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Saturday, January 21, 2012

This Time Last Year

I started this blog in 2010. I am actually only a couple months from my second blogiversary. Recently I have been looking back and noticing what posts I was working on at the same time, last year.

So here is a round up of my 3 favorite posts from last January, and what I was up to then. In the future I plan from time to time to recap some favorite posts from the same month, 1 year ago, and perhaps even two years ago after my second blogiversary rolls around.

This time last year I...

...Posted a recipe for Balsamic Glazed Brussels Sprouts.  I'll have to make that again soon- the glaze was sweet and tangy and I always forget how much I love Brussels sprouts! This was early in my food blogging history, and I was much more concerned at the time about recipe ownership. Now I usually use recipes I find in cookbooks, credit the original author, and note any changes I made. Back then I made up of my recipes, which made for a more interesting process, but also a more risky one. I would have to make a recipe at least three times to work out the kinks before I could post it. It was fun and taught me a lot about cooking, actually, but turned out to be too time intensive for me in the long run.



...Started my Foyer Table Update- turning a drawer-less yellow dresser I found on the street into the table that now holds my printer, record player and records, as you can see here. I also learned while writing that post that my foyer was capable of becoming a workshop.Who knew?



...Made Seedy Snowday Cookies, using only ingredients I had on hand, while snowed in! Today it's snowing, too. I have been transfixed looking out my window all morning, it's been so long since it snowed. Who else finds the lack of snow so far this winter (not counting the freak October storm... Guys, October= fall, not winter) totally confusing? Actually, that post is one of my favorite I have written to date.

I think it's fun to revisit old posts and remind myself of the recipes I made and projects I was involved in, one year ago. I had totally forgotten that Brussels Sprouts recipe, and now I want to remake it. And actually, I could go for one of those seed-y cookies, too. I can't wait until I have multiple years of archives to look back on, it makes me wish I had started blogging sooner!

Rereading the posts also reminds me of other things going on in my life in that moment in time. Walking down memory lane after only a year is sort of funny, but thinking back to the details of last winter, remembering what I was up to, all of the minutiae of my life at that time- what was on my mind, where I spent time and with whom, the movies I saw, the dinners I made- it actually seems like a fairly long time ago. Funny, huh? So, what were all of you up to this time last year?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Small Goals

I started a 30 before 30 list of goals recently. I love making lists of goals, so this seemed like a fun idea, plus having 5 years left before hitting that mark meant I knew I could make some lofty goals that may take a while to achieve, like completing a bachelors degree (which will likely happen in about 3 more years, when I am 28, due to my non-traditional late start and part time schedule.) Also on the list? Learning to drive. I'm from an urban area and never needed to learn. In fact I still don't have any need for the skill, but it seems like it could come in handy down the line.

Some of the goals were less significant. I wanted a few easier things that I could achieve and feel happy about. Well, I can now cross two of "easy" goals off the list.

 One item was "wear bangs." Having been scarred like many girls after having "bad bangs" in the sixth grade (let's just say my hair was a combination of oily and frizzy at the time due to puberty, and the pieces I had cut for bangs never would cooperate or look the way I wanted.) That combined with the effort of growing them out, and all those months of having to keep them back in plastic barrettes... I want to prove to myself that bangs aren't this cute thing I see other girls with, but can't have myself. I'm not in the 6th grade anymore, my hair is a lot easier to manage now, and on top of that... I know how to put in a tiny bit of effort to style it.


What do you think? No 6th grade flashbacks happening here!

Another goal I achieved was "own a record player" I bought an inexpensive portable one to start, and so far it's serving me well! I also love how having the record player on my dresser-turned foyer table area defines the space a bit more. I have several amazing records on loan from my mother's collection.






There are so many more goals on my list, from moving to a new state (technically I have only ever lived in Massachusetts, though I have lived in the Boston area and all the way to the west in the Bershires, two areas that are pretty different.) to riding in a hot air balloon, to learning to change my tubes and other minor fixes on my bike by myself. Good thing I have plenty of time.

Do any of you have a goal list you are working on? What goals are you excited to get started on? Any easy ones you can cross off quickly, like my small change with my hair, or buying something you've always wanted? Any that you find really daunting? For me the most daunting goal on my list has to be learning to drive. Growing up in Boston it's probably not a surprise that I have a bit of fear about this- people drive like lunatics around here!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Blueberry Sour Cream Cake

To continue my week of Martha Stewart recipes, I made this blueberry sour cream cake. The slight hint of sour, a dash of lemon zest, and a dense moist texture make this summer-y blueberry cake totally comforting, even in the middle of January. Frozen blueberries can be substituted for fresh so long as they are thawed and drained before use.


The recipe was actually for a pound cake, but I made it in a scalloped ceramic pie pan, just for a pretty result. Scallops= pretty. The shape, not the seafood. Though I am a fan of that kind of scallop, too. 

Pound cake is fascinating to me. Is it weird to be fascinated by a type of cake? I think it's the lack of leaveners and odd proportion of butter and eggs that really gets me. Traditionally made with a pound of flour, plenty of butter and sugar, and no baking soda or powder, it's no wonder the result is rich, but admittedly it can sometimes turn out too dense. I found the texture of this cake to be pleasant though, instead of super heavy.

 The original recipe did not call for lemon zest, but rather for lemon whipped cream on top. Sounds delicious, but I decided to skip the cream for now, as it is recently post-new years, and I am at least pretending to be healthy. Apparently in my mind cake= healthy, but once you add whipped cream...forget about it.

Adapted from Martha Stewart

Note: the original recipe was doubled, I decided to make only one cake, hence some odd numbers like 4 and a half eggs. To see the original recipe click the link above. Be prepared though, it calls for 3 sticks of butter and 9 eggs!
1/2 lb  + 1 Tablespoon Flour
1/2 Tablespoon coarse salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter (+ some to butter pan) softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
4.5 large eggs, room temperature (yeah, sorry about that half egg thing...)
1 cup blueberries fresh, or frozen (thawed and drained)
zest of one lemon
1 Tablespoon powdered sugar 

Directions:
Oven temp: 325
1. Cream together the sugar, butter and sour cream with a hand mixer or standing mixer.
2. Add eggs and vanilla slowly to butter mixture and continue to blend
3. Add the lemon zest to the butter/sugar/egg mixture
4. Combine the flour and salt in a separate bowl
5. Fold together the flour mixture and the wet ingredients until smooth
6. Fold in the blueberries
7. Butter your baking dish and pour in the batter
8. Bake until a toothpick comes out clean, up to 65 minutes.
9. Let cool, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.




Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Mushroom Tart

One of the first places I look for food inspiration is Martha Stewart's website.  She is so good at everything you sort of want to hate her, right? And she has built an empire. But then you try a couple of her recipes and see how easy and delicious they are. A few martha stewart recipes I have posted on this blog so far include Bacon Jam (which was such a hit this New Years!),  Roasted Roots and Tubers Pizza, and Spiced mixed nuts.  I spent some time browsing her website now that I am back in action blogging recipes, and I decided to do a week of Martha. It just had to be done. And to kick it off right, I made this beautiful and simple Mushroom Tart.




The process is simple, the result rewarding. A sheet of puff pastry, baby spinach, goat cheese, a clove of garlic, and a variety of types of mushrooms (I used cremini and shataki.) If you can saute vegetables in pan, you can probably make this delicious appetizer.


Mushroom Tart
Recipe inspired by MarthaStewart.com, however my steps and choice of ingredients differ a bit
Ingredients:
1 sheet of puff pastry
1 TBS olive oil
1 lb of mushrooms of your choice, sliced
a handful of baby spinach
1 clove of garlic, minced
soft goat cheese
1 TBS melted butter

1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat
2. Add minced garlic, allow it to cook a couple of minutes until just golden
3. Add the mushrooms to the pan, and cook until they are tender
4. Fold in the spinach
5. Lay out your puff pastry (the instructions on the box may suggest to allow it to sit for 10 minutes to defrost) on a buttered baking sheet
6. Top with your mushroom mixture, salt, pepper and sprinkle with goat cheese
7. Using a pastry brush, apply the melted butter to any exposed edges of puff pastry
8. Bake at 400 for 15 minutes, or until edges are golden and crisp

Notes:

This tart would be delicious with any variety of wild mushrooms. I droll imagining it with Hen-of-the-woods. My choice of and shataki is easy to find at grocery stores and relatively inexpensive. I used primarily the cremini (also called baby bella), and suplimented with a couple of shataki mushrooms sliced thin (tough stems removed)


The secret for perfectly browned puff pastry (which is luckily the sort of item even serious chefs buy premade from the grocery store...hence the ease of this recipe) is to brush any exposed parts with either melted butter or egg wash to aid in browning. You can choose to do this step at the end, removing the tart from the oven a few minutes before the end of the cook time, buttering it and returning it, if you are worried about the edges burning, or include it as a step before placing the item in the oven.

If you are making this ahead of time a few additional minutes to heat up in the oven (preferably on a pizza stone) will bring back any crispness it may have lost from sitting out. I made this early in the day (to accommodate bright sunlit pictures) but served it at night. A quick heat-up was all it needed.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

All in a year

While reading a year recap of the design changes posted by Michelle over at Decor and the Dog I started to think about how much has changed in my own home this year. It's a lot!



Earlier this year I painted my kitchen. I went from hating the boring look of the space:

To loving it's cheerful, colorful make-over:

In my living room I went from making excuses ("it's all stuff that came from my last apartment mixed in with my roommate's old stuff." "there are so many of us living here that having enough seating takes priority over design"):

 To having a space that I love the look of and the functionality. Ultimately a lot of stuff stayed the same, but new throw pillows, chairs, curtains and wall art made a big impact:
I've also made big changes in my bedroom this year.

2 years ago I loved the combination of chocolate brown and light blue, and I put my room together using those colors. I loved it at first, but soon the dark colors and repetitive color palate was driving me crazy!

In the end I rearranged the furniture, built  a new headboard, replaced the desk, and gave the room a dose of color with a painted stencil and some bright paint in the new "desk nook" :



And I made some updates in my foyer/entryway.

(I need a better picture of this now that I have a better camera!)

So that does seem like a lot of changes, doesn't it? A few more improvements I am planning to make in the upcoming year include replacing some photos on this site with better quality pictures taken with my new camera, and posted more recipes since it's been awhile.  I also have a few small projects I am planning on taking on, and we will see what else the new year brings!

Outside of the blog I have a lot of new and exciting things on my plate for 2012, I have started a 30 before 30 list with some lofty goals (good thing i have 5 years to accomplish them.) How was everyone's new years? Anybody make any resolutions they are excited to work towards? In what ways have your homes changed this year? What other significant changes have you seen in 2011? What are you looking forward to see change in 2012?


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