Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Line and Sinker

I'm hooked!

Fun, easy, and (her's are) adorably sweet - I'm 100% on the cupcake bite bandwagon and it's left the station (how many more incorrectly used cliches can I cram in here?).

Let's put it plainly - I saw these, knew I had to have them one way or another and thought "while I'm not likely to make a cake resembling a baseball glove or tree laden with fall-colored leaves, this I might be able to do".

The best part is that these are so within your reach! Don't be intimidated
(do-not!) that you have to use a little candy mold or that you think you might need to buy any other special tools (you don't!) - heck, if I can do it, you can too - sure, my process and technique needs some refining but for a first attempt, I wasn't disappointed.

And go figure, PW is nice enough to provide step by step directions (from when everything-cupcake queen Bakerella visited a few weeks back) that hit the mark.

Lastly, I hate to tempt you like this, but if you think my attempts above are even remotely cute, do NOT click here... oh my gosh the cuteness is just out of this world. If you do risk it, though, remember I warned you... just sayin'.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Disappearing Act

I'm absolutely not against trips to foreign lands where you want to pack in as much as possible or those to a new (much-more local) city to visit friends and get a taste of their life; but, as it turns out, I'm happy as a loon visiting old friends in a familiar setting with absolutely zero set agenda except for time filled with the 'little things in life'. *okay, there was an agenda... but I have been sworn to secrecy so forevermore, it will remain the agenda that shall not be named

Someone please share with me the secret to not being beat even after a relaxing weekend? Pardon my random begging - it's quite pitiful and not at all becoming, I'm well-aware.

The quick day and a half visit was filled with all things just as you'd imagine, a cute baby boy, girls morning out for pedicures, meeting the boys at Cook-Out (please oh please open a franchise here in DC - I promise I'll bring all my friends and make sure it's a success!), a cute baby boy...

... running a few errands and discussions about how to take advantage of triple coupons (triple!) at the grocery store, a cute baby boy, and homemade guac, a cute baby boy...

... delicious grilled pork chops...

(I won't even try and take credit for those, up there... they are Jason's delicious creation - and all I know is some combination of peach jam, soy sauce, teriyaki sauce, and a bunch of herbs and spices, made up a fabulous marinade and cooked-down sauce)

... having coffee already made when you wake up, a cute baby boy, and more delicious grilled food (yummy grilled chicken salad)... oh, and a very cute baby boy.

Said baby boy was the subject of... all... of my pictures from the weekend - which I had thought might be great practice for me and my camera - turns out the only thing it proved was that I need a ton more practice.

Did you notice, though... since there's a baby now in the picture, we "adults" quickly (and happily) disappear. Not one single picture of us fogies was taken throughout the weekend. Funny how that works, isn't it?

Trust me, though - we were there and loved every minute.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Just a Couple

My creativity is waning (and there's no doubt you 'all' are sick of hearing me ramble) so I'll just cut to the chase...

Here are a few delicious recipes I've made recently that you also should try... and go ahead and do it soon.

Turtle Ice Cream Pie
from Bon Appetit

I followed the recipe almost exactly on this one... (don't mess with perfection!)

But I want you to know that you can adjust the amounts of finely crushed pecans in the graham cracker crust if you have a non-nut lover in your midst.

And, if you do happen to have one of those people lurking around, and you decide to try and further customize the pie by putting some pecans in between the ice cream layers, make sure you know which half of the pie the nuts are on. Not that I did this - I can just imagine how embarrassing it would be if one were to do this.

Oh, and you'll have this delicious caramel sauce left-over... but not for long. Probably the easiest caramel I've ever made (and I don't have a good track record with such things) and the tastiest.

Pioneer Woman's Pan-Fried Ribeye Steak

As a result of me attempting to feed us without blowing our grocery budget, I did a thorough inventory of all the proteins in the house and this guy begged to go first. Thus, we were forced to choke down this delicious steak.

I made ours in my cast iron skillet and finished it in the oven, and the very easy, all-the-ingredients-are-in-your-pantry (ifyouhaveone) rub is to die for. According to the PW, food snobs of the world shun prepared seasonings... just another reason I'm so glad I'm not one of them.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

A Lesson in Self-Knowledge

Yesterday, the list of things that I'm 'not' (insert here any number of things like "good at" or "going to be when I grow up") grew quite a bit longer; at work, we'd say that I simply increased my self-knowledge and that's actually a positive thing so I'll stick with that.

In layman's terms (no offense, but I figure I've already lost you), what I'm trying to say is that I volunteered this weekend at the National Capital Area Cake Show and it became perfectly clear to me that I don't have a future in cake decorating, certainly not in the professional realm.

I mean, are ya kidding me? Those creations up there are cakes... yes, like the edible things that we all have childhood memories of being served on our birthday.

Give me a bar cookie recipe or a layered cake with any assortment of yummy frostings and I'm set, but don't ask me to make figurines or for that matter, a bird bath, out of cake.

Don't mistake this for me being ungrateful for such a cool volunteer opportunity - that's absolutely not the case. I'm just a realist and like to acknowledge when something is way out of my league.

This, my friends, is way out of my league.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Learning Curve

Wow, so I go from having a container "garden" (one pot counts, right?) one year to just barely learning how to grow a tomato and pepper plant (or two... actually, way too many - we vastly under-estimated how big those things would get!) the next year, and then come this year, deciding it'd be a good idea to take on a "shade" (or cool-weather) vegetable garden along with our usual but pared down selection of tomato and pepper plants (and herbs, of course!)?? While this may seem like a natural progression to most of you, to me it screams: in over your head!!!! or maybe: who do you think you are?!?

A few years ago, my mom gave me an adorable little metal garden sign with one simple word on it... "Grow" - I think I should have bought a couple more... and added "Please" to the end of it.

Regardless, here we are - spring is upon us (thank you gods of changing seasons!!!) and I hesitate to say it, but so far, so good. *Whisper that while knocking on wood, please, it's safer that way

A week or so ago, in our newly tilled bed (I must plug the great soil we have thanks to the composting efforts of my husband), we planted a couple mesclun mix and spinach plants and started some arugula seeds (which are starting to peek through - keep knocking on that wood!). It's been a lot of fun to throw some "homegrown" lettuce leaves into our salads - plus, I sit squarely in the pro-mesclun mix camp, so this was my cost-effective way of getting more of it in our salads.

I think my only other new veggie garden adventure this year will be into the world of beans. Survey says (Family Feud, anyone?) they are easy to grow and I think they will work nicely in the remaining space (I would LOVE the added height of having them wind up a little trellis thingie but I really don't foresee being able to pull that off) left in the lettuce bed.

My completely unsolicited feedback on growing lettuce all of two weeks into it: I really enjoyed finding something I could plant this early in the season - it fulfilled my spring fever cravings giving me an excuse to get out into the yard which I was desperate for (oooh, I just ended a sentence with a preposition - my eighth grade English teacher would have my neck for that one).

Plus, me working out in the yard means Annabelle gets to be outside longer, which means she can find and chew on more and bigger sticks, and occasionally try and drag one 3 times her length over to Chris to play fetch with... and with that, we know the world is right.

And while I'm here, I'll just warn you that I will be back soon for some of your landscaping advice. Meditate for a few days on these words: abelia, skimmia, and otto luyken laurel. Then be ready to tell me how we can incorporate them into our landscape and/or revive them, in no particular order.

This may or may not become a series - I like to keep you all guessing, did you notice that I never followed up on my "to Wii or not to Wii" comment earlier? It's all a part of the plan.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Game Face

It's that time of the year...

And apparently something like 130 million of you agree with me (and some of you even take it this far - whoa!). At least in the overall concept. However, most of those millions probably didn't wake up this morning contemplating how you could wear your Wake sweatshirt or t-shirt to your place of employment like I did.

Since I couldn't figure out how to incorporate the old gold and black into my outfit today, I brought my game face instead. (lame, but true)

I am confident in and proud of my Deacs. Our little team (okay, big team) from our little school has gone through some unexpected adversity in the past few years but never let that stop them from putting their heart and soul out on the line (almost) every time.

I'll keep saying it until the cows come home (speaking of cows, if you haven't already - please introduce yourself to the Pioneer Woman, but be forewarned that her amazing Blog of the Year will suck you in) - I couldn't be happier to be a Deac.

And depending on the outcome of a certain 9:55pm-ish game tonight, I will be only slightly more or less proud. Does that make me a bad or less-devoted fan?

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Not to be Overlooked

Try this - I promise it's yummy.

Not to mention, it's also pretty close to perfect for make-ahead entertaining.

Mexican Dip
*this is not to be mistaken for those equally delicious 7-layer dips... no offense, of course

1 medium onion, chopped
cooking spray or 1 TBSP olive oil
1 can Rotel tomatoes
10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and drained
4 oz. cream cheese, cut into large chunks
2 1/2 c shredded Mexican cheese blend (puh-lease don't skimp on the cheese!)
1/4 c heavy cream
1 TBSP red wine vinegar

Cook onion in medium skillet over medium heat in your choice of cooking spray or olive oil until translucent.

Add all other ingredients stirring occasionally. The mixture will not be all blended together evenly. At this point, if you aren't using the dip right away, cover tightly and store in your refrigerator.

Bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes (or until the dip is bubbly). Serve with your favorite tortilla chips.

Oh, and see the serving dish? Do you know Wilton Armetale? If not, get to know it, and quick - these gorgeous metal dishes (in all shapes and sizes) can be frozen, baked, room-temperatured... you get the picture. So handy and beautiful to boot!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

They Didn't Either

See this coming, that is.

Okay - that's a lie, they did... especially since they had booked tickets weeks, even months, in advance, to come visit us just 2 weeks after our shared anniversary.

But let's cut to the chase... as it turns out, a new standard in houseguest-ing (yup, just made that word up seconds ago) has been established by the Hortons of Mobile. They entered our house and barely moments after plates that had once held pulled BBQ chicken were cleaned and put away, a Wii system had sneaked its way into our family room and had even managed to become plugged in. Knowing that it was only here for a short vacation, we took full advantage.

Not to be out-done, however, were many of the DC tourist sites. I may have mentioned that I love being a tourist in my own city and this time was no different.

*You'll notice that I took some sub-par pictures and then tried to edit them to hide the fact that they were, well... sub-par. Stacey, please come rescue me with your fancy camera and camera skills!!

Arlington National Cemetery, in all of its awe and grandeur, was our first stop.

With a stroke of good luck and impeccable timing (absolutely unplanned), we made it just in time to see the Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

They do this every hour year-round and even twice an hour during the summer months so you really have no excuse not to have seen it. If you come to DC to visit us and you haven't seen this before, it's been placed on our permanent itinerary.

We stopped by the Vietnam Veterans Memorial - another austere and humbling site. No words really do it justice. Attempt to count the names in the picture below if you're having trouble understanding me - and then realize this is but a minuscule portion of the wall.

Right next door is the Lincoln Memorial which has gotten extra attention this year since it's the President's 200th birthday.

*and yes, I'm well aware that my hair looks huge and it also appears I have a very well-groomed little beard-thingie working for me... I clearly did that on purpose

JB and Heather asked why the Reflecting Pool was drained - I had no idea. So keep that in mind if you decide to make me your tour guide - I may not know the answer to many simple questions. But I promise to make up for it back in the kitchen.

Has it possibly been just over one year since we met? Can't wait to see you guys again!

*And for the rest of you, stay tuned for more on "to Wii, or not to Wii"

Wednesday, March 11, 2009


Visitor: Everyone here walks like there's someone after them!

Me: Welcome to DC - everyone has somewhere to go.

Visitor: Should I be worried? I'm walking the southern walk.

Me: Nah, just make sure you stand on the right. [reference to the most important piece of information every tourist in DC needs to know, when riding an escalator in our metro system, stand on the right, walk on the left - no one likes an Escalefter]

And now, if you'll excuse me, the Wii residing in our house for the next 4 days is calling my name...

Sunday, March 08, 2009

On the Road

There are just no two ways about it - I absolutely 100% (maybe even 200%) love to bake... yes, I love to cook, too, but if forced to make a decision (and if man could survive on cookies, cakes, and desserts alone - we can, can't we?), bake it would be. Even on an unseasonably warm day, I'm that crazy person in the kitchen with the oven cranked up (course this is after I'm also that person out on the tennis court and softball field enjoying them for the first of the season).

But something even better than just baking? Finding amazing new recipes that you fall in love with instantly. There are good recipes and then there are the "bake it and they will come" recipes. These two are some of the latter.

The first... Palmer House Brownies, a real 'find' - and from a quick search, apparently a lot of people are desperate for this recipe. Made me feel pretty fortunate to have chanced upon it. Rare or not, just take a chance and make these brownies - they are in a word, fabulous.

9 oz bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 c unsalted butter
1 c plus 6 TBSP sugar
2 eggs
1 c cake flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
2 c coarsely chopped walnuts
1/2 c apricot preserves

Butter and flour an 8x8 metal baking pan. Melt chocolate and butter in small pan over medium heat; cool to lukewarm.

Beat sugar and eggs until well-blended. Whisk in melted chocolate mixture. Sift flour, baking powder, and salt; fold to blend and mix in 1/2 c walnuts. Transfer batter to prepared baking pan. Sprinkle remaining walnuts over and press gently into batter.

Bake brownies until edges are raised and cracked and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist batter attached, about 45 minutes. Melt apricot preserves in small saucepan over medium heat. Strain preserves and then brush melted jam over hot brownies. Cool 1 hour and then transfer to refrigerator and chill until cold, at least 2 hours.

Cut into 16 brownies (or more - they are RICH!). Serve chilled.

Bon Appetit, March 2009

And certainly not to be overlooked (i.e. some more time in the kitchen well-spent) were Smitten Kitchen's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

I took a page out of a few of Deb's commenters' books and added a handful of chocolate chips and these were great. The dough itself wasn't too sweet so with the raisins (golden raisins were in the cupboard and as such, they are in the cookies) and chocolate chips, it seemed like a match made in heaven. *as an aside, I've heard Deb's chocolate chip cookies are divine so those might be next up

This concludes my first "Hi, my name is Kara, and I'm addicted to baking" help session. The only problem is that along the way, I picked up a few new recipes that I'm dying to make plus I found a "cupcake crawl" (more on that - hopefully - to come) - neither of those sound like recovery to me, but I'm willing to risk it.

Monday, March 02, 2009

I Saw That Coming

There's no doubt that this date has been on the calendar ever since we made things official last year around this time... and I kinda started realizing it was on the horizon about two months ago, but seeing the time come and go - and all the memories and emotions that bubbled up inside of me thinking back to those amazing 24-hours and the year that's ensued since then... that, that absolutely took me by surprise (and we're talking like the startling, scream-inducing kindofathing-a-ma-bob).

Being new to this whole anniversary thing (and even newer to caring about it), we decided even one year was a good-enough reason to celebrate (and here's a quick pause to celebrate all of you who've done this many, many more years) so off we headed to discover that Virginia is not just for wine lovers (admittedly a far cry from this time last year in St. Lucia).

Saturday morning, we headed west towards Charlottesville (sadly, the Wake victory over UVA didn't make it on the itinerary but I was more than happy to be in the vicinity) for an afternoon tour, consisting of visiting two breweries and two wineries. We checked into our cute inn and after grabbing lunch on the run, our great tour guide, Chris, whisked us away, immediately filling our heads with his un-ending knowledge of all things wine (we learned so much!).

Our first stop was Starr Hill Brewery which was a great start to the afternoon (and subsequently, my favorite of the two breweries).

We relaxed at their tasting bar for a little while before starting their 30-minute tour during which we tasted some of the barley and even though I definitely lean towards the darker, stout beers, I found out that I prefer non-roasted barley (note to self)! I highly recommend their Amber Ale or Jomo Lager.

Next we headed to Blue Mountain Brewery and enjoyed their sampler of 6 different housemade beers. Their brewery was really more of a restaurant (everyone there had delicious looking plates) so if I went back (and I would go back), I'd order a glass of Evil 8 along with their thin crust veggie pizza.

After visiting two very different breweries, it was time to turn our attention to wine. What would become my favorite was up first, Pollack Vineyards. I learned all about two wines new to me, Petit Verdot and Viognier, and specifically loved their Viognier.

Chris' choice of the winery was their Meritage which he enjoyed as we sat down to our cheese, fruit, and chocolate platter (a big YUM to Farmhouse Cheddar locally produced in the Charlottesville area... oh! and the crostini, and the chocolates...).

After our perfectly timed break at Pollack, we headed to our last stop of the tour, King Family Vineyards. What a finish it was - the grounds of this vineyard are also polo fields and are more than stunning (go figure I left my camera in the van). We got lucky and met the Master Winemaker who happened to be conducting the tastings when we arrived! He was extremely knowledgeable (and real-live French!) and even sneaked us some of the last tastes of their yummy Late-Harvest Viognier "Ice Wine".

All roads led back to downtown Charlottesville where we had some downtime until it was time for dinner at delicious and modern Zocalo. *thanks, Emily, for the recommendation!!! In a word (or a few), I would recommend this restaurant with no qualms. It is located on the cute downtown mall and while their menu wasn't very long (or overwhelming), it provided something for everyone. I enjoyed their Key Lime Free-Range Chicken and Chris drooled over his Grilled Double-Cut Pork Chop. We scooted over to nearby South Street Brewery for one last drink and to share a traditional hot fudge brownie dessert.

We concluded our short but memorable visit Sunday morning with a yummy homemade breakfast and were back on the road to finish celebrating our day together.

Thanks to the aforementioned pizzas that we had seen earlier at Blue Mountain, I was inspired to start an anniversary tradition for us of having homemade pizza. If anyone's listening, it's true - the way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but if it's Chris' - pizza is the key to unlocking it.

(don't look too closely at these pizzas - their inception was very last minute so I literally cleaned out the fridge to find the toppings)

The finale to our memory-laden weekend was snacking on these delicious cookies; turns out our top cake layer is no where to be found but my sweet mom deep froze some of our left-over favors (one of my favorite parts of our day) and sent them to us so we could celebrate with them!

Sharing a cookie (or two - no shame here, they are delicious!) while watching the highlight 'reel' from our wedding DVD (yes, I am a glutton for high cheese-factor) and thinking about what the future might hold, officially finished a truly incredible year one.

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