Theresa’s Bridal Shower

Last weekend I helped host a bridal shower for my dear friend Theresa, who is getting married this fall. And it turned out wonderfully–much to the credit of MOH, Kate and her mom, Linda!Desktop13
The day before the shower we all went to an adorable flower farm to cut our own flowers. With lots of help from the very friendly farm cats we filled a bucket full with pretty blooms for the shower. If you find yourself in rural eastern Iowa, you really must stop! In addition to the abundance of blooms, there’s a coop full of hens with a very cocky rooster and tiny little cottage filled with homemade jams and hand embroidered tea towels.

Desktop12It was a brunch shower–and I’ve decided all showers should be brunch showers, because it was delicious! Kate and her mom made mini quiches and Theresa’s family supplied homemade pastries. I was tasked with the mimosa bar (thank you Pinterest) and we stamped coffee sleeves with the bride and groom’s names (not sure how I missed getting pic of them).

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Chocolate Chip Cookies: A Work in Progress

Chocolate Chip CookiesSo, turns out I’m kind of a cookie snob. Cookies are my absolute favorite dessert–simple and sweet. But it has to be a good cookie. Dry and crumbly–ew. Crunchy, bland or too salty–not happening. And don’t even get me started on overdone cookies.

But when I get a perfectly soft, dense cookie with just the right amount of rich sweetness I feel like I could conquer the world. (Insert slow-mo fist pump here.) I’ve made a few pretty boss batches of cookies in the past several months–but I’ve also scraped my share of flat, burnt or otherwise sub-bar messes into my trash can. I have not exactly reached (can we talk about making raught a word–like teach ,taught, but reach, raught. Do you feel me here? Did I miss a critical part of basic grammar?) a state of consistency when it comes to the chocolate chip cookie. But hey I’m only 23–I’ve still got a few years to figure it out.

Now let’s go back to those perfect cookies. I whipped up a damn good batch last week, so I thought I’d document the greatness to see if could be recreated.

I started with the basic Nestle recipe and made the following adjustments:

  • Butter (not margarine!) softened on the counter for two hours and beat in the mixer before adding the sugar
  • 1 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup white sugar (instead of 3/4 cup each)
  • 2 egg yolks and 1 egg (instead of 2 eggs)
  • Homemade vanilla extract (great Christmas gift from my SIL)
  • 3 cups of flour–added one cup at a time (add the salt and baking soda with the first cup)
  • Added a splash of skim milk with the last addition of flour
  • Half semi-sweet chocolate  chips and half milk chocolate chips
  • Baked on parchment paper for 9 minutes and moved immediately to cooling racks

Do you have any magical cookies secrets? Tell me! Tell me Please!

Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs

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Pasta is the best right? If I could live solely on pasta I probably would. Well, technically I could live solely on pasta–but I do care about my general health and well-being a little bit, so I try to moderate my pasta in take. (TRY is the key word there.) And this dish is one of those that helps with the whole pasta moderation thing. Spaghetti squash does not taste like pasta. Don’t let anybody fool you  in to that bologna. BUT it does pair fantastically with pasta-perfect flavors like marinara sauce and meatballs. So you get the “pasta experience” when really you’re just shoving your face with squash (which is good for you right?) so really, it’s a win-win.

2014-09-031Get yourself a spaghetti squash and big-ole sharp knife. OR if you don’t have a big-ole sharp knife, get your weenie little dull-chopping knife and pray that you don’t hack off a finger in the process of getting this thing sliced. (And try to decide if you could walk yourself to the hospital across the street if you happened to hack said finger off–no? just me?)

Okay, now that we’ve got that thing in two and all of our fingers are still attached, throw some olive oil on there, sprinkle on some salt, pepper and garlic and roast ’em up for about 20 minutes in a 400 degree oven. Once it’s roasted, use a fork to shred it into pasta like strings.

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Top with marinara sauce and a few frozen meat balls. Dump some more sauce on there and top with lots of mozzarella cheese. Top with  a bit of Italian seasoning and bake for 20 more minutes.

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Fall Brews

DSCN9172Guys I’m really excited. I’ve found another thing to love about fall! Fall. Brews. I always thought that seasonal beers boasting harvest, and pumpkin on their labels would be too dark or too strong for my tastes. Boy, was I wrong. They are so delish! I think I even like them better than summer brews. I haven’t tried Trader Joe’s Oktoberfest yet, but here’s my take on the other four.

DSCN9167Blue Moon Harvest Pumpkin is my favorite by far. Blue Moon is my go-to already, so I might be biased, but I loved the subtle undertones of pumpkin spice along with the always dependable Blue Moon flavor. Shock Top Pumpkin Wheat was delish, but it tasted like pretty much every other variation of Shock Top wheat (aside from their fruity flavors).

New Belgium Tour de Fall was nice. I love the label–they always have the best labels. The flavor was aaaalmsot too strong for me, but I like to think it’s broadening my palate.  KBC Pumpkin Ale is a close second to the Blue Moon. The cinnamon notes were just right–not too Big Red-ish. It was like brisk fall afternoon inside my frosty mug (who am I kidding I drank it straight out of the bottle).

What are your favorite fall brews?

Mini Pumpkin Scones

DSCN8886Starbucks doesn’t have pumpkin scones this season. Or at least not at the times and locations that I frequent. And I would be really upset IF I hadn’t found this recipe! (I know, another found recipe, #thethingsIdofor Fall Frezy Week). I’ve made more batches of these scones than I care to admit. First I made them full sized, just like the original recipe. And then I made a half batch–I had a hankering for something sweet and pumpkin flavored on a Tuesday. And then I made them mini!  

DSCN8878Mini things are pretty much always more fun. And they’re a nice size for brunching when paired with a  breakfast casserole. Which is just what I made them for a few weekends ago. DSCN8866Follow the recipe as you will, but when it comes times to roll them out split the dough in half to make two circles. DSCN8867Then slice each in six wedges. DSCN8868And bake for 9-10 minutes. DSCN8881Get yourself some coffee and enjoy!

Pumpkin Cookies with Cream Cheese Frosting

DSCN8895I’ve been trying to stay away from posting found recipes lately, since I’m not sure how much they really add to the blogosphere. And have you ever been really excited to find a new recipe on Pinterest, just to find out that it only links to a recipe you’ve already tried (and aren’t crazy about). No? Just me? Probably, I do spend an insane amount of time on Pinterest. Anyhow, I digress. What I’m trying to get at, is that I’ve made an exception and I’m posting a found recipe for these incredible cookies!
DSCN8898I made these last fall and took them to work to share and they got rave reviews. Like raving rave reviews. And they deserve them. They are soft, moist and perfectly spiced for a delightful pumpkin bite. And the just-sweet-enough cream cheese frosting puts them over the edge. I can’t keep them in apartment, literally. I either send them away with friends or eat them all in one sitting and have to wear sweatpants for a week. DSCN8899I whipped up this batch last week to finish off a dinner of hearty chili, beer bread and seasonal brews I made for Dana and Theresa while they were in town. I don’t think anyone went away hungry. DSCN8890So here’s the deal, you need to make these cookies. You won’t regret it. If you live within the greater Des Moines metro you could probably convince me to make another batch for you too. The recipe comes from My Baking Addiction. I followed it pretty much to the T. I only made half a batch of the frosting (powdered sugar shortage) and it was almost enough, I was left with about half dozen unfrosted cookies. In the original recipe she makes really large cookies to yield two dozen. I made standard size cookies (with a scoop) and it made a generous four dozen.