Friday, August 31, 2012

Friday Favorites

1.  Sports!  With today being kick off day I have to give a shout out to Michigan State Football!  Go Green!

2.  Long weekends!  Unfortunately, our Labor Day beach weekend plans at the cottage got foiled (thanks to my not so awesome extended family), but I'm thinking of it as an excuse to spend time at home with my hubs.  We're planning on golfing, kayaking, and relaxing which actually sounds pretty great.
3.  This nail color.  Must buy!

 4.  My Bella girl.  Those who know me know how much I love this sweet little face.  But seriously, how could you not?!

5.  And because this is me we're talking about; food.  In particular, this lemon-blueberry coffee cake.  It's one of my favorite comfort foods, and I think I should probably make one while blueberries are still in season!  If anyone is interested in this recipe, message me--I'd be happy to share!

Everyone enjoy a great, relaxing Labor Day weekend!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Who needs a therapist when you've got an oven?

Has anyone ever seen that Lizzie McGuire episode where her mom comes in the kitchen and immediately knows something is wrong simply because Lizzie is baking cookies?  I know; lamest example I could have possibly come up with, but I promise I have a point.  
Without getting into a lot of detail, let's just say yesterday was a pretty down day for me.  Cooking is something that gives me joy all the time, and it's absolutely one of my favorite things to do when I need to give my mood a little boost (that, or drinking a bottle of wine).
Today I decided to channel my angst into baking my husband's favorite thing--Foccacia!
Trust me; it's quite a bit easier than many would expect.


One thing that's really important when baking any yeast-raised product is the order in which you add ingredients.  
First, mix luke warm water with the yeast (The warmth of the water will help activate the yeast).
Next, add your sugar, which also helps with yeast activating.
Follow this with flour, oil, and salt.
Salt is an inhibitor for yeast growth, so it should be added at the very end.
**I also added some oregano at this time for extra flavoring--it's your chance to get creative!

Mix the dough with a hook attachment on 2nd speed for approximately 7 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the edges of the bowl.

Next, form the dough into a ball, place it in an oiled bowl, and cover it with a dish towel.
Allow the dough to proof for at least an hour, or until it has doubled in volume.

Punch the proofed dough to deflate it and place it on a lightly floured surface.  
Gently kneed the dough into a ball and place it into an oiled cake or pie tin.
Use your finger tips to form dimples into the top of the dough, repeating this motion every ten minutes until the dough completely fills the pan.

At this point, add any toppings you'd like.
I enjoy brushing the bread with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkling it with sea salt.

 Bake the bread at 500 degrees for about 8 minutes, or until golden.
It's SO good for sandwiches or as a side for soup or pasta.

Have a delicious day :)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Just for fun

1. Are you married? If so when did you get married, and tell us about your special day. If not? How would you describe your dream wedding?
I am.  Scott and I were married July 9th, 2011.  It was the most perfect day.  We were married at the church I went to throughout middle and high school and had our reception at a golf course in my home town.  One of my biggest goals for the day was that all of my guests had fun, and I really think it happened.  It helps that I have a lot of fun people in my life!

2. Show us some wedding pictures. Either yours or of some that you love.


Had to include this one!  That would be my father.
3. How about the engagement? Tell us your story. If not engaged, what's your dream proposal?

According to Scott, he got nervous.  He said he kept thinking of ways to ask me, but when it came down to it, he just couldn't wait.  So one night we were at home sitting on the couch, eating popcorn, watching a movie.  I looked over at him and he was down on his knee, holding a ring.  I think I spit popcorn all over his face.  Honestly, while it wasn't the least bit creative, it was perfect.  I knew he was going to propose any day, so the fact that he did it in a way that surprised me was awesome.  I was so happy!

4. Show us your wedding rings or an engagement photo! If not engaged/married ... show us your "dream" ring.
How about both?

We did engagement photos at the place we met :)

5. Tell us why you think marriage doesn't work out for so many? What can we do to make things last?
I think too many people put too much of an emphasis on love and passion.  Don't get me wrong, I am very much in love with my husband and am absolutely passionate about him, but I just believe there is so much more to a successful marriage.  The best thing about our marriage is that we are best friends.  We genuinely like each other and want to spend time together.
Communication is also key.  Before we were even engaged we had all of the important talks; pet peeves, children, pets, finances, etc.  Don't skip these talks!  To many of them are deal breakers!  
We try to be physically and emotionally intimate every day.  Get your minds out of the gutter--I'm talking multiple "I love you"s per day and a lot of hugs and kisses.


Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cake Pop Video Tutorial!

Okay, everyone.  It is with great hesitation that I present my first ever *homemade*, *amateur*, video tutorial.  Please keep a few things in mind while watching.

1.  I am by no means a film maker.  This was made with a webcam and is, therefore, a tad blurry and the backwards/mirror image of what my kitchen actually looks like.
2.  I did this in one take, so there are a few "ums" and awkward pauses.  
3.  Please note my dog's cameo about half way in.  She is the cutest.

Be gentle...

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Sunday Social. Throwback time!

Sunday Social

1. What were you like in Middle School/HS?(pictures)
I don't even want to talk about middle school.  Let's just say it was my "awkward" phase.  I was a bit overweight.  I actually think I've burned 90% of the photos I had of my middle school years.  Yeah, not good.
In high school, I began to come in to my own.  I had several different groups of friends, which made life so fun.  
I was in theater and choir (I know, dork) and I absolutely LOVED both.  Singing is one of the things I miss most about my teenage years.  I'll never stop being proud of those times. 

Choir days.

Before one of the musicals.
Yes, we went to HP movie premiers looking like this.

Best friends since diapers.

Closest high school friends in our pre-college wear.

4 of my closest girl friends.  Just making sure everyone recognizes Kay from Life After...

Loved getting pretty for school dances!

I loved my high school football and basketball seasons!  Go Rams!

 2.  What were your favorite past times?
The simple times.  I just remember feeling so blessed to have such wonderful friends and thinking there was no way we'd ever grow apart.  It's kind of sad how life happens.
We laughed a lot.  I'm still a happy person and do laugh all the time, but now it's "adult laughter".  I miss being a goofy kid.  I look back on my teenage years and can't help but giggle when I think about how serious we all thought it was! 
And, of course, gel pens, trapper keepers, roll on glitter eye shadow/blush/perfume, etc.
3. What songs were you obsessed with?(Backstreet Boys anyone?)
I was the queen of music phases.  I went through a Good Charlotte phase, of course a boy band phase, even a punk rock phase (I'd like to forget that one).  I've never lost my love for show tunes and classical music.
4. What fashion statement do you look back on and cringe?
Again, my punk rock phase.  We're talking black streaks and bows in my hair, Fender t-shirts (I do not play guitar), converse, etc.  Yeah, pretty bad.
5. Who was your celeb crush?
Orlando Bloom.  I was actually unnaturally obsessed.

Yeah, he's still sexy.
 6. What were your favorite tv shows/movies?
The OC!  My friends and I used to have OC nights almost every week.  I wanted to be Summer so badly.  That, and Laguna Beach of course!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chef, food writer, food stylist?

A part of my life I haven't really written much about is one of my "jobs".  I work as a corporate chef on a contracted, part time basis for a food broker.  It's a small company owned by a couple that I've known literally since I was born, so it was a very convenient set up for all of us.
It's been great to have something to fill my off days and bring in a little extra cash while I'm working on building my personal chef and catering service--not to mention a great learning experience for me.

This morning, I had the opportunity to try my hand at some food styling and photography for a major retailer's newsletter.

Here are a couple of (untouched and amateur) photos of what we were working on.

Shouldn't the brand be paying me for this? :)

Homemade French onion soup.

I so appreciate any opportunity I can get to expand my knowledge of the food world.  I love that I have chosen an industry that is ever changing and ever growing.  It makes it so easy to remain passionate when there is so much to learn!

That's the end of my ramble.  
Happy hump day!

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Sunday Social--FOOD!

Sunday Social 

I have literally been looking forward to this link up for the whole week.  I kind of feel like it was made for me :)

1. If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?

This is a tough one.  I have a huge weakness for pizza.  But the real kind.  Hand made, wood fired, authentic Italian pizza. 

2. What's your guilty pleasure/comfort food?

My comfort food is anything with a lot of cheese on it.  Mostly pizza or pasta.  My guilty pleasure is definitely anything rich.  Brownie a la mode is my favorite dessert in the world.  Even though it's super simple.  It's just so good.

3. What's the weirdest/craziest thing you've ever eaten?

I actually love trying unusual things.  Being adventurous with food has always kind of come naturally.  Foie gras, escargot, bone marrow, and haggis are probably the most unique.
FYI--haggis is the most disgusting thing in the world.

4. What foods do you avoid at all costs?
None.  Aside from haggis, I've never had anything I absolutely hate.  I'll try anything.

5. What meal reminds you of your childhood?
My mom has always been a good cook.  She's probably the main reason I turned into such a foodie.  It's odd, but the meal that always sticks out in my mind when I think of childhood  was a piece of toast, topped with a poached egg, and covered with warm milk.  Random, right?  I just remember loving it.  That, or Grandma's Goulash.

6. Share one of your favorite recipes and the story behind it.

Puff Pastry Pinwheels with sweet onion marmalade, lemon and rosemary goat cheese, and crispy prosciutto.

I came up with this recipe off the top of my head as a project in culinary school.  They were so well received that I added them to my catering menu after I graduated.  I swear, about 75% of my clients have ordered them.  They're quite simple, but I take a lot of pride in knowing that one of my most popular items was something I personally created.
Forgive me for not including the recipe, but if everyone knows how to make them, I won't be able to sell them!

Have a happy Sunday.  Relax a little!
Do me a favor--if you have read this blog and enjoy it, I would love to gain more followers!  Thanks :)

Friday, August 10, 2012

Rainy days and souffles

After a ridiculously dry summer here in Michigan, we're finally experiencing a few days of some serious rain.  My lawn and garden are so happy!
As much as I love a good beach day, sometimes a rainy day is welcomed as an excuse to relax in my sweats, read, and do a little baking.
Today I decided to do something I haven't done since culinary school--make sweet souffles!  They didn't even turn out half bad :)

The ramekins must be well coated with melted butter and sugar--it keeps the batter from sticking to the sides so the souffles will rise properly.  As a bonus--it also gives the souffle a delicious caramelized sugar crust.

All souffles, sweet or savory, are made up of an egg yolk base (in this case, it's flavored with vanilla and cinnamon) and whipped egg whites for leavening.

The base and the egg whites are folded together- very carefully!  If you aren't gentle with your folding, the egg whites may collapse and the souffle won't rise properly.  Fill the sugared ramekins with the mixture and run a knife along the outer edge of the batter to allow the sides to release and rise more easily.

They bake at 350 degrees for 20-30 minutes.  Make sure the ramekins are right in the middle of the oven and do not peek!  If cold air is allowed into the oven, it will cause the souffle to collapse.  Just use your oven light if you need to see if it's finished. 
I served these dusted with confectioners sugar and topped with a sliced strawberry.  They'd also be delicious drizzled with creme anglaise. 
Serve them quickly.  The longer they sit at room temperature, the less height they'll have.

Souffles are perfect desserts to serve to a small dinner party.  They're elegant and impressive.  They do take practice and patience, but once you get it, you've got it!  Bon Appetit!

Everyone have a wonderful weekend.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Latest obbsession/Photo dump

During my vacation last week, my mom and I went out for dinner in Pentwater one night.  The restaurant we went to serves a half baked acorn squash and it is SO GOOD.  
I didn't even order one and I probably ate half of hers (sorry Mom!).  So, naturally, I had to recreate it when I got home. 

It's really a classic recipe--the baking technique is what makes this one so amazing. I found the best way to make this is by cutting the squash in half and baking it skin side up in about an inch of water for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.  
Drain the water, flip the squash, and coat the center with butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and bake it under a broiler for about 5 minutes--or until the sugar creates a golden brown crust.

I'm telling you--this stuff was like vegetable creme brulee! 

As promised, here are a few photos of my beach week.

 My niece, Karly with miss Bella

Husband and cousin floating.

Momma and me.

Bar sitting.

S'mores!  So exciting.

Just the most beautiful place.

We were outnumbered by black dogs at times.

I mean, come on.  Look at that!

Happy Tuesday :)

Sunday, August 5, 2012

I'm back! Sunday Social time

Sunday Social 
1. What is your favorite Fall activity?

I LOVE fall.  I always wish it would last longer.  Football game tailgating is probably one of my favorite things.  Also, my husband and I usually take a weekend trip up to my cottage in October and I love that.  It's deserted in the fall so it's so quiet and peaceful and the trees are beautiful.  I can't leave out the obvious joy of drinking tea and cofffee, going pumpkin picking, and wearing scarves.

2. Do you follow a football team?
Michigan State!  Scott graduated from there and I did two years before transferring to Culinary school (I'm still a Spartan at heart).

3. What is something fun about Fall in your area?
The usual things.  Harvest festivals, pumpkin patches, doughnut shops, corn mazes.  So much fun.
 4. Fav Fall outfit staples?
I'm kind of obsessed with boots, big scarves, comfy sweaters, and cinched jackets.  Here are some Pinterest faves.

5. Thing you are looking forward to most about this coming Fall season? 
Turning off the A/C, drinking cider and eating doughnuts, baking pies, and tailgating of course.

6. Favorite fall holiday?  Traditions?

I'll be honest, I am not a huge fan of Halloween.  I used to be, but now I'm that mean old lady (at 23) that asks the kids that look older than 13, "Aren't you a little old to be trick or treating?"  I do love Thanksgiving--I mean, come on, a holiday entirely centered around food?  Yes please.

I was terrible about taking food photos this past week, but we had some pretty yummy meals up north.  I think my personal favorite was actually one of the simplest to make:

Take any type of pesto you like--I used traditional basil pesto.  Mix 1 part of the pesto with 1 part mascarpone cream.  I also added some red pepper flakes for a little heat and thinned the sauce out with some milk.  Toss it with noodles and enjoy it as is, or top it with grilled chicken, fish, or steak.

Expect a Lake Michigan-filled photo dump in the next couple of days!