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  1. Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood...

    Friday, April 26, 2013

    Yes, that is the theme song to Mr. Rogers.
    A couple nights ago we were watching YouTube and came across this video, 35 facts about Mr. Rogers.
    Apparently Mr. Rogers was the exact same person on and off screen. A genuinely nice person.
    We need more of those in the world.
    Today's version of Mr. Rogers is Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood on PBS.
    Aria's current favorite show. 

    ^^ This house's number is on a cute dachshund sign.
    It's been a very warm past few days here in Chicago and it has been AMAZING. This whole week is supposed to be in the 60s and possibly even reach 70 degrees. And then the following week is supposed to rain. :( Boo. So we gotta enjoy this weather while it's here. 
    We've been taking lots of walks around the neighborhood and to the parks nearby.
    Lots of photos in the post. Just warning ya. :)

    I was so shocked to see this willow tree along the street - I'm used to seeing them around ponds or down at the beach.

    ^^ Magnolia trees are so beautiful. My favorite flowering tree.
    ^^ I thought this was funny. 

    On the left is Pleasant House Bakery and on the right is Maria's Community Bar. A friend of my cousin's says that Maria's is the best bar in Chicago! They have a large choice of beers - many local and artisanal.

    ^^ Bridgeport Coffee
    ^^ Saw this little house hanging high in a tree along the street. :)
    ^^ saw this little bell hanging on the tree branch, cute and random. :)

    ^^ saw a big turtle at the nature park

     Hope you are all having a warm and wonderful week as well! 

  2. Eclairs with Nutella Icing

    Saturday, April 20, 2013

    I LOVE eclairs. Or cream puffs. It's the same recipe, the only difference is the shape of the pastry.
    I got this recipe from my cookbook: Baking with the Cake Boss. I made a few changes that I made while doing the recipe. I've actually made this recipe twice, and I've been doing my version of it because I found some problems with it when I was making it.

    For instance, the original recipe calls for the custard to be thickened with flour - but it just wasn't thickening fast enough - or at all - so I use cornstarch instead. I also noticed that the pastry dough recipe says that it makes 24 eclairs/cream puffs but BOTH times I made them it only came out to 18. I also changed the icing to use Nutella instead of chocolate chips.

    The finished pastry can be cut and filled two ways: either sliced completely in half and filled like a sandwich (pictured here) OR puncture a hole in the bottom and fill the inside with a pastry bag (I did this method when I made cream puffs the second time around). Both methods work, it's just a matter of preference. Although when you fill the pastry from the inside, you can't really tell how much it's filled on the inside. I had to tell by the weight of the pastry.

    When making this dessert, keep in mind that it either must be started early in the morning or over the course of two days. The custard must chill for at least 6 hours, so this is not a dessert that can be made and eaten quickly.

    Eclairs (or Cream Puffs) with Nutella Icing
    makes 18

    Italian Custard Cream
    - 2 1/2 cups whole milk
    - 1 TB vanilla extract
    - 1 cup sugar
    - 3 TB cornstarch
    - 5 extra-large egg yolks
    - 1 TB salted butter

    Choux Pastry Dough
    - 1 cup water
    - 6 TB (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
    - 1/8 tsp salt
    - 1 cup flour
    - 4 extra-large eggs

    Nutella Icing
    - 1 1/2 - 2 cups powdered sugar
    - 2 TB water
    - 2 heaping TB Nutella

    Italian Custard Cream
    Pour the milk and vanilla in a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium heat.
    In a bowl, whisk together the sugar, cornstarch, and egg yolks. Slowly ladle a cup of the milk-vanilla mixture into the bowl and whisk in to temper the eggs.
    Add the yolk mixture to the saucepan and whisk over medium heat until thick and creamy. Lower the heat slightly and keep whisking until the custard becomes very thick. 
    Remove from heat and add the butter. Continue whisking for several minutes.
    Transfer to a bowl. Let cool, then cover with plastic wrap (with the plastic touching the custard surface to prevent a skin from forming), and refrigerate for a least 6 hours.

    Choux Pastry Dough
    Put the water, butter, and salt in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat.
    Add the flour and stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients come together into a smooth, uniform dough.
    Transfer the mixture to the bowl of a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Start paddling on low speed, then add eggs, one at a time, until thoroughly absorbed, mixing for one minute between eggs. Finish with the final egg and mix for an additional 2 minutes. The dough will be very thick and sticky.
    Use the dough immediately. It does not refrigerate well.

    Preheat oven to 450 degrees.
    Transfer choux dough into a pastry bag fitted with a #6 plain tip (I used a #  star tip instead; you could also use a large ziploc bag with the tip snipped off). The dough should be piped (1 inch wide and 3 inches long*) two inches apart onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.
    Bake the eclairs in the oven, in batches if necessary, until they are golden brown and have set enough that you can pick them up easily off the baking sheet; 15 - 20 minutes.
    Remove the tray from the oven and let the eclairs cool on the baking sheet for about 20 minutes, you don't need to transfer them to a rack to cool.
    Use a serrated knife to slice through the eclairs.
    Fill a pastry bag with the custard and pipe the filling into the eclairs (you can use the same bag you used for piping the dough, just rinse it out and dry it first).
    Ice the eclairs following the recipe below.

    Nutella Icing
     To ice the eclairs, spoon the heaping tablespoons of nutella into a small, microwaveable bowl with the water. Microwave for about a minute to melt the nutella slightly.
    Whisk in the sugar until the mixture is uniformly smooth.
    Use a spoon or small spatula to use the tops of the eclairs.

    Serve the eclairs right away.
    They can also be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 days or frozen in the freezer for about a month. Eclairs can be eaten straight from the freezer as well if you wish (makes them kind of taste like they are filled with ice cream).


    *To make cream puffs instead of eclairs, use the same pastry bag tip. Pipe rounds onto parchment paper lined baking sheets that are 2 inches in diameter and about 1/2 inch high, leaving 2 inches between puffs. Bake at the same temperature for the same amount of time.


  3. I originally found this recipe on Pinterest, I changed it up a little bit for my tastes. And the original recipe says that it serves 3-4 but I feel it just makes 2 servings. My pancakes were fairly small, just about 3 to 4 inches across. Plus, they are pretty light so I ate this entire stack myself. :) The compote is absolutely delicious. A perfect blend of tart and sweet; both the cranberry and vanilla flavors equally prominent. I will definitely be making this again.

    Chai Pancakes with Cranberry-Vanilla Compote
    recipe adapted from here

    - 1 1/3 cup milk
    - 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
    - 1 1/4 cups flour
    - 2 tsp baking powder
    - 1 tsp baking soda
    - pinch of salt
    - 1 tsp ground cinnamon
    - 1/2 tsp ground ginger
    - 1/2 tsp ground cardamom
    - 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
    - pinch of ground cloves
    - 2 TB honey
    - 1 TB melted coconut oil (or butter), plus more for the pan
    - 1 tsp vanilla extract

    - 1 cup fresh (or frozen) cranberries
    - 1/3 cup water
    - 1/4 cup honey
    - 2 tsp vanilla extract

    Place the cranberries, water and honey in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Add more water as needed to keep compote moist. As the cranberries soften mash them with the back of a spoon to get more of a saucy consistency. Once the texture is more like a liquid-y jam, add the vanilla. Stir to combine and remove from the heat.

    Combine milk and apple cider vinegar, stir and set aside to curdle for five minutes. (You could also omit the vinegar and use buttermilk instead.)
    In a large bowl combine all the dry ingredients. Whisk to combine. Stir in the curdled milk (or buttermilk), honey, coconut oil (or butter) and vanilla. Take care not to over-mix.
    Heat a skillet over medium heat with some coconut oil or butter. Drop batter in the pan by 1/3 cup measures. Allow first side to cook until you see bubbles appear and edges appear slightly dry and browned. Flip the pancake and cook for another minute. Remove and keep warm. Repeat with remaining batter. 
    Serve pancakes with compote spooned over the top.

    Check out the other blogs on this blog hop I've linked up with this week!

    Chantillysongs Blog hop

  4. Style Update: High-Waisted Skirt

    Monday, April 8, 2013

    Aria joined me for a few of the photos, of course she had been having fun digging in the dirt, so she's covered head-to-toe.

    Cardigan: Wet Seal
    Shirt: Gap
    Skirt: Body Central
    Tights: Target
    Shoes: Alex Marie 

    photos by Uncaged Photography

    Link up with:

  5. This was my first attempt at making doughnuts. I am tentative about frying stuff because I'm always scared of oil flying out of the pan and burning me. Before I fried anything I did some research on the smoking points of different oils, which actually scared me to death because it made me scared of setting the oil on fire. Which of course didn't happen. I used my cast iron dutch oven and my candy thermometer to regulate the temperature of the oil.

    I actually made two batches of doughnuts. The first one (the ones with the white sprinkles) I made exactly the way the recipe said to. Except I used lard to fry them, because I had heard lard would make them crispier and less greasy. Unfortunately those did not turn out very well. The lard did not work out at all. It left a thin residue on all the doughnuts which left them tasting very lard-y. 

    So for my second batch I used corn oil - which worked much better. I also changed the flavor of the glaze. 
    The original recipe is from A Beautiful Mess for Grapefruit Donuts. The grapefruit flavor did not come through very well, in the glaze or the donuts, so for the second batch I made the glaze chai flavored, which tasted much better in my opinion. I also made donut-holes instead of whole donuts, this was just my decision, you can make traditional donuts if you desire.

    Homemade Donuts with Chai Glaze
    recipe adapted from here

    - 1 cup milk
    - 1/4 cup sugar
    - 2 1/4 tsp active dry yeast
    - 2 eggs
    - 1/2 cup, plus 2 TB butter
    - 4 cups flour
    - 1/4 tsp salt
    - oil for frying

    - 2 3/4 cups powdered sugar
    - 1/2 cup water
    - 1 tsp ground cardamom
    - pinch of ground cinnamon
    - pinch of ground cloves
    - pinch of ground nutmeg
    - optional sprinkles

    Warm the milk in the microwave for 1 minute, and stir in sugar until it dissolves.
    Pour in the yeast and let it proof for 5-10 minutes.

    Melt butter in microwave until it's just nearly melted. Whisk in the eggs and pour egg-mixture into the bowl of your mixer with a dough hook attachment turned on low (I use a hand mixer but a stand mixer would work as well).  Pour in the yeast-milk mixture. Add in flour one cup at a time followed by the salt. Now turn up mixer to medium and let it knead the dough for 8-10 minutes. Put the dough in a lightly greased bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.

    The next day roll out your dough and cut the donuts while the dough is still cold. You can use whatever you like to cut your shapes, I actually used a narrow glass cup to cut my donut holes. Lay donuts on a baking sheet, cover with a towel, and allow to rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. (I had to used my oven because my kitchen was too cold. Warm up your oven to 200 and then turn it off.) 

    Pour enough oil in your pot or dutch oven so that your donuts have room to float (a few inches deep). You want your oil at 375 degrees, so use a candy thermometer. The donuts should cook 30-45 seconds on each side, or until golden brown, and then remove them onto a bed of paper towels.

    For the glaze whisk all the ingredients together (water, powdered sugar and spices) until a smooth glaze is formed. Dip the cooled donuts in the glaze and set on a wire rack with parchment paper beneath. Before the glaze hardens, add the sprinkles or they won't stick.



  6. Chocolate-Strawberry Cupcakes

    Saturday, April 6, 2013

    Unfortunately I forgot to take a cross-section picture of the cupcakes so you could see the strawberry filling, so you'll just have to trust me that it's there. I got the recipe for the frosting and cupcakes from my Baking with the Cake Boss cookbook. Both worked out great. I made these cupcakes for my daughter, Aria, since she loves chocolate and strawberries. Plus I wanted to try out my new decorating supplies I had gotten. :)

    I made some minor changes to the recipes when I made them, with the cupcakes the original recipe called for cocoa powder and melted chocolate. I just put in cocoa powder and it was still chocolate-y enough. And with the frosting the original recipe called for a mix of butter and shortening, so instead I used margarine which is 60% oil and 40% butter.

    Chocolate-Strawberry Cupcakes
    makes 12 cupcakes

    Cupcake batter
    - 3/4 cup flour
    - 3/4 cup sugar
    - 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, softened to room temp
    - 1/4 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
    - 1/2 tsp baking soda
    - 1/8 tsp baking powder
    - 1/4 cup hot water
    - 1 extra-large egg
    - 1/4 cup buttermilk

    - 3 3/4 cup powdered sugar
    - 1 1/2 cups margarine
    - 1/2 TB vanilla essence (or 3/4 TB vanilla extract)
    - 1/8 cup plus 1 TB cold water

    Strawberry filling
    - 10 medium strawberries, finely diced
    - 2 TB sugar
    - 1 tsp cornstarch

    Preheat oven to 350.
    Put the flour, sugar, butter, cocoa, baking soda, and baking powder in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the ingredients are blended together, then increase speed to med-low for one minute to mix until smooth.
    Add in hot water with mixer running. Add in the egg. With the mixer still running add in the buttermilk. Make sure to scrape the bottom with a spatula to ensure all the ingredients are well combined. Mix for an additional minute on med-low speed. 
    Put paper liners in a standard sized cupcake/muffin tin and divide the batter equally into each cup.
    Bake for 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of a cupcake.
    Let the cupcakes cool to room temp before removing them from the pan and onto a wire cooling rack.

    Put the margarine, vanilla, and sugar in the bowl of a mixer with a paddle attachment and mix at medium-low speed until the mixture is smooth with no lumps, about 3 minutes.
    With the mixer running, add the water in a thin stream and continue to mix until absorbed, about 3 minutes more. At this point you can add whatever coloring you like and mix until well combined.
    (Leftover buttercream can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.)

    Strawberry Filling
    In a small bowl combine diced strawberries and sugar and let it sit until the strawberries release their natural juices. Then add the cornstarch and mix to dissolve.

    Once the cupcakes are completely cooled, take a paring knife and cut a triangle-hole halfway down the center of the cupcake (you can eat the cut-out scraps). In the hole of each cupcake put a spoonful of the strawberry filling (you may have leftovers), and top with the frosting. 
    I used a star tip to frost the cupcakes but you may used whatever you want. I also added some sprinkles to the top of each cupcake as additional decoration.


  7. For Sale

    Tuesday, April 2, 2013

    So I've been trying to make some extra cash by selling some of my clothes on ebay. It has been slow going though. So I'm posting images of what I'm selling on here (that are linked to ebay) to try and expand my audience. Thanks for taking a look!

    Cut-out halter dress

    Forever 21 short lace dress

    DKNY floral jacket

    Chico's coral-orange jacket
    Chevron color block dress
    The Limited, little black dress with original tags
    Jessica Howard, little black dress
    ZARA skirt

    Seychelles "Head over Heels" in royal blue

    Unlisted by Kenneth Cole