Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Wedding Wednesday: I Do, I Do! Lovely & Lettered Engagement Announcements!

There's nothing quite like that magical moment in time when the love of your life asks you to spend the rest of your life with him/her.  And after you say 'yes' but before you start choosing flowers or cake, there is only one MAJOR decision that you have to settle on....how to make your announcement to the rest of the world (via Facebook/Twitter/& Instagram of course:)

And let's be honest, wouldn't your friends from afar just love seeing a photo like one of these pop up in their newfeed?  









Got any more exciting news to tell the world?  Well, don't worry....one quick purchase of Scrabble right HERE from Amazon has got you covered for a lifetime at only $14.99:) Photobucket

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Creative Cupcakes: Be Still My Heart . . .



Don't you just love it when true, creative, crafty genius strikes and you discover the perfect treat to surprise your co-workers with at work or send your little off to school with for the big day of love coming up?

These heart-shaped, cream cheese & vanilla cupcakes are just the thing to bring a smile to everyone's faces and are just so simple, you aren't going to believe it.  Check it out . . .

Vanilla & Cream Cheese Heart Cupcakes
(courtesy of Caffe Ina)

Ingredients:
(yields 10 cupcakes)
~ 8 tbsp butter, softened
~ 1 cup granulated sugar
~ 2 large eggs
~ 1 cup all purpose flour
~ 1/4 tsp baking soda
~ 1/4 tsp salt
~ 1/2 cup milk
~ 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
~ food color (optional)

Frosting:
~ 5 oz cream cheese, softened and cut into small pieces
~ 2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened and cut into small pieces
~ 1 tsp vanilla extract
~ 1 1/2 cups sifted confectioners’ sugar

Directions:


1.) Preheat the oven to 325F degrees, and prepare a cupcake pan with liners.

2.) In a big bowl, beat together the butter and sugar until you obtain a light cream. Add the eggs, one by one, making sure you incorporate well the first before adding the second one.

3.) In a separate bowl combine the flour, baking soda and salt. Add the dry ingredients to the butter mixture, alternating with the milk and finally add the vanilla extract. (and the food coloring if you decide to make your cupcakes colored)

4.) Fill the cupcake liners TO THE TOP of the cupcake liners. This is very important because it will insure you have enough top to cup off.

5.) Bake for 20 minutes, test with a toothpick, and cool on a wire rack.


6.) While the cupcakes are cooling – make the frosting:

7.) In a large bowl, on the medium speed of an electric mixer, beat the cream cheese and butter for about 3 minutes or  until smooth. Add the vanilla and beat well. Gradually add the sugar and keep beating until you obtain a very soft cream. Cover and refrigerate the icing for a couple of hours to thicken before using.

8.) When the cupcakes are cooled, take a serrated knife and gently cut off the fluffy tops, right at the paper. Using a small heart-shape cookie cutter, cut out the center of the tops.


9.) Frost the flat top of the cupcake that you just cut and then place back the top.


Aren't those just absolutely adorable?  And just in case you needed a little more of a push . . .





And now that you see how easy it is, you can picture just how creative you can get with all of your favorite cookie cutter shapes, right?  Ah-mazing.


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Monday, January 28, 2013

Sweet & Special: Valentine's Day Surprise!!

I don't know about you, but right around this time of year is when I can feel my post-holiday blues fading and the promise of spring, warm air, and sunshine peeking through the winter dreariness. 

What certainly helps my happiness along is the gorgeous color combination of Valentine's Day...pinks & reds that offer just the right amount of romance and girliness to warm up these chilly days and get me excited to cuddle with my own little brood of valentines.  

So here is a bunch of inspiration to not only make your heart skip a beat, but maybe give you a few ideas about how to make the Valentine's Day morning or evening dinner special at your house too!  See for yourself . . .


Why not fancy things up for a festive dinner . . .



Or, just this once, indulge in a little strawberry milk.  It just looks so perfect for Valentine's Day, don't you think?



Always love a good owl, no matter what the holiday . . .



$ Store finds for a very special breakfast for the kiddos . . .


Treats for your little's lunchbox or movie night with the family . . .


Loving these cut-out paper hearts on lollipop sticks:)


Striped straws & lace doilies on vintage milk bottles?  YES!

 
Such a fun holiday where you don't have to wear yourself into exhaustion!  Just a sweet, pretty little pink table and a few yummy treats to warm your favorite hearts on a cold late winter day in February:)
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Friday, January 25, 2013

FROSTED: Say, "Cheese!"...Melts In Your Mouth and In Your Pan!


The weather in Tennessee has been pretty chilly these past few weeks, and my soup consumption has doubled. I have enjoyed spoonfuls of savory broccoli cheddar, healthy chicken noodle, and creamy tomato soup. It is often a tradition in my house to serve a delicious melty grilled cheese sandwich whenever we enjoy a piping hot bowl of tomato soup. But lately, that traditional old grilled cheddar sandwich has seemed very plain. I have been craving something unique with a more gourmet flavor.

So, this week I am sharing some scrumptious grilled cheese recipes that are not only filled with many types of ooey gooey cheeses, but also contain surprising ingredients that will compliment your next bowl of tomato soup. Just get out that cheese grater and slice up some of these scrumptious goodies that will be sure to "melt" in your mouth.

Spinach Artichoke Grilled Cheese
(Recipe from A Couple Cooks)


Ingredients:
(Yields 2 sandwiches)
  • Fresh spinach (about 3 cups washed, stemmed, and chopped)
  • Canned artichoke hearts (around 6 ounces), chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1 Tablespoon of olive oil
  • 2 Tablespoons of sour cream
  • 1 cup of shredded cheese (this recipe uses a blend of mozzarella, monterrey jack and provolone)
  • 4 pieces of bread
  • Kosher salt
  • Butter or more olive oil
Directions:

1.  Heat about 1 Tablespoon of olive oil in a skillet. Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Then add the spinach and a pinch of kosher salt, and saute for a few minutes until just limp. Add the artichokes and saute for another minute or so, until heated through. Drain off any liquid from the pan. Stir in 2 tablespoons of sour cream and another pinch of kosher salt.

2.  Spread butter (or olive oil) on one side of each of the 4 bread pieces. Heat a griddle pan to medium high heat. Place 2 pieces of bread on the griddle, buttered side down. On each piece, spread some shredded cheese, the spinach artichoke filling, and and some more cheese (1/2 cup of cheese per sandwich), and the other piece of bread. When the bottom bread is browned, flip the sandwich and cook until the bread is toasted and the cheese is melted.

 (Via Annie's Eats)

French Onion Soup Grilled Cheese
(Courtesy of BS' In The Kitchen)


Ingredients:
(Makes 1 sandwich)
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and sliced
  • Pinch of thyme
  • Pinch of flour
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2-3 ounces of concentrated beef stock
  • 1/2-1 ounce of sherry
  • 1/2-3/4 cup of Gruyere cheese
  • 2 slices of french bread
  • Butter
Directions:

1.  Put a tablespoon of butter in a pan, on medium-low heat. Put onions in the pan. Stir the onions to coat them in the butter, and continue stirring only as often as needed to avoid sticking or burning. Your onions should begin to get a caramelized brown color after about a half an hour. Once they have caramelized, sprinkle your onion with a pinch of flour and thyme, stirring to mix in. Add your sherry, allowing it to reduce down and soak into the onions, then add in your beef stock and salt and pepper to taste, allowing to reduce as well.

2.  Butter every side of your bread, pile with your onions and your shredded Gruyere cheese and fry both sides in a pan on medium heat until golden brown.


 Jalapeno Popper Grilled Cheese
(Via Simply Scratch)

(Image by Jo Cooks)

Ingredients:
(Makes 2 sandwiches)
  • 4 large jalapeno peppers
  • 3-4 ounces of cream cheese, softened
  • 4-5 green onions, minced
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • 4 slices of Colby Jack or Cheddar cheese
  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • Butter

 Directions:

1.  On a hot grill (or in your oven cranked to 450 degrees), char the jalapenos for about 10-15 minutes.

2.  Place charred jalapenos in a bag to steam. After about 10 minutes, gently peel off the skin. Slice off the tops and discard. Slice down one side of the pepper and carefully remove the seed and ribs of the pepper.

3.  Preheat the griddle to 375 degrees. Next combine the cream cheese, minced green onion, and black pepper in a small bowl. Spread desired amount of cream cheese on one slice of bread then layer the jalapenos and cheese. Butter the outer slices and griddle until golden and crispy.


Meatball Marinara Grilled Cheese
(Recipe by Tastespotting)


Ingredients:
(Yields 1 sandwich)
  • 2 slices of sturdy bread
  • 2 Tablespoons softened butter (mixed with 1 teaspoon very finely minced garlic)
  • 1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese (or more)
  • 1 large meatball, carefully sliced into about 4 or 5 rounds, warmed
  • 1/4 cup of tomato/marinara sauce, warmed
  • 2 Tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil, chiffonade
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons of olive oil
Directions:

1.  Spread both slices of bread with garlic butter. Top each half with 1/4 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese.

2.  Heat olive oil in a frying pan over medium low heat. Place both slices of bread in pan with cheese facing up. Allow the bread to brown and the cheese melt. It will take about 6 or 7 minutes. Remove grilled bread from pan. If your meatball is cold (leftover) gently warm the slices in the pan, then remove to another plate.

3.  On one slice of bread, carefully arrange the warm/hot meatball slices. Spoon marinara sauce over meatballs, then sprinkle with grated Parmesan cheese. Add a few ribbons of fresh basil, then cover the sandwich with the top half of the bread. Firmly press the sandwich together.



Caprese Grilled Cheese
(Via Cooking Classy)


Ingredients:
(Makes 1 sandwich)
  • 2 slices of fresh bread (sourdough or rustic white bread)
  • 3 ounces of fresh mozzarella, sliced into rounds or grated
  • 4 - 6 Roma tomato slices
  • 1 Tablespoon of chopped, fresh basil ribbons
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil or 1 Tablespoon of butter
  • 1/2 clove of garlic, for rubbing bread
Directions:

1.  Layer Mozzarella rounds in an even layer over one slice of bread followed by an even layer of sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle basil ribbons over top and season with ground black pepper to taste, then cover with remaining slice of bread.

2.  Drizzle 1 tsp olive oil in a non-stick skillet, heat over medium-low heat and tilt back and forth to evenly coat (heat the oil long enough for it to glide easily across the pan but don't heat it to smoking point before adding sandwich or the bread will toast before the cheese has a chance to melt. If using butter, spread 1/2 tbsp butter on both top and bottom of sandwich and heat skillet over medium heat), add sandwich, cover with lid and cook until sandwich is golden brown on bottom, about 2 minutes.

3.  Then lift sandwich out of skillet and drizzle remaining 1 tsp olive oil into skillet, tilt pan back and forth to evenly coat. Carefully flip sandwich to opposite side then return to skillet, cover with lid and continue to cook until bottom side is golden brown and cheese is melted through. Remove from skillet and lightly brush garlic clove along toasted sides of bread. Serve immediately.  

 
Loaded Nacho Grilled Cheese
(Courtesy of BS' In The Kitchen)


Ingredients:
(Yields 1 sandwich)
  • 2 slices of french bread
  • 1 Tablespoon of sour cream
  • 2 Tablespoons of salsa
  • Tex Mex cheese
  • 2-3 Tablespoons of cooked ground beef
  • 1/8 teaspoon of taco seasoning
  • 1 green onion stalk (chopped)
  • 4-5 cilantro leaves
  • 1 slice of tomato (diced)
  • 1/4 of an avocado (diced)
  • 1-2 black olives (chopped)
  • 1 Tablespoon of black beans
  • 1-2 slices of jalapeno pepper (chopped)
  • 1-2 handfuls of nacho flavoured Doritos (crumbled)
  • 1 egg (scrambled)
  • Butter

 Directions:

1.  Crush all the Doritos and spread them on a plate, dip one side of each slice in the egg and then into the Doritos. Once you have done this begin assembling the sandwich with sour cream on one slice, and salsa on the other. Next place a layer of cheese on the bottom slice, then stack on the rest of ingredients and finish with another layer of cheese and your top slice.

2.  In a pan on medium heat, add some butter, once that has melted, place your sandwich in, cooking each side until browned and the cheese is melting. You may want to cover your pan with a lid while it’s cooking to help the cheese melt.


Nothing could taste better than a decadent grilled cheese sandwich during cold weather! Impress your guests at this year's Super Bowl party with miniature grilled cheese sandwich appetizers, at your children's birthday party with a grilled cheese bar where kids can choose what ingredients they want inside their sandwiches, or at your sister's bridal shower luncheon where these cheesy sandwiches can be cut into tiny crouton sized pieces to top everyone's bowl of soup.

So, butter that bread and warm up that pan...and try some of these mouthwatering sandwiches that will become part of your new family and party dinner plan. Have a wonderful weekend!





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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Juneberry Baby: Wee Little Wednesday!!


So as some of you may know, my sweet little boy is starting Preschool next Tuesday!!  I have such a mixture of emotions running through me as we get everything prepped for his first big day...I am nervous and hopeful that he will manage to behave himself and not get thrown out, I am excited for all of the little fun things that go along with the education journey ahead (his first pictures NEXT MONTH!!), and I am anxious to see how he handles the thought of us dropping him off and leaving for a few hours!

Well what's a mom to do when her nerves are getting the better of her?  Turn the mundane into something marvelous, that's what!  After doing a little research on what some of you awesome moms & dads are finding success with at lunchtime, I discovered the ridiculously amazing art of BENTO MAKING...and I have to admit, I am hooked!!

I know this idea is nothing new and the trend has been going on for several years now, but it is new to me and so I want to share my own (very new!) experiences.  Take a look . . .





BENTO-MAKING BASICS

Supplies you will Need:
~ a bento box! (see a bit of inspiration below)
~ cookie cutters (in whatever shapes your little one loves:)
~ silicone muffin liners
~ FOOD!!

Aren't these full-sandwich 'Lunch Punch' cutters adorable?





I wanted to start simple and not have to order online, so I picked up this transportation set of cutters from Michael's by Wilton . . .


Boxes I love:

I am waiting on the blue version of this 'Thinkbaby' version below.  I thought we would start off with something standard, leak-proof, and easy to switch it up with an adult lunch in case the Bento-making isn't quite as well received as I hope:)

They have quite a few fab color options too...and I love the stainless steel & airtight lid!





And once things get rolling I know I am going to have to pick up one of these amazing numbers by my favorite Bento box designer, Shinzi Katoh...











Some further inspiration, in case you want to go totally insane:




I was able to get two sandwich pieces out of the cutters I picked up from Wilton with very little extras (just enough for a bite-sized snack for the dog:)  But in case you don't have a hungry mutt lurking around, you can always do this . . .


So I am still waiting on my Bento box to arrive, but in the meantime I tested out a few of the cutters today and I have to say...


He inspects the goods . . .


Going in . . .


YES!!


It was a hit!!

And next week, while I am sitting around pacing the floor and worrying about how things are going, at least I know there will be a little bit of delight in my guy's big day and that is definitely helping ease my mind:)  I can't wait to delve further into this fun!! Photobucket