Thursday, April 18, 2013

Birthday Affair Part 2: A Trip to Victoria, British Columbia

A non-food related topic for today: for Alex's 23rd birthday we decided to fly the coop and take a trip to Victoria, British Columbia! It was only about a 4 to 5 hour drive to get to the ferry, and about another 45 minutes on the ferry. We left out car in the states, and found that getting around by transit in Victoria was very easy and actually really enjoyable, since we never had to find parking or navigate unknown streets. Oddly enough too, we had AMAZING sunny weather the entire time.

The place we stayed at was called The English Inn, which we discovered by purchasing their Groupon for a two night stay.  It was just about the cutest and nicest place I've ever seen; it is a Tudor style manor house that sits on 4.5 acres of beautiful gardens, and each room has it's own name and theme. I would highly recommend this place and if, or should I say, when I go back I'll definitely be staying there!

    View from our Balcony 

Exploring the grounds
      Beautiful outside gazebo

We explored lots of different places, including:

  • The Royal BC Museum: This place was amazing! The level of detail the museum puts into their exhibits was unparalleled from any other museum I've ever been too. If you go, I highly recommend a guided tour. Our tour guide was highly informative and witty, which made for a especially wonderful experience. 
Embarrassing my lovely boyfraaan, by making him take this silly picture
  • The BC Parliament Building: You can't find buildings like that in Portland! We didn't actually go inside, but exploring the outside was mesmerizing enough!
BC Parliament Building

They have emblems on their trash cans!

Queen Victoria 
  • The Empress Hotel: Again, we didn't go inside or stay there (waaay to expensive), but just exploring the outside and learning about the hotel's history at the museum was really great. 
 Photo shoot outside the Empress Hotel
  • Beacon Hill Park: When we visited this gigantic park it was just starting to have it's spring flowers bloom, which was particularly lovely to see. 
A Pond at Beacon Hill Park

Spring Flowers in the Park
  • Macaulay Point Park: This was literally three blocks from where we were staying, and it was breath taking! We visited on our last day, and by that time it was cloudy and a bit rainy, but I bet if we had gone on the sunny day before, we would have been able to see all the way across to the Olympic Mountains behind Port Angeles. I highly recommend visiting this park!
View from Macaulay Point Park
It truly was an amazing trip and I cannot wait to go back!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Birthday Affair Part 1: Vanilla Bean Cake with Vanilla Bean Espresso Buttercream

A few weeks ago my wonderful boyfriend, Alex, turned 23! My goodness... where has the time gone?! It seems like just yesterday we were sitting in the grass on a sunny day daydreaming about what it'd be like to be 18.

A special occasion like turning 23, is an occasion only fit for the most marvelous layered cake! Alex is actually one of those people that don't really care for sweets all that much (weird, I know, but they do exist), so picking the right recipe was a challenge. I ultimately decided that vanilla would probably suite his palate, and remembered that I had a recipe pinned for a vanilla bean latte cake.

Vanilla Bean Cake with Vanilla Bean Espresso Buttercream

Recipe adapted from: Sweetapolita and Martha Stewart

The cake recipe is from Sweetapolita (a cake goddess, if you ask me!), but the frosting I adapted a bit. Sweetapolita's buttercream called for using egg whites, and at the time I was already feeling quite ambitious by making my first layered cake. I decided to go with something a little more basic, so I chose a recipe from Martha Stewart. This recipe called for a half a cup of milk, so to add espresso to the frosting I mixed 1 to 2 tablespoons of instant espresso into the milk and then mixed it in to my buttercream base.

The biggest challenge for this one was just being patient. Not something I'm all that good at. You have to let the cake cool completely before you stack them and frost them. Buuut... I was just so excited to start decorating that I thought "Oh, if I take them out of the pan... they'll cool quicker!" Which is true, but it also meant that a bit of the side of the cake came a part and I had to get creative by sculpting it back together. It turned out good in the end, but still... I've got to remember to be more patient.


Crafty Lady: Anthropologie Inspired Trinket Dish

On another non-food related topic, because cooking isn't my only endeavor, I recently decided to get all crafty and make a trinket dish. I've actually been crafting a lot lately! This is mainly because I have an amazingly creative and crafty best friend, by the name of Katee (follow her on Pinterest here), and she is always inspiring me to try my hand at various crafts. It's a lot of fun and super rewarding!

If you're a Pinterest addict, like myself, then I'm sure you've seen the endless pins of "Anthropologie Inspired Ring Plates," but it's a super easy and inexpensive craft to make, so I decided to make a couple for myself and a few friends.

The supplies you'll need are:

  • Small paint brush
    • You'll want a small one for any of the little details on your animal or figurine (i.e. eyes, feet, etc).
  • Small Plastic Animal or Figurine
    • I bought mine at the craft store, and it helps to choose ones that have a level base or feet that lay flat.
  • Small plate
    • I found mine at Goodwill for like 99 cents each. They're the perfect color and I was super lucky to find them. You want to make sure the plate has a flat center and is about the size of an appetizer plate or tea cup plate. 
  • Craft Paint
  • Adhesive
    • I used E6000 Industrial Strength Adhesive. You can use hot glue, but I find that hot glue doesn't have enough of a rubbery, stretchy texture and often breaks, so I would advise it. 

And the steps to make them are:
  • Paint your figures in the color you've chosen. Mine needed about 2 to 3 coats of paint, so this process took me about an hour or less. I painted each coat after about 15 minutes of drying. After you've done your last coat you want to make sure to let it dry completely for a few hours. 
  • Thoroughly clean and dry your plates. 
  • Take your dry, painted animal or figurine and determine where you want it to stand on your plate. 
  • Use a small amount of your adhesive and apply to the base of your animals or figurine (in my case their little feet) and then place on your plate.
  • Let dry over night anVoilà!

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Roasted Pear Scones with Chocolate Chips

So, it may seem like I'm not the most devoted blogger. As mentioned before, I'm not really getting off to the best start, considering that I started the blog about 6 months ago and have only posted... four times? Yikes! However, it is true that I may not be the best blog poster, but I'm still very excited about this blog and am constantly thinking of new ideas for it. It is truly a wonderful, creative outlet and a way for me to challenge myself not only in the kitchen, but also with writing and photography. But being the perfectionist and optimist that I am, it has been a challenge for me to realize that it's not going to start off looking like Smitten Kitchen (someday!), and that I need to allow myself the time to learn about blogging and let my blog evolve.

Over winter break, I sat down with my dad and we figured out a way to tackle my lighting situation, or lack there of. I live in a great little house with my roommates, and our kitchen has lots of space, but the lighting is atrocious for taking decent photographs. After a quick trip to Ikea and the craft store (let's face it, there is no such thing as a quick trip to Ikea or the craft store) I can finally say that the lighting situation is ten times better and now I feel a lot more confident about the resulting pictures. So without further ado... 

Roasted Pear Scones w/ Chocolate Chips

Recipe adapted from: Smitten Kitchen

So if I had been posting regularly, like a good little blogger should, then you'd know that I really love cooking with fruit, and especially pears. I love pairing the sweet, crispy pears (no pun intended) with savory foods, like a rich gruyère cheese. This recipe isn't necessarily an example of that, but it's delicious nonetheless!

This recipe was pretty straight forward, the only thing that I might stress is making sure to get really firm pears, because if the pears are too juicy it can effect the dough. I also had some chocolate chips at home, so I used that instead of chocolate chunks. 

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Butterbeer Cupcakes

Pretty sure the only thing I love more than cupcakes is Harry Potter, so why not combine the two! Alas, I present to you... Butterbeer Cupcakes! The recipe for these cupcakes is superb and creates a perfectly sweet and delicious batch of cupcakes.

Butterbeer Cupcakes

Recipe adapted from: Sweet Tooth

The only thing that I found difficult for this recipe was that I made them when it was a 100 degree day--- which meant it was 90 degrees in my non air-conditioned home. Yikes! I had a hard time keeping the frosting cool long enough to decorate the cupcakes, but after much difficulty, I was able to decorate a few long enough for pictures and devouring... yum, yum, yum!

Other than that, I  only advise that you not skip out on any ingredients. The butter flavoring, vanilla, and cream soda (as well as the rest of the ingredients) are all important in achieving that wonderful Butterbeer flavor. After taking a bite you'll be saying... "Good to be back at the Three Broomsticks!"


Recipe for the day is... Mofongo! Mofongo is a dish that is thought to have originated from Puerto Rico, and can often be found there. The main ingredient is fried green plantains. Yummy!

I decided to make this dish for my roommate Darrell's 24th birthday. Mofongo has been his favorite meal since having it while vacationing in Puerto Rico--- lucky him! It was definitely fun to make, however since I've  never had Mofongo, it was pretty hard to tell whether I had made it correctly or not. He seemed to like it, so it couldn't have turned out too bad, right??


Recipe adapted from: The Cooking Channel

The recipe is pretty simple, the only thing that I found challenging was frying the plantains properly. I have yet to purchase a deep fryer, so I just had to use a deep frying pan. You want to make sure they're starting to brown, but not too brown, otherwise they'll be too dry. Think of them as the consistency of pretty much a potato. If you were to deep fry a potato too long, at some point it becomes too dry and hard to mash--- which is what you do to the plantains after you've fried them.

Also this recipe says to use bacon (which is great, because what meat-eater doesn't like bacon?!), but I think this recipe might have been a little too simple. The bacon was pretty much the only stand out flavor. For next time I think I'll go with a a recipe that calls for a few more flavorful ingredients--- maybe this one: Mofongo Relleno de Pollo Guisado?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Steak Tacos with Chipotle Cherry Salsa and Caramelized Onions

So... obviously I haven't started off as the best blogger. I've only posted one blog in the few months since I started the blog. You know, life gets busy! And it gets even busier in the summer. There are place to go, things to do, and countless episodes of Grey's Anatomy to be watched. But, I have been cooking... a lot! And I'm really, really enjoying it. Cooking new recipes is always fun, yet the ones I've chosen so far are also very challenging and I'm learning so much! It's also been specifically great to cook for my roomies---three males that are always eager for a meal! 

I've decided that since I'm not coming up with any recipes on my own (not yet, that is), I won't give full instructions on how to cook the recipe. Instead, I'll have the link of where I found the recipe attached to the post and I'll include a few thoughts on how I personally made the meal---my challenges, things I did differently, etc. 

Steak Tacos with Chipotle Cherry Salsa and Caramelized Onions

Recipe adapted from: The Partial Ingredient

For this recipe, I made steak tacos with a chipotle cherry salsa. It's probably best to make this when cherries are in season, otherwise you'll have to dish out quite the pretty penny to pay for all the cherries you'll need. This recipe also asked that you use a food processor to blend the cherries completely. That's great and all, but I like my salsa a little chunky, so I didn't blend it as much as they asked. 

This was actually a fairly easy recipe, however my biggest challenge was the steak. I opted for a less expensive steak that was about 1/2 an inch think... not something I should have done. The steak ended up cooking a little too quickly---I also learned that my new stove cooks a little hotter than I'm used to---and the meat ended up being a little over cooked. But alas, I am determined to cook steaks well! My grandma makes the best steaks EVER, so I've been picking her brain for all the details. I'm planning on making steaks later this week, so fingers crossed that they turn out better!