Wednesday, December 25, 2013

DIY Dipped Wooden Spoons

T'was the night before Christmas Eve... and I still didn't have gifts for the rest of the family.  Not a creature was stirring (except me, rushing through the mall ashamed that I didn't plan ahead). But low and behold, wooden spoons appeared and the light bulb went off. 

So, I did what any insane craft person would do.  Paint them.  Because hey, why not make it look like you spent weeks planning this gift, instead of 24 hours? Not to mention, it is super easy and super trendy. 

I chose Martha brand (*surprise*) because I love the selection of colors and the quality of the paint is always on point.  If you want all of your painted tips to look the same, get matching textures. I decided to add in pearl and high gloss in with the satin paints to add a little something, but the difference is very slight.

All you need to do is tape the ends off, squirt a little paint, foam brush it on, and let it dry. 

Happy Holidays!

Sunday, December 22, 2013

The Annual Holiday Kiki

Kiki: noun \kē kē\ - slang for a party including good music and good friends, held for the express purpose of calming nerves, reducing anxiety and stress and generally fighting ennui. 

Every year for the past three years I've hosted a party for my closest girl and few guy friends.  It's a great time for us to get together after the stress of finals and relax.  This year we collectively decided to name it a 'kiki' because that's basically what it is.  Friends, food, gossip, (and a little late night dance party).  To be honest, I've been pinning for this party since October...  Call me crazy, but it's a chance to embrace my inner Martha.

Here's a little taste of this last weekend...

Caprese Bites

Pear Pancetta Crisps

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus 

Sweet Potato Casserole

And for the main course we had prime rib.  
This was not just your any prime rib.  This was a dry aged prime rib that was cooked in a Traeger Wood Pellet Grill, and for those of you don't know it is a magic machine.
A Traeger is a wood burning oven/grill that slow cooks meat to perfection with your choice of either oak, hickory, pecan, apple and cherry wood pellets.  For this meal I chose oak and lathered it with cracked pepper and kosher salt.
Unfortunately when it was time to eat, the prime rib went so fast I didn't get a chance to snap a photo.  But trust me, it was the perfect shade of pink throughout and the most delicious piece of meat I have ever tasted. 

The food was great and all, but what really makes a party are the people.  I am so lucky to have such amazing people to laugh with and call my close friends.  The only thing I regret was not taking enough pictures... I guess that just goes to show that we we're having too much fun fighting over who gets the D.I. jean jacket trench coat as their white elephant gift (yes, that was an actual gift) than documenting it all.  Overall, "Operation Holiday Party" = success. 

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Moab Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving.  I know it has been almost a whole week since we deliberately induced ourselves into a food coma, but some of us are still waking up to turkey sandwiches and mashed potatoes.  So there really isn't a reason not to drag on this holiday. (Or it might just be I'm just slacking a bit on keeping up with this blog...).

In the summer, Moab is like Disneyland for grown ups.  The martian landscape and adventure vibe create a very exciting environment.  People from all around the world come to bask in the desert sun and explore the natural beauty of Southern Utah.  But this time, there was no sun. There was four inches of snow.  Either way, this quaint tourist town has a special place in my heart, and so do the people.  Like my Aunt, Julie Fox. 

I took this photo of her when we came in after-hours to hang in her restaurant, The Eklecticafe. Just as you enter onto Moab's Main Street, on your lefthand side you'll see a giant mosaic coffee mug and a little cafe strung with lights. And you've found the Eklecticafe, a Moab staple.

Maybe I am a little biased, but this is definitely my favorite place to visit whenever I'm in Moab. There is a special cozy feeling you get when you walk inside.  The Eklecticafe attracts people from all walks of life passing through the Utah desert.  Even some celebrities have been known to hangout here (ahem, from the likes of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore, just to name a few)

The eclectic interior (pun intended) is covered in jewelry, pottery, paintings and photographs by local artists that are all for sale.  Even inside the tables are gorgeous pieces of jewelry and art on display.  

Although inside it's relatively small, the outdoor seating makes up for it.  In the dead of summer the patio is lush with greenery. With a water feature in the back, it's the perfect place to cool off.

They have everything from their famous huevos rancheros to a crowd favorite banana nut pancakes.  Along with a full range of gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian items, it's hard to find something you won't like.  
Did I mention the coffee? 

Because it's fantastic. The coffee is robust and full of depth. My personal favorite is the Mexican Mocha. It's has a unique spiced flavor unlike any mocha you've ever tasted.  

Everyone who works here is down-to-earth, genuine, and friendly. And if you happen to give your order to this short silver haired lady, she'll get you chattin' right up about this, that and whatever.
Eklecticafe on Urbanspoon
If you do live in Moab and you don't know Julie Fox, I'll tell you right now you're doing something wrong. She is honestly the most fun, engaging, and animated person you will know. So there is no wonder why my dad and I drove three hours to spend Thanksgiving with her and her family (aka my family). Whenever I step into her cozy little a-frame house, I always feel right at home.

Her home is filled with vintage, antique and modern flairs. Her taste is eccentric and unique. She expresses her personality and her own experiences through decor and the little accents that make up this space. Here's a little peak into Julie's home:

I kid you not this woman has a recipe for everything...

Since becoming recent empty-nesters, Julie and her husband Ken have started raising chickens in their backyard, along with a brand-new hot tub and outdoor shower. So cool!

Being here for the holidays has such a comforting feeling and a lot has to do with where we are and who we're with.  Julie's home has such a pleasant environment, with the bright walls and little trinkets make it so warm and inviting. But a space can only go so far. Being with the people you love and surrounded by good food and conversation really make the holidays worthwhile.  

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Thankshanukkah Giving Pie

This is a special year where two holidays are combined into one celebration.  Hanukkah and Thanksgiving.  Two holidays filled with traditions, and this year I think I started a new tradition.  The Thankshanukkah Giving Pie.  Although it looks quite difficult and intricate, it was such a blast to make.  Especially if there is family around to keep you company and help roll the pie crust.  

I was inspired by Martha (of course) and her Woven Dried Fruit Tart. But I thought I would try the lattice work on a blueberry pie, and it turned out absolutely delicious and beautiful.  It might even be the best pie I've made yet. 

For the filling you need:

3/4 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons of cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
3 cups of blueberries 
1/2 cup of water
1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

For the pastry I used a pre-made Dancing Deer Flakey Pie Crust Mix.  It was the perfect amount for both the lattice and crust and one less step I had to do. All you need is 1/4 cup of ice cold water and two frozen sticks of butter.  But if you're an overachiever, check out this pie crust recipe

1. Combine sugar, cornstarch, cinnamon and water. Add to a saucepan and heat until thickened. Set aside to cool as you prepare the pastry.  Rinse the blueberries and set them off to the side.

2.  For the pastry, add half of the Dancing Deer Flakey Pie Crust Mix into the food processor and 1 stick of frozen butter cut into small cubes.  Pulse until the chunks of butter are pea sized and covered in the mix.  Slowly add water, one tablespoon at a time in between pulses.  Once it starts to form into a dough take it out of the food processor and knead it into a ball and flatten it into a small disc.  Wrap in Saran wrap and refrigerate for approximately 45 minutes. Repeat this step for the second half of the mix.

4.  On a lightly floured surface, roll each disc of pastry into a 14-inch circle, about 1/8 inch thick. Place one circle on a parchment-lined baking sheet, freeze until firm, about 30 minutes.  Fit the other circle in an 11-inch pie dish.  Trim the excess dough hanging off the edge of the pan. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

5.  Make the lattice (pictured, above): Remove baking sheet from freezer. Using a clean ruler as a guide, cut dough circle into sixteen 1/2-inch-wide strips with a sharp knife. Lay 6 strips of dough on another baking sheet in parallel lines that extend slightly past the width of the pie pan. Lay 6 more strips on top, almost perpendicular to the first strips, at about a 75 degree angle. Starting in the center, weave 1 new strip diagonally through the existing grid, under the bottom layer of strips and over the top layer. Push diagonal strip into corner of each square (where the perpendicular and parallel strips meet) to create a tight fit. Weave a second strip 1 inch away, this time weaving over then under. Repeat weaving strips across 1/2 the tart. (If dough strips become too soft, return to freezer until firm.) Return to center, and repeat with remaining dough strips to form a star lattice pattern. Freeze until ready to use.

3.  Once the filling sauce is cooled down, mix in a bowl with the blueberries. Make sure the sauce is spread evenly on the blueberries. Spread the filling evenly onto the dough of the pie pan. Carefully slide frozen lattice on top of tart, centering it on filling, and press edges to seal. Trim excess dough. Brush top of lattice with egg wash and sprinkle sugar on top.  Refrigerate, uncovered, until firm, about 1 hour. 

4.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375 degrees, and continue baking until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbling, about 40 minutes. (If crust browns too quickly, tent edges with foil).  Let cool in pan until the filling congeals. Serve with whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.


Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Martha's Veggies

This time every year there is always that excitement (or dread) of seeing the early snow, constantly smelling hints of pine-cinnamon-apple pie, hearing Christmas music way too early, and practically every outfit consists of scarves and boots.  It might just be me, but I live for this time of year. November.

I think the driving force of my holiday cheer is my annual Christmas Party.  In high school, my group of friends decided to throw a little white elephant party just for fun, nothing super fancy. We had a little dinner at my house and a slumber party afterwards.  Super girly... I know...  But hey, that's the whole point of being girls, right?

Anyways, this whole thing has been going on for three years and it is the highlight of my year.  So yes, excuse me while I sing-a-long to "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" for the third time this week.

In my excitement to plan this party, I always do my best to find new dishes to make.  And what a better place to find a nice holiday side dish than Martha herself, the Queen of the Christmas Parties.
Even though it is still 4 weeks to the party, I wanted to try this delicious looking dish just for fun. (And also to see how long it would actually take to pull it off).  So here it is...

Martha Stewart's Roasted Winter Vegetables

You need:
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for sheets
  • 1 medium acorn squash, cut into 1-inch wedges
  • 1 pound turnips, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 pound parsnips, peeled and halved lengthwise (quartered if large)
  • 1/2 pound shallots, halved
  • 1 head garlic, cloves broken apart and left unpeeled
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 8 sprigs thyme
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Brush two large rimmed baking sheets with oil. 
  3. In a large bowl, toss all vegetables with oil and season with salt and pepper. 
  4. Divide vegetables between baking sheets.
  5. Top with thyme and roast until golden and tender, 35 to 45 minutes, rotating sheets and tossing vegetables halfway through.
This is such an easy and super healthy dish to make and it leaves your kitchen smelling absolutely wonderful.  When I made this dish I was worried that I added too much seasoning, when really I ended up needing more salt/pepper!  So don't be shy on the seasoning.  All the yummy juices soak it right up.  Also, Martha suggested 30-35 minutes of cook time, but I had mine in the oven for about 45 or 50 minutes until it was the perfect golden tenderness.  Just keep a good eye on it and it will be the perfect side dish to any holiday meal.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Nautical Nonsense

These last few weeks I haven't had a chance to sit down with my coffee and focus on my blog.  Okay I take that back, I have had many chances... but nothing seems to inspire me enough to write.  I guess you could say I've hit my very first "blogging-block." Whatever that is...
However, recently I've been attending an "Essentials to Interior Design Class" that the Rhode Island School of Design offers.  It's the perfect class for me while I am taking a break from "real school" this semester. The teacher is wonderful and I've been learning a lot about the interior design process. Also, did I mention the class is right on the beach?

Here is a panel I created for inspiring a nautical themed home.

From the brief time I have spent living in New England, I have started to grasp the nautical trend. The Cape Cod inspired style is classic and timeless. But sometimes it tends to be overdone...  I didn't want the space to feel like you're stepping into a lobster shack. For a home, I think it's important to keep the theme subtle. Just small accents that are reminiscent of the sea, with sandy tones and splashes of blues and greens. Not every inch of the space needs to be taken over by fishing knots and model sail boats.  I like to think of the sea as a tranquil place (whether that's true or not...). And I believe every home should be a calm sanctuary, like the sea. 

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Apricot Chicken Recipe

I love a good chicken dish, and this week I was definitely in the mood for one. I randomly came across Lauren Conrad's Easy Apricot Chicken and I knew it was meant to be. The recipe calls for a Lipton Onion Packet, but I thought I'd add my own twist and create one from scratch...
Heavenly Homemaker's has a great recipe for a
Homemade Onion Soup Mix. It's such a better alternative to Lipton's packet because being homemade means no MSG! Yay!

Onion Soup Mix

You need:
2/3 cup dried, minced onion
3 teaspoons parsley flakes
2 teaspoons onion powder
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 teaspoon celery salt
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper

Mix all ingredients in a jar, then give the jar a couple good shakes.
4 tablespoons is equivalent to 1 Lipton packet.

Store in a cool place and use whenever a recipe calls for a Lipton's Onion Soup Packet. Just like the Apricot Chicken Recipe below!

Apricot Chicken
This dish is super easy and is one I will make time and time again.
You need:
1 pound of organic chicken breast
1 Lipton Onion Soup packet 4 tablespoons of Homemade Onion Soup Mix
1 jar or apricot preserves (about 1 cup)
1 bottle of Russian Dressing

How to do it:
  1. Pre-heat oven to 375-degrees
  2. Mix the onion soup mix, apricot preserves, and dressing in a bowl. Beat the clumps out with a fork.
  3. Put the chicken in a baking dish, and lather them with the mixture.
  4. Let the chicken soak the marinate for about 10-20 minutes.
  5. Cook for 40 minutes or until your chicken is cooked all the way through.
  6. Serve with rice and your favorite veggies and bon appétit!