Friday, October 29, 2010

Shortbread Cookies

I normally choose desserts based around chocolate, and lots of it. One exception, however, is shortbread. I love the crumbly texture and hint of salt, and nothing can beat a box of Walker shortbread and a hot cup of tea on a cold day. I recently had to choose something to make for a bake sale, and these won out.



I used Ina Garten's recipe, which turned out great. I doubled the salt she called for, and followed her tip to chill the cut out dough in the fridge for about 20 minutes before popping them in the oven.

I don't normally like icing (too sweet for me), but as these were going to a bake sale, I figured I should make them as pretty as possible. I used this icing recipe from AllRecipes.com, but used lemon extract instead of almond. (I doubled the amounts to go with Ina's cookie recipe.)



I topped each cookie generously with sprinkles before the icing had time to set, and used sandwich baggies tied with ribbon to wrap each one. They looked great, and I have to say, even with my chocolate bias, tasted pretty good too.
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Thursday, October 28, 2010

Ankle Boots

My latest shoe obsession is ankle boots. You can class them up with dresses, but my current favorite pairing is with straight-leg jeans. Unlike with knee high boots, where I'm always smoothing out my jeans to make sure they're not awkwardly poofing out of the top of the boot, jeans looked great tucked in messily to ankle boots. No fuss.

Here are a few of my favorites, in all colors and prices:



1. Wild Diva Akemi74 Ankle Boots, $21.59

2. GUESS by Marciano Women's Rioko Ankle Boot, $267.95

3. Not Rated Women's Ruby Bootie, $55.01

4. MIA Duke Bootie, $99.99

To browse more awesome booties, check out my shoe shopping post for new ideas.
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Monday, October 25, 2010

Pumpkin Decorating

Tis the season to decorate squash. My friend Cara shared this list of no-carve pumpkin decorating ideas with me a couple weeks ago, and I knew I'd have to experiment.

Here's the finished product; see below for how I got there:



Three beautiful sugar pumpkins, fresh from the pumpkin patch at Russell Orchards.



After washing these babies off with the hose and giving them a quick paper towel scrub, I covered the stems with aluminum foil so they'd retain their natural color when I spray painted.



I chose three of my favorite colors - look familiar? - and spray painted heavily, holding the pumpkins by the stems to get the bottoms.



I combined two ideas from the no-carve list: spray painting and silver thumbtack designs. The initials are for me and each of my roommates, Elise and Kate. Here are the pumpkins in place:



A few tips:

1. Unless you plan on holding your pumpkin by the stem until the paint dries (unlikely), just accept that the bottom will get some paint pulled off when you pick it up off the drying surface (using wax paper should help a bit). This won't show anyway when they're on display.

2. If you cover your stems like I did, make sure to hold that aluminum foil tight while painting. I let the cover on the blue one slip a bit and got some pretty noticeable paint bleed.

3. The no-carve idea list suggested using a dry erase marker on your pumpkin before placing the tacks, as it will wipe right off. While this might be the case on nude pumpkin skin, I found that it did not wipe off the spray painted surface if left for more than a couple seconds.
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Friday, October 22, 2010

Baby Hat

This week has apparently turned into Baby Shower Week. So be it. For my friend Kim's baby (Delaney? Quinn? Gertrude?), I crocheted a little striped hat. The yarn is half wool, half bamboo, which makes it oh-so-soft.



Since it's so small, the hat only took a few hours to make. That being said, I was sewing on the curly Qs halfway into the shower. Here's The Dude modelling:



Cute, easy gift, and I only had to explain 5 times that it wasn't, in fact, knitted. Here are a bunch of free crocheted baby hat patterns to get you started!
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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Sunday Brunch

On Monday I showed off the banner I made for my friend Kim's baby shower brunch, but I didn't share the most important part: the food! I can't take any credit for the actual cooking; I was busy cutting, pasting, and finishing up Kim's present while my lovely roommates whipped up brunch. Here's the menu:



Mini frittatas with parmesan, cheddar, and spinach. My roommate Elise made these and they were the perfect savory addition to brunch. And miniature, which I always appreciate.



Crepes filled with nutella, bananas, and strawberries. What's not to like?



Brunch punch: orange & cranberry juices, peach schnapps, champagne, and a splash of apple cider. (Made virgin for the mom-to-be, obviously). My roommate Kate made this delicious drink, and came up with the idea of using different colored ribbon as wine glass charms to tell our glasses apart.



The spread - including the freshly-picked apples from Russell Orchards and the apple pie Sara (our honorary roommate) made with them.

Okay now I'm salivating... I could really go for a couple of those mini frittatas right now.
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Monday, October 18, 2010

Baby Shower Banner

Since Kim brought us homemade buckeyes, we had to return the favor. So this weekend we threw her a very Tri Delta baby shower to celebrate the bun in her oven. It was pretty low-key, and it was hard to prepare much as a surprise since she's been staying with us, but I managed to make a little banner to decorate. I headed to Paper Source for supplies: scallop-edged scissors, ribbon, and lots o' paper. A few hours of cutting and gluing later, here are the results:



Pink and blue solid papers, patterned paper, glittery letters, and orange ribbon made each piece.



Well instead of "It's a Boy" or "It's a Girl," we went with "It's a Delta." Hopefully.



Can't wait to meet the little nugget, even if she doesn't grow up to be a Tri Delt.
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Friday, October 15, 2010

Buckeyes!

My friend Kim is in town visiting this weekend, and she brought us a tasty Ohio treat: buckeyes! I like to buy these in airports when I connect through Cleveland or Columbus, but I've never actually had homemade ones. Kim, being a native Ohioan, has the recipe on lock. Here's her method, to make 150 delicious peanut butter chocolate buckeyes:



Ingredients
3 lbs powdered sugar
2 lbs peanut butter (2 jars)
1 lb melted butter (4 sticks)
12 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/4 bar paraffin wax

1. Mix powdered sugar and peanut butter in a large bowl.

2. Pour in melted butter.

3. With your hands, combine mixture until it's a kneading texture.

4. Line 3-4 cookie sheets with wax paper. Roll peanut butter mixture into 1" balls and place on sheets.

5. Refrigerate peanut butter balls for one hour or more.

6. In a double boiler, melt chocolate chips and paraffin wax until smooth.

7. Remove boiler from stove and dip balls in chocolate using a toothpick inserted into their center, leaving a circle of peanut butter showing.

8. Remove toothpick as you place buckeyes back on cookie sheets. Use a spoon to smooth over remaining hole.

9. Replace sheets in fridge until chocolate sets, about two hours.

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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Meat & Potatoes

The other day I somehow made it through work on three slices of cake (one chocolate, one Boston cream pie, and one strawberry and cream) and a handful of whole wheat goldfish. After the hyperglycemia wore off, I needed something hearty at the end of the day, and one of my dinner standards is breaded, pan-fried pork chops.

For a side, I chose these gorgeous tri-color potatoes from Trader Joe's. I boiled them and mixed in some butter, salt, pepper, and oregano:



While they were boiling, it was time to bread some chops. First I dredged them in flour mixed with a little pepper, then dunked them in egg, and finally coated them in a mixture of Italian breadcrumbs, Panko breadcrumbs, and some seasoned salt.



I put all three chops in a sautee pan with some olive oil. I cooked each side for about a minute on high heat to get the bread crumbs to stick, then turned the heat down and cooked on each side for about 5 minutes. (These were thick chops.)



Right before the chops finished, I sauteed frozen asparagus (also from Trader Joe's) with olive oil and garlic for a few minutes to add to the meat and potatoes. Easy and yummy:

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Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Mirror Painting

I picked up this nice little black mirror at Hobby Lobby for like $12 the other day. Not that I don't think it looks good in black, but my bedroom has absolutely no black elements in it, so I decided to repaint.

First I used aluminum foil to cover the mirror surface. I'm sure there is a much more professional method to do this, but this was what was available to me.



Next I spray painted. A lot. To cover all these damn crevices.



After a few hours in the garage, I took the mirror inside and hung it up. Bam, instant coordination.

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Friday, October 8, 2010

Pumpkin Suggestions

Pumpkin Week: episode 5

Throughout the week I've gotten some great recommendations for other pumpkin goodies. Thanks for the ideas! Here are a few:

Pumpkin Fettuccine recipe, courtesy of Eleni via Hungry-Girl.com:


Smuttynose Pumpkin Ale, recommended by Kerry:

I have to agree on this one; Smuttynose is mighty tasty. And brewed in New England!

Pumpkin Lasagna recipe, courtesy of Robin via MyLasagnaRecipe.com:


Pumpkin Pie Cupcake recipe, courtesy of Elise:


And finally, if you want to actually go to a pumpkin patch and you're around Boston, my roommates and I would recommend Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA, where we're headed next weekend. More to come on that later, but here's a shot from last year's trip, which seemed appropriate for the blog's Pumpkin Week:


Happy Pumpkins!
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Thursday, October 7, 2010

Mrs. Prindable's

Okay this is not actually made out of pumpkin or in the shape of a pumpkin, so it may not officially qualify for Pumpkin Week. But it definitely has the essence of pumpkin.



Mrs. Prindable's Premium Halloween Basket

I discovered this candy apple brand on Rue La La earlier this week. I've never really liked caramel apples (too sweet), but these are covered in chocolate, which is right up my alley. This basket also includes lots of other goodies like pretzels and truffles. If anybody buys any of Mrs. Prindable's products for me this fall, I'll be sure to report back on taste.
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Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Pumpkin Parfaits

Pumpkin Week, episode 3:

I've been badgered for some fall desserts (not to name names, Kim), so here we go: Pumpkin Parfaits. My original intent was to center this creation around pumpkin mousse, but the grocery store had no canned pumpkin in stock, so I improvised.

I bought the only pumpkin item available in the baking aisle: Pillsbury Pumpkin Bread mix. I wasn't sure how I would incorporate it at first, but it all came together. I also bought Jell-O butterscotch pudding mix, ginger snaps, and plenty of Cool Whip.



I pretty much made them up as I went along, but these were the layers:

1. Butterscotch mousse (see below)
2. Cubes of pumpkin bread
3. Cool whip
4. Crushed ginger snaps
5. Topping: cinnamon sticks and sprinkled pumpkin pie spice


Butterscotch mousse: half pudding, half cool whip, set in the fridge for 2 hours.

These babies were delicious. And layered in martini glasses, they looked adorable. One warning: at first they seem oh-so-light with all that Cool Whip, but by the end of the glass the richness takes over. Happy Fall.
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Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Baby Pumpkin Beanie

Pumpkin Week continues...

One of my friends has a bun in the oven, so recently I've been browsing baby-related crafts I could make. I stumbled upon this gem on Etsy.com, a constant source of inspiration for all things homemade.


Pumpkin Beanie by Etsy seller FlutterByWind

My friend's baby isn't due until January, so I don't think I'll be making a pumpkin cap, but this was definitely worth sharing. FlutterByWind makes this hat in a few sizes, from newborn to 5-year-old; check out her shop for more adorable baby gear.
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Monday, October 4, 2010

Punkin Ale

In honor of the blog's name and it being the first week of October and all, it's Pumpkin Week! I love (almost) all pumpkin flavored things, and today we'll look at a classic: pumpkin beer.

Generally I drink Shipyard Pumpkin Ale, which is a quasi-local beer, brewed in Maine. Now, Shipyard is good, but I discovered last year that it's not actually made with any pumpkin, just cinnamon and clove. What's up with that?


Don't be misled, the glass is Allagash, which I picked up at their Portland, Maine brewery this summer. 

So today I picked up some Dogfish Punkin Ale, one of the more popular makes, which is 7% alcohol compared to Shipyard's 4.5% (this could be good or bad, depending on your outlook). I topped the glass with a cinnamon sugar mix, except instead of straight cinnamon, I used pumpkin pie spice.

My take: very yummy. Made with real pumpkin, which I appreciate. Dogfish is brewed in Delaware though, and I like sticking with locally made beers. Next time I'm in Missouri I'd like to try out Schlafly's pumpkin ale... any thoughts on that one?
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Friday, October 1, 2010

Pom-Crantini

Okay, this is basically just a Cape Codder with a girlier name. But still yummy. I had some Apple & Eve pomegranate cranberry juice in the fridge and was out of gin and whiskey, so this cocktail was born.



1 part vodka
2 parts Cranberry-Pomegranate juice
1/2 part lemon juice
Ice
Mix it all up real nice in a shaker and strain into a pretty martini glass. Voila.
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