Monday, May 18, 2015

Surprise! It's a Boy!

I'm excited to share that Jesse and I welcomed baby #2 a few weeks ago!  As with Will, we waited to find out whether the baby was a boy or a girl and were both thrilled when Jesse got to announce "It's a boy!" less than two hours after we had checked into the hospital!


We are getting used to life at home as a family of four.  For the first week, Will wasn't too sure about having a new baby but he's coming around now.  He's very excited to give a kiss or just make sure that his baby brother's feet are "cozy" in a swaddling blanket - no bare toes around here!

Give me a little while to figure out what sort of crafts I can do with two little guys and I'll be back soon!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Kentucky Derby Sliders

Oooooo the Kentucky Derby was fun this year.  It was 75 and sunny and we had some great friends over for some eating, drinking, and betting.  My horses didn't win (wah wah) but I ate 4 of these to make up for it.  


I love theme food.  Anything that inspires bread, bacon, butter, and cheese I'm totally down for...and this delivered.  I scoured Pinterest for Derby themed food and landed on a variation of these Kentucky Hot Brown Sliders. 

I started by shredding Gruyere cheese.  This cheese is awesome.  It has some flavor to it and it's a firmer cheese so it doesn't completely fall apart when you hand shred/eat it. 


Whenever a recipe calls for bacon, I have a really hard time controlling myself.  Unless the directions are "make bacon and eat", it's a serious exercise in self control for me.  I crisped up this bacon low and slow so it was nice and even and crispy and brown.  It takes awhile to make bacon like this...about 30-45 minutes at 350, with constant finessing of flipping, grease draining, and crisping.  I took it out of the oven for the last time and then I occupied myself with chips and dip.

When I see bacon like this, my heart sings a little song.  The lyrics go "less bacon, more oxygen" but it's a beautiful song regardless.  I allowed myself one piece. OKAY TWO.


Hawaiian rolls should be the Illinois State Bread.  I'm obsessed with them.  Perfect for sliders and they add just the best hint of sweetness.  Since I was piling all kinds of stuff on here, I decided to cut the bread loaves in half so I could layer in mass quantities.  If I made the sliders individually it would have gone everywhere and would have been more work.  Screw that.


 Now the fun part. I layered slices of turkey and chopped bacon on the bread....


...and then added mass quantities of the shredded Gruyere.  I'm not going to lie.  I probably ate a 1/4 of a cup of the cheese while I was waiting for the bacon to cook and I still had plenty.
 

The next step is the glaze for the top.  This stuff is ridiculous you guys.  You melt butter, saute finely chopped onions, garlic powder, and brown sugar to make this savory and sweet topping that melts into the sliders as they bake.  This is what makes the sliders extra special.   TOO GOOD.


Liberally brush the top of the sliders with the butter mixture.  If little pools of butter form like our friend on the right, just turn the other cheek.  I topped each of the little tops with a sprinkle of special finishing sea salt.  I used unsalted butter so I could add this little touch.  Totally optional and not necessary if you are using regular butter.  I'm just crazy and nuts about salt.  Don't mind meeeee.


After cooking for about 15-17 minutes in a 350 degree oven, the sliders were toasty and melty and super duper delicious.  I cut through them in seconds with an electric knife.  I recommend that if you want perfectly cut sliders.  A regular sharp knife would work too.  I didn't have a chance to take a lot of post oven pics because the people we had over were staring at me waiting to try one.  So this will have to do.



Here's the recipe adapted from My Recipe Magic:

24 Hawaiian Sweet Rolls (2 packages of 12, sliced length wise)
1 Lb of Roasted Turkey, Sliced Thick
1 Package of Thick Cut Bacon, Cooked and Chopped 
8 Ounces Gruyere Cheese, Shredded
1/2 Cup of Unsalted Butter
1/4 Cup of Finely Diced Onions
2 Tbs Brown Sugar
1/4 Tsp Garlic Powder 
Finishing Sea Salt (Optional)

Preheat the oven to 350.  Pre-cut rolls, brown the bacon, and shred the cheese.  Layer turkey, chopped bacon, and shredded cheese on the buns.  Put the tops back on.  Over medium heat, melt the butter. Add chopped onions and saute until onions become soft.  Add brown sugar and garlic powder and whisk until sugar is completely incorporated.  Let butter mixture cool for a minute and then liberally brush the buns (tops, sides) with butter mixture.  Sprinkle very top of buns with finishing sea salt if you used unsalted butter.  Bake for 15-20 minutes or until buns are golden brown and cheese is melted through.  If buns become a little too brown on top, cover with foil and continue baking for another 3-5 minutes or until cheese is melted.  Serve immediately and try not to inhale the whole tray. 


Stay hungry! 

Monday, April 27, 2015

Thank You Notes, Handmade by Toddler (& Mom)

First of all, many congrats to Jaisa who dropped some big news ever-so-casually in last week's post!  I'm basically over the moon and can't stop texting her about it at all hours of the day and night.  I'm just hoping she will share the Instagram picture that she and Charlie used to announce it to their friends... so darling.

Speaking of darling, let's get back to my two year old son.  Smooth transition?  No?  Moving on...

After his second birthday party, Will had a whole lot of thank you notes to get in the mail.  Like last year, I wanted to have him involved in the making of the cards and, like last year, I had a lot of finger paint laying around.  We kicked it up a notch this year, though...


It helps that Will is actually VERY into finger painting now.  I'm not that into it myself and always make excuses for why we shouldn't (it's a huge mess!  it's more hassle than it's worth!  the paints say non-toxic but they're probably loaded with all sorts of sneaky carcinogens!) but a few minutes in it's always apparent that Will is having a blast and it's totally worth it.  Also he isn't eating it, so it could be worse for him, I'm sure.


I let him go nuts on a huge sheet of white paper (Ikea paper roll FTW) and when it had dried the next day, used a heart-shaped stamper cutter ("I can't believe we own that thing.  Its ONLY function is to cut out heart shapes?!" -Jesse) to get some hearts we could use on thank you cards.


Gluesticked onto blank cards, the hearts were the perfect combination of THANK YOU/I LOVE YOU/I'M SORRY THESE WENT OUT A WEEK LATER THAN I HAD PLANNED.  Everyone got handwritten notes and a bit of Will art.


Easy peasy and totally kid friendly.  These could also work as a set of stationery for the grandmothers in your life... Mother's Day is coming!

I want Will to be a thank you note writer when he grows up, so starting early is key.  Thanks again to Will's awesome friends and family... check your mailboxes!


Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Tart Cherry Lemon Bars

DESSERT.  My new favorite thing.  Crazy, I know, I know.  But ever since I got pregnant (SURPRISE) I'm obsessed with sweets.  It's bizarre really.  I am also obsessed with sour things - key lime pie for example.  Can't get enough of it.  Right around Easter I was craving (literally, this time) lemon bars.  I went a little rogue and added tart cherry juice concentrate to the recipe and it came out awesome.  I nearly ate the whole pan.  Oopsies. 


The crust is flakey and buttery and just balances so perfect with the tart, yet sweet filling.  I was a little scared of what would happen to the color when it baked, but it came out this pretty peach color.  Yay. 


 
I used this recipe for the lemon bars and then I added the tart cherry juice concentrate.  I began by making the filling, which is just flour, eggs, lemon juice, and sugar.  I made sure to strain the lemon juice so I didn't miss any seeds.  It can happen. 


These eggs were so fresh.  Nice and bright.  PS - look at my cool nail polish.  Obsessed.


The next step is where I demonstrate my inability to follow directions creativity.  My massage therapist recently told me about tart cherry juice.  It's the worlds most potent antioxidant and is a natural pain reliever.  Something that comes in handy when you have crazy pregnancy headaches.  The concentrate works awesome in smoothies, over yogurt, or even squirted into a dessert impulsively.  It's VERY tart - almost a combination of cherries and lemons.  I added two tablespoons.  Yummmyyyy.


The crust is super easy.  You just mix butter, flour, and a few pinches of sea salt (since I use unsalted butter) and then par bake it for 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven until it turns slightly golden brown.


 

Pour the filling on top, pray to the dessert gods that you measured everything right, and then pop it back in the oven for another 20 minutes until the filling sets.


Lemon bars come out sort of weird looking on top after they bake - the color comes out a little uneven so adding a dusting of powdered sugar is the way to go.  Make sure they cool completely, however, or else the powdered sugar will melt the second it hits the bars.


I am so sad these are gone.  I am dying to make more and now that I think of it, I have all of the ingredients.  I know what I'm having for lunch...:)

Here's the recipe, adapted from Allrecipes.com

Crust:
1 Cup of Butter, Softened
1/2 Cup of White Sugar
2 Cups of Flour

Filling:
4 Eggs
1-1/2 Cups of White Sugar
1/4 Cup of Flour
2 Lemons, Juiced
2 Tbs of Tart Cherry Juice Concentrate

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Blend all of the crust ingredients - it's easiest if you use your hands.  Press into the bottom of an ungreased 9x13 pan. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden. In another bowl, mix all of the filling ingredients together and pour over par baked crust.  Bake for an additional 20 minutes.  Let them cool completely.  Dust with powdered sugar before serving and enjoy!

Stay hungry!



Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Mexican Corn Salad

GUYS.  We're back.  It's been awhile. I know, I know.  Sorry about that.  Hopefully you missed us as much as we missed you.  We have lots of cool homey and hungry posts to catch up on...including this one.  If you love corn (or even remotely like it) this recipe is for you and my veggie loving friend Caitlin.  I cheated and used canned sweet corn (whatever, it's fine) and it came out super awesome and took me a total of 10 minutes to throw together. BOOM.  Back at it. 

We were invited to an Easter lunch on Sunday and after cooking all of my usual Easter staples on Saturday, I wanted to make something a little different to bring.  Enter: cool, crunchy, creamy, spicy, and refreshing Mexican Corn Salad.  Perfect as a spring or summer side dish, if I don't say so myself. 


It's super easy to make. Diced red onions, green onions, jalapenos, canned sweet corn (or fresh if you are impressive and have time like that), feta, and finished with a light, bright creamy lime dressing. It's more authentic to use cotija cheese, but I thought feta was a little lighter and a little tangier.  I'm also obsessed with feta right now.  So there's that.


After tossing all of the ingredients together, let it chill in the fridge for about two hours.  The flavors all come together and create this spicy and sweet awesomeness.  Damn.  I wish we had leftovers.


Here's the recipe!

5 Cans Whole Kernel Sweet Corn (15 oz Cans), drained well 
1/2 to 1 Jalapeno, seeds removed and diced 
1/4 Cup of Red Onion, diced 
1/4 Cup of Green Onions, diced 
1/3 Cup of Crumbled Feta 
1/2 Cup of Mayonnaise 
1/2 Cup of Sour Cream 
Juice from 1 Lime 
1/4 Tsp Kosher Salt*

Mix together the mayonnaise, sour cream, and lime juice and then incorporate to the rest of the ingredients.  Let chill in the fridge for two hours before serving.  The dressing sets at the bottom, so toss again before serving and serve cold.

*I went really easy on the salt since it was going to be served with salty Easter ham.  Season to your tastes.

Stay hungry!

Monday, March 30, 2015

A Bulldozer Cake for Two Year Old Will

Well hello there!  It's been a while and a lot is new.  A lot like... I have a two year old!  These days Will is a happy little guy who loves his family, his frog blanket, splashing in puddles, and construction vehicles.  Especially construction vehicles.  So for his second birthday, we went all out with the construction theme.



We used Will's many trucks for decor and serving, but my favorite part of the theme was the bulldozer cake I made at 5:30 AM the morning of the party (what?  I woke up excited!).

Most of the bulldozer cakes I found on Pinterest were cakes shaped like bulldozers (I don't have the time or skill for that), so I cheated and used one of Will's toys (scrubbed down with Lysol wipes, then soap and hot water).  The cake itself is two layers of standard yellow cake frosted with chocolate frosting.  Once the base was done, it was time to add even more calories.


I coated the cake in crushed Oreos ("dirt") and then scattered some rocks (aka Snickers and Butterfinger bites).


I created a big pile of rocks for in front of the 'dozer out of Oreos, chocolate frosting, and candy chunks (Jaisa, avert your eyes if you're on one of those skinny recipe kicks).


Will was obsessed with the "bullzozer cake" and it was DELICIOUS.  Seriously, candy on Oreos on frosting on cake is the most delicious, decadent combination ever.

This was mostly a family party so we didn't have a ton of Will's little buddies around, but considering how well it went over with a bunch of grownups and older cousins, I feel confident saying that this would be a huge hit on the toddler party scene.

Aftermath:


After-aftermath (not pictured): me standing in front of the fridge tonight finishing off the last of this cake

Happy birthday to Willbo!  Here's to the terrible tasty twos!

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Lavender Scones

A long, long time ago, I posted about my best friend Lauren's Mom's (aka Julie Mom's) lavender scones.  I'm OBSESSED WITH THEM.  I love them so much I can't even tell you.  Not too long ago, I welcomed an exciting treat in the mail - Julie Mom had sent me my own box of lavender scones!!! GET OUT OF HERE I said.  I've been rationing them out like a Civil War soldier at Gettysburg.  I still have a couple left but not for long.  I want them to last forever.


Thanks Julie Mom for my amazing, delicious gift.  I love them so much I just had to share them with you guys.

Here's the recipe!

3 cups all purpose flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 1⁄2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1⁄2 teaspoon baking soda
3⁄4 cup (1 1⁄2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1⁄2 -inch pieces
2-3 tablespoons dried lavender buds (more or less, depending upon availability)
1 cup chilled buttermilk

Preheat oven to 400°F. Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and baking soda into large 
bowl. Ad butter and rub in with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. Mix 
in lavender buds. Gradually add buttermilk, tossing with fork until moist clumps form. 
Turn dough onto lightly floured work surface. Knead briefly to bind dough, about 4 
turns. Form dough into 1-inch thick round. Cut out using 2 1⁄2” round biscuit cutter. 
Transfer to baking sheet. Bake until top of scones are golden brown, about 15 minutes. 
Let stand on baking sheet 10 minutes. Serve scones warm or at room temperature.

Stay hungry!