Friday, July 11, 2014

oh hey friday!

I am actually somewhat shocked that today is Friday.... this week has FLOWN by! We had a big two-day meeting at work that we spent the first half of the week prepping for and the second half conducting, so the days just blurred together and next thing I know, we're done! Whew. Love weeks that go like that.

As if a quick week wasn't nice enough, I spent the evening with some girlfriends last night at Vivify, sitting on the rooftop sharing a pitcher of white sangria and listening to music. It was like a scene from a movie... until the wind kicked up and the lightening started! Yikes. An early end to girls' night... but still fun to get some time with some sweet ladies!

And now, without further adieu.... a quick Five for Friday! Here's some snapshots from this week.


1 // Add this to the list of #yardsurprises! My lilies started blooming this week - one whole side of the house is covered in these stunning pink flowers! They are as big as my whole hand, and smell amazing. What a treat!

2 // I whipped up a batch of these chocolate and peanut butter swirl brownies for a co-worker's birthday this week - SO GOOD. I will definitely put that recipe in my back pocket to make again! Everyone at work raved about them, and they were super easy to make. Another win for my girl, Betty Crocker.

3 // I love, love, love summer beers. We've been trying some news ones, and I am finding some new favorites! This one was the Sierra Nevada summer brew. Yum!

4 // Awkward selfie time - had to document the fact that I wore my big girl suits this week! You'll almost never find me in a suit... every day is NOT a job interview, my friends. However, the meetings we were conducting called for me to pull out the big guns. Proof that I can dress like an adult!

5 // Picked up a stack of books from the library this week - excited for some new reads! I have heard really good things about a couple of these, and a couple are random library finds. I had forgotten how much of a thrill I get from carrying a pile of books out of the library. Nerd alert. Don't care!

Have a great weekend!


 
linking up with karli and amy

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Frost like a pro

Allow me to brag for just a moment: I'm pretty good at frosting cupcakes. I've got mad skillz, as the children would say. Or something like that. Last week, when I brought my banana cupcakes with cinnamon cream cheese frosting to work, I had several different people ask me where I bought them, before tasting, just based on how they looked! Like I said, talent.

Anyway. I thought I'd share my secret with you today. It's really one of the easiest tricks in the baking book. Master this one, and you, too, can frost cupcakes like a professional! (Really, though - if you haven't tried this, you should!)


Once you've made your frosting (use whatever buttercream recipe you like, but make sure it's good and thick), get a large Ziplock baggie and set it up in a cup (I used a 2-cup measuring cup because I'd made a large batch of frosting; could also use a coffee cup or whatever). Make sure one corner of the bag is down in the cup so that most of Fill the baggie with frosting. I usually stick the whole cup in the fridge for a bit at this point, because it can be a little warm from all the mixing and moving. Good to let it chill for a few minutes.


Once chilled, take the bag out of the cup, smoosh all the frosting into the corner as best you can, and then gather the top of the baggie like a standard pastry bag. Use scissors to cut the corner off the Baggie - make a pretty good sized cut, so that you get a nice flow of frosting. (Hint: It's generally better to make a small cut and see how much frosting comes out, then cut more as necessary.)


You're ready to frost! Using a smooth motion, start on the outer edge of the cupcake and frost your way in. I use one fluid movement so that the look is smooth. It might take a few tries to get the motion right, but once you get the hang of it, it's pretty easy. You can do it!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Dijon Antipasto Pasta Salad

Our 4th of July weekend was perfect. Truly, it was! It was comprised of all my favorite things: friends, pool time, food, family, America, not working, Bloody Marys... shall I go on? It was such an epic weekend that it was the type that I probably needed another full weekend to recover - but, sadly, it was back to work for us yesterday. Womp, womp.

Nevertheless, I am still riding high on the fun and excitement that is had when our big group of college friends gets together and acts like we're 21 again. Sadly to say, our livers can't quite keep up the way they used to... but dangit if we don't try at least once a year! The fun started Thursday night when friends started arriving at our house, and didn't stop 'til Sunday afternoon when the last person walked out the door. We spent the actual 4th at my in-laws', playing cornhole and pool basketball and eating until we were all about to explode. There were some fireworks and some drinking games, and a fantastic time was had by all. So much so, in fact, that I only took two pictures the entire day!



Sure signs of an awesome holiday. A big plate full of my favorites, and an intense game of cornhole. Right?

Seeing as how I'm trying to keep the holiday spirit going, I thought I'd share a recipe that I've been meaning to post for ages. My mother-in-law makes the most delicious pasta salad for most family get-togethers, and I always look forward to eating it when we have a party!

I got her to share the recipe with me, and I whipped up a huge batch for the feast on Friday. It is really easy to make - mostly just chopping up ingredients and then mixing them together with the dressing. It is not a creamy pasta salad (which is something I generally don't enjoy), but instead features fresh veggies, salami, and sharp cheddar cheese, tossed together with a homemade Dijon vinaigrette. It is also, in my opinion, a proper proportion of pasta-to-everything-else: it's lots of other ingredients with a little pasta mixed in, so almost every bite features all the good stuff! This pasta salad is always a hit with the crowd, and I hope you'll enjoy it just as much as our family does!


Dijon Antipasto Pasta Salad
family recipe


Ingredients

Salad
  • 8 oz uncooked rotini
  • 2 cups broccoli, cut into very small pieces
  • 4 oz cheddar cheese cubed (1 cup)
  • 5 oz salami cut into strips (1 cup)
  • 1⁄2 cup drained pepperoncini peppers, cut into small pieces
  • 1⁄2 cup ripe olives 8 cherry tomatoes, halved

Dressing
  • 1/3 cup red wine vinegar
  • 1⁄4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 1 to 2 tsp sugar
  • 1⁄2 tsp dried Italian seasoning
  • 1⁄4 tsp salt

Directions

Cook rotini to desired doneness as directed on package, adding broccoli during last 2 minutes of cooking time. Drain; rinse with cold water to cool. In large bowl, combine cooked pasta, broccoli, and all remaining ingredients. In small bowl, combine all dressing ingredients; blend well. Add to salad; toss to coat. Refrigerate before serving - best if made the night before and served cold.


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

currently - july



wishing that I was waking up in California to these beautiful run-views, captured one morning in May... it sure is a thing of beauty (but I could never live there... I do love my sweet Virginia)



celebrating 'Merica! And summer, in general.

wearing anything light, loose, and airy - our first summer heat wave is in full effect. I manage to look pulled together for about 5 minutes total before we leave the house in the morning, and after that everything is just sweaty, limp-noodle status. Cute. 

cooking my mother-in-law's yummy pasta salad to serve at our annual BBQ / pool party on the 4th! She was sweet enough to pass the family recipe to me.

planning on having a good time with friends and family this weekend, then heading to the beach later this month for vacation. Yippee!

linking up with Anne and Jenna for currently - a monthly link up.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting

Hi there. It's Tuesday, which is normally fine, but this is Tuesday-before-a-holiday-weekend, and doesn't that make every day this week feel like the longest day ever? Especially Tuesday. This day feels like it may drag on for weeks!

To combat the extra-long-day feeling, I made some treats. Treats make everything better! Right? If you eat one, the day is sure to go by just a smidge faster.... I think.

This is a cupcake with fruit in it, so it's practically health food. The cake is a banana bread of sorts, but a little sweeter, and there's a secret ingredient in there that adds moisture and a little zip. Then it's piled high with a lucious cream cheese frosting, which is I something that I, personally, could just eat a vat full of. Cream cheese frosting is what my dreams are made of.. And the cinnamon in this batch just makes it that much better.

Enjoy!


Banana Cupcakes with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting
lightly adapted from here and here
Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

Cupcakes
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt 
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1 stick butter, softened 
  • 1/2 cup white sugar 
  • 1/4 cup Greek yogurt 
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract 
  • 2 large eggs 
  • 2 ripe bananas, mashed
Frosting
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick butter, softened
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3 cups powdered sugar, sifted

Directions
Preheat the oven to 350*. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with cupcake liners.

In a medium bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Set aside.

In a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer), combine butter and granulated sugar and beat until fluffy. Add yogurt and vanilla. Slowly beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add dry mixture to wet mixture until thoroughly combined. Slowly mix in bananas and stir just until fully incorporated. Don't over-mix!

Using an ice cream scoop, fill each cupcake liner three-quarters of the way full. Bake in the oven until the tops turn golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the middle of the cupcake comes out clean, 18 to 20 minutes. Remove the cupcakes from the oven to a wire rack and let cool completely before frosting. 

While the cupcakes cool, make your frosting. In a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer), combine cream cheese and butter until thoroughly mixed. Add vanilla, salt, and cinnamon and mix until fully incorporated. Mix in powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until frosting meets desire consistency. Once cupcake are cool, frost in whatever manner you choose.