Recent happenings, per my iPhone…
Another step closer to the completion of our kitchen remodel project. Tim built that whole corner to match the entryway (I painted. I helped!)
Feeling pretty fierce after a workout a few weeks ago. My workouts and Barre classes are making a mark, and it makes me so happy!
Hangin’ with my men (and Belle!) in the line at Bouchon Bakery
Umm yeah… that is Neil Gaiman tweeting to me. About Marco. SO FREAKING COOL!!
Tim and I had switched cars for the day, and he unfortunately was rear-ended during a traffic jam. My car was considered a total by the insurance company. Luckily, it meant that I got to snag the car I’ve had my eye on – the Mazda CX-5!! I love love love it.
Made a fruit tart from scratch – layers of lemon curd, pastry cream, and berries.
Chocolate cupcakes with fleur de sel caramel buttercream, caramel drizzle, and a sprinkle of sea salt.
Yeah. So. 12 days since my last post.
I’ve kind of been busy… doing stuff like this:
For some unfathomable reason, the design of our house included drop ceilings in the kitchen and hall bathroom. WHAT THE HELL,1973!? The first plan we made when we decided to remodel our kitchen was to push the ceiling back to the standard 8′ height.
Tim could not put up the sheet rock alone, because the sheets are extremely heavy. So, it fell to me to be his assistant. Problem: I am extremely afraid of heights; I become shaky and I sometimes cry out of panic. Add to that a strange fear of ladders (I don’t trust them) and lack of experience with drills and this was one terrifying experience. But, since I couldn’t hold up the sheet rock myself, Tim had to hold it while I drilled it to the cross beams. Luckily, I have a wonderful husband and coach.
And now look!
The cabinets are from IKEA – the AKURUM cabinets with the LIDINGO doors. The sink is the DOMSJO single bowl farmhouse.
The hood is the LUFTIG – I LOVE this. It looks amazing!
Then these lovely appliances found their way home…
More pictures of the progress to come! I can’t wait for it all to be completed…my dining table looks like this right now:
A few changes around our house (and soon to be even more!! Our kitchen remodel is beginning in the next month!!!) All the pictures below were taken on my iPhone – so the quality is so-so – but it gives you an idea of the happenings.
The guest room – curtains, a headboard upcycled from our old IKEA bed (purchased when we got married – now remade into a funky design by my own handy husband), and bedding.
Dining room – finally ditched the ancient blinds and installed curtains. The side panels are actually more of a tan, but in this picture they look almost green. Anyway, nevermind the painter’s tape on the wall – we’re marking off cabinets for the kitchen remodel.
Master bedroom: a few months ago we upgraded to this amazing bed from World Market, last month we got new bedding and bedside tables from Target. I LOVE IT! We need to replace my ancient reading lamp (IKEA circa 2005), redo my closet, and eventually we’ll refinish the floors.
It’s funny – going back through old pictures of our house, pictures of how it looked when we first bought it – there’s definitely been improvement. Even better is to look back at our first apartment and see how we ‘decorated’ it. LOL! Our television stand was Tim’s amp, and our bathroom scheme was two green hand towels and a container of lime hand soap from Dollar Tree. Ha!
Tomorrow I’ll be posting some of our design inspiration for the new kitchen!
Our family was invited to share a New Year’s Eve dinner with Marco’s best friend and his parents, and I was put in charge of desserts – my favorite course!
Seeing as how it was NYE, I knew a champagne cupcake was in order, and winter is a wonderful time for pomegranate. But, in case there were guests who did not enjoy cake as much as I do, I thought a fruit and cheese coupling would do nicely. I had found a recipe that contained brie and apples in a puff pastry, and thought I’d easily duplicate it with different pairings.
Champagne cupcakes (I actually used a Prosecco, as it is sweet, dry, and inexpensive) – based on the recipe from Homemade by Holman
2 3/4 C all purpose flour (I used 2 3/4 C + 2 tbsp whole wheat cake flour)
3 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2/3 C unsalted butter (room temperature)
1 3/4 C caster sugar or Baker’s Sugar
3/4 C champagne
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
6 egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and prepare your muffin/cupcake pan with paper liners. Combine the champagne and vanilla together in a small bowl. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a large bowl. In a mixing bowl, cream the butter and sugar on a medium speed until light and fluffy (approx 3 minutes). Add the flour in three separate batches, alternating with the champagne mixture (ex flour mix, champagne mix, flour, etc) until combined. Set bowl aside.
In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites on high speed until they hold stiff peaks. Fold in about 1/3 of the egg whites to lighten the batter then gently fold in the remaining egg whites. Spoon batter into cups until each is about 2/3 full. Bake approximately twenty minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool about five minutes in the pan, then transfer to a cooling rack until cool enough to frost.
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter
4 cups powdered sugar, sifted
1/4 cup pomegranate puree (I use Perfect Puree pomegranate concentrate)
cornstarch, as needed
Let butter sit for about 30 minutes at room temperature, then cut into cubes. Using an electric mixer, beat on high until the butter if fluffy. Add sugar, 1 cup a time, until combined. Add the puree concentrate 1 tbsp at a time, checking for your flavor preference – I wanted a lot of the tartness to come through. Because so much liquid is added to the buttercream, but I still wanted a thick frosting, I added two tablespoons of cornstarch to the frosting to help keep it thick. You can also add more sugar, if that is your preference. Cornstarch is good because it has virtually no flavor, and will not over-sweeten your frosting.
Frost your cupcakes as you wish! I used the Wilton 1M star tip and disposable bags, and made a basic cupcake swirl, then sprinkled edible decorating pearls for a little pizzazz :-)
Fruit and cheese puff pastry envelopes (makes 8) – similar recipe HERE
2 D’Anjou pears
Pear butter (Whole Foods carries many varieties)
small block of Point Reyes bleu cheese
8 whole dried black mission figs, cut in half
1/2 wheel of Rouge et Noir triple creme brie
2 sheets of frozen puff pastry (or, if you have more time, make your own!)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Unfold 1 sheet of puff pastry onto a lightly floured board and roll it slightly with a floured rolling pin until it’s a 10 by 10-inch square. Cut the sheet into quarters with a sharp knife. Using a pastry brush or spatula, spread a light layer of the pear butter onto each quarter of puff pastry.
Add 3 or 4 pear slices and some good sized crumbles of Point Reyes blue cheese.
Brush the border of each pastry with egg wash and fold the corners in to look like envelopes. Place the pastries on a prepared sheet pan.
Repeat process with the second sheet of puff pastry, only this time use the fig butter and sliced dry figs, and two or three small slices of brie.
Brush the tops of each with egg wash. Bake the pastries for about 24 minutes, rotating the pans once during baking, until puffed and brown. Serve warm.
Both desserts were a hit! The best part about the puff pastry envelopes is that they are easily adaptable to suit palettes. Any fruit and cheese combinations can be used – aged cheddar and apple would do nicely!
I decided I couldn’t wait for Spring to do a little Spring cleaning, and took the opportunity of a four day weekend to re-organize the closets and my bathroom. I tackled Tim’s closet first, because I knew there were interesting bits in there. For Tim, the most painful thing is to throw out a tee shirt that still holds up, even if he hasn’t worn the stupid thing in 6 years. Lots of haggling involved just to pare down his closet to what he actually will use.
Then, there’s this weird tic he has, when he thinks I should hold onto this gawd-awful pair of boots he made me buy (the last time I let him talk me into any purchase) back in 2005, right after we got married, and which I have worn: 1 time. We get into this debate every single year. I throw the boots into the donate pile. He fishes them out and hides them in his closet, in a box, under the bed, etc. I stumble upon them, put them back in a donate pile, and round and round it goes. He insists that he will take me to the snow and I will need these particular boots. However, we have been to the snow together: 0 times. How do I explain this… they are suede with faux fur lining. I hate them. I can’t even post a picture here, that’s how much I dislike these infernal boots.
On the plus side of our New Year’s weekend, my hair tools/accessories are neatly organized in drawers:
But, of course I still have a junk drawer for loose ends. SIGH.
Before you get to thinking I had the saddest New Year’s ever, I will be sharing recipes this week for two delicious desserts I brought to the NYE dinner party we attended!
I know it’s been awhile, and a post of iPhone pictures taken in the past few months is not a really REAL post…but it’s what I have the energy for today.
We miss our girl
Hanging out with baby Leo
Our olives have turned!
World Series shenanigans!
Dickson family celebrating on election night!
The past month, my kitchen has seen a lot of action. Get your mind out of the gutter…I actually mean food. Dirty girl. Luckily, I always have the iPhone nearby for snaps…
Peach cupcake with brown sugar cream cheese frosting. Practiced more flowers, stars and swirls! I made these for a work luncheon.
Same combination as above, and also some dark chocolate spice cake with cinnamon buttercream – all to celebrate my husband’s 30th birthday!
Maple Spice muffins – modified from Jessica Seinfeld’s recipe in Double Delicious! I used currants instead of raisins, whole-wheat all-purpose flour, and 1 tsp pumpkin pie spice instead of 1 tsp allspice and 1/2 tsp clove (which I didn’t have on hand)
Banana Bread, adapted from recipe I found on Pinterest (original links HERE). I used raw honey (my favorite) instead of pasteurized honey. Also subbed in 1 C almond meal and 1 C whole-wheat flour (recipe called for 2 C whole-wheat flour).
Blueberry scones with Lemon Glaze – Tyler Florence’s recipe, with my healthy mods (whole-wheat pastry flour and almond meal) and blueberries from our garden. These were for a sweet co-worker (a few leftovers made it into Marco’s belly – he loves mommy’s pastries). Side note: can I live on lemon glaze? Yep.
Momofuku Milk Bar Compost Cookies – good flavor, but the texture is more chewy-crunchy than chewy-gooey, which is what I generally prefer.
Lemon Cake with Black Tea frosting – found on Pinterest (original link HERE). My second layer of tea frosting (I was stingy at first, fearing I didn’t have enough for the outer layer) did a disappearing act into the lemon glaze, but other than that just as I’d hoped it would be. I used Zhena’s Gypsy Tea in Gypsy Rose flavor (a favorite in our house, both for its scent and its flavor), and it was PERFECT for this frosting, which is almost marshmallow-y in texture. I ended up making this twice in the same weekend: Saturday for a girl’s night and Sunday for a family visit.
Our new baby kitty, Sgt Pepper!
It’s like when Anne Shirley and Diana Barry met for the first time. BOSOM FRIENDS. Which totally makes Stabler the Gilbert Blythe. “Carrots” and “Crow-head”, am I right?!
Yes, she sleeps like that. How do you even respond to this cuteness?
Another baby, another batch of cupcakes for the office baby luncheon!
This time, the food was mostly Italian (gnocci, pizza, lots o’ garlic), and I wanted something to go with the theme. I came up with a Cannoli cupcake! I figured if I went a little Sicilian with my offering, no one would really notice (LOL)
I did not have the time, energy, or equipment to make proper cannoli shells, so instead I substituted the shells for a cupcake base. I found THIS great cannoli cupcake recipe after a quick google search, and with just a few teensy tweaks, I produced what my husband has deemed “the best cupcakes I’ve ever eaten”.
Pardon, all of these are taken with my iPhone
First, I started with my ricotta. I didn’t make my own this time, but I’m thinking I will for the next batch!
To strain, you need to wrap the cheese up in cheesecloth, set in the strainer over a bowl, and cover with a towel. Place heavy cans on top of the cheese to help it drain better. This was placed in the fridge for three hours.
While the ricotta strained in the fridge, I whipped up yellow cake cupcakes (yes I cheated with a box mix yellow cake!), and let them cool.
Then, I hollowed out a small section of each cupcake, so I could add the filling
Next, I made a chocolate ganache
Then dipped my cupcakes and swirled in the batter
I let these sit tight while I kneaded the ricotta to make sure it was ready to mix.
Orange zest – I added 2 1/2 Tbsp instead of 2 ( i like oranges )
I used 1 1/3 C powdered sugar, instead of the 1 2/3 C recommended, because I didn’t want it to be too sweet. Cinnamon and vanilla rounded it all out with a hint of warmth and spice
Then I piped the filling into the cupcakes, used the same filling as the topping, and dropped mini chocolate chips to give it the official Cannoli look
My coworkers seemed to enjoy them, and Tim is begging me to make them again – so, I definitely consider these a success!
I didn’t take a ton of photos on this trip – but here’s a few snaps for posterity.
A quick meal at the airport Gordon Biersch before our flight to Portland – He was so cute and cozy in his jammies! We arrived in Portland around 11 after an annoying delay at SFO, and when we got to Christopher’s house it was after midnight. We headed to bed to get some rest. Marco never sleeps in our room; from our first day home at the hospital he’s been in his own crib. Anyway, we were all sharing a guest room. Marco was in a pack’n'play, but he would wake up and see us as soon as dawn broke (the blinds weren’t so good at blocking early morning light). Ugh!
The first morning was spent having a delicious breakfast at Original Hotcake’s, which had excellent pancakes and french toast. Christopher and I fed quarters into the jukebox and picked a good mix of our favorites to serenade all of us while we ate.
Next up, a musical journey to Music Millenium! It was a beautiful day – sunny and not too chilly.
…aka the best record store I’ve ever been to!
Such a ham, he kept saying “Cheese!” so we’d take his picture!
The cool ceiling inside the record store
I bought a bunch of vinyls here, and was so impressed by how friendly and knowledgeable the staff was. No snobbery, just…I guess I’d call ‘em ‘music appreciators’, or something. Anyway, it was awesome.
Our next stop was Powell’s, or, as I like to call it, Mecca.
I grabbed a delicious cappuccino from the coffee shop inside the book store (I needed a MAP to get around this store! It was so flipping cool!), then walked around with a shopping basket, skipping, bouncing, and otherwise enjoying myself.
Marco was so excited…we spent 45 minutes in the children’s section, reading books (and replacing Marco’s discards, ha ha). Oh, and yes, he did wear his Curious George ‘Book Worm’ tee shirt! Most appropriate.
I was even a super Portland tourist and bought Colin Meloy’s book!
To close out our Portland day, we headed to Voodoo Donuts to enjoy a sugar rush.
OMG soo good!
Back at Christopher’s house, we enjoyed delicious homemade pesto and watched some old Steve Martin movies.
The next day, we got up early (thanks to Marco), and watched episodes of Thomas the Tank Engine. After a quick breakfast, we drove up to Multnomah Falls (in typical Oregon fashion, the weather was cold and rainy). Marco was impressed by the water.
I was impressed by the ginormous cookie purchased at the snack bar…
Well, Marco was interested in that too, lol
We drove all around the falls, and listened to The Decemberists (Christopher became a fan! I did right by you, Portland).
A quick stop to see the view at Vista House
To finish our day, we stopped at Blockbuster and picked up ‘Young Adult’ and ’50/50′ (review of those to come later). Christopher and Debbie made a hodgepodge of snacks for dinner, including homemade hummus and homemade vegetarian refried beans.
Our final morning, we tried to sleep in, but failed. It was hard to say goodbye to everyone, but it was also nice to come home – and get sleep!
Keep Portland weird, people!