valentine's weekend

Hello hello! It's been forever since I've posted a personal update, but this weekend we broke out our "real" camera a few times so I wanted to share those photos with you. Friday was Valentine's Day and Luke brought home FOUR DONUTS after his team trained in the morning. Yes, we did eat them all. Yes, you have permission to call us Valentine's Fatties.

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Our one tradition for the day is a dinner of homemade soup, which began in 2008 when Luke ended up getting sick on our first Valentine's day as a couple. In past years we've made broccoli cheddar, tomato, creamy potato, and vegetable beef--I wish we'd kept yearly recipes! This year the soup of choice was chicken tortilla. So good.

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I did write down the recipe loosely this year which I'll try to get on a printable recipe card for you. It has a bΓ©chamel base and gets its flavor mainly from cumin, chili and cayenne seasoning which is what I happened to have in my cupboard! I don't know where I'd be without my trusty cumin supply...

Then yesterday we drove up to Newport Beach to go on a whale watching trip. It was really fun to be out on the water and thrilling to see the wildlife! A pod of dolphins swam and played alongside our boat at one point and we saw a huge gray whale surface in between dives several times--it was the first whale I've ever seen in my life! Everyone on our boat gasped and cheered whenever he showed just a fraction of his massive body, which was such a testament to the power of nature even in our world of ever accessible larger-than-life photos and HD video.

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(Luke actually gave himself a haircut later on in the day Friday after 6 months of growing it out! In case you wondered what's different about him here…)

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So that was our sweet little weekend. I hope you all had a good one, too! I'll try to be back before too long to give you an update on my work and business. Have a great week, all!

pumpkin chocolate chip cookies

 

 

Yesterday morning I woke up to our windows thrown open as usual. Lately the angle of the sun has been directly in our eyes around 7am every day. I was quite chilly as I hurriedly decided what to wear to church. I was glad I chose flats instead of sandals for the first time in months.

The day seemed right, then, for this perfectly fall cookie. I was in the spirit at Trader Joe's last week and decided I couldn't go wrong to throw a can of pumpkin in my cart. So glad I did.

 

 

homemade gnocchi

Gnocchi is delicious. And although this wasn't the more common potato variety stuffed with a yummy, cheesy filling, they were still awesome because they were homemade.

I'm on a vegetarian cooking kick. My husband is the least picky eater ever, which is the best. It was actually his idea to try to eat more vegetarian meals. Nice going, Luke.

 

 

Isn't there just something about kneading dough? I've always wanted to get into breadmaking. I just love that process of creating and working the dough.

 

After rolling out the dough into long strips, I cut them into pieces and shaped them with fork prongs. To make them fancy. BTW, I used this recipe.

 

 

The swiss chard was straight out of Richard and Stella Novack's garden. So, so, so good. I had the privelege of sitting in the garden with their daughter, Mary, my very dear friend, while they picked me a vegetable goodie bag last week.

 

 

Luke was a little more excited about the meal than he looks. I think. :) Recipe here.

What are you doing this weekend? We're driving to Pennsylvania and back for the second weekend in a row. My cutesy nieces are having a triple birthday party (my brother and sis-in-law are smart -- three birds one stone).

 

An inspiring story (one I can appreciate as a former waitress) about a man's last wish.

One of my very sweet girlfriends is having a baby. Eek!

This had me laughing out loud. Yeah, you're ridiculous, real Yelp users.

Really cool company selling shoes to empower women.

 

happy weekend!

 

 

Cinnamon Rolls for a Snowed-in Saturday

This morning, for the first time in a long time, I woke up to a fresh blanket of snow outside our windows. Luke and I felt like little kids; his grad class was canceled and we pretended to be snowed in and then proceeded to drink entirely too many cups of coffee. I don't often attempt cinnamon roll recipes from scratch (this may just be the 2nd time I've tried it) because it's so time consuming and, like I mentioned recently, I'm not the most patient person in the world--but something about the day called for moving more slowly, indulging more readily, and filling our little apartment with warmth and love and a thick, delicious aroma of sticky homemade goodness.

The recipe I chose took about 3 1/2 hours from start to finish. They were the best cinnamon rolls of my life, I kid you not. When they came out of the oven so soft and fluffy, I wished for a house full of people to share them with, if for no other reason than to have them oohing and ahhing over the doughy perfection (sorry, it's selfish I know. But at least I'm willing to share). Okay, even if you don't ooh and ahh, I still wish I could share these with you today. I don't foresee a positive outcome if I eat them all myself.


See my play-by-play (ish) in photos below.

 

In this step you scald the milk with oil and sugar. I used half coconut milk, half 2% milk.


Then you pause to document what it looks like outside.


The dough after it's risen for an hour.


Before proceeding, take a blurry picture with your husband.


Roll out the dough on a flat surface (I used waxed paper underneath, 'cause I'm a germiphobe like that) and top with copious amounts of melted butter, sugar and cinnamon.


Roll up tightly and don't worry if mixture spills out one end. This compromises the charm of your photo only and not the outcome of the cinnamon rolls themselves.


Thank your husband for preparing a cup of coffee for you to enjoy.


Before baking & after baking.

 

 

And it's a wrap. Have you ever tried baking cinnamon rolls from scratch? What's your favorite recipe? I hope you all get to enjoy a relaxing Saturday and something homemade this weekend!

PS - To my surprise, the deer head sold faster than any other item as of yet--in just a couple hours of listing! Thank you so much, Kat! Oh, and let me know what you name him should you decide to do so.

Salted Caramel Sauce, Ruined

My night tonight is a little bit like the salted caramel sauce I made for today's project. Half-empty, and just a tad burnt.

I said I would make something everyday, but hey--I never promised it'd all be good. I may try to make a new batch that will fill up the whole jar and not ruin your ice cream or coffee or whatever you decide to put caramel on. You may see that shiny new perfect sauce for sale on etsy sometime soon. Perhaps by then I will be feeling shiny, new, and filled up myself.

 

 

Homemade Granola

The first person I ever heard of making her own granola is the dear mother of dear friends, Stella Novack. What a sweet woman she is! There's much to learn from her other than you should learn to make your own granola. This particular recipe comes from Luke's Aunt Becky, though. Through the grapevine I've learned that nothing bad can ever come out of her kitchen! So thanks, Becky, for this recipe!

 

 

Earlier today I read this article from the NY Times and I really appreciated it. It's true, granola is little more than some oats mixed with a little oil & water and honey to sweeten it up. You know the Bear Naked granola that looks so appealing in the health food aisle? And it's five bucks at least? No more falling prey to it! Homemade granola all the way! I actually woke up this morning wanting to eat granola for breakfast and it's so easy that I whipped it up in time to do just that. Granted it was a lazy morning (do you think I would do this before work one day? not a chance), but really, you could do it too. I will be honest and tell you this is probably the fourth batch I've made and something seems to go wrong every time. I tried to be all Pioneer Woman and make it for my in-laws last week, and completely burnt half of it. If I can say one thing I think made a difference this time, it was to use sea salt. Well, and watch the timer. But mostly use sea salt! I keep a container in the cupboard to use for special things, like salted caramel once a year, and homemade granola.

 

 

Also: eat your homemade granola with Stonyfield blueberry yogurt for the best possible results. Mmm.

 

 

I hope everyone had a good Sunday. This afternoon Luke and I hiked Hook Mountain and saw this stunning view from the summit, and didn't take one photo. Not even a phone pic! Main because there was an army of dive-bombing beetle creatures buzzing around up there, and also because we don't own a camera at the moment. It's so tricky to be a blogger when you don't own a camera. Soon, soon this problem will be remedied. It's also tricky to be a blogger when you're not comfortable taking lots of photos of yourself and posting them. Hmm...maybe I should find a new hobby? But wouldn't you guys rather look at pictures of my beautiful stainless steel bowl full of grains than my mug?!

 

 

Click below for the recipe!

 

Cupcakes for your Weekend

Today my goal is to be productive. For me, that generally means cleaning, working on design projects, trying to plan ahead for the week and blogging. So far today Luke and I have made a great french toast breakfast, started planning what to pack for our friend Becca's wedding (we leave Wednesday), cleaned the bathrooms, put away clothes, and continued the ongoing process of sorting through things to get rid of before our move.

I have to head in to work later, too, so today I thought I'd share what's been going on in the bakery these days. I've been trying to get more creative with the cupcake recipes I attempt along with developing my own. Many times I gather ideas from Cupcake Project, Cupcake BakeshopPinterest, even the bakery's farm fresh deliveries and go from there. In the past week I've made a few I thought were worth sharing.

 

Lemongrass Cupcake with Homemade Raspberry Filling (original recipe, inspired by fresh lemongrass from Fresh from the Farms)

 

Snickerdoodle Cupcake with Cinnamon Penuche Frosting (recipe found here)

 

Blueberry Cobbler Cupcakes with Homemade Compote (original recipe, inspired by fresh blueberries from Fresh from the Farms)

 

Millionaire's Shortbread Cupcake with Homemade Salted Caramel and Ganache (original recipe, inspired by this photo on Pinterest)

 

Sorry about the last image, it was taken on a cell phone. The Millionaire's Shortbread cupcake was definitely the favorite in the shop. They must have looked enticing because they were all sold before 3pm! I think my personal favorite was the Lemongrass--it was so light, refreshing, and completely different. You all know my obsession with lemongrass!

Well, I don't want to lose steam, so I'm going to continue attacking my to-do list. Let's be honest, though, I don't really have a to-do lists...but if I did, I'd be checking off "attack big piles of laundry" in just a little while here. Have a great weekend! 

PS -- If you're interested in receiving e-mail updates from me, I've now added a box for you to submit your e-mail address at the bottom of my sidebar. Every time a new post goes up on my blog, you'll get it in your inbox! Easy! Also, if you don't follow via Google Friend Connect, it would make me super happy if you would!

homemade | Summer Kohlrabi

 Yesterday Luke and I went to a mid-week market at Atherton Mill, just outside of uptown Charlotte. I love this market. We bought locally roasted coffee, homemade black bean salsa and garlic pickles, local squash, garlic, and kohlrabi. I had never tasted or cooked kohlrabi before, and the farmer admitted he hadn't either! However, his wife had sent him with a stack of recipes (printed from Cooks.com, mine is slightly adapted) which he helpfully gave to me, wishing me well. Earlier today I prepared the kohlrabi for us to eat with our dinner.

I had absolutely no idea how to prep it, so I took some photos of the process in case you'd like to try it yourself. Simply peel with a vegetable peeler or a knife (I used my favorite paring knife), cut in half, and slice thin. Some sites recommended I slice the kohlrabi like matchsticks. I'd like to experiment slicing it differently for future recipes.

Looks a little like green apples, tastes a bit like broccoli. Such an interesting veggie! The recipe instructed me to saute it with butter and add flour and milk to create a sauce. We ate it as a side dish alongside spaghetti with homemade pesto sauce and a simple salad of romaine, tomatoes, blueberries and our favorite Brianna's poppyseed dressing.

I thought it was pretty tasty, but I definitely overcooked it during sauteing. And it was heavy. I would love to try out a stir-fry type recipe for kohlrabi with olive oil instead of butter and some additional vegetables, herbs and spices. But since I wanted to share the new Nightingale Handmade recipe card, and to commemorate my very first cooking experience with kohlrabi, I've shared this particular recipe below (click to enlarge). Enjoy! 

 


Strawberry Picking & Homemade Jam

Today I went strawberry picking with my mother-in-law, Lola! The end of the season is quickly approaching here in SC, but we were still able to pick nearly 12lbs of the brightest, sweetest berries in the hot morning sun.

As soon as we brought them back to my house we got to work making strawberry jam. **Disclaimer: if you are an experienced canner, please don't laugh at us with our wok and our too-small pots. Lola was gracious enough to agree to teach me to make jam though I lacked proper equipment.**

The first step was washing and halving 4 cups of berries and combining with 1 cup of sugar in a medium-large pot (we doubled it so each of us could take a batch). After letting the mixture sit for 15 minutes, we brought it to a boil, stirring consistently.

Then we added more sugar. LOTS more sugar. Like, 6 cups more! Yikes! Along with a box of pectin, this is what helped the jam stand up. Once we added the pectin it didn't take long to finish the process--the jars and lids had been sterilized and were sitting in the hot water waiting for the jam to be poured in. Once we filled all 9 jars, we lidded them and waited for the seal.

The jam is absolutely delicious. I can't wait to share with friends and family and eat large amounts of peanut butter and homemade jam sandwiches. This was actually my first canning experience, but it was so easy I can't wait to do more. I have plenty of strawberries left--some already stashed away in the freezer to enjoy long after the season is over--so I'll have to think of other things to make with them. Until then, I'm going to enjoy them with cereal and yogurt and pop them like candy. 

**Disclaimer 2 If you're going to can without proper equipment, be aware that you might make a huge mess and at one point fill your house with smoke. Bear in mind it's all worth it in the end.**

 

Custard-filled Peanut Butter Cupcakes

When the news reached me at college that a decades-old bakery in my hometown of Tunkhannock had shut down, I was heartbroken. I had grown up with their amazingly yummy baked goods (and 25-cent doughnuts!) and can still remember the aroma as you walked into the storefront. It was difficult to deal with my first experience of drastic change in the place I had lived my entire life. It was the feeling one has going back to a place long visited solely in memories, only to find it is not the way you left it. Even more tragic is the fact that Tunkhannock is still without a bakery, the old storefront is empty and dilapidated, and never again will there be 25-cent doughnuts.

But I'm paying homage to Gable's in my own special way.

I baked these cupcakes yesterday at the cupcake shop as a tribute to my all-time favorite Gable's treat: a soft, custard-filled doughnut with a smooth peanut butter icing. It was unarguably the best doughnut in the entire. history. of the world. But I know many people had a favorite item, so Tunkhannock friends, what was yours? What do you miss most about Gable's? Do you hold out hope that another bakery will open up again soon? Leave your comments below, and if someone has a photo of Gable's in its heyday, by all means let me know.