Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Pumpkin Chiffon Tart

This easy dessert was a dish inspired by my favorite local doughnut shop after looking through my cupboard and seeing one lone can of pumpkin puree. This time of year they carry their pumpkin chiffon doughnut. A yeast raised doughnut piled high with an airy, lightly sweetened pumpkin mousse. It's the perfect morning treat. This pumpkin chiffon tart carries much of that same flavor profile, replacing the doughnut with some puff pastry. This quick and easy treat fills a 9x13" pan in less than 30 minutes of active baking time making it the perfect last minute Thanksgiving dessert (and an alternative to pie).

Pumpkin Chiffon Tart

1 1/3 sheets puff pastry
1 1/2 cup heavy cream
1 can pumpkin puree
1/2 cup & 2 tablespoons powdered sugar
3 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 pinch of salt
(optional) powdered sugar and cinnamon for decoration

After allowing your puff pastry sheets to thaw (either overnight in the fridge or on the counter for 40 minutes), preheat your over to 400°F. Line a 9x13" pan with parchment paper. Lay out your puff pastry sheets to fill the bottom of the pan, sealing sheets together with your fingers. Pierce the dough all over with a fork and bake for approximately 13 minutes or until golden brown. Cool completely.

While the pastry is baking you can start on your mousse. Begin by whisking the heavy cream until stiff peaks form. If you are using a stand mixer, switch to the paddle attachment or a spatula if you're mixing by hand. Fold in pumpkin puree, powdered sugar, pumpkin pie spice, vanilla extract, and salt until just combined being careful not to over mix.

After the pastry has cooled completely, spread the mousse evenly over the top of the flattened shell. If the dough rose significantly after baking you may need to pre-flatten it at this stage. Finish the tart off by lightly dusting with your powdered sugar and cinnamon mixture. This tart can be served immediately, or be allowed to firm up in the fridge.

Do you have a favorite Thanksgiving dessert that you gravitate towards every year, or have you found some new treats that your excited to try?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

My Perfect Pantry

When Barnes & Noble coupons roll around, I tend to find myself browsing the cookbook section. As one of my favorite judges on Chopped, I was instantly intrigued when I spotted Geoffrey Zakarian's My Perfect Pantry. With over 150 recipes, My Perfect Pantry works on the premise that a base of a well stocked pantry can be the jumping off point for a delicious meal. From pasta to salads, and desserts to hearty main courses I found this book to be well rounded and filled with recipes that put a twist on the norm. Each recipe has a full color photo to accompany it, featured in sections by pantry ingredients. With a few exceptions the ingredients were easy to source and each recipe is generously portioned (and often paired with leftover suggestions).

Before reviewing a cookbook I try to test a few recipes to get a feel for how easy the author's style is to follow. So far I have made the Chicken Gumbo (photographed below), Magnificent Meatballs, and Family Chicken Fingers. The recipes were well written and easy to follow. Each step and technique was clearly explained and I appreciated that he includes approximate times for many of the individual steps. All three were delicious, with some fresh twists to keep the basics interesting. I am excited to try more, especially some of his desserts.

Final Verdict: ★★★★☆
Overall a wonderful addition for any home cook's collection. There are a few recipes that don't fit in with the style and scope of the book, but the majority are well written and easy to follow.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Holiday Gift Guide: The Disney Fan

Today I'm wrapping up Disney week with the first in a new series for the Christmas season. Every Friday leading up to Christmas I will be sharing a themed gift guide for the holiday season. Gift guides are one of my favorite things about the build up to the holiday season, and they are definitely the reason that I buy more magazines in December than any other time of the year. I love seeing what's new, or rediscovering old favorites. Especially when I'm feeling stuck on what to get a loved one. To kick off the series, here are some suggestions for the Disney fan in your life...

1. Tsum Tsum Holiday Mini Plush Collection | $4.95 Each
The perfect inexpensive (and adorable) gift to top off a present or stuff a stocking. They fit in the palm of your hand and are too cute for words. Some local stores have these in stock so you may want to check if you have a Disney Store in your area.

2. Beautifully Disney Mini Nail Polish Set in Curiouser and Curiouser | $24.95
For the makeup loving Disney fan, this Alice in Wonderland inspired nail polish set features some gorgeous colors. I own the green (Who Are You?), and the polish is surprisingly opaque after only one coat.

3. Handmade Mouse Ears from ShopHouseOfMouse | $25-$31
Adorable themed mouse ears that range from cute florals like these to your favorite sports team or Disney princess. She also takes custom themed orders if you have something specific in mind.

4. Women's Disney Microfleece Pajama Set | $29.99
Pajamas, especially warm ones, are the perfect holiday gift. You can never have to many! These come in several different prints and range from size X-Small to X-Large.

5. Ariel Mermaid's Song 4 Piece Lip Gloss Set | $27
Another option for the makeup lover, these Ariel-inspired lip glosses from Sephora come in four beautiful shades. From the website, "This collection of glistening glosses features shades inspired by Ursula’s earrings, Ariel’s pink dress and iconic red hair, and her sisters’ darling shells."

6. The Golden Age of Cartoon T-Shirt | $25
I love the classic style of this Buzz Lightyear illustration, and the warm grey of the shirt itself is just fantastic. This print also comes in a men's cut shirt and baby's one piece. Size ranges from Small through 2X.

7. A Merry Christmas Cookbook | $9.16
These Disney cookbooks are so much fun! Filled with over 25 kid friendly holiday-themed recipes and charming character art this hardcover book is a great option for anyone in the family.

8. Belle Tea | $10-$19
It's no secret that I love Adagio, especially all of the creative fans that blend these fandom inspired tees. All of Taryn Knight's Disney tees would be fun for the tea drinking Disney fan in your life, but this Belle blend sounds particularly delicious.

9. The Lights Art Print by Alice X. Zhang | $15
Inspired by one of my all time favorite scenes in a Disney movie this print is perfect for the Tangled fan. This design can also be purchased on products ranging from mugs to tote bags.

What is your favorite piece of Disney or Disney-inspired merchandise right now?

Note, I was not paid or compensated in any way for sharing these items. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Five Tips for Your Next Disneyland Vacation

To continue Disney week, today I present you with my top five tips for thoroughly enjoying your next trip to Disneyland. Over the past few years I've rediscovered for all things Disney and living only four hours away I try to make it to the park at least once a year. Tried and tested over my last few trips, these tips showcase the top things I wish I knew (or had been reminded of) before heading into the park.

1. Take time to slow down.
A little over two years ago I sustained a back injury that means that I actually have to pay attention to ride warnings now. The first time I went to the park post-injury I was so bummed that I wouldn't have fun, but instead I enjoyed what was my favorite trip to Disneyland up to that point. The difference? Now that I wasn't rushing from ride to ride I was able to notice the little details that I had missed. I made it a point to try different restaurants. I leisurely strolled through the shops. I caught all of the parades. Now I look forward to Disneyland even more than ever! It can be a little more difficult when you have friends and family in tow, but taking the time to slow down means less stress, less time spent waiting in lines, and not being completely exhausted at the end of the day.

2. Make time for the parade.
Somehow as an adult I stopped taking the time to queue up for the parades, but this year I made it a priority and I couldn't have been happier with that decision. People start vying for a spot up to two hours ahead of time, but if you time it right you can slip in with a half hour to spare. Check out the parade route to plan your spot, some areas fill up more quickly than others. The parades are the perfect way to get in the Disney spirit and see all of your favorite characters.

3. Scope out the shops in each area before making any final purchases.
Something I learned just recently, each of the shops sell some unique items that can't be found throughout the park (or even online). If shopping is a priority for you, take the time to scope out each area of interest before making your final purchases. If you want to beat the crowds, be sure to check out Downtown Disneyland too. The World of Disney store carries most of the park's general merchandise and the bakery boasts a wide selection of treats.

4. Follow @DisneylandToday on twitter and assess your app options.
@DisneylandToday is a total lifesaver for a day at the park. They tweet the park hours (including any changes throughout the day), merchandise highlights, and special events. They even answer questions if you tweet them. For interactive maps and wait times, check out the Disney line of apps including Disneyland Wait Times (Free) and Disneyland Maps (Free). They have some paid app options as well, but after trying several different options these two were the most accurate and easy to navigate overall.

5. Fantasy Faire!
Tied into my first tip, Fantasy Faire is one of my favorite ways to take a break while still enjoying a show and I am always surprised how many people haven't heard of it. To the left of the Castle, Fantasy Faire includes the Royal Theater and Maurice's Treats. The Royal Theater houses clever renditions of Tangled and Beauty and the Beast that last around 20 minutes. Little ones will enjoying seeing some of their favorite princesses on stage while teens and adults will enjoy the humor and creativity. While you're waiting for the play to begin, pick up a Boysen Apple Freeze and a Cheddar Garlic Bagel Twist (my favorite treats in the park).

What are your favorite tips for enjoying Disneyland (or Disney World!)? Wrapping up Disney week, check back on Friday for a gift guide for the Disney fans in your life.

Monday, November 17, 2014

A Disney Christmas

Welcome to day one of Disney week here at A Little Fancifully! I was blessed to have the opportunity to spend three days at Disneyland last week, and while I may be back from vacation I'm not quite ready to give up the magic just yet. November 13th was Disney's official kick-off of their Christmas celebrations, but even before that the park was festooned with holiday wonder. From giant trees fully trimmed with twinkling lights and ornaments to little details that are easy to miss if you're not paying attention. Disneyland has it all.

My favorite part of going to Disneyland is honestly just the simple joy of being in the park. Sitting on a bench outside of the castle and watching the world go by. Sitting on a curb to wait for the parade and running into a dear local friend who also happened to be visiting with her mom. Meeting up with an online friend (shout out to Jesse from delighted), who was so sweet and lovely, and getting to know her better. Being dazzled by the fireworks. Stepping into the park feels like you've stepped into another time. As crowded as it can be, every moment feels special and wonderful.

As a fan of parades in general, I was even more excited to see the Christmas Fantasy parade this year. This was my second trip to Disneyland at Christmastime as an adult, but my first time watching the parade. It certainly didn't disappoint. Princesses in their royal finery, gingerbread houses complete with dancing gingerbread men, and even Santa himself. There's something magical about getting swept up with the energy of the parade, with the children all waving excitedly to greet their favorite characters.

Now that I'm home and mostly unpacked it's been fun reliving the magic through photos. I'm determined that this time I will actually get these photos printed, but in the meantime I will be queuing them up over on my Tumblr under the tag 'a disney christmas'.

Do you have a favorite Disney holiday moment? Check back on Wednesday to see my top five tips for making the most of your time at Disneyland.

Monday, August 11, 2014

Summer Manifesto Check-In

Being nearly two months into summer I thought that today would be a good time to check in with my summer manifesto. I made the list as an experiment, which is why I never shared the list here. I'm a compulsive list maker as it is, and I already have a curated life list that I maintain, so I wasn't sure if adding another list to that plate would be a good idea. The idea of a seasonal manifesto is to set small, achievable goals with the intent of making the most of that season. I struggle with finding things to enjoy about the summer months so I thought this would be a good trial run and I must say that I am loving it! It's been a great way to find things to focus on and enjoy, and it makes a handy list for thinking up things to do on open afternoons. This is a habit that I plan to keep, and something I will definitely be sharing about more in the coming seasons.

Are you interested in starting a list for summer? It's not to late! Think about the next month and a half and jot down the things you want to be sure to experience before autumn rolls around. Here's where I'm at with my list...

1. Watch 10 new (or new to me) movies.
I'm normally a movie nut during the summer, if only to escape the heat. Generally I get stuck in a rut of re-watching old favorites, which is why I made this goal. This summer I'm running behind. On the bright side, the two I have watched have both been enjoyable. Burlesque (Such a fun movie! I loved the costume design.) and The Hundred-Foot Journey (This is a must see! The acting was fantastic and it was one of those movies that makes you want to chase after your dreams. Not to mention the visuals, gorgeous.).

2. Watch the World Cup final somewhere fun.
Check! My mom won tickets to watch the match at The Chelsea theater and it was absolutely worth the price to upgrade. A giant leather couch, good margaritas, and watching the final surrounded by other passionate fans. The World Cup will definitely be a highlight of my summer.

3. Make homemade ice cream and gelato.
I've gathered up the recipes, now all I need to do pick up a few ingredients and follow through.

4. Find the perfect sangria recipe.
I made an attempt with a white wine base featuring fresh cherries and blackberries, but it was definitely a flop. Do you have a favorite recipe?

5. Read 10 new (or new to me) books.
Another slow start on this goal. Now that I'm actually going to the library regularly again I should be back on track. I haven't been thrilled with the two I've read so far, but I'm hopeful.

6. Write something.
Ever since attempting Camp NaNoWriMo back in April my fingers have been itching to write again. I have several lists of prompts bookmarked, I just need to actually set aside some uninterrupted writing time.

7. Make 10 pretty things.
I've been bad about actually documenting my craft adventures so I'm not 100% sure where I stand on this goal. After a trip to the craft store over the weekend I am excited for some upcoming DIY projects.

8. Fill some pages in my sketchbook.
In general I want to be more intentional about taking time to create again. I'm looking forward to sharing some finished pages with you later this month.

9. Organize my space.
With the purchase of two giant new shelves this is going well. I purged a ton of books last week and now I have a better idea of how I want to organize things going forward. This is probably the goal I am most excited to complete.

10. Visit the Bellagio Conservatory and art museum.
The summer kites display is always one of my favorites and the museum is currently running an exhibit of women painters from the 1870's to the mid-twentieth century with a focus on impressionism. I'm looking forward to checking both out in a few weeks.

11. Try Giada's new recipe at the Cromwell.
Check! After getting lucky with being able to reserve a table I was able to cross this goal off of my list a few weeks ago. Giada herself even made a surprise visit that night! With so many delicious things on the menu I went with her seasonal tasting menu and it didn't disappoint. I will definitely be going back, with an in-depth blog post and photos to follow.

12. Make friendship bracelets.
I did this all the time as a kid and I thought it would be fun to revisit. I picked up the supplies over the weekend so this will be happening soon.

13. Have a picnic.
With the heat we've been having I'm thinking this will be a breakfast picnic, but still something to look forward to.

14. Take a class.
This summer I applied to go back to school, but due to some life circumstances I was unable to follow through with enrollment even though I was accepted. Looking at that experience I decided then and there that even if I won't formally be pursing studies again I can still decide to keep learning. Do you have any favorite online classes that you've taken?

15. Make a summer memory book. I've been saving concert tickets and little trinkets for as long as I can remember, but I almost always just end up putting them in a giant box. This summer I want that to be different! I want to put together a memory book of some kind when the season is over to commemorate it by.

What's on your summer manifesto? Are there any goals that you're trying to accomplish before autumn arrives?

Friday, August 1, 2014

Simple Joys

Happy August, lovelies! Have you ever noticed that when you don't stop and celebrate the little things that life becomes a blur? Other than a few notable exceptions, when I look back over the summer so far I get an overwhelmingly bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I've been doing the opposite of celebrating, I've been retreating. I've allowed myself to get caught up in my hurt, to feel too overwhelmed to breathe. Today I'm taking a stand. I refuse to allow my circumstances to dictate my mood. Today I renew my resolve to find joy in the simple things. Would you like to join me?

The Challenge: Each and every day this month (and beyond!) write down at least one thing that made you happy, made you smile, or otherwise brought joy into your day. While I encourage you to share on social media (I'm using #simplejoys on Twitter and I invite you to do the same), I suggest keeping a planner or journal as well so you have something physical to look back on when you need a reminder of how wonderful life can be.

Every Friday I will be sharing photos and snippets of my simple joys as well as fun projects, activities, and ideas for sprinkling your days with happiness. Please comment below if you plan on participating (it's never too late to jump in), I would love to share your links each week. Let's take a stand for joy together!