Fondue for Two at Home


Happy New Year! How did you choose to ring in the new year?

We like to avoid crowds and reckless drivers by celebrating at home and, for the last few years or so, we’ve whipped up a tasty fondue at home as a way to make dinner a little more special.

Our New Year's Eve Feast!

Our New Year’s Eve Feast!

The above picture was pretty popular on my Facebook feed that night, so I thought I’d spill the beans (or cheese, at it was) on just how simple it is to put something like this together. It looks impressive, and tastes divine, but it’s not a lot of work.

First, you need a fondue pot. You can find various types at thrift stores and yard sales, or you can pick up a new one. You can get an electric one or one that uses fuel (like Sterno) or a candle. The one we have was a gift from my mom years ago and it’s the latter type. Intended for chocolate, it calls for a small Sterno can but I can never find the right size. Never underestimate the heating power of a tea light, though–it’s always done a great job of keeping the cheese or chocolate nice and fluid. (For a broth-style fondue, where you’re actually cooking your add-ins, I do bring out the Sterno, even if it doesn’t fit the holder quite right.) You can also use a small slow-cooker for cheese or chocolate fondue. As long as it keeps it hot, you’re golden!

Next, you need a quick and easy fondue recipe. This year’s came from The Fondue Bible (I reviewed it back in 2014) and is super simple.

Bacon Cheese Fondue

adapted from The Fondue Bible, Ilana Simon

6 slices bacon
1 cup Greek-style yogurt
8 oz Gruyere cheese, grated
4 oz old Cheddar cheese, grated
salt and pepper to taste
pinch ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 tsp dry mustard

Fry (or bake, our preferred method) the bacon until crisp, allow to cool, then crumble. Grate your cheeses and mix with the nutmeg and dry mustard. Do these steps ahead to make night-of preparation easier.

Heat yogurt over low heat until warm. Add handfuls of the grated cheese and stir with a wooden spoon until melted. Once all the cheese in in, add the rest of your ingredients, seasoning to taste.

We found this to be a little thick so stirred in a bit of milk (maybe 1/4 cup in total).

Of course, the last think you’ll do is put the fondue together. Save that for last, and start laying out your trays of nibbles.

A cheese fondue is not meant to cook anything, so your dippers need to be okay eaten raw or already cooked. On the cold tray I assembled:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Strawberries
  • Radishes
  • Baby carrots
  • Grapes

Not all of these go into the cheese (though you might be surprised at the different combos you can make), but it’s nice to have some cool palate cleansers set out. Apples and pears are not something I eat very much of (since they’re high FODMAP), but we had both in the house so I decided to indulge. The apples were already sliced and bagged, but the pears came in a Harry & David gift box so needed to be sliced and dunked in a little lemon water to keep them from browning too fast on the tray. I split the carrots and radishes in half for better portion control. The strawberries were small, so I just removed the stems. Very simple and quick.

On the cooked tray I did a mix of hot and cold:

  • Capicola
  • Salami
  • Prosciutto
  • Smoked Salmon
  • Chicken Sausage

The salami, capicola, and prosciutto came in a three-pack from Trader Joe’s; the first two already in a pretty little fall so all you have to do is set it out on a wooden cutting board. The proscuitto had deli paper interleaved and it was easier to crinkle it up in a corner than try to straighten out the slices. Work with what you’ve got. The smoked salmon was sliced thick, so I broke it up for the other corner. Presentation is all about balance. The chicken sausage was fully cooked, but I warmed it up in the microwave while arranging the rest of the tray.

Then there’s the bread. A good cheese fondue just begs for fresh bread, so either pick up a baguette from the bakery or, if you’re shopping far in advance, head to the freezer aisle for a load that can go in the oven while you’re laying out your trays. I found a gluten-free loaf that only needed to come to room temperature, didn’t even need baking, and it was fabulous!

I also added some frozen spinach-artichoke dip from Trader Joe’s that was microwavable–all I did was put it into a pretty dish. It was a last-minute add to the table but we certainly enjoyed it.

Fondue for Two

I hope you’ll consider fondue for your next special night in. It’s great for birthdays, anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, or any given date night.

A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Fondue

Everyday Adventures

We have a habit of staying in on New Year’s Eve and our “tradition,” loose use of the word as it is, is to watch a movie, flip over to see the ball drop, clink Champagne glasses, kiss, and go back to the movie. Dinner is up to whomever is cooking, but it’s usually something that lends itself to being eaten on the sofa while watching said movie. This year we decided on a variety of nibbles and the ooey-gooey goodness of cheese fondue.

Fondue is not complicated. It’s shredded cheese (often one or more of the Swiss varieties), a little wine or beer (or broth if you so choose), and a touch of mustard or garlic. And if kept adequately hot it remains nice and smooth and dip-able. Some fondue pots are electric but ours is of the sterno/candle variety–seriously, never underestimate the power of a tea light!–and we were missing one crucial piece of the puzzle.

A match.

Or lighter or any other fire-starter you can think of. We searched high, we searched low. We searched junk drawers, offices, the butler’s pantry, the bar. And despite knowing for a fact that we owned at least 2 boxes of matches and one long-arm lighter, none could be found. The only thing we could locate was a box of strike-on-box fat lighter sticks, but that seemed like overkill, so Todd did the logical thing and went to the store 4 hours til midnight.

Dinner is served... and saved!

Dinner is served… and saved!

Our movie was From Time to Time, with Maggie Smith, and old drafty manor house, and a family secret that needed to be solved pronto, all set in the last days of WWII. That’s pretty much our movie preference tied up in a bow, though it’s in stark contrast to the numerous episodes of Criminal Minds we mainlined on Christmas day.

I’ve put in a request to add more 2-player board games to our stash so we can switch up our routines a bit.

* * *

This weekend was super-productive and I’m starting of this week with a very Seize the Day attitude. It was a mix of fun, work, and future work and I’ll walk into work for the second time in as many weeks with a clear desk.

Today I’ve got a post up over on Love My Fabrics about my favorite sewing technique: French seams. We (the creative team) are still anxiously awaiting our fabric to arrive, but it’s not stopping us from posting. (I also wrote a post last month on organizing my fabric stash.) Speaking of my posts elsewhere, I created a couple different types of ornaments for my December Gauche and Helmar projects. The Gauche site is currently in transition, but you can find out about my Victorian Lady ornaments on the Helmar blog.

My Gauche-inspired Vintage Christmas ornament.

My Gauche-inspired Vintage Christmas ornament.

I had big plans for decorating the Dollhouse for Christmas. We got, um, maybe 50% there? The exterior got garland, lights, and wreaths, but the inside only managed to decorate 2 of 4 planned trees and the hallway entry. Oh, well, it gives us something to shoot for next year!

The library hosted our "fussy" Victorian-style tree with lots of handmade glittery paper ornaments and bits of bling.

The library hosted our “fussy” Victorian-style tree with lots of handmade glittery paper ornaments and bits of bling.

And we avoided rearranging the living room by sticking to our small table-top tree with the fun, colorful, mismatched ornaments on it.

And we avoided rearranging the living room by sticking to our small table-top tree with the fun, colorful, mismatched ornaments on it.

The big tree was on the upstairs landing but it never got more than lights on it. Which was good since that’s what shone through the upstairs center window.

What you can't see are the wreaths in the upstairs windows with the room lights off. We did finally procure electric candles but never got around to setting them up. Next year!

What you can’t see are the wreaths in the upstairs windows with the room lights off. We did finally procure electric candles but never got around to setting them up. Next year!

It’s not a full-on blogger house tour, but I wanted to at least get these pictures up before the decorations all come down on the 6th–just made it!

Cocktail Advent 31: Holiday Sparkler


We made it! It’s the end of 2014 and, frankly, it couldn’t come soon enough.

Now, don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of good things that happened in 2014 and I don’t want to dismiss them but there were also a lot of sucky things that happened, friends we lost, and the struggles that went into making the good things happen. It’s been a rough year not just for me but for many of my friends and, well, we’re all hoping for a better time of things in 2015!

So with that in mind, I present to you the final cocktail in our Advent series…

Image via Ruffino Prosecco

Image via Ruffino Prosecco

Ruffino Holiday Sparkler

Gather together to celebrate tradition and the holiday season with the Ruffino Holiday Sparker. This cocktail includes autumn flavors of apple cider, cranberry, citrus and maple syrup, making it an easy-to-make, but still complex cocktail for your festive fete.

  • 3 oz. Ruffino Prosecco DOC
  • 3/4 oz. apple cider
  • 3/4 oz. cranberry juice
  • 1 tsp. maple syrup
  • Squeeze of 1 lemon wedge

Add ingredients directly to a mixing glass with ice and stir briefly.  Strain into a chilled champagne flute that has been rimmed w/ cinnamon sugar. Garnish with a mint leaf floating on top.

As we raise our glasses tonight and watch the ball drop, or otherwise count down the seconds until the new year begins, I wish you all well. I thank you for being a part of my 2014 (even the sucky parts) as it all combines to make us stronger and better for the future. May you have a brilliant 2015 and seize every moment of promise for the gift it is!


***This recipe was submitted by a representative of Ruffino Prosecco, I am not affiliated with the brand nor was I compensated for this post. As always, we encourage responsible refreshment and the use of the Designated Driver. No drunken monkeys, please!***

AlcoHOLidays | New Year’s Eve | Holiday Sparkler



As the end of the year comes rushing at us, completing our annual cycle, I feel the need to simplify. I think the holiday overwhelm always makes me feel this way, so why complicate things any more than they need to be?

You can’t go wrong with simple Champagne or sparkling wines served chilled in a tall flute to best show off their bubbles. Adding a hulled strawberry or other muddled berries to the bottom of the glass is a nice touch or you can add a splash of your favorite liqueur.

The important thing is to open the sparkling wine correctly. In case you didn’t know, those foamy beginnings you see in movies are actually not to correct way–it means the bottle’s been shaken or otherwise mistreated prior to opening. In fact, there should be nothing more than a gentle pop when the cork comes free (and it’s best to have a bar towel held loosely over the cork to prevent it from flinging all over the room or into something–or someone–breakable).

But you don’t come here for simple, so if you absolutely require something a little more show-stopper, how about giving this a try:

Holiday Sparkler

Sugar Cube
Orange Bitters
1 oz Cranberry Juice
1/2 oz Elderflower Liqueur
1 oz [yellow tail] bubbles Rosé

Soak the sugar cube in the bitters and place in the bottom of a champagne flute. Add in the cranberry juice and elderflower liqueur, then top with the sparkling wine. Pour slowly and let the bubbles do the work. A slice of strawberry or a rock candy swizzle stick make sweet garnishes.

Elderflower liqueur–a classic spirit making a comeback in cocktail circles–in still an unknown for many, so offers that little something extra for your guests. And pulling out a box of sugar cubes always tends to spark interest in that it’s-so-retro way.

However you choose to celebrate, remember to stay hydrated with water between cocktails, make use of a designated driver or the ample public transportation systems sure to be out in force Monday night, or party at home and invite inebriated guests to spend the night rather than risk it on the roads.


(recipe and image courtesy of the Deutsch Family of Wine and Spirits)


Sips & Shots will be going on “holiday” for the month of January, along with the rest of the sites in the Helper Monkey Network, so that some much needed behind the scenes work can be taken care of. We’ll be back in full force come February!

Think Pink!


When I was in high school I went through quite the musicals kick and one of my favorites was Bye, Bye Birdie (parodying the hoopla surrounding Elvis Presley joining the Army).

At one point Ann Margaret is slinking around the bar, acting older than she is, trying to make “Birdie” jealous, singing about how she’s “Got a Lot of Living To Do.” One of the things on the bucket list?

Drink Champagne, as if it were water,
Pink Champagne, and after a few…
Daddy dear, you won’t know your daughter!
She’s got a lot of living to do!

This is what comes to mind every time I think about pink champagne.

Australian label [yellow tail] has come out with white and rosé Bubbles just in time for New Years and it might just be worth checking out. This is a brand known for being affordable and reliable and the rosé is in a nice range of not being super sweet or super dry–it’s nice and light and a sweet pink color.

Another plus is it’s favor is the Zork closure: not a screw-top and not a traditional champagne cork that is almost impossible to get back into the bottle, the Zork closure easily pops back on the bottle with a press of the built-in button, making it easy to save the leftovers for brunch the next day.

And, of course, the good folks at [yellow tail] sent over a cocktail recipe in to make the most of their pink bubbles:


2 oz [ yellow tail ] bubbles sparkling rosé
1 oz peach flavored vodka
1 oz cranberry juice
1 oz lychee fruit flavoring

In a cocktail shaker with ice add all ingredients except [ yellow tail ] bubbles sparkling rosé. Strain into a chilled champagne flute or martini glass. Slowly fill with the [ yellow tail ] bubbles sparkling rosé. Garnish with a strawberry.

Image and recipe courtesy of  W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd.