January 30, 2015

Valentine's Day Gift Guide


With Valentine's Day just a few short weeks away, I compiled a list of my favorite items for a festive and memorable one. Ranging from classic to chic, these items are sure to make your sweetie swoon. How are you spending Valentine's Day?
  1. Fiesta Medium Heart Bowl in Turquoise // Mike's parent gave me this bowl for Christmas, which matches my existing Fiestaware colors, and I absolutely love it!
  2. Verve Champagne Glass // I have been eyeballing these Champagne glasses for a good while now. (Hint hint Mike.) They're fun and flirty, yet sturdy and sophisticated.
  3. Set of 2 Heart Dish Towels // It is absolutely necessary to have a set of dish towels coordinated for each holiday!
  4. Cast Iron Fondue Set // Fondue is a traditional Valentine's meals and this red enamel is the perfect touch for a romantic Valentine's Day dinner in.
  5. Happy Valentine's Day Pennant Banner // How cute would this look draped in front of a mirror in the dining room?!
  6. Valentine Stamp Cookie Cutter Set // A homemade sugar cookie version of conversation hearts. Yum!
  7. 2011 Louis M. Martini Cabernet Sauvignon // I tried this wine at my company Christmas party-- it was love at first sip. A bold, well balanced yet soft Cabernet, dark fruit forward, with a rounded oak finish. I may or may not have worked at a winery after college ;)
  8. Heart Measuring Spoon Set // Holiday baking is that much more enjoyable with cute heart-shaped measurements.
  9. KitchenAid Artisan Stand Mixer // After borrowing my mom's KitchenAid Mixer for a few years, I am FINALLY the proud owner of my very own KitchenAid Mixer! Definitely a must have in your kitchen!
Happy Valentine's Day, friends!


January 27, 2015

Pepperoni Pizza


It has been awhile since we have made pizza. After debating which toppings we wanted, we ended up deciding on a classic pepperoni pizza… and it was delicious! My rule of thumb is fresh really is best- from the dough to the meats, cheeses and toppings. You'll never go back to packaged products!

INGREDIENTS

  • Fresh dough - I get mine from a local pizzeria
  • Pizza sauce
  • Freshly sliced pepperoni
  • Fresh mozzarella

DIRECTIONS

  1. Preheat oven to 475°F. Roll out your dough and set on a pizza stone. Place in the oven for three to four minutes. Remove from oven, leaving oven on. 
  2. Carefully place sauce on pizza- it will be hot! Add sauce, pepperonis and mozzarella. Place back in the oven for another 10-12 minutes, or until dough is golden and cheese is melted. 
  3. Remove from oven and let sit for about five minutes before slicing. Enjoy!! 


January 16, 2015

Buffalo Chicken Stromboli


Friday nights use to be our homemade pizza nights. (Click "Pizza" under my labels to see them.) However, they are slowly evolving into a broader label- Italian nights. Mike has been asking me to make a Stromboli, and recently, Buffalo Chicken Pizza. We ended up blending the two requests and making a Buffalo Chicken Stromboli. It was so delicious- even for someone like me where Buffalo Chicken is not my first pick!

I combined and adapted Baked by Rachel's Buffalo Chicken Pizza ingredients with Lauren's Latest Stromboli directions to create the perfect Buffalo Chicken Stromboli.

INGREDIENTS
  • Dough (we get ours from a local pizzeria)
  • ¼ c. chunky blue cheese dressing (we like Ken's)
  • ¼ c. blue cheese crumbles
  • ¼ - ½ c. Frank's Red Hot
  • 6 oz. Mozzarella, freshly grated
  • 2 c. chicken, cooked and shredded
  • ¼ c. red onion, thinly sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 egg white
  • Garlic salt
DIRECTIONS
  1. Preheat oven to 450°F. Lightly spray a large cookie sheet with non-stick cooking spray.
  2. Spread the dough out on baking sheet to be approximately 10x16".
  3. In a bowl, mix the shredded chicken, salt and pepper, hot sauce, blue cheese dressing and blue cheese crumbles. Spread the chicken mixture onto the dough, leaving a 3x16 rectangle of plain dough along one of the edges. Top with mozzarella.
  4. Brush the plain strip of dough with the egg. Fold in the sides about an inch and brush them with egg. Roll up like a jelly roll lengthwise starting along the long edge of dough topped with all the fillings and ending with the plain strip of dough on the bottom of the roll. Brush the entire Stromboli with egg and gently cut slats in the top of the dough every 1-2 inches.
  5. Sprinkle garlic salt over top and bake 15 minutes or until bubbly and golden. Remove from oven,  let stand for about 5 minutes and slice into pieces. Enjoy!


January 14, 2015

RVA Wednesday: The Continental Westhampton



Mike kept telling me how good The Continental Westhampton was and how we needed to go there. We agreed on brunch and I'm already anticipating my next visit! It's located on Grove right near Libbie, in the heart of the quaint intersection boasting charming shops, mouthwatering restaurants and of course, Starbucks.

Described as American fare re-imagined, the brunch menu boasted a fun twist on traditional plates. From varieties of eggs Benedict to breakfast nachos, you're sure to find something that will make your tastebuds happy!


I ordered Eggs Benedict (pictured left above) over fried green tomatoes instead of an English muffin and Mike ordered the Grove Chicken Grinder (pictured right above) loaded with grilled chicken, house made poblano barbeque, pepperjack cheese, bacon, and apple jicama slaw. The food presentations were very appealing and our selections were delectable. Our server was friendly and attentive and the decor inside was eclectic and fun.

Whether you are an RVA local or just visiting, make sure to make it a point to dine at The Continental Westhampton-- you won't be disappointed!




January 13, 2015

Peppermint Cheesecake


This holiday season, I baked more than I had any other Christmas. Before I had started tackling the baking list, the thought of it was overwhelming. However, I found breaking the baking up over a few days was the key to not stressing out. Don't let the daunting thought of making a cheesecake deter you. It is actually very easy and can be made a little at a time.
     Phase 1- Mix the filling while baking the crust. (My KitchenAid did all of the hard work.)
     Phase 2- Bake the filling for an hour; let cheesecake sit an additional hour. (Relax! The time consuming part is over.)
     Phase 3- Refrigerate overnight. (The easiest phase!)
     Phase 4- The next day, finish with the topping.

See, I told you it wasn't too bad. Personally, I don't think there could be a more festive dessert for Christmas!
Recipe adapted from Baked by Rachel.

INGREDIENTS:
Crust Ingredients:
  • 22 regular Oreos - not double stuf (yes, one "f"!)
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted
Filling Ingredients:
  • 3 (8 oz.) blocks of cream cheese, softened
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 4 oz. white chocolate, melted
  • 1½ tbsp flour
  • 1½ tbsp heavy cream
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • 2 tsp peppermint extract
  • 3 eggs
  • Candy canes, crushed
Mousse Ingredients:
  • ½ c. cool whip, softened
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 2 oz. white chocolate, melted
  • 1½ tbsp sugar
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • Crushed candy cane pieces and whipped cream for topping
DIRECTIONS:
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Prepare a 9" spring-form pan with two sheets of tin foil. In a food processor, blend cookies until only fine crumbs remain. Add melted butter. Give a quick blend. Transfer crumb mixture to spring-form pan. Shake to disperse crumbs. Using a flat bottom cup, press down to create an even crust. Bake crust for 10 minutes; set aside.
  2. Reduce temperature to 325°F.
  3. Crush some candy canes; set aside.
  4. Begin melting 4 oz. white chocolate. Using a double boiler, melt over simmering water. Stir until fully melted.
  5. In a large bowl or stand mixer, beat cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar; mix well. Scrape bowl well prior to each new addition and as needed. Add melted chocolate, flour, whipping cream, salt and peppermint extract; mix well. On medium/low speed, add one egg at a time. Mix until smooth and blended well.
  6. Add crushed candy cane pieces, stir by hand.
  7. Transfer spring-form pan and cooked crust to a larger pan, such as a large roasting pan. Pour filling into crust. Add enough hot water to reach half way up the sides of your spring-form pan. Carefully place in center of oven. Bake at 325°F for 1 hour. Turn off the oven. Keeping the door shut, leave the cheesecake in the oven for an additional 45 minutes. Remove and allow to sit for at least 1 hour before chilling.
  8. Chill 4 hours or overnight before adding the mousse.
  9. In a medium bowl, beat softened cream cheese, melted white chocolate, cool whip, sugar and vanilla until smooth and slightly thickened.
  10. Carefully remove side of spring-form pan. Spread mousse mixture evenly over cheesecake. Chill for 4 hours or overnight before serving. 
  11. Serve slices with crushed candy canes and whipped cream. Enjoy! :)
Note: I used Ghirardelli white chocolate and Ghirardelli 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate.



Red and White Striped Dishtowel - Crate and Barrel
Silver Beaded Cake Stand - Threshold at Target


January 7, 2015

RVA Wednesday: Lulu's Restaurant


During one of Mike's weekends in Richmond, we ventured to Lulu's for brunch. I had never been before but had heard positive recommendations. Lulu's is open for brunch and dinner and is located in historic Shockoe Bottom across from the 17th Street Farmers Market.

We arrived a little after 10:00 AM and had our choice of seating. The interior was open and bright, with industrial features that Shockoe Bottom is known for.


After looking over the menu, (and may I add that everything sounded wonderful) I decided to venture away from my usual brunch selection-- an omelette-- and try the French Toast, topped with strawberries and cinnamon crème fraîche, and a glass of orange juice. Mike ordered the Crab Omelette with asparagus, goat cheese, and house potatoes. Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to snap a picture!

We both thoroughly enjoyed our selections and bites from each other's plates. If you have the chance, head over to Lulu's for brunch-- you won't be disappointed!




January 1, 2015

Cinnamon Rolls


It is no secret that I have a sweet tooth. I have seen dozens of cinnamon roll recipes out there but never convinced myself that I had a good reason to make a batch until this holiday season. Warm, gooey, and decadent, with the wonderful fragrance of cinnamon and sugar filling your home, why wouldn't you want to make a pan?!

I prepared these beauties the night before, so all I had to do in the morning was bring them to room temperature, bake, frost and consume! Recipe makes 16 rolls and is slightly adapted from Williams-Sonoma Taste.



INGREDIENTS
For the dough:
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • ¾ cup milk, warmed (110°F)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 4½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1½ tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 Tbs. (¾ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks
For the filling:
  • 4 Tbs. (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, cut into chunks
  • 2/3 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten with 1 tsp. water
For the cream cheese frosting:
  • ½ lb. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 4 Tbs. (½ stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted

DIRECTIONS
  1. To make the dough, in the bowl of an electric stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm milk and let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes. Add the granulated sugar, eggs, the 4½ cups flour and the salt. Attach the dough hook and knead on low speed, until the ingredients come together. Toss in the butter and continue to knead until the dough is smooth and springy, about 7 minutes.
  2. Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a ball, put it in the oiled bowl and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled in volume, 1½ to 2 hours.
  3. Butter a 9x13" baking dish. Punch down the dough and turn it out onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough in half. Roll out 1 dough half into a rectangle about 9x14". Spread with half of the butter, then sprinkle evenly with half of the brown sugar and half of the cinnamon.
  4. Starting at the long side closest to you, roll the rectangle away from you, forming a log. Cut the log crosswise into 8 equal slices. Arrange the slices, cut side down, in half of the prepared pan. Repeat with the remaining dough and filling ingredients, and arrange the slices in the other half of the pan.
  5. Cover the pan loosely with plastic wrap and let stand in a warm, draft-free spot until puffy, about 1 hour, or refrigerate overnight, then let stand at room temperature for 30 to 60 minutes before baking. 



  6. Preheat an oven to 400°F. Brush the rolls lightly with the beaten egg mixture. Bake until the rolls are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of a roll comes out clean, 20 to 25 minutes.
  7. Meanwhile, make the cream cheese frosting: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the flat beater, combine the cream cheese, butter and vanilla and beat on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Gradually beat in the confectioners’ sugar and continue to beat until thoroughly combined, stopping the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. If the consistency is too soft, refrigerate the frosting until it is spreadable, about 15 minutes.
Transfer the pan with the rolls to a wire rack and let cool slightly, then spread the rolls with the frosting while they are still warm. Pull the rolls apart and serve warm. Enjoy!



Featured Products