A Rose-Flavored Holiday Story

Author: Kirsti Kay, Sweets, Dessert, Recipes, Food & Drink, Holidays

I did a crazy thing this year. I entered the Los Angeles Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off. I never enter contests. I hate competition. I remember being in school and getting chosen last for sports teams. I hated sports. I still do. To this day, the only sport I can play with any kind of confidence is ping pong. But I always hated competition, because there has to be a loser. I know what it feels like to be chosen last, or not at all, and I don’t want anyone to feel that lonely feeling, so I have avoided competition my whole life.

A few weeks ago, I saw the ad for the Los Angeles Times Holiday Cookie Bake-Off and thought, “I CAN DO THAT!” I have some recipes that are twists on classics! I have some skills! I can bring something unexpected, yet nostalgic, to the holiday table! So I entered. I entered with a cookie I have been making for many years: rose petal shortbread. I tweaked the decorations to add holiday-colored sugar and red rose petals so the cookies would have Christmas flair, and I entered with pride.

After hitting “submit,” I realized I would have to ask my friends to vote for me. The only thing worse than competition is asking everyone I know to do me a HUGE favor. I hemmed and hawed, I sweated, I wrung my hands, I whined to my husband Aaron, but I asked. And people responded. Not only did they vote for me—some every day—they shared my post on their own pages and sent me encouraging notes of support. I was blown away by the collective kindness.

Well, I did not win, but I’m totally OK with that. The fact is, the contest was more of a popularity vote than how good your cookie is. I still feel great about my recipe, which I think reflects the zeitgeist of what is happening in baking and is really delicious and easy to make. But most of all, I felt the holiday spirit in all of my friends who voted and reposted and encouraged me. I felt humbled by the friends of friends who voted and said they thought my recipe sounded amazing and they couldn’t wait to try it.

Of course, it would have been a fancy brag to have won (there wasn’t even a prize, just bragging rights), but I got what I needed out of the contest—I felt loved and supported by so many people, even people who don’t know me. I probably won’t be entering any more contests, but I’ll keep baking and I’ll keep sharing and I’ll keep appreciating my friends and family and my new friends of friends who believed in me enough to vote for a cookie they haven’t tasted, made by a gal some of them didn’t even know. You picked me first. And that means more to me than any bragging right.

Happy Holidays, Wonderful Friends!!


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

HOLIDAY ROSE PETAL SHORTBREAD
Makes about 24 cookies

Cookies:
2 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature
⅔ cup confectioners’ sugar
½ teaspoon rose extract*
½ teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon crushed dried rose petals (optional)
2 cups all purpose flour

Icing:
1½ cups confectioners’ sugar
3 tablespoons whole milk
sparkling holiday sugar and fresh (organic, non-pesticide) torn rose petals for garnish (chopping makes them dark around the edges)

Combine butter and confectioners’ sugar in a stand mixer fitted with paddle and mix until combined with no lumps, 2-3 minutes. Add the rose and vanilla extracts and the crushed rose petals (if using) and mix until incorporated. Add flour in two stages until just combined.

Transfer the dough to a quart-size Ziploc bag, leaving a small hole at the top so air can escape, and roll out with a rolling pin until dough has fully and evenly filled the shape of the bag. Refrigerate on a flat surface at least two hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 325°F and line two large baking sheets with parchment. Cut the sides of the Ziploc bag and peel back the top layer. Use a ruler and nick each side of the dough at 2-inch intervals with a pizza cutter or knife. Gently cut out your squares and transfer to parchment-lined cookie sheets. Use a fork to make traditional tine marks in the dough.

Put one cookie sheet in the refrigerator while the first batch bakes, 18-20 minutes. Watch carefully toward the end. You want the cookies very slightly browned at the edges only. Cool cookies completely on wire racks.

To make icing, combine confectioners’ sugar with milk and mix with a small whisk until smooth. To decorate, drizzle icing over cookies with a fork and, while icing is still wet, sprinkle with sparkling sugar and rose petals.

 

*Rose extract is available at many grocery stores and at Amazon.

Organic dried rose petals are available at Amazon or World Market (in the spice section).

 

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If Wishes Were Courses

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti Kay, Holidays

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If wishes were courses,
Then dreamers would dine
On plentiful sources
Of fine food and wine.

While those who were grateful
Could ask for the moon,
And feast on a plateful
That would make them swoon.

..

The Swoon Society wishes you a
🍽️ Happy Thanksgiving!
 🍽️

 

 

Image created using Freepik.

 

The Swoon Society Holiday Gift L.I.S.T.

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti Kay, Holidays

For fabulous holiday finds, check out our
Lovely Item Shopping Tips
and check off all the names on your list.

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We looked for swoon-worthy gift ideas all year long, then made a list (and checked it twice) to help our Swooners “pass out” the perfect presents for any occasion this holiday season. For more shopping tips, see our 2015 Holiday G.I.F.T. Guide and 2016 Holiday W.I.S.H. List.
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KIRSTI’S PICKS

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ERNESTO CANDLE FROM TRUDON $95
A friend has this candle, and I kept making excuses to come over just so I could smell the intoxicating scent waft through his house while we drank martinis and sat by his outdoor fireplace (OK, there are also other awesome reasons to visit). I have my own candle now and friends are “dropping by” a bit more often, it seems. It smells like a sexy church with a hint of what I imagine Jon Snow smells like. It also comes in a large format size ($495). Winter is coming, after all.

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MONSERAT DE LUCCA JEWELRY $20-155 and up
Why is everything in miniature so cute? A necklace holding a tiny set of chef’s knives? Yes! A brass fly? Definitely! A screw? Maybe, if you get me one of these necklaces.

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GOLD CIRCLE CHOKER $21
This delicate choker will surely stoke her. (See what I did there?)

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HEMP HOLEY VINTAGE WHITE BOXY TEE $43
Made of 60% hemp, this t-shirt is truly dope. Hemp is 4x more durable than cotton and gets softer with each wash. The oversized boxy fit looks great on everyone.

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JO LOVES FRAGRANCE PAINTBRUSH $55
Jo Malone has concocted a delightful new way of applying scent—just “paint” on your skin. The gel formula dries almost instantly and holds onto the fragrance, so it lasts longer. With scents such as Pomelo, Green Orange & Coriander, Red Truffle 21, and White Rose & Lemon Leaves, it’s hard to decide on only one.

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TWELVE NIGHTS OF WINE BY VINEBOX $129
Vinebox has curated single glasses of wine packaged in 12 adorable “test tubes.” An Advent calendar countdown has never been so fun!

If you feel like splurging on your favorite oenophile, you can get one year of wine flights for $300.

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DAZZLING LIGHTS NAIL POLISH FROM YVES SAINT LAURENT $28 each
A sparkling stocking stuffer that will look very fancy paired with Christmas morning jammies or peeking out of those strappy NYE sandals. Available in Red Lights or Gold Fire.

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NIKE CLASSIC CORTEZ SNEAKERS $70
White sneakers are all the rage. Get the ones that started it all.

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VINTAGE BOOK ORNAMENTS $3-8 each
What do you get the bookworm who has everything? Why, an ornament that has hand-cut and curled vintage pages from their favorite book, of course! It’s like a ship in a bottle for the literary set. There are tons of books to choose from and they even do custom orders.

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LE LABO SANTAL 33 SIGNATURE DETERGENT BY THE LAUNDRESS $45
Last year I wrote about this perfume for our Holiday W.I.S.H. List. This year it’s all about the laundry detergent. Trust me on this one. It’s life-changing (and super concentrated, so a little goes a long way), and something she won’t buy for herself.

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MILK MAKEUP A TEAM MINIS $39
I can’t get enough of these Milk Makeup sticks. I use the Holographic stick every day on my cheekbones and the glitter stick when I go out on the town. To have all these little babies would be truly swoon-worthy!

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SEEDLIP NON-ALCOHOLIC SPIRITS $45
If you are concerned about what to get your teetotaling friend or boss for the holidays, your search is over! As blogged about at The Swoon Society, this distilled elixir is fancy and very tasty. It contains no alcohol, but delightfully mimics the feeling of having a cocktail. Pour into a vintage coup with a splash of tonic water and you might just be the one to start the conga line at the company party.

 

KIRSTEN’S PICKS

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BELLE GLOS PINOT NOIR $55
These California wines receive high marks from reviewers, but I’ll have to take their word for it, since I can’t bring myself to defile the gorgeous wax seal. Combined with Spencerian-style script on the label, these bottles bring to mind the correspondence of another age, but in this day and age they communicate goodwill toward men (and women) as holiday and host/ess gifts. The dramatic presentation makes a seasonal statement that will have recipients waxing rhapsodic about these heady redheads, so ditch the gift bags, because when it comes to holiday giving, this wine is a wrap.
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CRANBERRY JELLY CANDIES $12.32
These classic French pâtes de fruits get a holiday twist with tart cranberry flavor and festive red-and-green packaging. Slim enough to slip in a stocking and sophisticated enough to offer as a host or hostess gift, each box has 20 jewel-like jellies nestled within. And, since they’re sold by Natural Candy Store, you can be sure that they’re completely free of artificial ingredients, so share these seasonal sweets and enjoy liberty, fraternity…and cranberry!
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VIOLET MOON SHIMMER CREAM $15
We at The Swoon Society are voracious for violet, so we can’t get enough of the violet-scented body care products from Sensuous Beauty. I always carry the Vivacious Violet Lip & Eye Balm in my purse, but it’s fun to add a little sparkle to the season—and the skin—with their Violet Moon Shimmer Cream. Made with organic oils, shea butter, and a pinch of pixie dust, it will reflect the twinkle of the tree and make you the star of any holiday gathering, so gather up several for gift giving, because the ladies on your list will take a shine to this shimmer.
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OPEN BOOK CUP AND SAUCER $10
An open book and a cup of tea go together like Miss Bennett and Mr. Darcy. Bibliophiles and tea drinkers will flip for this delightful duo, featuring a ceramic cup resting atop the open pages of a book-shaped saucer. (This set was showcased in Kirsti’s post about Tea Drops, which would make a great companion gift or stocking stuffer.) Sold by the Library of Congress, it makes a “capitol” contribution to your holiday haul.

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THEORY11 PLAYING CARDS $5-10
When it comes to seasonal gift-giving, stack the deck in your favor by dealing out these stunning packs of playing cards. Whether used for blackjack hits or magic tricks, a box of cards will get the party started, while the loners on your list can shuffle off to play solitaire. With more than 30 styles to choose from, many with gilt embossing and intriguing origins, a happy holiday is in the cards.

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CHINA RAIN PERFUME OIL $14-64
The film version of Ready Player One is set to release in the not-too-distant future, so expect 80s nostalgia to come back in vogue. Get “ready” with this classic perfume that was all the rage when Kirsti and I were in high school. There are many imitators, but the original China Rain® was created by Body Time, which still sells the perfume oil in several sizes, including a convenient roll-on that we used to toss in our backpacks and back pockets. Get one for yourself and you, too, can be a China Girl.

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WOODEN INKLESS PEN
 $39
After reaching in my purse one too many times to pull out a broken pencil or dried-up pen, this revolutionary writing implement is now on my personal wish list. With a beautiful walnut or zebrawood body and patented alloy tip that never needs sharpening, it’s a space-age tool that has the write stuff whenever you need it.

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EARL GREY TEA JELLY $5.50
A great gift for the tea lovers and foodies on your list, this curious condiment contains just three ingredients: organic tea, organic sugar, and pectin. While the kettle is on, enjoy toast and tea without waiting for the whistle, or serve with a sliced baguette and soft cheese to demonstrate your hospitali-tea. Makes a wonderful stocking (and mouth) stuffer, so be sure to stock up on this stuff.

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THE GAME OF KINGS BY DOROTHY DUNNETT $13
Not to be confused with A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin (himself a Dunnett devotee), this first book in The Lymond Chronicles introduces readers to 16th-century Scottish nobleman Francis Crawford of Lymond—a Renaissance man and accused outlaw who has returned home to clear his name and exact revenge against the man who framed him for treason. If you love Outlander, be aware that author Diana Gabaldon is also a fan of Dorothy Dunnett, who joined us for a portion of our trip to Scotland in 1997. The six volumes in The Lymond Chronicles have been optioned by the producers of the television series Poldark, so get the hardcore historical fiction lovers on your list started with the first book and you’ll have gifts for several occasions to come.

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OCTAGONAL BASE WINDOW LIGHT
$32
A practical gift that will be appreciated for years, this electric taper suffuses any space with the warm glow of candlelight—no need for batteries, drip catchers…or a fire extinguisher. Unlike many window lights that are made from cheap, gold-tone plastic, the base of this fixture is solid brass with a slip-resistant bottom and a laquered finish that means it will maintain its sheen without polishing. I keep a pair on my piano year-round, but move them onto the windowsill during the holidays to extend a warm welcome on cold December nights. These lights sell out every year before the end of Black Friday weekend, so look for the best deal of the season in the coming week (usually 30% off with free shipping—no minimum) and don’t miss this window of opportunity.

 

And, lastly, recipients will be “overcome” by a gift from The Swoon Society S.H.O.P.
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Season’s Shopping, Swooners!

 

The Grim Swooner

Author: Kirsten K., Author: Kirsti Kay, Holidays

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You may not have heard that the fearsome Grim Reaper
Has one distant cousin who’s more of a sleeper,
But she isn’t cursed (as her rep would suggest)
To be ushering souls to their eternal rest.
No, her singular talent is rather amusing—
That is, if you don’t mind spontaneous snoozing.
She sneaks up behind you and gives you a tap,
And you fall into some kind of transient nap.

..

Now, while this might not seem major cause for complaint,
It is quite inconvenient to drop in a faint,
And since she’s the black sheep of the family Grim,
She’s determined that she’ll steal the spotlight from Him.
For some time she’s believed she’s got something to prove,
And it’s on Halloween that she’s planning her move,
So please stay on alert and don’t dare to impugn her,
Or you might be visited by the Grim Swooner.


🎃 Happy Halloween! 🎃

 

 

This pumpkin was carved using tools from Pumpkin Masters.

 

Lolly Bragging

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Sweets

Halloween is just two weeks away, so it’s time to start thinking about candy (as if we at The Swoon Society aren’t thinking about it all year long). When it comes to trick-or-treaters, are you an apple (shame!), popcorn ball (boo!), candy corn (eek!), loose change (argh!), or miniature variety pack (yay!) dispenser? My brother-in-law’s aunt used to give out whole candy bars on Halloween. She did not mess around.

If hordes of sugar-mad zombies find their way to your door each year, you may have to be more practical, but I live on a steep, intimidating hill in a neighborhood with few children, so I have the luxury of splurging on the 3-5 trick-or-treaters who ring my bell annually. This year, I got them these bewitching lollipops from Natural Candy Store.

Everything sold by Natural Candy Store is 100% natural—no scary ingredients like artificial colors, flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, or hydrogenated oils. In addition, their Halloween lollipops are allergy-friendly, vegan, and gluten-free, so I’ve got all the bases covered (except diabetes). Generously sized with flavors ranging from cherry, grape, and orange to cocoa and vanilla bean, these lollies will have trick-or-treaters bragging to their friends about their haul (I hope).

If you’re not prepared to go all in on individual treats, Natural Candy Store has a frightening array of Halloween sweets in bulk sizes, including Trick or Treat Mix, Organic Skull and Ghost Lollipops, Crispy Milk Chocolate Jack-O’-Lanterns,* Natural Gum Pops, Wholesome Organic Fruit Chews (uncanny facsimiles of Starburst) and, yes, even popcorn balls and candy corn. They also include free samples with every order (my favorite is the CleanCandy Watermelon Wheel).

Now that the candy has been taken care of, it’s time to turn my attention to pumpkin carving patterns and decorating, because Halloween is almost here and there’s no time for lollygagging.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Natural Candy Store

 

*Orders to hot weather regions may require special shipping.

 

Three Cheers for the Red, White, and Blue

Author: Kirsten K., Cocktails, Food & Drink, Holidays, Spirits, Wine

If you plan to toast America’s Independence Day, you have three ways to say, “Cheers!” Those who enjoy bold flavor might try a red sparkling wine,* such as Lambrusco (wine blogger Marissa A. Ross is a fan), while traditionalists can opt for a classic champagne made with white wine grapes (our choice for the occasion, natch, is Cuvée Thomas Jefferson Cremant de Limoux Brut). But those who enjoy things a little off-color will swear by something blue.

Yes, blue sparkling wine is becoming a thing. There’s a blue prosecco from Italy, which gets its color from blue curaçao, but this 4th of July we’re raising a glass of Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux by Bronco Wine Company. Made from Chardonnay grapes with a touch of blueberry juice for color, Blanc de Bleu is a respectable effervescent wine with crisp, dry flavor…but let’s face it—the color is why we’re talking a blue streak about this cerulean sparkler.

The unexpected hue of Blanc de Bleu is mesmerizing and sure to become the center of conversation at any gathering. Much like rosé wine, which beguiles with its blush, blue sparkling wine is fun and doesn’t take itself too seriously (will #intotheblue replace #yeswayrose?). It’s a natural choice to serve at weddings and gender reveal parties…or to class up your backyard barbeque. There’s still time to stock up for tomorrow’s celebration, so get a case of the blues this year and spread some holiday cheer(s). Happy 4th, Swoonsters! 🥂 🇺🇸


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Blanc de Bleu Cuvée Mousseux

 

Blanc de Bleu is available at BevMo, Total Wine, and many wine shops and liquor stores.

 

*You can also add cranberry juice to white sparkling wine for some bright red refreshment. With a splash of Cointreau or Triple Sec, this is known as a Poinsettia and makes a festive cocktail to serve during the Christmas holidays.

 

Fleur Crazy

Author: Kirsten K., Food, Food & Drink, Holidays, Sweets

There are places around the country where winter is still holding on with an icy fist (My Crazy Friend Marianne™ said it snowed in her small town just a couple of weeks ago), and while many people are going stir crazy, we at The Swoon Society are going fleur crazy! As our readers know, we love foods—particularly sweets—with a floral twist, which is why we look forward each spring to the arrival of Les Fleurs du Chocolat, a limited-time collection of truffles from Vosges featuring exotic flowers and spices.

Kirsti and I discovered Vosges Haut-Chocolat (pronounced vohj o-sho-colah) in the late 1990s when the company had a single store in Chicago. We managed to catch founder Katrina Markoff on television talking about her unusual truffles with combinations like coconut/curry and wasabi/ginger—flavors that were unheard-of in the chocosphere at that time. When we saw her complete collection, which included an Absinthe truffle and one topped with a candied violet, it was swoon at first sight.

I used to drool over their beautiful paper catalogs like a teenage girl with a copy of Tiger Beat, and I started setting aside a monthly allowance to indulge in their latest offerings (including four flavors of Vosges ice cream, no longer available). On a trip to New York City in 2003, I made a beeline for their newly-opened store in SoHo to sip drinking chocolates at the bar and shop for bars of chocolate on the shelves. I left in a purple haze.

Katrina is endlessly inventive, and her Les Fleurs du Chocolat collection has evolved over the years to offer new surprises each spring. In addition to floral toppings like purple orchid, marigold, nasturtium, and candied violets, this year’s collection features fruit flavors (caramelized banana, Mirabelle plum, blueberry) paired with surprising superfoods, spices, and herbs (bee pollen, turmeric, lemongrass). My favorites were the Orange Coriander and Siam Citron, which left a strong “aromatic impression” of flowers from essences of orange blossom water and jasmine tea, respectively.

While we’re in a fleurry, let’s not forget the less flashy, but no less flavorful Cardamom Rose Caramels from Vosges’ Exotic Caramel Collection. Rose water and cardamom powder are added to soft, creamy caramels, then enrobed in dark chocolate and topped with bits of crystallized rose. There’s a reason Vosges refers to the flavors in this collection as parfums. They unfurl with each bite, blooming on the palate the way a fine fragrance opens in the nose.

It may be too late to slip these bouquets into a holiday basket for someone special, but I doubt anyone will mind a rain check from the Easter bunny when the IOU is for VHC. Just remember that Les Fleurs du Chocolat is only available for a short time, so hop over to the Vosges website and place your order before this garden of floral chocolates goes dormant until next spring.


Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Les Fleurs du Chocolat
Cardamom Rose Caramels

 

Vosges has a full collection of sweets and treats for Easter, which will remain available while supplies last. A rep I spoke with said that items may still be in stock after they’ve been removed from the website, so call to place your order and ask about availability.

 

Order of the Purple Hearts

Author: Kirsten K., Food & Drink, Holidays, Sweets

sjaaks-lavender-heartsFebruary 14th is still a week away, but I’ve already received my order of purple hearts from Sjaak’s Organic Chocolates. These foil-wrapped confections put the “V” in Valentine’s Day with a vegan truffle center that’s infused with lavender.

I’ve written before about the fact that Kirsti and I don’t do subtle when it comes to flavorings, particularly floral ones, and these chocolates don’t disappoint. The lavender is distinct and tastes like the true essence of the herb. Blended with a creamy ganache made from all organic ingredients, including dark chocolate, cashews, almonds, and coconut oil, these dairy-free delights make a thoughtful gift for animal lovers, organic-vegan-chocolate-lavender-heartpeople with dietary restrictions, and those who simply enjoy singular sweets.

Sjaak (Dutch for Jacob) is pronounced like Jacques, the name of the company’s Netherlands-born owner, who is committed to compassion and sustainability through the family’s organic, fair trade, vegan products. Their variety of Valentine offerings includes both Cherry and Raspberry Hearts, but it’s the Lavender that will have you writing purple prose to its flowery flavor. So if you want to give a gift from the heart, don’t just pay it lip service. Order today and stock the Sjaak’s.

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Sjaak’s Lavender Hearts

 

Lavender Hearts can also be purchased in bulk.

 

No Pleasure Without Champagne

Author: Kirsten K., Entertaining, Food & Drink, Holidays, Hot Drinks, Spirits, Wine

wondermade-gold-champagne-marshmallowsI believe there is no pleasure that can’t be heightened with the addition of champagne. This celebratory drink tickles the senses and delights the spirit, especially during the holidays, when it symbolizes fellowship and festivity. Creative culinarians are finding new and inventive ways to incorporate champagne into all manner of sweets and savories, but the folks at Wondermade have given new meaning to sparkling wine by gilding their lily-white champagne marshmallows with 24 karat gold.

gilty-pleasureWondermade artisan marshmallows are handcrafted with pure cane sugar and “100% sweet magic air.” I have no doubt that there is wizardry involved, because they have achieved pillowy perfection with these scrumptious squares, which come in flavors ranging from bakery sweets (Sugar Cookie and Gingerbread) to boozy treats (Bourbon and Fireball). But I prefer to pop open a box of Gold & Champagne Marshmallows at this time of year to dress up a cup of rich hot chocolate on a cold winter’s night. Served in a gold-rimmed demitasse, this “gilty” pleasure is the definition of decadence.

Offer a gold plated dessert on your holiday buffet by setting out a platter of glittering marshmallows—perhaps alongside a chocolate fondue or fountain—and even the teetotalers and designated drivers in attendance will be able indulge in a bit of bubbly. So whether you raise a coupe, cup, or cube this New Year’s Eve*, say “Cheers!” with champagne and you’re sure to have a wonder-ful night. Happy Swoon Year!

S.W.O.O.N. Stamp
Stuff Worthy Of Our Notice™ in this post:

Wondermade Gold & Champagne Marshmallows

 

Wondermade marshmallows are also available at select Lolli & Pops stores. Flavors change seasonally, so check back throughout the year.

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*It may be too late to acquire a box of Wondermade marshmallows in time for midnight tonight, but Valentine’s Day is just around the corner. ❤️