DIY Tea & Honey Gift Set

18 May

I have always hated coffee, and I’ve always loved tea. Of course, growing up in the south meant super sweet, super strong iced tea. (In case you’re wondering, outside of my mom’s house and local, out-of-the-way barbecue joints, the best place to get a good sweet tea is Bojangles, the second best is Chick-Fil-A, and the third is McDonald’s. I have opinions on this.)

As an adult, I still enjoy a good glass of sweet tea, especially when I’m eating barbecue or fried chicken. But I’ve expanded to hot tea, and I really enjoy a classic cup of black tea as well as various herbals. My rising interest in tea began with a search for a healthier alternative to the Coke I’d been having daily, and then really took off as I started watching BBC shows. (When every character has at least one cup of tea per episode, I just start thinking, “Well yes, a cuppa would be quite nice.”) Nowadays, take me to a nice little tea shop, and I’ll be lost for hours.

I wanted to share my love for tea with others, so I put together this adorable little tea set as gifts for my coworkers one Christmas. They would make excellent small gifts anytime of the year — for teacher appreciation, hostess gifts, anything. I think these particular pieces would serve better for occasions needing multiple sets, so you can order in bulk, but do whatever works for you.

Here’s what you need:

Tea supplies

1) Tea – Oliver Pluff & Co’s Signature Earl Grey is my absolute favorite right now – I drink a cup every morning. I’ve also purchased looseleaf tea from The Spice & Tea Exchange and from Teavana, and I’ve ordered tea and herbs (lavender, lemongrass, ginger, fennel) online. The cool part about this project is that you can blend your own flavors!

2) Press ‘N Seal Tea Bags – I found some on Ebay.

3) Sweetener of your choice – For this project, I used these super awesome honey lollipops. They come in delicious flavors like ginger, jasmine, or lemon. I would also recommend mini jars of honey. Savannah Bee Company has my favorite honey.

4) I found both the green chevron gift bags and the gray & white baker’s twine on Pick Your Plum.

Now all you have to do is assemble! Read the notes that came with your tea purchase or just do a little googling to figure out how much tea to put in your tea bags. Each tea is different, and each tea drinker has their own preference. But a good general rule of thumb is a heaping teaspoon per six ounces of water. However, most Americans use coffee mugs rather than traditional tea cups, so they pour considerably more than six ounces, resulting in a pretty weak cup of tea. So for my tea bags, I went with two flat teaspoons per tea bag. Not too much, not too little, IMHO.

Looseleaf Tea

Seal your tea bags with an iron. I actually have a hair straightener that I have dedicated solely to crafting purposes, which is way more easy to handle than a big iron. My bags sealed within 5 seconds.


I recommend placing your tea bags within a plastic bag to keep the tea airtight before placing in your gift bag. A zip-top bag would be fine. I put 5 tea bags in a 6×3.75″ clear treat bag that I picked up at AC Moore and sealed them shut with cute washi tape I got from Pick Your Plum.


The bag of tea bags and the honey stick went into the gift bag, tied shut with baker’s twine. I didn’t get a picture of it, but I also wrote the name of the tea (including info about caf/decaf!) and instructions for steeping time on the blank side of a business-card-size piece of pretty scrapbook paper and added that to the gift set.

Tea & Honey Gift Set

Go forth and give! I think anyone would appreciate this lovely little gift set.

Linking Up With:

Let It Shine from Still Being Molly
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately

Derby Pie

23 Mar
OMG this pie is so wonderful. It’s like a chocolate chip cookie pie. But the texture is super soft and amazing. My mom said it reminded her of a 7-layer magic bar. Everyone has their own version of this classic chocolate nut pie, but apparently there’s an official one.
I got my recipe from a book club friend. She had brought her delicious derby pie to book clubs and gatherings a few times, and I told her I really needed the recipe for myself.
Look at those chips!
For Pi Day last weekend, I made two derby pies and a savory sweet potato pie. One of the derby pies was the classic recipe I’ll share below. For the other one, I substituted pecans for walnuts and I replaced half the chocolate chips with peanut butter chips. Both versions were amazing and received lots of compliments. Feel free to play around with the fillings for yours!
pie 2
Derby Pie


1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons cold milk
1 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
1 teaspoon salt


1/2 cup flour
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup melted butter
2 tablespoons Kahlua
1 cup chopped walnuts
1 1/4 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
pinch of salt

For the crust: Mix together flour, oil, milk, 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar, and salt. Knead and mix with your hands until it comes together evenly. Spread mixture into a 9″ pie pan, pushing dough evenly across the bottom and up the sides.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Combine flour and sugar in a mixing bowl. Add the eggs and butter; mix to combine. Stir in the Kahlua, vanilla, and salt. Fold in the walnuts and chocolate chips.

Pour mixture into unbaked pie crust. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool before slicing.

Baked Eggs with Mushrooms & Greens

21 Feb

One weekend last month, we had a lazy Sunday at home, reading books, watching movies, and relaxing. The only time I left the house was to take a pleasant walk to Starbucks in the suddenly mild, sunny weather with the BF. It was glorious. It also reminds me of how much I miss nice weather, now that we’re setting record low temps here in North Carolina: 7° yesterday!

Since I was ignoring the dirty bathrooms and the Christmas tree still standing in the corner (un-decorated, at least – I did manage to get the lights and ornaments put away only a couple weeks after Christmas), I thought I could at least cook a decent meal for us. I was enjoying my book and tea too much to get off the couch at breakfast time, so I made this for lunch.

My friend Emily made this for brunch a few weeks ago, and I’ve been wanting to re-create it since then. Mine wasn’t as good as hers, but it was still pretty tasty. I’m sure I’ll make it again and see what I can do to improve it – I’m thinking of adding cheese into the mix, maybe something deliciously creamy like gruyere.

It’s pretty simple: cook up the greens, onions, and mushrooms. Pour that into a baking dish. Then crack the eggs right on top.


Looks kinda gross, doesn’t it? But it turns out pretty delicious in the end.

egg bake 1

With a side of toast and bacon, this became a substantial and delicious lunch. I think it would be great for any meal of the day, actually, but I’m weird like that. I used half kale and half spinach, which I really liked, though the original recipe called for just spinach. Use what you like!

egg breakfast 2

Baked Eggs with Mushrooms & Greens, adapted from Smitten Kitchen

3 oz (about 2 handfuls) kale, de-stemmed and roughly chopped
3 oz (about 1 handful) spinach
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 T unsalted butter
5 oz (about 1 cups) mushrooms, sliced
1/3 cup half and half
salt, pepper, and nutmeg to taste
4 large eggs
1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Bring 1/2″ of water to a boil in a large skillet. Add the kale and cook, covered, until it begins to wilt, about 2 minutes. Add the spinach and cook over medium-high heat, covered, until all the greens are wilted, about 1-2 minutes. If there’s any water left in the pan, drain in a colander, then transfer to an 8×8 baking dish.

Wipe the skillet dry, then add the butter and melt over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring, until mushrooms are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in half and half; a dash each of salt, pepper, and nutmeg; and bring to a simmer. Add the mushroom mixture to the baking pan and stir well to incorporate greens.

Make 4 indentations in the greens-and-mushroom mixture. Break an egg into each indentation and bake, uncovered, until eggs are set as desired. (7-10 minutes will have set egg whites with runny yolks; I cooked it 12-15 minutes so the yolks were also set.)

Lightly season with salt and pepper; sprinkle with shredded cheese.

Turnip & Sweet Potato Soup

12 May

Oh, the joys trials joys of a late winter/early spring CSA. So many root vegetables in March and April! Pounds of sweet potatoes, turnips, or rutabagas each week. Though now that it’s a bit warmer and there’s just greens greens and more greens, I kind of miss sweet potatoes. If you told me a month ago that I’d be saying that now, I would have said you were crazy, but there it is.

Actually, I don’t mind having a million sweet potatoes. I love ’em. I figured out how to cook them in the microwave, which makes for quick, last-minute meals. My favorite has been sweet potato & black bean quesadillas. Muy delicioso.

Rutabagas and turnips, on the other hand… Honestly, if I don’t see another rutabaga or turnip for a decade, I’d be okay with that.

At any rate, I had to figure out something to do with these veggies. I actually made this soup a couple months ago and forgot to post it, so here it is! If you get any last root veggies from your garden, try this out. It’s not incredibly flavorful, so you really taste the fresh vegetables. And I think that makes the walnuts necessary. The kale I could have done without, to be honest, but that was a healthy addition, so whatevs. It’s not very substantial, so serve this as an appetizer or side dish.


Turnip and Sweet Potato Soup adapted from The New York Times

1 T olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound turnips, peeled and diced
1/4 pound sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups water or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
6 oz curly kale, stemmed and washed (optional)
1/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)

Heat the oil over medium in a large soup pot. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender, about 4-5 minutes.

Add the turnips, potatoes, water/stock, bay leaf, and salt. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45-60 minutes, until the turnips are very tender. Remove the bay leaf.

Optional: While the soup is simmering, blanch the kale in boiling salted water just until tender, 1-2 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain, and squeeze out excess water. Slice into thin strips.

After removing the bay leaf from your soup, puree with a hand blender or in batches in a regular blender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve in bowls topped with greens and toasted walnuts.

Turnip Soup


Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly
Block Party from Hungry Happenings
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Inspiration Monday from Twelve O Eight
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows Wild
Life of the Party from The Grant Life
City of Links Party from City of Creative Dreams

Pimento Cheese

7 Apr

I was sitting at my kitchen table with the BF and friends staying the night with us, all working on our laptops and sharing a bottle of wine. I was struggling with what to write for this post, so I said, “Finish this sentence: Pimento cheese is as Southern as…”

I got a lot of inappropriate answers that are probably best not to share here. Let’s just say that the bottle of wine really had the jokes flowing.


I actually thought I hated pimento cheese. I am a North Carolina native, a Tar Heel born and bred, but my family isn’t particularly Southern, more just a typical suburban American family. And I grew up in a part of North Carolina where I went to school mostly with transplant kids, from places like New York, New Hampshire, India, and China.

So pimento cheese… This was not a thing my mom made. I’d only ever had store-bought stuff, which is super nasty. The pre-shredded “cheese product” tastes more like wax than cheddar, and there’s always wayyy too much mayonnaise. Nasty. But I tasted a gourmet pimento cheese at a friend’s a few months ago, and I started to reconsider. It wasn’t perfect, and it still had too much mayo, but it was good enough that it got me thinking. So I decided to make my own.


I researched recipes for a long time, trying to figure out what I would like. I ended up going off on my own thing because I couldn’t find anything that sounded good.

But after trying some of this… goodness, it was so delicious! I mean, I ate so much cheese. So much cheese. You can’t really tell scale from that first picture, but that’s a HUGE bowl.

For book club, we’d read I Capture the Castle, a lovely coming-of-age story about a teenage girl living in genteel poverty in England. So to keep with the theme, we made tea party food: tea sandwiches, quiche, fruit salad, scones. I made three varieties of tea sandwiches: cucumber and cream cheese, peanut butter and raspberry jelly, and — the club favorite — pimento cheese. It was a lovely English/Southern fusion, and I highly recommend it. The pimento cheese was so popular that after we polished off all the little sandwiches, I set out the bowl of leftovers and some crackers, and we went to town on that too!


A little note on the recipe: the cheddar is my favorite part, and if that’s yours too, you might consider changing your cheese ratio to 1 lb cheddar and 1/2 lb colby jack. The cheddar is definitely a requirement, but you also might consider swapping out the colby jack for another favorite cheese — maybe a pepper jack for a bit more kick, or maybe a creamy monterey jack. Oh! Another requirement: take the time to grate fresh cheese yourself. Waxy, flavorless, pre-shredded cheese is NOT allowed in my house.

Pimento Cheese

3/4 lb extra sharp cheddar, grated
3/4 lb colby jack, grated
1 (4 oz) jar pimentos, drained
1/2 tsp powdered garlic
1/2 tsp black pepper
pinch cayenne
3 T mayo

In a small bowl, stir together the mayo and spices. Add the pimentos.

In a large bowl, add the grated cheese. Carefully stir the mayo and pimento mixture into the cheese.


Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly
Block Party from Hungry Happenings
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Inspiration Monday from Twelve O Eight
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows Wild
Wonderfully Creative Wednesday from All She Cooks
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
Life of the Party from The Grant Life
All Things Pretty from My Fashion Foward Blog
City of Links Party from City of Creative Dreams

DIY No-Sew Paper Dot Curtain

2 Apr

In a rare departure from food, I was inspired to share a DIY project with you all today. I made this for my wedding in September 2012, and this lovely curtain has been hanging on my living room wall ever since mostly because I really just don’t know what to do with it! Until I figure that out, it’s bringing a nice splash of color to our home.

The first thing I fell in love with when researching wedding decor was this sewn paper dot garland. I could make it fit perfectly with my shades-of-purple dots theme, and I decided that I would have to have it, no matter how long it took to make one myself.

I bought heavy two-sided scrapbook paper in a few different shades of purple and a metallic gold.

photo 2 (2)
I went to town with my circle punches. I punched SO MANY circles. Then my wonderful Aunt Darlene took over. Amazing — between work and wedding planning, I was running short on time! She’s a life saver.

Aunt Dar thought the curtain needed a little more sparkle, so she added in a strand of metallic gold and purple pailette sequins for every two paper circle strands.

photo 3

The curtain turned out amazing! We hung it behind the dessert table for a super awesome backdrop. In a venue with almost all white walls, it created a great focal point. Aunt Darlene also created a few extra strands NOT attached to the curtain, to hang from the ceiling over the dance floor.

Here’s a shot of our wedding cake and dessert table, where you can see the dots hanging in the background:


And a neat black-and-white shot from our clever photographer:

Purple Dot Curtain

I won’t lie, this project took FOREVER. But I thought it turned out so well, and it was my favorite part of the decor. If you’d like to try this project on your own, go for it! Depending on your mood, you could spend some time on your own working on this mindlessly while watching TV and enjoying a glass of wine, you could invite your wedding attendants over and make a party of it, or you could delegate to someone wonderful in your life.

A few notes on the numbers I used, and then instructions to make your own!

  • I picked out coordinating colors of scrapbook paper (make sure it’s not white on one side). About 50% of the paper I purchased was a dark plum purple, which would be my main color. The other 50% was divided evenly between another dark purple color, a light lavender purple, and gold. I recommend buying extra paper and returning what you don’t use — I found it difficult to purchase additional paper in the same shade from our local stores.
  • The curtain rod is adjustable and ended up just over 7 feet wide. We wanted the length to be just under the length of the 8-foot table we were using it behind so that no strands would escape and risk being tugged on by people coming up to the dessert table.
  • There are 39 strands total, tied to the curtain rod about 2 inches apart. 26 strands use paper circles and 13 strands use metallic sequins.
  • For each paper circle strand, there are about 20 random circles, spaced 2-3 inches apart. For each metallic sequin strand, there are 28-30 circles, alternating purple and gold, spaced 2 inches apart.
    • If I was very careful about lining up my circle punches, I could get about 11 3″ circles and 14 1.5″ circles out of each 12×12 scrapbook page. I needed about 520 circles total, which would mean about 20 sheets of scrapbook paper. I bought 30 or more to accommodate error and to have extra strands to hang over the dance floor.
    • We needed about 400 sequins. We found packs of 250 at Hobby Lobby, so we needed just one of each color.
  • The overall length of the curtain is only about 5 1/2 feet. Since we were using it behind a table, it didn’t need to be long at all as it didn’t need to reach the floor. From where we hung it, the strands dropped a few inches below/behind the table.

photo 1Supplies:

Scrapbook paper in chosen colors
Fishing line
3” circle punch
1.5” circle punch
1/16″ pinpoint hole punch
Adjustable curtain rod
Tulle (optional)
Posterboard or construction paper


Punch out circles in varying sizes (3″ and 1.5″ circle punch suggested) from thick paper of varying colors. Punch the edge of each circle with the 1/16″ hole punch.

String the circles in random order along the fishing line, tying a knot through the pinpoint hole of each circle. Space the circles 2-3 inches apart. Continue on the same strand until you have about 6 feet in total (or whatever desired length). Leave an extra 12-18 inches of fishing line on the strand.

With the extra length of fishing line, tie the strand to the curtain rod. (I recommend leaving extra space between the rod and the beginning of the paper dots. It’s easy to roll all the strands up the curtain rod if it’s too long, and the extra length may come in handy depending on where/how you hang it.)

If you are planning on MOVING the curtain to another location at any point, DO NOT skip this step: Cut 4” or so wide strips of posterboard or construction paper. Tape them in a row to the fishing line, backing the paper dots. This will keep the dots from tangling with each other during transport. (I guarantee that if you don’t do this step and instead try to roll the dots around the curtain rod, it will take you about 40 hours to disentangle them. BTDT.)

Continue tying circles and creating strands until the length of the curtain rod is filled.

Optional: When the curtain is finished, wrap the length of the curtain rod in tulle, tying knots on each end. Roll the curtain rod so that all the strands wrap around the rod for a few inches, using the empty fishing line to secure the tulle more closely to the rod.


Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly
Block Party from Hungry Happenings
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Inspiration Monday from Twelve O Eight
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows Wild
Wonderfully Creative Wednesday from All She Cooks
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
Life of the Party from The Grant Life
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove
City of Links Party from City of Creative Dreams

(Vegan) Banana Bread Muffins

10 Mar

Last weekend I had some black bananas and needed breakfast, so I thought, why not muffins? But I checked the fridge and realized I was out of eggs. So after texting my egg supplier to place my order for the next day (my friend Rachel has some backyard chickens), I did some quick internet research for an egg-free muffin.

Luckily, or perhaps fore-sightedly, I keep flax seed on hand for this very reason. I’m forever running out of eggs, but flax seed serves is an eggs-cellent egg replacer (ha) and it keeps for months sealed airtight in the fridge. Even if you’re not vegan, I recommend this strategy if you’re also not so good at inventory and grocery shopping.


The flax seed completely fulfills the eggs’ role as a binder, but not so much as a riser. So it will hold your muffins together, but you won’t get that light, airy, cake-y texture. But all the more perfect for banana muffins — these come up super dense and moist, like banana bread. Two-bite banana bread! What more could you ask for?

This recipe calls for coconut oil to make them truly vegan. I had butter on hand, so I used that. But I recently purchased a jar of coconut oil, so I look forward to experimenting with it.

This made about 9 small muffins. Keep in mind that because there are no eggs, the batter won’t really rise during the baking process, so however high you fill your cupcake holders, that’s about how big your cupcakes will be.

I thought they were delicious! And apparently so did my coworkers, seeing as the leftovers vanished pretty quickly. Enjoy!


Banana Bread Muffins from Kitchen Treaty

1 T flax seed meal + 3 T water
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
2 overripe bananas, mashed
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup applesauce (about one of the individual cups)
2 1/2 T coconut oil or vegetable oil
1 tsp vanilla

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease or line a muffin tin.

In a small bowl, stir together the flax and water. Set aside for 5 minutes.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, baking soda, and salt.

In a medium bowl, mash the bananas. Add the brown sugar, applesauce, oil, vanilla, and flax/water. Mix well.

Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until just incorporated.

Spoon batter into muffin tins. Keep in mind that it won’t rise, so fill tins as big as you’d like your muffins.

Bake 18-22 minutes, or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Yield: About 9 small muffins, or about 6 jumbo muffins with domed tops.

Banana Bread Muffins

Linking Up With:

Funday Monday from Still Being Molly
Block Party from Hungry Happenings
Made by you Monday from Skip to my Lou
Inspiration Monday from Twelve O Eight
Time to Sparkle from Love Grows Wild
Wonderfully Creative Wednesday from All She Cooks
Create It Thursday from Lamberts Lately
Full Plate Thursday from Miz Helen’s Country Cottage
All Things Pretty from Sparkles and a Stove