Saturday, December 8, 2012

Peppermint Brownies

Recipe and picture from Mine did not turn out this pretty.

I love finding new recipes to try. I usually try to keep things relatively healthy, but every once in a while you have to indulge. These peppermint brownies are the PERFECT excuse for that! I wouldn't steer you wrong - I take chocolate-peppermint desserts VERY seriously.

We had friends over for dinner last weekend, so I searched Pinterest for a good peppermint brownie recipe. This one, from Annie's Eats, seemed to be the most popular. I gave it a try and the results were pretty amazing.

No, that's not a typo - three cups of sugar are required.

Yield: 1 9×13-inch pan (about 36 brownies)

8 oz. unsweetened chocolate, coarsely chopped
1½ cups unsalted butter
3 cups sugar
6 large eggs
1½ tsp. peppermint extract
1 tsp. vanilla extract
½ tsp. salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
4 (1.55 oz) milk chocolate bars, broken into segments***
1 bag Hershey’s Candy Cane Kisses, wrappers removed and coarsely chopped
*** I actually messed this step up and totally forgot the chocolate bars. Trust me, they still turned out great.

Preheat the oven to 350° F.  Line a 9×13-inch baking pan with foil and spray lightly with cooking spray.

Combine the chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over simmering water; heat, stirring occasionally, until completely melted and smooth.  Remove from the heat.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the chocolate mixture with the sugar and eggs until well blended.  Whisk in the peppermint and vanilla extracts and the salt.  Whisk in the flour just until incorporated.

Spread half of the brownie batter into the prepared pan.  Layer with the milk chocolate pieces (or just totally forget about this step like I did).  Spread the remaining batter evenly over the milk chocolate pieces.  Bake 30-35 minutes.

Remove the brownies from the oven but maintain the oven temperature.  Sprinkle the chopped Candy Cane Kisses over the top of the brownies and return the pan to the oven for 3 more minutes.  Transfer to a wire cooling rack and let cool to room temperature.  Chill the brownies until the candy topping has firmed up.  Slice and serve.

Taking more inspiration from Pinterest (at this point it's the source of 95% of my creativity), I decided I would cut the brownies into cute little Christmas trees with candy cane trunks. This is what they were supposed to look like:

And this is what they actually looked like:

Laugh if you must, they were still really good.
This recipe makes a lot of brownies, so you may want to consider taking the leftovers to work. Otherwise, you may end up eating them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner until they're gone. 

Friday, December 7, 2012

Pinspiration Fridays: Let's Just Put Glitter On Everything.

I LOVE the holidays. I know most people consider the holiday season to start at Thanksgiving, but since my birthday is about a week before that, I say November 15 is the logical start. The food, the excitement, the general merriment... it's all good. But one thing that always gets me really excited is the fact that from now until 2013, I have a legitimate excuse to cover myself and everything around me with as much sparkle as I deem appropriate.

Here are a few things I found on Pinterest that I could stare at for hours...

Buy me - I go with everything!

Christmas party? Date? Girl's night out? Why WOULDN'T you want to empty your purse and stuff the essentials into this adorbs clutch from J. Crew. I'm kind of obsessed and hoping it somehow ends up under the tree this year.

Kate is ready to look better than everyone else,  no matter where she's going.
Kate Middleton in a sparkly dress is always going to be a winning combination. Plus, HOW EXCITED IS EVERYONE ABOUT HER BABY?? I can't wait to see how she magically makes maternity clothes cute, picks an awesome baby name that a bunch of people are going to copy, and somehow maintains perfect hair through it all.

Dress by Elie Saab
This pin immediately caught my attention because of the incredible detail of the beading. It screams to be worn on New Year's Eve.

I would seriously wear this to the grocery store if it was in my possession.
Speaking of New Year's Eve... this dress would be perfect for a black-tie kind of affair.

Gorgeous, unexpected color combinations make me so happy. This is a great one.

What sparkly, lovely things will YOU be wearing this holiday season?

Monday, December 3, 2012

Paleo Banana Bread


This weekend I had two things on my agenda: decorate for Christmas and try this recipe for Paleo (and gluten-free) Banana Bread.

I love the idea of baking bread, but since I'm trying to eat Paleo most of the time I don't like to keep massive amounts of delicious smelling carbs in the house. I hate to classify the way I eat as "low carb" because that conjures up images of Atkin's dieters eating hot dogs wrapped in bacon. But when you stop keeping bread and sugary cereal in the kitchen, it's amazing how fast you lose weight. Then when I do really crave bread I'll splurge on really GOOD bread like this.

The recipe is from a British blog, so I'm reposting this without those crazy Brit's measuring units. 

  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1.5 cups almond butter
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • handful chopped walnuts/raisins (optional)
  • coconut oil
  1. Pre-heat oven to 320 degrees.
  2. Grease bread tin with coconut oil
  3. Mash banana until completely smooth, mix with all other ingredients and stir in walnuts/raisins.
  4. Pour into bread tin.
  5. Bake for 35 mins.
  6. Let cool then transfer onto a cooling rack.
(Recipe from Primal Britain)

Once the banana bread was in the oven, it was time for Christmas music and decorating!
I want to leave this stuff up all year.
Meet my favorite new ornament, Fat Penguin with Glasses.

The bread tasted great, but it does have a slightly different consistency. Because I have a massive sweet tooth, I'm thinking I may chop up a dark chocolate bar and mix it in next time. 

Seriously, make this right now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Renting the Runway

I have loved the idea of Rent the Runway for a long time. I would peruse the incredible selection of gorgeous designer dresses and try to come up with an excuse to wear a Reem Acra evening gown, but sadly, my life was not that glamorous. 

Sadly, none of these are appropriate for sitting in my cube at work, eating lunch at Chipotle, or riding the metro.

I love shopping for dresses more than any other article of clothing. There are certain pieces of a wardrobe that are just no-brainers. Every girl needs a little black dress (or seven) and something sparkly enough to wear on New Year's Eve. But now that we post pictures for the world to see on Facebook and Instagram of every wedding, party, and family event we go to, it's harder to get excited about wearing the same dress for three weekends in a row.

Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I had the perfect reason to rent. For my birthday, Hunter and I were headed to New York for a weekend that included a mysterious Saturday night date which required super fancy attire. I picked a gorgeous navy Badgley Mischka dress, brought plenty of accessory options with me, and prayed that one of the two size options (they'll always send you a second size for free) would fit.

So sparkly!!!

The dresses arrived on time and the size I had originally picked out fit perfectly. The amount of detail on the heavily beaded dress was pretty amazing, and for a piece that has potentially been worn several times already, it was in mint condition.

Since the beginning of my birthday surprise was dinner at The Four Seasons, I found myself in a sea of well-dressed people, but I still felt like my dress really stood out. I was also really thankful that I shelled out an extra five dollars for dress insurance, because I ate a million pounds of food without worrying about being on the hook for the full retail price of the dress if I spilled anything on it. The REAL surprise was the fact that after dinner, Hunter proposed! Moral of the story: rent a pretty dress and your boyfriend will probably ask you to marry him.

Also, I must point out that Tom Haverford has come up with basically the same idea. So it must be genius.


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paleo Chocolate Chip Cookies

I'll be totally honest, cooking has never been my thing. I try, but it seems like every time I turn around something is filling the kitchen with smoke or I've added way too much salt or Project Runway comes on and something's left to burn for 45 minutes.

When it comes to baking, though, I've always been kind of moderately successful. Lately I've been trying to turn that mediocrity into something more. I've also been trying to modify my diet to avoid gluten and eat more natural, healthy ingredients.

So instead of eating half of a roll of pre-made cookie dough and burning the rest, I decided to start from scratch.

I've made this recipe about ten times now, and I have to say.... wow. Over several rounds of trial and error, I've made a few substitutions. Instead of vegan palm oil shortening, I use half coconut oil and half ghee (or regular butter, it just depends on what I have in the kitchen). I also like to get a really good dark chocolate bar and chop that up for the chips.

The almond flour gives the cookies a really great texture, kind of like oatmeal cookies. Oatmeal cookies stuffed full of amazing dark chocolate, that is. If you make these they will probably last about an hour.

P.S. - Elana's Pantry has THE BEST paleo baking recipes. There is a biscuit recipe on there (for me, it's turned out more like a scone) that is equally amazing. 

Obsessed: Kate Spade

Why devote an entire blog post to my current obsession with Kate Spade? Because I'm physically incapable of walking by a Kate Spade store without spending half an hour oohing and ahhing at the piles of neon sparkly gorgeousness. And then there's the fact that another Kate Spade boutique opened up a few miles from my apartment, which means that there are now two within a ten minute drive.

There are a lot of brands that I love, but no one can top Kate. I think part of that is that her products are so clever, with cute sayings everywhere from the purse tags to the inside of the bangles. The extra buttons for her clothes come in a bag that says, "button up, sugar cup." I still remember the tag that came on the first Kate Spade bag I ever bought, which read, "Occasionally she dreams of Italy. She dreams of cheese shops, persnickety Fiats, and very fine leather goods." Because of the font, I actually thought "fiats" was "flats" (and I DO dream of persnickety flats!), but still. I was hooked. 

The new hashtag collection is full of that signature sassiness. I love it all. 

Ugh. Now I want an iPad.

Is this not the cutest thing you've ever seen? Seriously. 

In case you're working on your Christmas list, there's a necklace, earrings, and a ring.

This is legitimately on my Christmas list since I haven't had a wallet for about two years now and my purse is always an explosion of assorted lipgloss, a pinkberry frequent buyer card that I always think is my Amex, back-up earrings, and seven thousand bobby pins. Every morning and every afternoon at rush hour, I have a minor panic attack because my metro card is "lost", when actually it's in the bottom of my purse or my coat pocket (where I put it because my purse is so messy). It's pretty ridiculous, but I think a pretty wallet would contribute to my organizational skills!

I swear, if I get this I'll never stop at starbucks again!

Friday, October 19, 2012

It's Time For a Makeover!

Do you prefer "fashion victim" or "ensembly-challenged"?

It's a well-known fact that all of the best chick-flicks include a serious makeover montage. It's probably not the most useful life lesson - a new haircut and a flattering dress won't actually solve life's biggest problems (believe me I've tried), but it's such a great moment when a sympathetic character emerges from a salon refreshed and ready to take on the world in totally impractical shoes.

Thus, I've decided that the blog I've neglected for the past year and a half deserves it's own makeover. It's losing the metaphorical flannel shirt and frizzy hair and embracing face-framing layers and some shiny new heels. I've changed the name (which I'm still unsure about - it may change again some time in the near future) and the color scheme. Now I just need to change my blog-neglecting ways!

Since we're on the subject of movie makeovers, here are a few of my faves (in no particular order):

Elton couldn't stick around for more pictures because he really needed to get his Cranberries CD from the Quad.
1. Clueless - A favorite since I was a preteen, this movie is the reason I replaced my childhood wardrobe with an embarrassing collection of platform shoes, plaid skirts, and ridiculous hats. As a fashion-obsessed adult, every time I read about Alaia I can't help thinking that he's the perfect designer to wear to a Val party. Also, I love that "Supermodel" song they play when they're making Tai over.

I can't say anything sarcastic about this. It's just too adorable.
2. Roman Holiday - This was Audrey Hepburn's first starring role, and I think it's my favorite movie of hers (a bold statement, given my obsession with Breakfast at Tiffany's and My Fair Lady). When this sheltered princess chops off her hair, gorges on gelato, and rides bikes around Rome with Gregory Peck, we see her completely transformed. The last scene in this movie is one of my favorites of all time. If you haven't seen this classic, put it in your Netflix queue IMMEDIATELY.

Hipster Elle was colorblocking before it was cool.
3. Legally Blonde - Elle Woods was my hero when I was a peroxide-addicted teenager (I understand now that blonde is not my color), and I stand by my claim that she is a great role model. I love how the heroine in this movie doesn't have to play down her femininity to be smart and successful. There's a great montage after she leaves the "costume" party and gets serious about law school, but I guess this is really more of a make-under. Still, even in a black suit and tights, Elle looks fab. There's also that great moment near the end when she decides to be herself and marches into the courtroom in the loudest pink dress ever. Chutney never had a chance.

"That blonde wig I wore at the beginning of the movie? Big mistake. HUGE."
4. Pretty Woman - This year I had the opportunity to visit Rodeo Drive for the first time. I could write a book on that experience alone, but I digress. I really spent the whole afternoon hoping that a salesperson would be rude to me so I could go to another store, buy five bags of super-expensive clothes, and reprimand them. Maybe next time.

"You're like, really pretty. So... you agree? You do think you're pretty?"
5. Mean Girls - On Wednesdays they wear pink, only Regina George can wear hoop earrings, and you better not wear sweatpants more than once a week. Every time I watch this movie it makes me a little sad because Lindsay Lohan had such a promising career ahead of her. That's so NOT fetch.

I could go on forever, because while I can't find my way from neighborhood to my office without GPS, I can give you a comprehensive list of every movie makeover in a romantic comedy without even consulting IMDB.

Until next time, may the soundtrack to Clueless be stuck in your heads.