Thursday, January 31, 2013

Will It Ever End?

This is EXACTLY how I feel this week. My inbox has an unprecedented 60+ emails in it (I try to keep it under ten). I feel like I'm working non-stop and yet not getting ahead. Ready for the universe to cut me a break soon.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

The Mothership

My last trip to Austin was in December, and although I'd been coming to town about once a month for most of 2012, I had never been to the flagship Whole Foods until then. Boy was I missing out! For a half-second I considered moving to Austin just so I could shop there. Holy foodie heaven. This place is cray-cray. There are mini-restaurants in each department, a massage salon, cooking classrooms, catering, you name it. It's like the size of Costco. But I digress.

I was intoxicated by the mini-spice market, the beautiful fresh produce, the delicious smells.

This place even has its own bar and walk-in beer cooler. People come here for happy hour!

And then there's my absolute favorite part...the candy station, the bakery, and what seemed like miles of beautiful pastries. Hello my lovelies...

Even the salad bar is bigger in Texas (go figure)!

So glad I decided to make the hike down here, it's definitely becoming a staple during future visits!

Monday, January 28, 2013


I've got a bad habit of letting things slow down and then rushing to fill up my schedule again. Then I get super stressed out and anxious and overwhelmed by everything. This is a reminder to stop and appreciate the little things and just take a deep breath sometimes when things get insane (I took this picture with my phone while out at lunch one day downtown).

Awesome Sauce

Stopped at Bon Banh Mi for a delicious tofu sandwich after class today. Noms! This place is seriously awesome, check it out:
 *Update--A few weeks ago I went in and they hadn't made the tofu yet so I had to wait like 20 minutes for them to make it. They gave me a card for a free sandwich and when I came back this week they not only gave me a free sandwich, they comped my mom's sandwich and apologized profusely and thanked me for coming back. Can't beat that for customer service!*

Get Inspired

I love when you're walking around and you see a great quote. I've captured a few good ones on my phone, which I wanted to compile here.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

29 Gifts

Our local Books-a-Million is closing, so the hubby and I picked up a bunch of books on clearance, this being one of them. The concept is simple--give one thing away each day for 29 days. The gifts can be anything given to anyone... money, food, old sweaters, smiles, your time, kind words or thoughts. I don't know if I can track this for 29 days, it certainly made me feel more appreciative for what I had and more aware of helping others. Read it for yourself and see how you feel!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Muffin Mania

This might be my favorite thing we've made in class so far, delicious blueberry muffins with lemon zest and streusel and tender like a yummy bakery muffin. So good. I can't wait to make these again. 

BLUEBERRY MUFFINS, makes 30 muffins
4 eggs
Heavy cream - 1/2 quart
Zest from 1 lemon
Ground nutmeg - 1/8 tsp.
Granulated sugar - 10 oz.
Baking powder - 3 Tbsp.
Cake flour - 24 oz.
Kosher salt - 1/2 Tbsp.
Blueberries - 10-12 oz.
Unsalted butter - 8 oz.

1. Whisk eggs, cream, and lemon zest by hand.
2. Sift dry ingredients, add berries and toss to coat evenly with the flour mixture.
3. Add the dry ingredients to the egg mixture and stir until about 2/3 mixed. Add melted butter and finish mixing.
4. Portion into greased muffin cups and bake at 375 degrees for approximately 15 to 18 minutes.

All-purpose flour - 2 lb.
Ground cinnamon - 2 tsp.
Salt - 2 tsp.
Brown sugar - 11 oz.
Granulated sugar - 8 oz.
Butter (cold) - 1 lb. 8 oz.

1. Combine dry ingredients. Cut in the butter until the mixture is coarse and crumbly.
2. Sprinkle on top of muffins before baking. Streusel topping will keep for several weeks if refrigerated or may be frozen for longer storage. No need to thaw before use.

January in Charleston

I'm so lucky to live in such a beautiful place--it's January and I was able to take my dog out to the beach for a long walk. On the way back to the car I stopped to admire this amazing view near the parking lot. Right after I took this a dolphin started swimming near the shore. They are pretty common here but I'm always in awe when I get to see one up close!

Orange Cranberry Scones

In baking class we made delicious cranberry scones with an orange icing glaze. I'm not normally a scone fan but these rose beautifully and we ate them piping hot. They could also be blueberry with a lemon glaze, yum!

Here's the recipe, from our "On Baking" textbook:

Unsalted butter (cold) - 14 oz.
Granulated sugar - 4 oz.
Buttermilk - 8 fl. oz.
Sour cream - 1 lb.
Salt - 1 Tbsp.
Vanilla extract - 1 Tbsp.
Orange zest - 1 orange
All-purpose flour - 2 lb.
Baking powder - 2 oz.
Ground cinnamon - 1 oz.
Cranberries (chopped coarse) - 14 oz.

Powdered sugar
Juice from 1-2 oranges

1. Chill a mixer bowl and paddle attachment in the freezer for at least 15 minutes before mixing.
2. Cut the butter into 1/4 inch cubes. Set aside in refrigerator.
3. Whisk together the sugar, buttermilk, sour cream, salt, vanilla, and orange zest in a bowl until smooth. Set aside in refrigerator.
4. Put the flour, baking powder, and cinnamon in the chilled mixer bowl. Place the butter on top. Mix on low speed using the paddle attachment until the mixture resembles course meal.
5. Add the buttermilk mixture to the dry ingredients and mix very briefly, until just combined. Mix in the cranberries until just combined.
6. Scale the dough into three uniform pieces. On a lightly floured surface, press each piece of dough into an 8-inch round.
7. Cut each disk of dough into eight wedges. Position the wedges of dough 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake at 375 degrees until lightly golden brown, approximately 20 to 25 minutes.
8. While scones are cooling, whisk powdered sugar with orange juice together and drizzle over scones. Eat immediately and enjoy :)!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Sew Pretty

Last year I actually picked up some place mats at World Market that were just so darn cute I thought they'd make great (cheap) pillows. Of course they have been buried in a closet since then, but seeing this come across my inbox got me thinking I should give it a go! I love the step-by-step tutorial and I never would have thought of reusing the stuffing from an ugly pillow (got a couple of those laying around). I've been looking for an easy sewing project and this just might be it.

Here is the original post:

I also found this web site in a magazine, and even though I have no idea how to quilt, I think these designs are absolutely beautiful and original. They're maps! Maybe someday I will give it a go, they have DIY kits for sale also.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Right Up My Alley

Lucky for us, a hip new bowling alley opened downtown, The Alley. The hubby and I joined our friends for happy hour ($1 off all beer!), dinner (I had the shrimp po' boy and shells...good stuff), and two rounds of bowling. I sucked, but it was still fun. And packed. Definitely draws a big crowd, though I think just about everyone is secretly hoping to run into Bill Murray (a local who happens to also be a fan of this place). There's also skee ball and pin ball and about every old school video game you can think of. Good times, good times.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Country Living

Okay, so we're not exactly in the country, but we do live in a quiet area where we were thrilled to find many places to walk our two dogs. This is one of my favorites, about two minutes from our house, a huge neighborhood that has been paved but no lots cleared or sold yet so it's like a beautiful park. I'll be really sad the day it actually gets developed (though it's been vacant since we moved here over a year ago, so fingers crossed!).

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Baby It's Cold Outside

Lately the weather has been cold, gray, and rainy. Nothing warms me up on a blah day like some great homemade veggie chili. I found a recipe online as a starting point and added lots of tasty good-for-you stuff like veggies and quinoa. I mean, how could you not feel virtuous making something with all of this?

The finished product is super good and relatively good for you (I like to add some fat free sour cream and shredded cheddar to mine). I made a huge batch and gave some to the neighbors and froze some for later.

Noms! Here's the recipe, loosely based on a version by Cooking Light magazine:

Chunky Vegetarian Chili

- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 small chopped onion
- 1 chopped green bell pepper
- 1 chopped yellow bell pepper
- 1 chopped red bell pepper
- 2 diced carrots
- Any additional veggies you like (I used a zucchini, a large turnip, a sweet potato, some broccoli, and a few big handfuls of fresh spinach)
- 3 or 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- Spices to taste (I used lots of chili powder, cumin, and a few tablespoons of curry powder, dried oregano, dried parsley, red pepper flakes, and salt/pepper)
- 1 18 oz can of diced tomatoes
- 1 little can of tomato paste
- 6 cans of rinsed beans (any kind, I used a mix of kidney, black, and pinto)
- 1 1/4 cups of dried quinoa

1. Heat oil in large stock pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute for 2 minutes, then add garlic, peppers and any other firm veggies (like sweet potato, carrot or turnip) and saute for another 5 minutes or so until they start to become tender.

2. Add sugar and spices, along with canned tomatoes and remaining veggies. Continue simmering, adding additional spices to taste. Add in the beans and quinoa and simmer for 30 minutes.

3. Dig in! I like to garnish with sour cream, shredded cheddar or pepper jack and some scallions. It refrigerates and freezes well also.

Marshmallow Deliciousness

One day I decided I just had to learn how to make marshmallows from scratch. It had always seemed crazy intimidating but armed with a recipe, I plowed ahead. Little did I know, they would be relatively easy and taste AMAZING. The first batch was plain old vanilla, and I covered them in some chopped up Reese's cups I had in the pantry, like so:

I played around with some other flavors, including mint and banana (yum!), and then made another batch of vanilla with my friend Laura (who has an amazing baking blog). We dipped them in dark chocolate and covered them with graham crackers, peanut butter, and other random goodness. While a little messy, they were delicious.

And here is the basic recipe for marshmallows, which can be tweaked in many ways to create new flavor combinations and textures. I thought briefly about selling them, but found out another little start-up beat me to the punch. Oh well, a better (novel) idea will come along sooner or later!

The original recipe (sans my commentary) came from the Food Network.

- 3 packages unflavored gelatin
- 1 cup ice cold water, divided
- 12 ounces granulated sugar, approximately 1 1/2 cups
- 1 cup light corn syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 1/4 cup confectioners' (powdered) sugar
- Nonstick spray (I like Pillsbury Flour Baking Spray)

1. Place the gelatin into the bowl of a stand mixer along with 1/2 cup of the water.

2. In a small saucepan combine the remaining 1/2 cup water, granulated sugar, corn syrup and salt. Place over medium high heat, cover and allow to cook for 3 to 4 minutes. Uncover, clip a candy thermometer onto the side of the pan and continue to cook until the mixture reaches 240 degrees F, approximately 7 to 8 minutes (I was able to do it without a thermometer). Once the mixture reaches this temperature, immediately remove from the heat.

3. Turn the mixer on low speed and, while running, slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the bowl into the gelatin mixture. Once you have added all of the syrup, increase the speed to high. Continue to whip until the mixture becomes very thick and is lukewarm, approximately 12 to 15 minutes. Add the vanilla during the last minute of whipping. While the mixture is whipping prepare the pans as follows. (The mixer will sound like it is about to die--but it will make it!).

4. Lightly spray a 13 by 9-inch metal baking pan with the spray or grease with shortening. Sift in some powdered sugar and move it around to completely coat the bottom and sides of the pan.

5. When ready, pour the marshmallow mixture into the prepared pan, using a lightly oiled spatula for spreading evenly into the pan. Dust the top with enough of the remaining powdered sugar to lightly cover. Allow the marshmallows to sit uncovered for at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

6. Turn the marshmallows out onto a cutting board and cut into 1-inch squares using a pizza wheel dusted with the confectioners' sugar mixture. Once cut, lightly dust all sides of each marshmallow with the remaining mixture, using additional if necessary. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 weeks. (Also great in hot cocoa or on a s'mores!).