Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In My Kitchen with Lexy Ward

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"My mother was always the woman to bring a meal to someone in need. She'd bake for no reason and deliver treats to her friends. The thing I remember most about this was how she packaged things. She'd wrap cookies or a loaf of bread with a burlap bag or a flour sack towel and secure it with baker's twine.  I guess it stuck with me because I am now an avid twine collector. I always have flour sack towels and twine handy in case I need to bring a treat to a friend in need. The sparkle twine shown above is from We Love Citrus. There are so many fun color possibilities and it really dresses up any package!"


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Lexy Ward writes the lifestyle and party blog, The Proper Pinwheel. She features DIY projects, party inspiration, and edible goodness. She lives in Denver with her husband, and dog, Tagg.

If blogging had yearbook awards, Lexy would win Best Personality hands-down! She is as sweet and hilarious as she is talented. xoxo
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Monday, October 29, 2012

Chocolate Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

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My mom has possibly the best job ever at church. She gets to throw a brunch once a month for all of the ladies at church who have a birthday that month. Fun, right?! And I'm the lucky one who gets to make the cupcakes each time! For the October Birthday Brunch, I thought it would be fun to finally try that yummy chocolate-pumpkin cake recipe that graced the cover of Country Living magazine years ago, and that I mentioned in my October Favorites post earlier this month. And let me tell you, these cupcakes are delicious! They are chocolately and spicey, with a little mellowness from the pumpkin and a little tanginess from the buttermilk. They are moist and light and fluffy, and bake up extremely beautifully (which not all cupcake do, guys). Such a tasty fall treat! We frosted ours with this cream cheese frosting, and it was a delicious combination. Country Living suggests this orange cream cheese frosting, which I think would be amazing--but I was out-voted folks! This kitchen is nothing if not a democracy. Except when my kids want mac & cheese 5 times a week. Gotta draw the line somewhere.

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Friday, October 26, 2012

How To Cut a Caramel Apple

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So, I didn't always know how to cut a caramel apple. It's true! I remember watching my friend Ashley cut up a caramel apple about 5 years ago and being amazed at how easy and mess-free she made it. Silly me, I'd been pulling the stick out and cutting it the way I cut a regular apple: first in half, then in quarters, then in eighths, then cutting that cute little notch out of the middle of each slice. To be honest, my way took a really long time, made a big mess, and smeared the precious caramel, chocolate, and yummy toppings! But watching Ashley cut up that caramel apple made me leave behind my old-fashioned ways forever! I've never looked back.

Want to know how to cut a caramel apple the easy way?

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BAM. You're welcome.

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PS--Maybe all of you already knew this, smart cookies that you are. :)
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Caramel Apple Place Cards and Sweet Pork Tacos

Caramel Apples make a great favor for any Autumn party, from Back-to-School fetes all the way to Thanksgiving get-togethers. And with just a few extra supplies, they can be beautiful and tasty place card holders too! To see my tips on making caramel apple place cards, visit my post on Celebrations At Home!

caramel-apple-place-cards

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I'm so excited to be working with the lovely Ciera Holzenthal from the blog Ciera Design on a new monthly series called The Font Feast! I find cooking and baking inspiration everywhere, even in beautiful fonts. Visit Ciera Design to see what font inspired me for my first post, and of course to get the recipe for these tasty sweet pork tacos!

sweet-pork-tacos
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Super-Soft Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

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While I'm not a big fan of pumpkin pie (ok, I pretty much hate it), I love pumpkin desserts in general, especially yummy cakes, breads, and cookies. These pumpkin chocolate chip cookies are my favorite because they are so soft and puffy, like little cakes or muffin tops. And since pumpkin is a vegetable, they're technically a health food. Right?

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Homemade Turkey Meatballs

turkey-meatballs

Aren't meatballs the greatest invention? You can pack them in a sandwich, throw them on top of pasta, stick them on toothpicks, roll them in a wrap, dunk them in soup, or my family's favorite--pick them up straight off the cookie sheet and pop them right in your mouth. I think homemade meatballs are divine, especially when they are savory and flavorful instead of bland, and tender instead of squishy. We polished these perfect meatball specimens off very quickly, and I can't wait to start bringing them to the slew of holiday parties on the calendar in the next few months!

BTW and FYI, the meatballs pictured here are nestled in a bowl of Ina Garten's Italian Wedding Soup, which is delicious. You should make it.

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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

In My Kitchen with Jenny Batt

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"I keep the cupcake supplies because in a pinch I can always whip up a batch of cupcakes for a shoot or a celebration. Unless I can get to my favorite cupcake shop, a good box mix will always taste better than the grocery version. My favorite easy to find mixes are Duncan Hines; the chocolate is amazing. I always use the cream cheese frosting because it holds up perfectly, is a lovely off white color and has a pretty sheen. I also have a thing for chemical frosting and can eat that flavor by the spoonful. A dash of white edible glitter will blend into white frosting but still add a bit of interest and panache to your cupcakes. I use it on top of Cool Whip swirls, too. Instant fancy in a pinch, you know I am all over it. That is a trick I learned from Jennifer of Trophy Cupcakes and now I use it for everything. Pellegrino is my treat because I just love the stuff. Plus, in a shoot, a few drops of food coloring and it will look like a fun adult beverage."


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Jenny is the decorations designer, photographer, stylist and editor of Hank + Hunt, a DIY maven of sorts. She is a DIY Contributing Editor over on The Sweetest Occasion and a contributor on Oh Happy Day, Hellobee, and One Charming Party. She is mom to two little boys who have helped her realize that every single day is amazing and should be celebrated. So, she's been doing just that!

Jenny is one of the hardest working bloggers I know! She has a well-deserved reputation for being the queen of entertaining DIYs, and makes a great pedicure companion to boot. xoxo
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Pumpkin Crumble

pumpkin-crumble

This is my husband's favorite dessert in the whole, wide world. He loves it so much that he has, in the past, requested it on his birthday (May) and Father's Day (June), two times when pumpkin desserts are completely and totally out of season, and when you couldn't pay me to eat something warm, cozy, and pumpkin-flavored. He would eat it weekly if given the opportunity, and has already polished off a whole pan's worth since we kicked off pumpkin season a few weeks ago. Even if it isn't perfect for my husband's early-summer birthday, it perfectly complements the crisp, cool Autumn weather that has finally arrived in our neck of the woods. Filled with warm spices and toasty pecans, and slathered in sweet whipped cream, it is a dreamy way to end a blustery October day.

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Caramel Cupcakes with Salted Caramel-Browned Butter Frosting

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I started Lulu the Baker over 4 years ago so that I could participate in the Daring Bakers, a huge, worldwide, online baking group that attempts crazy and complicated recipes on a monthly basis. This recipe is one of the first I baked along to, and it is still one of my favorites. The cupcakes are yummy, with a mild flavor and denser, heftier body than most cupcakes. But the real star of the show is the frosting. Made with homemade caramel syrup and gently cooked brown butter, it has a double dose of rich nuttiness. It makes me swoon just thinking about it--and I'm not the only one! I get asked to make these Caramel Cupcakes with the swoon-worthy frosting every year for our school district fundraiser, and apparently, this year's emcee couldn't quit raving. I'm telling you--people go crazy for them!

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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Painted Block Necklace

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I love making accessories. I think it is big-time fun to take scraps and bits here and there and turn them into something cute that you can wear and get compliments on. And I love when people say, "Hey, where'd you get that?" and I can respond with an, "Oh, this? Well I just made that!" These necklaces started out as an idea over the summer, and I dragged my feet making them, then dragged my feet fixing them when they didn't turn out right. And then, just to put a little extra pinch of procrastination in there, I dragged my feet photographing them and editing the photos, just for good measure!

You can really make these as big and flashy or as simple and understated as you like. You can use whatever colors of paint you like. You can use big, chunky chain or thin, delicate chain. I love projects that you can customize to suit your taste!

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Materials and Tools

3 small wood blocks, 3/4" each
2 lengths of gold chain, about 9 inches each
6 inches thick gold wire (mine was 20 gauge)
4 gold jump rings
1 gold lobster clasp
craft paint or spray paint
clear acrylic spray
black marker
adjustable wrench
drill and small drill bit
thick piece of scrap wood
paint brush
at least 1 bamboo skewer
a tall, skinny cup or container
at least 1 pair of jewelry pliers
wire snips
craft glue (optional)

Steps

1. Use the black marker to draw a dot right in the center of one side of your first block. Grip it firmly with the adjustable wrench, and rest it on the thick piece of scrap wood. Use the drill fitted with the drill bit to make a hole all the way through the middle of the block. Go relatively slowly and check your alignment as you drill to make sure you aren't heading off in a weird direction! Repeat with remaining blocks.
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2. Carefully paint the blocks your desired colors. Spray paint works perfectly, especially for metallic paint, but craft paint is A-OK too! Allow the blocks to dry completely. Spray blocks with clear acrylic spray and allow to dry again. Any time you're using spray paint, it helps to jam the blocks onto bamboo skewers first--that way you can spray all 6 sides of each block at once!
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3. Using the wire snips, cut a piece of wire about 6" long. Use the jewelry pliers to make a closed loop at one end of the wire (I wrapped mine once at the end). For directions on how to do this, click HERE. Thread the painted blocks onto the wire in the order you want them, then make another closed loop at the open end. It will be slightly harder this time to make a loop because you've got blocks in the way, but never fear, you can do it!
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4. Attach a gold jump ring to each end of both pieces of gold chain. Add the lobster clasp to one of the ends. Using the jump rings, attach a piece of gold chain to each end of the block-and-wire combo.
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All done!!

Except...I didn't like how my blocks were constantly spinning and being at odd angles with each other, so I put a little craft glue in between the blocks and pinched them together until the glue was dry.

Here's a quick primer on jewelry making and jump rings. There are 3 kinds of jump rings: closed, open, and split. Closed jump rings are completely soldered shut, and I never use them. Honestly, I can only think of 1 or 2 situations where they are good for anything! Open jump rings can be pried open with pliers and then closed again after you've hooked things together. They're my jump ring of choice, BUT they really work best in heavy gauges so that they don't pop open, which means you can't use them with thin chain. In order to use an open jump ring with a thin chain, you'd have to use a really thin gauge, and they just aren't very secure. Split jump rings are basically little keychains. They wrap around a couple of times for stability. I don't usually like them because I don't think they look nice as open jump rings, BUT they can be thin enough to use with delicate chains and still offer lots of stability--there's no little gap in the ring for your necklace or charm or whatever to accidentally slip out of! So that's what I used on my necklace. I know you were just dying to know all of that!
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Monday, October 8, 2012

Pasta Fagioli

pasta-fagioli

I don't know if everyone feels this way (I'm guessing that most people do), but I'm a sucker for comfort food. Give me something warm, savory, and cheesy, and I'm a happy girl. And I'm a sucker for soups and stews. And I'm a sucker for Italian food. So for me, pasta fagioli is basically perfection in a bowl! It combines so many things I love in one big pot of rich, tangy, tomatoey goodness.

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Friday, October 5, 2012

October Favorites {Give-Away}, Halloween Party edition

I don't know if I can commit to what I'm about to say because Christmas is so very, very huge, but Halloween is my favorite holiday of the year! It embraces and heightens every good thing that I love about the Autumn season: dark, blustery nights, warm, flickering candlelight, heady spices and sweet treats and mystery and magic. Here are some of my favorites this month; they'd make the cutest little Halloween party!

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These are like the Halloween version of that perennial winter favorite, the paper snowflake! So easy and so cute, with just a pinch of spookiness! {photo from Kelly of Studio DIY for This Heart of Mine}

2. favorite spooky treat that I want to eat a million of: Halloween cake pops from Bakerella
I hope you've all had cake pops by now people. Cake pops are literally everywhere these days (Starbucks anyone?), thanks to the adorable creations of the queen of cake pops, Bakerella. If you haven't had a Bakerella cake pop, you. are. missing. out. They are so over-the-top delicious, it's ridiculous! And how cute are these ghosts?! {photo from Bakerella}

3. favorite cute party favors (that you could probably figure out how to DIY): Williams-Sonoma Halloween Candies
I don't think there are many things that wouldn't look adorable in a tiny jar with a cork in the top and an old-timey label on the front. And I'm a sucker for sour gummy pumpkins! {photo from Williams-Sonoma}

4. favorite cutest way I've seen to carve a pumpkin: Lantern Pumpkins from Country Living
I tend to get really impatient when I carve pumpkins and end up slopping on a plain old classic (and boring) jack-o-lantern face: triangle eyes and nose, big smile with a couple of buck teeth--nothing even remotely creative. These cute pumpkins take the "lantern" in jack-o-lantern literally, with sweet, old-fashioned lamps and lanterns painted on the outside of the pumpkins and warm, flickering candlelight shining through the cut-outs. I'm actually looking forward to carving pumpkins this year! {photo from Country Living}

5. favorite way to display your Halloween cake (see #8): Spider Cake Plate from Glitterville
Confession: I've wanted this cake plate for a really, really long time. *sigh* I can just imagine all of the delicious Halloween treats I'd display on it. I might have to wait until I have an entire room just for cake plate storage! Seriously, that's in the works. {photo from Glitterville}

6. favorite bit of Halloween happiness sitting on the back of my piano right now: DIY Painted Argyle Pumpkins
Many moons ago, I visited my little sister just before Halloween and spotted some argyle pumpkins that I knew I'd never be able to fit in my suitcase. So I put on my DIY thinking-cap when I got home and made one! And it is still one of my favorite Halloween decorations. It is preppy and bright and bold.

7. favorite cute way to eat all of that yummy party food: Halloween Party Spoons from Sucre Shop
I'm a little bit addicted to wooden utensils right now, and Sucre Shop's printed spoons and forks are the cutest I've seen. Scallops, chevron, polka dots, stripes, ombre, metallic, cute messages--you can find an adorable set of utensils for any party theme! {photo from Sucre Shop}

8. favorite fall cake: Chocolate Pumpkin Cake from Country Living
I just love how this cake looks! I think it is beautiful and simple, and somehow rustic and graphic at the same time. And I bet is tastes awesome, which is a plus for a cake, right?! {photo from Country Living}

***
The give-away is now closed and the winner has been contacted by email. Thanks to everyone who visited!!

Give-away time! Sucre Shop is generously donating a set of 20 Halloween forks or ice cream spoons to the winner of our give-away this month! Many thanks to Brooke of Sucre Shop for making that happen. And to go with your cute wooden Halloween party utensils, you'll get a surprise box of Halloween party supplies from me! Who knows what spooky-yet-delightful treasures you'll receive!

To enter to win a mystery box of Halloween party goodies including 20 Halloween party forks or spoons from Sucre Shop, leave a comment on this post. The give-away will be open to US residents only and will end Monday night, October 8th, at midnight. The winner will be chosen at random using random.org, and will be notified by email (so I better be able to find your email!).

Good luck, and Happy Halloween!


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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

In My Kitchen with Heidi Larsen

in-my-kitchen-foodie-crush

"I like to think that I'm a recycler, that I make multiple use of things in the kitchen. Sometimes I am, and sometimes I'm not. But if something is well designed—or just plain cute—I am far more inclined to find a new use for it once its original intent has been fulfilled. I'm not a fan of grocery store salad dressings, so one of my favorite uses for my Bonne Maman jam jars—Four Fruits is my favorite—is to use them as a one-stop shop for creating and storing my homemade versions. Dump, top, shake and serve all in one fell swoop. Here's my recipe for Simple Italian Dressing that tops crunchy iceberg lettuce just right, perfect for pizza or spaghetti night."


Simple Italian Dressing
from Heidi Larsen of FoodieCrush

1/4 cup flavorless oil like canola or vegetable
3 tablespoons cider or red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper


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Heidi Larsen is the founder, creative director and chief dishwasher of FoodieCrush.com, an online magazine and blog that loves food bloggers, their recipes and photos. She is also a photographer, recipe developer and e-book content creator and designer for multiple clients and partners. Heidi lives in Salt Lake City with her husband, daughter and three rescue mutts.

I met Heidi in person at Alt Summit 2013, nearly 4 months after she let me feature her for this series, What struck me most when we met was that she acted like I was somebody special, that I'd done her a favor by featuring her, when in reality, I was so grateful to have gotten somebody as busy and talented as Heidi to take time out to answer my questions and send me photos. She is so humble and so generous. Thank you, Heidi! xoxo
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Monday, October 1, 2012

Harvest Pumpkin Cupcakes

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I have lots of cousins on both sides of my family, but my cousin Mat is the one I was always closest with growing up. He is only a few months older than me, and his family lived within a day's drive of us, so there were always a few weeks during the summer when our families would get together. When we were little, we both loved to cook, and we hatched a plan to open a catering company together when we grew up. We were going to name it Cousins Catering, and for the rest of that summer, we sent each other envelopes full of recipes in the mail. Neither of us ended up going into the catering business (although he owns a candy shop, so that's pretty darn close!), but he emailed me this delicious recipe last October, and it has become a favorite in both our families. Maybe we can talk some of our kids into keeping the Cousins Catering dream alive!

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