Thursday, June 30, 2011

Wave that flag!

I swear that Matt has one reason and one reason alone for enjoying this upcoming holiday.  Hint: It's not merely the celebration of our country's independence.  All that boy thinks about is flag cake!  You know, one of these numbers:

[via Kraft]

Calendar be damned, he doesn't care what time of year it is.  His birthday?  He'll ask for flag cake.  A cold November weekend when I'm looking for baking inspiration?  "Flag cake, pleeeeease!"  So, there may be a flag cake at my parents' house this weekend.  But one of these other patriotic desserts may get some attention as well.  When there are so many cute options, how on earth will I be able to decide?  Here are some super easy and quick ways to make your party treats deliciously American!

Flag cupcakes!  Actually made these a few years ago at a friend's 4th celebration, and they were a huge hit!  Very quick and easy: box of your favorite cake mix, tub of vanilla icing (or homemade!), and some Pull 'n Peel Twizzlers.  In place of the blue dots, we used a single fresh blueberry.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Pizza... waffles?!

Just another reason why there absolutely must be a waffle maker in my future: pizza waffles!

[via here]

Bourbonnatrix (how much do you love that blog name?!  I bet she's a fun character!) adds chopped bacon and sun-dried tomato pesto to a savory waffle batter before cooking it in a waffle iron.  It's topped with sauce, cheese, and a little more bacon ('natch!).  What's that I hear -- a choir of angels singing?  Yes, that must be it. :)

What's the craziest or most unique topping you've ever had on a waffle?  Strawberry and blueberry blended ice cream at Oh Yeah! takes the cake waffle for me.  Man, it's been too long since I've been there.

One Year Ago: Crepes

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Scrambled eggs, avocado, and smoked salmon on toast

(That's breakfast food eaten at dinnertime, folks.  Brinner!)

How do you make an open-faced sandwich fit for royalty?  Start with stellar ingredients, of course.  Forget mystery meat and gravy over soggy bread. Sorry, 1950s lunch ladies of America.  Instead, picture this:

Cool smoked salmon atop an English muffin slathered with mashed avocado and fluffy scrambled eggs.  This dish reminded me of a brunch my friend Julie ordered at a local diner a few months ago.  To echo what she said about that, this meal combined so many of my favorite foods that I knew it was bound to be a success from the beginning.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Party for one!

And who says planning a wedding isn't fun?  Matt and I had a great weekend, complete with a 24 hour period of rocking the heck out of our wedding plans!  On the agenda:
  • 2 (cup)cake tastings and, yes, we found "the one!"
  • Choosing a location for the rehearsal dinner
  • Our first meeting with the minister
  • Beginning our registries (its current status is "work in progress")
  • Purchasing wedding shoes (a last minute sale and thus surprise buy!)
We had a great time, especially Matt with his scanner gun duties.  The sales associate who helped us was a riot and totally got our attention at the beginning when she...

Threw a plate made of bone china across the floor!  Yes, you read that correctly.  After Matt and I recovered from our collective heart attack, she explained to us that bone china is super sturdy.  Who knew it was THAT sturdy!?  We spent the next few hours identifying our kitchen and home needs and putting that scanner gun to work.

Tip to couples who will register in the future: check your registries when you get home from the store!  There were quite a few items on the list that we hadn't scanned and therefore removed immediately.  I have no idea how it happened, but I'm going to gently blame Matt for trying to scan my backside (100% true) and picking up random bar codes throughout the store. 

After planning a party for 150 people, planning dinner for one was a cinch!  I was ravenous and had no patience for the oven, so I whipped up a sampler platter for me, myself, and Irene I. 

There were turkey roll-ups, carrots, whole wheat crackers, red peppers, and celery with a big scoop of hummus for dipping.   It was just what I wanted -- no work or fuss, a grazing type of meal, and packed with nutrition but light on calories.  After 10 cupcakes in a 24 hour period, I had to cleanse my system juuuuuuuuust a bit :)

Friday, June 24, 2011

What do cupcakes and laser guns have in common?

Any idea what the answer is?  My Friday!  And, a very happy Friday to you!  Let's get around to the Friday five... I'm really enjoying this little ritual, and I hope you are, too.

 [wouldn't this make an adorable centerpiece for a shower, too?]

1. I've got the day off thanks to working last Saturday.  I'm beginning to realize that having a weekday off is so incredibly convenient, especially when it comes to planning a wedding.  So many vendors are busy on the weekends with other weddings, so weekdays are prime meeting times.  Win win!

2. Matt and I are headed to the mall to take a crack at our gift registries.  That's right, it's time for the famous laser scanner gun!  (Ten bucks that Matt will be manning this weapon of financial destruction...)  I have high hopes for this adventure, but after talking with friends who've gone before us, this is to be considered a work in progress.  As always, I've done a little research and jotted a few things down so we don't let some all-too-eager sales associate convince us that we need seven kinds of glasses or 18 place settings of fine china.  If you have any tips from your experiences, I welcome them graciously!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Brown butter banana strawberry bread

Dear friends, I have a pressing question for you.  Does this look like breakfast?

...or dessert?

It's been almost a week since I made this (and couldn't resist a first bite), and I still can't make up my mind!  There are strong arguments for both cases, so I'll let you decide as I continue to nibble on this delicious bread.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Summer reading

Feeling good and energetic today!  I'll chalk it up to my morning jog -- nothing like looking at the clock at 6:30 and knowing you've already squeezed in a half hour workout.  Helloooooooo, summer!  Barely two days into the season of vacations, and my reading list is already five books deep.  On it so far, we have:

1. I Like You: Hospitality Under the Influence, by Amy Sedaris - one of my best friends gave me this as an early birthday gift recently and I can't stop reading it/laughing out loud hysterically.  In fact, I laughed reading the book jacket, where this advice was given: "Put loose marbles in your medicine cabinet to alert you to any nosy guests."  I love this book because it's not a typical cover-to-cover read, but rather a pick-it-up-wherever-you-like kind of book that has made itself at home on my coffee table.  Since this was such a success, Sedaris came out with another book entitled, "Simple Times: Crafts for Poor People." 

2. The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak - the current pick for my office's book club.  It's gotten fantastic reviews, so I have high hopes for it.

3. Mansfield Park, by Jane Austen - though I'm not a passionate Jane Austen fan, I do enjoy the stories (and movie adaptations of them, hello Pride and Prejudice).  My mom and I watched a little of the movie version of this on Saturday, and I'm hooked.

4. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, by J. K. Rowling - this is a reread, hopefully to be finished before July 15th when the final movie arrives in theaters.  I usually try to avoid reading the book  too close to seeing the movie because I spend the better part of the film thinking, "But they left this part out!  And that detail, too.  How could they?  Pfffffff!"  However, this is the end of the whole Harry Potter series, so I'm throwing caution to the wind and breaking all the rules :)  Last night I logged a good 50 pages before I started dozing off.

What's on your summer reading list?  Are you a vacations-only reader or do you find time during lunch breaks or on regular weeknights at home? 

One Year Ago: Homemade breakfast sandwiches

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Oh, and...

Happy first day of summer!

Roasted red pepper, mushroom & chicken sandwich

Have you ever gone somewhere and eaten something and couldn't get it out of your head?  It happens to me quite a bit.  Well, more often these days.  You see, I was on a streak of something like 10 days having dined out for at least one meal.  Easily record-breaking, possibly impressive, and slightly gluttonous, I know.  

Lots of visitors and celebratory meals for one occasion or another has us touring the city's culinary offerings.  We hit up many of the usual places but one new place that made quite an impression on me: Coca Cafe in Lawrenceville.  Fresh salads, creative sandwiches, and fragrant soups.  Fun fact: A sampling of the Tuscan French onion soup inspired me to make some at home.  Anyway, the service is spunky and friendly and the food is just so fresh.  Not just the ingredients, but the concepts.

Exhibit A: Roasted red peppers and portobello mushrooms, caramelized onions, chicken, Jarlsberg cheese with ricotta on thick toasted sourdough bread.  I'll give you a minute to reread that and let everything sink in.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Lazy girl's chocolate chip cannoli

A very busy weekend full of working, travel, Father's Day, and a lovely bridal shower for a dear friend :)  And, I'm looking at another busy week ahead of me.  But, no matter how busy I get, there is ALWAYS time for dessert.  You got that?  Always, friends!

What if I told you that you could make a classic Italian dessert in about 30 seconds flat?  Meet my newest petite sweet creation: deconstructed cannoli!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pepperjack-stuffed turkey burgers

The burger adventures continue and just in time for Father's Day weekend!  Lately I've been dining out quite a bit, and I've noticed a pattern to what I'm ordering day in and night out -- burgers.  Not steaks, but thick, juicy burgers.  Burgers whose buns are slathered with fresh cilantro pesto and creamy avocado.  Burgers topped with caramelized onions and mushrooms eaten on couches.  Burgers with rubs called crazy things like "angel dust" (salt, pepper and garlic powder).  Ground sirloin burgers just a stone's throw away.

Burgers, burgers, burgers!  Makes me squeal with delight :)

(Here I sit eating breakfast and wondering why I didn't plan ahead to have a burger instead of cereal and a banana.  Mega sad face.)

Having enjoyed the chicken burger I made a few months ago so much, I decided to give another non-traditional burger a whirl -- pepperjack stuffed turkey burgers!  As if they didn't sound mouth-watering enough, looking at the source of the recipe (Food Network's The Neelys) totally sold me!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Classic French onion soup

Sometimes I take a few minutes to read my blog.  Not just skim posts for comments or check the statistics (thank you, by the way!!), but actually read the entries as if they were new to me.

You know, to make sure I'm at least more interesting than the most recent issue of Reader's Digest.  (I remember my grandma always having copies of that around her house as a kid an adult and wishing for something... anything... even some pictures, please!)  If I can't entertain myself, how can anyone else be expected to put up with my antics?

I certainly don't claim to be a master chef, nor do I like to follow food trends of any kind.  Instead, I prefer searching for classic recipes to add to my collection.  Something that I can return to time and time again, be it five months or five years from now and know without a doubt that it will still be relevant, easy to follow, and mind-numbingly delicious.  How does French onion soup meet those demands?  Beyond perfectly, if we're being honest!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

It's been too long...

...since I've shared something of miniature proportions with you!  My surprise day off yesterday was filled with fun things, namely a trip to the Strip District and the grocery store to pick up some cool treats.

First, a stop at Peace, Love and Little Donuts at 19th and Smallman Streets in the Strip District.  Donuts can be "groovy", "far out" or "funkadelic."  I went with the latter and got a Samoa mini donut -- caramel sauce, chocolate, and toasted coconut on top. 

Absolutely adorable and delicious!!  Win win!  Matt got raspberry lemonade and enjoyed his just as much.  A perfect little afternoon treat.
After picking up some super secret supplies for a friend's upcoming bridal shower (so lovely!), we stopped at the grocery store to get yet another treat that another friend told me about this weekend -- mini Twix ice cream bars!

Perfectly proportioned (about the size of a fun size Snickers bar, maybe a little bigger) and just enough to satisfy a taste for something sweet after dinner.  And, by some act of God, magic, or science, the caramel is still runny and smooth!  Amazing!

And, speaking of, that friend who recommended the mini Twix bars has a birthday today!  Happy birthday, Becca! :)  And happy Tuesday to the rest of you fine folks!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Let them eat (cup)cakes!

This weekend my family, Matt and I began what will surely be my most favorite part of planning our wedding -- tasting cakes!

In a perfect world, I'd make cupcakes from my own recipes for our wedding reception.  I am very particular about baked goods, and it would mean so much to me to share my passion for them with our closest friends and family!  Buuuuuuuuut, my mom and dad convinced me that I'll have a few other things on my mind, so it'd be best to leave that task to the professionals.

To make sure we were extra thorough, I may have created an evaluation sheet for the cupcakes.  Mainly because I thought it'd make the whole experience that much more fun (my family is so indulgent of my type A tendencies), but also because I want to have reminders of what I thought regarding each tasting.  It's not like this is some Food Network competition and we have 10 different flavors at our disposal.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Salt & pepper salmon

Happy Friday!  Rather than slaving over a hot stove or grill this weekend, you should totally take this shortcut for a delicious dinner.  I promise I'll come up with some ideas for that free time you'll have.  An easy recipe calls for a minimalist description. Crispy salt and pepper salmon.  Yum!!

The story goes something like this: I had a craving for salmon so I bought some.  There were grand plans in the works for said salmon.  Capers and lemons!  Asian grilled!  Atop puff pastry with pesto!  The possibilities (and my internet bookmarks) were endless.

And then reality the sweltering heat kicked in.  Blech!  My motivation was used up when I thought it'd be a good idea to run outside in the 96 degree air after work rather than hitting the gym.  Personal fail.  I didn't even make it to two miles and by the time I crawled home, I wanted nothing more than to collapse on the couch, sweaty self be damned.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Asparagus & mushroom tarts

News flash: as of today, Matt and I are getting married in exactly 6 months and one day!!!  Exciting, right?! It seems like just yesterday that he had the crazy notion of spending the rest of his life with me and proposed. I couldn't be happier!!

Though we've only officially been engaged six months or so, we've been dating for over four years.  In that time, we've learned so much about each other and still discover new things every day.  Thankfully, one thing I committed to memory right away was how to smooth things over and get what I want. :)

(You thought this was going somewhere sweet, didn't you?)

But really, relationships are all about knowing how to compromise.  It's about giving a little so each party can be happy.  It's also about knowing your darling's weak spots or, as I like to call them, victory buttons.  For example, Matt knows that if I'm being stubborn regarding something or he'd like to ask a big favor of me, all he has to mention is a little trip to Razzy Fresh or Oakmont Bakery (for the butter stars... mm!), and I'm putty in his hands.  P-u-t-t-y.  It's a bit shameful (though not surprising), really.

Likewise, if I need an opinion regarding fonts for our wedding invitations or a ride to the mall to return something, there is a short list of weapons that'll ensure the job gets done.  Matt has few victory buttons (at least that I've unearthed so far) and they're all edible.  (Aren't we just perfect for one another?!)  His number one is hot dogs.  He's like a shark -- put a hot dog within 500 yards of his smeller and he'll locate it within minutes.  Since hot dogs don't exactly turn heads when it comes to culinary masterpieces, I had to settle for his #3 and #4 victory buttons: asparagus and mushrooms.  (In case you're wondering, #2 is cherry pie, but last season's supply is gone and we're waiting on this year's.)

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Baked cinnamon French toast

(tap tap) Is this thing on?  

I know it's been a while since I've shared a new recipe with you, but I promise that (hopefully!) I'll redeem myself today.  Good things come to those who wait, after all.  Good things like baked cinnamon French toast casseroles.  Mmm hmmm.  (Please excuse the bacon in the background.  It wanted to be a part of the party, too.)

Is your mouth watering yet?  No?  I'll wait then.

How about now?  Perfect!  This is a recipe that I feel everyone should have on hand at all times.  The reasons are two-fold: 1) It puts to use stale bread that may have gone to waste otherwise, and 2) It's a damn good dish sure to please everyone!

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friday five!

You know how I roll -- it's time for a list!

1. FINALLY went to Burgatory last night.  Did it live up to the hype?  Yes 100%!!!  The setting is casual, with fantastic decorations, like a sign saying, "Honor thy mother and thy burger."  Yes, please :)  We waited 25 minutes or so, but used the time wisely to grab a drink at the bar and study the menu like it was our job.  With so many options, you'll do the same!

I created my own burger: beef with the angel dust rub (salt, pepper, garlic), applewood smoked bacon, roasted garlic mayo, smokehouse cheddar cheese, tomato and Romaine lettuce on a Brioche bun.  To die for!  The burger was cooked exactly how I wanted it and the homemade chips on the side totally hit the spot.  (Sweet and russet potato chips, to boot!)

Then I ordered the S'mores Milkshake which came out with a giant toasted marshmallow on top.  I don't know how they did it, but the mysterious mixture of ice cream, milk, graham cracker crumbs, and chocolate was the perfect consistency.  I'm not one for bold statements like this, so listen up closely -- this was the best milkshake I've ever had in my life!!  Hands down.  In summary, go there now!

2. To finish off a week of reviewing my most popular recipes as determined by you, here is a three ingredient no-bake cake that will knock your (and everyone else's) socks off --chocolate wafer icebox cake!  It's even more fun than it is easy to make, too.  A true example of less is more!  The chocolate wafers soften and absorb the sweet whipped cream and create this layered masterpiece.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Sometimes these posts just write themselves...

A funny thing happened this morning.

But, before that, something even funnier happened -- I went for my first morning run of the season!  Funny because I'm sure I looked like a zombie to anyone I passed.  At one point, I blinked, opened my eyes wide, looked around, and thought, "Wait... were my eyes closed?  I don't remember passing [previous streets]."  Regardless of how rusty I felt at the beginning, by the end I was flying and felt fresh, awake, and ready to conquer the day (and breakfast!).

Oh, and back to that aforementioned funny thing -- I may have forgotten one small detail.  In the middle of my run, I stopped at the grocery store.  To pick up...

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Go green!

In the spirit of this new month of June and its already-sweltering temperatures, it seems appropriate to feature the second most popular recipe on this site: a cool refreshing green monster smoothie!

Perfect for any time of the day, really, and an especially satisfying post-workout dinner when all you want is an ice cold milkshake but know you need a little more nutrition to fuel your body.  The sweet banana and smooth and slightly salty peanut butter are an out of this world combination with milk and oats... and don't worry, you won't be able to taste the spinach at all!  It's just there for some vitamins and that pretty green color :)

Speaking of milkshakes, what's your favorite flavor?  Are you a traditionalist with a classic vanilla or do you prefer something a little more on the wild side?   From Red Robin (who makes the best milkshakes, by the way!) I always get vanilla.  But, from a place like the Milkshake Factory, I love the Orange Creamsicle and Mint Chocolate Chip flavors.  Furthermore, I've been dying to check out the new burger hot spot, Burgatory, because I hear their milkshakes are epic!!  I'm going to see if I can convince my future in-laws who will be visiting this weekend to go there so I can try a Milk & Cereal or Campfire S'mores 'shake :)  Like I said, I love my milkshakes.