keep in mind that they are currently in beta mode for Houston.  More classes will be coming soon and be sure to sign-up with your email address to receive more info once classes are live! Stay tuned for details on my next class at Sur La Table where we will be making homemade pasta 🙂