My Intentions

Jess LC is all about setting intentions for your life.  And she says you can set them for a space as well.  So here, dear readers, is mine.

new house.

I want our new house to be inviting.  And, borrowing a rule out of Wooden Nickels’ playbook, I want it to feel like you can put your feet up anywhere and relax.  You can bet I’ll make all major renovation and decoration decisions accordingly.

As far as we can tell, this is where we’re going to be for quite some time, and I can’t think of anything I want more than to fill it to the brim with friends and family on the regular.  Which brings us to Friday Night Meatballs.  You know, like Friday Night Lights, only warmer, and cozier.  I knew a family who did something similar growing up and it always intrigued me.  So I’m putting it out there here and now, and you can ask when you can start coming over once we get settled.  Except I’m leaning toward Sunday nights for three reasons.  1.  Fridays in DC are a nightmare, traffic-wise, and we’d never actually see anyone.  2.  Everyone hates Sundays and this will give us a reason to love them.  3.  The Superbowl and Oscar Sunday.

I’ll keep you posted.

Samoas Cupcakes

And for my next trick, here are some more cupcakes.

I’ll pause while you all take a collective gasp.

samoas cupcakes.

Yes, September is packed with birthdays, and today’s winner picked something Samoas-inspired.  Which was great, as I have had these in the back of my head for about a year now.

They are every bit as over the top as you might think, though I took some liberties with the recipe because I was exhausted and not thinking straight when I made them.  I forgot to put the cookies on the bottoms of the cupcake tins, so I just dunked the top part of the cookie in ganache, added the coconut/caramel topping to the cookie, and “drizzled” chocolate on top.  I thinned out the ganache with milk twice, and it still wasn’t as drizzley as I wanted, so the chocolate drizzles became more like chocolate blobs.  But you know what?  These still taste amazing.

They are absolutely time consuming to make, and absolutely worth it if you love Samoas and can’t wait for Girl Scout Cookie season before enjoying one for yourself. Happy Monday, dear readers!

Heath Bar Cupcakes

heath bar cupcakes.Hopefully CV(D) felt a little birthday love the other day when I set these Heath Bar cupcakes down in front of her.  Chocolate cupcakes, studded with bits of toffee, vanilla frosting, chocolate ganache, and a Heath Bar on top.  Nothing says love like a three step cupcake.To make 30 (30!!!!!), you will need:

For the cupcakes:

1 (18.25 ounce) package devil’s food cake mix
1 (5.9 ounce) package instant chocolate pudding mix
1 cup sour cream or yogurt (I use full-fat)
1 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon instant espresso granules dissolved in 1/2 cup warm water
1 C Heath toffee bits

For the buttercream:  (This makes enough icing if you are piping it on your cupcakes.  If you’re using a spatula to frost the old fashioned way, like mine above, cut the recipe in half.)

4 sticks unsalted butter, softened
pinch of fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon clear vanilla extract
2 pounds confectioners’ sugar, sifted
4-6 tablespoons heavy cream or milk

For the ganache:

4 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped into very small pieces
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons honey
2 teaspoons vanilla

5 1.4-ounce Heath Bars, chopped into large pieces

For the cupcakes:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners or spray with non-stick cooking spray.  In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat together the cake and pudding mixes, sour cream, oil, eggs, vanilla and espresso water mixture. Beat for about two minutes on medium speed until well combined. Fold in Heath English Toffee Bits. Using a large cookie scoop, distribute the batter between 24 muffin wells; about 3 tablespoons of batter per well. Bake in preheated oven for 18-22 minutes or until the tops of the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Allow cupcakes to cool inside muffin tins for about 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from muffin tins and allow to fully cool on a wire rack. Once cupcakes are cool, prepare your frosting.

For the buttercream:

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter until fluffy. Slowly add in confectioner’s sugar, and continue creaming until well blended. Add salt, vanilla, and 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk. Blend on low speed until moistened. Add an additional 1 to 3 tablespoons of heavy cream or milk until you reach the desired consistency. Beat at high speed until frosting is smooth and fluffy.  Pipe or frost cupcakes to your liking.

For the ganache:

In a small saucepan over medium heat, warm the heavy cream until very hot, but not boiling.  Place chocolate pieces in a heat safe bowl. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and allow it to sit for about 5 minutes. Whisk the cream and chocolate until smooth and thoroughly combined. I couldn’t believe this was going to work.  It totally worked.  Whisk in the honey and vanilla. Allow to cool for about 15 minutes. Do not let the glaze sit for too long or it will harden up before you spoon it over the frosting. Spoon the glaze on the tops of the frosted cupcakes, allowing it to drip down the sides a little bit. Don’t add too much glaze or it will drip all over your liners. Top each cupcake with a piece of Heath Bar.

It’s All About Balance

The (Not So) New Girl and I spent some time talking about healthy choices recently.  She’s the type who wants to eat what she wants to eat, and she’ll healthy-fy just about anything in the name of making it work.  She’s great about sharing her black bean brownies, and other low-guilt treats.  I, on the other hand, will eat salad at lunch, and drink a smoothie for breakfast and dinner if it means I can inhale a full-fat bowl of ice cream at the end of the day.  No healthy substitutions for me, I want the real stuff.

toffee tiramisu.

This tiramisu that you see above?  This is the real stuff.  There is nothing healthy about it, so I’ve been hitting up barre three times a week in order to combat its negative effects.  My aunt made Betty Crocker’s Toffee Tiramisu and brought it to some gathering at Grandma Glass of Milk’s years and years and years ago.  It remained etched in my brain forever, and I’ve been known to pull it out on (family) occasion.  It’s never made the blog because it doesn’t pop up often, and when it does, rarely is there any left for a photo shoot.  But I snagged an extra serving the other night, and I couldn’t be happier to finally share this with you.

toffee tiramisu.

To make toffee tiramisu that never feeds quite as many as you might think you will need:

  • 1 package (10.75 ounces) frozen pound cake loaf, thawed and cut into 9 slices
  • 3/4 cup strong coffee
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 4 oz. bittersweet chocolate, chopped
  • 1 package (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened
  • 2 cups whipping (heavy) cream
  • 5 Heath Bars, chopped

Arrange pound cake slices in the bottom of an 11 x 7 baking dish (8 x 8 or 9 x 9 are both fine, too).  Pour coffee over pound cake and let it soak in while you prepare the next layer.  In stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment, beat cream cheese and sugar several minutes, until light and fluffy.  Melt bittersweet chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl.  I start by microwaving chocolate for about 30 seconds, give it a stir, and another 30, and continue with 15-second increments until it’s fully melted.  When chocolate is melted, pour into cream cheese mixture and continue to beat till incorporated.  Beat in cream till light and fluffy.  Spread chocolate layer over pound cake layer.  Top with Heath Bars and refrigerate until serving.

On the Vastness of the Internet

cocktails.

Two things have come my way on the Internet recently.  Two things that have made me stop, clasp my hands together, and throw them to the heavens, shouting, “YES!”  (You know, Emoji style.)

Why 30 is Not the New 20

I’m a sucker for a good TED Talk, and as a recently-turned-30-year-old, I had to click on this one.

At about the 9:50 mark, Jay knocks it out of the park, outlining 3 things that 20-somethings need to hear.  I am not a 20-something.  I loved them still.  You could make an endless supply of Etsy prints or Pinterest quotes with the gems Jay delivers throughout her talk.

How to Be Polite

My rule of life, in just about any situation, is don’t be an idiot.  It’s simple, and fairly easy to live by.  However, if you wanted to go a little deeper, and get to know me better, you could also click on that link above.  Because manners can solve just about all of life’s problems.  I’m giving serious thought to memorizing this paragraph of Ford’s piece, and reciting in my head when I feel stressed, or frustrated, or just about anything that makes my heart rate quicken.  This is my truth, right here.  And the truth is beautiful.  I’ve heard it can set you free.

People silently struggle from all kinds of terrible things. They suffer from depression, ambition, substance abuse, and pretension. They suffer from family tragedy, Ivy-League educations, and self-loathing. They suffer from failing marriages, physical pain, and publishing. The good thing about politeness is that you can treat these people exactly the same. And then wait to see what happens. You don’t have to have an opinion. You don’t need to make a judgment. I know that doesn’t sound like liberation, because we live and work in an opinion-based economy. But it is. Not having an opinion means not having an obligation. And not being obligated is one of the sweetest of life’s riches.

 

On Eating Well

If I learned anything after two weeks on the road this summer, it’s that we eat well at home.

Never mind, I knew that.

But this trip was a sweet reminder.

fish tacos.

I texted AGOMYR, who had just completed a road trip of her own (albeit on the opposite end of the country), about 4 days into our journey, and I asked her for her tips on road trip eating.  How could I do this trip without ballooning up to 250 pounds?  She wisely told me to keep eating, and when I got tired of that, eat more.  She offered eloquent advice about food and bathing suits (see it here), and I kept on trucking through New England, searching for green smoothies so I could at least pretend like I tried to be healthy.  Spoiler alert:  Ali found me one.  But it was all about the chicken sandwiches, and meaty main dishes, and very few vegetables and even fewer fruits.  And when we were finished with our trip all I wanted was a giant salad.

salmon.

So we picked up salads, made to our specifications from a local market, and chowed down upon our return home.  They were disappointing.  They tasted like salads would taste if you drained the ingredients from a can and used ingredients that weren’t in season.

bruschetta.

Dear readers, I am not a foodie.  But I am a food snob.

It doesn’t have to be local, nor need it be organic, but it must be made with thought and care.  Things always taste better when they are.

(This post totally contains truths of my life, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that I didn’t make a lot of what’s pictured above.  Now that we’re living with my in-laws, I’m not making as much food as I used to!)

 

 

Four Things

sunset.

With our last move, I was beyond excited to have stairs.  I remember having lived in apartments for 4 years, and never being more than a wall away from my roommates.  I was beyond lucky in my roommate adventures, but sometimes you just need space.  Thinking that I might be on the second floor of our house while my husband was on the first felt like a dream.  It seemed like we would be worlds apart.

This time around, there are four things I can’t wait to experience.  And none of them requires living in the house to make happen, which is great, as we’re not going to be there for quite some time.

 

1.  Trick Or Treaters

After 4 years living in an apartment and 4 years living on a busy city street, I am SO ready for trick-or-treaters come Halloween!  I have never loved Halloween as an adult holiday, but I’m all about the kid side of things.  I plain to stock up on bags and bags of candy, and I already have a couple friends lined up to come over and help me pass it out/eat it all ourselves.  That’s what Halloween is all about, right?

 

2.  Christmas Lights

Dear readers, do you want to know a fun fact about this new house of ours?  It’s almost identical to the house I grew up in.  I joke with my husband that since he couldn’t take me back to Philly, he bought me the house I loved there, here.  The awesome thing about this is that I have already put up Christmas lights up in a house just like this.  No time wasted trying to figure out how to make the set up work here, I’ve got it on lockdown.  We’ll see if my husband is brave enough to climb up on the roof with me when the time comes.

3.  A Garden

This is one that I’m slightly nervous about, actually.  I am counting on Wooden Nickels to lend me her green thumb to get things up and running in our front and backyards once we have a bit (cough, TON) of tree work done.  I have quite the black thumb, so hopefully I’ll get the hang of keeping plants in the ground alive, because plants in pots have always eluded me.  My dream, though, is that one day I’ll be able to run outside to cut peonies and hydrangeas, and stuff them in vases all over the house.

 

4.  Outdoor Lights.

Remember this post?  It’s going way (way, way) back in the archives, but I have never forgotten it.  And now it could totally become a reality.  I am going to string our backyard with so many little globe lights, it’s going to be ridiculous.  Did you see that Jordan Ferney launched Bright Lab Lights just the other day?  I love the sorbet strands, and I am counting down the hours until it reasonably makes sense for me to invest.  Between her lights and Elsie and Emma’s tutorial for how to hang them, I should be all set. Who wants to come for dinner outside in the yard of a house I don’t live in yet?