Thursday, January 19, 2012

Valentines for the Boys

I'm a big present person, I know that makes me sound bad, but my love language is gifts! I learned that from this book, which seems corny but is totally worth the short entertaining read.

I guarantee you will finish it with a new understanding of yourself and your significant other.

Anywho, in the spirit of not over gifting, which may have occurred over Christmas, I set a $20 limit for our Valentines this year. Something my husband is a big fan of (since he's currently a non working full time student).

I came up with a few ideas I have either gifted my husband or thought about gifting him for this Valentine's Day. Just something small and thoughtful.

J Crew Candy Heart Boxers

Art of Shaving Kit, I gifted this as a stocking stuffer this year, the sample size as I wasn't sure how he would like it, but it got rave reviews! He loves it and it smells great. 3 cheers for a little fancy man-hygiene. From Sephora.

Great for high ball drinks, whiskey, whatever your guy likes. From MOMA.

Something from the heart, a picture of our home state with an emphasis on Richmond (where we lived for 4 years before coming to Nashville). From this lovely Etsy seller.

Hope that gives you some ideas for your Valentine. As for me, I'll take hydrangeas, good truffles, and a sweet card. I'm a Valentine cliche!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

The Twist

I don't know about you but making bread, or a variety of bread, at home seems astoundingly difficult to me. I'm dipping a toe into the bread making pool with these pretzels that were very easy. I made these pretzels for game day on Sunday and they turned out really well. They do take a bit of time as the dough has to rise an hour but on the whole they're pretty straight forward and delicious!

Serve with a hot cheese dip and good mustard (We used the french whole grain dijon from Trader Joe's) YUM!

Alton Brown Recipe: Homemade Soft Pretzels

1 1/2 cups warm (110 to 115 degrees F) water
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 package active dry yeast
22 ounces all-purpose flour, approximately 4 1/2 cups
2 ounces unsalted butter, melted
Vegetable oil, for pan
10 cups water
2/3 cup baking soda
1 large egg yolk beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Pretzel salt


Combine the water, sugar and kosher salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and sprinkle the yeast on top. Allow to sit for 5 minutes or until the mixture begins to foam. Add the flour and butter and, using the dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until well combined. Change to medium speed and knead until the dough is smooth and pulls away from the side of the bowl, approximately 4 to 5 minutes. Remove the dough from the bowl, clean the bowl and then oil it well with vegetable oil. Return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap and sit in a warm place for approximately 50 to 55 minutes or until the dough has doubled in size.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line 2 half-sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly brush with the vegetable oil. Set aside.

Bring the 10 cups of water and the baking soda to a rolling boil in an 8-quart saucepan or roasting pan.

In the meantime, turn the dough out onto a slightly oiled work surface and divide into 8 equal pieces. Roll out each piece of dough into a 24-inch rope. Make a U-shape with the rope, holding the ends of the rope, cross them over each other and press onto the bottom of the U in order to form the shape of a pretzel. Place onto the parchment-lined half sheet pan.

Place the pretzels into the boiling water, 1 by 1, for 30 seconds. Remove them from the water using a large flat spatula. Return to the half sheet pan, brush the top of each pretzel with the beaten egg yolk and water mixture and sprinkle with the pretzel salt. Bake until dark golden brown in color, approximately 12 to 14 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack for at least 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

New Year

In the New Year spirit, H and I were talking about the coming year. After spending a week with our super healthy/fit siblings over Christmas (and realizing that we are nothing like that) I'd like to make an extra effort to eat more cleanly and keep junk/extra alcohol out of the house. Less dessert, less junk food, and no drinking Sunday-Thursday should help immensely. We were also members of a local Nashville CSA (Delvin Farms) this summer/fall and absolutely loved it! Every other Saturday at the farmer's market we picked up a large box of fruit/veggies/herbs which really encouraged me to cook with more vegetables and get creative. I can't wait until spring rolls around to make saturday pick ups again.

I'm also in the mood to simplify our life. If I start thinking about all the possibilities that the future holds I get the shakes a bit. I think paring down will give me a stronger inner peace that I need, to combat my major type-A attributes. I've always had anti-hoarding tendencies, "honey can we go through your closet again to see if there's anything to throw out?" but I'd also like to focus on saving more, needing less, and appreciating what we have. We'd like to take a vacation to France sometime this spring and also start saving for a house, ahh goals! how I need you. So owning less, appreciating more, and keeping our goals in sight will certainly help!

Cheers to 2012! (my inner geek is so pleased with this even numbered year ;-)

Monday, January 2, 2012

Elvis Etc.

Happy New Year to everyone! I can't believe it's 2012 and only a few short months until the Mr. graduates from business school. We had a pretty low key evening at home watching our alma mater, UVA, playing Auburn in the Chik-Fil-A bowl. I also made delicious homemade soft pretzels--so easy and in a totally different league than those cardboard pretzels you find at any stadium.

On Friday we headed to Memphis for a little Graceland experience (our Groupons were about to expire!) and had a great time. On Thursday night we ate at Restaurant Iris in Memphis, hands down best meal we've had in the state of Tennessee. I made a reservation weeks ago and thankfully we found an opening. The service was excellent and the food amazing. I tried the shrimp and grits and H had the short ribs. For any foodie or special date night this place is a must try!

Graceland the next day was definitely an experience. Though the house was much smaller than expected it was interesting the walk through the estate of Elvis Presley. We also caught a glimpse of his car collection and many, many stage outfits. Who knew the man invented jumpsuits? I'd recommend a visit just to see this icon's relics and learn more about his life.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Best Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'm sure most of you know about Pinterest--the addicting site with images and links to everything from Etsy finds to tailgate recipes. I found a cookie recipe months ago and decided to make it last night, in honor of H's last exam today. And can we talk about how there are only 6 months of MBA classes left? This last year and 1/2 has completely flown by with the wedding, meeting new friends, H getting buried in school work, and living the college lifestyle again (at least vicariously for me). Anyway so I made these cookies last night that They are the best version of chocolate chip cookies I've ever had in my life. The cookies are crispy on the edges and gooey on the inside with a salty/toffeeish flavor that is amazing. Definitely worth a shot and another great thing about the recipe is that you melt and brown the butter, no taking it out of the fridge 4 hours before you want to bake, perfection!

Here it goes:

Published May 1, 2009. From Cook's Illustrated.

Why this recipe works: Our perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe had to produce a cookie that would be moist and chewy on the inside and crisp at the edges, with deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness. Melting the butter gave us the chewiness we were looking for. Cutting back on the flour and eliminating an egg white also improved texture and brought the brown sugar flavor to the fore. To give our chocolate chip cookie recipe the crisp edges and toffee flavor we wanted, we let the sugar dissolve in the batter for 10 minutes, then baked the cookies at a high temperature so the edges darkened while the centers stayed soft. (less)

Our perfect chocolate chip cookie recipe had to produce a cookie that would be moist and chewy on the inside and crisp at the edges, with deep notes of toffee and butterscotch to balance its sweetness. Melting the butter gave us the chewiness ...(more)

Makes 16 cookies
Avoid using a nonstick skillet to brown the butter; the dark color of the nonstick coating makes it difficult to gauge when the butter is browned. Use fresh, moist brown sugar instead of hardened brown sugar, which will make the cookies dry. This recipe works with light brown sugar, but the cookies will be less full-flavored. For our winning brand of chocolate chips, see related tasting.

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (8 3/4 ounces)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda 14tablespoons unsalted butter (1 3/4 sticks)
1/2 cup granulated sugar (3 1/2 ounces)
3/4 cups packed dark brown sugar (5 1/4 ounces) (see note)
1 teaspoon table salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/4 cups semisweet chocolate chips or chunks (see note)
3/4 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted (optional)

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 375 degrees. Line 2 large (18- by 12-inch) baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk flour and baking soda together in medium bowl; set aside.

2. Heat 10 tablespoons butter in 10-inch skillet over medium-high heat until melted, about 2 minutes. Continue cooking, swirling pan constantly until butter is dark golden brown and has nutty aroma, 1 to 3 minutes. Remove skillet from heat and, using heatproof spatula, transfer browned butter to large heatproof bowl. Stir remaining 4 tablespoons butter into hot butter until completely melted.

3. Add both sugars, salt, and vanilla to bowl with butter and whisk until fully incorporated. Add egg and yolk and whisk until mixture is smooth with no sugar lumps remaining, about 30 seconds. Let mixture stand 3 minutes, then whisk for 30 seconds. Repeat process of resting and whisking 2 more times until mixture is thick, smooth, and shiny. Using rubber spatula or wooden spoon, stir in flour mixture until just combined, about 1 minute. Stir in chocolate chips and nuts (if using), giving dough final stir to ensure no flour pockets remain.

4. Divide dough into 16 portions, each about 3 tablespoons (or use #24 cookie scoop). Arrange 2 inches apart on prepared baking sheets, 8 dough balls per sheet. (Smaller baking sheets can be used, but will require 3 batches.)

5. Bake cookies 1 tray at a time until cookies are golden brown and still puffy, and edges have begun to set but centers are still soft, 10 to 14 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking. Transfer baking sheet to wire rack; cool cookies completely before serving.

Happy Baking!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas 2011

So I thought I would venture back out into the blogosphere with a little posting about my Christmas wish list. H and I are exchanging gifts a little early as we're headed off to Utah for Christmas to be with his family.

Other Christmas traditions that we started last year include, driving around the beautiful Nashville neighborhoods in all their Christmas glory with hot cocoa and Christmas music, watching Christmas movies of course, decorating our Douglas Fir, and attending the Holiday festival in Franklin. I also want to visit the Grand Ole Opry to see their amazing decor and maybe take a walk through the ice sculptures.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Married, Honeymooned, and ready for Christmas!

We did it! Our wedding in Virginia was over 2 weeks ago, I can't believe it. Everything went perfectly, our venue was amazing and took care of all the extra details. The ceremony was beautiful, Bryan's uncle did such a good job! Our DJ was fabulous and we happily danced the night away. I'll start recapping with pictures and vendor reviews for any other ladies getting married soon.

I will only say this, Etsy was my savior!!!

Hope everyone had a fabulous Thanksgiving! We were on the tail end of our honeymoon in Napa/San Francisco so we decided to have a Chinese dinner in Chinatown, it.was.delicious.

For shoppers still looking to pick up a few gifts or holiday accessories, Pottery Barn is having an amazing one day monogram and free shipping sale on tons of great products. I scooped up a few things for our friends, family, and apartment!