5.31.2013

Let's Catch Up: Commissioning and Weddings x2!


Guys!  It's been forever...seriously, it's been forever.  I can't believe how little free time I've had for the past month and it's been made very obvious by my lack of posts!  So sad...

But to get back in it, I thought I'd give you a little update on everything that has been going on.  It's been quite the past few weeks and I want to share my life with any and all who will read about it.  So let's get started.

The whirlwind began with a weekend trip to La Crosse, WI, for my brother's commissioning.  I may [or may not] have mentioned that my brother spent his college career at Winona State University in southern Minnesota studying criminal justice and dedicating his four years to the ROTC program.  Tyler [my brother] has had a strong passion for the army and police force since he was a wee baby, often times sporting life jackets in the streets as he patrolled cars whizzing through the neighborhood.  Or duck taping file folders together and calling his creation a bullet proof vest.  And I can vividly remember his renowned 'pew, pew' [spit laden] sound as he pretended to shoot down any moving object.  I know, adorable.  It really was. 


But a few weekends ago, my family and relatives gathered together to celebrate the culmination of my brother's dedication and hard work: commissioning into the army.  It was most definitely bittersweet, excited and so extremely proud of my brother that he has been one of the few to follow his dreams but at the same time dreading the possibility of deployment in the coming years.  But tears aside [and there were lots of them], I felt extremely blessed to be there and to be a part of his special day.  I can never explain in words how very proud my entire family is of this young man and how we are all anticipating what the bright future holds for him.  It's sure to be an adventure!

Then just a short few days later, I found myself on a plane with Robbie's parents traveling to the sunny and warm city of Scottsdale, Arizona for a weekend of wedding planning!  Robbie's mom, Julie, and I started the weekend off on Friday morning meeting with the [potential] venue coordinator for a tour of the grounds.  As expected, the location was just as beautiful as I remembered.  So with the hurdle of finding a place to get married, we then decided on a date: September 20, 2014!

Yep!  WE HAVE A DATE!  I'm sure you're not quite as excited as I am, but it's just a great feeling to have a tangible timeline now.  A date that Robbie and I will cherish for the rest of our lives.  It's a pretty special feeling! 

Family, friends, and relatives traveled from across the country [literally] to support Ty Ty!

Then that night, we picked up Robbie, his brother, and my mom at the airport, had a late night dinner, and woke up the next morning for our first wedding planner meeting.  Mmhmm...wedding planner!!  I was uber excited about this part of the process because since our wedding will be out of state, having someone there who actually knows what they're doing is an extremely comforting feeling.  So let the picking begin!

Our first meeting was with Some Like It Classic (SLIC), which is based out of Scottsdale.  I originally set up three meetings to meet different wedding planners and this first one actually happened to be the last meeting I arranged.  But I guess you always save the best for last.  I could go on and on about how much I absolutely adored Amina and Whitney, but you would just think I was weird.  But to give you an idea, the second lady didn't stand a chance and I ended up cancelling the following days meeting because I knew she wouldn't top SLIC.  Sowwy.

So with the venue, date, and wedding planner finalized, we spent the rest of the long weekend shopping, sunbathing, and just enjoying each others company.  Pretty darn productive weekend I would say!


And I'm guessing you're probably wondering why I'm not dishing out more information regarding our wedding venue, etc. because guess what?!  I'm making you visit our wedding page at The Knot to read more about our choices.  Darn me, huh?  But seriously, I think you'll enjoy it and I have some neat pictures to go along with it.  So click on over and take a look at the 'Ceremony' and 'Reception' links on the left hand side. 

And last but not least.  The post title indicates that I have two weddings to talk about because...I do.  But this second one is much more imminent.  The end of June to be exact.  And what do I have to do with it?  Well...I get to make cupcakes for the reception!!

How freakin' awesome is that?!

Because I'm pumped [and nervous]!  But I think it'll be a great experience and I'm crossing my fingers that I can deliver.  Well, I will deliver.  There really is no other option when it comes to someones wedding, right?!  And now I have even more of an appreciation for wanting things to go right, so wish me luck!

Fun fact: the bottom left picture is of a bobcat my mom and I saw on a morning walk!

Fortunately, the bride-to-be is surprisingly laid back and really isn't looking for anything too crazy.  So we decided on a couple of different cupcake flavors, including my Nutella Cloud Cupcakes, Hummingbird Cupcakes, and a vanilla cupcake [that I'll be testing out this weekend], to ensure we provided treats for an array of palettes.  The bride is expecting around 200 guests so you can bet I'll be consumed with baking and frosting cupcakes that weekend but I really can't wait to see how it all turns out!

In the mean time, I'll be practicing baking cupcakes and some frosting/decorating techniques [for the month of June] so if anyone has any advice at all, please leave as many comments as you'd like!  The more the merrier, baaaaa-lieve me!

Well thanks for sticking with me throughout this post, I know it's wordy but there's just so much I want to tell you!  Until next time, my lovelies!  .

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5.20.2013

Secret Recipe Club: Cookie Brittle

Hello, my SRCers [and other lovely readers]!

I can't believe another month has already gone by.  I feel like I just wrote up my last SRC post...

But I can't complain, this club is oh-so-fun and I absolutely love being introduced to new blogs.  It's always a treat to browse through their array of recipes and see all of the different styles of bloggers out there.  It's a 'small' community but yet we are each so vastly different.  Gotta love it.


Which brings me to my May assignment, Creative Kitchen Adventures.  Remember how said we are so incredibly different?  Well point in case right here!

LSM is all about the sweet treats, right?  Let's see how much butter and sugar we can pack into one pan and hopefully no one will notice.  But Creative Kitchen Adventures lies on the opposite end of the spectrum.  In an extremely good and healthful way though.  I could take a couple notes from this blog...

Denise, the author of Creative Kitchen Adventures, is much like me in that she is a self taught cook [except I bake!] and she started her blog as a way to keep track of all of the recipes she was trying.  But while Denise is also a mother, she does put a certain focus on bringing healthy meals to her family using wholesome ingredients (e.g., she tries to stay away from processed foods).  But what I think is unique and genuine about Denise's goals is that she's not an 'all or nothing' type of person.  So though she gravitates towards healthful recipes, there's definitely a fair share of sweet treats on her blog [which of course I love!].  And I think it's great that she doesn't deprive her family, one would only think that would lead to some disasters later in life.  Or at least that's what I tell myself when I'm eating pans of brownies...

My brother's commissioning was this last weekend [details and pics to come!] so I made the Cookie Brittle for everyone to snack on.  Uh, it was gone in 15 minutes.

Anywho.  So what recipes of Denise's caught my eye?!  More like what didn't...but here are some of my favs: Mexican Omelette, Bruschetta Pizza, Bacon-wrapped Dates, and Flourless Chocolate Brownie Cookies.  And I'd just like to throw it out there that I've had Bacon-wrapped Dates before and they are quite possibly heaven on Earth.  No joking whatsoever.  And I can only imagine that Denise's version is absolutely scrumptious and addicting!

But this month, curiosity completely got me.  Cookie Brittle?  What?!  First, I didn't have a clue as to what the recipe would turn out like but I couldn't resist trying it out because Denise labeled it as a 'Christmas Favorite.'  Uh, who can turn down a Christmas favorite?  For reals...

And now I know why Denise and her loved ones adore this treat so very much.  It's addicting.  You know those snacks you can't stop nibbling on despite the fact that you're not even hungry?  Yeah, definitely did that with this one.  And I'm not ashamed.


The 'cookie' part of this recipe is just that, it very much resembles a buttery shortbread with a generous helping of rich chocolate chips mixed throughout.  And a lovely topping of chopped walnuts tops off this cookie just perfectly.

I'm not quite sure how it happens, but the brittle pieces comes during the baking process.  If you watch closely, the butter creeps its way to the top of the cookie, enveloping the walnuts and creating a crisp exterior resembling well...brittle.  You know that crunchy, caramely treat?  Yep, it's now in cookie form.

And to make it a true replica, the sheet of cookie brittle is broken into random sized pieces perfect for plopping into a bowl and setting out for all to munch.  Forget Christmas time, this is an all-year-round delight!

Thanks again, Denise, I love the simplicity and deliciousness of this recipe and I wouldn't have found it without you!  Until next month!  .


From Creative Kitchen Adventures
Ingredients:
1 c. butter, softened
1-1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 tsp. salt
1 c. sugar
2 c. all purpose flour
8 oz. semisweet chocolate chips
1-1/2 c. chopped walnuts
Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 375F.  In a large bowl, cream together on medium speed butter, vanilla extract, and salt, until combined.  Add sugar and flour and beat until just combined.  Stir in chocolate chips.
  2. Press batter into a cookie sheet (about 1/2- to 1-inch thickness; batter won't take up the entire sheet).  Sprinkle top with walnuts.
  3. Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until lightly browned.  Let cool on wire rack for 15 minutes before breaking into pieces. 
Yield: 40 pieces

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5.15.2013

Raspberry Chocolate Coffee Cake

.  Spring has sprung!

Or I guess you can call it Summer at this point.

But regardless, the heat has arrived and I won't ever complain about the humidity [very much...].  I mean, it took April snow storms for this weather to get here.  So I'll just shut up and be happy about it!


So to kick off my summer baking [yay!], I picked out a real doozy.  Whatever a doozy is.  But I picked it.  And you'll want to get your chompers on this one.  I.  Promise.

I made this luscious Raspberry Chocolate Coffee Cake last weekend for Robbie's mom for Mother's Day.  His family lives in Omaha, so we're able to see them much more often than my own family.  And they also get the honor of testing out any of my baked goodies I force pass on their way.  Don't know if that's a good or bad thing though...


Anywho, Robbie and I picked out a lovely floral display for his mom and I made this breakfast treat for he and his family to enjoy on Mother's Day.  We don't want her making her own breakfast Mother's Day morning, right?!  I didn't get a chance to taste my creation but word on the street is that it was spot on.  And let's be real...my pictures don't do this sucker justice {cough, I need a real camera, cough], so you can only imagine the [subtle] decadence this recipe produces.  Layers and layers of summery, chocolatey goodness, to be exact.

So here's the gist of it.  Three layers of soft, uber moist, classic vanilla coffee cake.  Three layers of chocolate streusel.  And three layers of plump, tart, fresh raspberries.  Hmm...that's a no brainer.


Gather those ingredients and get bakin'!  

P.S. I do want to fill you in on the Mother's Day present my family got for our beloved mamacita because I'm oh-so-excited about it!  So you may have read that Robbie and I finally made the big jump and got engaged, which obviously leads to a wedding.  And lots of wedding planning.  

So first things first, Robbie and I decided that we'll be getting married in Arizona where his parents have a house in Desert Mountain.  There's a beautiful clubhouse there that I'm beyond excited about, so for Memorial Day weekend Robbie, Robbie's parents, and I are trekking down South to meet with the venue coordinator and a couple of different wedding planners.  Well of course I want my parents involved in this whole process more than anything, but we all have a lot going on in our lives at the moment so we initially thought they wouldn't be able to make the trip.  But after some discussions with my loving dad, we decided to surprise my mom with a plane ticket to AZ to take part in all of this crazy planning!  So for Mother's Day, that's what my mom got.  Which was followed by lots of happy tears and laughter.  So needless to say, I can't even wait for the next two weeks to go by and to spend some quality time with my best friend during such a special time.


So wish us luck!  And if any one knows of any wedding planners they'd recommend, suggestions are SO welcomed!  .

P.S.S. check out our wedding website at The Knot, I updated the About Us section so you can read a little about how Robbie and I first met!  .

My Notes:
  • Don't be intimidated by the layering, it's very simple and you can't really mess it up!  
  • I chose to use milk chocolate for my topping but for pure eye appeal I'd probably use semisweet chocolate next time.  The darker chocolate would look so pretty against the light cake!


Adapted from Cooking Melangery

Ingredients:
Vanilla Coffee Cake:
3 c. all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1-1/4 c. sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 c. sour cream
1 c. semisweet or milk chocolate, melted

Raspberry Chocolate Filling:
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. packed light brown sugar
1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c. fresh or frozen raspberries

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Butter or spray with nonstick cooking spray a 9- or 10-inch bundt pan.  
  2. For cake, combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add eggs, one at a time, until completely combined.  Add vanilla extract and beat until combined.
  4. On low speed, in alternating additions of 3 each, add in dry ingredients and sour cream just until blended (do not over mix the batter).
  5. For the filling, combine the sugar, light brown sugar, and cocoa powder.  Scoop 1-1/2 cups of batter into prepared pan and spread evenly to cover bottom.  Sprinkle 1/3 of the cocoa mixture over the batter and 1/2 cup of raspberries.  Scoop 2 cups of batter over filling to cover and repeat steps with the 1/3 of the filling and 1/2 cup of raspberries.  Repeat one last time with the remaining ingredients to make 3 layers.  Bake 50 to 60 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.  Let cake cool for 30 minutes before unmolding.
  6. In a microwave safe bowl, melt the chocolate and pour over the bundt cake.  Use the remaining 1/2 cup of raspberries to decorate the top of the cake.  
Yield: 10 servings


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5.06.2013

Lucky Leaf GIVEAWAY and Cherry Coconut Squares

.  So, all you Midwesterners.  Anyone else as sick of this never-going-to-see-Spring-weather we've been having?  As I'm typing out this post, it is currently mid-30s [so freezing], raining, and beyond windy.  Oh, did we forget it's May?  Okay, just wanted to make sure we all knew that.

And that's enough of my crabbing because we have some fun things to get to.  Am I right or am I right?!


What better way to make us forget about the dreary weather than a creative giveaway by Lucky Leaf?!  'Good Things Come to Those Who Pin' is the name of this contest and it's sure to get you in the Spring mood [for those of you who haven't seen it yet!].

So how does it work exactly?  Well it's pretty easy peasy and totally worth it seeing as the grand prize is $500!  But why stop there?  Two additional winners will receive $200 and ten (10) more finalists will win Lucky Leaf gift packs!  So here are the rules:
  1. Create a Pinterest board named 'Good Things. Spring' and repin the contest entry image from Lucky Leaf's Pinterest board.
  2. Pin three (3) Lucky Leaf recipes directly from LuckyLeaf.com along with three (3) springtime baking inspirations images.  Be sure to tag each of the images with #luckyleafluckyme.
  3. Next, follow the Lucky Leaf Pinterest board (link above).
  4. Finally, register for the contest through Lucky Leaf's Promotions page for a chance to win those high dollar prizes!
Sounds like a good ol' fashion time, huh?!  So get pinning, since you only have until May 15, to enter!


And to give you some inspiration of my own, I'm leaving you with my experience of Lucky Leaf's Coconut Cherry Squares recipe and cherry pie filling they sent to me [along with some other great stuff] to spur my involvement in this awesome giveaway.

First, cherry pie filling is my absolute favorite.  So even though Lucky Leaf sent me two additional recipes and pie fillings, I just had to go with cherry.  And these bars are super simple, so who's going to pass that up?  And when I mean simple, I mean one bowl simple.  Yep, one bowl.


And for those of you with picky eaters, these bars are for them.  They are one classic dessert, with a crust and sprinkled topping of buttery, sweet, and salty goodness, sandwiching a sweet cherry filling.  Throw in a little coconut for an added crunch and element of flavor and we have one winning Spring-filled recipe.  And Lucky Leaf didn't tell me to say that.  I really did love this treat.

So to get you in gear for Spring, bake up a batch of Cherry Coconut Squares [check my link above for the recipe!] while browsing the Web for Spring time goodies.  A quick pin or two could win you some big time cash!  .
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5.01.2013

Bajillionaire Bars

Yeah, I did it. 

I most definitely just made up the name of these bars.  But lemme 'splain.


Any of you ever heard of Millionaire Bars?  Well they're quite simple...kind of.  Millionaire Bars are a treat consisting of a shortbread crust, caramel filling, and chocolate topping.  And if you've never had this combination [ahem, Twix Bars], then you are 1) missing out and 2) don't even realize how addicting those three things together can be.  Trust.

But when I stumbled upon the recipe for Billionaire Bars, there was no turning back.  Actually, this recipe was called Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Billionaire Bars but because that title is a touch long, I made up my own name.  And because I felt that 'billionaire' didn't even begin to describe how rich and decadent these bars turned out to be.  Trust again.


So what is it that knocks these bars up a few notches?  Well, cookie dough, of course!  And one thick layer of it.  So let's recap...

Buttery, crunchy shortbread crust.  Creamy caramel filling.  A thick layer of soft chocolate chip cookie dough.  And last but not least, a shiny, smooth topping of chocolate.

It's hard for me to even describe these lil' suckers without my mouth watering.  Every monstrous bite you take fills your mouth with bajillionaire goodness.  Seriously, these bars may actually make you feel richer, they're that delicious.  Or possibly a little fatter....just kiddinggggg.


So what do these bars have to do with what's going on in my life currently?  Well, I figured I better follow up my engagement post with a monumental dessert, seeing as that is quite the life changing event.  And these Bajillionaire Bars, along with the Brownie Fantasy Bars, are nothing less than mind-blowing memorable.  Must I say 'trust' one more time?

So to celebrate my engagement [okay, totally kidding], get your buns in the kitchen and get bakin'!  .

My Notes:
  • I doubled this recipe so I'd have enough to make a 13x9-inch pan, but if you don't have a crowd to serve, simply cut the ingredients in half, use an 8x8-inch pan, and bake for 18 to 22 minutes.  

Adapted from Brown Eyed Baker

Ingredients:
Shortbread:
2/3 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
2/3 c. sugar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 tsp. salt
2 c. all purpose flour

Caramel Filling:
14 oz. soft caramels, unwrapped
4 tbsp. heavy whipping cream

Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough:
1 c. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 c. packed light brown sugar
1/2 c. sugar
4 tbsp. heavy whipping cream
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1-1/2 c. all purpose flour
Pinch of salt
1 c. mini semisweet chocolate chips

Chocolate Glaze:
8 oz. semisweet chocolate, chopped
2 tbsp. unsalted butter

Directions:
  1. Heat oven to 350°F.  Spray 13x9-inch baking pan with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. For shortbread, in a medium bowl, beat together butter and sugar with electric mixer on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add vanilla extract and salt and beat until combined.  Add flour and mix until incorporated (mixture may be crumbly).  Firmly press mixture into bottom of prepared pan.  Using a fork, poke holes in the crust.  Bake 22 minutes or until edges are lightly golden.  Set pan on wire rack while making the filling.
  3. For caramel filling, place caramels and heavy whipping cream into medium saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until completely melted.  Pour hot caramel mixture over shortbread and spread into an even layer.  Refrigerate 30 minutes to 1 hour or until set.
  4. For chocolate chip cookie dough, combine butter, light brown sugar, and sugar in a large bowl and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Add heavy whipping cream and vanilla extract and mix well.  Add flour and salt and mix on low speed until incorporated.  Stir in mini chocolate chips.  Spread cookie dough over the caramel layer.  Refrigerate pan while making topping.
  5. For chocolate glaze, in a small microwavable bowl, combine chocolate and butter and melt until smooth.  Spread glaze over cookie dough and chill 30 minutes or until set, before cutting and serving.
Yield: 2 dozen bars


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