Indoor Birthday Picnic

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July was too hot for picnics. This was heartbreaking for me because picnics are definitely on my list of top favorite activities. I apparently don’t hide this fact either – last year for my birthday Paul and my mom almost got me the exact same picnic themed gift! My mom sent me an adorable, custom picnic kit and Paul said, ‘hey! I almost ordered a nearly identical basket!’ I didn’t get the set until the day after my annual birthday picnic, but don’t worry, it still got used! So yes, this year’s annual birthday picnic was a given, but the weather was just miserable. I have not adapted well to the Boston humidity…rather than sweating through our lunch we decided to try an indoor picnic. We kind of stumbled around the internet to see if there are any places you can go to set up an indoor picnic…we really weren’t sure how that would work or what we were looking for though. In the end, I thought a picnic at home with Mad Men sounded very pleasant! This was, I believe, the week that Mad Men stole my life. It was lovely and I’m glad we still kept up the tradition even when we were too stubborn to go outside. I was leaving for Colorado the next day, so it felt really nice to just chill out and enjoy the day before a busy travel day.

I also have to give a shout out to the prettiest birthday package (last photos)! I woke up and gasped at the sight of this beautifully wrapped box on my desk. Isn’t waking up to packages just the best feeling ever?? Birthday part two featuring the prettiest cake coming up soon!

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Extra Special

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Don’t worry, my mom isn’t mad at me for waiting so long to post about Mother’s Day…at least I don’t think she is! I was so happy to get to go home to Colorado last week. I thought I would be blogging a lot because I finished all of my class assignments and I always find tons of things to blog about when I’m at home with family. I did take tons of pictures, of course. And I started a few posts, but I don’t think I posted…anything. Oops! I just had such a nice time hanging out with everyone and enjoying the sunshine (for the last few days when it finally stopped raining).

I planned ahead way more than usual for this trip because it was an extra special one. My mom’s birthday was on Mother’s Day and I won’t say which birthday, but it was a good one. I already pulled a surprise visit for my dad’s, so I had to be somewhat clever with this one. I kept it a secret for a while, but eventually told her I would be coming…I just told her the wrong day. Yeah, totally not clever, but clever enough to work! I arrived a day before my parents returned from a little trip of their own and then us kids surprised her at the exact same place we surprised my dad – and almost the same exact table. See, so un-clever. And Perfect!

In my family, I’m not alone in the food obsessed department. Most of our occasions revolve around what food will be enjoyed. That was very much the case on this extra special day. And while I have lots of other things I could post about from that day, for now I’d just like to share the food! We had a lovely picnic at the park and then burgers and a milkshake bar (so awesome!) to end the day. I hope that I can always be home for my mom’s birthday/mother’s day. I know that I can speak for both of my siblings when I say that we are all so thankful to have such a great mom and friend. She’s always made every celebration fun for us and I hope that we can return the favor now that we are all grown up (sort of)! Love ya, Mom!

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So, everyone at the table was genuinely shocked that I forgot to take a picture of my burger before I ate it. That like, never happens. I was so excited to dig in. And I have to give credit to my dad and his ‘$50 burger.’ Ok, I’ll admit it – you did good.

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My flavor creation: vanilla ice cream, Nutella, cookie dough, and rainbow sprinkles. Plus chocolate whipped cream and more sprinkles on top! So good! We looked at the Millions of Milkshakes menu for inspiration (never been, but good ideas!).

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Classic chocolate for Dad. And props to my sister as well for blending up and beautifying our shakes! (Yes, they were both campaigning fairly hard to ‘make the blog’) Excellent work, my friends.

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With all these other people taking over my blog, I have to end with another picture of my contribution to the day. Breakfast sandwiches! P.S. Have you all seen this pretty amazing invention? No, I didn’t use it, but I wish.

A Lotta Panna Cotta

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Ok I didn’t really make a lot of panna Cotta, but it was too much for me to eat! I made this last week after listening to an episode of The Splendid Table (always a good source of inspiration!). I had totally forgotten that I put it on a mental ‘I wanna learn how to make that’ list. The first time I tried it was at The Fort in Colorado. I’m pretty sure they aren’t known for their desserts, but their panna cotta was amazing! That was years ago and I finally learned how simple it is to make. Cream, sugar, vanilla, and gelatin. That’s it! I added a little almond extract too because I cook with it any chance I get. There are so many topping options too. I went with simple, fresh blueberries and candied lemon peel to make it pretty. Those were also easy to make, but I wasn’t a big fan! Maybe I’ll try it again with fresher citrus next time. I was pleasantly surprised that this dessert reminded me a lot of the Berry Chantilly cake from Whole Foods, which is my favorite! I haven’t seen it at the Whole Foods here, so it was a nice substitute for now!

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Bombes Away!

 

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I kind of can’t believe that this dessert exists. I saw the recipe on Sprinkle Bakes recently and felt an immediate urge to make it. I’m pretty sure my jaw actually dropped when I saw her pictures. I don’t always follow online recipes exactly, but I did with this one and the proportions were perfect. Despite being layers and layers of chocolate and sugar, it’s actually not overwhelmingly sweet. The mouse and ganache balance the sweetness of the cookie dough and the brownie adds some chew and a hint of saltiness. Really good combos!

I obviously decorated mine a little differently and used a taller bowl. I love her smooth, elegant dessert, but thought the layers of chocolate lava looked pretty cool too, so I went with it. I also think it’s pretty funny that it looks like a giant hunk of cookie dough underneath some chocolate before you cut it open. I had a lot of fun making this thing. Each step of the assembly just made me laugh. Like really, I’m filling a cookie dough bowl with chocolate mouse and that still isn’t enough!? We all joked that it felt like the SNL Taco Town commercial with the taco wrapped in a pizza, wrapped in a pancake…

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:: Lets get this thing started the right way! ::DSC_1144

:: I love having a bowl of cookie dough that’s safe to eat…not that raw eggs ever stopped me before :: DSC_1146

:: you’re beautiful ::DSC_1151

:: yeah, lots of chocolate involved :: DSC_1186

:: seriously?? Brownie bottom :: DSC_1190

:: It’s a miracle. I flipped mine directly onto the stand with some paper squares to catch extra chocolate ::DSC_1246

:: ta-da! :: DSC_1202

:: pretty gold sprinkles go great with chocolate :DSC_1260

:: Yay, success! ::DSC_1224

:: I’m ready for another slice ::

Puff Pastry :: Savory Fillings

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On my way home last night I wandered around Trader Joe’s feeling pretty lost for dinner ideas. We only have like 5 TV channels, so some weekend mornings I watch PBS cooking shows, which I’ve actually been enjoying a lot recently! Super informative and no commercial breaks! The last couple of times I’ve remembered to watch all involved puff pastry. Julia Child made an almond pastry one morning and Hubert Keller made beef wellington last weekend. I was pretty set on buying some puff pastry, but when I called Paul for suggestions he reminded me that we have lots of meat in the freezer. We will be leaving Boston pretty soon too, so I decided to improvise rather than buying more meat. I came up with four combinations and they were all delicious. Paul loved them. Like, really LOVED them. These would be a great, easy thing to throw together for an impromptu get together or a any type of entertaining, really. Or just dinner for two. I’ve listed my filling ideas below! They are all basically different combinations of spinach, cheese, mushrooms, and pork (in various forms).

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Mushroom based: brown some mushrooms in butter and garlic. Let them release their moisture so that the pastry doesn’t get soggy. Start by filling a pastry square with the mushroom mixture. This will be great on its own. For some more variety and flavor add mozzarella, then either bacon crumbles, or small cubes of sausage. Or go for it all if you’d like!

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Pork Based: I used a filleted pork loin that I had precooked and frozen. Defrost and cut into small cubes. Pile them onto a square with a chunk of mozzarella and some of your mushroom mixture. For a nice cheesy crust, sprinkle a little mozzarella on the top of the pastry.

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Spinach Based: Chiffonade some spinach leaves. Similar to the mushroom based pastry, layer mozzarella and bacon, or sausage cubes.

Cheddar Based: If you have extra scraps of pastry after cutting your squares, use them to make cheddar and bacon pastry straws. Place thin slices of cheddar in the middle of the rectangle and then twist. They are great with or without bacon!

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Have fun experimenting with different ways to fold your pastry squares! They don’t have to look perfect when you put them in the oven. The puffiness helps make any fold look lovely!

[EOTD] Eats of Thanksgiving Day

I hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! Our meal was great and we had a lot of fun experimenting this year. I had the genius idea to stuff the turkey with sausage, apples and onions. I love anything with sausage, so I’ll try to add it to whatever I can. Of course, I was all for the idea, but wanted to make sure everyone else was down for something that could possibly end in disaster. This was my first turkey, which made it even more risky. Eventually, we all got pretty excited to see how it would turn out and thankfully it was a success!

I brined and grilled the turkey even though I’m pretty sure you’re not supposed to stuff grilled turkey, but it added to the fun! Plus, we didn’t need to worry about the sausage getting cooked through, so it wasn’t really a problem. The sausage was super moist and added a little spicy kick to the meal, which we all loved. I’m thankful that I didn’t ruin our turkey and even more thankful that we all got to have fun cooking and eating together!

:: Ready for the grill…finger crossed ::

:: I made way too much of my favorite potato and carrot gratin ::

:: lucky for us, my mom looooves making pies ::

:: Getting ready to eat! My sister’s yummy corn bake ::

:: Thanksgiving classics. Including my brother’s expertly rolled crescents ::

:: Someone’s tired of waiting ::

:: The big reveal! ::

:: OMG SAUSAGE! ::

:: Time to eat. Happy Thanksgiving! ::

Are You Ready?

I’m home! Our Thanksgiving prep started today and I’m officially in charge of the TURKEY! I am pretty pumped and have something very special planned for it. And maybe slightly weird, so I’m not going to give too much away now…but I will say that he is all tucked in to his brine for the night. We got most of our planning and shopping done this morning and then took it easy. Even though it has been beautiful and close to 70 degrees, we kept cozy with hot chocolate and crafts. Plus a few outdoor play sessions with the puppy. I can’t wait for tomorrow and I hope you are all enjoying time with your loved ones before the craziness begins!

:: The table is ready, but are we?? ::

:: Pick your favorite…we got it all ::

:: All tucked in! Apple cider brine with oranges, lemons, rosemary, peppercorns, bay leaves, and nutmeg. Oh, and SALT ::

:: Ozzie would rather be monitoring the kitchen than out in the lovely weather! ::

:: Cute candy and a cute little potato heart…can you tell? ::