Sunday, July 29, 2012

Summer Salad, Garlic Basil Sugar Rub, Peanut Butter Cup S'more Bars

Summer Salad 

 Avocado, tomato, feta, grilled chicken. 
I had to take a picture and post because it just looked so restaurant worthy.

 Garlic Basil Sugar Rub
-1/4 cup chopped basil
-1/4 Chopped parsley
-2 fine chopped garlic cloves
-1/4 Olive oil
-1 tsp Salt
-3 Tb Brown Sugar
-1 tsp Cumin
You can tweak the amounts of everything to taste. I've never measured when making this, the amounts listed are my best guess.
Pat meat dry with a paper towel, then rub the mixture over the meat. Cook and enjoy!

Peanut Butter Cup S'more Bars

-1/2 cup softened butter
-1/2 cup packed brown sugar
-1/4 cup sugar
-1 egg
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 1/4 cups flour
-1 tsp baking powder
-1/4 tsp salt
-1 cup crushed graham cracker
-mini peanut butter cups
-1 - 2 cups marshamallow fluff (Don't actually worry about measuring it, this is just about how much you will need. Fluff is too messy to bother with exact amounts.)

-Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line an 8x8 baking dish with parchment paper.
-In a large bowl of a stand mixer, beat butter and sugars until fluffy. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. 
-With the mixer on low, slowly mix in flour, baking powder, salt, and graham crackers until just mixed. 
-Spread approximately 1/2 the dough on the bottom of the prepared baking dish. Lightly press the peanut butter cups into the dough, then spread the marshamallow fluff on top.
-On a separate piece of parchment paper or aluminum foil, spread the rest of the dough into a square shape. Flip over on top of the marshmallow fluff and press down lightly.
-Bake for 30 minutes or until the edges just begin to brown. Allow to cool for at least 2 hours so the bars can set, then remove from pan and cut into squares.

Monday, July 16, 2012

In which there is ice cream!

My family came to visit this past weekend, and after reading my new August edition of Women's Day magazine, I was inspired to make homemade ice cream just for the occasion.

I made two kinds - Strawberry Cheesecake (aka my dad's favorite kind of ice cream) and S'more. No big deal. I was drawn to these particular ice cream recipes because you don't need an ice cream maker. Just an electric mixer. Brilliant! And can I just say, so good. Both had the taste and texture of real ice cream, and were far more gratifying and enjoyable because they were home made!

10 Graham crackers
2T butter, room temp
4oz bittersweet chocolate
1 (14oz) can sweetened condensed milk
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
1 cup mini marshmallows
3/4 cup mini chocolate chips
Side notes: I just buzzed regular chocolate chips up in my magic bullet instead of buying minis. You could also chop up regular sized marshmallows instead of buying minis. 

CRUST Heat oven to 350. Line the bottom of an 8-in springform pan (a cheescake pan) with parchment paper (i didn't line mine and it was just fine. Just sayin'.) In a food processor (or in a bag with a meat hammer!), grind 8 graham crackers until finely ground. Add butter until blended, then press into the bottom of the prepared pan. Bake until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Let cool completely (about 20 mins).

CHOCOLATE LAYER Melt the bittersweet chocolate in the microwave. Using an electric mixer, beat the chocolate, 8 oz of the condensed milk (1/2 cup + 2 T), and 3/4 t of vanilla until combined. Add 1 cup of heavy cream and beat until thick, stiff peaks form (this takes a few minutes. be sure not to overbeat!) Fold in the marshmallows, then spoon on top of the cooled crust and spread evenly.

VANILLA LAYER Beat the remaining condensed milk, vanilla, and heavy cream until stiff, thick peaks form and then fold in 1/2 cup of the mini chocolate chips. Spread this on top of the chocolate layer. 

OPTIONAL Break the remaining 2 graham crackers into tiny pieces, and sprinkle on top, along with the remaining chocolate chips. 

Cover and freeze for at least 4 hours, and up to 2 weeks. Enjoy!

If you want to make just regular old ice cream, just use the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, and heavy cream. I am looking forward to make all kinds of fun ice cream concoctions this summer!

1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 cup cream cheese at room temperature
1 1/2 t vanilla extract
2 cups heavy cream
1 lb fresh pureed strawberries + 2 tsp sugar
Side note: This recipe uses fresh strawberries. I used the frozen kind that come in a syrup. Because they are just so gosh darn deliciously sugary sweet. And next time I make this, I am totally going to do the graham cracker crust like the S'More cake has. 

Line a bread pan (usually 8 1/2 by 4 1/2 pan) with parchment paper, allow to hang down around the sides of the pan. 

Using an electric mizer, beat the condenseed milk, cream cheese, and vanilla in a bowl until combined. Add the heavy cream and beat until thick, stiff peaks form. Don't overbeat!

Spoon half the vanilla cream mixture into the pan, spreading evenly. Tap the pan to get rid of any air bubbles. Fold 1/3 of the strawberries into the remaining mixture, not quite mixing all the way so you get that fun swirly look. Spoon into the pan. Spread remaining strawberries over top now, or when you serve.

Freeze for at least 4 hours and up to 2 weeks. Enjoy!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

In which Ariel & I throw a party

A few months ago, my friend Steve called me to invite me to a surprise 30th birthday party he was throwing for his wife and my lovely friend, Nina. The surprise was a trip to all the different wineries in their area, followed by a bbq at their home. I was all "yeah, sure, I'm in". And then I hung up and wondered how he would ever pull off a surprise bbq. So I called back and said, "Steve, what are your plans for food and decorations?" and he goes "oh my god Sarah, I have no idea. I can't buy anything or she will know!" and so then I said, "Steve, I got this." And then called Ariel to inform her that we had our first party planning gig ever.

We had many inspiration evenings, mostly via pinterest, and then several weeks of arts and crafts and perusing thrift stores and michaels and garages and basements and yard sales for lucky finds. The party colors started as "lots of bright ones", then "bright ones and polka dots" then "shades of ombre pink with gold and feathers and polka dots" and then somehow it ended morphing into just "shades of pink". I'm not sure how it kept wandering around like that, but the way it turned out was prettttty fab and, as usual, I wish I had taken better pictures and then wished that I had a better camera. First world problems, alas my life.

First project of mine, I wanted to make a word sign. While perusing my garage, I discovered a whole sheet of leftover styrofoam (how in the world do you spell that?!) board from when we remodeled and insulated the guest bathroom. Then I browsed to find the perfect letters, printed them all out as big as they would go, and cut them out with scissors to make stencils. There were letter stencils at Michael's but they weren't as big as I wanted and they were like $17 for a set. So forget that. So I stenciled them out on the board and cut them out with a razor blade. And then, I got to buy a bottle of hot pink spray paint! The day I sprayed them was sooo windy and I was super annoyed for 15 minutes. Wind and spray paint just don't do well together. 

Then I hot glued ribbons onto the back of the letters to hold them all together. The hot glue totally worked by the way and all but one of the letters held the whole party!.

Ariel was all "I'm going to paint an ombre tablecloth" and I was all "I have faith in you but I have no idea how you will make that work." So she found a bedskirt/sheet at Goodwill for $2, got a couple shades of pink acrylic paint, and some painters tape. She mixed the pink with different amount of white paint to make all the different shades. I think she went through 3 bottles of acrylic to do the whole sheet? 

Voila! OMG I was so excited!

Here we are at Nina's house, post decorating. We decided to celebrate with a PBR. Because we are classy ladies. 

One of our many treats was a fruit bowl, in a watermelon, because we don't mess around. 

Menu writing - I had a picture frame in my basement that was the perfect size, so I just turned the picture around, and then wrote on the glass with a pink dry erase marker. 

Here we are! Nina's dog helped, sort of. 

Tablecloths and sheets come in handy for everything. Especially tablecloths that are leftover from my wedding. I knew the day I bought them that I wouldn't regret and I certainly have not. They have been so useful to me and many other people! It was probably one of my most genius moves ever. Need some tablecloths? Oh yeah, ask Sarah, she has like 35 of them. 

Anyways. Also, I bought a frame from Michaels, and got pink sticky sparkly letters so that everyone could use a letter to sign their name with. A Happy Birthday Autograph Board!

Sugar rimmed cups for the "Nina-ritas". I was going to buy some rim sugar, but the stupid Giant didn't have any (this is because they are simply NOT wegmans). So I made my own - sugar shaken with a few drops of food coloring. Then dip the rims in some lime juice and dip in the sugar. 

The little drink table - pink lemonade and Ninaritas. Recently I have discovered a new hidden talent - margarita making. Here's my recipe: 1 can of frozen limeade, mixed up in a pitcher. ~1 cup of triple sec. ~1 cup of tequila. Shake of salt if you want it. The end, delicious. Sometimes I do part water and part sprite, nothing wrong with a little fizziness!

And my delighftul chalkboard sign. I finally bought chalkboard paint a few weeks ago to make this, and I can't wait to cover my whole house in it muuhaha

The main attraction - balloons! letters! food! Well, we didn't take any pictures of the actual food. Just tables pre-food. Because I am the worst at photo-oping. 

To make the balloon trees stand up, we used two buckets of sand with PVC pipe stuck in them, then wrapped the pipe with streamers. Then tied the balloons on with ribbon. It worked very nicely! Except for the set of three balloons on the top right totally deflated before anyone even showed up. Oh well.

The menu! 

Did you know you can get pink raffia at the Dollar Store?! It's true. I wrapped a few mason jars with it. Cute, right? Obv. 

I had this wooden box sitting in my basement, perfecto.

Despite that lack of food pictures, we did end up feeding people, I swear. 

I totally spray painted the bottoms of a bunch of clear plastic dishes, and the handles of clear plastic serving utensils. Because I love a good excuse to spray paint things. 

PVC pipe anyone? With balloons and flowers stuck in the tops. I felt a little trashy poking flowers into PVC pipe, but I felt like it really looked nice so hopefully no one thought poorly of me!

We can NOT take credit for this cake, but isn't it fab?!

The birthday girl and I!

Then,. Ariel and I were like "wait, time to clean". Ariel stabbed the balloons. I'm pretty sure she enjoyed it.

Post cleaning, we discovered that we truly make a fabulous team, from planning, to crafting, to cooking, to decorating, to cleaning. On to the next one!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

In which we get a new patio and many flowers

My darling husband and I have been planning since last fall to add on to the current patio in our backyard. I don't really think it looked quite this bad when we moved in - I think it got so muddy and patchy because of all the foot traffic back there. This leads me to assume the previous owner was very unpopular and so there was no one coming over to stomp out the grass. I'd rather have no grass than have no friends, but that's just me. So anyways, this is what it looked like before we got started:
Michael and his brother shoveled out and leveled all the ground first. I pick axed like, 1/3 of it, so technically I helped.
Dan was SO EXCITED to be shoveling stone! 
Then, Mike and his Dad discussed many important things, apparently. This was in between Michael laying modified stone over the dirt. This was made level by using two pvc pipes of appropriate size and leveling the stone to them.  
Then, sand over the stone, and the pavers on top. Michael laid all but 20 of them in the end, I was so proud. He was too, except for the next 4 days of his life when all of his muscles were mad at him.
And then yet another brother came over to help - at this point I thought they were almost done, but 3 hours later I discovered that was not even a little bit true.
My mother in law swept sand into the cracks for a good hour. I was glad of this, as I was not interested in this job, not even a little bit.
Here it is! Its amazing! I love it!
I don't think I could be more proud of this - every day I walk outside and can't even remember what it looked like before, or why there even was a before. Why would you NOT have an amazing patio like this?! 
Cam provided some modeling for the photos. Michael also used some 80-pound each stones/bricks/pavers (I don't know what they are called) to line out the flower bed. Next he's going to put wood on the top, so we will have seats! He is brilliant at things. 
I did actually work all day, just not on the patio - my mother in law and I spent the whole day gardening. We made over all the flower beds out in the front of the house so that they finally look nice and are sans fake flowers, and we also planted about 10 pots. Here is some proof of our labor!

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

A little grill time

This past weekend, we made a huge change to our backyard - added on to the patio! I have some pictures but haven't taken a final "look how amazing" picture so I don't feel like I want to post any yet. So, maybe tomorrow? Anyways, we spent yesterday evening enjoying the fresh air on our fancy new patio with some delicious food from the grill. Then some friendly faces came over and we lit a fire in the fire pit. We reminisced about how little Cam was when she was a puppy, discussed the intricacies of gun control and environmentalism, drank maybe more JD than we should have for a Tuesday night, and enjoyed pandora's Indie Rock station. And to think I just wanted to watch television!

Worcestershire Lime Chicken, Roasted Parmesan Veggies

I butterflied two chicken breasts and had them sit for about an hour in some worcestershire sauce and juice from one lime. Veggies got some butter spray (I don't care what you say about that!), kosher salt, and parmesan cheese. You don't even know what parm does to roasted veggies until you've tried it. It's really the best thing ever. 

And here's Kitty, being curious! Yes, her name is Kitty. 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Its spring-a-ding

I think I shall look back on the year of 2012 as the year that the weather teased us. Some days it's 80 and some days it's 40. Weather, please make up your mind! I would really like to open my pool! I believe we are nearing the end of this trickery, however, and that it will be warm very soon. My pale skin and flowers will surely love it.

Last year was the first time I ever planted bulbs and they came up in full force this year! My mother-in-law made me fear for the little bulbs, telling me that squirrels would probably dig them up and eat them. But the squirrels were not enticed in the least and all the blooms are looking amazing!

Here's our doggy Cam, being regal as ever. Another reason why I like warm weather - Cam feels super lazy and never wants to do anything other than lay in the sun. I prefer her this way.

I made a fun drink! I think it's pretty pinterest worthy - vodka, cranberry ginger ale, peach snapps, frozen kiwi, and a pomegranate sugar rim! I'm so fancy right now!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Just random things I forgot about

It was my pop's birthday in March (it doesn't matter how late I post about it, just so long as I do), so I made him some fun cakes! He is a man who loves his construction, so the cakes were themed accordingly. The round cake was: layer of cake, layer of frosting, layer of brownie, layer of frosting, layer of cake, covered in frosting. It was a rather big hit with my dad and brothers. The hammer cake was leftover cake pop mix, so it was equally as delish.

I haven't been home for his actual birthday in probably 10 years so I was happy to be there.

 And in true sarah-loves-any-reason-to-decorate fashion, I spruced up the kitchen and told him it was a "Manly Garden Theme Party". This was immediately following my sisters bridal shower, so I had a car full of fake greenery and vases and blue YARN POMS!

For easter, I made a carrot cake. The cake itself is NOT carrot. It's apparently a weight watchers recipe - one box of yellow cake mix plus one 20 oz can of crushed pineapple. Mix, cook, eat, then eat another piece. Apparently it was as good as I thought because the ants that are overtaking our home crawled through the tupperware and annihilated the leftovers. Sigh. Guess I will just have to make another one. 

My girlfriend told me about this recipe, I believe it originally came from Skinnytaste - just to keep things on the up and up ;)

Here's my husband. "The Most Interesting Man In The World".