Sunday, December 2, 2012


Happy December, dear Reader! This year, I'm savoring every moment of Decemberiness.

See, for the last several years, I've been a student. December to a student means setting off the ticking clock down to final projects, exams, and all the loose ends you put off throughout the semester. You and everyone around you work like a busy bee (and if you're a performer like me, you have Christmas performances on top of it), and then you crash hard. And suddenly Christmas has come and gone. Or at least, that's how I always felt...

So like I said, this year, I'm savoring every moment of Decemberiness :)

To help me do that, I put together a little list of personal musts. Little things to do, see, cherish, and enjoy, all before the holiday season comes and goes - as it usually does - in the blink of an eye.

I'll probably post about some of these as I cross them off, and stay tuned for more December inspiration!

1. Hot toddies + Christmas music + put up Christmas decorations
This one's a given. Isn't it almost impossible NOT to play some Christmas tunes while you decorate? And with all this northern California rain we've been getting, nothing cozies me up like a hot toddy. My recipe = hot water + Jack Daniels Honey.

2. Make snowflakes out of paper or fabric.
You gotta do it at least once this year, right?

3. Collect pine cones or leaves and make garland. 
Need some cheap/free Christmas decor? Bring nature inside. When I lived in Illinois, I saw one size of pine cone. Ever. Now that I'm in norcal, I've got the biggest, the smallest, and in betweeners. It's perfect for creating natural decor.

4. Make salt dough ornaments or any kind of DIY ornaments.
Salt dough, cornstarch clay, gingerbread... and basically anything you can bake into pretty shapes and hang on your tree. I think I put this one on the list because I've never done it before. (And, again, it's cheap.) Here's a salt dough recipe from Katy Elliott.

5. See an old Christmas movie at an old theater.
Old movie theaters are the best. Especially the ones with a stage, a curtain, and live music - with an organist who performs before the movie begins and is lowered down into the stage as the opening credits begin to roll on a real projector. Lots of them play Christmas classics in December - like It's a Wonderful Life or White Christmas. Combined with the snow falling and Christmas lights everywhere, it's such a nostalgic and heart-warming experience.

6. Take family pictures.
Just making a point to get a good picture, especially now that my family is all spread out and seldom comes together all at once.

7. Play in the snow. 
If you don't get snow, I'm sorry. If you do, c'mon. There's no excuse not to go sledding, build a snowman, have a snowball fight, or at least make some snow angels.

8. Cocktail Party with friends.
Fancy attire? Yes. But also very laid-back. That's my plan. Pretty dresses, hip suits, winter-y cocktails, Christmas music, maybe some dancing, and catching up with friends. Sounds perfect.

9. Go caroling. 
Every year.

10. Call relatives and sing carols over the phone. 
My family is super spread out, so I don't know why I never though of doing this before. I hope I get myself to do it this year! How sweet would that be?

11. Send postcards to cousins. 
I'm not planning on sending a lot of Christmas cards this year, but I still want to drop a line to some family members and old friends I don't see often. A postcard sounds perfect. Once Christmas cards start coming in from every direction, I'd love to find a random postcard in the mix from my cousin.

12. Girls' night with Mom or sisters, or aunts, etc.
Cozy up for some Mom time with nail polish and a Christmas movie.

13. Walk around the town square in the evening and drink hot chocolate.
I can't wait for this one. My hometown is small, with a charming little square at the center which is lit up prettily for Christmas, including decked out shop windows and Christmas music playing over speakers night and day. Most of the shops still close at 5:00, so in the evenings it's quiet, (except for the music). It makes for a lovely evening stroll - and opportunity to dance to Christmas music in the street. :)

14. Star gaze out in the country on the longest night of the year, Dec. 21.
For me, this one is also going to include cigar smoking. Probably. :)

15. Sleepover around the Christmas tree and read Christmas stories and books.

16. Read 'Polar Express' or other favorites with family

17. Kiss under mistletoe. 

18. Watch a classic Christmas movie in pajamas with blankets and popcorn and snuggling.

19. Do Advent devotions.

20. Do things in candlelight. 
Like baths, meals, bedtime stories. movies.

21. Make thoughtful resolutions for the New Year. 
Write them down. Save them. Meditate on them.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

CHOCOLATE BOURBON PECAN PIE (with cinnamon whipped cream)

This year I spent my first Thanksgiving without my family. Ever. (Well, okay, my husband was with me. He counts as family. But you know what I mean - all the rest of my family.) It was also my first Thanksgiving with 65-degree weather and green grass outside. Not what I'm used to.

We spent Thanksgiving with my husband's coworkers, and my only job for the day was to make the desserts. Naturally I chose desserts that reminded me of my family: pecan pie and apple pie. However, in keeping with all the ch-ch-ch-changes that have been happening, I took the leap to put a little spin on both.

My pecan pie took a Southern turn with chocolate and bourbon - this one's from Paula Deen, y'all.

As for the apple pie, I chose instead to make pretty pastry braids with pie dough, and I fashioned them around apple-pear pie filling. (In full disclosure, that was mostly because I only own one pie pan. But I was also inspired by this braid at Eat.Live.Run., and by all of the commenters asking the same question I was so curious about: would it work with a dough that doesn't rise? Like, say, pie dough? As it turns out, it does. You just have to be strategic when braiding and keep a close eye on it as it bakes.)

About the leaves. I've had this image of golden leaves of pastry atop buttery pecans ever since I decided to make the pecan pie. I'm so in love with fall leaves. I can hardly stand to walk by fallen leaves without picking up fifty of them. Pecan pies are beautiful, too, in that same warm-brown-colorful-golden-buttery-fall kind of way. Mmm. Anyway, I couldn't find a tiny leaf cookie cutter that wasn't way out of my budget (or didn't have a super expensive shipping cost). Soooo, crazy as I am, I ended up cutting out all of those leaves by hand with a paring knife. Don't judge! It didn't take that much time... And, actually, I had a lot of fun doing it :)

Happy week-after-Thanksgiving, y'all!

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Pie

(Adapted slightly from Paula Deen's recipe)

9" pie crust (2) - my recipe is below, or use your own
1 cups pecan halves, chopped/halved/quartered (you can leave them whole)
3 large eggs, beaten
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 - 3 tablespoons good-quality bourbon
1/3 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 egg beaten with a little water, for egg wash
sugar for sprinkling

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Place pie crust in bottom of 9-in. pie pan. Use other pie crust to cut out leaves at this point, if you wish to do so. Cover bottom of crust with pecans. Sprinkle with chocolate chips.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs and melted butter. Add the corn syrup, sugars, and bourbon. Stir until all ingredients are combined. Pour mixture into the pie shell over the pecans. Let the pecans rise to the top, then arrange any pie dough cut-outs you have. Brush the edge of the pie and the cut-outs with egg wash, and sprinkle with sugar.

Place pie on a heavy-duty cookie sheet. Bake for 10 minutes. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue to bake for an additional hour or until pie is set. Check the pie every so often by removing it from the oven and "shaking" it. When it no longer jiggles, it's done! Cool on a wire rack.

Note: You'll probably need a pie shield to protect the edges and cut-outs from burning. I made one out of aluminum foil and placed it on the pie after about 30 minutes.

You can make it the day before and refrigerate overnight. I ended up serving it warm, but I think it might have been better at room temperature.

Changes from the original recipe: Basically, I used less pecans, a little extra bourbon, and I replaced half of the white sugar with brown sugar. I also adjusted the baking time A LOT. Nearly every reviewer for the original recipe complained that they had to bake it 30 - 60 min. longer, and they were all right!

Cinnamon Whipped Cream

Makes about 4 cups.
What could be better than cold, freshly whipped cream? That is, besides adding a little cinnamon and pairing it with chocolate bourbon pecan pie? 

2 cups heavy cream, cold
3/4 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. vanilla

The key to fresh whipped cream is that all of your ingredients and utensils are cold. Freeze your bowl and beaters for 30 minutes before hand (or refrigerate if you have to). A glass or metal bowl works best.

Add the ingredients to the bowl and beat with an electric mixer on medium-low, until ingredients are well mixed. Increase the speed and continue to beat for 5 minutes or so, until cream forms soft peaks (they should peak and then bend over, like a candy cane). I like to use the beaters in a sort of upward motion, rather than "stirring" in a circle. It seems to trap more air more efficiently, and the purpose of whipping cream is to trap air, right?

Pie Dough Recipe (from Food Network Kitchens, original recipe here)


2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 teaspoon fine salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), diced
1 large egg
3 to 4 tablespoons very cold water


Whisk the flour, sugar, and salt together in a medium bowl. Rub 1/4 cup of the butter into the dry ingredients with your fingers until completely absorbed. Then rub in the remaining butter until it resembles cornmeal mixed with pea-size bits of butter. (If it gets warm and sticky, refrigerate it to chill.)

Beat the egg with 3 tablespoons of the water; then drizzle it evenly over the dough. Lightly stir the dough together with a fork. (The dough should just hold together when you squeeze it together, with some dry crumbly bits.) If the dough is really dry, sprinkle it with the final tablespoon of water. (To make the dough in food processor, see below.)

Divide the dough in half and wrap each half in plastic wrap and shape into disks. Refrigerate at least 1 hour or up to 2 days. (The dough can be frozen for 2 months. Defrost dough in the fridge overnight.)

When it's time to assemble the pie, lightly dust the work surface with flour. Roll a disk of dough into an 11 to 12-inch circle. Transfer the dough to 9-inch glass pie pan, and trim the edges neatly (if needed) so it comes just to the top edge of the pan. (You can also fold over extra edges, instead of trimming, and flute the edge if you want.)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012


Hello, dear Reader! Happy Thanksgiving week! There's been a lot of baking and crafting happening around here, and not nearly enough blogging about it. To make up for it, please enjoy these delish cupcakes I created this weekend for a bake sale. They were inspired by the gorgeous cakes in this post by Naomi over at Bakers Royale.

Moist chocolate cake,
scattered throughout with chunks of toffee
and chunks of chocolate.
(But not too sweet.)
chocolate ganache.
Crunchy toffee on top.

See how much I love them?
I just wrote a poem.

They're poetic, I guess. :)

I improvised the caramel buttercream. Pretty simple, I know, but as a girl who's just breaking into the world of diving in without recipes, I was pretty proud :) You should adjust powdered sugar and caramel sauce depending on how sweet and/or caramel-y you want it to be. My chocolate cake isn't too supersweet, so I was able to put the caramel in the sweetness spotlight.

For the regular size cakes, I simply frosted with the caramel buttercream and then drizzled generously with the ganache. For the minis, I dipped each cake in the ganache first for an extra layer of yum. (You can tell in the picture above - regular and mini side-by-side - that the minis are dipped first.) If you dip first, just be sure to let the ganache set up before frosting and drizzling the cakes.

Mmm... I can't believe they're all gone...

Chocolate Toffee Cakes (makes 24 regular + 24 minis)
It's a dense batter. You only need to fill the papers about half full. Mine were probably even a little less than half full.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups white sugar
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
3 - 4 T instant coffee
4 eggs
1 cup butter (2 sticks), melted
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup strong hot coffee
1/2 cup milk
3/4 cup chocolate covered toffee bits
3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

In a large bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking soda, salt, cocoa powder, and instant coffee. In a separate bowl, combine eggs, butter, and vanilla. Mix well. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and stir just to combine. Pour in milk and hot coffee and mix well. Stir in toffee bits and chocolate chips.

Fill cupcake liners about half full. Bake at 350 for 20-24 minutes, or until toothpick inserted comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Caramel Buttercream
Adjust powdered sugar and caramel sauce to the level of sweetness and caramel-y-ness you're going for.  You can make this in two half-batches if it's easier.

1 cup caramel sauce (Homemade is best! recipe here)
3 sticks butter, softened
1 tsp. salt
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar (adjust to taste)

Beat butter and salt in a stand mixer until fluffy and white, 3 - 4 minutes on medium-high speed. Add powdered sugar and mix until smooth (medium-low speed). Add caramel sauce and mix until smooth, then beat for a couple more minutes on medium-high speed to fluff it up a bit.

Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from Naomi at Bakers Royale. *Note: Original recipe calls for 5 - 8 tablespoons of water, but I think I only ended up using 2. Use your own judgement.

2/3 cups semi-sweet chocolate (original recipe uses dark chocolate)
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons powdered sugar, sifted
2-3 tablespoons warm water*

Heat the chocolate and cream over a pot of simmering water. After a couple of minutes, the chocolate should be soft enough to begin to stir into the cream. Continue to stir until the chocolate melts completely. Remove from heat and stir in powdered sugar. Add water by tablespoon until it reaches pouring consistency.

Here are the ganache-dipped cuties:


This was my first attempt at caramel sauce. Apparently it's easy peasy!

I thought this recipe turned out the perfect caramel: creamy and not too sweet. Wouldn't it be great to drizzle your Thanksgiving apple pie and ice cream with homemade caramel? Yes. The answer is yes. OR, you can use it to make this creamy caramel buttercream that I used for my chocolate toffee caramel cupcakes this weekend. OR, (*cough), you can pour it into a bowl and eat it. With a spoon.

Basic Caramel Sauce
(based on this one)

1/3 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
2/3 cup heavy cream

Heat water and sugar over low heat and stir until sugar is dissolved. Increase heat to high. Now and then, swirl the pot to keep the mixture moving, but do not stir the mixture directly. It will begin to boil, then it will become a light amber color. Eventually it will become a dark amber color (as in the middle picture). Turn of the heat and whisk in cream. Continue to whisk until mixture is creamy. (It's okay if there are still bubbles. They'll go away when it cools.) Allow mixture to cool away from heat.

Monday, October 29, 2012


Oh, dear Reader, I'm obsessed.  Meal, snack, party, you name it. These little guys are yum (not to mention healthy and OH-so-easy to make).

Black Bean Zucchini Quesadillas

Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 5 minutes
Yields 16 pieces (6 - 8 servings as an appetizer, 2 - 3 servings as a main dish)

1 16-oz. can black beans
4 T tomato salsa (any)
1 zucchini, chopped into small pieces
shredded cheddar cheese
4 wheat tortilla shells, 8-inch 

*FYI, I only made a half batch for this post. Lunch for one!

Combine black beans and salsa. Mash together with fork. Mix in zucchini. 
Spread on half of a tortilla shell (leave a 1/2 inch or so around the edge in case it spreads when you fold the shell over). Top with cheese and fold shell in half. 
Broil about 4 - 5 minutes in toaster oven (or conventional oven) until cheese is melted and tortillas are barely crisp.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012


Good morning, dear Reader! I hope you're enjoying a wonderful fall. Yes, I know it's fall, and I know it's not the best time to find fresh asparagus. But I happened to find a great-looking bunch of it at my grocery outlet (of all places!), so I had myself a little excursion to springtime.

This quiche was my first attempt at a crust without butter (I know... it seems a sin to say the phrase "crust without butter."). It turned out a lot better than I expected - not as flaky and of course not as buttery as a crust with butter, but still good enough to keep the recipe. And good enough to be worth lightening up occasionally :)

Usually, I like my quiche a little more egg-heavy, and I like to use evaporated milk instead of regular milk. So this was a nice little experiment for me. The egg was fluffy and turned out not to be the main event, but rather the warm, savory vehicle for the veggies and cheese. The nutmeg is just right, and with asparagus and feta together, you really can't go wrong. Mmm...

And how about the pretty sunflowers my husband brought home the other night? It's pretty hard to beat seeing him walk through the door with his bike and a bunch of sunflowers :) Apparently the sunflowers at my home back in Illinois are in full bloom under my mother's bird feeders right now. I'm sad to miss that this year... including the long, ever-gorgeous row of red-orange pear trees behind them.

As a loving salute to an Illinois fall, I cooked up some Illinios Sausage Corn Chowder last night to go with the cool gray days we've been having in the bay area. I'll post the recipe soon. For now, back to the quiche.

Feta Asparagus Quiche

1 cup flour (I used whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup good olive oil
1/4 cup ice water

Mix flour and salt with a fork. Whisk olive oil and cold water together until it's kind of fluffy. Add flour/salt mixture and mix with a fork. Plop the dough on a floured surface and roll it with a rolling pin (or in my case a drinking glass) until smooth and sized to fit your pan. Press into the pan and bake about 10 minutes at 400 while you mix up the quiche. (I actually baked mine for at least 15 minutes, but I think it was a little too done, as you can maybe judge from the picture).

3 eggs
1/2 cup milk
1 bunch asparagus
1 small red onion, chopped
3/4 cup cubed feta
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
salt and pepper

Chop the asparagus and steam until tender. While it's steaming, combine eggs, milk, nutmeg, salt and pepper (sorry, I didn't measure the salt and pepper). Beat very well. Pour egg mixture into prepared crust. Sprinkle asparagus and onion (evenly) into the quiche. You can use a fork to sink them down so they're not all floating on top. Sprinkle feta over top.

Bake at 400 for 35 - 40 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Monday, October 15, 2012


Hello, dear Reader! I wish I had better pictures for you of this DELICIOUS concoction I managed to improvise the other night. I made a big ole Italian meal for a friend's visit, and for antipasti we had three kinds of crostini: tilapia with herbed cream cheese, crostini di cavolfiore (puréed cauliflour with herbs and red onion), and bruschetta (tomato, olive oil, basil).

If you're not familiar, crostini are Italian appetizers (antipasti), literally "little toasts." They are small, toasted pieces of bread adorned with various (usually beautiful) toppings. You've certainly heard of bruschetta, a type of crostini that has become popular in the United States and has earned all sorts of versatility and "American-izations" throughout American cuisine.

These crostini are warm, so they'd be wonderful paired with any cold crostini (try bruschetta; ham, olive, and feta; or pear and gorgonzola). Or, you can pair them with another cold Italian appetizer - antipasto freddo - like prosciutto-wrapped melon or asparagus with red wine vinaigrette.

Anyway. Lately I've been trying to work without recipes as often as possible - to make myself learn. But since my friend was visiting just for one dinner, I decided to spare her my experimentation (mostly), and cook from the book. EXCEPT for this tilapia crostini, which were an improvisation. It was particularly daring for me because I don't cook much fish in the first place. Well, who'd have guessed it, dear Reader, but my tilapia crostini were a hit! I was pretty darn excited :)

Because I didn't want to disturb our lovely dinner and time to catch up, I decided not to take any pictures that night. However the next day, I ended up making this again for my husband and I... it was just too good.

Citrus-Butter Tilapia Crostini with Herbed Cream Cheese


20 or so 1/2-inch slices of a French baguette or bâton (sliced diagonally)
2 garlic cloves, halved
olive oil

3 tilapia fillets 
salt and pepper
3 - 4 T citrus-herb butter* 

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 tsp dried parsley
2 tsp dried marjoram
2 green onions, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
1 tsp pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced

*Someone gave us some delicious gourmet citrus-herb butter as a gift, so I was excited to use it. If you'd rather not buy it, you can also find easy recipes online to make it yourself. 

Preheat oven to 400. Rub one side of each bread slice with the halved garlic cloves. Then lay out on baking sheet and brush both sides with olive oil. Bake for 5 - 8 minutes or until golden brown.

Salt and pepper both sides of tilapia fillets. Add them to a skillet with the butter and heat on medium-high heat. Cook 2 - 3 minutes on each side, only flipping once. (Be sure to coat them well in the butter! Mmm my mouth is watering...)

Place softened cream cheese in saucepan on medium-low heat. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Continue to heat until mixture is smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. 

Spread (or pipe) herbed cream cheese onto slices of bread. Top with crumbled tilapia. Be generous with both parts!


Friday, October 12, 2012


Hello, dear Reader! Happy fall! I'm back with another ode to fall, and with three words that make me feel warm just thinking about them: cinnamon, sugar, apple. Mmm :) I snatched this recipe from the fabulous Lizzy at YourCupofCake to make these muffins for some last minute gifts. While in the oven, they filled my entire apartment with the most cozy and delicious fall scent.

The day I was planning to bake them, my father-in-law sent us a picture of his house in Illinois - in the humble hometown that both my husband and myself call home. The leaves were turning yellow and orange, and the grass was turning crisp, and he wrote that it had been 30 degrees that morning. That's the beginning of fall in the Midwest. We call it sweater weather. It's tights and boots. It's crunching under your feet. You can see your breath in the morning, but the sun feels warm in the afternoon. It makes "cinnamon-sugar-apple" even more warm and cozy than it already is.

Well this is our very first fall outside of the Midwest, and California hasn't really given us the sweater weather we've been waiting for. However, on the morning I'd planned to make these muffins, it was chilly. Chilly, gray, and a little bit windy. Nate suggested we leave the windows open and bundle up... what a great idea! So for a couple hours we managed to enjoy sweater weather in our apartment, and all the while these delicious little muffins baked their perfect scent right into our fall morning.

It is a happy fall, indeed. :)

Apple Muffins with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Centers
(adapted slightly from YourCupofCake)


½ cup brown sugar
½ cup white sugar
¼ cup oil
1 cup applesauce
2 eggs
1 ¼ teaspoon vanilla
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
¼ cup buttermilk
2 cups peeled chopped apples
½ cup brown sugar
1 T flour
2 T melted butter

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1 ½ teaspoons cinnamon
1/3 cup powdered sugar


Mix together filling ingredients until smooth. Refrigerate.
For muffins:
Beat sugars, oil, and applesauce. Add eggs and vanilla.
Mix together dry ingredients, and add gradually to wet ingredients.
Stir in buttermilk and chopped apples.
Remove filling from fridge.
Fill muffin tins 1/4 full with batter. Spoon cream cheese mixture over. Cover cream cheese mixture with remaining batter.
Mix topping ingredients together and spoon onto muffins.
Bake at 375, 13 - 15 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


My husband and I recently bought all three seasons of Arrested Development on DVD. And in honor of all the time we've been spending with the Bluth family lately, I made some chocolate covered banana bites. There's always money in the banana stand! (If you've never seen the show, dear Reader, and you like dry comedy, I highly recommend it. :))

So the inspiration came from the TV show, but the case was actually just that I had some leftover chocolate melted in a bowl from another project, and there was one banana sitting in the fruit bowl. So it was an impromptu treat for two :)

Since I made them with only one banana, I figured I'll just give you the recipe for one banana. You can of course multiply as needed.

Chocolate Covered Banana Bites

  • one banana, sliced into 1/2-inch disks
  • 1/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips (this is probably a little more than you'll need)
  • 2 tsp. coconut oil
  • toppings (graham cracker crumbs, sweetened coconut flakes)

Lay the banana slices out on parchment paper and freeze for 30 - 45 minutes, or until frozen. Before removing them from the freezer, melt the chocolate and coconut oil in the microwave (increments of 20 seconds, then 10, stirring between each until melted). Use a spoon and knife to dip the bites and replace them on parchment paper. Sprinkle with toppings and return to freezer for 20 - 30 minutes.

They'd be cute on kabob picks or toothpicks for parties.

Bon appétit, dear Reader! Thanks for stopping by! :)

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


This summer, my mother and I thrifted a whole slew of amazing antique wooden frames to use for my wedding (and just because!), and when I moved from Illinois to California, the frames were one of the first things on my list to bring along. There are SO many awesome uses for cool frames, including hanging them empty on the wall. I decided I'd hang my favorites above the couch - empty. Then I could take my time filling each one.

So this is the first, and I chose pictures. We don't have many options for displaying pictures in our apartment (no shelves for frames, and not a lot of wall space that I'm willing to give up for pictures), so I thought I'd display a whole bunch in this one frame. It's cheap and easy, and it looks adorable!

Here's what I used:

  • an old wooden frame (thrifted)
  • twine
  • push pins
  • mini (1-inch) clothespins - got them at Michael's

I used push-pins to secure both ends of the twine in the frame. They're really not noticeable, but if you do see them, they look a bit tacky. Unfortunately, the frame is so fragile that taking it down from the wall might be fatal, and it can't handle much pressure as far as attaching things to it. So my plan is to swipe those pushpins with a little bit of brown paint. Hopefully that will camouflage them enough :)

Also, I'm planning to take the pictures down and back them with card stock. You can see in the picture that they're beginning to curl, and they just don't look as nice.

Well that's it - easy as pie. Thanks for stopping by, dear Reader :)
Now go thrift yourself an old wooden frame!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Caramel Apple Martini

Happy fall, dear Reader! Hope you're enjoying pumpkin-flavored everything! For a little break from all the pumpkin, I'm posting some caramel apple :)

If you're thinking, "Well that's not a very good glass for drizzling..." you're right. But I actually don't own any martini glasses. Confession time, Reader: I am not a graceful person. Just the thought of holding a wide, conical bowl of easily spillable liquid atop a skinny stem makes me nervous... I'd be concentrating too much on not spilling to enjoy the drink! Yes, I need to become an adult. But for now, the only instance when I'd put a martini glass in my own hand is if I'm wearing a dress too fabulous to be without one.

So the moral of the story is: if you're going to drizzle with caramel and you have martini glasses, go ahead and use them :)

Caramel Apple Martini

2 oz. apple Schnapps
2 oz. butterscotch Scnapps
1 oz. gin
opt. caramel for drizzling the glass

Shake over ice in a martini shaker, and strain into caramel-drizzled (optional) glass.

Thanks for reading! Keep an eye out for more fall posts (without the pumpkin flavor overload ;)).

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Cinnamon-Sugar Butter Cookies

All right, confession. These cookies are the product a midnight sweet tooth. And let me tell you, dear Reader, this recipe is PERFECT for a midnight sweet tooth. They're easy and pretty quick to make - plus, they're not super sweet. They're just a little sweetness and a lot of delicious butteriness. AND the cookie dough is delicious for eating. Do I sound like I know way too much about eating sweets at midnight? :)


3/4 pound butter
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
4 cups flour
cinnamon-sugar mixture
colored sugar sprinkles (I used red, yellow, and orange for fall)


Cream together butter and sugar.
Add 1 egg, vanilla, and flour. Mix well.
Form logs on parchment paper and refrigerate until hard (about 30 minutes, usually).
Brush with egg and roll in cinnamon-sugar. Roll in colored sugar.
Slice and put on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake 15 minutes at 350.*

*Adjust time according to how thin the cookies are sliced. Cookies are finished when they are barely beginning to turn golden.

NOTE: Speaking of midnight sweet teeth, it's no problem to make a half batch of this recipe. Cut everything in half, except the egg - just use the whole egg.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

One-Minute Frappuccino (Shaken, Not Stirred)

Don't freak out, but I'm really not much of a Starbuck's person. Not because I work for the hipster coffee police (although I sympathize with them :)), but mostly because I don't want to spend the money. Don't get me wrong: I enjoy sipping a sugary, comforting drink in a cozy-ish, wooden atmosphere with mostly good music playing overhead. But if I'm going to splurge on a food item, I guess it's just not Starbuck's.

Regardless of everything I just said, the frappuccino is a winner of a drink: ice and coffee in the blender with sweetened condensed milk (or some kind of sugar-milk combination)? Pretty delish. 

Delish enough to inspire a whole new coffee routine in my life...

I drink my coffee black, and sometimes I don't finish all that I made... and here comes the frappuccino.


  • Brewed coffee (in my case, yesterday's leftover coffee, which has been in the fridge overnight)
  • Ice cubes (not crushed)
  • Milk
  • Sugar


  • Put everything in a martini shaker. 
  • Shake 20 - 30 seconds. 
  • Pour. 
  • Yum.


  • I use just enough milk to turn the coffee a dark caramel color, but it really depends on your preference. (Remember a "normal" frappuccino would probably use extra strong coffee since it's going to be diluted, so you probably don't want to add too much milk.)
  • If you want ice and extra froth: pour as much as you can through the strainer in the shaker, then remove the lid, and pour the rest of the bubbles and ice in last. (Just remember there's a lot of water in there, so unless you want it super diluted, you might consider using extra strong coffee and more sugar.)


  1. You don't have to wash the blender. 
  2. You don't waste any coffee. 
  3. It takes less than 2 minutes, and you probably have all the ingredients on hand. 

If you're feeling extra fall-ish, as I was today, why not sprinkle some cinnamon on top? Just be sure to swirl that in... :)

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Patch Your Jeans with a Little Monster!

I say it all the time, dear Reader: my husband is - at heart - a little kid. He saw a picture somewhere of denim patched to look like a monster face, and he asked, "Will you fix my jeans like that?" A fly on the wall might have thought the 24-year-old was joking, but it's like I said: little kid :)

I used:
  • holey jeans
  • hem tape
  • iron
  • felt (red, white, black)
  • embroidery floss (white)/needle

1. Supplies.

2. A hole. Get a husband who climbs trees all the time, and you'll surely find plenty of these in the closet.

3. Trim the fraying off the hole to make it look nice. (And to make it look how you want your monster's mouth to look).

4. Cut out a patch: cut piece of felt a couple inches bigger than the hole all the way around. Outline the patch with hem tape.

5. Turn the jeans inside out, center the patch over the hole (hem tape down), and iron it on. I ironed for much longer than the package suggested - just go until it's stuck, checking often to be sure nothing's burning :)

6. Turn them right-side-out and be excited about the monster mouth you just made.

7. Use embroidery floss to give the patch extra support (and to make the monster cuter). Then cut and sew whatever kind of monster face you want!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Stuffed Peppers w/ Sausage, Brown Rice, and Parmesan

These were delicious, dear Reader! I was apparently so excited to eat dinner that I forgot to take finished pictures, so the picture above is actually from before baking (and before the savory, gooey glob of mozzarella cheese that I melted on top). You can add really anything you want to the rice/sausage. I took the opportunity to use up my last little bit of summer salsa leftover from my last post :) Enjoy!

Stuffed Green Peppers with Sausage, Brown Rice, and Parmesan

(Adapted from here.)

1 cup brown rice
3 large green bell peppers
12 oz. sweet Italian sausage
1 large onion, diced
4 fresh mushrooms, diced
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1 tsp. oregano
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese*
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
(I also added some leftover homemade summer salsa.)

*This makes it really cheesy. You can use less if you're not into that, but who are we kidding, dear Reader, of course you're into that!

NOTE: This is probably enough stuffing for 4 peppers - I packed these three really full.


Cook the rice. While it's cooking/simmering:
Cut the tops off the peppers. You may also have to trim the bottoms so that they sit straight up. Remove seeds and set aside in baking dish.

Brown and crumble the sausage in a skillet.
Meanwhile, dice the pepper trimmings, the onion, and the mushroom. Add to skillet. (At this point, I also added some homemade salsa I had leftover, including peppers, tomatoes, garbanzo beans, and corn. Yoooooou can pretty much add whatever you want. :))
When sausage is browned, add fennel and oregano, then simmer covered for 3 - 5 minutes.

Add cooked rice and parmesan cheese to skillet, and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer covered 5 minutes.

Finally, spoon the mixture into the peppers, and pack it tightly.
Bake 30 minutes at 375. Remove from oven and top each pepper with mozzarella. Bake 15 more minutes.