Friday, October 15, 2010

Chocolate Fudge Frosting

This is the first time I have ever made Chocolate Frosting, but I would recommend this recipe to anyone. It is some of the best frosting I have ever had: Chocolaty, fudgy, spreadable, and has a nice finish. I used this to frost a basic yellow cake that had a Boston Cream filling.

Chocolate Fudge Frosting
Adapted from MarthaStewart.com:
http://www.marthastewart.com/recipe/chocolate-buttercream-frosting?comments_page=1

Ingredients:

2 Cups Sugar
1 Cup egg whites (About 6 large eggs)
2 ½ sticks unsalted butter (room temp and cut into pieces)
16 oz Semi Sweet Chocolate chunks
1 tsp Vanilla extract

Instructions:
  1. Place chocolate chunks in a heat safe bowl and place over a pot of simmering water. Whisk white chocolate melts, until smooth. Set chocolate aside, and keep pot of water simmering on stove.
  2. Place sugar and egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set this over (but not touching) your pot of simmering water. Whisk constantly until sugar and egg mixture is heated and sugar is dissolved.
  3. Attach bowl to an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and continue whisking on med/high speed until cooled and stiff peaks form, about 7 minutes.
  4. With the mixer running, add butter, one piece at a time, until completely incorporated. Continue whisking until a light, fluffy cream has formed. Stir in chocolate  and vanilla until well combined.
  5. Frost! I used a small silicon spatula to frost an even layer over my cake which worked out perfect. You could definitely fill your piping bag and go to town. This is a really versatile frosting with great texture.
FYI:
This recipe provides A LOT of frosting - way more than I needed for my 9” round, two-layer cake. I would suggest this recipe for about 24 cupcakes. If you do use this for cake frosting and have leftovers, pour into small aluminum loaf pans, place in the freezer, and you’ll have fudge for gift giving (…or for eating all by yourself. Whichever).  Wrap loaf pans with cellophane and tie with a tag and a bow, and you’ll have perfect holiday treats.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Salted Caramel Cupcakes


Salted Caramel Cupcakes
Makes 18 cupcakes
CUPCAKE
recipe adapted from The Farm Chicks


Ingredients:
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
1 ¾  cup flour
¾  cup cocoa powder
1 ½ tsp baking soda
1 ½  tsp baking powder
½  tsp fine sea salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
½  cup vegetable oil
2 tsp vanilla
½ cup melted semi-sweet chocolate
1 cup boiling water

Instructions:
1.    Preheat oven to 350°F, line muffin tins with cupcake liners.*
2.    Sift together dry ingredients into mixing bowl
3.    Chop about ½ cup of semi sweet chocolate chunks in a double boiler
4.    Add all wet ingredients to dry ingredients.
5.    With a paddle attachment, mix on medium/low speed until incorporated. Be careful not to over beat so that the finished cupcake consistency does not turn out bread-like.
6.    Ladle mixture into cupcake liners
7.    Bake for 20 minutes (or until toothpick inserted into a cupcake comes out clean)

*I ran out of cupcake liners and improvised by cutting 5”x5” squares of wax paper and pressing them into the cups in the muffin tin and smoothing out any creases. I actually preferred the way this looked – more professional.

SALTED CARAMEL (Used for filling and garnish) adapted from Cupcake Bake Shop by Chockylit

Ingredients:
1 cup white granulated sugar
4 tbs water
2 tbs light corn syrup
½ cup heavy cream
½ tsp fine sea salt
2 tbs unsalted butter
½ tsp lemon juice

Instructions:
1.    Put sugar, water, and corn syrup in a large saucepan stir until sugar is incorporated.
2.    Cover and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
3.    Uncover and raise temperature to medium/high and bring mixture to a boil. Make sure from this point on to constantly shake pan to circulate sugar mixture so it will not burn. It can turn to a burnt mess in NO TIME.
4.    Cook until sugar turns a nice amber color (on the lighter side of amber) then remove from heat.
5.    Add heavy cream and stir. Sugar and cream mixture WILL bubble up, so watch your fingers.
6.    Finish by adding salt, butter, and lemon juice. Stir until smooth and transfer to a heat safe bowl.

SALTED CARAMEL FROSTING  (I make frosting by adding “a little o’ this, a little o’ that” until I’m satisfied. This is my best guess as to measurements of the ingredients.)
Ingredients:
1 stick unsalted butter
1 stick salted butter
1/3 tbs fine sea salt
4 cups powdered (confectioners) sugar
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbs water
1 tsp vanilla
1/3 Salted Caramel mixture

Instructions:
1.    Cream butter and salt together using a paddle attachment
2.    Alternate powdered sugar and heavy cream additions until all is incorporate
3.    Add caramel, vanilla, and water and beat until incorporated
4.    At this point I decided I wanted a fluffier frosting so I switched my paddle attachment to a whisk attachment and beat on high for about 8 minutes. Taste along the way to make sure it is the consistency you like.

ASSEMBLY
1.    Cut out a small hole in the center of each cupcake, reserving cut out cake piece.
2.    Fill with about 1/3 tsp caramel mixture and replace cake piece. Do this to each cupcake.
3.    To frost, fill piping bag with frosting. (I used an open star tip on my piping bag.)
4.    Frost in a circular motion beginning from the outside edge and ending in the center.
5.    Garnish by drizzling remaining caramel sauce and sprinkling coarse sea salt over top of each cupcake.
6.    Serve!

Friday, July 23, 2010

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backyard at the Candleberry Inn in Brewster MA - Cape Cod

Friday, July 9, 2010

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Thursday, June 17, 2010

She Continues to Impress

I am dumbfounded by the quality of the photos my little cousin takes, and she's not even old enough to drive.





Saturday, May 29, 2010

Banjo

This is our new puppy, Banjo! He is an 11 week old Australian Shepherd/Bue Heeler mix. Birdy and I rescued him from a shelter down in Arkansas and had him transported up here. He is the best little guy! Full of energy and a big snuggler. He is a great addition to our Family!

*http://www.petfinder.com/ is a great resource to find rescue pets!

pink peony and wildflower bouquet i put together at Stray Cat Flower Farm's booth at the Burlington Farmers Market!

Sunday, May 16, 2010

An Eye for Beauty

This post is inspired by my younger cousin, Ali. She is so talented and so passionate - she is an inspiration. And she isn't even old enough to drive. I was taking a look at her personal photography and I was blown away. She has a real eye for beauty and can take a beautiful photo. What's even better is that she is self-taught. Here is a sample of her photography. If you like what you see, check out her flickr site.
Enjoy!


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Sunday, May 9, 2010

Botanical Bliss

Now that spring has finally come - despite the few random snow flurries around Burlington - Birdy and I spruced up our apartment with some colorful, cheery flowers:

Red Pincushion Protea Flower

 
 Pink and White Lilies
 
Purple and Orange Peruvian Lilies

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Healthy Snack: Peach Salsa

Hello fellow Foodies -
(I don't know if I've earned "foodie" status yet... We'll pretend)

Today, I finally sucked it up and went grocery shopping. I think I find every excuse in the world to avoid doing a big grocery shop.... Uhh.. the trees are too green today - Can't go to the grocery store... whoops!

So I piled on my shopping armor (aka re-usable bags, my list, a pocket full of coupons, and my own personal cart pusher - Birdy) and raided the isles of both Price Chopper and City Market. (Hey - you have to hit the sales at both places to really help your wallet!)

When all of a sudden I had a hankering for something sweet and savory and happened upon this little gem:

Newman's own Chunky Peach Salsa
$2.49
Plus, I have just recently been educated on this brand thanks to a friend of mine, Kelly Flynn. (Twitter: @Misskellyflynn) Newman's own uses all natural ingredients (not organic, however but that's okay.) and donates all... i repeat ALL proceeds to charity. Plus they do a a few other philanthropic campaigns, such as creating camps for children with illnesses and life threatening diseases. So not only are their products good, but more importantly they benefit the common good. For more info - Check out their website or give kelly a holla.
Also here is a link to their online coupons - you can save $.50 on their salsa!


Other (healthy*) bargains I found in the Isles today included:
  • Miguels white corn tortilla chips are on sale at City Market for $1.79
  • Cabot yogurt is on sale at Price Chopper for $.69 each
  • Cascadian Farms frozen vegetables at City Market for $1.99
  • Green Mountain Coffee Roasters whole bean coffee at Price Chopper for $5.99
Saving money just makes it all taste better.

Enjoy!

Spring Snow



Snow in April?

Picture of tulips @ Champlain College Campus
Picture taken with my mobile phone

Friday, April 16, 2010

Fun Finds for Friday


Love this "upcycled" Cork necklace from Etsy shop: Uncorked
$19.00
Love these yellow fingerless gloves from Etsy store: aandboriginals
"what's the point of gloves with no fingers?" you may ask... I don't know, texting? Who cares, they are a cute accessory.
$20.00

I thought these dress forms from PB Teen used to hang long necklaces, scarves or even used as a bulletin board would add an interesting element to a bedroom or home office. I'm sure if you hunted you could find one at an antique shop or flea market for cheaper. I used PB Teen to relay the concept.
$199.00

I have been seeing old card catalogs pop up in a number of different places for use around the home. Small ones to use in an entryway as a catchall or for mail storage to this fantastic idea from Apartment Therapy - Boston. They used this large one as a make shift wine cellar. L-O-V-E.
Now...where to store the boxed variety?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Nice Surprise

flowers birdy got me 'just because'. i have such a thoughtful... on Twitpic

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Fool-Proof Asian Stir Fry

I just made a delish meal for Birdy and myself which took practically no effort. This was super easy to make, really CHEAP, and healthy to boot. What could be better? So if you're pressed for time, not in the mood to cook something extravagant, even if you make less than magic in the kitchen – you can’t screw this one up.

This was my own recipe that made plenty for dinner tonight, plus lunch tomorrow. (If we hadn’t been fat-asses and ate it all tonight. Whoops.)



Ingredients:

1 cup Uncle Ben’s Whole Grain Instant Brown Rice
1 10 oz bag Frozen vegetables (I used Cascadian Farms organic Thai stir fry blend)
1 tbs butter divided in two
3 large eggs
Soy Sauce (I used San-J organic wheat free tamari sauce)
Adobo seasoning (optional)
Black pepper to taste
Vegetable oil

Instructions
  1. In a large wok (or frying pan) heat about a tablespoon of vegetable oil (enough to cover the bottom of pan) over medium heat. Once heated place frozen vegetables in pan and cover.
  2. In a medium sauce pan cook Uncle Ben’s Rice according to directions on box. (I added ½ tbs. butter and about 1 tsp. Adobo seasoning to the water.
  3.  Season vegetables with pepper and soy sauce to taste. Once they seem cooked through create a circle in the center and crack your three eggs into the center. Scramble so yolks are just barely broken and replace cover on wok. Cover for about 5 minutes to let eggs harden slightly.
  4. Scramble eggs and incorporate with vegetables. Drain rice into metal sieve and add to vegetable and egg mixture along with ½ tbs butter and combine.
  5. Taste and add any additional soy sauce or seasoning. Serve hot.

  
Other options:

  • To make this meal a little more impressive top with a skewer of Teriyaki beef kabobs.
  • Substitute the soy sauce for some lemon grass, a little coconut milk and some chili powder.
  • Or if brown rice isn't your thing try quinoa, or rice noodles, or cous cous for your starch.
Enjoy! Now go out and be creative - more importantly, go make something fabulous!

Friday, March 26, 2010

I and Love and You - Avett Brothers

New favorite song Birdy introduced to me... it was also the song in my dream last night. Really listen to it. It's beautiful.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Don't You Just Love A Bargain!?

It's no secret, the Christmas Tree Shop and I have a very serious long term relationship. Sorry, Birdy. Some of you may think it's just a store full of junk (and shame on you!) but if you take your time and really look around you can find some great bargains. I know some of you must feel the way I do - ahem - Rachel Lefave! (She aspires to one day be one of those women on their commercials "And look! it's only 3.99!")
Anyways, also in an effort to become a pinch more environmentally friendly, I bought these large mason jars to store all my baking ingredients and my coffee beans. With such easy access to bulk ingredients (such as flour, white and brown sugars etc.) just down the street at City Market, now I can run down with my jar, and fill up. No more coughing through clouds of flour when you tear a bag open!

The large Jars were each $3.99 and the medium size were $2.99 so I bought two of each. I also have an assortment of small mason jars to store spices and the like, which are also relatively cheap. Jars like these can be used all around your house to eliminate clutter, create uniformity, and I just think they look really cool. Another fabulous find - Thank you Christmas Tree!

Sour Cream Double Chocolate Cookies

I came accross this awesome website: http://www.supercook.com/. Basically you go through and check off all the ingredients you have in your house, or click on some of the recommended ingredients and it comes up with a list of all the recipes that you have the ingredients for! I found this to be amazing since usually I find myself sifting through cabinets trying to come up with a recipe. Now I can have a website do it for me!
That is how I came up with the idea to try these Sour Cream Double Chocolate Cookies! They came out amazing and I treated my friends with a little something sweet during Lost last night. (Which, by the way, best episode this season so far!!!) This recipe actually came from http://www.recipezaar.com/, and I didn't change the recipe from the original since I have never baked with sour cream before. But try these out, they're a nice change from the typical chocolate chip cookies.


(I tried to take a picture where they didn't look like a bunch of poops on a pan, but - idk, that's just what they look like...)

Ingredients:
1/2 cup butter 
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1/2 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup baking cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1/2 cup white chocolate chips 

 
Instructions:
  1. In a electric mixer, cream butter with sugars. Beat in egg, sour cream and vanilla.
  2. whisk together dry ingredients in separate bowl and add to the creamed mixture in three additions.
  3. By hand with a spatula, fold in chocolate and white chocolate chips
  4. Drop by rounded tablespoons 2 inches apart onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes, or until set.

 Enjoy!

 

Monday, March 22, 2010

Banana Streusel Muffins

I had a few bananas laying around and were way over ripe and perfect for baking. So instead of (...doing homework, laundry, or cleaning) letting them rot in my fruit bowl, I decided to try out this recipe I found on Allrecipes.com for banana streusel muffins! I did change it a little but, but the original recipe can be found here.



Ingredients:
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
3 ripe bananas, mashed
3/4 cup sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
1/3 cup oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp cinnamon

Streusel topping:
1/3 cup packed light brown
2 tbs flour
1/8 tsp cinnamon
1 tbs butter

Instructions:
  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Lightly grease 10 muffin cups, or line with muffin papers.
  • In a large bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In another bowl, beat together bananas, sugar, egg, oil, and vanilla. Stir the banana mixture into the flour mixture just until moistened. Spoon batter into prepared muffin cups.
  • In a small bowl, mix together brown sugar, 2 tablespoons flour and cinnamon. Cut in 1 tablespoon butter until mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle topping over muffins.
  • Bake in preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean.
I took them out at 18 minutes and they were perfect. Some of the streusel rolled onto the baking pan as the muffins rose, so right when they came out of the oven while the sugar was still soft, I trimmed the edges with a knife.

I packaged them in tall treat boxes and embossed flowers on the outside (with my new Martha Stewart Heat Embossing Kit) and labeled them with rubber stamp lettering. I punched a hole in the top right corner and tied charm tags on to the box with my recipients names. (For the tags I used a 1" paper punch, then a regular hole punch) Three muffins fit in a box. You can find all the tools at Michael's or any other craft supply stores.

Enjoy!!

Friday, March 19, 2010

Date Nut Spice Bread

Last weekend I went to Long Island to visit with Birdy's Brothers and celebrate his Grammie's 94th birthday! For a birthday present I thought I would give her something she could use and enjoy so I  put together a little gift basket. I made a date nut spice bread which I got from the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network. Ina always makes delicious treats so I wanted to give this one a try. The original recipe is here. This recipe I actually didn't change because baking is such a science and I haven't yet mastered the science behind it all.



Ingredients:
2 cups coarsely chopped dates (10 ounces pitted)
1/3 cup orange liqueur (recommended: Cointreau or Triple Sec)
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
1 extra-large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon grated orange zest (2 oranges)
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (3 oranges)
3/4 cup coarsely chopped pecans (3 ounces)

Directions:
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter the bottom of an 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 by 2 1/2-inch loaf pan. Line the bottom with parchment paper, then butter and flour the pan.
  • Combine the dates and orange liqueur in a small bowl and set aside for 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.
  • In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and brown sugar together on medium speed for 1 minute. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, and salt. With the mixer still on low, add the flour mixture alternately with the orange juice to the creamed mixture, beating only until combined. By hand, stir in the dates with their liquid, and the pecans.
  • Pour the batter into the prepared loaf pan and smooth the top. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then turn out onto a wire rack and cool completely.
I paired this bread with a jar of the blood orange marmalade I made since I thought it would bring out the flavor of the orange zest in the bread. It smelled amazing and look fantastic. I wrapped the bread tightly in plastic wrap and nestled that and the marmalade on top of silver tissue paper in a wooden basket I bought on sale for $2 at Creative Habitat in South Burlington. I wrapped the basket in clear celophane and tied it with a bow made out of wide satin ribbon in a Cranberry color. It turned out to be a nice presentation and I think Grammie enjoyed it. Mission Accomplished.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Old Bachelor's Jam with Cherry Kirsch

This is the second of the canning recipes I made last week. I got this recipe from the March 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living. This jam is very pretty once it's in the mason jar because it has a layered effect to it. (And it tastes pretty fantastic, if I do say so myself.) I have also been told I use alot of booze in my cooking, which I guess is true... I used it in two more recipes that will be upcomming posts - so be looking.

Ingredients:
2lbs organic raspberries (i used local frozen)
2lbs organic blackberries (also local frozen)
3 1/2 cups sugar divided
Juice of 2 lemons divided
2 ounces Cherry Kirsch Liquor



Instructions:
  • Bring blackberries, 1 3/4 cup sugar and juice of 1 lemon to simmer in large pot over medium heat. Cook until sugar dissolves and berries are soft about 5 minutes. cover with parchment or aluminum foil directly on surface of jam, refrigerate overnight. Repeat with raspberries and remaining 1 3/4 cups sugar and juiced lemon in another pot.
  • Remove parchment; bring each pot to boil. Cook on med-high heat until berries are slightly broken down and jam is the consistency of loose jelly. The original recipe says about 12 minutes for blackberries and 17 for raspberries but I did about 20 minutes for both so the berries would cook down a bit and not get soupy.
  • plate test jam to be sure its set. (Plate test instructions on previous post)
  • Divide blackberry jam between 4 1/2-pt size sterilized mason jars, filling each halfway; top each with 1/2 oz kirsch, divide raspberries between jars; top each with 1/2 oz kirsch, leaving 1/4-in headspace at tops. Can in water bath for 10 minutes. (I had extra raspberry jam so I filled a jar with just that and topped it with a little of the cherry liquor.)

Water Bath Instructions:
 Fill mason jars with whatever concoction you come up with. Place a wire rack on the bottom of a large pot of hot water and submerge jars, standing them upright.Bring water to a boil, and boil jars for about 10 minutes. This creates a vacuum seal. Let cool and refridgerate over night before serving.
*I didn't do this however and my mason jars created their own vacuum seals when I cooled them down. So I don't know... But this is the proper technique for canning. It honestly probably increases the shelf life if you were going to keep them in a pantry for months at a time.

For decorating the jars I did the same as with the marmalade jars. I made tags with pretty cardstock and tied it onto the jars with ribbon or jute rope. On the tags I wrote the type of jam and the date it was made and packaged and handed them out to family and friends for a fun gift.

This jam can be used as a fruit spread on bagels, toast etc. or a filling for tarts and deserts, or any other place you would use a regular jam. Enjoy!

Make Something Fabulous!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Blood Orange and White Grapefruit Marmalade

I was reading the March 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living (which my Brother and his Fiancee, Kendra just bought a year subscription for me for my birthday!! Thanks Guys!) and they had a few ideas on canning and preserving so I tried two recipes (the second one will be in an upcomming blog post!). The first of which was a blood orange and white grapefruit marmalade. The origional recipe called for blood oranges and pummelos, but those are out of season - and it wouldn't be me if I didn't tweak the recipe to suit my own tastes, right?




Ingredients:
Organic Blood Oranges (I used 3 large and 4 small because they were on sale at City Market)
Organic White Grapefruit (I used 1 1/2 large ones)
1 Meyer lemon
Sugar (amt to be determined later in recipe)
6 cups water
Organic Clover Honey (optional)

Instructions:
  • remove zest from oranges and grapefruit. I did this by quartering the fruit peeling meat away from peel and using a paring knife to eliminate the white pith (which tastes bitter).
  • Cut fruit meat into chunks and place in large stock pot. Next slice zest into 1/3" chunks. (no need to be precise, I kind of cut mine into small ribbons) Place into stock pot.
  • Deseed, quarter, and thinly slice lemon (with or witout pith, I left mine on for a touch of bitterness to balance out the sweet) put into pot. Add Water.
  • Bring fruit, peels, and water to a boil stock pot Cook for 5 minutes. Turn off heat, cover, and let cool. Refrigerate for 8 hours (or up to 1 day).
  • Throw a small plate in the freezer, you'll use this to test the consistency of the marmalade later on.
  • Uncover citrus mixture, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook until thickest peel is tender. (The original recipe says 20 minutes, mine took a little longer - just use your own judgement)
  • Measure mixture taking notes of how many cups you have, and return to pot. For each cup of mixture, add 3/4 cup sugar. I had 7 cups of mixture and added 6 x 3/4cups of sugar and 1x 3/4cup of organic clover honey which gave my marmalade an awesome flowery aroma and taste, I would recommend.
  • Bring mixture to a boil, stirring often. Cook until mixture registers 220 degrees to 222 degrees on a candy thermometer, mine took about 40 minutes. Make sure the mixture does not get too hot or else the sugar will scorch and then all that work would have been for nothing.
  • Test marmalade on frozen plate, see details below. Transfer marmalade to airtight containers, I used mason jars, and let cool at room temperature. Refrigerate overnight before serving. (Marmalade will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 1 month.)
Plate Test
To test for doneness of marmalade: Drop a spoonful on frozen plate. If marmalade has a slight film when pushed with a finger, it's done. If it spreads out and thins immediately, continue cooking, and test again after a few minutes.



And there you go! I made tags with some printed cardstock and rubber stamps. The handwrote the name of the marmalade and the date it was packaged, then tied it to the jar with jute rope. I gave them out as fun, unique presents for friends and family- plus, I kept a little for myself   :) 

Tips:
Marmalade is great if used as a spread on toast or date nut bread (which I gave a stab at making and will follow up with a blog post!), as a marinade for chicken, or used as filling between two sugar cookies or gingersnaps.

Make something fabulous!

Monday, March 1, 2010

Rub-a-Dub-Dub, I Made My Own Scrub

Tonight my friend Chantel and I attended at class at Purple Shutter Herbs in Winooski to learn how to make my own body scrub. Laura, the owner, taught the class. There are a few essential ingredients for the base of a body scrub: Sea Salt, which which draws out impurities and rejuvinates the skin or sugar scrubs which are known for restoring elasticity and firmness in the skin. Most scrubs use either-or, but you can also combine both salt and sugar to combine the benefits. The second main ingredient is oil. There are many different kinds of oil which would work for your body scrub depending on the needs of your skin. In the class we went over six different types of oil. Thicker oils are better for dry skin that tends to absorb moisture easily and thinner oils are best for those with oily skin which absorb quickly  and don't leave much residue. In order:
Dry Skin -
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Almond Oil
JoJoba Oil
Apricot Kernal Oil
Grape Seed Oil
Sunflower Oil
-Oily Skin
There are also a number of other additives you can add to your scrub depending on the benefits you'd like. Essential oils are great for adding scent. Only use natural esential oils, not fragrance oils. Laura suggested citrus scents which are revitalizing to the senses.  Also you could add things like brown sugar, cocoa powder, green tea, coffee, and/or vitamin E.

Here is the recipe for my own personal concoction:
 Mocha Body Scrub
1/4 cup fine sea salt
1/4 cup organic brown sugar
1/8 cup organic french roast coffee
1/4 tsp green tea
1 tsp cocoa powder
10 tsp Almond oil
15 - 20 drops Vanilla Essential Oil

Mix all ingredients together and store in an airtight wide mouth jar. Mine fit into a 4oz glass jar.

Here are some other recipes she suggested:
Salt Glow 
2 cups fine sea salt
4 cups oil (grapesees, apricot, or almond)
20-30 drops essential oils

Basic Sugar Scrub
1 cup refined white or brown sugar
1/4 cup oil of choice
1/2 tsp vitamin E
15-20 drops essential oil

Brown Sugar and Vanilla Sugar Scrub (Chantel made this one - it smells like cookie dough!)
1 cup organic Brown Sugar
1/2 cup organic granulated sugar
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp sunflower oil
1/2 tsp vanilla essential oil


I tried my scrub and it makes my dry winter skin baby smooth. They are a very nice addition to your shower routine and leave a nice scent on your skin. Try some out yourselves and let me know how they come out!

Purple Shutter Herbs
7 West Canal Street
Winooski, VT. 05404
802.865.HERB

When Life Hands You Bottles - You Drink the Beer Inside and Make Bottle Cap Magnets

So, all of my classes got cancelled last Wednesday and I started feeling crafty. I sat down with my Martha Stewart's Encyclopedia of Crafts: An A-to-Z Guide with Detailed Instructions and Endless Inspiration book that Birdy so generously bought for me, and chose a few fun projects. I decided to make bottlecap magnets and put them inside hand made boxes I folded out of scrapbook paper and also teacup candles (those will be my next entry!). I had great success with all the projects and they are all pretty easy to do. Check it out:

Bottle Cap Magnets


Supplies:

Printer and Paper or photos (I have a ton of vintage photo's from the 1930's that I'm using for my next batch!)
1" circular paper punch
Craft glue
bottlecaps
clear casting resin
bonding cement
magnet buttons

How to:

  • I made a 1" circle template on my computer (I used Microsoft Publisher) and then uploaded my friends photos, my own photo's that I have taken, and other maps, letters and pictures I found online and sized them down to fit in the circle and printed them out.

  • Next I took the 1" craft punch and punch out all the images I wanted to use and used the craft glue to fix them inside the bottle caps.

  • Then I lined a cookie sheet with tinfoil to use as a workspace

  • Once the glue dries I mixed the casting resin according to the instructions on the box and spooned it into each bottlecap, filling to the rim. Tip: if you find any bubbles forming on the surface, run a blowdryer, on low heat, over top and the bubbles should disappear.

  • I left those to harden up for a few hours and then took the bonding cement and glued the magnets to the backs of the bottle caps and then let them sit overnight to harden completely. Tip: you can swap out magnets for flat head thumbtacks and use them on a cork board.
So now I had a bunch of magnets that i wanted to give out to my friends, so I needed something to put them in. Luckily Martha had an answer. I used pretty printed scrapbook paper to fold into little origami nesting boxes! The boxes I folded ended up being 4x4x1.5. This is super hard to describe without a diagram so I found the instructions online and you can find them here.


To asemble my little presents I folded newsprint and wrapped the magnets in that, and tied the boxes with fun, mismatched ribbon. I also made some for myself and they are dotted all over my fridge. If you want me to make you any, let me know!


Let me know what you think!
Teacup Candles are next - they came out awesome.
And tomorrow I'm taking a "make your own body scrub" class at Purple Shutter Herbs in Winooski. I'll let you know how that turns out!
And remember - you're fabulous.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Peppermint Stout

Just drank a 22 of Emperor Norton's Peppermint Stout by manchester brewing. Think Thin Mint girlscout cookies, or those colored chocolate covered after dinner mints. Either way, it's delish.

Here is a link to reviews of this beer on Beer Advocate 
Check it out!

Home Made Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Cole Slaw

Birdy made dinner tonight and it came out fantastic. Definitely worth posting. Try this out at home if you have a crock pot. It's super easy and so delicious you may have to undo your pants button when you're done.

Ingredients
1 bottle (16oz) your favorite BBQ sauce (he used Sticky Fingers Tennessee Whiskey BBQ)
1/2 Cup water
4.5 lb pork rib (remember to buy local if you can!)

Thats it! Through it all in the crock pot on high for 4.5 hours. When the pork is done, pour into a strainer to remove from liquid and shred the meat which falls right off the bone.

We piled it high on a couple of focaccia rolls from Klinger's bakery and topped it with City Market's cole slaw and a BBQ dipping sauce birdy made.
For the dipping sauce, he used one bottle of Annie's Smokey Maple BBQ sauce and added a touch more real VT maple syrup in a sauce pan over medium heat until warm and combined. It was a good complement to the tangy BBQ sauce the meat was cooked in.

So easy, so simple, and so good we almost subbed in our forks for shovels.... Just kidding...maybe.

Enjoy!

Field Trip: Beverage Warehouse

Birdy and I took a nice long field trip to the beverage warehouse in Winooski yesterday. We were just browsing the isles and taking a few mental notes. We ended up picking up a 4 pack of  Big A Ipa from Smuttynose. Check out a review of this beer a little later on Birdy's blog Hops and Hopes.

your fabulous.
<3

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Local Bar Review: Das Bierhaus, Burlington, VT

Das Bierhaus is Burlington's only German style restaurant/bar. Check out their website here.Birdy and I went to one of their soft openings a few months back, just to check the place out; we liked it and thus decided to go back and bring a few of our friends along! It is set back down an alleyway just before Big Daddy's through a large gate, which only seems slightly sketchy.


This German "Ski Chalet" offers quite the assortment of authentic German beer. This night we went I had had a very long day at work and my legs were feeling like wet noodles, so i needed a beer that was super drinkable (not that I was chugging it or anything..... okay - you caught me). After perusing their mid-sized selection, I chose the Weihenstephan (pronounced vaugh-shte-fawn - yeah I know, I wouldn't have known either if I didn't ask) Original, a Munich Helles Lager, which will run you anywhere from $4-$6 depending on the size you choose. It was everything you might imagine a beer to be. Crisp taste, golden color, plus it came in a huge mug. The menu described it as the quintessential lager brewed in century old tradition plus, it's from the oldest brewery in the world - just a little tidbit for your "useless knowledge i might need for Trivia night" file). Fill up my das boot, yahh.

Picture taken from my mobile phone

The bar itself isn't huge, the second floor is lined with booths in the front, the bar is in the center, and the far side has a large flat screen TV and a huge (comfortable) sectional couch. The only complaint I have is that standing room is awkward. I have yet to go on their rooftop biergarten or eaten the food at their lower level restaurant which I hear is delish and stocked with all kinds of German delicacy - Birdy said the pretzels and hot mustard are awesome.
Their waitstaff is great, I might add. We has a cocktail waitress decked out in her drndle who was FAB! Her name is Julie and she is super nice, remembers your orders, and is quickly back with arms full of beer. My kinda girl!
I did like that it is a place where you can hear people talk, and you can take someone to actually "go get a drink and relax", as compared to "let's go get a drink and end up singing kareoke with that homeless guy at JP's."
So, in conclusion, in my neverending search for a great place to unwind and have a really good beer after work on (my) scale from 1-10 (one being RJ's, 10 being Flatbread) I would lock it in around an 7 or an 8. Their ranking may go up after I indulge in some schnitzel...i mean....
Picture taken from my mobile phone

The last little piece of info I have that would make me recommend this bar is the fact that they have Dyson Airblades for hand dryers in the bathroom. Those things are fantastic. They dry your hands in legit like three seconds. I washed my hands three times just to use it. If you're not into beer and don't think Das Bierhaus would be your scene, at LEAST go once and check this crazy thing out.

Hours:
Weds - Sat 5:00pm

Check out their social media:

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Feed the Hungry

 have such an affection for animals of all kinds. Two summers ago I was staying at my parents house back in Massachusetts and started throwing peanuts to chipmunks out on my back deck. Two weeks and a lot of patience later they now come up in my hand and come by name! I also trained a squirrel, Pansie. Now they come back year after year and bring their babies too! Pansie got ballsy and she now bangs on the sliding glass door until someone brings her peanuts. i know.

I need a dog or somthing.


My video won't embed, so check out my video on Twitvid of Marty the Chipmunk! (Video taken from my mobile phone)


Pansie the Squirrel




Thursday, February 18, 2010

One of my Biddies

WHISTLES!
Taken from my mobile phone

Please excuse that horrendous manicure.... or lack there of.

You Can Dance if You Want to, You Can Leave You're Friends Behind

Is participative management the way of the future? In Jim Whitney's class yesterday we brought up the concept of participative management. Ricardo Semler, Chairman of Semco, a Brazillian based company. Basically, he gives employees the ability to dictate their own lives. This concept is also carrying over into  schools. Check out the interview:




Does Freedom hinder our ability to choose?
Columbia Business School Professor Sheena Iyengar had dedicated her life to studying the science behind choice and a human's ability to make decisions. Here is an excerpt from her book taken from her website found here. Check out the website for more information about her, and other reviews of the book. I also read a pretty interesting article about her research in decision making in latest March 2010 Issue of Body+Soul magazine, pick one up and check it out!

 
A Mac store customer asks for the latest iPhone in black, but he sees everyone else buying black and suddenly changes his preference to white. When a resident of a former Communist country is offered a fizzy drink from a wide selection, he picks at random; soda is soda, he says. Though the child knows she shouldn't press the big red button (absolutely not!), she finds her hand inching forward. A young man and woman decide to marry-knowing that the first time they meet will be on their wedding day.
How did these people make their choices? How do any of us make ours? We use choice as a powerful tool to define ourselves and mold our lives, but what do we know about the wants, motivations, biases, and influences that aid or hinder our endeavors?
In The Art of Choosing, Columbia University professor Sheena Iyengar, a leading expert on choice, sets herself the Herculean task of helping us become more effective choosers. She asks fascinating questions: Is the desire for choice innate or created by culture? Why do we sometimes choose against our best interests? How much control do we really have over what we choose? Ultimately, she offers unexpected and profound answers drawn from her award-winning, discipline-spanning research.
Here, you'll learn about the complex relationship between choice and freedom, and why one doesn't always go with the other. You'll see that too much choice can overwhelm us, leading to unpleasant experiences, from ''TIVO guilt'' over unwatched TV programs to confusion about health insurance plans. Perhaps most important, you'll discover how our choices-both mundane and momentous-are shaped by many different forces, visible and invisible. This remarkable book illuminates the joys and challenges of choosing, showing us how we build our lives, one choice at a time.

THE ART OF CHOOSING is published by Twelve, an imprint of Hachette Book Group USA. Its release date is March 1, 2010.