Thursday, December 29, 2011

christmas cookies week four: surprise cookies

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My Christmas cookie series is now over, and I saved the best for last! This is my favorite Christmas cookie recipe, and of course, it's another Martha Stewart recipe. If you make these, my tip is to add a little more frosting to each cookie than you think you need. I'm not usually a big frosting fan, but this chocolate frosting recipe is amazing.

Surprise Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen
  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 12 large marshmallows, cut in half horizontally
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add egg, milk, and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add reserved flour mixture; mix on low speed until well combined.

Using a tablespoon or 1/34 inch ice cream scoop, drop dough onto ungreased baking sheets, about  2 inches apart. Bake until cookies begin to spread and become firm, 10 to 12 minutes.

Remove baking sheets from oven, and place a marshmallow, cut-side down, in the center of each cookie, pressing down slightly. Return to oven, and continue baking until marshmallows begin to melt, 2 to 2 1/2 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before frosting.

Spread about 1 tablespoon of frosting over each marshmallow, starting in the center and continuing outward until marshmallow is covered.

Chocolate Frosting for Surprise Cookies
Makes 1 cup
  • 2 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Place confectioners' sugar in a medium bowl. Whisk in butter and cocoa powder. Add milk and vanilla, and whisk until well combined.

These recipes can also be found here on Martha Stewart's website.

hallway and laundry room inspiration

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This looks similar to our hallway, but much nicer! I really like that light fixture.
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Glossy black doors. Do you think this would look silly in our hallway?
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Floor to ceiling photo collage.
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I love this! Too bad our space is probably too small to do this!
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More photo collage inspiration when I need to update ours!
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I like everything about this room. I can't wait until we have a house where we can put a sink in our laundry room.
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My all-time favorite laundry room inspiration photo. Map, stripes, floral--I love it!
I hope that you all had a nice Christmas! We had a great time at my parents' house. It was so good to see all of my family. I'll post pictures from our Christmas tomorrow, and I'll also post the last Christmas cookie recipe later today (even if it is after the fact...) because it is such a good cookie recipe!

Here are my long over-due inspiration photos for our hallway and laundry room. I would love to replace the light fixture in our hallway, and I really like the light fixture in the first photo. I have a map that needs to be framed and hung, and I might try it in our laundry room. Mine is an old-world style map, so the sea isn't blue, but I might try it in our laundry room and see how it looks. And, of course I need to find a black and white rug for the laundry room immediately!

***All photos are from my boards on Pinterest***

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

buffalo chicken grilled pizza

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This is one of my favorite pizzas to make (and eat). Ever since I made my first grilled pizza, I've been hooked, and I doubt that I'll ever bake another pizza in the oven. This pizza is definitely a healthy alternative that completely satisfies any chicken wing cravings that you may have.

Or maybe I'm the only one who gets those...

Buffalo Chicken Grilled Pizza
Makes 8 slices
  • Pizza dough (I'm lazy and use the whole wheat pizza dough from Trader Joe's)
  • 1/2 cup Buffalo Wing Sauce
  • 6 oz lite shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 lb. grilled chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 2 oz. gorgonzola or blue cheese crumbles
Heat your grill to high. Shape the pizza dough as you wish and brush it with some olive oil. I find it easiest to do two smaller pizzas on the grill rather than one large one. Place the pizza dough on the grill for about 30 seconds to a minute--basically just until you can see some light grill marks. Flip the dough over and turn the grill heat down to medium or low depending on your comfort level and grill heat. Cook for about another 30-60 seconds. Brush the buffalo wing sauce onto the dough then pile mozzarella, chicken, celery, and gorgonzola crumbles onto the pizza. Close the grill lid and cook until cheese melts. Remove from grill when cheeses are melted to your satisfaction.

Enjoy!

NUTRITION (per slice): 209 Calories, 56.8 Calories from Fat, 6.31g Total Fat, 0.13g Saturated Fat, 28.13g Cholesterol, 898.13mg Sodium, 24.88g Total Carbohydrate, 4.25g Dietary Fiber, 0.25g Sugars, 14.88g Protein

Monday, December 19, 2011

home tour: the hallway + the laundry room

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And here is our hallway and laundry room! While they aren't the most exciting spaces in our home, they certainly are some of the most-used.

I would like to put up at least one more piece of art in the hallway to conceal the breaker box, and I would like to replace the light fixture. I've thought about putting a long runner carpet down the hall, but I kind of like the bare wood floors in the hallway. What do you think?

The laundry room is pretty small so I wasn't able to get any really great photos of it, but you get the idea. I'm kind of ready to repaint our whole house. I love the olive-y green that's in the laundry room, but I'm getting tired of it as it is also the color of our master bathroom. I'll post some inspiration pictures next week--I have one laundry room in my file that sticks in my mind--I may just basically copy it...

Here is the hallway/laundry room to-do list:
  • Paint walls
  • Paint cupboards
  • Organize cupboards
  • Light switch coverplate
  • Art for laundry room
  • New light fixtures
  • Weed/organize broom closet
  • Art to cover breaker box in hallway
  • Paint trim
  • Assemble a good First Aid kit
  • Frame and hang world map
  • New laundry basket
  • Black and white striped rug
  • Paint door

Friday, December 16, 2011

christmas cookie week three: sugar cookies

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Until last weekend, I hadn't made sugar cookies since, well, honestly I can't even remember. I'm not the most patient person in the world and I typically pull things together at the last minute. So, having to make the dough at least 2 hours ahead of time was always makes the idea of making sugar cookies unattractive to me. But...last time I was home my mom gave me some really cute cookie cutters, and I really wanted to try them out. These sugar cookies ended up being one of those things that just doesn't go as planned. 

I had my friend Ashly over to bake and decorate cookies with me, but after a very small oven fire (from bacon grease that had dripped down into the bottom of my oven) and having to air out the house & take the oven apart to clean it, we never got to the decorating. I ended up decorating the cookies myself, and I'm kind of glad that I did because I had never used royal icing before. Let's just say I'm not quitting my day job to open up a sugar cookie bakery anytime soon.

All that being said, this Sugar Cookie recipe from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook is AMAZING. Justin was actually eating these, and everyone at work loved them. Here is one comment I received: "I am 200% obsessed with your cookies!!!!" It's definitely not me--I'll say it again--Martha Stewart always has the best cookie recipes.

Sugar Cookies
Makes 3 dozen
  • 1 lb. unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups granulated white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 t. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 1/2 t. salt
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
  • colored sanding sugar or sprinkles, for decorating (optional)
  • royal icing (optional), recipe below
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat butter and sugar on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, vanilla, and salt; mix on medium-high speed until combined. With mixer on low speed, add flour in two batches, mixing until just incorporated.

2. Turn out dough onto a clean work surface. Divide in half, and pat into flattened rectangles; wrap each in plastic. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.

3. Preheat oven to 350°F., with rack in upper and lower thirds. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one rectangle of dough to a scant 1/4-inch thickness. Using cookie cutters, cut out shapes. Using a small offset spatula, transfer shapes to prepared sheets, placing about 2 inches apart. Chill in freezer or refrigerator until firm, about 15 minutes. Set scraps aside. Repeat process with remaining rectangle of dough. Gather all the scraps, and roll out again. Chill 15 minutes; cut out more shapes, and place on sheets.

4. Decorate cookies with sanding sugar or sprinkles, if using, before baking. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until cookies are golden around the edges and slightly firm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Transfer cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.

5. Decorate with Royal Icing, if using. Top icing with sanding sugar or sprinkles, if using.

Royal Icing
Makes about 2 1/2 cups
  • 1 lb. powdered sugar
  • 5 T. meringue powder
  • 1/2 cup water
  • liquid or gel-paste food coloring (optional)
1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine sugar, meringue powder, and a scant 1/2 cup water on low speed. Beat until mixture is fluffy yet dense, 7 to 8 minutes.

2. To thin the icing for flooding (filling in areas with a thin layer of icing), stir in additional water, 1 teaspoon at a time. Test the consistency by lifting a spoonful of icing and letting it drip back into the bowl; a ribbon should remain on the surface for 5 to 7 seconds.

3. To tint icing, dip a toothpick or wooden skewer into food coloring, and gradually mix it in until the desired shade is reached.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

parmesan-panko crusted tilapia

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We have been in a major salmon and shrimp rut when it comes to seafood. I decided that we should try something new, so I went straight to Pinterest to browse my "Yummy for My Tummy" board. I had pinned this recipe, but I didn't like the idea of using cereal to coat the fish. So, I substituted Panko (one of my new favorite things to use on fish!). This is definitely one of my new favorite fish recipes, and the Parmesan-Panko Crust would also suit salmon or chicken breasts.

Parmesan-Panko Crusted Tilapia
Makes 4 servings
  • 1 lb. Tilapia filets
  • 1/2 cup Panko
  • 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 t. garlic powder
  • 1 t. Trader Joe's 21 Seasoning Salute
  • Salt & Pepper
  • Olive oil cooking spray
Preheat the broiler. Coat a glass baking pan with the olive oil cooking spray. Rinse the tilapia filets with water and dry with a paper towel. 

Combine the Panko, parmesan cheese, garlic powder, and 21 Seasoning Salute in a medium shallow bowl. Coat fish very lightly with cooking spray and season with salt and pepper. Dip the filets in the panko-parmesan mixture to coat.

Place filets in the coated baking pan and broil 2 racks from the top for about 3-4 minutes per side.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

newport harbor christmas light cruise

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A few weeks ago I saw this Newport Harbor Fun Zone Boat Company Christmas light cruise pop up on Groupon, and I finally pulled the trigger and bought my first Groupon! The 90 minute cruise left from Balboa and went around the Newport Harbor, Balboa Island and Lido showing us all of the beautiful homes decorated for Christmas. 

While my pictures are not amazing (I still haven't really figured out how and when to use my lenses...), to give you an idea of how stunning these homes are--the average cost of a home in this area is $2.5 million. Numerous celebrities and major business owners have homes here: Michelle Pfieffer, Mark McGuire, Ryan Seacrest, Rock Hudson, John Wayne, Dean Koontz, the guy who invented Simple Green, and the family that owns In-N-Out Burger currently owns the home that was built for Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall upon the announcement of their engagement. Shirley Temple also bought one of her first homes here for her family when she was only 11 years old! 

It was a lot of fun to see all of these incredible homes decorated so beautifully for Christmas! 

The Fun Zone Boat Company also offers sea lion tours, celebrity home and yacht tours, Christmas Parade of Lights tours (during the yacht parade), and summer sunset cruises.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

christmas cookies week two: chocolate-espresso snowcaps

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I started making these cookies years ago and never stopped because they are amazing. I am not exaggerating on this--I took these into work this past Monday and received a marriage proposal!

There are a lot of steps to these cookies (melting chocolate, refrigerating the dough, coating balls of dough in powdered sugar, but they are still easy to make and well worth the time spent preparing them. The espresso powder is a great complement to the chocolate--and they're really cute!

This amazing recipe comes to us courtesy of none other than my go-to-gal when it comes to baking: Martha Stewart.