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Happy New Year friends!  I know it has been far too long, and I sadly don’t have a new recipe to share with you right this second.  Since everyone in the blogging world is looking back on 2010, I figured I would join in and do the same, and wish my readers a happy 2011!

It’s hard to believe that another year has passed already.  I feel like it went by in a blur.  So much happened last year: I changed jobs, started grad school (and survived my first semester!), made some fantastic new friends, spent a lot of time decorating my house (hard to believe we moved there a year and a half ago), and ate some amazing food.  I also have a new nephew to buy books for (what can I say, I want everyone to love reading as much as I do).

Since becoming besties with a couple that lives upstairs, Brad and I have become part of what we have called an informal supper club.  Our neighbors happen to love food just as much as we do, and we take turns having dinner in each others homes.  We also love to cook and bake together, and K happened to be my sous chef and taster extraordinaire when we were coming up for a recipe for my office’s bake off at our holiday party.  Sadly I came in second, but my Mexican chocolate cupcakes with salted caramel butter cream (I had no idea I could make a real butter cream!) were to die for.  At least in our eyes.

The holidays came and went in a blur (well technically New Year’s hasn’t happened yet), we had a flurry of parties to go to, final papers to write, and families to visit.  Once again we hosted Thanksgiving, and I feel that we get better at it each and every year.

I don’t ever make resolutions, as I believe that changing one’s habits should be an ongoing process that isn’t limited to beginning on every January 1st.  I have slowly gotten back into yoga (mostly for my sanity and lower back more than anything), and having a yoga buddy makes it even better.  I am hoping that 2011 will be a year of travel, I’m going to LA in March to visit one of my dearest friends, and Brad and I are hoping for an adventure this summer, to a yet to be determined location (we’re eying Europe at the moment).

I hope you all have a fantastic New Year!  I’ll be doing what I do best, eating a delicious meal with friends, drinking some good champagne, and watching fantastically trashy TV to ring in the new year.  Happy 2011!

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I realize that it has been close to 2 months since my last post.  I have been struggling with what to do about my blog these days.  As you might remember, life has changed quite a bit for me this summer, new job, new friends, and grad school started last week.  I have still been cooking, but haven’t been as good about documenting it as I was in the past.

I feel like I am at a crossroads with my blog, and I am trying to figure out where to go.  I started this blog 2 years ago as a project, a hobby, something to pour my energy and creativity into.  I had just gotten married, and as anyone who has anything to do with planning a wedding knows, it can be time consuming and once it’s over you can be left with a feeling of, “well what now?”.  So I decided to start a food blog.  It was a learning process, my photography was pretty bad in the beginning (not that it’s magazine quality now), and I had yet to really find a voice as a blogger.

After that first year we bought a condo, which was a great place to focus my energy and creativity.  It’s grown so much, and for the time being I am truly happy with the decor, so I don’t need to focus as much time into that.  I am a person who craves projects (although I don’t always finish them quickly, take my quilt I have been working on for close to 2 years, the good news is that it is so close to being finished!), because I like having things to do.  Just ask Brad, I’m not one to sit around doing nothing for days on end (unless it’s a vacation from work, then I definitely can sit around and do nothing but read).

Right now school will be the focus of my energy.  Working full time and going to grad school part time at night is definitely going to be a challenge, but a welcome one at that.  I am hoping that when I am done I will be able to have the skills to someday down the road run some sort of community arts organization, a true collaboration of my artist within and my desire to work for the arts in a different way than being a traditional artist.

So for now I am going on a bit of a blog hiatus.  I will still continue to read my favorite blogs and keep up with what is going on in the blogging world (as well as the world of the home cook/foodie), but I think I will not be spending as much of my time hunting for new recipes to try and share with the world.

I wasn’t sure what would come of this project, and it made me break out of my regular cooking shell and try new things.  Some were successful, others were complete failures (and not necessarily shared with my readers).  I wasn’t sure if anyone would actually read my blog besides my mom and friends, but people did.  And they commented, which I also really appreciated.  So here’s to seeing where the road takes me, and who knows, maybe we will meet again sometime in the future!

P.S. I just discovered that I never posted the recipe for s’mores cupcakes, so I am going to share them below.  They are easy, awesome, and a total crowd-pleaser, so make them, immediately.

S’mores Cupcakes

Source: Macaroni and Cheesecake

3/4 cup dutch processed cocoa powder
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup warm water
3/4 cup low fat buttermilk
3 tablespoons canola oil or applesauce
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line standard muffin tins with foil liners or squares of foil for the rustic look; set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, sift together cocoa powder, flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. Add eggs, warm water, buttermilk, oil, and vanilla, and beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and bottom of bowl to assure batter is well mixed.

Spoon batter out evenly among muffin cups, filling each 2/3 full. Bake until tops spring back when touched, about 20 minutes, rotating pan once if needed. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Marshmallow Fluff Frosting

2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups confectioner’s sugar
1/2 tsp. vanilla
16 oz. tub of marshmallow cream (or fluff, if you are from New England)

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high until light and fluffy. Add the confectioner’s sugar, 1/4 cup at a time, and beat until fluffy each time

Beat in the vanilla until incorporated. Add the marshmallow fluff and beat until creamy.

Pipe the frosting on the cooled cupcakes using a large ziploc bag with the end snipped off (a la Sandra Lee).  Top the piped frosting with crushed graham crackers and an individual piece of hershey’s chocolate.

I hope you all are enjoying your summer!  I know I am!  We have had some fantastic weather here in Boston this summer, so I have been out and about, and spending less time in the kitchen.  Brad and I also are completely spoiled by having a grill right out our front door, so I would say we grill anywhere from 3-5 nights a week.  It’s fantastic, if you ask me.

One thing that I have been playing around with a lot this summer is finding good summer salads.  We eat dinner with our neighbors quite a bit (we live in a fantastic loft community and have made some great friends here), and one night they brought over this salad from Whole Foods that I decided to try to recreate.  It was super simple, but full of great summer flavors, like cucumbers (my favorite!), olives (again a favorite), cubed feta, tomatoes, and onions.  And it was all in Italian dressing, so you can’t get much easier than that.  Not only is it easy, but it’s a huge hit, and also makes a big batch, with lots for leftovers.

When we go on our somewhat annual trip to Charleston later this summer (I know I’m asking for it, going in August), I hope to hit up their fantastic farmer’s market and make lots of salads to have with dinner.  No one wants to spend their entire beach vacation cooking (unless that is what you really like to do on vacation) in the kitchen.

As usual I know I have dropped off the face of the earth, but I have been busy with my new job, playing tons of tennis around the Metrowest area, and just trying to relax and do as much as I can before I start school in the fall.  I also happen to have a new toy, just in time for my birthday…

In a completely out of left field move, Brad surprised me with an Addams Family pinball machine for my birthday, which happened to be last week.  Now let me just say that we don’t do surprises at all, so this one was HUGE.  Not only have I a) wanted a pinball machine for AGES, and b) wanted this particular one for at least 5 years, but c) I am impossible to surprise, since I am the eternal planning queen.  So I was completely surprised when two weekends ago I was told to “make myself decent” because something or someone was coming to our house.  When the truck pulled up I was NOT expecting what was inside.

All I have to say is that I love it, it’s all I ever wanted, and I currently have our all time high score of something like 132 million points.  Which was no small feat.  I’m afraid we might end up with a collection someday…which isn’t really a bad thing, when you think about it.

I am hoping to not disappear so much in the coming weeks, but can’t promise anything (big work event in a few), but I do have another summer salad (watermelon and feta!) and some amazing s’mores cupcakes coming soon(ish).

Cucumber, Tomato, Feta and Olive Salad

2-3 cucumbers, skin on and sliced however you prefer
1 good size jar of pitted kalamata olives, rinsed
1 yellow onion, sliced thin
2-3 tomatoes, sliced however you prefer
1 package of feta that isn’t crumbled, cut into 1 in. cubes
1 whole bottle of your favorite Italian dressing (mine happens to be Newman’s family recipe)

In a large bowl, combine all ingredients.  Let sit for a few hours before serving.  You can drain the dressing for serving, or just use a slotted spoon (which is what I happen to do).  Enjoy!

I just wanted to give a quick update that I am still alive, and yes, still cooking.  I apologize for not having posted for a while, there are MANY things going on in the picky eatings household (no, I’m not pregnant), both good and bad, such as boil water restrictions, grad school applications, tennis playing, Red Sox games, fried ice cream eating, and other things that I can’t get in to just yet, but hopefully will have good news about soon!

I have quite a few great recipes in the pipeline (buffalo chicken burgers, chocolate beet cake, brownie bites), I just have not had the time to sit down and get all those pictures off my camera and online.  So bear with me, and I promise some good eating is coming your way!

It’s the moment you all (ok, maybe just a few) have been waiting for, I am finally sharing photos of my new cabinets!  Really the problem is  that my husband is always on the computer, so I have to sneak on and edit my photos in large batches so that I’ll be set for a while on recipes and updates.

So without further ado, I take you on a photo journey of what my kitchen used to look like, and what it looks like now.  And when I say kitchen, I really mean the outside wall of my kitchen, as I technically have a galley kitchen.

As you can see in the photo above, we had quite a mess along this wall.  To the left of this mess is our kitchen, and beyond it is the computer area/bedroom area.  This wall technically makes up a hallway, a really wide hallway that we had just crowded with kitchen junk.

This wire shelf has been with us forever.  I actually snagged it from the fibers studio back in college, as no one had claimed it.  As you can see, it housed all of my appliances that didn’t fit anywhere else.  Yes, we have two crockpots, of different size.  It’s important.

The cabinets came from Ikea, so we could match them to the current kitchen, so that meant boxes.  Lots and lots of boxes.  B and his brother-in-law put them together while I oversaw the whole operation.

Hard to believe, but this is where that ugly wire shelf once lived.  Magic, I know.  The real magic lies inside the cabinets.

Is that a pantry I see?  With shelves that are on rollers?  Why yes, yes it is.  Before my pantry was housed in the island, which was deep and you would have to lay on the floor and take out half the things in it just to get some strange item in the back.  Now everything is much better organized.

This is the magical baking shelf.  I am known to have at least four types of flour at any given time (cake, all-purpose, bread, and wheat).  Also, in the photo above this one, I am known to buy way too much kosher salt at Thanksgiving for the turkey brine.  I am terrified of not having enough ingredients when cooking a large meal.

The rest of the cabinets are for storage of other random things.  This one houses all of those appliances I was telling you about.  Now they fit much better into their new home.

The last one is open, so we can hang things and finally, FINALLY put the vacuum away.  We kind of need a new one, as this one is huge and won’t let us fit in storage containers for cat litter and cat food (we  still have some giant Tupperware containers floating around for those things, along with recycling).

But that, friends, is the end of my new cabinet tour.  My kitchen is now much happier.  What you didn’t see in the last cabinet is the giant orange bucket filled with 25 pounds of flour, as we’re going back to bread baking, in a fierce kind of way.  More on that later.

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