I'm just a girl, sitting in front of a computer, asking you to read this.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

If you're not sick of pumpkin flavored everything yet, here's my all-time favorite pumpkin bread recipe. It originally comes from Two Peas and Their Pod, and I've made just a few little changes to the recipe over the years. I've made at least once for the past three Octobers, and spending an evening making a few loaves of pumpkin chocolate chip bread has become one of my favorite fall traditions (along with watching Hocus Pocus any and every time I catch it on TV).

When I make the bread, I add 1 teaspoon of cardamom in addition to the cinnamon and nutmeg in the original recipe. I think it gives the final product an extra zip of warm deliciousness.

I also like to use mini chocolate chips in place of regular ones, and I use 1 1/2 cups of chips instead of just one. I operate under the idea that there is no such thing as too many chocolate chips (it is a truth universally acknowledged, in my opinion).

Pair this bread with a hot cup of Darjeeling tea (with a splash of milk), and you have my favorite fall breakfast/1 a.m. snack. What's yours?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pumpkin Scones

This past weekend, my best friend Katie came back home for a short visit! Katie and I have been best friends since we were 14. We were kind of inseparable in high school. We might've even had a mashup name ala celebrity couples...and it might've been Katassie (you know that has a nice ring to it, shush). Anyway, it was wonderful to see her again and catch up! She was only in town for a few days, and we decided baking had to happen at some point in the weekend.

Since its starting to feel like fall these days (which in Florida means its now about 86F in the middle of the day instead of 96F. Rejoice! Fall is here! Break out the sweaters at your own risk, though), Katie and I wanted to make something pumpkin related.

Once it hits mid-September, I believe pumpkin everything is fair game. And once it hits October 1st, pumpkin decorations and tablecloths are brought out without delay. So of course, pumpkin scones happened.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

A Little Update

Just a small update because I've been so lax in my blogging lately! I'm going to try to go back to posting at least once a week, because I've realized I miss blogging quite a lot. I've just felt a little uninspired when it comes to post topics lately, blogger's block if you will. I have the desire to blog but can't decide what to blog about. I've got a few recipe ideas in mind, but I think I may work on another fashion history post for later on in the week. Up next: the Regency period! Possibly my favorite historical fashion period, and yes, that's partially because I'm a huge Jane Austen nerd.

So anyway, this post is just a little update on my current pet project: the lemon tree. It's getting on so well! I love checking on it every day and seeing it's grown an inch overnight, or a new shoot of delicate green leaves has begun budding. It it still definitely a pipsqueak of a lemon tree, but here's to hoping that it will continue to thrive for years to come.

Sorry about the quality of the photo, I totally forgot to get one earlier, so I took this indoors tonight. I probably should've waited and posted tomorrow but I'm feeling bloggy tonight. A bit of flash overload, eek. But still new growth, look! It lives!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Mango Salsa


I was a very picky eater until about high school. I was especially wary of fruits. Eat something with seeds in them? Nope. I also wasn't a fan of the textures of most fruits (is that weird? I just can't do certain textures).

When I started cooking and baking more in high school however, I became more adventurous in what I liked to eat. Mangoes are one of the fruits I wish I'd appreciated earlier in life, because I have a lot of mangoes to eat now to make up for lost time. Mangoes just taste like summer and sunshine to me. I need one right now, I think.

When Annelih, Rhi and I decided to make something using tropical fruits this week, I decided to go with a mango salsa my mom makes. It's perfect as a topping in tacos or on top of grilled chicken or fish.

I had it on black bean veggies tacos last night and I ended up eating the extra salsa straight out of the bowl because I couldn't let any go to waste.

Mango Salsa:
1 mango
1 plum tomato, sliced and halved
1/2 small onion, diced
1 small lime
garlic powder
salt and pepper

1. Peel the mango and cut up the fruit into medium-sized chunks.
2. In a small bowl, combine the mango with the onion and tomatoes. Sprinkle with a tiny bit of salt to help everything juice up.
3. Add garlic powder, pepper, and a squeeze of lime juice (to taste).
4. Serve over chicken, fish, or veggies tacos! Or just eat it straight out of the bowl. It's that good.

This week I'm participating in Foodie Friday and Friday Favorites!

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lemon Trees and Sherbet

From blossoms
by the moonlight,
from an
aroma of exasperated
steeped in fragrance,
drifted from the lemon tree,
and from its plantarium
lemons descended to the earth.

- Ode to the Lemon, Pablo Neruda.

The other day I was at Busch Gardens, and I noticed they now have a garden center in the park entrance. Why? I have no idea. But they were selling citrus plants...in boxes. Air-tight packages containing teeny-tiny lemon, lime, and orange trees were just sitting there, calling to me. I love the idea of growing my own herbs, fruit and vegetables. However, I've not had much success outside of herbs (my basil and parsley are doing fantastic, though!), but I'm hoping to turn that around.

We have orange and tangelo trees in our backyard that produce lots of fruit in the winter, and its always fun to pick off the ripe fruit. So when I saw an opportunity to add to our mini citrus orchard, I couldn't resist.

Our future lemon tree is just a wee little shoot with some leaves right now, but I'm hoping it will grow into a tree we can enjoy for years to come!

I cook and bake with lemons a lot, and I can't wait for the day when I can get them from my backyard instead of the grocery store!

I will, however, continue to buy my other citrus favorite, orange sherbet, from Publix. Maybe one day I'll learn how to make that from scratch!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Who Says Box Cake Can't Be Delicious?

I love the Olympics. I remember freaking out when Dominique Moceanu won gold for the U.S. in 1996. I was 6 and totally in love with her. I wanted to be her, and I started gymnastics that year. I didn't last long. Soccer, swimming, and gymnastics are my favorite sports to watch, and so far the United States has done a pretty great job bringing home medals in all three (woooo go US Women's soccer! I love them so so much). Also, how amazing is the Chinese diving team? They're fantastic!

Anyway, when Annelih suggested we make something Olympic themed for this week's recipe adventure (and I apologize for how late it is!), I decided I'd make something in honor of the US Olympic athletes. I also wanted an excuse to use an excess amount of strawberries and bluberries. And whipped cream. Sooo much whipped cream.

I also decided to make a cake that looked like Captain America's shield because why not? As one of my friend's mentioned recently, Cap would totally take the gold in the decathlon. It's not even up for debate.

Another confession: I love box cake. I went through a phase where I refused to settle for anything less than everything from scratch. I tried dozens of cake recipes, and while most were delicious, I soon realized that I still loved good old Duncan Hines, Betty Crocker, and Jiffy cakes from a box. Plus, you can just add a little orange zest or almond extract to the batter to give it some extra oomph. It can totally hide the fact that you didn't slave over the cake for hours.

So yes, I decided to make a box cake for this week instead of making it from scratch. And it was light and fluffy and delicious. Lucky for me, whipped cream and berries can make any cake look way harder to make than it really was.

Whipped cream recipe and how I decorated the cake behind the cut!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Foods That Double as Great Skin Care Products

Having sensitive skin is the worst. As a teenager, I knew very little about skin care except no matter how many facial washes, astringents, or moisturizers I tried, I still felt like a horrible zit monster. Looking back, I realize I was probably using too many harsh products for my sensitive skin. While I still have some skin issues from time to time, I've found that for my fickle combination skin, natural remedies work best.

In fact, several common foods and pantry items often yield great results when it comes to skin care. Would you believe it that smearing honey all over your face would even your skin tone? How about strawberry juice as an astringent? I'm serious, they're amazing. Here's my list of foods that you might want to work in to your skin care regimen:

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer Drinks: Tinto de Verano

After three weeks of baking, we're doing something a little different this week. Annelih, Rhi and I decided to do recipes for summer drinks! Now, I'm not the greatest at making mixed drinks, so I decided to go with something simple and delicious. This week, I'll be sharing a recipe for one of Spain's most popular summer drinks, tinto de verano.

The name translates to "summer red wine," and it's sort of a simpler version of sangria. It's served all over Spain in the summertime and is popular in all sorts of venues, from restaurants to dive bars to family gatherings. One day, I'll finally make it to the land of my people and I'll drink tintos daily at various outdoor cafes and people watch and life will be wonderful. Just wait, it'll happen.

Luckily for me, its super easy to make and until I get to Spain, I can make tintos de verano at home. There are variations on the basic recipe, but all you really need is red wine, a lemon-lime soda of your choice, and maybe some lemon slices for garnish. Generally its made with a carbonated sweet lemonade (the La Casera brand is popular in Spain), but lemon Fanta, 7-Up and Sprite will do as well. I decided to use Jarritos limón flavored soda in mine because its pretty easy to find where I live and its absolutely delicious.

It's also a fantastic neon green color, which is a bonus.

What You'll Need:
Red wine, chilled
Carbonated lemonade or lemon-lime soda
1 Lemon, sliced for garnish
*Rum, optional for added kick

Mix equal parts red wine and carbonated lemonade. Garnish with lemon slices. Add a shot of rum if you're feeling fancy. That's it, you're done! Enjoy with just about anything.

We had it with a puff pastry pizza tonight and it was a perfect light summer meal.

I couldn't resist photographing some in one of my mother's vintage highball glasses:

Be sure to check out Annelih's Mango Pineapple Rum Punch and Rhiannon's Strawberry Mint Fizz.

I'm also participating in Wow Us Wednesdays!

Historic Fashion I Love to Look At But Would Hate to Wear: Women's Fashion in 18th Century France

I think fashion is a fascinating topic. I mean...yes, I enjoy a good wrap dress as much as the next girl, and I think finding a cheap vintage Coach purse on eBay is one of life's greatest small pleasures, but my interests in fashion lie in the realm of fashion/costume history.

Historic Costumes was one of my favorite classes in college because it fed both my inner history and fashion nerd. The more I learned about earlier fashion eras, however, the more I realized I'd never, ever want to wear most looks for more than a short period of time (like 15 minutes, tops). I mean, I consider pants too much of a hassle half the time, I'm clearly not cut out for layers upon layers of undergarments and gowns.

So because I love nothing more than to share semi-useless trivia about various subjects, I thought I might begin a little series where I look at the good, the bad, and the ugly of some of my favorite fashion periods. And where better to start than with the most extravagant of all: 18th Century France.

Before we get into the uncomfortable realities of being a fashionable lady of the French court, let's first talk about why 18th century fashion--specifically, court fashion from about the 1750s to the 1780s--was awesome:

Monday, July 23, 2012

Homemade Twix!

This week for our blogging challenge, Rhiannon suggested we try our hands at homemade Twix. Check out their blogs to see how Annelih and Rhiannon's Twix-making experiments went!

I was a little uneasy about this project, as it seemed very complicated in my head before I started looking up any recipes. I started looking around and I realized that it wouldn't be as bad as I thought. It seemed most recipes made some kind of shortbread cookie, then covered it with caramel and chocolate (or dipped in chocolate).

Well, as it happened, this was a hot mess of an experiment. I'd decided early on I didn't want to attempt to make my own caramel, so I decided to substitute dulce de leche instead. I loooove dulce de leche in cookies (remind me to share one of my favorite alfajores recipe soon!), and I thought it'd be a solid alternative to possibly ruining a batch of caramel made from scratch. Added bonus: it'd be quicker, too!

Despite a few hiccups that resulted in me finishing my Twix at 1 a.m. last night...the cookies turned out great! Not quite like Twix, but pretty delicious none the less. I'm regretting the three I ate earlier this evening...definitely going to yoga tomorrow.

The three parts to the recipe: shortbread, dulce de leche, and the chocolate. For the shortbread, I adapted the Buckingham Palace Shortbread from Sara Perry's Holiday Baking (can you tell how much I love this book?). I only made half a recipe, but I'll post the whole recipe here.

What you'll need:

Shortbread (makes 2-3 dozen 1 to 1.5 in squares)

2 cups cake flour
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temp.
1/3 cup granulated sugar
(in original recipe, also included is 1/4 cup baker's sugar for sprinkling. I didn't use this.)

Dulce de leche:
1 17.6 oz can of dulce de leche (I only used half, but you may need it all if you make a full recipe). My favorite brand and the one I used is Alpina arequipe (another word for dulce de leche!)

1 1/2 cup of semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
about 1/4 cup whipping cream*

Saturday, July 21, 2012

A Game of Scones

If I had to pick one food to eat for the rest of my life, it might be scones. An extension of my bread love, my scone love knows no bounds. After making the chocolate almond bread last week, I had some buttermilk left over so I decided to make a batch of cranberry scones.

This recipe is an adaptation of a plain scone recipe from one of my favorite books: Holiday Baking by Sara Perry. I decided to make cranberry scones because they're a favorite in our house, but I also think the scones taste wonderful without any added fruits, nuts, etc.

What You'll Need
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/3 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 cup cranberries (fresh or frozen), roughly chopped
1 cup buttermilk

Scone toppings: Clotted cream, and any jam of your choice (I prefer strawberry or raspberry jam on scones). If you don't want to make your own clotted cream, you can buy Double Devon cream from Fresh Market.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Dark Chocolate Almond Bread

I love bread. I could never give up carbs completely because I honestly love bread more than most things. My favorite bread is probably either the chocolate bread or the rosemary boule from Uppercrust in Gainesville. I've planned entire Saturdays around making a trip to Uppercrust just for their bread (...and their raspberry rose pastries. And their sticky buns. Basically, I would buy one of everything in their bakery if I could, its that good).

So when Annelih, Rhiannon and I decided to make bread for the second week of our recipe challenge, I was excited!

And of course I decided to make chocolate bread, come Hell or high water. Luckily I found a recipe for dark chocolate tea bread that was easy to follow (though it was very ingredient heavy and not in any way health conscious). This is a dessert bread rather than a yeast-based bread, but I still enjoyed eating it (and so did my family!). Definitely a recipe I would repeat in the future.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Apple (Pie) Galette!

Hello, hello! This post is a special one for me, because it's the start of a new tradition two of my friends and I are trying out! Two of my friend's from school have food blogs, and we've decided to do a weekly cooking/baking challenge, where we pick something to bake and then post our different interpretations of a dish!

You can find their fantastic recipes here: Rhiannon at Mini Betty and Annelih at Comfort in Cooking!

This week, we chose apple pie. Classic. Patriotic. American.

And being the lazy bum I am, I chose the easiest apple pie-esque recipe I could think of: an apple galette. It's like a pan-less apple pie. Rustic. Free-form. French (oops).

This week has been surprisingly hectic so I also used store bought crust because I wanted something easy, fast, and delicious. I've always thought that the Pillsbury pre-made crust tastes pretty good to be honest. One of these days I'll attempt to make my own crust, but not today.

Anyway, I adapted my recipe from this one over at Pinch My Salt. I did a few things differently (such as buying my own crust, womp womp), but overall this was a great recipe to use as home base, as it were.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Orange Macadamia Cookies

Happy Friday! If you're planning to bake up something wonderful for father's day, I've got a new recipe to share. I made these earlier in the summer during a baking day with my friend Sarah, and I shared them with the family. My dad was over the moon about them, so consider these father tested and approved!

The recipe is originally from Better Homes and Gardens' The Ultimate Cookie Book, and its definitely a keeper.

Monday, June 11, 2012

From the Garden

Summer means beautiful hibiscus blooms everywhere! We've got all different color blooms in the garden this year, and this is possibly my favorite of them all. It changes all the time, but yesterday was definitely a peachy kind of day.

To make up for the lack of posting, I've got two new recipes to be posted later this week. Orange macadamia nut cookies and my strawberry rhubarb crumble with gingersnap topping! I swear they'll be posted this week. No. Really.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Lily of the Nile

This week I'm participating in Snapshot Saturday hosted by At Home With Books for the first time!

I discovered one of my new favorite flowers while on a walk with our dog the other day. According to Dr. Google, its called Lily of the Nile and just about the prettiest thing I've seen in a while.

 There were a few white blooms as well!

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Herb Garden Hodgepodge: Pasta Primavera!

School's out for summer forever! I'm officially a college graduate (who let that happen?), and since I have no idea what to do with my life while I jobhunt, I'll cook. Every summer I wish I had a vegetable garden, but I've missed the Florida planting season for most fruits and veggies I love by the time May rolls around and I'm back at home.

However, herb gardens are still fun. My basil and parsley plants have been doing surprisingly well considering how often I forget to water them (terrible plant mother). I added an oregano plant to my garden on Monday, and decided to make a little pasta primavera and throw in a little bit of everything from my herb garden!

It was surprisingly easy, and went great with pork chops. Just a yellow pepper, tomatoes, herbs and  linguine made for a deliciously light summer meal.

Ingredient list:
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1/4-1/2 cup low sodium chicken broth (I used less than 1/2 cup but you could use more for a thinner sauce)
  • 5-6 grape tomatoes, quartered
  • 1/2 large yellow bell pepper, roughly chopped
  • Fresh parsley, oregano, and basil (to taste, I used around 2 tsp of each at first, a little more for garnish), roughly chopped
  • Garlic powder (optional, to taste)
  • 1/2 9 oz package of Buitoni fresh linguine, or any pasta you prefer
Cook pasta as per instructions, then set aside for later. I like Buitoni's fresh pasta because it only takes about 4 minutes to cook.

In a large sauce pan, saute the pepper in olive oil at medium heat, and add tomatoes once the pepper begins to soften. Add broth and garlic powder and allow sauce to simmer until it reaches the consistency you desire. Turn off heat and add pasta, coating it in the sauce. Plate the pasta on a large platter and toss in most of the herbs, leaving some to sprinkle on top as a garnish. It was pretty fantastic, honestly.

For this go around, I went a little light on the oregano because I was afraid it would overpower the basil and parsley. I think I'd throw in a little more next time around. Honestly, this dish is all over the place and all about personal preference, so you don't have to stick to the measurements listed. You could even add some other veggies you have lying around if you prefer. Happy experimenting!

Monday, April 30, 2012

I'm Still Blogging! Quick Post

First off, I graduate on Saturday. What? It still hasn't hit me that I don't have to go back to school until...well, I never have to go back if I don't want to! I'm guessing grad school is in my future, but not for a good bit. So...this is it for now. I suppose. Weird. End of the year activities and finals have kept me super busy, but I did have a great weekend that ended in some time spent at Lake Wauburg, aka the university's very own lake where students and families can go and hang out. I love this school.

I'm not sure I'm ready to leave.

Saturday, March 31, 2012

How Many Blog Posts Can I Make About Spring? Oh, Thousands.

I was walking through campus the other day when I saw this beautiful flowering plant!  At first I thought it was a daylily plant, but now I'm not so sure. Google tells me its a red amaryllis? I'm such a disgrace to my mother the gardener.

I took this with my janky, old phone camera but it still captured the gorgeous colors of the flower's petals!

I wish I had an entire garden filled with various types of amaryllis and lily plants.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

It's Spring!

It's officially spring and it feels so good...for the next week or so. It's already reaching 86F in the afternoons here, which I actually kind of love. I like when its hot out, but once the temperature gets past 90F, I'm not here for that. I am a total Floridian though, I'd much rather be sweaty than freezing.

In honor of the first day of spring on Tuesday, I made a light dinner that featured my favorite spring veggie, asparagus! I could probably eat them with every meal. Must be the German side of me.

 This seriously took five minutes to make. I already had the rice cooked, so I just heated it up, sauteed the tomatoes and chicken sausage, then sauteed the asparagus in a little butter and garlic. Voila! A one skillet dinner.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Sun, Sun, Sun: Here it Comes

Spring break is such a tease. I'm officially ready for summer (but not graduation...eek) and I have to somehow make it through 6 more weeks of school. I know that's not much, and once its over I'll wish I was back in school most likely, but right now it feels like I have a soggy Panera bread bowl in my head where my brain should be.

Tomorrow I may need to have a library date like I've been saying I'll do all week. But this time I need to actually go to the library instead of taking a 2 hour nap.

Switching gears a bit, last weekend I spent a day in Sarasota and it was beyond gorgeous! I'll be going back this weekend for a little family reunion and I can't wait!

What a chic shot. It totally doesn't look like I took it through the porch screen because I was too lazy to go downstairs and go outside...

 I've been going to Siesta Key every winter/spring for as long as I can remember. When I was younger, my grandparents used to come down from Niagara Falls every winter and stay there, and now my aunt and uncle spend a little winter time in the same complex. It's still as beautiful as I remember it being when I was 8 years old.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Spring Breaking

Next week is Spring Break! I can't wait. My friends and I have plans to go to the beach and go to a spring training game between the Yankees and the Rays! The Rays go to Port Charlotte for Spring Break (about 3 hours away from here), but Tampa has been the spring training home to the Yankees for years, so we made plans to see the Rays play when they come back to Tampa. I'm excited! I've missed baseball so much.

I've also missed home. Specifically, I've missed living with cute animals. My apartment at college feels too still without pets. One of our cats, Marshmallow, is my girl. She loves to sit in the bathroom and wait for some unsuspecting soul to walk in and then she'll cry for water until someone turns the faucet on.

She won't drink from a water bowl. She's weird.

This month, the rescue where we adopted Marshmallow from is holding a contest on Facebook. The cat's photo that receives the most "likes" wins two tickets to the local big cat rescue sanctuary (I've always wanted to visit there). I entered Marshmallow mostly because I think she's the cutest cat ever, but I'm pretty biased.

If you'd like to, you could go vote for Marsha here! God, I feel like a mom on Toddlers and Tiaras. Someone stop me.

In the mean time, I am so ready for a week of relaxation. And by relaxation I mean filling out job and internship applications with a never ending supply of tea. This graduation deal needs to slow its roll a little bit.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Valentinis and Cupcakes!

Well...I am crap at blogging while in school. It's official. Granted, I was pretty much living in the theatre building for the last 3 weeks so for once I've been doing more than just procrastinating on homework!

Anyway, last night for Valentine's Day some friends and I had a night full of Dance Moms, cupcakes, grapefruit martinis (aka Valentinis, as they were christened the other night), and Ryan Gosling. Because really, what else does one need on any day of the week Valentine's Day?

If you'd like the recipe for the cocktail or the cupcakes, visit my friend Rhiannon's new baking blog! She makes amazing cupcakes and other desserts, so you'll definitely want to try out some of her recipes.

Some cupcakes fresh out of the oven! We made a chocolate cinnamon cupcake and frosted it with an almond and cinnamon buttercream frosting.

I love them! Rhiannon also taught me her secrets to piping on icing. They look so festive and also like roses so I mean, I'm clearly going to love them no matter what at this point.

Happy belated Valentine's Day!


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