Friday, November 30, 2012

A Gift for You

Elf Christmas Printable
This year, I wanted to find a way to incorporate one of my favorite movie quotes into my Christmas decor so I designed this "Elf" Christmas poster that now hangs proudly in my home, just above little Santa.

As a Christmas gift to all my readers, I'd like to offer this poster as a free download. Simply click on the link below to receive your gift.


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{Christmas cheer hanging in my home}

Thank you for your wonderful support and loyal following. Happy Holidays!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Rose Garden

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A couple weekends ago, I was at the University of Southern California and I stumbled upon the most beautiful rose garden. The Exposition Park Rose Garden, right outside the California Science Center, is a wonderful retreat amidst a chaotic, bustling city. Being there reminded me of the many Spanish gardens I wandered through while touring castles throughout Spain. It's so nice to find these new discoveries in a city I've lived in my whole life.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Apple-Cranberry Pie

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It all started one day a few weeks ago when Bradford sat down to read my November issue of Real Simple. (We recently cut the cord on cable TV so we've found ourselves with more free time, which I love!) All of a sudden, amidst the casual comments of "Hey, do you wanna get this soup and crackers bowl?" and "Oxblood is a color?" he exclaimed, "You need to make an apple-cranberry pie for Thanksgiving. And a pumpkin cheesecake." Haha. I had never attempted nor had I considered attempting messing with the tried and true holiday favorite of apple pie. But let me tell you, this apple-cranberry thing is something special. I was afraid the cranberries would be too tart and overpower the apples, but it was a perfect complement. Bright and cheery and delicious.

Also, I think I finally found my favorite pie crust.

Apple-Cranberry Pie
From Real Simple, November 2012 Issue
Yield: one 9-inch pie
Prep Time: about 30 minutes
Baking Time: about 1 hour
Total Time: about 1 hour, 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 unbaked Basic Flaky Piecrust
2 pounds Granny Smith apples, peeled and very thinly sliced (about 6-8 apples)
2 cups fresh cranberries
3/4 cup sugar
3 Tablespoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 cup granola
4 Tablespoons unsalted butter

DIRECTIONS:

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.

Toss together the apples, cranberries, sugar, cornstarch, lemon zest, cinnamon and salt. Transfer to an unbaked 9-inch piecrust. Top with granola and dot with unsalted butter.  Bake for 50-60 minutes or until the apples are tender. (If the top darkens too quickly, tent loosely with foil.) Let cool before serving.

Basic Flaky Piecrust

Basic Flaky Piecrust
From Real Simple, November 2012 Issue
Yield: one 9-inch piecrust
Prep Time: 15 minutes
Chill Time: 90 minutes
Total Time: about 2 hours

INGREDIENTS:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for rolling dough
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 Tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2-4 Tablespoons ice water

DIRECTIONS:

In a food processor, pulse the flour, butter, sugar and salt until the mixture resembles coarse meal with a few pea-size clumps of butter remaining. Add 2 Tablespoons of the water. Pulse until the mixture just holds together with squeezed (add more water as necessary; do not overprocess).

Place the mixture on a sheet of plastic wrap. Shape it into a 1-inch-thick disk, wrap tightly, and chill until firm, at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.

On a floured work surface or piece of parchment, roll out the dough to a 12-inch circle. Carefully transfer the dough to a 9-inch pie plate (avoid stretching). Trim the edge to a 1-inch overhang and tuck it under itself to form a thick rim. Crimp rim as desired.

Chill, covered, for at least 30 minutes and up to 2 days before using.

How to parbake and prebake a pie crust
Line the chilled crust with a piece of foil, leaving an overhang all around. Fill with dried beans or pie weights and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the beans and foil. For a parbaked (partially baked) crust, bake until dry and set, 5 to 8 minutes more. For a prebaked crust, bake until golden, 10 to 12 minutes more. Let the crust cool completely before filling.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Travel Guide: Palm Springs, California

Palm Springs, California is a great getaway for anyone looking to experience the true desert beauty of California. It's about a two-hour drive from Los Angeles and makes for a perfect weekend trip. When we were there, Bradford and I described it as a more mellow form of Las Vegas -- hot weather, pools, good food and shopping, but minus the strippers and gambling. Just my style. I've put together a little travel guide for anyone planning a trip there soon.
Leaving Palm Springs Palm Springs, CA Curve Hotel Lobby, Palm Springs, CA Palm Springs, CA Curve Hotel Lobby, Palm Springs, CA Palm Springs, CA

FEST Travel Guide: Palm Springs, California

TO STAY: While I would love to stay at the Parker someday, our budget was a bit smaller for this trip so we opted for The Curve. It is actually a recently renovated Travelodge, if you can believe it, and it is great! The rooms are modern and clean and come with free WiFi. The bathrooms are a bit small, but they are clean and the lotion/shampoo/conditioner samples smell delicious (a small but important thing for in my book). The pool/hot tub area is big, clean and, most of all, fun. Cabana beds line the pool and blow-up ducks and dolphins brighten up the area. A ping-pong table, firepit, BBQs and outdoor shower all add to the fun outdoor environment. I didn't realize this until after we left, but the hotel also offers free use of their desert cruisers (bikes) for all hotel guests.

TO EAT: We heard great things about Rio Azul so we decided to try it out for dinner and were not disappointed. The parrilladas basically give you anything you could ask for in a meal and while I don't drink, apparently the mango margaritas are amazing. For breakfast, head on down to Cheeky's, a modern, hip foodie paradise that does brunch right. You'll probably have to wait about 30 minutes but, from what I hear, it's worth the wait. Some other great food options include: Woody's Burgers for cheap but good grub and Jake's for a nicer affair.

TO DO: Take some time to explore the gorgeous mountains which make Palm Springs so beautiful and hop aboard the Palm Springs Aerial Tramway. It's a huge rotating tramway that takes you from 2,643 feet to the heart of the San Jacinto Mountains (8,515 feet) in 10 minutes. If you're feeling really ambitious, you can hike to the summit of San Jacinto (10, 834 feet) or you can just explore the woodsy areas on some less-intense hikes. There's also a restaurant at the Mountain Station for some

TO SHOP: We didn't have much time, but I was so drawn to all the brightly-colored home interior stores we saw while driving down Palm Canyon Drive, the main drag in PS. I was able to take a quick peek inside Swank and definitely liked what I saw. Another great home goods store is Distinctive Home. For purely Palm Springs-inspired clothing, visit the newly expanded Trina Turk flagship boutique.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Holiday Sunshine

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This weekend, I took my own advice and spent some time in Palm Springs (photos to come). It was the perfect place to celebrate my 3rd wedding anniversary and soak up some sun. I tried to match the warm desert tones of my surroundings by wearing this peachy shirt paired with chunky white earrings and brown leather details.

Friday, November 23, 2012

The Greatest Celebration of Food

Here's a glimpse of what my Thanksgiving dinner looked like, complete with the most beautiful Nottingham lace tablecloth and a fine-looking family (if I do say so myself).

But let's talk about the most exciting part of the holiday, the food.

Here's what was on our menu:

For Dinner:
  • Roasted Turkey with Gravy
  • Traditional Stuffing
  • Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes 
  • Green Peas
  • Fleming's Creamed Corn
  • Cranberry-Orange Relish
  • Famous Holiday Orange Rolls
  • Amazing Sweet Potato Casserole
  • Emerald Salad

For Dessert:

Favorite holiday. For sure. 

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Homemade English Muffins


Did you know that you can make your own homemade English muffins? And the trick (you'd never guess) to getting that firm, chewy crust? You cook this bread on the stove. Yes, on the stove! You literally don't even need an oven. 

Homemade English Muffins
Yield: about 18 muffins
Prep Time: 25 minutes
Rising Time: 90 minutes
Cook Time: 20 minutes
Total Time: about 2.5 hours

INGREDIENTS:

1 cup milk
2 Tablespoons white sugar
1 (.25 oz) package active-dry yeast
1 cup warm water
1/4 cup melted shortening
6 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt

DIRECTIONS:

Warm the milk in a small saucepan until it bubbles, then remove from heat. Mix in the sugar, stirring until dissolved. Let cool until lukewarm. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand until creamy, about 10 minutes.

In a large bowl, combine the milk, yeast mixture, shortening, and 3 cups flour. Beat until smooth. Add salt and rest of flour, or enough to make a soft dough. Knead. Place in greased bowl, cover, and let rise.

Once dough has risen (about an hour), punch dough down in bowl and roll out to about 1/2-inch in thickness. Cut rounds with a biscuit cutter, drinking glass, or empty (and clean) tuna can. Sprinkle waxed paper with cornmeal and set the rounds on this to rise. Dust tops of muffins with cornmeal also. Cover and let rise for 30 minutes.

Heat a greased griddle. Cook muffins on griddle about 10 minutes on each side on medium-low heat. Keep baked muffins in an oven until all have been cooked. To store for later use, allow all to cool and place in a plastic bag. To serve, split muffin in half, toast and spread with butter and jam. Enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Wanderlust: Palm Springs, California









Even though Los Angeles is about as mild a climate as you can get in the winter, sometimes 65 degrees just isn't enough for us crazy Angelenos. No, sometimes we just need the warm, beating rays of a 90-degree sun in the winter, making the desert oasis of Palm Springs the perfect getaway. About a 2-hour drive from greater Los Angeles, Palm Springs makes a great weekend trip. Warm weather, palm trees for miles and eye-catching quirks just about everywhere you go? I think I could use a little escape to Palm Springs right about now.

Click on each photo to view the source.

Friday, November 16, 2012

FESTive Style: Thanksgiving Dinner


1. ASOS Top with Double Scallop - $38.70
2. Michael Kors Drama Bead Necklace - $295.00
3. Gloverall Slim Long Duffle Coat - $388.74
4. Gorjana Pristine Circle Stud Earrings - $45.00
5. Martinelli's Gold Medal Sparkling Cider 
7. Evening Fog Stretch Bracelet in Teal - $15.99
10. ASOS 3D Spot Sweater in Lambswool - $66.84

What do you typically wear to your Thanksgiving dinner? Do you go all out and wear formal attire or do you treat it as any other day and not worry about clothing? When I played volleyball in college, our conference tournament always fell during the Thanksgiving week so I spent four years eating my Thanksgiving dinners in sweats with my teammates. Now, I prefer to glam up my attire a little but still keep it comfortable enough that I can hang out all day in it, play with nieces and nephews, (and eat as much as I want). If I could, I would love to arrive to my Thanksgiving dinner wearing everything you see above. (And don't forget the sparkling beverage!)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Chocolate Buttercream Dream Frosting


What good are chocolate cupcakes if you don't have some amazing frosting to go with them? I don't know about you but for me, frosting is definitely the best part about eating cake. You can thank me later for this frosting recipe. It's pretty much the best. And if you'd prefer to keep it a vanilla frosting? Just omit the cocoa powder. Enjoy!

Chocolate Buttercream Dream Frosting
Adapted from The Repressed Pastry Chef
Yield: enough frosting for one cake or 2-3 dozen cupcakes
Time: about 10 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

1 stick (1/2 cup) salted butter, room temperature
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup shortening
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
2 pounds powdered sugar
4-6 Tablespoons very cold milk
7 Tablespoons cocoa powder

DIRECTIONS:

Cream the butter and shortening in the bowl of an electric mixer. Add the vanilla extract and combine well. Begin adding in the sugar and mixing thoroughly after each addition. After all of the sugar has been added and mixed thoroughly, begin adding the very cold milk, one tablespoon at a time, combining very well after each addition (mixer on medium-high speed) until you reach the desired consistency. Add cocoa powder and mix thoroughly. Spread onto desired treat.

To obtain the effect seen in the cupcakes above, spoon all frosting into a large plastic bag. Seal bag tightly and cut a 1/4-inch cut into the bottom corner of the bag. Holding from the top, slowly squeeze out frosting in a circular motion onto cupcake. The more the better.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Chocolate Cupcakes



Chocolate cupcakes with chocolate buttercream frosting. There are a lot of amazing desserts out there, but chocolate-y chocolate desserts always seem to top my list of favorites. This recipe is delicious, moist and, best of all, it's easy (see directions below). Top this off with the amazing chocolate buttercream dream frosting (recipe to follow) and you're in heaven.

Chocolate Cupcakes
From My Baking Addiction
Yield: about 2 dozen cupcakes
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Bake Time: 15 minutes
Total Time: about 20 minutes

INGREDIENTS:

2 cups flours
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 cup oil (canola works well)
2 cups hot water
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
Chocolate Buttercream Dream Frosting

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line cupcake tin with cupcake liners. Mix all ingredients in a bowl until you get a thin batter. Pour batter into cupcake tins about 2/3 high. Bake in preheated oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 12-15 minutes.

Top with Chocolate Buttercream Dream frosting.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Endeavour


This weekend, I made a trip to the California Science Center in Los Angeles to see the space shuttle Endeavor, up close and personal. It was so cool! I've always been fascinated by space (who isn't) so I was naturally excited to see this vessel that actually flew through outer space multiple times. The space shuttle was so much bigger than I imagined and just seemed so majestic. The coolest thing about seeing the shuttle? Seeing everyone else around me, old and young, get equally as excited about this as I was. You can't deny it--the thought of space travel is exciting, intriguing, mysterious and amazing. The ultimate form of venturing into the unknown.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Whole Wheat Banana Bread




Everyone needs a go-to banana bread recipe. This is mine and, in my humble opinion, it is amazing. I discovered it a couple years ago when I was on a big "no white flour" kick and was so surprised by how moist and delicious this bread was. And it stayed moist and delicious for days to come! I'm a simple girl, preferring my banana bread without any additions, but if you're looking for something to take this to the next level, add some dark chocolate chips. And if you're really looking to get crazy, add some walnuts. Enjoy!

Whole Wheat Banana Bread
From wholegraingourmet.com
Yield: one 9" x 5" loaf
Prep Time: about 10 minutes
Baking Time: about 50 minutes
Total Time: about 1 hour

INGREDIENTS:

1 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups mashed over-ripe bananas (about 3 bananas)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup hot (not boiling) water
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

DIRECTIONS:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Lightly grease a 9x5 inch loaf pan with butter.

Combine flour, cinnamon, and salt in a medium bowl. Whisk together and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine butter, honey, and sugar, and beat for two minutes. Add the eggs and lightly beat until just combined. Mix in bananas and vanilla. Do not overmix. Gradually beat in the flour mixture in thirds.

Dilute baking soda in 1/4 cup hot water, then beat into batter.

If desired, you may stir in, with a wooden spoon, chocolate chips and/or nuts at this point. I recommend using about 1/2 cup of each.

Pour the batter into the pan and bake at 325 degrees for 52 minutes. (I know every oven is different and 52 minutes seems quite 'exact'. But this was the directions stated in the original recipe, and it was the perfect amount of time for me. This said, I still recommend checking at about 47 minutes for doneness, by inserting a knife to see if it comes out clean.)

Place on a wire rack to cool and enjoy, enjoy, enjoy.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Home Style: The Kitchen

1. Urban Outfitters Octopus Hook - $14.00
2. Anthropologie A Real Hoot Canister - $68.00
3. Le Creuset 5 Qt. Oval French Oven - $260.00
4. Anthropologie Fiametta Holders - $14.00
5. Zara Home Fonton Apron - $35.90
6. eSale Rugs Hamedan Rug - $759.00
7. KitchenAid Custom Metallic Series Copper Stand Mixer - $499.99

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Happy Election Day!

I hope all you Americans get out and exercise your right to vote today. God bless America. 

Photo via.


Thursday, November 1, 2012

Chicago Style Deep-Dish Pizza



When I got married, I quickly learned that the way to my husband's heart was through his stomach. And while I preferred thin-crust style pizzas with fancier ingredients, Bradford was all about the deep-dish pizza with as much meat on it as possible. I've grown to really enjoy deep dish pizza, especially when it comes from Zachary's, a great deep dish pizzeria in the San Francisco Bay area. Since we don't make it up there too often, I've found this amazing homemade version which is just as good, if not better. This recipe is a bit time intensive but, trust me, it's worth it. You can even double the recipe to make it last longer. This recipe is legit. Everything about it from the consistency of the dough to the seasoning of the sauce just hits the spot and makes you feel good inside.

Chicago-Style Deep Dish Pizza
From Pennies on a Platter
Yield: one 9-inch pizza (about 2 servings)
Prep Time: 30 minutes
Rise Time: about 1 hour 45 minutes
Bake Time: 20-25 minutes
Total Time: about 3 hours

INGREDIENTS:

{for the dough}

1 1/2 cups + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 1/8 teaspoon instant yeast
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons water, at room temperature
1 1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

{for the sauce}

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
Pinch of dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 clove garlic, minced
1 14.5 oz can diced tomatoes
Pinch of sugar
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried basil)
1 1/2 teaspoons olive oil
Ground black pepper to taste
Salt to taste

{for assembling and topping}

2 tablespoons olive oil
8 oz. Mozzarella, shredded (about 2 cups)
1/4 oz. Parmesan cheese, grated (about 2 tablespoons)

DIRECTIONS:

{to make the dough}

Whisk together the flour, cornmeal, salt, sugar and yeast in a large bowl until well blended. Using a dough hook on an electric mixer, mix in the water and melted butter on low speed for 1-2 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl as needed. Increase the speed to medium-low and knead until the dough is glossy and smooth, about 3-4 minutes.

Coat a medium bowl with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning once to coat with oil. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until nearly doubled, about 45-60 minutes.

Once dough is risen, turn it out onto a dry work surface and roll into an 8x6-inch rectangle. To laminate the dough, spread the softened butter over the surface, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge. Starting at the short end, roll the dough into a tight cylinder. With the seam-side down, flatten the cylinder into a 9x2-inch rectangle, then fold into two-thirds like a business letter. Pinch the seams to form a ball, and return to the oiled bowl. Cover tightly again with plastic wrap and let rise in the refrigerator for 40-50 minutes.

{to make the sauce}

In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Stir in the onion, oregano and salt. Saute until the liquid has nearly evaporated and the onion is golden brown, stirring often, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomatoes and sugar, then increase the heat to medium-high. Bring the mixture just to a boil, then lower the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer until reduced to about 1 1/4 cups, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the basil and oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

{to assemble the pizza}

Preheat oven to 425 degree. Coat a 9-inch round cake pan with olive oil. Move the dough to a dry work surface and roll out into a 13-inch disk about 1/4-inch thick. Carefully transfer the dough to the pan and lightly press to line the bottom of the pan and 1 inch up the sides. If the dough resists stretching, wait 5 minutes before trying again.

Sprinkle the shredded Mozzarella over the surface of the dough, then layer the sauce over the cheese. Top with parmesan cheese and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until crust is golden brown. Let rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

To make ahead: Prepare the dough up until the time of baking. Store in fridge overnight, or freeze and thaw in fridge. When ready to bake, place pan in oven while preheating so that it warms up slowly. Once oven is heated to 425 degrees, bake for 20 more minutes, until crust is golden brown.