Easy Christmas Grapevine Wreath

Holiday decorating can easily put a dent in your pocketbook. Each year brings new trends and new ideas. For my front porch, I love putting a wreath on either side of the door and premade wreaths can easily cost $200+ for a duo, crazy! This is why I love grapevine wreaths, they come in under $30 each and can be used over and over for every season/holiday!

EasyGrapevineChristmasWreath

For Christmas, all you need is a pair of clippers, a few sprigs of seasonal greenery, and 10 minutes of time. For the greenery, I love using a mix of cedar and white pine, magnolia would also be pretty. This year I clipped a few branches from my holly tree to add festive red berries.

Check out my video below to watch how I quickly put my wreaths together this year!

You can purchase your own wreaths here!

Fresh Christmas Tree Care 101

There is nothing quite like walking in the door and smelling a fresh Fraser fir during the holiday season. As soon as that apple cobbler is cleared from my Thanksgiving table, it’s time to dust off the Christmas ornaments and head out to find the perfect fresh Christmas tree!

If you’re anything like me you can quickly get wrapped up in the tree decor, but just as important as perfect light alignment is the proper care for your Christmas tree. Throughout my years of tree maintenance and through chatting with friends and family, I have gathered a few tips to help you ensure that your tree stands tall throughout the season.

FreshChristmasTreeCare-BaileyRaesKitchen

#1 The most healthy trees are those that you can cut down yourself. That isn’t always realistic, but you can do your research on local places that source trees directly from nearby farms.

#2 When you’re purchasing your tree from a lot, look for trees that are full. If there are already bristles on the ground at the base of the tree, that isn’t a great sign of a healthy tree!

#3 Once you take your tree home, make a fresh cut in the stem before you set it up. Just as you do with flowers before you put them in a vase, giving it a new trim will allow it to absorb water quickly.

#4 Water is crucial. Ensure that tree is “drinking” as soon as possible!

#5 Get a stand that will hold a lot of water. Keep it steadily filled. Be careful; fresh trees will absorb water far quicker than you think. Make it a habit of watering the tree each day. You don’t want to let the water level go below the base at any point. Thirsty trees aren’t happy and healthy trees!

#6 Some people will say that tree additives serve as great feeders to a healthy tree. I am a believer that continually watering is the most reliable assurance that your tree stays vibrant and thriving through the season (and beyond).

#7 Some people will also say that drilling a hole in the base will help with water absorption and therefore keep your tree healthier. Though I am no scientist, I’ve been told (and in my opinion, proven) that this doesn’t help.

#8 Didn’t your mom also tell you that trees can be extremely flammable? Well, you probably won’t go waving around open flames, but do keep that in mind when you decide where to keep it in your home. Directly next to the heater in your living room isn’t an ideal place for keeping it hydrated (the heat will dry it out). A dryer tree is far more susceptible to catching fire. Just like those items in your pantry, keep that tree in a temperature-controlled, neutral space.

FreshChristmasTreeCare-BaileyRaesKitchen(2)

Whether you’re a firm believer that the tree should not last a day past January 1st or preferably one of those “as long as it lives” people, we can all agree that the proper disposal is crucial. Whenever you determine the tree has served its season, take it to Radnor Lake, and they will chip it to use as mulch for the trails! If you don’t make it to Radnor, find a recycling option. Post-season tree care is just as important!

For right now, we don’t need to talk about disposal. The time to seek, choose and decorate your tree is alive as ever - and so will be your tree when you follow these steps.

I would love you see your trees! If you post a photo on Instagram make sure to tag me!

Happy tree decorating!

Bailey Rae

Vegetable Soup You will Fall in Love With!

Let’s keep it healthy before the holidays! I know what you’re thinking, “Really, vegetable soup? No, thanks!” Just hear me out.

I have always been a vegetable lover, but growing up I would have a total meltdown if vegetable soup was on the menu for dinner. I despised it!

After many recipes tests and refining the PERFECT recipe, it has become one of my absolute favorites!

It is nutritious, low-calorie, and the broth is both hydrating and so dang good! Finishing the soup with fresh lemon adds a lovely mouthwatering flavor you won’t be able to get enough of.

I love to top this soup with a dollop of pesto and some homemade croutons. Plus the fact you can use whatever vegetables you have on hand is one of the reasons I love this soup so much. It's a great recipe to "clean out the fridge." Whatever vegetables you have on hand, add them in, it will turn out delicious!

HeartyVegetableSoup.jpg

Swoon-Worthy Vegetable Soup

INGREDIENTS

8 sprigs fresh parsley plus 3 tablespoons chopped
4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 leeks, white and light green parts sliced 1/2 inch thick and washed thoroughly
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2 celery, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
⅓ cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons soy sauce
Salt and pepper
6 cups water
4 cups  chicken or vegetable broth
½ cup pearl barley, or grain of choice
1 tbsp porcini powder (ground dried porcini  mushrooms)
1 garlic clove, peeled and smashed
1 ½ pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 turnip, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
1 ½ cups chopped green cabbage
1 cup frozen peas
1 teaspoon lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

  1. Using kitchen twine, tie together parsley sprigs, thyme, and bay leaf.

  2. Melt butter in large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add leeks, carrots, celery, wine, soy sauce, and 2 teaspoons salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until liquid has evaporated and celery is softened, about 10 minutes.

  3. Add water, broth, barley, porcini powder, herb bundle, and garlic; increase heat to high and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes.

  4. Add potatoes, turnip, and cabbage; return to simmer and cook until barley, potatoes, turnip, and cabbage are tender, 18 to 20 minutes.

  5. Remove pot from heat and remove herb bundle. Stir in peas, lemon juice, and chopped parsley; season with salt and pepper to taste.

Zero Hunger Zero Waste Dinner

This time of the year is largely marked by a season of widespread consumption, constant discussion and festive thoughts revolving around food. But what if we pivoted the discussions to a slightly different topic, to talk about food waste? Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to host a unique and important dinner party for Kroger to do just that. 

As part of the company’s nationwide initiative, Zero Hunger Zero Waste, they aim to address two widespread issues that are affecting many around the country. I was stunned and incredibly saddened to learn that 1 in 8 Americans struggle with hunger. In efforts to raise awareness to the problems of hunger in Nashville and beyond, I partnered with Kroger to host a dinner party to facilitate discussions and provide information about the situation in our city and how we can all help.

KrogerZeroHungerZeroWasteDinnerBaileyRaesKitchen1`

We gathered representatives from a variety of different fields around Nashville for the evening meal. We welcomed media professionals,  members of nonprofits, food bloggers, representatives from the city government and more. We wanted to create a space that allowed individuals from varying fields, backgrounds and expertise to sit down to eat and share. As always, I wanted to set the table using materials from around my home. I used gorgeous branches from our tree in the front and greenery from my backyard to use very homey fall colors and create a seasonally appropriate and natural look.

Kroger liaison for the dinner, Melissa Eads kicked off the formal introductions with sharing about the company’s Zero Hunger Zero Waste initiative and why they are so focused on addressing food waste and meeting food needs in Tennessee. She invited everyone to introduce themselves and share about one item that we all frequently find ourselves wasting in the kitchen. Foods ranged from cilantro to vegetables, with the popular items being lemons and limes. After each person shared, you could see head nods from the crowd and hear a murmur of agreement. Clearly, everyone can relate. 

IMG_0876.jpg

I moved forward to introduce our menu, inspired by foods that we frequently find ourselves wasting. The first course was a Lemon Ricotta Toast with fresh ricotta, thyme, roasted grapes, balsamic and lemon zest. Milk and grapes are two food items that come to mind when I think about food waste. Fresh ricotta is one of the simplest ways to use milk nearing expiration and by roasting grapes you extend their life by 5-7 days.

I am a total soup guru. The second course was a farmhouse vegetable soup with seasonal vegetables, chicken stock and homemade croutons. I gave the recipe to all the guests when they left, as an encouragement and go-to for those cold winter days when you don’t want to go to the store - and don’t even need to! You can pull together this delicious soup with just about any vegetables you have on hand. The croutons are also easy to whip up using any bread that is going a little stale.

KrogerZeroHungerZeroWasteDinnerBaileyRaesKitchen2

As guests moved through the courses, they were encouraged by various prompts on the tables to pose questions regarding our community’s food consumption and waste. The room was buzzing as  community members shared their experiences, opinions and ideas regarding waste in their own lives and how to raise awareness in Nashville. We were all floored to learn that more than 40% of the food produced in the country goes uneaten. 

The featured entree for the dinner was a roasted tuscan chicken blistered on the grill with fresh herbs, lemon, drizzled with olive oil. I served it was parmesan polenta and blistered green beans. It’s warm, fresh and an excellent meal of hearty foods that you can easily use in entirety. 

KrogerZeroHungerZeroWasteDinnerBaileyRaesKitchen3

The night’s menu culminated with an apple cranberry cobbler with vanilla bean ice cream for dessert! Cobbler is one of those dishes you can use whatever fruit you have on hand and need to use up.

Though I was busy running around the kitchen for most of the meal, each time that I was able to sneak out to introduce a course and check on the guests, I was so encouraged by what I could overhear. These impressive professionals also serve as mothers, fathers, husbands and wives that could not only bring this knowledge to their workplace but also to their homes. I was honored to host and participate in this incredible evening of learning, sharing and also developing ideas about how to address food waste in our lives and spark important discussions about hunger in Nashville.

KrogerZeroHungerZeroWasteDinnerBaileyRaesKitchen

Everyone left with full bellies, thought-provoking conversations and my pickled vegetables to continue to encourage recycling your veggies (in a tasty way). Guests also grabbed a token reusable Kroger shopping bag in anticipation for the company’s decision to be completely plastic-free by 2025! The evening’s menu was seasonally-inspired, created with careful consideration to the crucial topic of food waste and also printed on “wild flower seed” paper that can be planted in the spring for those honey bees to love!

Roasted Eggplant with Curried Chickpeas

This dish presents beautifully at a dinner party, and the curried chickpeas are loaded with wonderful Indian flavor combinations.

 I like to serve this with warm naan bread fresh from the oven.

RoastedEggplantwithCurriedChickpeas-1.jpg

Roasted Eggplant with Curried Chickpeas

INGREDIENTS

2 medium eggplants

1 medium red pepper

¾ cup olive oil, plus more for garnish

½ medium red onion, diced

5 cloves garlic, minced

salt

½ tbsp white-wine vinegar

1¼ tbsp curry powder

1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, rinsed & drained

2 tbsp chopped parsley, plus more for garnish

2 tbsp chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish

2 tbsp thinly sliced scallions, plus more for garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Leaving eggplant whole, carefully slice the eggplant into 1/4 inch slices. Gently sprinkle a generous amount of salt between each layer & let rest at room temperature for 20-30 minutes.

  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. With a paper towel, gently pat each layer clean of the salt & oil the eggplant released. Lightly brush, or spray each eggplant with olive oil, making sure to get in between each layer. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, gently pull to slightly open up the eggplant, fanning the layers (you will do this again 1/2 way through roasting so do not force and break the eggplant apart). Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast for 25 minutes.

  3. After 25 minutes, remove the eggplant from the oven and gently and carefully press down on the eggplant using a spatula to fan further and separate the layers. Place back in oven and roast for 20 more minutes, or until very tender.

  4. Warm six tablespoons olive oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Sauté onions, diced red peppers, garlic and a pinch of salt until garlic lightly browns, 6 minutes. Add vinegar and cook until evaporated, about 30 seconds. Add curry powder and chickpeas. Sauté until beans warm through. Off heat, stir in parsley, cilantro, and scallions.

  5. To serve, top each eggplant with curried chickpeas. Garnish with additional olive oil, herbs, and scallions. Serve with flatbread, rice or a salad.