A Bel8ted Christmas & Tapas!

Hi everyone!

I hope you all had a very Merry Christmas this year! First I will address the elephant in the room: YES, I was 4 days short of the 12 Days of Gift Ideas. In my defense, Day 6, 7, and 8 had a total of 21 items, so technically I gave you double the amount I promised. 😉

To make it up, here are some recipes that you can use for a New Year’s Party, or for any potlucks and get-togethers left in 2012.

I made these for my family’s Christmas potluck and they were a hit! In fact, those on the right were gobbled up within 10 minutes of saying “grace!”

Many of my relatives asked me, “Tiff what are those?” I replied with, “Spanish Tapas!” These are basically small appetizers or dishes that are full of flavor. Traditionally, they are served with drinks to keep good times and conversation flowing. For our purposes, they served as fun appetizers and snacks throughout the party. Tapas are always so delicious because they are full of rich flavors and fresh ingredients, so consider preparing them for your next party or even just a night in with close friends!

I came up with this one on my own. The star of these tapas are proscuitto, which is a cured ham sliced very thinly. You can find this in the deli section of the market, just ask the butcher! I chose ingredients that complement its flavor and add a festive touch. Arugula is a leafy green similar to spinach that has a peppery taste to it. You can find prepared packages at Trader Joe’s and most salad shelves. 
Tiffany’s Proscuitto Tapas: 
Ingredients: 
– 1 5 oz. package proscuitto
– 2 packages (about 60 pieces) mini whole wheat toasts
– 1/8 or so cup fig butter (available at Trader Joe’s)
– 1/8 or so cup cream cheese (I found a fig + walnut cream cheese that worked perfectly)
– 1/2 or so cup arugula 
Instructions:
– Chop proscuitto into small pieces. Stack all pieces of proscuitto in the package and roll it up into a long log  (also known as hot dog style?). Chop into 1 centimeter-wide ribbons. As you assemble the tapas, you can pull apart the ribbons to get relatively event pieces 
– Prepare other ingredients. Open the package of toast, Make sure the arugula is washed, and get a butter knife ready for the fig butter and cream cheese.  It would be good to get some help with this too!  
– In assembly line style, add a tiny bit of fig butter onto the toast, then flatten a piece or two of arugula onto the toast, using the fig butter as adhesive. Quickly put a pat of the cream cheese onto the arugula to seal it onto the toast. Finally, top with a piece of the proscuitto ribbons that you cut earlier. Serve on a pretty platter. These are pretty stackable, but take caution when transporting. 
With the leftovers, you can throw together a salad of arugula — just add cheese, proscuitto (if any), and fig butter (thinned out by mixing with just a bit of oil and/or red wine vinegar)! Leftover mini-toasts make perfect croutons! 

Anchovy, Aioli, and Red Pepper Tapas
I wish I could take credit for this recipe, but I found it via foodgawker.com. Check out the link! These were very time intensive (as homemade mayonnaise always is), but VERY worth it! The flavors from each component were very rich, but melted together with a satisfying harmony. This recipe worked especially well with my Filipino family because the anchovy was reminiscent of smoked fish delicacies like tinapa  & dilis
This might just be the last post of 2012. I have really exciting things in store for 2013. If you’re reading this right now, know that I write for you, in hopes to share joy through food and more. Thank you so much for stopping by! 
With love,
Tiffany R.
Dining at Tiffany’s 

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Day 8 – $20.12: Drinks for Sipping

Holidays are great because seasonal drinks add even more cozy feelings to the mix! This year, give someone a cup of cheer!

On the 8th day of Christmas, Tiffany gave to me:

8 Drinks for Sipping!
7 snacks for hiking
6 games for playing
5 wooden things
4 cards with words
3 simple words
2 penguin gloves
& a cutie from a citrus tree!

Buy a cute mug (I recommend World Market, where this Dalmatian mug was bought) and add a baggy of drink mix!

Try to make it as personal as possible to be thoughtful! Favorite animals, colors, and prints are great! I try to stay away from holiday-themed because I like giving gifts that can appropriately be used all year. Here are some ideas:

1. Tea/honey: Add a few packets of tea and some honey to the mug for a calming, warming treat. My daily tea is Rose Green Tea by TenRen. They sell this at Tea Station cafes and at TenRen stores (I only know of a TenRen in the Bay Area). I love buying this because it’s $4, even less than a single cup of milk tea at (in my opinion: overpriced) Tea Station.

You can even add a mini honey bear or honey sticks. You can get these at any farmers market with a local honey vendor, like Brian’s Farmers Markets!

2. Hot cocoa add a candy cane: Just empty a hot cocoa packet into a little baggie (get it from Michaels, or Do It With Icing if you’re in SD) or make your own following the instructions on the side of any tin of cocoa powder! Note: I DON’T buy Hershey’s chocolate because of their inhumane farming practices, so my favorite, affordable cocoa powder is from Trader Joe’s. Speaking of which..

3. Chai Tea Latte: You can do the same with this Chai Tea Latte mix from Trader Joe’s. I absolutely love this stuff, and they have since added seasonal flavors! I bought this back in autumn, and I noticed this week that they had Sea Salt Caramel Chai. Yum!!

4. Instant coffee: The other day, I NEEDED coffee, but didn’t want to break the bank. I found these little packets at Trader Joe’s. They’re pretty good. Not the best, but it does the job! Pop a few of these in a mug for friends that could always use a coffee fix. Just add hot water! Easy!

5. DIY Spiced Apple Cider Kits: Try Something like this! 

6. Bottled Apple Cider: This won’t fit in a mug, but it’s always a crowd-pleaser for all ages. FUNNY story, my boyfriend decided to drink this straight from the bottle on our late-night car ride to visit my parents. Of course, there was a DUI checkpoint. He had to frantically tell the police officer from the passenger seat, “It’s only Martinelli’s apple cider, I promise!”

7. Dessert Wine: For those of age, you can’t go wrong with a Moscato. A very affordable and very delicious brand is Barefoot or Yellowtail!

8. Drink Voucher: See Day 4, and invite a friend for a drink somewhere special!

Cheers!

With love & Christmas Cheer,
Tiffany R.
Dining at Tiffany’s

Day 7 – $20.12: Snacks for Hiking

Welcome to “Day 7” (Like you, I have been extremely busy this pre-Christmas weekend, so I’ll save the stories and keep the rest of the series in relatively short, list form!)!

On the 7th Day of Christmas, Tiffany gave to me:

7 Snacks for Hiking
6 games for playing
5 wooden things
4 cards with words
3 simple words
2 penguin gloves
& a cutie from a citrus tree!

These days, a trend I’ve loved to see growing is adventure outings, like hiking, camping, and for those that can afford it — travelling!

For example, look what I did once:

If you know someone that loves (or should try) adventuring, these gifts are quick and relatively inexpensive!

1. Trail Mix: This can be a bit expensive, and I can rarely find one that perfectly fits my preference, so why not make your own? Grocery stores are a bit less crowded than the mall and are surprisingly good places to find gifts! Save money by making your own: find bulk bins (like at Sprouts or Whole Foods) and get a bunch of different nuts, dried fruit, and more. Put them in little boxes or cellophane bags for cute gifts. To save even more money, you can just do one-serving packages to invite a friend on a hike!

2. Loaded Granola Bars: Give someone a package of yummy granola bars for their hikes and travels! Sometimes I even have these for breakfast. I enjoy Luna Bars (especially lemon and white macademia), and when on hikes, I like Moutain Mojo by Clif (disclaimer: I’ve only enjoyed these at high altitudes, but some reason they don’t taste as good as an everyday snack!)

3. Reindeer Chow: Okay this one isn’t that healthy, but it’s super cute for the holidays. Perhaps it can be snacks for holiday outings or long drives!

Check out the recipe from my good family friend at Art of Dessert!

4. Reusable Water Bottle: Okay, EVERYONE needs one of these. Save the environment, have convenient water, etc. If you know someone who doesn’t own one, GET IT FOR THEM. And perhaps even some of #6 to along with it…

5. Propel Hydrating Packets: These could really save people from the terrible side effects of dehydration!

Just add a packet to your water bottle and get extra electrolytes to balance out dehydration from heat and exertion. In the following case, both! 

Earlier this year, I served as an advisor for a volunteer trip to Nicaragua in which we worked at a rural elementary school. The student volunteer above was so awesome and always gave 110% toward volunteering and spending time with the kids. However, it was over 90 degrees everyday and he didn’t use the Propel packets I gave him and so he got very dehydrated. He ended up getting pretty sick and had to sit out on some days. Don’t let this be you on your next outdoor or travelling adventure. Propel packets make a great gift, or even just a sensible supply to have on hand!

6. Hand Sanitizer /Portable Soap: Okay I know these aren’t snacks, but you can never have enough. Pier 1 currently has a really awesome, inexpensive gift section full of useful items!

I bought these (along with other items) for a family as they are leaving for a vacation to Vietnam for 2 weeks!

7. Adventure Invitations: See Day 4, and perhaps turn this into an invitation for an adventure. Create your own voucher or card and get creative using pictures of scenery you hope to visit!

Happy adventuring!!

With love,
Tiffany
Dining at Tiffany’s

PS: I got to Day 8:

8 Drinks for Sipping!
7 snacks for hiking
6 games for playing
5 wooden things
4 cards with words
3 simple words
2 penguin gloves
& a cutie from a citrus tree!

Day 6 – $20.12: Games for Playing

Welcome to “Day 6” (Like you, I have been extremely busy this pre-Christmas weekend, so I’ll save the stories and keep it in short list form!)!

On the 6th Day of Christmas, Tiffany gave to me:

6 games for playing

5 wooden things
4 cards with words
3 simple words
2 penguin gloves
& a cutie from a citrus tree!

Okay this one may require some fighting of crowds, but games are always great gifts. These days it gets harder to engage with each other with all the individual digital distractions, but fun games give us a reason to sit around and enjoy each other’s company. Here are six of my favorite group games/items:

1. Bananagrams. It’s like Scrabble, but faster and more exhilarating!
2. Monopoly Deal. It’s less than $10! It’s like Monopology, but faster and more exhilarating!
3. Apples to Apples. A really funny game that’s great with friends both old and new. (For a much less politically-correct version, try Cards Against Humanity!)

 4. Settlers of Catan. Been playing this game since 2007! It brings out the best and worst in people. It can take a while to explain, but once you get it, you’ll be hooked! Wood for sheep, please!
5. A deck of cards. This is always useful and I always wish I have this when I find myself with a group of friends that has time to kill. Speed? Speed 2? Deuces/Pusoy Dos? 52 pick up? 😉 
6. Last but not least, it’s not a game, but it gets the party started. I always keep a tambourine in my trunk. You never know when you’ll need a beat and cymbals! 
With love and (frantic) Christmas cheer,
Tiffany R.
Dining at Tiffany’s

PS: I got to Day 8:

8 Drinks for Sipping!
7 snacks for hiking
6 games for playing
5 wooden things
4 cards with words
3 simple words
2 penguin gloves
& a cutie from a citrus tree!

Day 5 – $20.12: Wooden Things

As I mentioned, I went to Decmeber Nights the first week of this month. It was a blast!!

My favorite part was unexpected – the Spanish Village Art Center. They open 11am-4pm everyday, but I had never seen it since I’m usually there at night. I found what is now one of my favorite gift ideas in San Diego.

~*On the 5th Day of Christmas, Tiffany gave to me: 
5 wooden things!

Okay, how CUTE are these mini, wooden animal puzzles?! They are handcrafted by Art in Wood right in San Diego, sold at Balboa Park. They also have other items, like quotes, ornaments, and scriptures. The best part? Each of these little animals were less than $2!

I love this wolf! Any Shakira fan would probably enjoy this and deem it a she-wolf (ewooo!). 

And my turtle seems to approve of his new wooden friend!

You can also have them painted in-store, or add painting supplies to your gift. Fun!



2012 paradelogo rev11.8
Remember, they’re located at the Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park San Diego from 11am-4pm everyday! I love this idea because the art shop is far, far away from the shopping crowds/terrible mall parking, and it will be a pleasant little outing, too!

Speaking of December Nights, I found out about another free holiday event you can attend — The Big Bay Balloon Parade! It’s on Thursday, December 27th at 10:00am. Click the image for the parade map! You can pay extra to get bleacher seating, but I’m sure standing room will be just fine.

Remember to visit the Spanish Village Art Center in Balboa Park for unique, inexpensive, and handcrafted gifts! You can also learn more at http://www.artinwood.org and calling them at 619-236-9575. For your GPS, address is 1770 Village Pl. San Diego, CA 92101.

With love & Christmas cheer,
Tiffany R.
Dining at Tiffany’s

PS: I got to Day 8:

8 Drinks for Sipping!
7 snacks for hiking
6 games for playing
5 wooden things
4 cards with words
3 simple words
2 penguin gloves
& a cutie from a citrus tree!

Day 4 – $20.12: Cards with Words

I am very sorry that it took so long to continue with this series! I took a little break last weekend in light of the incidents on at Sandy Hook, and also because I was busy assisting my church’s musical director with our Christmas Musical.

Since we’re only a few days before Christmas, I promise the rest of the series will be procrastinator-friendly! 😉

DAY 4:
So I am on the internet ALL the time. Sometimes it can be a problem! But I can also see how the internet and social media can be used for good. This concept can be put into creative and inexpensive gift ideas:

~*On the 4th day of Christmas, Tiffany gave to me:
4 Cards with Words

Most days, the following conversation happens:
“Have you seen this video on YouTube? It’s hilarious/so good/so terrible!”

Why not turn this into a fun gift??

[1]
My good friend in Boston was thinking of a cheap idea for his office Secret Santa recipient as they had to do a daily treat leading up to the party. He said he likes Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc., so I suggested that he leave him a notecard with a shortened url to a funny related video!

Click for the LOTR video he used!

I love that he cut out a Christmas-tree shape! As most of us are now out of the office until Christmas (woohoo!), adding a shortened youtube link (he used bit.ly to do this) can elevate any greeting card to a more special level!

[2]
Next idea is using the same concept in snail mail! I made a card using Microsoft paint and will mail it to my best friend that lives in Irvine, inviting her to a meet-up (meal on me!) halfway between our cities!

The link goes here to Meet Me Halfway by Black Eyed Peas, hehe! 

[3]
The other two don’t require the internet, but are inexpensive and even sustainable ideas for personalized gifts!
This is going to get a little bit melancholy, but I wanted to share something: A few years ago (2010) a friend gave me a beautiful 12×12 calendar with really sweet poems about friendship. This individual and I aren’t really in touch anymore, unfortunately.

But instead of sadly throwing away the beautiful calendar, I actually started reusing the pages in gifts for new friends. I choose whichever poem reminds me of my friend the most and incorporated it into their Christmas gifts. Last year I used calendar pages as gift wrapping paper for small books. This year, I actually framed one of the pages for my new coworker and good friend. I went to Aaron Brother’s and got a very pretty frame for under $20.12. My coworker actually thought I bought this ready-made at the store!

One of my favorite song lyrics by Lauryn Hill is “develop a negative into a positive picture” from the song “Everything is Everything.” I always try to live by that and using this calendar is one of those ways. Perhaps you can too! Or at the very least, if you have a 2012 calendar that is about to become obsolete, consider ways that you can incorporate it into a gift. You get to save money and even do a little recycling!

[4]
The same can be done with old postcards, posters, etc. Just as we can change our attitude to see a negative situation a more positive light, adding a frame to an print always gives it a special focus.

Hope these ideas help! I’m happy to help out with ideas. Email me at diningattiffanys@gmail.com!

With love & Christmas cheer,
Tiffany R. 
Dining at Tiffany’s

PS: I got to Day 8:

8 Drinks for Sipping!
7 snacks for hiking
6 games for playing
5 wooden things
4 cards with words
3 simple words
2 penguin gloves
& a cutie from a citrus tree!

Day 3: Three Simple Words

On the third day of Christmas, Tiffany would like to share..

.. three simple words:

“Love one another.” – John 13:34b

I had plans for the third day of gift ideas (it was actually kind of lame anyway: “three fresh pens.”), but in light of the events today in Newtown, Connecticut, I am moved to write about the most important gift we can share: Love.

I wrote this on Facebook today:
“While we have terms like ‘widow’ and ‘orphan,’ there is no word in the English dictionary for a parent that has lost a child. This is a tragedy too deeply heartbreaking to define.”

It really is unfathomable. My best friend from elementary (who incidentally had her going away party tonight) shared that she does not even want to try to understand the logic of what happened. I agree.

But in these confusing times, in being a little more scared of the world we live in, the only thing we can do after mourning is move forward. We should channel our faith and hope into the things that we can control.

Everyday, we can choose to love one another.

I think it’s unfortunate that it often takes tragedies for us to start considering to choose to live toward positive change — of ourselves and of society; or even for us to simply appreciate what we have: family, safety, life.

I often ask my colleagues and friends this question:
“what motivates you to serve others?”

And the consistent reply has been that they are motivated by their knowledge of hardship — which they’ve come by through personal experience or a striking awareness. Maybe they grew up in a low-income household. Maybe they watched a powerful documentary or volunteered in a community in need.

But perhaps incidents like today can be avoided by encouraging each other to take steps each day to truly love one another. Let’s hope we can work to act in love without first having to come face to face with days like this.

Love,
Tiffany

PS: At her farewell festivities, my best friend requested that we light candles and have a moment of silence for the fallen. True love.