Archive | August, 2011

Wednesday Wish List {Charleston, SC}

31 Aug

Okay, so I know I can’t really wish for a whole city; but after an amazing weekend in Charleston with two of my favorite ladies, I am seriously wishing I could spend more time in this charming city.  It had been eight years or so since my two college roommates and I had all been in Charleston at the same time; but once we were there, it was like no time had passed at all (among us anyway – Granny’s Goodies is now an Apple store, which is both a sign of the times and a travesty!).  {Side note: I have had many roommates in my day, but if I ever refer to someone as my roommate, you can bet it is one of these dear friends}

Our old apartment - we even saw a girl sitting in the window as we so often did

Much of the trip was spent wandering the streets of downtown Charleston, which was a favorite pastime of mine even when I lived there.  The downtown area is small, but I always get the feeling that I could turn a corner at any moment and see a street or alley that I have never seen before – and in Charleston that means another stunning example of the Charleston Single House or a secret garden of which you can barely catch a glimpse through the fragrant jasmine spilling over an ornate wrought iron gate.  Winding your way through the narrow streets will usually lead you to the Battery or Waterfront Park, and gorgeous views of the Charleston Harbor {or as I’ve heard it described “where the Ashley and Cooper Rivers join to form the Atlantic Ocean” – leave it to Charlestonians to have a somewhat over-inflated sense of self!}

Fountain at Waterfront Park

As if you aren’t already prepared to book your trip to Charleston by now, the real draw is the FOOD!  There are so many excellent restaurants in Charleston, you will find yourself wishing you could eat more than three meals each day!  From white tablecloths to greasy spoons, you can satisfy just about any craving at one of Charleston’s many eateries.  Here are some of the culinary highlights of our trip:

Fried Green Tomatoes at Jestine's Kitchen

Country Breakfast at Hominy Grill {photo credit: Sarah J.}

It is a city steeped in romance and history, and while I wouldn’t normally recommend a late-August trip, it is definitely a place that you should visit if the opportunity ever presents itself.  I could go on and on, but you get the picture!  I know that so much of the appeal for me is wrapped up in all of the wonderful memories I have with my dear friends and roommates, but thinking back on the weekend certainly has me wishing and hoping that our next visit is sooner than another eight years from now!

{photo credit: super-friendly Italian Ice girl at Waterfront Park}

Wednesday Wish List {Clever Brownie Pan}

24 Aug

Slice Solutions Brownie Pan

This week’s wish list item is yet another kitchen item, and space is already getting pretty tight in my kitchen.  But this “Slice Solutions” Brownie Pan from Chicago Metallic looks like such a neat and easy way to share your baked goods, I may just have to make room!

I spotted this pan in a recent post on i am baker for a delicious-looking zucchini pound cake. It may just be that her pound cake looks so tasty, or that I love the way she wrapped up each slice like a little present with ribbon and twine {scroll all the way down in her post, and tell me you would not be so excited to receive that little gift}; but whatever the reason, I really like the idea of having neatly pre-sliced brownies!  {Side note, I’m also dying to try the zucchini pound cake recipe!}

At this rate, pretty soon my Wednesday Wish List item will have to be a bigger kitchen:)

Happy baking!

Simply delicious {Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookie Bars}

22 Aug

This Saturday took us to Barrel Oak Winery for a wine tasting with family and friends.  Barrel Oak is about an hour outside of the D.C. area, but feels like so much farther when you’re sipping wine on the patio and taking in the panoramic views.  It’s the perfect place for an afternoon excursion with a picnic basket and a dog, if you have one.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookie Bars

I decided I wanted to bake something sweet to bring along to the winery, but since I hadn’t really planned or picked anything up at the store, it would have to be something pretty simple.  And what better place to look for a simple and delicious recipe than our favorite spot for grilling recipes this summer, Simply Scratch.  As usual, she came through with a delicious-looking recipe for chocolate and peanut butter chip cookie bars.  They looked gooey and amazing and most of the ingredients were already in my pantry, so I decided it was perfect!

Simple ingredients!

I made these bars in a 9×13 inch dish, rather than on a baking sheet, so I think mine were a bit thicker than the version on Simply Scratch.  This meant two changes to the original recipe that follows: longer baking time and fewer chocolate and peanut butter chips.  Here’s the recipe, as well as my {changes}.

Lots of chocolate and peanut butter chips

{Chocolate and Peanut Butter Chip Cookie Bars}

Generously serves 10-12

  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1/2 cup shortening (if you don’t have shortening use 1 more stick of butter)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  •  2 eggs
  • 2 1/4 cups flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips {The whole surface was pretty well-covered with about 1/2 cup of each type of chip in the pan I used}
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and butter a medium baking pan.  In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda and set aside.  Next combine the butter and shortening until blended.  Then add the two sugars and vanilla. When combined add one egg at a time, mixing well after each addition.  Then add a little of the flour mixture at a time until well-combined.  
With wet finger or spatula spread the cookie dough out on a baking sheet or a 9X13 baking dish and sprinkle on the peanut butter and chocolate chips.  Bake for 15 to 18 minutes {I found it took closer to 25 in my pan/oven – after 15 minutes, I checked every few minutes to see if the batter was baked through}.  Let cool, then cut into bars and serve.

Had to use my new Texas potholder {Thanks, Kim!}

The bars were done just in time to pack them up and take them to the winery, and they seemed to be a hit!  They were gooey and delicious, and it was hard not to go for seconds {or thirds}.  We ended up having enough left over to take to dinner at a neighbor’s that evening, and returned home with an empty plate – which is my favorite way to return home!  Here are the finished bars – enjoy!

Yum!

Wednesday Wish List {Masala Dabba}

17 Aug

Masala Dabba {www.amazon.com}

This week’s Wish List item is a staple in Indian kitchens and something I’ve eyed with envy on several cooking shows – a masala dabba, or spice box.  How wonderful it would be to have your seven most-used spices right at your fingertips in the same container.  A masala dabba is generally a round, stainless steel container with an outer and inner lid that holds seven smaller containers and a small spoon or spoons.  It is designed to hold your most essential spices so that they are all easily within reach while you’re cooking.

I try to keep my spices relatively organized, using one of those spice riser things that makes your spices look like they’re singing in a choir … but as you can see below, the more spices you accumulate, the harder this becomes.  I still have to do quite a bit of hunting to find things.

Spice Choir

As someone who likes things to be pretty, I also love how vibrant and beautiful spices look when on display in a masala dabba. There are lots of spice boxes available from Amazon at a variety of price points, and below is a beautiful example.

Masala Dabba {www.amazon.com}

This also reminds me of a favorite I’ve been saving on Etsy for quite some time now.  Salt City Spice  sells gorgeous finished magnetic spice racks and DIY kits for the more adventurous.  It’s kind of a modern, chic take on the masala dabba.  Here are some examples:

This is a DIY kit, so you can choose a color that matches your decor! {www.etsy.com}

Love the chalkboard on this one! {www.etsy.com}

This smaller one is pretty cute! {www.etsy.com}

So whether your taste is traditional or a little more modern, there are lots of great ideas out there for getting your spices under control and close at hand!

A twist on a classic {Apple-Pear Cobbler}

15 Aug

For many people, especially in the South, cobbler is one of those dishes that warms you up and feels like home.  It doesn’t get much better than warm, syrupy-sweet fruit with a biscuit topping … that is, unless it’s all topped with vanilla ice cream!  I don’t think I’ve made a cobbler since my bed and breakfast days back in Charleston, South Carolina; but when I saw this recipe for apple-pear cobbler with dried fig and rosemary featured on Design Sponge, I thought it sounded too interesting to pass up.  A nice blend of the traditional elements of a cobbler with a couple of unexpected flavors mixed in.

I decided to give it a try Friday after work since Adam was still on the golf course and wasn’t going to be home until later.  It meant putting dinner off a little bit, but cobbler sounded much more interesting than chicken and couscous at that moment. Besides, peeling and slicing the fruit and rolling out the dough ended up being a soothing way to unwind after a busy week at work.

Here’s the original recipe from Design Sponge; which, by the way, is a great source for lots of things like DIY projects and design ideas.

{Apple-Pear Cobbler with Dried Fig and Rosemary}

Serves 8-12

For the Fruit Filling:

  • 1 ½ cups granulated sugar
  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon coarsely chopped fresh rosemary
  • ½ teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 Meyer lemon
  • 2 red apples, peeled and cut into slices
  • 2 green apples, peeled and cut into slices
  • 2 pears, peeled and cut into slices
  • ½ cup of chopped dried figs

For the Biscuit:

  • 1 cup whole-wheat flour
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar + 1 tablespoon for the top of the cobbler
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • ¾ cup unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
  • ¾ cup buttermilk + 2 tablespoons for the top of the cobbler

Thanks to Pamela Figel for the personalized apron seen here!

Preheat oven to 375º and butter a 3-quart baking dish. Peel and slice the apples and pears, and cut the dried figs into quarters.  Put the fruit into a large bowl and squeeze the lemon over the fruit.  Toss with the cornstarch, salt, sugar, and rosemary and set aside.

Put the dry ingredients into a mixer bowl and combine on low.  Add the cold butter until crumbs form and slowly add the buttermilk to form a soft dough ball.  Move dough ball to a floured surface, and roll out to ½-inch thickness. Cut biscuits into circles with a biscuit cutter, can, or glass. Continue rerolling scraps until you have enough rounds to cover your baking dish.

Place the fruit into the buttered baking dish and cover with biscuits.  Brush with buttermilk and sprinkle the top with sugar.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Serve warm and top with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

I definitely recommend this recipe for a simple way to jazz up your standard cobbler.  The addition of the rosemary is a warm and unexpected surprise, but doesn’t overpower the sweetness of the fruit.  The chewiness of the dried figs adds a nice contrast of texture and the rich, deep color against the beige of the apples, pears, and biscuits gives the cobbler a little more visual interest. Here’s a picture of the finished cobbler, ready to eat – I had to snap it quickly as we were ready to dig in while the cold ice cream melted into every crevice of this delicious cobbler.  Enjoy!

Ready to dig in!

Wednesday Wish List {Corner Rounder}

10 Aug

This week’s wish list item is one that I already have, but I thought I would share for anyone out there who enjoys making cards or other paper crafts.  The corner rounder is a somewhat frivolous tool, but I really love it because it’s a simple way to give your paper crafts a more polished look.  I picked this one up at Paper Source, but there are other varieties available at A.C. Moore or Michaels if you want to get a coupon online or from the Sunday paper.

1/4" Corner Rounder from Paper Source

This simple tool is easy to use and works much like a hole punch.  Just start with a regular note card – I chose the information card insert from our wedding invitations, which is the size of a business card.  Mine is a 1/4″ corner rounder, so it’s better on smaller items like this.  

Note card before

Line up each corner in the guide on the corner rounder and squeeze the handles, like so …

Line up each corner using the guide

When you’re done, you’ll be left with a note card that has a little more of a custom, finished look.

Finished!

I bought my corner rounder toward the end of the wedding planning process and used it on a couple of our last minute paper goods, including the program featured at the end of my post on picking the right ink.  I hope this has given you some good ideas for putting the finishing touches on your latest craft projects! 

Cookies for a cook-out {Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies}

9 Aug

The hubby and I decided to have some folks over for a cook-out this weekend, and I thought it would be fun to bake something other than cupcakes for a change.  I had just come across a recipe for chocolate marshmallow cookies on a blog called NoBiggie, which features many of my favorite things (cooking, paper crafts, decorating, etc.), and thought they sounded delicious.  I mean, chocolate and marshmallow … can’t go wrong with either of those!  And I guess I’m a bit of a sucker for a sentimental story, because I was also drawn to the story of this blogger remembering her grandmother always pulling these cookies out of the freezer when she visited.

This recipe also gave me an excuse to buy Crisco; which, I’m not going to lie, has never been in my pantry.  The only thing I recommend is to use fewer marshmallows based on the amount of dough the original recipe yields.  I was pacing myself to use the all of the marshmallow thirds when I made the first batch, but the marshmallows ended up oozing out of the chocolate a little more than I would have liked.  As Adam described it, “fat marshmallow, little chocolate coat.”  {Yep, that’s a Tommy Boy reference, just in case you didn’t catch it.}  Here’s a look at the first batch.

A little too oozy for my taste, but still delicious!

Here is the original recipe from NoBiggie with my {recommendations}.

{Chocolate Marshmallow Cookies}

  • 15 marshmallows, cut into thirds {I used more like 12 for a total of 36 cookies}
  • 2/3 cup cocoa powder
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup sugar (plus more sugar for rolling)
  • 1 cup Crisco
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar (firmly packed)
  • 2 unbeaten eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Marshmallow thirds - ready to chill out in the freezer for a bit.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Cut the marshmallows into thirds using scissors, and place in the freezer while preparing the dough.  

Sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; and whisk until well-combined.  

In a separate bowl, cream together the sugar, brown sugar, and Crisco.  Blend the eggs and vanilla into the sugar mixture and beat until combined. Slowly stir in the dry ingredients, and mix until they are all incorporated into the dough. 

Roll the dough around each marshmallow third, sealing it in a small ball.  Roll each finished ball in sugar and place on a cookie sheet about 1 1/2″ apart.  Bake for about 5-6 minutes and then set out to cool.

I really like the way these cookies turned out.  The saltiness is a nice balance to the sticky sweetness of the marshmallows, and the chocolate is dense and rich {I’m guessing because of the Crisco}.  Adam said they reminded him of Dutch Fudge Cookies that he apparently tore through as a kid.  These cookies are easy and delicious, and apparently freeze well {although we didn’t have any left to freeze}.

Here’s a look at some of the later batch cookies that didn’t ooze quite as much.  Enjoy!

Salty, sweet, chewy deliciousness!