Friday, September 28, 2012

Blueberry Cobbler with Biscuit Topping

I made this dessert the other night for my mom's birthday. She loves desserts that aren't too heavy and have berries, so this seemed to be just right. I made a little error. I didn't really measure the lemon juice and put it way too much. So it was pretty tart. I still loved it and I'm pretty sure my mom did too, but it wasn't quite what I expected and my four year-old niece wasn't a huge fan. So I'd really encourage you to measure your lemon! It was still delicious and the biscuit topping was especially tasty. It held up really nicely to the mushy fruit and wasn't too heavy at all. The dish was also crazy simple to make. It took just a few minutes to pull together and then it just cooled while we ate dinner. I will definitely make it again soon before all the blueberries are gone.

Blueberry Cobbler with Biscuit Topping
recipe from here

1 1/2 cups plus 3 Tbsp. all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons plus 1 cup sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" pieces
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp. crème fraîche or sour cream
6 cups fresh blueberries (about 2 lb.)
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest

I started by washing and drying the blueberries. Then I combined them with one cup sugar, 3 tablespoons flour, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix until the blueberries are evenly coated. Word of advice, measure your lemon juice!
Then, in a large bowl whisk together the flour, 3 tablespoons sugar, salt, and baking powder. Add the butter and using your fingers pinch the butter and the flour mixture until the butter is roughly the size of peas. Add the crème fraîche and mix gently until combined. Knead a few times in the bowl until a dough forms. Tear apart the dough into tablespoon-size pieces and scatter on top.

Bake for 45 minutes at 375 degrees. I used a pie dish because the 8x8 inch dish was dirty, but technically that's what the recipe called for. Let cool for about an hour and serve on it's own or with ice cream. Enjoy!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Pop of Color in the Entry

Member several weeks ago I mentioned two presents? Well, I have had so much to discuss lately I am just now getting around to sharing the other present. My mom picked up this adorable little cabinet for me at a local store. I can't remember the name of the store, I will find it this weekend and share it then. I am going to find a cool antique hook to hang on the left hand side for a coat. So this space is still a work in progress. I'm not worried above covering the lights with my coat because I hardly ever use them. Right around the corner are all the kitchen and living room lights and I use those way more.

This picture doesn't really do justice to the complexity of the texture and the color. The shop owner uses a technique called chalk painting. My mom took a class and I'm going to need to look into it more. As you can  maybe see from the light switch, I decided to hang it up in the entryway. You can see in the picture below the knots and details of the wood come through the paint.

Even though my entry way is small, the profile of the cabinet is so narrow it really doesn't block the walking space.

My favorite part of the cabinet is all of the hidden storage. There is a little half wall next to my front door and it was a perma-disaster. Even though I had a hook for my keys and a plate for trinkets, it was a total mess. This allows me to keep the things I use often close, but out of sight. Let's be honest, no matter how functional, lint rollers are not pretty.

My dad helped me hang the cabinet. I am able to hang a lot myself, but this thing was just too big and too heavy. He used really large wall anchors and big screws to attach the L brackets to the wall. Then we put the cabinet on top of the brackets and use small screws to make sure the cabinet doesn't move around. And now I use it ALL OF THE TIME. Seriously, every day. Now I can't wait to find the right hook to complete the entryway.

Monday, September 24, 2012

A New Twist on an Old Favorite

I love Snickerdoodles. Really I just love cookies. But Snickerdoodles are amazing and the fact that saying Snickerdoodle makes me giggle doesn't hurt either. Yes I'm five years old. I know. But I don't have a recipe for these cookies that I love. They are always great right out of the oven, but then a few hours later they are too hard. I don't know about you, but I'm not a fan of crunchy cookies. If I'm going to eat cookies, I want them to be soft. So when I saw this recipe on pinterest, I was definitely curious. I admit, I was skeptical. I didn't think that the flavor would really be the same. But this recipe was easy and I thought it would be perfect to try when I was babysitting my nieces. They are great little kitchen helpers. And taste testers. Obviously.

I have to say, I was really pleasantly surprised. The recipe was incredibly easy, the flavor of these "brownies" were exactly like the cookies, and best of all, they stayed soft. FOR DAYS. Literally, they were incredibly moist and squishy days after they came out of the oven. It was a total revelation. You probably have all of these ingredients in the pantry, so you have no excuse not to try them!

Snickerdoodle Brownies
recipe from here
2 2/3 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups packed brown sugar
1 cup butter, at room temperature
2 eggs, at room temperature
1 Tablespoon vanilla
2 Tablespoons white sugar
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

I started by whisking together the flour, baking powder and salt in a small bowl
Then, in a large bowl, I mixed together the butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
Next, I slowly added the flour mixture and mixed until combined. Don't over mix or the dough will get tough. Just make sure everything is combined.

Before starting, I greased a pan and once the dough was ready, I spread it out. The dough is pretty thick and sticky, so it's a little hard to get smooth, but as long as it's even that's fine. In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and white sugar and sprinkle evenly over the top. It seems like a lot, but it melts down into the dough and is delicious.
Bake for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees. Once the brownies are done, remove the pan from the oven and slice with a really sharp knife. A plastic knife is the best because the dough doesn't stick as much, but as long as it's sharp it will work.

Friday, September 21, 2012

There is Nothing Better than Organized Storage

...especially when it's pretty :). Fiance gave me a beautiful jewelry box a few years ago. I still use it all the time and it works perfectly for bracelets, earrings and smaller necklaces. But recently, I have a few new additions that are big clunky costume pieces. They were really cluttering up the space and making it far less functional. So I spent some time searching online for a good solution. Finally, I came up with this project.

So I bought a cork board at Michael's. I had some white fabric with a subtle flower patter than my friend had picked up for me 1.5 years ago. Using a stapler, I secured all four sides. Then I did the corners, like presents.
Nice and tight.
See how the fabric has a nice design that adds some interest, but won't compete too much with my jewelry?
I also picked up some ribbon on clearance while at the store. I just wanted something to seal the corners and make it look more finished. I used a glue gun to attach the ribbon.
All done! Seriously, this project was so fast. I did it while watching a tv show and I was shocked by how easy it was!

I laid out my necklaces on the ground first. I wanted to play around with them with the permanent-ness of the wall. After a few changes, I had an arrangement that I liked. Then I stuck in clear pushpins at the top of every necklace. (I picked up a big box of pushpins at Michael's as well).

The back of the cork board had two holes for the heads of screws. So I stuck a piece of tape against the back of the board and poked holes in the tape. That way, I didn't have to measure the holes. I just put the tape on the wall, made sure it was level and started drilling. Since the board was a little heavy, I used wall anchors. Then I screwed in the screws, leaving a little out. I hung up the board and I'm all done! (By the way, I apologize for this terrible picture. The lighting in my closet is just miserable, so it's accurate. But at least I have a big closet!).

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Cheap and Easy Weeknight Dinner Series: Tri-Color Vegetable Saute

I had some friends over for dinner last week and thought that dinner provided the perfect opportunity to try this dish. My mom raved about it and it seemed like a good dinner for busy weeknights. I served it with chicken and some bread for a big meal, but it would be great by itself for a vegetarian or someone who is just trying to be healthy. The leftovers are fantastic cold and it makes a lot, so there are plenty of leftovers for lunches and dinners. The combination of ingredients sounds a little weird, but it's delicious! I should also mention it is super quick and makes use of fresh ingredients during the summer, which is always nice!

Tri-Color Vegetable Saute
recipe from here

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup frozen sweet soybeans (edamame), shelled
2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
3 tablespoons finely chopped sun-dried tomatoes
1/3 cup lightly packed fresh basil leaves, cut into ribbons
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

I should mention that I was really distracted while making this dinner because I was chatting. So I took very few pictures, I'm sorry!!! It's really hard to cook, carry on a conversation and remember to snap pictures. But here was my method: I started by chopping the onion and garlic. I also sliced the tomatoes and cut the corn off the cob. I heated up the oil and then cooked the onions for a few minutes. I added the garlic and cooked for another thirty seconds or so. Then I added the soy beans and cooked for about five minutes until thawed. Then I added the corn and cooked for about 3 more minutes.

I added the tomatoes and sun-dried tomatoes and cooked for about five minutes until the tomatoes were soft, but still retained shape. Then I added the basil and lime juice, turned off the heat, and stirred. This picture is actually of leftovers. The colors of bleed and muted a bit, but right after cooking they are bright and fresh. Enjoy!

Monday, September 17, 2012

All of the Artistic Ability in My Family contained in my sister's hands. Very literally. She's an amazing artist, photographer, and makes the most insanely beautiful cards. Fall back career I tell you. Several months ago, I showed her a painting that I loved. For my birthday present she created this masterpiece.

It's really similar to the one I showed her, but even better because the colors work so well with my apartment and my style in general. The texture is really incredible. It makes the street and the umbrella really pop.

I still need to get it framed, but even as it is, the painting really just makes the bookshelves complete.

Isn't it beautiful? I just love it. Thanks sissy!

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Weirdest Way to Make a Pillow....Ever

I'm not lying. I really don't recommend using my technique. I probably could have borrowed my mom's sewing machine, but I was impatient and I didn't know when I would get the opportunity. Patience isn't my strong suit. So I got seriously creative.

As you can see, the table mats already had seams, so I didn't want to just turn the mats inside out and hand sew them.
So instead, I cut out some strips of extra white fabric.
 Winston helped, naturally.

Then I cut hem tape for each side. I place the white fabric on top of the hem tape and ironed the strip in place. Then I lined up the one mat next to the other and repeated so that the white strip of fabric was hemmed to both pieces.

 I'm not describing it well I know.
I think this picture shows the best how the white fabric basically folds in half to hold together the two mats. I used this totally crazy method on three sides.

I filled the pillow case with cotton stuffing and then using white thread, I hand-stitched the last side. I'm actually thinking now that maybe I should have just hand-stitched all four sides. I think the texture looks nice and although it would have taken a long time, it would have been more uniform.

I still need to get the stuffing to be a little more even, but it's not bad considering I used hem tape.
Right? Could be worse. At least I love the fabric. I'm still working on the stuffing and if that doesn't improve, I'll hand stitch all four sides. I'll keep you updated.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies

I found this recipe online the other day and it seemed like such a fun, quick recipe. It's sort of cheating, you mostly use box mix, but I figure even the fanciest of chefs need an occasional shortcut. Not that I'm a fancy chef by any stretch of the imagination. Anyway, my friend and I thought it would be fun to have a quick baking session the other day and this recipe seemed like just the thing. These cookies were quite tasty and very pretty. My friend made the excellent suggestion that they would be perfect for the holidays. I'm not sure they are necessarily award winning. They also don't taste particularly rich. But they were very yummy and I had a few more than necessary. Good thing we went for a long walk afterwards!

Red Velvet Crinkle Cookies
recipe from here
1 box red velvet cake mix
6 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
2 eggs
1/2 cup powdered sugar

Start by mixing together the butter, cake mix and eggs. It's a very thick batter. Don't worry, it's supposed to be.

Using a spoon, scoop about 1 tablespoon of dough, roll into a bowl and drop into a bowl of powdered sugar. Roll around a bit, pick up the dough and tap off the excess sugar.

Place the cookies on parchment-covered trays and bake at 375 for about 8 minutes. The outsides will look done, but the inside will be mushy. That's good! Don't overcook them! Enjoy!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Retail Therapy

I'm back in California after spending the summer in DC and I have mixed feelings about it. I am one of those people that loves school, and I am beginning to get excited about the new year. I also get to see my friends and family out here, which is really nice. And I love my apartment here. It's so cozy and is the first place that really feels mine. Of course, none of these things compare to how much I miss my fiance, but they do help take a little of the edge off. Knowing that I was going to feel a little bummed when I returned, I decided to make a few purchases before my flight. I am a big believer in retail therapy in small doses. I wouldn't suggest anyone buy a car or anything huge, but sometimes having a new pillow waiting at home for you can be really exciting.

So anyone have any guesses as to what I bought? You guessed it....pillows! I got a fabulous deal from Joss and Main on two of these pillows. One is sitting on my couch, which I totally love.

I finally feel like I have the right set of pillows. It really feels like it fits, without being matchy matchy. I also am pretty darn excited to get a little ikat in my life. I know I'm way behind that trend, but I was really waiting for a pattern that felt right and not forced. I am thrilled to finally be done with the couch pillow saga. Even back then I was already annoyed with myself.

The other one is currently sitting on my chair in the corner of the room. This chair isn't moving their permanently, but I want to create a little library corner and I wanted to get an idea of size.

My goal is to have something a little shorter and probably deeper. See how it's a little too visually imposing? I think it just competes a little too much with all the books. So something a little smaller is the way I want to go. I wanted it to be more cozy or loungey. Yes that's a word.

I also ordered a set of place mats from One King's Lane.

I used two to create this pillow (I'll do a post later this week explaining my process). I'm not sure what I'll do with the other two mats. Maybe another pillow down the road. Or I could use them for a romantic summer dinner. We will see. As you can tell, the stuffing is still a bit lumpy and is a work in progress.

Despite the lumpiness, I really like how the lace adds a little femininity to the leather recliner and the burlap adds a little texture.

As an aside, you all might wonder why I don't just read in the recliner? Here is the problem. When the recliner is upright, it hurts my neck. I'm too short and it the cushion on top hits my head in a weird place. When the chair is more reclined, I fall asleep. So I need a chair that is comfy, while still upright. Just like my red chair in DC. So I'm on the hunt for a good deal.

I also have a few more additions to share with you, but they were gifts, and one in particular is breathtaking, so I wanted them to have their own post. Until then,


Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Stocking A Freezer to Avoid the Inevitable

As this post goes up, I am currently at the airport making my way back to California for the academic year. I'm crossing my fingers I don't run into anyone important because my face is a contorted ball of snot and tears and I cannot think of a time I looked like a bigger mess. Let's just say, I am not ready to leave fiance or DC. Long distance sucks. Over the past week I've been busy packing, soaking up any quality time I can get, and stocking up fiance's fridge for while I'm gone. Although technically this mission was out of love for him, it was also slightly self-serving. Doing something that I knew would make him happy and would help him with distance really truly made me feel better. I'm not sure why, but I have a sneaky feeling it had to do with control. It was something proactive I could do to improve the future. Unlike the war I'm currently waging on any dry tissues. Thank heavens for sun glasses. Although then I look like that crazy lady in the airport wearing sun glasses.

Anyway, to make proverbial lemonade out of my lemons, I thought it might be helpful to chronicle my steps and share my ideas for cooking ahead of time/stocking a freezer. Whether it be for a busy week coming up, a trip and you want your kids/hubby/fiance/etc to be well fed, or what have you, these tips and ideas might be helpful.

Step 1: Hoard containers whenever you get take out. We get pho every so often and always save those containers for soups. Chinese food containers often work great for pastas or sauces. These containers work great because a) they are free once you eat the food b) we use ours SO many times. They can be put in the microwave, freezer and dishwasher!

Step 2: Plan out your menus. Think of meals that freeze well (soups, pasta sauces, lasagna, etc.). Think of meals that make lots of leftovers. My method was to make a meal with lots of leftovers so we could enjoy the dish for dinner that night and then freeze the rest. That way I wasn't stuck cooking two dinners most nights.

Step 3: Be realistic and gentle with yourself. I tend towards the path where I pack way too much into a few days and I stress and want to pull out my hair. Try and contain your shock. This time I did really well though, I planned to cook every other day for about a week and scheduled take out and restaurant nights on the other evenings.

Step 4: Grocery shop. I take OCD to a whole new level with my shopping, but I find it makes the process super quick and easy and dare I say, even more enjoyable. First, I make my list. But I don't just jot down all ingredients. I write them down by section. For example, the first section in my grocery store is produce. So first on my list is all of my produce. Then dairy/meats. Then the dry/canned section. Then freezer. If you are like me, you continue this organization at the check out stand. Put all of your "dry" or non-fridge items on the belt first. Then follow with all of your perishables. That way, the items are bagged with similar items. You wouldn't believe how much time it saves when putting away groceries. I no loner rummage through bags looking for every fridge item. So much easier. Note: if you weren't able to collect enough take-out containers, buy a few at the grocery store. They are pretty cheap and since you can freeze, microwave and throw them in the dishwasher, they are a great buy.

Step 5: Try to stick to your cooking schedule, but if you can't, don't give up! Try and reschedule a few things and make it work. It's worth it.

Here is what I made:

Sausage and Arugla sauce. This sauce is great on baked potatoes or on pasta.

Spaghetti Sauce.
 Sausage and Lentil Soup.
Tortellini, Kale and Sausage Soup. I actually ended up making a double batch because the bag of kale was so huge, it seemed like a waste not to.

Here is the freezer before I began.

 And here is my after shot.
And these! Needless to say, fiance shouldn't have to resort to lean pockets for a while.
Finally, because I was feeling silly, I made labels for all of the meals so he would know what each thing was and how many were left of each meal. Totally unnecessary I know. But I like to think it will make fiance smile when he sees them.