Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Decking the halls....

This year I wanted to get my Christmas decorating done early.  I am going home to Massachusetts for a quick visit on Thursday so it all has to be done before then.  So, for the first time ever, I started putting everything out on Thanksgiving night right after all of our guests left.

I have never pulled out the Christmas decorations on Thanksgiving night before.  I like to leave that chaos until the next morning or, if I am doing Black Friday shopping, the next afternoon.  To be honest, the Thanksgiving dessert dishes aren't usually cleaned up until the next morning so decorating is the last thing on my mind once everyone has left.  This year that changed and as of right now all the decorating is done!

All of my decorations have a story and I love each one of them.  I am always in awe of people who have themed decorations.  Do they change every year?  What do they do with the old stuff?  Mr. Lucky and I get a dated ornament every year and I think it would be so boring to have to keep it to one theme.  I love my eclectic decorations and love adding to them each year. 

Here are some pictures:


We do the blue lights because they were my Nana's favorite

Our simple Advent Calendar/Christmas Countdown

One of my favorites.

Got these three Ho's for $5 at a Christmas Fair last year

My mom made these. I really love them.

We've never had a mantle before.  I LOVE it!

My Christmas Village

This is Dottie.  She is another one in honor of my Nana.

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday season so far!  Once I am back from Boston I will be baking like a mad woman so I will be sharing those delicious treats with you. 

Talk with you soon!

Thursday, November 21, 2013

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas....

Over the last week I started work on my Christmas crafting.  This year, more than before, I am making a lot of gifts in addition to the ornaments and decorations I usually make.  I am hoping to remember to take pictures of the things I am making.

My first project was Melted Snowman Ornaments.  I found this cute, simple craft on Pinterest (where else, right?).  It takes just a few inexpensive supplies and they come out absolutely adorable.

Here's what you'll need:



Clear glass ornaments, these are everywhere right now
Kosher Salt
Peppercorns, 6 for each ornament: 2 for the eyes and 4 for the mouth

Optional supplies:
Funnel for the salt, I just used the spout on the box of salt
Carrot noses, I made these from polymer clay (super simple, I'll try do a tutorial on these another time)
Ribbon for Snowman's scarf
White glitter, to give the "snow" a little sparkle


How To:

Carefully remove the metal top piece from the ornament.  It is a little flimsy so you want to take care with it.

Pour a few tablespoons of salt into the ornament.  This is an eyeball it kinda thing, whatever amount looks good to you.  If you are using the glitter add it to the salt and mix it up.  I just put my thumb over the opening and gave it a few good shakes. 


Drop in the peppercorns, carrot nose and the scarf.

Here is now I made the scarf:

I have a (seemingly, never ending) roll of red velvet(ish) ribbon that I cut into three inch sections.



Then I cut each of the three inch pieces in half and put small cuts across each end to create "fringe".



To get these into the ornament I rolled them up and dropped them in and they unrolled nicely inside the ornament.


If any of the items inside get covered with salt just give them a little shake and they should go right to the top again. You'll see what I mean when you try it, it's not very easy to explain.

Replace the top of the ornament and tie on a pretty ribbon to hang it from.


So simple and very cute!  And best of all, they didn't cost much to make.

Stay tuned for some more crafting and even more baking.  Tis the season!

Talk with you soon.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Adventuring....

About 2 weeks ago Mr. Lucky, Mike and I went on another adventure.  This time we decided to take a ride out to the Bonneville Salt Flats.  You can go here to check out Bonneville and all the other amazing things to do and see in Utah. 

This trip was a ton of fun!  It looks like a whole lot of nothing until you get there.  Then you can drive out right out on to the flats and it seems to go on forever! I can't wait to go back and do some serious driving!  Mr. Lucky wouldn't let me drive this time, probably for good reason.  I am a bit of a lead foot.

Here are some pictures from the day. 









Talk with you soon!  I have some Christmas crafting that I can't wait to show you.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

A request....

Just before Halloween one of Mr. Lucky's co-workers made a request.  His wife was having a party at work and wanted me to make some treats for her to bring in.  I was honored!  It also threw me into tizzy trying to decide on the perfect thing to make.  You'd think, with all the recipes I have, that it wouldn't take long.  It took me three days.  I kept flip-flopping, I was overwhelmed with choice.  I eventually decided to make cut out sugar cookies with a glacĂ© icing.

I have made these cookies before and they were a huge hit.  They are a little labor intensive but in the end they are most definitely worth it.

I got the "No Fail Sugar Cookie Recipe" from Cake Central.  You can find the original recipe here.  I, of course, put my own spin on the recipe.  Here is my version:

5 cups All purpose flour
2 tsp. Baking Powder
2 cups Butter (I use salted and cut the salt in half but you can use unsalted and keep the salt as is)
2 cups Sugar
2 Eggs (I always use large eggs in all my recipes)
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1 tsp. Princess Cake & Cookie Bakery Emulsion (It's a secret weapon! Go get some here.  You can use 2 tsp. of Vanilla Extract if you don't have this flavoring.)



Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and flavorings and mix well.  Mix together the dry ingredients and add them a little at a time to the butter mixture.  Divide the dough into 4-6 equal parts, this makes it easier to roll out, and chill for 1-2 hours.  Roll the dough between two pieces of parchment paper to desired thickness and chill again for about 10 minutes.  Once chilled cut the dough into desired shapes and place on parchment or silpat lined baking sheets.

Bake at 350 degrees for 8-10 minutes or until the edges just start to brown. I was able to make about 5 dozen cookies with this cutter.  The number will always depend on the size of the cutter you use.

The recipe and method for the icing came from here.  She uses almond extract but I used vanilla in mine.  I am not a fan of almond extract, I feel that it can easily become overpowering.  Feel free to play with flavorings in this icing and in your cookies too.  Here is the icing recipe:

1 lb Powdered Sugar (about 3 3/4 C)
6 Tbsp. Milk 
6 Tbsp. Light Corn Syrup (6T is equal to 1/4 C plus another 2 T)
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
With a whisk, combine sugar and milk until smooth (no lumps!) Then stir in corn syrup and extract.
You will use this same recipe for both glazing and piping. Thickened, you can pipe outlines, and as you thin it, you can use it for “flooding” cookies.  Make sure to let them dry overnight to fully harden for stacking.

For these cookies I flooded the body of the pumpkin by spooning about a teaspoon of the icing, that I tinted orange, over the cookie and spreading it evenly over the cookie.  I think I made my icing a little thin because some did flow over the sides of the cookies.  I made a small batch of thicker icing and tinted it green for the stems of the pumpkins.


I was very happy with how these came out and so was the woman I made them for.  Apparently, they were a big hit at her work party.  I did keep a few for Mr. Lucky, Mehgan and myself.  So yummy!  I am planning to make them again for Thanksgiving.

Talk with you soon!



Saturday, October 26, 2013

Adventures....

Around the same time as our niece, Mehgan, move to Utah another friend of ours, Mike, relocated to Utah.  Since we have a very long list of adventures we want to go on here in Utah and the west in general we figured we would include Mike and Mehgan.  They are both more than willing to accompany us!

For our first group adventure we trekked to Goblin Valley State Park which is near Hanksville, UT.  What an amazing day it was!  This is a must see for anyone traveling to this area.

Unlike many of the National and State parks we have been to, you really get to be up close and personal with the formations.  You can climb over, around and through the "Goblins". 

Here are some of our pictures:




Mehgan, Mike & Mr. Lucky


Mehgan





This was such a beautiful day!  We will definitely be going back.

Talk with you soon!

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Cure for boredom....

The other night I was a little bored, Mr. Lucky's friend Mike was visiting and they were watching the Red Sox.  I wasn't as into the game as they were so I decided to do a little baking.  Since it was a week night I knew I could send them to work with Mr. Lucky the next day so we wouldn't devour them all.

I decided on my third pumpkin recipe of the Fall season, pumpkin streusel muffins.  This is a bit of a franken-recipe.  I combined elements from a few of my other muffin/quick bread recipes and this is what I came up with:

Pumpkin Streusel Muffins 




3 ½ cups all purpose flour
3 cups granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2/3 cup water
4 eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup vegetable oil
2 cups pumpkin puree (Not pie filling!!)

Preheat oven to 350.

Whisk dry ingredients in a large bowl until fully combined. Whisk eggs, water, and vanilla together in a medium bowl. Make a well in the flour and add the wet ingredients. Add the oil and pumpkin puree. Fold together with rubber spatula until fully combined and no streaks of flour remain. Do not over mix.

For Streusel Topping
½ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup flour
½ cup oats (Old fashioned or quick, both work fine)
¼ cup butter at room temperature
Use a fork or pastry blender to combine all ingredients until it looks like large crumbs.

Line muffin tins with paper liners. Use a cookie scoop to fill muffin tins about two-thirds full. Sprinkle about a tablespoon of streusel topping on each muffin.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Makes approximately 30 muffins.

These muffins came out so delicious! Like, really good!


This has got to be the best pumpkin recipe I have tasted in quite a while.  You could also make mini loaves or possible two full sized loaves out of this recipe to give as gifts.  Hmmm, that is a good idea, maybe as a favor for all of our planned Thanksgiving guests.  I hope I remember this idea in a month or so.

Please try these muffins, you'll really enjoy them!

Talk with you soon.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Apples and More Apples....

As I told you in previous posts my brother John's favorite Fall ingredient is pumpkin and while I do like pumpkin treats it's not my favorite.  The humble apple is most definitely my favorite.  I love almost anything with apple in it.  Right this minute I have an apple crisp in the oven and the smell has got me drooling!  Every Fall I make apple crisp about 20 times.  I love it so much.  I try to throw a few apple pies in there just for something different but making a crisp is so easy I don't know why I make anything else.

This crisp recipe is pretty standard and uses ingredients you most likely have in your pantry. You could also use this recipe with berries in the summer without a problem.  I love recipes that don't require an extra trip to the store to get an ingredient that I probably won't every use again.  I try to keep my pantry fairly simple and stocked with items I'll actually use.  Don't get me wrong, I love to try new recipes, the piles of them on almost all flat surfaces in my house will attest to that, but I like simple, easy and delicious.

Here's the recipe:


8 cups chopped tart apples (I used Granny Smith and Honeycrisp)
2 tsp flour
1 tsp cinnamon
3/4 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch of salt
1/3 cup butter (cold)
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled quick cooking oats

Mix together chopped apples, cinnamon and flour.  Place in a greased 9x13 pan.

In a medium bowl, mix together the flour and baking powder.
Then, cut in cold butter with a pastry cutter or a fork until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.


Stir in brown sugar and oats.
Sprinkle crumbs over fruit evenly.


Bake at 350 degrees for 40-50 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned and the apple pieces are tender.  You can check the apples with a fork on the corner, no one will notice. 

This is the perfect treat when served warm with a little vanilla ice cream but it is still super delicious after it has cooled.  



I have been on another recipe tear so I am pretty sure you'll be seeing a few more baked goods this week.
Talk with you soon!

Friday, October 4, 2013

A new resident....

It has been really crazy around here since we got back to Utah.  I have been loving every minute though.  Our niece, Mehgan, has moved in with us.  We could not be happier about it either.

Mehgan and I have always had a very close relationship and she and Mr. Lucky are best buddies.  She is a really great kid.  She is planning to head back to New England to go to Culinary school next year but in  the meantime we are thrilled that she is here.

Welcome to Utah, Mehgan!

Mehgan & Mr. Lucky!
Talk with you soon...

Saturday, September 21, 2013

A Sweet treat....

Since we are heading back to Utah on Sunday Mr. Lucky and I gathered a bunch of our friends together last night for a dinner then dessert at Sweet, a dessert restaurant in Worcester, MA.

We discovered Sweet a few years ago after having dinner at another restaurant in Worcester.  Since then we have found any excuse to go there.  I would describe it as a Bakery speak-easy.  When you come in the front it is a like most bakeries with cases filled with cupcakes, a coffee bar and a few tables by the windows. Then you go behind the curtain into the "bar".  The lighting is perfect, cool music playing and the smell of sugar and booze surround you.  I love this place!

Sweet locally sources the ingredients for their desserts and serves more locally distilled liquors than you can even imagine exist.  The menu includes desserts you've never seen any place else and a long list of specialty drinks. Chef Alina Eisenhauer has competed on and won several Food Network competition shows including Cupcake Wars and Sweet Genius.  So, she knows her stuff.  And then some! 

Those of us that had been there before definitely recommended the "French Donuts" and Creme Brulee.  The Creme Brulee is perfect, it is served with pastry crisps and fresh berries.  It is so creamy and delicious.  I don't really know what else to say about it, it's just damn good!


 Now, the French Donuts are things of wonder.  They are sweet dough that is filled with chocolate, deep fried and then tossed with sugar.  They are served in an adorable little paper bag and come with a little cup of caramel to dip them in.  These things are heaven!  HEAVEN!  There were six orders of them on our table.  


My friend Chelle order the S'mores.  This was unreal!  This had the usual suspects, cookies, chocolate and marshmallows but times a thousand!  Homemade cookies, homemade marshmallows and your own personal hibachi to melt them on, what can be bad about this????  Nothing, that's what, nothing!


I also need to give a huge round of applause to our server.  We had a table of 11 and asked for 5 separate checks due to some corporate travelers (ahem, Mr. Lucky), we were a little indecisive, we were more than a little loud and she remained friendly, smiley and never once blanched when we asked for yet another glass of water or extra napkins or yet another coffee.  I forgot her name and it was not on our slip but I really hope she knows that we thought she was great!

You really need to try Sweet if you ever in the Worcester area, you won't be disappointed.  Our next visit can't come soon enough. 

Talk with you soon....

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

A learning experience....

Sometimes I get a little over-confident in the kitchen.  More often than not it bites me in the butt.  This happened when I was at my Mom's house last week.  I felt like a complete idiot!  Still kinda do but I have made a plan to rework the recipe I created in my head and try again.

I was browsing Pinterest and saw a picture of a Zucchini Lasagna and said "Oh, I can do that!"  I really should have read the recipe.  I would have realized before it was in the oven that zucchini (and summer squash because I didn't have enough zucchini to make the whole thing) gives off a lot of liquid and should be roasted before assembling the lasagna.

Believe me when I tell you that it still tasted delicious but it looked like a plate of slop.   I really wanted this to come out well because I was showing off a little bit for my family.  I also wanted to make something good for them because they were putting up with me for 3 weeks before Mr. Lucky arrived here.  It was the least I could do, right?

I have written notes for this recipe so when I get back to Utah I will be making it again and praying it comes out better.  Here are a few pictures of how it came out.  Warning: It is NOT pretty!


See how liquid-y it was?  I hope that roasting the vegetables first will alleviate that.  Fingers crossed.


Not a very pretty plate.  If I got this at a restaurant I'd flip.  Fortunately, my family is understanding and doesn't really expect a restaurant quality plating experience.  I really can't wait to try this again.


Talk with you soon....



Thursday, September 12, 2013

Good friends, good food, and lots of laughs....

Last night Mr. Lucky organized a group of our friends and some co-workers to go out to dinner at our of our favorite restaurants, Joe's American Bar & Grill.  We went to the location in Franklin, MA.

Joe's is American food done well. The atmosphere is casual with dark wood and navy blue decor.  I don't think I have ever had a bad meal there.  I also don't think I have ever had a bad service experience there either, everyone is always very friendly.

Last night we had a party of nine.  Our friends Cathy, Glenn, Colleen, Sean and Mike and Mr. Lucky's two co-workers.  We had such a great time.  There were ten conversations going on all the time and tons of laughs.  I am sure you know how it gets when old friends get together.

No, my friends are not evil! 


Me and Mr. Lucky.  (I hate my pics taken but I had to prove I am real)
For dinner I had a cup of clam chowder, a burger with cheddar cheese and caramelized onions that came with some really good fries and for dessert a sour cherry crisp with vanilla ice cream.  Everything was delicious.  A good New England Clam Chowder is not something you can get in Utah so I have been getting it everywhere I can while I have been here.  The sour cherry crisp was so, so good!  I had to battle Mr. Lucky for it even though he got his own dessert.  Punk!

We still haven't decided where we are heading tonight but I am sure it will be someplace we can watch the Patriots game!  Go Pats!

Talk with you soon....

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Our favorite places....

One of the things we miss most about Massachusetts is our favorite restaurants.  When we lived here we went out to eat considerably more often than we do in Utah and we had quite a few favorites. 

While we are here in Massachusetts we are trying to go to as many places, that we don't have in Utah, as we can.  Last night we went to La Cantina Italiana in Framingham.  We went there so often before that we had a regular waitress, Carly.  She was so great!  This place has been family owned for many years, serves amazing homemade Italian dishes in a casual, comfortable environment.

We brought Mr. Lucky's co-worker who traveled with him from Utah.  She had only ever had Italian food at chain restaurants.  Man was she in for a surprise!  And it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.  She left very full, very happy and with leftovers for dinner tonight.

For our appetizer we got Fried Ravioli. They were delicious pillows of fried pasta and cheese goodness.   They were the biggest raviolis I have ever seen!  Seriously!  I am drooling now just thinking about them.

Mr. Lucky and I basically had the same meal; A combo of Chicken Parmigiana, Lasagna and Meatballs (me), Sausage (Mr. Lucky).  Since I always feel a little awkward taking pictures in restaurants this is the only picture I got of our amazing meal.

There was a little cheese on it.
Mr. Lucky's co-worker wanted to try the red sauce and the Alfredo sauce.  She opted for the Chicken Parmigiana and got pasta on the side with the Alfredo sauce.  She most definitely enjoyed it.  She said she had never had such good Italian before. 

For dessert I had the Torta di Luna which is an insanely good flourless chocolate cake served with vanilla ice cream.  I have had this many times before but I think after not having it for over a year made it that much better. 

If you are ever in the Framingham area go to La Cantina.  You will not be disappointed.

Talk with you soon....

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Pumpkin Mania....

I have mentioned that I have been home in Massachusetts for a few weeks.  Just before I came home my youngest brother had a stroke, he's only 32. We were all extremely freaked out, still are. The doctor says he'll be just fine but he'll be taking it easy for the next few weeks.  Here are a couple pictures of Johnny, one when he was young and adorable and one from his wedding. 

John is on the right.  It looks like I am pinching him.  I probably am.
John and, his wife, Nancy.  Their wedding was such a great time.

So, because he absolutely loves pumpkin, he's my baby brother and he had a stroke I indulged him and made pumpkin pancakes the day after I made him the pumpkin Rice Krispie treats. When I say that he absolutely loves pumpkin it may be an understatement.  He is rather obsessed. 


For this recipe I combined a few different pancake recipes and made a few of my own tweaks so it is basically my own made up recipe.  Does that even make sense????  Here it is:

We tried to get fancy and use poster board as a backdrop.
1 1/2 cups All purpose flour (I suppose you could use whole wheat but I can't guarantee results)
1 Tbsp Baking Powder
1/4 cup Sugar (This amount can be lowered to as little as a few tablespoons depending on your tastes)
1/2 tsp Cinnamon (Pumpkin pie spice could also be used, I just went with what my mom had in her pantry)
3/4 cup Canned Pumpkin (not pie filling although that might actually work too just leave out the cinnamon)
2 eggs
1 1/2 cups milk
Butter for cooking the pancakes (or cooking spray since I know at least one person who won't use butter to cook them)

In a large bowl, whisk together all of the dry ingredients.  In a small bowl whisk together all the wet ingredients until well combined.  Slowly add the wet mixture to the dry mixture and stir until just combined.


Heat a skillet or griddle to medium heat and add butter so pancakes won't stick.  Cook on first side until bubbles show, about 2-3 minutes, then flip. Cook on other side for about 2-3 more minutes.

I may have gone a little overboard with the butter.

I definitely used too much butter.

They will be golden around the edges. 

Looking good, right?
Serve them with some warm Maple syrup.  And orange juice.  :-)

Yum!
I know Johnny loved these and that is all that mattered but I hope that you try them and enjoy them just as much.

Mr. Lucky has arrived in Massachusetts and we're staying in a hotel so that means my next few posts will be more about restaurants and things we're up to rather than cooking. 

Talk with you soon....