Friday, April 29, 2011

I Love Cupcakes!

Cupcakes are so cute!  I love them.  They're fun to make, they're fun to look at, they're fun to eat, and they're fun to give away.  I always want to make cupcakes, but I don't like the idea of 24+ mini desserts sitting in my house tempting me to eat them all.  So when I made these cupcakes, I gave most of them away.  It's much more fun that way!

Banana Pecan Cupcakes with Brown Sugar Cream Cheese Frosting
For the cupcakes
3 cups sifted cake flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
4 very ripe large bananas, mashed
3/4 cup buttermilk
1/2 tsp vanilla
3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cups packed light brown sugar
3 eggs, room temperature
1 cup pecans, toasted and coarsely chopped

Toast the pecans:  Spread nuts evenly on a rimmed baking sheet.  Bake at 350 degrees, stirring occasionally, until fragrant, for 8-10 minutes.  Watch carefully so you don't burn them.  Let nuts cool completely.

Whisk together cake flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  In another bowl, whisk together mashed bananas, buttermilk, and vanilla.

Cream butter and brown sugar at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy.  Add eggs, one at a time, beating until each is incorporated, scraping down sides of bowl as needed.  Reduce speed to low.  Add flour mixture in two batches, alternating with banana mixture, and beating until just combined after each.  Stir in pecans by hand.

Divide batter evenly among paper-lined muffin tins, filling each about three-quarters full.  Bake, rotating tins halfway through, until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, about 20 minutes.  Transfer tins to wire racks to cool completely before removing cupcakes.  Cupcakes can be store overnight at room temperature, or frozen up to 2 months, in airtight containers.

For the frosting
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
8 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar

Beat butter, cream cheese, and brown sugar on medium-high speed until smooth.  Use immediately, or refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight container.  Before using, bring to room temperature, and beat on low speed until smooth.

Spread cupcakes with frosting.  Refrigerate up to 3 days in airtight containers; bring to room temperature before serving.

Source:  recipes from Martha Stewart's Cupcakes

And They're Married!

Waking up ridiculously early to see the royal wedding was so worth it!  It was amazing to see the crowds on the streets for the procession, and the crowds all over London watching the wedding on giant screens.  I loved all the little looks Kate and William gave each other during the ceremony, especially when Prince William winked at his bride!  

Kate was absolutely stunning!  I love her dress.  I'm glad it wasn't too froofy, 
and I love the lace bodice.  When she was coming down the aisle,
I loved that Harry took a sneak peek then said to William,
"Wait 'til you see her."
via msnbc

And The Queen wore yellow!  Yay!
via msnbc

At the front of the church William supposedly whispered to 
Mr. Middleton, "We were supposed to have just a small family affair."
via msnbc

When they walked out onto the balcony and saw the crowds,
Kate goes "Oh wow!"  So cute!  And my absolute favorite 
part of the whole thing was when they gave into 
the crowd and had a second kiss!
via washingtonpost
What was your favorite part of the wedding?  Did you like Kate's dress?

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Chewy Peanut Bars

I'm getting a bit of a delayed start today.  We woke last night to a ridiculously loud thunderstorm, then saw there was a tornado warning for our area and the surrounding counties.  I'm not going to lie I was a little scared!  Visions of Dorothy and her little house were in my mind!  The tornado was moving northeast, which meant it could be coming straight here.  We waited until it thankfully went north of us and continued to move on.  We went back to bed around 2, and I had a hard time getting up this morning.  Then we were without power for a while this morning, making it difficult to get ready and, you know, use the internet.  Anyway, if you find yourself sitting in your basement during a tornado warning, you should munch on these chewy peanut bars.  Or just make them to snack on during pleasant weather too.

Chewy Peanut Bars
2 1/4 cups coarsely chopped roasted salted peanuts
1 Tbsp water
50 store-bought soft caramel squares, unwrapped (a 14 oz bag has 50 in it)
1 cup mini marshmallows

Lightly coat an 8-inch square baking dish with cooking spray.  Line with parchment paper, leaving a 1-inch overhang on all sides, then lightly coat the parchment paper with spray.  Cover paper with 1 1/4 cups chopped peanuts.

In medium pot, combine 1 Tbsp water, caramels, and marshmallows over 
medium heat.  Cook, stirring frequently, until caramels and marshmallows 
melt and mixture is smooth, about 8 minutes.

Immediately pour over peanuts.

Then top with remaining 1 cup of peanuts.

Let cool until set, about 2 hours.

 Cut into bars and store in airtight container with parchment
paper in between layers.

Source:  recipe from Everyday Food, April 2011

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

32ish Hours

...until the Royal Wedding!  Are you planning on watching it?  I think everything to do with the royal family is fascinating.  And I'm super excited to finally see Kate's dress!  There is a ton of royal wedding memorabilia floating around.  I actually don't like most of it, because it's so tacky (and who likes tacky?  Kate is so not tacky).  But, this is my favorite that I've seen so far:


I always dreamed of marrying a prince.  Like not in a fairy tale but a real prince so that I could wear fancy hats and serve tea to heads of state.  I especially wanted to marry Prince William.  I had pictures of him hanging in my closet... yes I just admitted that.  But I know I'm not the only one who swooned over William back in the day, so I think this poster is great

Beach On My Mind

In ten days we will be at the beach with my family!  I love everything about the beach:  the blue sky, listening to the waves, the sand between my toes, getting a tan, relaxing in a beautiful setting.  The beach is such a perfect place.  And there are so many fabulous beach accessories that I want to take with me.

This is possibly the best beach bag ever  

This is the perfect water bottle for the beach.  It has
double-walled insulation so it keeps it extra cool.
Plus the outside of the bottle doesn't sweat,
so you don't have to worry about sand sticking to it!

I like how feminine this is

Good sunglasses are an essential

Hats are so glamorous, don't you think?

I like a beach towel that stands out
crate & barrel

What's on your beach wish-list?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Rainy Afternoon

It has turned into a rainy spring afternoon.  It's one of those days that I just want to lay on the couch, eat my Easter candy, and watch Friends.  Instead I'm going to clean the house and spend some time baking.  I saw the cutest rainy-day activity ever on a blog a couple of weeks ago.

Katie took a bunch of rubber duckies
via color me katie

and put them in puddles all over the city!
via color me katie

Seriously how fun is that?  If I saw little duckies in puddles everywhere, my rainy day gloom would certainly disappear.  The other thing that brightens rainy days are fun umbrellas.  Once upon a time I had the most perfect umbrella.  It was black and had the names of cities around the world all over it, each in a different color.  It was my goal to go to every city on my umbrella.  Until I left it on the bus and haven't seen my favorite umbrella since.  I'm still in search of a new favorite.

This umbrella has a light.  Why didn't I think of that?
bright night, $38

Colorful but not overly so
pare umbrella, $65

The ultra feminine 
eddie bauer, $19.50

I love a bubble umbrella
target, $19.99

A monogrammed
neiman marcus, $30

Possibly the cutest umbrella ever
pare umbrella, $65

If you want to splurge 
nordstrom, $150

What do you do to cure rainy day blues?

Here's To Trying New Things

I've always been a little hesitant to cook fish.  And I don't know why.  I think because I've never really seen anyone handle or prepare fish, aside from the fishmongers at the Chinese market.  (And I sure as heck will not be buying and cooking a whole fish, eyeballs and all.)  Last night I put my hesitations aside and just went for it.  Since there was already a significant chance that dinner would flop, I decided to give couscous a try as well.  Both dishes were so easy and delicious!  If you've also been leery of preparing fish, this recipe is great for starters.  And the couscous might be one of my new favorite summer dishes. Enjoy!

Summer Couscous           Serves 6-8
2 cups couscous
1 1/2 Tbsp dried parsley
4 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
3/4 cup olive oil
2/3 cup freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice (about 1 large grapefruit)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 1 1/2 lemons)
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put couscous in a large bowl and add one cup boiling water. 
Stir and let couscous rise while you chop the veggies.

Chop up the cucumber and tomatoes, removing the seeds of both.

Place the tomatoes, cucumber, and parsley in a bowl.

Juice the grapefruit and lemons.  Whisk together the juices,
olive oil, and sea salt in a separate small bowl.

When the couscous has cooled a bit, fluff it with a fork
and then sift with hands to separate the individual grains.

Add the veggie mixture and dressing, and toss 
to combine.  Season with the cumin and black pepper
and give it a final stir.  This dish is best left covered in the
fridge a few hours before serving, so flavors can settle.

Lemon Garlic Tilapia 
3 or 4 tilapia fillets
3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
dried parsley flakes to taste
salt and pepper to taste
Rinse tilapia fillets under cool water, and pat dry with paper towels.  (I used frozen tilapia.  Just make sure to thaw it before preparing). 

Place fillets in baking dish sprayed with a non-stick cooking spray.  Pour lemon juice over the fillets, then drizzle olive oil on top.  Sprinkle with the garlic and lemon zest.  Sprinkle parsley, salt, and pepper over the fillets.  Bake at 375 degrees until the fish is white and flakes when pulled apart with a fork, about 30 minutes.
the tilapia fillets, before cooking

Source:  tilapia recipe slightly adapted from eat drink pretty.  couscous recipe adapted from Lunch in Paris, by Elizabeth Bard

Monday, April 25, 2011

Easter Weekend

I hope everyone had a great Easter weekend!  We were able to go visit my sister and her family in their new home.  Here are some bits and pieces of our weekend.

Rainy weather on the way down...thankfully I had my
travel mug of free tea from Starbucks for Earth Day!

We dyed Easter eggs with the girls.

Isabella got very excited with each egg.

They turned out beautifully!

We made icing and licked the beaters.

We decorated cupcakes.

How cute is that hand!

 Have you ever seen a 2 year-old decorate cupcakes so well?!

We took a lot of pictures before going to church.

We hunted for eggs.  Mallory really got into it.

We loved playing with our nieces!

Other parts of our weekend not pictured:  all of the delicious food we ate all weekend; the guys taking apart a John Deere engine; learning crafting, decorating, and cooking techniques from Lauren; the wonderful Easter service we got to attend; Isabella climbing into my lap wearing her Curious George pj's so we could snuggle; Mallory throwing her giraffe Jacques in the tub, and then her scowling at me while I blow-dried him dry; and fun conversations and hanging out with family!  

I hope all of your Easter weekends were just as wonderful!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Spiced Chicken

If you're looking for an easy weeknight dinner, here you go.  You marinate the chicken overnight, and then basically dump all the other ingredients in a pot and let it cook on the stove until you're ready to serve it.  And you serve it over rice, which means it is an immediate favorite of mine.  I made this for my family a few days before I got married.  I was nervous that we wouldn't like it, because it is kind of a different recipe.  But it was a hit!  I decided it was time to try it out on Caleb.  He ate so much of it, so I think it is safe to say I will be making this again someday.

Spiced Chicken
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts, cut into bite-sized pieces
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper*
1/4 tsp cumin
1 lime, juiced
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup butter
1 can (14.5 oz) tomato sauce
1 can (14.5 oz) petite diced tomatoes
1 pint whipping cream

Combine raw chicken pieces, garlic, salt, black pepper, cayenne pepper, cumin, and juice of lime to marinate overnight in the fridge.

Saute the onion in the butter until soft.  Add marinated chicken and cook about 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked through.  Add the tomato sauce and the diced tomatoes.  Cook for 30 minutes over medium-low heat, with the lid on.  Right before serving, add the whipping cream and stir to combine.  Serve over jasmine rice.

*This had the perfect amount of kick for me, but Caleb likes things spicier and thought it could use a little bit more.  Increase or decrease the amount of cayenne depending on how spicy you want this to be.

source:  recipe adapted from tasty kitchen

Thursday, April 21, 2011


Don't you just love bangles?  They come in every color, shape, and size, making it easy to find one that suits you.  I think it's such an easy way to add a pop of color to your outfit.  Or if you're wearing a sundress or tunic that is more flowy, it's a good way to give your outfit some lines and definitive shape.  The other great thing about bangles is you can get them in any price range.  Here are some that I like.

Charlotte Russe, $4.00

Forever 21, $6.80

Fantasy Jewelry Box, $24.95

Anthropologie, $39.95

Bloomingdale's, $42.00

Tiffany & Co, $675