Birthdays Make Me Crafty

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while then you already know how I feel about birthdays. To sum up for the new kids: I like them a lot. (example, example, example)

I had a string of birthdays recently, and it brought out the craftier side of me that apparently had been napping for the past couple of months. I love a good craft project so I sort of ran with it. It started with my gal L’s birthday. I had planned a specific project for her birthday since it was a milestone year and I was going to visit her in San Fran (read about it here). My plan was to make a scrapbook of her birthday weekend. I prepped the book prior to leaving for the trip and the plan was that I would run to the store, print out the pics, glue’em in (I brought some supplies with me) and I would give it to the birthday girl just before we all left. It was a flawed plan. We were jamming in super fun activities until the moment we left for the airport. So I had to finish it when I got home and mail it instead.

A book to remember our magical weekend gallivanting all over San Fran together and celebrating birthdays.

A book to remember our magical weekend gallivanting all over San Fran together and celebrating birthdays.

Not too long after that came two back to back birthdays. First was one of my best buds C. Second came my co-worker R. I attempted to try something cool for C that I had seen on the internet, and Pinterest, a millions times. An ombre layer cake in a mason jar. All I can say about this endeavor is that it was horrible lol. EPIC PINTEREST FAIL.

UGH...started off decently with the ombre cupcakes. But look at this shizzzz. HORRIBLE.

UGH…started off decently with the ombre cupcakes. But look at this shizzzz. HORRIBLE.

Ugh. Just looking at the picture annoys me. I couldn’t possibly give this monstrosity to C. It ended up in a mushed pile on my counter that was later eaten by my roommate.

I ended up admitting defeat on the whole ombre thing and making a mason jar cake instead. I filled it with some nutella as an added perk. To make it extra special (and because I turned into an unstoppable craft machine for like 2 weeks) I printed out tiny pics of us from our years of friendship and made a little photo-tree topper for the cake.

Apparently we are incapable of making attractive faces.

Apparently we are incapable of making attractive faces.

As you know, I love a good theme. As it happens, my coworker R shares my love of Doctor Who…so it struck me with the idea of making her some Doctor Who cupcakes for her special day. Basically it gave me an excuse to craft and indulge my nerdiness.

The Doctor Who Gang

The Doctor Who Gang

I printed small pictures of each of major characters from the new reboot of the series, including a 3D Tardis so that I could use them as cupcake toppers.

I used my awesome little cupcake screw thingy and filled them with some Tardis blue buttercream icing (recipe from my Gram…thanks Gram).

I got this little tool from some weird Chinese overstock website I found 2 Christmases ago

I got this little tool from some weird Chinese overstock website I found 2 Christmases ago. Icing piped in with my super sophisticated ziplock bag.

Vanilla and Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting and blue buttercream filling

Vanilla and Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting and blue buttercream filling

All in all, the birthday crafting went over really well. Everyone seemed pretty pleased with their birthday surprises.

Also, if you’re interested in making the white cake the recipe is super simple:

-1.5 c flour
-1 c sugar
-2 eggs
-1/2 c milk
-1 3/4 tsp baking powder
-vanilla

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs. Add everything else. Bake for 20-30 mins at 350.

 

Sometimes you get weird stuff in the Christmas swap

In case you were unclear, this post is a throwback to Christmastime–or winter-holiday time for anyone celebrating something else….YUP I’m inclusive.

So I feel like I need to give a little background to this post. My dad’s girlfriend (oh hey T) introduced this amazing game into our Christmas celebrations a few years ago. The gist of it is that everyone stands in a circle and most people are holding a present (all if you want to make sure everyone ends up with a prize…..I’m still resentful of 2012 when me and Meg ended up empty handed. T reads a story about the Right family…and you pass presents around whenever the words “right” and “left” are announced. It gets INTENSE…especially in my family because we love a good holiday punch. Long story short I ended up with a boxed Italian christmas cake “Panettone” that was regifted into the game by my godfather.

This box o' mystery. Do people really buy this for themselves? It's not all that bad to be honest...

This box o’ mystery. Do people really buy this for themselves? It’s not all that bad to be honest…

You’ve all probably seen them before in the grocery store. Like me you’re probably wondering what the F you do with this box of strange. Turns out Giada from the Food Network has the answer! You make a bread pudding!

Simple to make. Easy ingredients.

Simple to make. Easy ingredients.

It’s actually super simple to make—and BONUS: it tastes amazing. I made it for the New Years Eve party I went to. A bit of truth for you, this is some full fat sh*t. You gotta just roll with it on this one…lower fat alternatives just don’t hold up as well.

Panettone Bread Pudding:
-1  box panettone bread, crusts trimmed, bread cut into 1-inch cubes
-8 large eggs
-1 1/2 cups whipping cream
-2 1/2 cups whole milk
-1 1/4 cups sugar
-vanilla

Butter/Pam a dish and arrange the bread cubes in it. In a large bowl whisk all the other ingredients together and then pour over the bread cubes, and press the bread cubes a bit to make sure they’re covered. Let stand for about 30 minutes, occasionally pressing the bread cubes into the custard mixture. Bake at 350 for 45 mins until the pudding puffs up and the center is set.

Bread pudding is always the right choice

Bread pudding is always the right choice

I topped it with some homemade whipped cream. It went over pretty well.

In other newsssss….I just got back from a trip to San Fran to visit L! A group of us went, and we had a total blast celebrating birthdays and L’s new San Fran life.

The fog gets crazy in San Fran. It literally covered the bridge the day we arrived

The fog gets crazy in San Fran. It literally covered the bridge the day we arrived

We seriously had so much fun. Here’s a quick recap of the shenanigans we got into:

-self guided wine tasting tour where we got daytime buzzed drinking wine all day and playing bocci ball
-amazing dinner with L’s bro and sis in law and their 4 beautiful and way too lovable babies
-brunches
-sight seeing of the Golden Gate Bridge, the Ghirardelli  factory, the Full House houses, and so much more
-night tour of Alcatraz
-soaking up the sunshine…I was beginning to forget what it felt like
-meeting up with CB!!!
-fun bars, new friends, cocktails and Cards Against Humanity

The Ladies outside of the Cliff House after brunch

The Ladies outside of the Cliff House after brunch

 

K&CB together again!! #viadelmoro4life

K&CB together again!! #viadelmoro4life

 

Gettin' our drank on with amazing cucumber type cocktails with Death Star ice balls.

Gettin’ our drank on with amazing cucumber type cocktails with Death Star ice balls.

Check out this sweeet 20 piece knife set that C and D got me for my bday :) woot woot

Check out this sweeet 20 piece knife set that C and D got me for my bday :) woot woot

I reject the notion that pie is a seasonal treat.

This is one of the recipes that I should have blogged in November but got distracted and didn’t. Have you noticed that we treat pie like a season treat? We make apple pies in the late summer and fall, leading up to that pie extravaganza that is Thanksgiving. But seriously, you can make and eat pie ALWAYS. So really, I’m just making a statement about how we should be eating pie more often. You’re welcome.

Actually, as I’m sitting here finally writing this I’m wondering if I should wait until National Pi day in March….but NO. I’ve procrastinated long enough. Plus now I’ll just have to make something new for then.

Moving on.

I’ve been making pies for a while now. My aunt and I used to make all the pies for Thanksgiving starting when I was in high school to take some of the burden of the meal off my Gram and great-grandmother. So when my office decided to have a Thanksgivukah party and I got a Friendsgiving invite I decided it was time to bust out my pie magic.

squash

When I was in Peace Corps I developed an awesome pumpkin pie-esque recipe–except rather than pumpkin it uses butternut squash. And I love it.

Immersion blenders are made for times like these.

Immersion blenders are made for times like these.

Butternut Squash Pie:

1.5 c butternut squash
1 c light brown sugar
3 large eggs
3/4 c half and half or cream
2 Tbs flour
1 Tbs melted butter
spices (cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt, vanilla)

IMG_3577

Peel and cut squash into cubes. Boil or steam until soft, add butter and mash. Beat in sugar. Add eggs, cream, spices, and flour. Pour into pie crusts. Bake at 350 for 40-55 mins.

IMG_3587

Most people can’t tell that its not pumpkin. Its easy and tastes good so its one of my faves.

In other news…I’ve gotten to do some cool stuff lately. First D, C, and I went to the aquarium a few weekends ago. I can’t really remember the last time I had been to the New England Aquarium…college I think. It was really fun. We even edged out the little 5 year olds to get spots at the tank where you can pet the rays–they feel so strange!

The face that haunts my dreams.

The face that haunts my dreams.

 

This past weekend I went to NH with C and 2 other ladies for the annual Pond Hockey Classic. There were over 20 rinks and loads of people. It was really cool to be a part of…and thankfully the weather was perfect. The coolest part was that there was a company running 5 minute-ish helicopter rides—so obviously I had to go on one. It was sooo cool. The whole lake was frozen and being in a helicopter wasn’t nearly as anxiety causing as I imagined it would be. Totally worth it.

View from the helicopter of the Pond Hockey rinks

View from the helicopter of the Pond Hockey rinks

Emerging from our ride like champions

Emerging from our ride like champions

 

In conclusion: f*ck cakes, make more pies.

 

 

 

Fact: I Love Awards Shows.

Fun fact about me: I love award shows. I pretty much love all of them (except the Grammys…that’s not my jam). And guess what was just on?!…The Golden Globes. Of all the award shows the Golden Globes are my fave…it combines everyone worth seeing. TV stars: check. Movie stars: check check. Random musicians: they got’em (I’m looking at you TSwift).

I love the red carpet,

Those ladies, those dresses…THAT FACE! I LOVE IT!

I love the celebrities,

This is definitely one of the greatest moments of any awards show ever

I love the audience reaction shots

Goop is NOT entertained you guys….

…I love all of it.

So obviously I needed to gather than gang to watch this biz last weekend. Plus, its Tina and Amy; how can you NOT watch when they’re hosting?

I decided to make some golden globes for the golden globes….do you see what I did there?…such a clever girl. I decided to whip up some home made cream puffs…also some chips and dip and sangria because…well every party needs a beverage.

Party Punch!

Party Punch! check out this super simple recipe!

But back to the cream puffs. So for Christmas my Gram got me an electric cookie press (poorly named because it does soooo much more than make cookies). Said cookie press makes things like cheese crackers, cream puff, cookies, it frosts cupcakes and fills cream puffs…that kind of thing.

This beast is so much more than a cookie press....

This beast is so much more than a cookie press….

I’ll be honest, it did not go smoothly. Making the puffs themselves is actually pretty simple…except I messed it all up almost immediately. I misread the recipe and like tripled the flour…which incidentally was exactly how much flour I had at the time, meaning I had to RUN to the store for more and restart the dough.

The press came with a little recipe booklet with some decent recipes in it…which is where I got the recipe for the puffs.

Combine 4 Tbs butter and 1/2 c. water in a pan.  Take off heat and add 1/2 c flour. Mix it up until it cools. Beat in 2 eggs one at a time until smooth (like a thick cake batter).

Combine 4 Tbs butter and 1/2 c. water in a pan. Take off heat and add 1/2 c flour. Mix it up until it cools. Beat in 2 eggs one at a time until smooth (like a thick cake batter). Use the press (or spoons) to make 2 inch-ish blobs on your parchment paper lined cookie sheet.  

I had a few issues. The recipe have the wrong baking temperature…so my puffs deflated a bit (womp womp). You need to preheat the oven to 500F, then turn the heat OFF and put the puffs into the hot over for 10 mins. Then turn the heat up to 375 for about another 20 mins.

The primary issue I had was with the press itself. The design of this thing is ridiculous. It’s VERY difficult to fill the press with only yourself…1. it leaks out the tip 2. you have to either put the press in between your legs or (as my gram suggested) use a cup to hold it while you fill it. To me, this is a MAJOR flaw because the time and frustration it took for me to get the first batch of puffs in the over was insane. Ain’t nobody got time fo’ this sh**.

See what a mess this is?! You can see how much leaks out the bottom.

See what a mess this is?! You can see how much leaks out the bottom.

I swear I called my gram no less than 3 times that fateful Sunday when I undertook these globes. I want to love this press but we’re going to have to get to know each other better before I attempt to make anything again.

To make the filling I simply used a box of vanilla instant pudding (made with 1/2 c less milk) mixed with some homemade whipped cream.

To make the filling I simply used a box of vanilla instant pudding (made with 1/2 c less milk) mixed with some homemade whipped cream.

Golden GlobesAll the stress and frustration paid off though, because they tasted like actual cream puffs. And we were able to have our very own golden globes while watching the Golden Globes :)

See ya next year ladies.

Out with the old, In with the new

2013 is over. I’m pretty thrilled about it. To be honest, 2013 kind of sucked.

This pretty accurately describes how I felt about the end of 2013…

There WERE some good times, don’t get me wrong, but in general the year just bummed me out. Last year I posted about how much I kicked 2012’s ass, but since 2013 kicked MY ass a bit, I decided to pro/con list it instead.

Pros:

  • I went to CA to see my good friend marry the man of her dreams and reunite with friends I haven’t seen in a while
  • I quit a job I HATED and started one I like much better
  • I took some trips with my lady pals: to Mexico and Colorado
  • I tried some new things: kayaking in the Charles, the Blacklight 5K, finally saw a Taylor Swift show, went fishin’, attended 2 yoga classes (I sucked and did not like it sadly), made some progress with my fear of dogs by befriending 2 of them, took a cake decorating class, went to Walden Pond

    Here's some photos of the new stuff

    Here’s some photos of the new stuff

  • I got a bit closer with my sister–but then she moved across the world to the Dhabs for 2 years…counted as a Pro because, having travelled and lived abroad so much myself, I am genuinely happy for her and all the super cool stuff she gets to experience…even though it makes me insanely jealous

Cons–because cons suck I’m adding a Silver Lining to each one so I can (and you can) see them in a more positive light

  • I stopped exercising regularly and going to the gym—silver lining: I’ve started back up and at this very moment my whole body is sore from the gym 2 days ago.
  • I had to reenter the dating pool…which is the WORST—silver lining: I ended a relationship that made me really unhappy and ended up finding someone really cool
  • Someone I considered a very close friend ended our almost decade long friendship—silver lining: other friendships were strengthened this year and I’ve learned (through Facebook actually) that I’m not the only person who has gone through this, which made me feel better
  • I’ve had what feels like unending roommate drama—silver lining: still working on it
  • I stopped blogging consistently—silver lining: I was never super “consistent” but this blog does make me happy so I’m recommitting myself to more regular posts!

Welp…got that out of my system. Time to MOVE ON.

I have a big backlog of posts that need to be made stretching back to before Thanksgiving…but I WILL post them all…even though some are a bit “out of season.” I’m also really excited because I got a bunch of new kitchen appliances over the holidays and I can’t wait to share them with you…get ready because SPOILER ALERT this girl bought herself a Ninja.

I hope everyone had a happy Thanksigiving/Christmas/New Year. I fully intend to make 2014 a success.

Thanks for following! More food posts to follow soon!

Fall Food Fiesta Episode 3

I think this will be the last in this fall food series…sigh. Although I haven’t completely resigned myself to starting to cook winter type foods just yet. It feels more like I’m simply refusing to give up apples than anything else lol. Oh well. YOLO. (ugh…I’m THAT girl…)

Basically I’m just obsessed with apples…

In this post I’m sharing two gems with you that I’ve recently discovered…a dinner AND a desert. Boom.

The first I’m going to share with you is somewhat similar to this recipe that I made last year, which I really didn’t care for. So I tried again. Its another attempt at Mac & Cheese with Caramelized Onions, Apple, and Bacon. So many things that I love…apples, cheese, caramelized onions, bacon…This time its all arranged in a way thats more delicious.

I won’t take too much time explaining how to make this recipe because I’ve done it a few times before. So I’ll just explain how to make it different from plain caramelized onion mac and cheese.

Cheesy bacony appley goodness.

Cheesy bacony appley goodness.

To make this you basically just add the bacon and apples to the recipe I linked to above. It’s not difficult. It tasted good. My one note on it was that I used Maple Bacon…which in hind sight was a little off…I think that regular bacon would work best…or maybe smoked.

I also tried my first ever crockpot desert…Crockpot Apple Crisp. Because seriously…how can you not, right? It’s actually really easy to put together. Here’s the biz you’ll need:

  • ~5 granny  apples, peeled and sliced
  • 2 Tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 c flour
  • 1/4 c old fashioned oats
  • 3/4 c dark brown sugar, packed
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 c butter
Apples on apples...

Apples on apples…Put your peeled and sliced apples in your crockpot and coat with lemon juice.

steps 2 and 3

In a bowl combine all the dry ingredients (flour, sugar, spices, oatmeal). Then cut in the butter using a pastry cutter or some forks. Then top the apples with your crumb mixture.

Crock on high for 1.5 to 2 hours until apples are tender.

Crock on high for 1.5 to 2 hours until apples are tender.

After it cools down a little serve that biz with ice cream and EAT UP.

After it cools down a little serve that biz with ice cream and EAT UP.

This recipe will make your house smell AMAZING. A substitution I made was to use about half the oatmeal and use cereal for the other half (Special K Vanilla Almond to be specific, but anything corn flake-like will do). I mixed the crumbs into the apples rather than let it just sit on top so it did make the consistency a little different (not much of a crunchy top) but it still tasted good. You can also add pecans like the original recipe calls for.

When I make this recipe again I will consider using one of those crockpot liners because this was a little bit of a pain to clean up…worth it…but still work.

FUN ACTIVITY ALERT: My lady pals and I had a fun adventure a couple weekends ago so I figured I’d share it. We went to our first ever Blacklight 5K. It was SO FUN. It’s basically the Color Run except its a night and the colors glow under blacklight. It was most definitely NOT 5K…I’d guess it was maybe like 1.5 miles and in terms of logistics it was a bit of a shit show but it was still super fun to walk (running for fun is not my jam) and there was a big dance party at the end and they were throwing tons of color into the crowd.

The Before and After shot

The Before and After shot

I think I may have gotten some color on me....

I think I may have gotten some color on me….

 

What fall foods will you miss most?

 

Fall Food Fiesta Episode 2

So there are just so many awesome things you can make in the fall that just taste so much better for the simple fact that it IS fall. I’ve been a major slacker at not putting these next few dishes up here earlier. Sorry. For those of you in the Northeast with me you are understanding that fall is pretty much over at this point. BUT you can totally fight this turn in the weather in the kitchen to squeeze in a few more weeks of fall.

I actually made this dish about a month ago with a pal of mine and was really happy with it. It’s a pork dish (sorry Jewish friends) which made me a little hesitant because I’m not great with pork, but it was awesome. I made an awesome fall pork dish last year too, check it out! This dish is creatively titled Pork Chops with Apples and Onions…clearly they broke out the big ones with that one.

Here’s what you’ll need:

-4 pork chops
-2-3 apples (cored and sliced)
-1 cup chicken broth, beer, white wine, or cider (I used chicken broth)
-1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
– 2 Tbs butter
-1 onion, sliced
-salt, pepper, and cinnamon/all spice

Pork Chops over Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese Stuffed Crescent Rolls

Pork Chops over Mashed Potatoes with Goat Cheese Stuffed Crescent Rolls

Trim your pork chops of the extra fat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a cast iron skillet and add the olive oil. Place the chops in the hot pan and don’t touch them for 3-5 mins (so that you’ll get that great sear). Flip them and do the same with the other side. Remove from pan after around 10 mins and put on a plate (but you’re not done with them yet).

Turn the heat down to medium. Add your butter to the pan, then add the onions and apples. Add the cinnamon/all spice and saute until the apples are soft and the onions are a bit caramelized (~8 mins). Stir in the broth (or whatever broth you choose) and let it reduce a bit (so its gravy-esque). Put your chops back in the pan.

Cook the chops for another 15ish minutes, turning them over half way through and covering them up with you onion/apple biz. Serve over rice or mashed taters.

YUM. Mashed taters, pork, apples, onions...Best.

YUM. Mashed taters, pork, apples, onions…Best.

This is a great fall meal…it has the seasonal flavors I love and it hearty. The one thing that made a huge difference though was READING THE COMMENTS. I cannot stress how important it can be to read the comments for recipes you find online. In this case almost every single comment mentioned that it was lacking something (which is why I added the cinnamon) and that there were some logistical steps missing (like turning the heat down after searing the meat, and giving the apple mixture time to reduce after adding the broth).

Overall a solid meal.

In other news, I did other fall things too :) I carved a bitchin’ pumpkin with the ladies and I stepped up my halloween costume effort this year (youtube tutorials for the win) lol. I got these sick vampire teeth that mold to you teeth so you can talk relatively normal and they look freakishly real. Check out the pics below:

Party Pre-Gaming like champs

Party Pre-Gaming like champs

Obvi we're on the couch taking selfies....just a vamp and lumberjack. NBD

Obvi we’re on the couch taking selfies….just a vamp and lumberjack. NBD

I guess is Jack the Pumpkin King?

I guess its Jack the Pumpkin King?

I hope everyone had a fun Halloween! Feel free to share your Halloween costume in the comments :)