Monday, January 31, 2011

Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins

Yes, more pumpkin. Last week I was craving the cranberry muffins my dad makes a lot at home, so I decided to make a batch, but had to add my favorite ingredient, pumpkin.

The tart cranberries and sweet pumpkin go really well together. Plus, the pumpkin keeps them super moist so they can be enjoyed for days. If they last that long. Recipe at the bottom!



Batter ready to go, with dried cranberries mixed in. (I wanted to use fresh cranberries, but couldn't find them anywhere.)



About to go in the oven! I filled my muffin cups almost full, and they worked perfectly.



After about 20 minutes in the oven, perfection. And they made the house smell amazing.



Sorry for the bluriness. I was very ready to eat one. Also, I think I cut into the one muffin that only had a couple cranberries... the rest were loaded.



Pumpkin Cranberry Muffins
(adapted from AllRecipes.com)
Makes 16-18 muffins

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 cup dried or fresh cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl, combine flour, baking soda, pumpkin pie spice, and salt.

In a mixing bowl, beat the eggs and sugar; add the pumpkin and oil and mix well.

Stir into the dry ingredients just until moistened. Fold in the cranberries.

Fill foil-or paper-lined muffin cups almost to the top. Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes before removing from pans to wire racks.
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Friday, January 28, 2011

Pasta Roni Makeover

When I was a kid, one of my favorite instant meals was Pasta-Roni, the lesser-known sibling of Rice-a-Roni, the San Francisco Treat. At the top of the list was their Shells and White Cheddar, a slight upgrade on Kraft Mac & Cheese.



Okay, who am I kidding, I still buy this stuff. It's delicious! But last night I devised a Pasta Roni makeover to make it a tad closer to a balanced meal. By adding meat and a vegetable, it felt a little more grown up. First I cooked the shells (my favorite pasta!) and added a bunch of peas in for the last couple minutes.



Then I pan-fried some Italian sausage, leftover from my dinner of sausage and sweet potatoes, until cooked through.



After adding the sauce packet and some milk, I stirred in the sausage and let it sit for a few minutes so the sauce could thicken.



Served with a crusty baguette, this hit the spot. And made enough for leftovers for lunch!
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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Crochet Heart

Valentine's Day approaches, so the blog world has been going crazy for homemade heart decor. Most of it is way too time-intensive for me for such a small holiday, but these little yarn hearts seemed fun and easy.



Not sure why my purple/blue heart is smaller. I guess I just was tightening up my stitches as I figured out how to make these.



This pattern is all over the internet, but I found it on Little Birdie Secrets, complete with an instructional video if you don't know where to begin. Above is the first half of my pink heart.



And here it is completed! It took about 3 minutes to crochet. I wove in the bottom tail and left the top tail long to hang it.



I have a magnetic board attached to my desk, and the heart spruced it up nicely. (The magnet holding it up actually says "Hate is not a family value." Completely coincidence, but it seems appropriate.)




And here's my purply blue heart. You can use any yarn/needle you want, it will just affect the size of your finished product. I used two bamboo blend yarns that you might recognize from this striped baby hat.



I left both tails out, tied them into a bow, and trimmed accordingly. I really couldn't figure out where to stick this, but it looks kind of cute here on my necklace stand.

These hearts are so easy, you could make a hundred of them in couple hours. String them together for a little garland, put them on a handmade card, or line a picture frame with them... Any other ideas?
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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Hot Dog & Fries

About a week ago I was watching an episode of "Man vs. Food" and one of the featured restaurants specialized in bratwurst. And although I was watching it on an extremely full stomach, I immediately started craving a brat. Thus, this dinner was born.



This is no ordinary hot dog and fries. In fact, it's neither a hot dog nor fries. This is an Italian sausage cooked with peppers and onions, served with home-baked sweet potato chips.



First I sliced two sweet potatoes thin (I should have used our mandoline, but per usual, I forgot we owned one), and then put them in a zip-lock bag with olive oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper. After tossing them around to coat, they were ready to bake.



Next I placed them on a cookie sheet in a 400 degree oven. They cooked for about 20 minutes, and I flipped them over halfway through. (Meanwhile, I am pan-frying an Italian sausage or two...)



While the sausage is cooking and potatoes are baking, I chopped up one orange bell pepper and half of a large onion.



When the sausages were almost done, I threw in the veggies to sautee.



I almost forgot to mention - dip! I combined about one cup of sour cream and a 4 oz tin of green chiles in my mini food processor until smooth. I added salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.



To wrap up the sausage, onions, and peppers, I used a whole wheat pita smeared with a little creamy dill mustard. There was entirely too much dip for the sweet potato chips, so next time I'll either cut down the amounts or make sure to have people around to share with.
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Friday, January 21, 2011

Sorority Shortbread

Boston University had sorority recruitment this weekend, so I joined some other Delta Delta Delta alumnae and helped out behind the scenes. Recruitment is a long, arduous 72 hours (my sophomore year I found myself electrocuted and dangling from pipe and drape) so I brought the girls a delta-themed treat: pearl, pine, and pansy shortbread.


Cutting out the shapes. The pearl was easy, for obvious reasons, the pine was a go-to in my cookie cutter set anyway, but the pansy presented problems. This was the closest I could find. No, it doesn't really look like a pansy. At all.



Ready to go in the oven. I put the cut-out dough in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes before baking them to keep the edges sharp. As with my previous shortbread, I used Ina Garten's recipe, except I doubled the salt and only baked them for about 15 minutes (instead of 20-25... too much!).



Hot out of the oven! You might be wondering about the shapes. The pearl is the symbol of new members, the pine tree is the symbol of collegiate members, and the pansy is the symbol of alumnae members. There are reasons for all of those, but they might be secret, so I won't post them here. Since new, collegiate, and alumni members are all involved in the hell that is sorority recruitment, using the three symbols seemed apropos.



I made royal icing to decorate them. I used lemon extract, but you can use any extract you want as flavoring. Some people use white food coloring to keep a true white, but I didn't have any problems with the pearls.



Icing the pines. It's easiest to outline the cookie first and then fill it in so the edges stay neat. Tip: while the remainder of your icing is waiting to be used, place a damp towel over the bowl so it doesn't dry out.



All sprinkled up. In case you're wondering, I used my new Kuhn Rikon decorating set to ice the cookies. Thank you Mom and Dad for yet another kitchen tool Christmas gift!



Okay, pansies aren't this color. But they're not this shape either, so what the hell. Tri Delta's colors are silver, gold, and blue, so I needed to incorporate blue somehow. (The yellow sprinkles on the pearls are standing in for gold.)



All packaged up and ready for recruitment. And now, after hearing about 250 rounds of "Gotta D-E-L-T-A" sung at top volume, I'm ready to wait another year before creating more Tri Delta desserts.
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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Half Birthday Brunch

1/17/11 arrived on Monday, bringing yet another palindromic date of 2011, MLK Jr. Day, and my half-birthday! All good things: like most Hannahs, I love palindromes; Martin Luther King, in addition to being an all-around stand up guy, was a fellow Boston University alumnus; and who doesn't love a half-birthday to give you a reason to celebrate in the dead of post-Christmas winter.

After creating and sending my letterpress-inspired invitations, I considered designing coordinating place cards and/or menus. But after a weekend full of baking, volunteering, and Black Swan, I figured I would just let the food speak for itself. And snow makes me lazy.



Yes, I even included vegetables. Baby spinach salad with dried cranberries, feta, and almond slivers.



Spinach and cheddar quiche with sauteed onions and garlic.



Yummy lemon scones, baked by my friend Kase and transported all the way from NYC.



Simple fruit salad.



And to top it off, chocolate pound cake topped with powdered sugar. Thank you, Martha Stewart, for figuring out how to fit 9 eggs and 4 sticks of butter into one dessert.



Love my place settings? Me too! My family gave them to me for Christmas. Find more at www.FrenchBull.com.

And yes, of course there were celebratory drinks. We had champagne cocktails with a choice of cran-raspberry or blueberry-pomegranate juice. Divine.

I encourage everyone else to find a reason to celebrate. If it's not your real birthday or half-birthday, consider an un-birthday party.
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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Crochet Hat

I posted earlier this month about the Cupcake Scarf I crocheted for my sister for Christmas. Well, I wasn't going to leave the other sister out! I saw an adorable hat with a ribbon worked into it on Little Birdie Secrets, one of my favorite blogs, before Christmas. She was selling the pattern, but I figured I could probably finagle it on my own.



I used this free pattern for the basic hat shape, although I ended up adding 4 additional rows to make it the correct size. By using double crochet, the stitches were big enough to weave a ribbon into without doing anything special. I picked up the adorable coordinating ribbon at Hobby Lobby, and bam, instant hat. It probably took me about 2 hours total. I'll try to find a picture of her modeling it to show the full effect.

The best part is, you can change the ribbon whenever you want for limitless hat options.
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Friday, January 14, 2011

Pumpkin Mudslide

Okay, I already posted my accidental discovery of mudslides here, but there's always room for improvement.



This creation was born from excess Trader Joe's pumpkin ice cream in our freezer, which my roommate Elise and I both decided was a little too sweet to enjoy as dessert. It's funny, though, how when alcohol is added, it cuts the sweet down to an enjoyable level.

Here's how I made this blended dessert cocktail:

Scoop of pumpkin ice cream
Shot of Bailey's (or Coole Swan, my Irish cream liqueur of choice)
Shot of Kahlua (or Copa de Oro...)

Blend above ingredients until smooth. Line a martini glass with chocolate syrup, pour in blended drink, and top with whipped cream.



To show the chocolate syrup down there, I probably should've photographed it in a clear glass. But I really just wanted to show off my new chrome martini glasses that my boyfriend gave me for Christmas. It's fun just looking at them.

Alright, go get yourself some ice cream, booze, and whipped cream!
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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Egg Sandwich

Snow day! Due to the 12-17 inches of snow currently being dumped on Boston, I get to stay home from work today. And what's better on a cold snowy day than a hot egg sandwich. My go-to breakfast sandwich is simply egg and cheese on an English muffin, but this sandwich goes all out:



I added a slice of leftover steak and a smear of creamy dill mustard, which both complemented the egg and extra-sharp cheddar deliciously.

Now, you may be wondering, how did she fry that egg in a perfect circle?? Well, see below:



I got this little contraption in my Christmas stocking, and it works like a charm. Crack the egg into the silicone circle and let it cook until the white is firm, then gently remove the circle, flip the egg and bam, perfect circle egg.



Microwave version:

This is one of my favorite little tricks for a quick breakfast on a work day.

Put your English muffin with cheese on it into the toaster oven or under the broiler for a couple minutes. Meanwhile, crack an egg into a mug and microwave for 30-60 seconds. You get a perfectly round, fluffy, cooked egg that pops right out onto the English muffin. Two minute breakfast!
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Monday, January 10, 2011

Brunch Invite

As my friends all know, I love my half-birthday almost as much my actual birthday. First off, I love all holidays. And second, it gives me something to look forward to after Christmas. This year, my half-birthday falls on Martin Luther King day, so I get the day off work. I've had a few parties in past years, but for 2011 I decided to class it up a bit and host a brunch.



Last year I saw a gallery exhibit on American letterpress at BU, and ever since I've been noticing letterpress designs everywhere. I've been wanting to create my own for a while, so I finally got the opportunity with this brunch invitation.

I wanted the invite to be small and simple, since it's for a brunch of approximately 5 people, and I'm already being a bit over-the-top with a paper invite at all. So I made a 5"x7" card with black print.



I found a few free fonts by searching for "distressed," "Western," and "letterpress," and used Microsoft Publisher to put it all together.

I printed on cover stock paper in "Peacock," used black envelopes, and found coordinating labels and seals, all at Paper-Source.



I felt compelled to obscure the addresses, but trust me that they looked even nicer before they were blurred.

Here's one of my favorite letterpress posters from the Smithsonian exhibit:

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Friday, January 7, 2011

Calendar Decor

Last year for Christmas, one of my colleagues gave all of us cubicle-dwellers (read: lay people) desk calendars with each month on an individual card. I love how it spruced up my space, so when I saw a 2011 one at Paper Source that was exactly my style, I pounced.



Doesn't it look adorable? And, oh yeah, I can look at it when I need to know a date. (Form AND function is rare for me.)



You can also put them in a holder, but I think it kind of defeats the purpose if you can't see them all at once.

Here are some great options from Etsy sellers:





They're perfect for a cubicle, but if you don't feel like putting thumbtacks in an actual wall, you can also place them in matching (or un-matching) picture frames, arrange them all on a large bulletin board, or hang them on clothespins on a string. So many options.

And if you're feeling really crafty, you can design your own and print them on card stock. I thought about doing this, but I knew by the time I got around to finishing the designs, it would be mid-August at the earliest.
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