July 30, 2011

The Boys

Eisenhower says hi. 
Sometimes Hank likes to sing.
He has a beautiful voice.
Ike...not so much.
Nap time is the best.
I would spend every Saturday
afternoon like this if I could.

July 28, 2011


Who knew? They are so yummy.

After getting just a few to roast from the CSA the other week we became a bit obsessed. Our friend, Katie, recently brought us a boat load of beets fresh from her grandpa's farm to help us quench our cravings. So fresh that they were still covered in mud! Last night, Katie joined us as we feasted on beets and put goat cheese in every single thing that we ate.

This time, when I cooked the beets, I followed this recipe from my friend Kara. The taste was perfection. Next time, though, I'll leave my beets in the oven a little longer. These beets were larger than average and we like ours a little on the softer side.

July 27, 2011

Guinness Cake

The other cake on offer for Justin's birthday party was another pinterest.com find. Last year, Justin's sister in law, Natalie of The Sweets Life, made the most delicious Guinness and Bailey's Irish Cream cupcakes for his birthday. They were ah-maz-ing. Loved. Them. So, when I saw this Guinness Cake online that had I knew I needed to try it. Add to it the fact that it had cream cheese icing and I knew I was done for.

Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I should tell you that this is the cake that almost wasn't. I had high hopes for the cake. I've been spending a wee bit of time on pinterest lately and I was looking for picture-perfection. I didn't get it. My cake fell apart when I popped it out of the pan and had to be artfully smooshed back together again. I came close to scrapping it all together and making a new one. Good thing Justin convinced me that I was being insane. This cake was amazing and it would have been a horrible shame to see it go to waste. Make it. You won't regret it.

Guinness Chocolate Cake
From Katie Quinn on Design Sponge

1 cup and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup Guinness I used extra stout.
3/4 cups cocoa, sifted
3/4 cup flour, sifted
2 teaspoons baking soda
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
2/3 cups sour cream
1 tablespoon vanilla extract

1 1/3 cups cream cheese
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, sifted
2/3 cups cream, whipped

Warm butter, cocoa, and Guinness to a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until melted. Set aside for 5-10 minutes to cool slightly.

Add flour, baking soda, and sugar to a large mixing bowl and mix together well. Pour in the Guinness mixture, lightly combine, add the vanilla, eggs, and sour cream. Beat everything together until well combined. The batter should be think and dark chocolate in color. Mine was thinner than I was expecting but turned out fine.

Pour into greased and lined 10" Angel Food pan. Ok, friends, this is where I really messed up. I used a bunt pan because...really? who has an angel food pan. Also, I had no idea that lined meant for real, lined with parchment paper. Woops. I just greased mine....and then it broke when I took it out of the pan. Lesson learned. I've registered for an angel food pan for next time. Bake at 350 for about 1 hour or until skewer comes out clean from the center of the cake. Leave to cool for 10-15 minutes before removing cake from pan to cool on a baking rack to cool completely.

For the frosting, whip the cream cheese on low-medium using a whisk attachment until the cheese in smooth and lump-free. Gradually add in the sifted powdered sugar and beat gently to combine. Once combined, beat on medium until lump-free. Fold in the whipped cream by hand to fully combine.

Frost just the top of this cake until the cake resembles a pint of creamy Guinness. Ok, I don't think it looked like a pint of Guinness, but it did look beautiful....in the picture online.

July 26, 2011

Cake in a Jar

What's better than cake in a jar? Whiskey cake in a jar. Yum.

I stumbled upon this recipe on pinterest.com recently and knew it would be a perfect addition to our Scotch & Cigars night for Justin's birthday. It did not disappoint. The birthday man himself consumed at least 2 1/2 jars - a rarity for this non-sweets lover.

Whiskey in a Jar Flourless Chocolate Cake
* I doubled this recipe for the party.
Original Recipe

1 stick butter
8oz semi-sweet chocolate pieces I used regular old chocolate chips.
1/2 cup white sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 eggs
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup Tennessee whiskey I totally used Old Grandad whiskey because it's what I had on hand and it's from Kentucky...oops.

4 tablespoons shortening
4 tablespoons softened butter
1 lb powdered sugar
2 tablespoons whiskey

Slowly melt butter and chocolate together in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat. If you have a double-boiler it would be ideal to use one, if not, just pay close attention and stir constantly to avoid burning the chocolate. Let cool.

Combine sugars in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Add melted chocolate and butter. Mix until well combined. Mix in whiskey. Incorporate eggs one at a time. Mix well. Add salt, baking soda, and baking powder and mix very well. I let mine run on the mixer for a minute or two until smooth and creamy.

Divide evenly between 4 pint jars (I used small jelly jars) that have been sprayed thoroughly with non-stick baking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for about 30-35 minutes. The cake will rise to almost overflowing, but should fall again before completely baked. Cake should pass the toothpick test once fallen.

Let jars cool completely (I made my cake the day ahead), before mixing and adding the frosting.  For the frosting, cream together butter and shortening. Add in the sugar and mix on low until combined. Turn the mixer to high and add in the whiskey a bit at a time until icing is light and fluffy. My icing didn't turn out how I thought it should and was a bit dry. So, in addition to the whiskey I mixed in a bit of milk until it was nice and creamy.

Spoon icing into jars and refrigerate until ready to serve.

July 25, 2011

Happy Birthday!

Today is Justin's birthday!! This weekend we had some friends over for scotch and cigars to toast Justin on being another year older and wiser.  The party was a grand success! I heard Justin say more than once this weekend that he has the best friends, ever.

Joyeux anniversaire à l'homme de mes rêves! Que cette année soit pleine de joie.

July 21, 2011

DIY Kitchen Chalkboard

I've been dreaming of a chalkboard for the kitchen for a while now and this past weekend the project finally came together.

My step-dad found me this super cool old frame and cut a nice smooth piece of pine to fit.

I transformed both with the help of a small container of chalkboard paint and a bottle of cheap-o white spray paint that I picked up at my local Home Depot.

Use a roller to get a nice smooth finish on the chalkboard paint. The entire painting process took less than 45 minutes from start to finish. The hard part was leaving it alone until the paint was dry.
And, voilà, kitchen chalkboard! Now, comes the hard part.....hanging it up on a plaster wall.....

July 18, 2011

Eggy eggy parm parm

First, you should watch this clip from Parks and Recreation.

Next, you should go make this Eggplant Parmesan. It takes a while but it is un.believe.able. So good. So tasty, in fact, that the only picture I snapped of it was an in process shot of me frying up the eggplant. It smells so good coming out of the oven that it never occurred to me to take a picture of the finished product. All I could think to do was get that eggplant parmesan in my belly.

Eggplant Parmesan
adapted from Simply Recipes

1 large eggplant (ours was fresh from the CSA farm and a beautiful light purple)
Kosher salt
28oz whole peeled tomatoes (I used 14oz canned and 1 giant fresh tomato right off the vine)
1 1/2 tsp. minced garlic
Olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. breadcrumbs
3 large eggs, beaten
2 packages fresh mozzarella cheese rounds, sliced
1 c. parmesan cheese, shredded
1 packed cup fresh basil leaves (I didn't measure these at all, just layered them in fresh from the plant in the back yard)
1 cup red wine

Slice the eggplants lengthwise into 1/4 inch slices. I didn't peel mine because it was so fresh and tender, but you might want to if the peel is tough. Arrange one later in the bottom of a large colander and sprinkle evenly with sale. Repeat with remaining eggplant, salting, until all eggplant is in the colander. Wigh down the slices with some plates or a large bowl and let drain. Two hours is best, but I could only wait about 45 minutes because we were so hungry. This drains the eggplant of excess water that will get in the way when you fry it up.

While the eggplant is draining, prepare the sauce. Combine tomatoes, garlic and 1/3 c. olive oil in your food processor. Blend away. Season with salt and pepper. Pour into small saucepan and add wine. Simmer until you can't stand it and you just have to eat that sauce right away.

Transfer eggplant from colander to paper towels to remove excess water. Combine flour and breadcrumbs in wide shallow bowl. Pour beaten eggs into another wide shallow bowl. Heat about 1/2 inch of olive oil in a deep skillet. Dipper the eggplant first in the flour mix, then in the egg and fry in the oil until nice and golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In bottom of 10x15 in glass baking dish, spread about 1 cup sauce, top with 1/3 of the eggplant. Layer on half of the mozzarella slices. Sprinkle with 1/3 parmesan and 1/2 the basil leaves. Repeat, using the remaining mozzarella and basil and half of the remaining parmesan. Add remaining eggplant, and top with the remaining tomato sauce and parmesan.

Bake until cheese has melted and top is slightly brown, about 30 minutes. Allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes (important!) before serving.


July 14, 2011

Double Digits

Only 99 days left until we get married!! Awesome.

Countdown paper chain from my friend Kim.

July 10, 2011

encore la France

I'm still in the middle of my summer French obsession.

Can someone please throw a party where I can wear this dress?

If the party is in Paris, all the better.

July 9, 2011

Fried Green Tomatoes

The tomatoes in the backyard have been taunting me for weeks, just screaming to be plucked off the vine and turned into crispy fried green tomatoes. I've never made them before, but I've been dreaming of eating them since I saw Jessica Tandy bite into one back in the 90's. Let me just tell you, they were yummy and much less of a hassle to make than I anticipated.

I followed this recipe from Simply Recipes and served the tomatoes warm with a generous side of hot sauce. Next time, I'll add some creole spices to the cornmeal for a bit of a kick.

July 8, 2011

La France me manque

All I can think about is Paris. Les baguettes, la musique, le café, le vin et oh! le fromage! I want to get on a plane right now!

But, I can't. So, little french fixes will have to do. Last night we saw a late showing of Midnight in Paris. So dreamy. I loved every second of it.

And today my love is taking me to lunch at my very favorite place, Chez Leon. The last time we were there was the night of our engagement. Today we celebrate being just 105 days away from our wedding....but who's counting...

July 7, 2011

L'été à Paris ...

I want to wear this dress from Anthropologie,

with these shoes,

and walk along this river holding hands and eating crepes.

July 1, 2011

Master Chef

So, we've been watching a little MasterChef lately. There's an entire season recorded on the DVR and we're a little bit addicted. I love cooking shows like these because they always make me a bit more adventurous in the kitchen. It's like I'm in my own mystery box every time I go to make dinner.

This week, on a whim, I tried a new recipe. We were headed out to an evening meeting so we didn't have a ton of time. We had to eat early so we weren't super hungry. I was looking for something nice and light and perfect for summer. I landed on this cold quinoa salad and it was delicious! The best part was that all of the veggies came from the CSA and the herbs were fresh from our garden.

Tomato-Mint Quinoa Salad

2 1/2 cups water
1 1/4 cups uncooked quinoa
1/3 cups golden rainsins
1 generous pinch kosher salt
1 large tomato diced 
2 small onions minced
1 small cucumber diced
3 tbsp sliced almonds
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsely
1 tbsp ground cumin
1/4 cup lime juice
2 tbsp sesame oil
salt and pepper to taste
goat cheese for topping

Bring water to boil in a small saucepan. Pour in quinoa, raisins, and pinch of salt. Cover, and let simmer for about 12 minutes. Remove from the heat, and allow to cool to room temperature. I set my saucepan on a cookie rack to allow airflow under the pot to speed cooling.

Toss together the tomatoes, onion, cucumber, and almonds in a large serving bowl. Add mint, parsley, cumin, lime juice, sesame oil, and salt. Once quinoa is cooled to room temperature (or as long as you can stand to wait - mine was still a bit warm when I mixed it in) add it to the bowl of goodness.

Chill for as long as you can stand it in the refrigerator, preferably about 1-2 hours. The salad is best chilled. Serve in individual bowls topped with goat cheese.