workin’ it: sweet styling for bettycrocker.com

photo(64)Sometimes I forget to share the pretty things I do at work, and that is a cryin’ shame! Take last month, for instance, when the opportunity arose to art direct, prop and style a shoot featuring new spring dessert recipes for BettyCrocker.com.

Dipping into my personal stash of vintage linens and china (in addition to spending the better part of a day in Betty’s a-m-a-z-i-n-g prop room!) resulted in some really lovely textures and contrasts. And I can’t emphasize enough how wonderfully talented the people behind the cameras are in the General Mills photo studio. From the photographers to the food stylists to the photo assistants and support staff, everyone is on top of their game and on top of that, so incredibly NICE.

Below are a handful of the resulting shots from last month. If you want to peek at the recipes, just click the recipe names or images! And get a hanky ready for goodness sakes, as drooling is likely to occur.

Fresh Raspberry Almond Tray Tart: An unbelievably delicious and versatile dessert. I already know this baby will be my go-to potluck/holiday dessert this summer! It is so good.

fresh raspberry tray tartLemon Cake with Irish Breakfast Tea Frosting: Infusing the meringue with tea adds a unique, earthy dimension to this shortcut cake.

teacakeCarrot Cake: Straightforward and simple, this cake is a classic Betty recipe, packed with carrots, spice and all that good stuff.

carrotcakeGolden Caramel Cake: This classic beauty doesn’t need much in the way of dressing up. Perfect in crumb, color and taste, the ripple of homemade caramel takes this cake over-the-top.

cake1And finally, a re-shoot of one of Betty’s most popular chocolate-chip cookie recipes. I’ve shared this recipe with at least a half-dozen friends in the last few months. They may not look crazy-fancy, but damn do they taste good!

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Credits
Photographer: Chuck Nields
 Food stylist: Sharon Harding
 Prop styling + art direction: yours truly!

I’ll be sharing a few more peeks from fun projects I’ve worked on for Betty soon. Just this week we wrapped a two-day shoot that was honestly one of the most fun projects I’ve ever worked on. It was a grueling week, but the resulting shots are straight-up adorable!

xoxo,

Meghan

Disclosure: During the day, I work as Senior Editor on BettyCrocker.com via MSP Communications.

holiday how-to: quick-fix praline bars

Here’s a typical story from my life: Earlier this month I celebrated my 30th birthday party with a cookie swap at my favorite bar. The party was starting in half-an-hour, and, of course, I hadn’t had time to bake a single cookie. I knew it would be OK for me to skip the swap, but I still wanted to contribute a little something sweet. Into my brain, like a saving grace, popped this recipe…a holiday favorite of my Grandma Mary. The simple ingredients and unfussy proportions make it an easy one to recall by heart, and before I knew it, I was on my way out the door, tin of cookies in hand, with a minute or two to spare.

Before I share her recipe, please know one thing: No one’s going to “ooh” and “ahh” over how these bars look. They’re not showy, they’re simple. But whatever they lack in looks, they make up for (ten-fold) in taste. I figured I’d share the recipe with you this week, in case you too find yourself in a pinch and need to whip up something for a holiday party or potluck at the last minute.

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Grandma Mary’s Praline Bars

WHAT YOU’LL NEED

24 graham crackers (roughly two packs from an average-size box)
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/2 c. butter
1/2 t. vanilla
1 c. chopped pecans (or walnuts)

HOW TO MAKE

1. Preheat oven to 350°.

2. Arrange graham crackers on a foil-lined jelly roll pan.

3. Heat brown sugar and butter to boiling in a saucepan. Boil 1 minute, stirring constantly; remove from heat and quickly stir in the vanilla.

3. Working fast, spread the caramelized sugar on top of the crackers, as evenly as possible.

4. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

5. Bake for 10 or so minutes, or until the caramel starts to bubble. Watch ’em carefully because they can scorch from just a minute or two of over-baking.

6. Let them cool and then break into squares or pieces.

This recipe doubles like a dream, which you might as well do because they take literally 15 minutes start-to-finish and you will want to gobble them all up as soon as they are cool.

xoxo,

Meghan

seasons greetings

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Disagree all you want, but for me, Christmas mail is the best mail. Lately after work, I’ve found myself going straight to the mailbox too see what’s arrived that day. A pretty card, a letter from family far away, cute baby photos from friends…every night it’s a little dose of happy. Speaking of happy mail, I scanned in a collection of Christmas cards from my mom and had to share them with you. Each is a treasure in its own way, from the staged sing-a-long to the oh-fer-cute garlands.

Are y’all enjoying the onslaught of holiday mail too? Better yet, did you send a holiday card this year? If so, here’s hoping it too is treasured.

xoxo,

Meghan

heads up: donate + save deal at Savers and Unique thrift stores

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Has the holiday spirit got you feeling generous? If so, round up two bags of reusable clothing or household goods and bring ’em to any Twin Cities-area Savers or Unique thrift stores today, tomorrow or Saturday. In exchange for your donation, you’ll get a coupon for 25% off at Unique (or 30% at Savers) good on any purchase made before January 5, 2013. It’s a pretty enticing offer, especially if you’re like me and have a full bag (or four) of clothes to donate at the ready. (And don’t forget, if you get your receipt for your contribution, you can still write it off on this year’s taxes!) I’m planning on using my coupon for a last-minute emergency shopping trip…or maybe an after-Christmas spree when I want to stock up on decor, etc. for next year. If you go this weekend and get a coupon, let me know what you plan on using it for!

xo,

Meghan

first impression: “merry thriftmas” at ARC’s Value Village

I’m not gonna lie to you guys: I started shopping for Christmas stuff this weekend. I would feel weird about my overabundance of yuletide spirit, but I don’t. Because this weekend I discovered a group of people that are equally (if not MORE) excited about Christmas than me. I happened upon this jolly group at 9:30 a.m. on Saturday, aka the opening day of the “Merry Thriftmas” shop at ARC’s Value Village store in Richfield. The entire middle section of the store that had been sectioned off and stocked full of Christmas merchandise, and when I stepped in the door, literally every single aisle was jam-packed with shoppers, many of them pushing overflowing carts! (My kind of people!) Sadly, I wasn’t much in the mood to power through such thick crowds, but I did manage to scope out the set-up so I could report back to y’all here. My findings can be summarized pretty easily though: the “Merry Thriftmas” shop has everything Christmas you could ever wish for.

Snow globes. Check!

Wrapping materials. Check!

Lawn ornaments. Check!

Sweet old ladies checking out the fake evergreen situation. Check!

Overwhelmed by the hustle and bustle, I quit taking pictures soon after arriving, but here’s a quick overview of what they have: Cookie tins. Christmas cards and party invitations. Holiday records. Festive serving ware. Ornaments for the tree. Twinkle lights. Cookie cutters, molds and presses. Holiday sheet music. Wreath boxes. Glitzy earrings. Bedazzled sweaters. Welcome signs. Table linens. Accent pillows. Tom and Jerry sets. Wreaths. Garlands. Trees. Christmas craft books. Christmas cookbooks. Candles. Pine cone potpourri. Wall hangings. Ribbons. Bows. Wrapping paper. Knick-knacks. Angels. Snowflakes. Reindeers. And Santas. Lots and lots and lots and lots of Santas. If it’s Christmas-related in any way, they probably have it (and it’s likely to be really affordable too).

The “Merry Thriftmas” shops are part of every Value Village location now through December 23rd, and I’m told, will be restocked with new merchandise continually. So go already (if you love Christmas) and get your shop on. ‘Tis (almost) the season, right?

xoxo,

Meghan

three quick & easy diys, present-toppers edition

Is it wrong if I want to skip actually shopping for presents this year and skip ahead to the part when I spend an entire evening listening to Christmas music and wrapping them up all cute? The trio of gift-toppers featured below can all be made mostly with materials you can find easily at, where else…your local thrift store!

 These Monopoly tags, c/o Glossary, give new life to a vintage game that was missing some pieces.

  Personalize a prezzie with a yarn-wrapped pipe-cleaner letter or go all out and do the lucky recipient’s name. Once the gift’s unwrapped, these would make great ornaments. (Idea c/o  giddy giddy.)

File this under why-didn’t-I-think-of-this: Dyed paper doilies, c/o Blue Eyed Freckle. How sweet would a single poof be atop a package? Very, I say.

Ahh, now all I want to do is sit around and wrap gifts! Fortunately, I do have some crafting action of my own going on tonight…working on this Saturday’s limited edition Mighty Swell giveaway. It’s going to be so tight…I can’t wait to share it with y’all!

xo,

Meghan