Tiny Food Party!

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In case you didn’t know, I’m one of those people that loves things in miniature. And tiny food is pretty much at the top of my ‘things that are cuter in miniature’ list. A few years ago Paul and I had a daylong obsession with buying these themed sets of tiny plastic food. They came in a little set with maybe 5 different types of food. My favorites were the carnival set with funnel cake and snow cones and a fast food breakfast set that even came with the styrofoam tray and to-go lid. So funny! And the part that really sucked us in was that they came in a mystery box so you didn’t know which set you were getting. We bought one each at Urban Outfitters, opened them right outside the store and I think promptly went back inside and bought two more. I can’t remember what they were called and I can’t find them online, but maybe I’ll dig them up and take some photos when I’m back in Colorado! If you have any idea what I’m talking about, please let me know!

Ok, so tiny plastic food is awesome, but tiny real food is of course, even better. As I mentioned in the mac and cheese bites post, we had a tiny food party when I was home and it was so much fun. We all had at least one dish to make – even our brother put together the lovely caprese skewers! It’s always extra fun when everyone is assembling together. We used the Tiny Food Party book for the skewers, mac and cheese bites, crab cake sliders, and mini chicken and waffles. Yes, MINI CHICKEN AND WAFFLES! Can you believe it? Not only is it the cutest thing ever, but they were really delicious and a lot more convenient to eat. Our grocery store was out of mini waffles, so we just cut regular ones into smaller circles. I seriously can’t get enough of this book. I’m sure you will be seeing it make some more appearances in the future! How do you feel about miniature food? Cute or just annoying??

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Coconut Cream Ombre Rosette Cake

DSC_3996File this one under Mom’s Corner! I had basically nothing to do with this one other than the fact that it was made for my sister’s and my birthday. Oh, and I’m pretty sure I stirred the coconut cream for like 10 minutes straight! Ha, I can weasel my way into any accomplishment. But really, it’s pretty amazing that my mom took the time to make this because we had just finished making 200 cupcakes for a wedding two days before. It was super fun and I’ll probably post more on it later, but also kind of tortuous because I didn’t get to try one of the coconut cream cupcakes that everyone, and especially my brother, kept raving about. I missed out on the cupcake tasting and we had no extras. I tried each components separately and knew they were delicious, but mom said that wasn’t enough (yay!). She recreated the cupcakes into this beautiful, pink, girly masterpiece. Seriously, thank goodness she did. It really lived up to the hype. Luckily, she had been wanting to attempt an ombre rosette cake for a while – I think it turned out so cute (and the cut slices look like hearts)! The recipes she uses are down below. I included her notes for high altitude bakers since it has worked so well for her! It’s her go-to, especially for cupcakes.

Thanks mom for the beautiful cake and for always giving us such special birthdays!! DSC_3991 DSC_3994DSC_3999 DSC_4002 DSC_4017

Chocolate Cake

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa sifted
1 cup hot water
1 cup buttermilk (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
2 cups sugar  (remove one tablespoon for high altitude)
2 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla
2 1/2 cups flour (add 1 extra tablespoon for high altitude)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 cup heavy cream

Add the sifted cocoa powder to a medium sized bowl and pour in the cup of hot liquid. Whisk until completely dissolved. Next add the buttermilk to cool down the mixture, then add the sugar and whisk until all is combined. Add the eggs, oil and vanilla and mix again.

In a small bowl, stir flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Whisk this into the wet mixture until you no longer see any lumps. Stir in heavy cream until evenly mixed in. Divide into two cake pans and bake at 350 degrees F (375 for high altitude) for about 30 minutes or until done. Let cool and chill in fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Coconut Cream (Makes about 2 cups)

1/2 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 egg yolk
1/2 cup Coconut milk
1 cup Milk
1 1/2 Tbsp of corn starch
1/2-1 cup of toasted coconut

Mix all ingredients, except toasted coconut, together and mix well.  Cook all ingredients together over medium heat, stirring constantly, until it begins to boil and thicken. Add the toasted coconut, if using, after the pudding has cooled.

Coconut Frosting

1 cup butter, at room temperature
8 cups confectioners’ sugar
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 tsp coconut extract

Beat the butter and half the confectioners’ sugar until smooth; add half the coconut milk, then the rest, and the extract, and the rest of the confectioners’ sugar, beating until you have a spreadable frosting. Cool completely before frosting.

Assembly

Spread coconut cream on top of the bottom layer (For an extra touch, add a small layer of chocolate buttercream too). Place the second cake on top of the coconut cream. Frost entire cake with coconut frosting.

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Mac & Cheese Bites

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Don’t you love it when a recipe goes way better than you imagined? I doubt it’s a secret that I love frying things (fried guacamole anyone?), but sometimes it can go horribly wrong. Food falls apart, sticks to the pan, burns, doesn’t crisp up, and don’t forget the inevitable oil splatter wounds. My mom often brags about the FryDaddy that she and her roommates had in college. Of course, the bragging always turns to regret about actually using it and how unhealthy that is…If it weren’t for that, I would probably own one right now. I mean, it would be so much easier and cleaner! I could fry everything…and yeah snap back to the reality of why owning one is a bad idea…

I was really excited to make these mac and cheese bites because it came in as kinda sorta my first request on the blog! And also because I had tried them at a restaurant fairly recently and they were amazing! For as much as I love mac & cheese, I can’t believe I’ve only tried it fried a couple of times. Thanks to Pass the Curds for asking me to do a homemade post on these after I mentioned the Trader Joe’s version! I knew as soon as I saw her blog name that I needed to be subscribed!

We made these as part of a “tiny food party” that we had while I was home. The party has become a really awesome memory for me, but more on that later. I promise I will share the rest of the adorable (and delicious) tiny food this week! Since this was a request, I tried to take pictures of every step! I’ve included the recipe from the Tiny Food Party book because it worked so perfectly for me. We didn’t make their mac & cheese recipe, but I’m sure it’s a good one. Check out the step-by-step below!

DSC_4006First of all, you need to use cold mac and cheese for this. A little planning ahead is necessary, but when is mac and cheese for dinner a bad idea? And for two nights in a row? Even better. DSC_4009Just have to show off a bit here. My sister and I picked mac and cheese topping bar for our birthday dinner. See, we really are obsessed. It was a bit of a throwback to another birthday I had with the same theme. New York deli style, buffalo chicken, southwest, and classic. Amazing selection! (Future post, maybe?)DSC_4032Ok, so your leftover mac and cheese should be nice and cold. Press it into your leftover container with a spatula until it’s really compressed. It should stay together in a cube when you flip it onto your cutting board, like this. DSC_4039Then cut the cube into triangle shapes. I got pretty excited when this actually worked! As long as it’s cold and compressed, the triangles should stay together without a problem. DSC_4040 DSC_4041Next, roll the shapes in flour. Once again, I was surprised the flour actually stuck to and coated the bites so perfectly! DSC_4043See? Perfectly floured. Now take a bath in the egg. DSC_4048And finally, roll them in Panko bread crumbs until fully coated. DSC_4050And…keep going until they are all coated in crumbs.DSC_4068Fry them in oil until they are a nice, dark golden brown. Sprinkle parmesan over the top. They turned out perfectly crispy and melty in the middle. It really was more than I was hoping for! And much better than frozen. DSC_4073Just a sneak peek of the tiny food party! It was so fun. I say try this! I really didn’t think it was going to go well – just the idea of getting anything to stick to cold blobs of pasta sounded impossible. I promise, it was so easy and a great party dish!

Tiny Mac and Cheese Bites (from Tiny Food Party, which is a new favorite book)

Like I said, we haven’t tried this mac and cheese recipe, but it sounds good to me! We didn’t have bacon in ours – let me know if you’ve tried that!

For the Mac
1/2 pound small elbow macaroni
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 tbs flour
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup gruyere cheese
1/4 cup grated fontina cheese
2 tsp dry mustard
2/3 cup cooked crumbled bacon
2 green onions thinly sliced
salt and pepper to taste

For Frying
1 qt cooking oil
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs

Make the mac and cheese, pour in a greased 8 by 8 baking dish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

Preheat oil to 350. Cut chilled mac and cheese into triangles. Put flour in shallow dish, eggs in a 2nd shallow dish and panko in 3rd shallow dish.  Dredge triangles in flour, dip in eggs and then toss in panko crumbs. Fry in small batches for 3-4 minutes until golden brown. Drain on paper towels, season with salt and pepper (I only sprinkled with parmesan).

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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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Mad Men Stole My Life

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Paul and I have been talking about hopping on the Mad Men train for a very long time. We held off for so long because we knew it would be worthy of our full attention (like Breaking Bad!). Man, does AMC have the best shows, or what? I’m so excited and nervous for the new season of Breaking Bad. Unfortunately, we don’t have AMC, so Twitter will be a nightmare on Sunday nights before we get to watch it.

Eek, I’m starting to babble because it’s been an eternity since my last post and I’ve missed writing! I was very aware that I was neglecting my blog and it made me feel terrible because I always look forward to writing my posts and responding to your comments. I didn’t want to write an excuse post, but it has gotten a little out of hand. Sometimes when I have an overwhelming number of posts and photos waiting to be turned into a blog, I just freeze. I guess I initially got distracted by birthdays, traveling, and completing my final project for summer semester (just finished! Phew!). But then, Mad Men came along. And yes, it’s true. It has taken over my life. I finally realized that I was having so much trouble getting back on track because the time I usually devoted to blogging has now been taken over by Mad Men. I usually write before bed, but now we stay up and watch too many episodes in a row before bed. Obviously, I love it and hate how short the seasons are. Betty is so beautiful and I had to find out if there were any blogger tips on the lipsticks she uses. Of course, they use MAC and I now have to resist walking into a store and buying a whole new makeup kit.

Anyway, as a new fan, I never knew about the Estée Lauder Mad Men collections. I wasn’t as enamored with the one that they sell currently, but I saw this classy, gold blush compact from last year and immediately had to have it. I’ve never cared much about makeup brands or their limited edition collections, but this was too pretty to resist. I seriously lucked out and found this one in an Ebay auction for much less than all the “buy it now” prices. I woke up at 7am to make sure I got it too. I was apparently the only person in the world wacko enough to do so because I didn’t have any competition. I’m pretty sure that proves once and for all that Mad Men has truly taken over my life.

The first step is acknowledging the problem, right? I’m confident that I will now be able to regroup and find a new blogging schedule. Because, let’s get real, I’m not cutting back on the Mad Men addiction any time soon. ; )

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Skillet Shrimp and Orzo

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Here’s what I did with the rest of Captain Rob’s bargain shrimp! This recipe was just as easy as the shrimp tacos and is another great find from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Magazine. It’s very similar to a paella, but of course so much easier to make since it uses orzo pasta instead of rice. Paul and I were just recently remembering a time that we tried to make paella in my parent’s kitchen years ago…it was going very well until I discovered that half of the rice was black and stuck to the bottom of the pot. I’m still not sure if that pot survived the massacre. I’m also not sure if I have attempted to make real rice since that experience. I’m so much more of a pasta fan than a rice fan anyhow!

This sauce is pretty similar to the roasted tomato and capicola recipe that I have already posted about. In this case though, you let the tomatoes cook on the stove with spices and herbs and then let the orzo soak it up in the oven. Who doesn’t love a one skillet meal??

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Purse Organization Tins

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Isn’t the idea of organization so great? Putting it into practice can be a little tricky though. I’m always on the hunt for life changing organizational systems that work seamlessly into my existing routines. I love having an organized purse. I just wish the organization would last longer than a couple days! I think part of the reason why we all have a hard time keeping our bags clean is just because we are so very kind to the environment and refuse to litter, right?? Sometimes the purse just has to be a trash receptacle.

These metal slide top tins have proven to be majorly handy over the last few months. Every time I’m near a Black Ink store in Boston or Cambridge I grab a little handful of them. There are probably about a zillion uses for them and they are less than $2 each (I think the tiny ones are like $.97). I really like these for my purses because they are sturdy, compact, and give the look and feel of a customized kit. I have some filled with tiny crafting pieces, fake eyelashes that I think are so cool, but I never use, and pretty much anything that I want to throw in my purse. Acquiring a label maker made these little guys so much cuter too. For my purse, I keep one tin for mints and gum, one for hair ties and bobby pins, and one for makeup touchup supplies. It’s so nice to not have all these things rolling around in the bottom of my bag! It also makes switching bags a piece of cake. If I’m going out for a quick meal, I can just grab the gum tin or if I’m going to be out all day I can make sure I have it all. So convenient! What are some of your favorite organization tips?

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Just a few items that might help to freshen up if needed. And it all fit so nicely in one tin!

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I did not intend to be all Kate Spade or primary color themed here – it just happens to be what I was using at the time!

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Such a perfect fit!

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Flashback Friday – Rome

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I’ve been thinking about doing some flashback posts for a while now. Every time I go in to choose which photos I want to edit and post next, I see my albums of travel photos and think what a shame it is that I can’t post them as new. Well, first of all, I don’t know why I convinced myself that I can’t post old things because I get behind on my photos so much around here! But, also these flashback/throwback posts have become all the rage – I finally get to be one of the cool kids. Most of my flashbacks, at least for now, are probably going to be from my post-college trip to Europe. I was beyond excited for this because not only could I relax for a while about finding a grown up job, but also because my months of hard work trying to get my fellowship proposal approved actually paid off. I think I remember the day that I thought I didn’t win the fellowship more clearly than the day I found out that I did! I had just returned home for a school break, but it was hard to relax. I was obsessively checking my email and at times felt sick to my stomach waiting. Eventually I forced myself to accept the fact that I wasn’t chosen. I was actually certain that it was over for weeks before one of my grad student friends said, ‘oh, you didn’t hear? They postponed the decision because some people wanted more time.’ Are you kidding me?? OMG I can’t even explain the feelings that I felt in that moment. Anyway, turned out that the kind dude who finally informed me of this was my fellow, fellowship winner! Pretty awesome! This was one of the most exciting times in my life. I felt so excited, accomplished, and nervous to be leaving my friends behind and eventually traveling all alone.

Ok, I swear my future travel posts won’t be this long now that the backstory/reminiscing is (kind of) behind us. I really just wanted to share a few of my favorite pictures from that summer, starting with Rome, which was actually my last stop. Some of my favorite pictures from the whole trip were from Rome, so I thought it would be a good place to start. I was getting really drained at this point and itching to be back where I could speak to people fluently and not have to eat most of my meals alone! I even got sick towards the end of the week. Being sick made me really thankful that I had such an awesome hotel. I honestly couldn’t believe it when I saw my room because it was so cheap (I may have just gotten lucky)! And quiet and spotless and the staff was really friendly and I believe they had free breakfast too. So, if you’re ever in Rome, I would highly recommend the Hotel Romance! Yeah, I felt weird booking a hotel with romance in the name, but I saw a few other solo travelers there too! Ok, I’m going on and on again. Here are a few of my unedited Rome photos from the summer of 2010!

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Colosseum cat : (

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ART.

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I only took a few photos of myself! Some proof that I was there. My sunglasses look like 3D glasses here…I hope it’s just the angle.

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Cute, right??

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Shrimp Tacos with Coleslaw and Avocado

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This post is partially brought to you by Captain Rob! I was all set to buy the tiny (er, shrimpy? heh) shrimp when Captain Rob enthusiastically introduced himself and cut me a (way too generous) deal on the jumbo shrimp if I promised to keep coming back. Duh, Captain Rob! I’m in. Since I was actually planning on just using the shrimpy shrimp, I got two meals out of these. Double thanks to Captain Rob! When I was planning my shopping list I decided that shrimp tacos sounded like the quintessential summer dish. Super colorful, light, and fresh. But, I gotta be honest – my primary reason for making these tacos was because I thought they would be fun to photograph. Eek! I knew my new camera lens was arriving soon and I was already excitedly planning my next kitchen photo sessions. The lens arrived right as I was about to leave for the store, so I was psyched. And then Captain Rob made my trip even more exciting. Ha! The tacos were perfect for enjoying a beautiful summer evening (as much as we can without a balcony, boo) and they went very nicely with my mint cherry limeades! And easy too – seasoned shrimp (paprika is good) + coleslaw + avocado + (optional) tomatoes. A little lime and mint helps this pair even better with the cherry limeades. Loving the summer food and loving my new lens! Second shrimp dish to come soon!

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Salad with Tuna and Fennel

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This was a my quick lunch a couple of weeks ago. It’s another salad that was part of my cookbook, but mostly magazine, challenge and something I would never think to make on my own. I actually got my ingredients a little confused when I put this together, but it all worked out okay. The recipe uses oranges rather than grapefruit, which I think would be a lot better even though I love grapefruit more than oranges. I’m also not too sure how I feel about fennel…I’ll be honest and tell you that I didn’t eat all of the fennel on my plate. Something about it was just weird to me. I’ve had it chopped up in smaller pieces in salad before and really liked it though! On the more positive side, I can’t believe I never realized how good tuna and avocado are together! I’m embarrassed. So tasty! Next time, oranges! And I’ll try cutting up the fennel. And maybe not roasting it? Or maybe just ditch it? How do you feel about fennel??

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