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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Holiday Baking

This is the second year I have baked and packaged cookies for my friends and team members at work. I made 4 different recipes: Mexican Wedding Cookies, Chocolate Espresso Snow Caps, Ginger Cookies, and Coconut Macaroons. The last 3 recipes are from Martha, and the Mexican Wedding Cookies are my mom's recipe. All cookies were packed in cute little Gingerbread House boxes from Martha Stewart Crafts. Here are some pictures of the project.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

My Home is Decorated for the Holidays - Take a Peek Inside

Tom picked up our real Christmas tree this week, and I have been busy decorating the house over the last few days. Last year, the day after Christmas, I shopped at Pottery Barn for all the ornaments, which had been discounted. This year, I was ready to decorate!

The tree was placed in the dining room. The theme is metallics: Bronze, Gold, and Silver. Most of the ornaments are of Mercury glass and are very heavy. These ornaments had to be hung on the most sturdy branches for support. The other ornaments are nature inspired: silver and gold leaves and flowered spheres.

Lola and Dexter posed under the tree. How adorable are they in their scarves they received from the groomer?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Creating a Carrot Cake

I had the day off today for Veteran's Day. I filled a couple of hours with my favorite past time, baking, by making a carrot cake. I have made it a couple of times, and I think this time I have perfected the recipe. I am posting the recipe and pictures below.

Lauren's Carrot Cake

For the Cake:
2 cups sugar
3/4 cup natural applesauce (no added sugar)
3/4 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
2 cups all purpose flour
2 t baking soda
2 t baking powder
1 t salt
1 t cinnamon
3/4 t nutmeg
1 t vanilla extract
3 cups shredded carrots
1/2 cup walnuts (finely chopped)

Mix the sugar, oil, and applesauce together. Add eggs one at a time, blending well in between. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, salt together. Add flour mixture to sugar mixture and mix. Add carrots, vanilla, and nuts and finish mixing. Spray 2 round cake pans w/ Pam. Divide the cake evenly between the 2 cake pans. Bake on 325 for 40 min or until a toothpick comes out clean.

For the Icing:
2 8 oz blocks of 1/3 fat cream cheese (room temp)
1 stick unsalted butter (room temp)
4 cups powdered sugar
zest of 1 orange
scrapings of 1/2 vanilla bean
1 t vanilla extract

Mix the above ingredients together in a mixer until creamy. Ice the cakes when cooled completely and store in the refrigerator.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

A Spooktacular Party

Last night was my friend JR's Halloween Party. I took great care in taking pictures of all the costumes for you to enjoy.

Hillary came over early to do my makeup. Didn't she do a great job?

JR - a creature from a video game. I'm not really sure of the name of the character, but isn't he creepy?

Loi and Christine - Shake and Fries

Paul and Hillary - A character from the Princess Bride and a New Kids on the Block Superfan.

Roiann - A beer wench. Very nice.

JR's wife, Jennifer - The creepy character from Saw. I don't like scary movies, so I am not familiar with this character, but everyone thought it was a very good costume.

Jason and Melinda- The Blues Brothers

Chris - The monk from Monty Python The Holy Grail

Ahmed - An "undecided voter". How very clever.

Gail and me - Witches, how fitting.

Chris - Uncle Sam, also a very fitting costume for the personality.

JR had a nice DJ booth setup and everyone took turns choosing the music. Hillary and I got our dance on. Isn't she crazy?

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Eerie Edibles

Halloween is on Friday, and I started to get in the spirit today by making these "brainy" sweets. I got this idea from You can get the recipe here:
The cake portion of the recipe was very easy, but I used the Wilton recipe for buttercream as I thought it would pipe easier.
I will bring them with me to work tomorrow to share. Enjoy the pictures.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

One Giant Light Fixture

When the painters were done today, I asked them if they would install a new entry way light fixture using their very tall ladder. I had picked a new one out at Lowes over the weekend. Isn't it great?

This is the view from the entry way floor.

View from the staircase.

This is the view from the upstairs.

Friday, October 3, 2008

Dog Sitting - Adventures with Sammi

This weekend, I am dog sitting my friend Jaime's dog, Sammi while Jaime and her husband are out of town. Tom and I were trying to figure out what kind of dog Sammi is. We think she is Lab, Pit Bull, and Dalmatian. She is a very sweet dog and Lola loves having her stay. I can't say the same thing about Dexter... he is a little timid around new dogs, but he is getting used to her. This afternoon I snapped some shots of our dogs in the backyard.

Has Anyone Ever Heard of a Purple Potato?

As I wrote in an earlier post, I recently visited my favorite grocery store, Central Market. This store is about 45 min from my house, so I do not visit as regularly as I'd like, but when I do visit, I make it a point to pick out some new ingredients. Central Market is a Mecca for aspiring cooks like myself. There are just endless selections of the freshest produce, fish, and meat sections. Central Market also carries lots of rare things like Purple Potatoes.
I purchased them for their strange looking exterior, which is a dark purplish black color. The potatoes have an elongated shape, that look like a stubby finger. When I sliced into them, behold they were purple inside! Below, I am posting some pictures of them along with the recipe I used to bake them.

Roasted Purple Potato Faux Fries
12 Small Purple Potatoes
Kosher Salt, Pepper
Olive Oil
Slice each potato vertically, making 2 oval shapes. Then slice vertically again, so there are 4 "fry shaped" pieces. Cut up all the potatoes and toss in the baking pan all together. Drizzle olive oil and coat each piece. Arrange so pieces are not overlapping or laying on top of one another. Sprinkle salt and pepper on the tops. Bake in oven at 425 for 40 min. Test doneness with a fork and bake longer if required.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Fall is here - Check out my pumpkins!

Today, I visited Central Market, where they had the neatest pumpkins. I always look forward to the holidays, and the first one is Halloween, which I start thinking about at the beginning of Fall. Here is one called Fairytale. It certainly looks like something from Cinderella. This Fall, it will sit on my front stoop.

Here are some spooky pumpkins I got for the mantel. I just love how the orangeish purpleish one is warty.