Friday, February 6
Happy Friday! I’m getting Show and Tell up a little late today because I’ve been busy as a bee finishing up our living room decor. I can’t wait to share the final product with you, but until it’s totally done and picture worthy, here’s a little sneak peak of one of the gems I found for the wall: stump prints from Light & Ink. I ordered the Spring Hollow Gold print yesterday and can’t WAIT for it to arrive.
I have some fun news today, too! In addition to regularly contributing to Babble, I am also now going to be writing for Parade’s food website Community Table as well as the blog for Solly Baby. My first posts for both sites went up this week!
At Community Table: 10 Romantic Cocktails for Valentine’s Day Fun!
And for Solly Baby: 12 Fantastic Freezer Meals, Before The Baby!
Show and Tell is for the whole class – be sure to share your own stuff and finds!
Posted by Rachel Utterback at 2:35 pm 4 Comments
Categories: around the house, Community Table, fab faves, new house fun, solly baby blog, the goods Tags: around the house, cocktails, community table, freezer meals, parade, solly baby, solly baby blog, stump prints, valentine's day |
Friday, February 14
Happy Valentine’s Day! No matter your feelings on this oft-beloved and oft-detested holiday, I hope it’s filled with chocolate and cookies!
I have a bunch of stuff to share today. Get ready!
First, I’m now officially a member of the Netflix Stream Team (basically a bunch of bloggers who like Netflix). Our family uses Netflix ALL the time, so I am happy to be working with them! Also, I started a TV blog
to help alleviate the guilt associated with my excessive TV watchingbecause I love TV, so obviously I have no problem talking about television shows and movies! To kick off my stream teaming, just a few quick things:
- If you aren’t using Netflix already, you DO know it’s only $7.99 a month for the streaming service, right? My friend Rebecca loves TV as much as I do but hasn’t signed up yet. When I told her it was only $7.99 she was like, “That’s it? I had no idea!” and I think she might have even stopped at Best Buy to get a Roku that night. So, I’m just making sure those of you who have no idea how inexpensive Netflix streaming is now know. Totally worth it, even if the only thing you ever watch on there is Breaking Bad (please note that you should only click that link if you’ve seen the last season or you might hate me forever).
- Netflix profiles are the best. You can set up profiles for different members of the family. This, in my opinion, was the greatest improvement to the service that Netflix could have made. Now we always make sure the kids login with their account, that way Nate and my queue isn’t filled with kids’ shows and the kids never get inappropriate content (ahem, Breaking Bad) suggested to them.
- House of Cards season 2 is back today. Happy. Valentine’s. Day. To. You. WOOHOO! (Even Pres. Obama is down with Frank Underwood.)
Here’s all my Babble stuff from the week!
- A post with a little more detail about how to cut bread properly for stuffed French toast.
- 20 Chocolate + Pretzel Recipes (SO YUMMY)
- 15 Delicious Ways to Enjoy Root Vegetables for Dinner
And my posts on Cosmopolitan this week!
- 10 Copycat Fast Food Recipes That Taste Better Than the Original
- 20 Ultimate Last-Minute Party Snacks
- How To Cook Kale and 19 Fabulous Ways to Enjoy It
My kids don’t have school today, so I’m off to quickly finish work and then have some fun! We started the day with stuffed French toast and chocolate from Mimi. It should be a good day!
As always, please share anything you would like – links to funny/interesting/sad/inspiring stuff you found on the Internet this week, links to your own blogs, or just tidbits from your lives, it’s all good!
Thursday, February 13
Yesterday Nate was reading ESPN.com and there was a giant ad for Tiffany & Co. Of course I asked if the computer was showing him that ad because he had just bought me something from Tiffany for Valentine’s Day, to which he replied, “Oh yeah, I bought you tons of presents for a made-up holiday.” And then we both totally laughed. Yeah, we’re romantic like that. Don’t get me wrong, I love celebrating Valentine’s Day with our kids and I honestly don’t have anything against Valentine’s Day per se. In fact, any excuse to make pretty cookies and give them to friends and neighbors is fine by me.
Valentine’s Day aside, I have been thinking a lot about love lately, for many reasons that I won’t get into. You know the Beatles song All You Need is Love? That line has become cliché by now, but I really do think all you need is love. I can’t help but imagine how different the world would be if everyone loved first. Now, I know life isn’t always that simple. But I can’t help but think if we did love first that we’d all be kinder, more patient, more giving, more forgiving. At least I know I would be. Sometimes it’s not easy to love, but that’s what makes it all the more powerful. Nate and I teach the 16- and 17-year-olds at our church each Sunday. There is a lot to think about in this life, especially when you’re becoming an adult and navigating those often choppy waters. But I am surprised how often, when I am teaching them, it all comes back to loving others and serving without judgment. It’s so simple and yet one of life’s greatest challenges.
Nate’s Gram Maynard lived a life of love. We all knew she was amazing and most certainly the kindest person we had ever known. She knew what it was to love unconditionally and was a great example to me. When she died, we were all heartbroken. The world needed Gram. At her funeral there was time set aside for anyone who wanted to speak to do so. It was beautiful (and not at all surprising) to hear stories from people we didn’t know, sharing how Gram had served them and touched their lives in profound ways. We knew that she had loved. We knew she had served. We just didn’t know how much.
I recently saw this quote from Mahatma Gandhi somewhere and it really resonated with me: Where there is love there is life. When I think of Gram, a pure example of love, I can’t help but think of the full life she lived. A quiet life, filled with quiet acts of love. Her life was unremarkable by the world’s lofty standards. She was from the South Shore near Boston and lived there her entire life. She raised five children. She stood by the Red Sox through thick and thin. She had the most marvelous accent, once telling Nate’s mom she could find the fox in the dishwasher (10 points if you can figure that one out). She hardly ever cooked, but when she did it was always for others – I don’t know how many tins of her chocolate chip cookies were carried by postal workers nationwide. I don’t even think she ever flew on a plane. And yet, her love filled so much more of the world than just the South Shore. Her love made ripples that have been felt far and wide. She filled the world with life by simply loving. She was more remarkable than anyone could probably comprehend.
Like I said, lots on my mind lately. But I keep clinging to this word: love. I need to let it fill me the way it did Gram. I need to let it spill over.
Wednesday, February 5
Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, which means it’s time to break out the cookie cutters!
Anna and I decided to make some cute heart sandwich cookies yesterday to deliver to the neighbors. We used my favorite recipe for chocolate cut-out cookies (SOOOO good) and my other favorite recipe for cream cheese frosting, combined into one delicious sandwich of goodness. You can, of course, make these any time of year with different shapes and we do!
A quick rundown of how we made the shapes for the sandwiches and why this is a great way to decorate cookies with kids. If you want to make them exactly how I did, you’ll need 3 heart-shaped cookie cutters that are different sizes but the same shape. Using the largest cutter, cut an even number of cookies. In half of those cookies make holes with the next smaller cookie cutter. Plan it so you end up with an even number of the middle-sized cookies, too. Then take the smallest cookie cutter and cut out holes in half of the middle-sized cookies. Get what’s happening? In the end you will have two different sizes of peek-a-boo sandwiches and a bunch of tiny, super cute chocolate cookies. You can of course still do this with just two heart cookie cutters, you’ll just have one size of the peek-a-boo sandwich cookies.
I really liked having the two sizes of sandwiches along with the tiny cookies because it looked really cute on the plates for the neighbors.
Once the cookies are all baked and cooled, spread frosting onto the rough side of a cookie with no hole and top with a cookie that does have a hole, then fill the exposed frosting center with pretty sprinkles or colored sugar. This ended up being a really great way to decorate cookies with kids. It’s super easy for them to fill the holes with sprinkles and Anna had such a fun time with it. The other nice thing about making these cookies with Anna was that she was able to spread frosting on the cookies and it didn’t have to be a perfect spreading job because the frosting gets sandwiched inside the cookie and then covered with sprinkles. The project ended up being empowering for her because she could make a sandwich cookie from start to finish without any help and they looked just like mine, well, with maybe a few more sprinkles. 😉
Without further ado, chocolate cream cheese cut-out sandwich cookies!Rolled Chocolate Cut-Out CookiesAuthor: Recipe found on AllRecipes.com - I added in my own notes when typing the directionsIngredients
- 1½ cups all-purpose flour
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1¼ teaspoons baking powder
- ⅛ teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- 1¼ cups white sugar
- 1 egg
- In a medium bowl, sift the flour, cocoa, baking powder and salt. In another medium bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until smooth – this will take several minutes. Beat in the egg and mix well. On low, beat in the sifted ingredients and mix until you can’t see any white flour.
- Divide the dough into two and form into round balls. Place each ball on a large pieces of plastic wrap then press the dough out into a dish, about ½″ thick. Refrigerate for about an hour. You can refrigerate longer than that, but you’ll need to let it soften up a bit before you’ll be able to roll it out. It is important to refrigerate it so that the dough is workable, otherwise it’s too sticky, but the original recipe said to refrigerate for 2 hours and whenever I do that the dough is just too hard to work with.
- Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). On a surface that has been floured pretty heavily, roll out the dough to ⅛ inch thickness. When I do sandwich cookies I go pretty think when rolling it out so that when you bite the cookies later they aren’t too heavy on the cookie. You’ll definitely need to flour the rolling pin and make sure you keep the surface below the dough floured to avoid sticking. Even after refrigeration, the dough is prone to sticking.
- Cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters. Place cookies on cookie sheet – I like to line mine with a Silpat. The original recipe says to place them 1½ inches apart, but the cookies do not spread that much, you can definitely get them closer together, about ½ inch apart.
- Bake for 8 to 10 minutes in the preheated oven (mine are always done at 8 minutes). Cool cookies on a baking sheet for 5 minutes then carefully remove them with a spatula to cool on a wire rack completely.
Cream Cheese FrostingPrep timeTotal timeAuthor: Jane MaynardIngredients
- ¾ cup butter, softened
- 1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, softened
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 3½ – 4 cups powdered sugar
- Cream the butter and cream cheese with a hand blender or in a stand mixer until smooth. Beat in 1 teaspoon vanilla. Add powdered sugar and beat on low speed until combined, then on high speed until frosting is smooth. Add powdered sugar until you get the consistency you want, somewhere around 3½ to 4 cups. (Whenever you add powdered sugar, be sure to start on low and then work the speed up so you don’t blow powdered sugar all over the kitchen. I may or may not have done this many times before. I plead the fifth.)
Tuesday, February 14
You know I’m always looking for a good reason to eat chocolate. One might say I have a problem. Whatever. Chocolate is good for the soul.
I was hoping to whip up something chocolatey for a post today, but Owen isn’t feeling very well and we’re heading to the doctor in a bit. (I’m sure he’s fine, no worries…probably an ear infection, poor little guy!) Even though the day is not going as planned, I can’t leave you completely chocolate-less on Valentine’s Day! So, I’m reposting a recipe from a few years ago.
Oh how I wish I had time to make these truffles today. THEY ARE SO GOOD. I think that’s really all I have to say. Have a Happy Valentine’s Day!!Scotch Truffle HeartsRecipe contributed to the Scharffen Berger book Essence of Chocolate: Recipes for Baking and Cooking with Fine Chocolate by Alice Medrich. From the book: Since we began Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker, Cocolat founder Alice Medrich has been a constant help, ready to lend a hand with everything from bean tasting to recipe tasting. We’re especially honored to have Alice’s chocolate recipes in our book because both of us are fans of her chocolate confections, which she first began selling in Berkeley in the 1970s. These chocolates have a thin dark shell around a decadently soft center, underscored with the warmth and fragrance of a single-malt Scotch. Alice recommends that you mix this ganache gently with a spatula rather than vigorously with a whisk. Because the chocolate coating is not tempered, the hearts must be stored in the refrigerator to keep them from discoloring or blooming. Enjoy them cold, right from the refrigerator, or let them sit at room temperature for a half an hour or so, to bring up the flavors of the chocolate and the Scotch.Author: Jane MaynardRecipe type: DessertIngredients
- 7 ounces 62% semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 2 Tablespoons single-malt Scotch
- 12 ounces 82% extra dark chocolate, finely chopped
- 2 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (optional)
- Line an 8X8 inch 2-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, overlapping the top slightly, and set out a fine-mesh strainer.
- Place the 62% chocolate in a medium bowl and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, bring the cream to a boil. Pour the cream over the chocolate, and stir gently with a heatproof spatula until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Do not whisk or splash the mixture by stirring too briskly, or the texture of the chocolates will be cakey and granular. Add the Scotch and stir just to incorporate. (Jane note: I left out the Scotch b/c I didn’t have it on hand and they came out very delicious just the same!)
- Strain the ganache into the prepared pan. Tilt the pan to level the ganache. Cover with plastic wrap and freeze for at least 4 hours or overnight.
- Transfer the pan of the ganache to the refrigerator to soften for 20 minutes. Choose a baking sheet of dish that will fit in your freezer and line it with parchment paper.
- Place a sheet of foil about 12 inches long on your work surface. Remove the ganach, using the foil that you used to line the pan to help lift it. Invert it onto the clean sheet of foil. Peel the foil from the bottom.
- Using a 1½-inch heart-shaped cutter, cut out hearts as close together as possible to avoid excessive amounts of scraps, and transfer to the prepared pan. (Jane note: I found a set of heart cutters for fondant made by Wilton at Michaels – the hearts were 3 sizes, which was helpful in making a lot of hearts with little scraps. The leftover chocolate I rolled into round balls to make a more traditionally-shaped truffle.) If the ganache becomes too soft to work with, cover with plastic wrap and return to the freezer to harden.
- Once all of the hearts are cut, cover with plastic wrap and freeze until very hard, at least 4 hours or overnight. (At this point the hearts can be placed in a an airtight container and frozen for up to 2 months.)
- TO COAT THE HEARTS: Choose a baking sheet or pan that will fit in your refrigerator and line with parchment paper.
- Melt the 82% chocolate and stir until smooth. Cool to 100-105 degrees F. (Jane note – I melted the chocolate over a double boiler. The chocolate was quite warm and took some time to come down in temperature. At 109 degrees it started to harden, so I would recommend working with it around 115 degrees – I had no problems with it melting the truffles.)
- Put the bowl of melted chocolate next to the prepared baking pan.
- Remove the hearts from the freezer one small batch at a time. Place a heart in the center of the bowl of chocolate and, using a dipping fork or table fork, flip it over and push it under the surface of the chocolate to coat completely. Slip the fork under the center and lift the heart out of the chocolate, tap the fork on the side of the bowl so any excess chocolate drips back into the bowl, and then wipe the bottom of the fork on the edge of the bowl and set the heart on the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining hearts. (Jane note: These directions were spot on and it was actually pretty easy to do if you follow them. I did need to zap the dipping chocolate twice in the process to remelt it a bit.)
- Use a small fine-mesh strainer or shaker to dust the hearts with the cocoa. Refrigerate for 1 hour, or until the chocolate has hardened. (Jane note: the chocolate hardened FAST…so if you’re going to put toppings on (cocoa, powdered sugar, decorative sugar crystals, sea salt) you gotta get them on there quickly!)
- The hearts can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks or in the freezer for up to 3 months. Makes 30-36 hearts.