Friday, October 31, 2008

Autumn Baking

In the spirit of the season and since I wanted something fun to do tonight while handing out candy to trick or treaters, I decided to try a couple of dessert recipes that I had bookmarked. Both contain one of my favorite fall ingredients, pumpkin.

While Nate's the cook between the two of us, I love to bake, and frankly, I don't do enough of it. Like paper crafting, it is a hobby I truly enjoy. And I read several food and baking blogs that always have me itching to try new recipes. So I've decided that I'm going to attempt to do a lot more baking...for the fun of trying new things. Now, of course, this could be detrimental to our waistlines, so I've developed the perfect solution. Bring my baking projects into work and share them with my teammates! smile

So back to the pumpkin...

I recently ran across a recipe for Pumpkin Swirl Brownies on the Smitten Kitchen blog. Hmm, I like pumpkin and I like chocolate, so who could go wrong with both mixed together? An interesting combination I just had to try!

I quickly mixed up the two batters--chocolate and pumpkin--with no issues, except that I forgot that Nate had used all my baking powder, and yes, for a reason other than baking. So he kindly...after a little prodding...went to the grocery store for me to buy some more. Once I had that, the batters were easy to complete.

One warning though, this probably isn't the best recipe to whip up when you know you'll be constantly interrupted by the ringing doorbell. It specifically says that when laying the batters to prepare for swirling them "Work quickly so batters don’t set." Uh, yeah. My chocolate batter was so think by the time I went to spread and swirl it that I didn't get the best swirl.

Oh well. Live and learn. They don't look bad, they're just not as swirly as they could be. The final product...

One other thing to note... I hate our gas oven. It's just doesn't heat items as evenly as a conventional oven would. I cooked these much longer than suggested and I'm still not sure the middle ones were quite done. I think I'm going to try and add 25 degrees to the recommended oven temperature on all recipes from now on.

Pumpkin-Swirl Brownies
Taken from Smitten Kitchen

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, plus more for pan
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 to 3/4 cups sugar (the original recipe calls for the larger amount; I think it could be dialed down a bit)
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups solid-pack pumpkin
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts or other nuts (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking pan or dish. Cut a length of parchment that will cover the bottom and two sides (makes it much easier to remove), and line the pan with it. Butter the lining as well.

2. Melt chocolate and butter in a heatproof bowl set over a pan of simmering water, stirring occasionally until smooth.

3. Whisk together flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a large bowl; set aside. Put sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; beat until fluffy and well combined, 3 to 5 minutes. Beat in flour mixture.

4. Pour half of batter (about two cups) into a separate bowl and stir chocolate mixture into it. If you find that it is a little thick (as mine was) add a little more batter (a few tablespoons or so) until it is more pourable. This is important because mine was quite thick, and the pumpkin half was quite thin, so I had trouble swirling the two together.

5. In other bowl, stir in the pumpkin, oil, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Transfer half of chocolate batter to prepared pan smoothing top with a rubber spatula. Top with half of pumpkin batter. Repeat to make one more chocolate layer and one more pumpkin layer. Work quickly so batters don’t set.

6. With a small spatula or a table knife, gently swirl the two batters to create a marbled effect. Be sure to get your knife all the way to the bottom of the pan–I didn’t, and ended up with a chocolate base, not that it is such a bad thing. Sprinkle with nuts, if using.

7. Bake until set, 40 to 45 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Cut into 16 squares.

Once I put the brownies in the oven, I got to work on these Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Maple Butter Frosting I found on the Bakerella blog. The maple brought back memories of the Maple Cookies we made for wedding favors that everyone liked so much, so I my interest was immediately piqued.

These were super easy to mix up.

The batter was very light and fluffy and tasted yummy! Once I got out the brownies to cool, I put the first batch of cookies in.

After they'd been in there twice as long as the recipe stated and they still looked runny, I realized Nate had turned off my oven instead of turning off the beeping kitchen timer (he was cooking at the same time). razz So once the oven pre-heated again, these baked much better! They also ended up taking more time than stated with the gas oven.

While they were baking and cooling, I whipped up the maple icing. It was very tasty.

The cookies are good without the icing, but adding the maple flavor just gives them a little extra sweetness and umph...

The cookies are very soft and chewy, I'm assuming from the addition of the pumpkin. Everyone at work is going to love me!

Pumpkin Pecan Chocolate Chunk Cookies

Taken from Bakerella

2 1/4 cup self-rising flour
3 tsp pumpkin pie spice
3/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs
1 cup canned pumpkin
1 cup chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chunks

  • Whisk together flour and pumpkin pie spice. Set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, cream butter.
  • Add both sugars and beat until light and fluffy.
  • Add vanilla.
  • Add eggs one at a time and beat until combined.
  • Add flour/spice mixture to sugar mixture in three additions. Alternate with pumpkin in two additions, ending with flour mixture.
  • Stir in chopped pecans and chocolate chunks.
  • Drop on cookie tray lined with parchment paper.
  • Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes about four dozen cookies.
  • Let cool.

Maple Brown Butter Frosting

3 cups sifted confectioners sugar
1/2 cup butter
1/4 cup milk
2 tsp maple flavoring

  • Sift sugar and set aside.
  • Melt butter over medium heat until golden brown. Watch closely so it does not burn.
  • Add butter to sugar, scraping all the butter into the bowl.
  • Add milk and maple flavoring. Stir until smooth.
  • Spread on top of cookies with an knife or offset spatula.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Things are a changin'

As you've probably noticed, I took a little creative liberty with my blog. Now that we're officially married, I felt like I needed to change things up around here! I've changed the blog title to a more fitting "Mr. & Mrs.", which accurately reflects our current situation, although those titles are taking some getting used to! wink I included a nice sunset photo from Tahiti as the background to the new blog title.

I've also added and removed some other pictures on the right hand side of the page, and I've updated my favorite links. Looks like I'll have to get some more now that the wedding is over!

In other news, I uploaded some of our Moorea pictures to Flickr last night, so I'm getting there. Check them out here:

I've also gotten questions on if pictures can be downloaded from our Flickr account. In fact, they can! You have to sign up for a Flickr account and add kelleyandnathan as a contact. Then, if you click on an individual picture and click on "All Sizes", it will give you a link to download the picture. Walaa!


Monday, October 27, 2008


Long time, no see! We are home safely...tanned and relaxed from the honeymoon. In fact, we've been back for the last week. Jumping back into the real world was rough, but I think we're into the swing of things again now that we've gotten some rest.

I still haven't posted all of the honeymoon pictures on Flickr yet. I'm only on the first couple of days worth. There's been a lot to do since we've gotten back. And yes, besides sleeping! wink Besides restocking our grocery supply, getting things winterized outside, and taking our rings in for appraisals and mine for saudering together, this weekend we went out shopping with some of the gift cards from the wedding to purchase some of our remaining registry items. And then yesterday, we started unpacking our wedding gifts. Long story short, the house is a disaster right now. We have some major reorganization to do, as we have a lot more "stuff" now then we did before and we have a lot of old "stuff" we are boxing up. Case in point....

You know all that paper Crate & Barrel wraps glasses in? Well, I was working on our own Eiffel Tower. smile

While wading through all the boxes, paper, and gifts yesterday (and yes, the house still looks like this today), Nate tried his hand at a Short Rib Stew recipe from the latest issue of Food & Wine magazine. This turned out to be the perfect recipe for a chilly fall day. We both were impressed with the way it turned out...the red wine and beef flavors meld very well and the parsnips and mushrooms (no, Nate didn't eat any) add a slightly different twist. Nate ended up cooking the beef short ribs for about 4 hours, much longer than the recipe states, which had the beef falling apart. Yum! Here's a look at our leftovers:

I wanted to pass along this recipe, as it comes highly recommended from us! Either click the link above or here's the recipe:

Short Rib Stew


  1. 3 1/2 pounds boneless beef short ribs, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
  2. 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  3. 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  4. 2 cups dry red wine
  5. 3 cups veal or chicken stock
  6. 6 carrots, cut into 1/2-inch dice
  7. 1 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  8. 3 medium parsnips, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
  9. 1 large onion, cut into 1-inch dice
  10. 1/2 pound cremini mushrooms, quartered
  11. 1 tablespoon thyme leaves, chopped
  12. 8 sage leaves, coarsely chopped
  13. Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


  1. In a large bowl, toss the short ribs with the flour. In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the oil. Working in batches, cook the short ribs over moderately high heat until browned all over, about 6 minutes per batch. Discard the oil.
  2. Return the meat and any juices to the casserole. Add the wine and boil until reduced by half, 8 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook over low heat until the meat is tender, 2 hours.
  3. Skim any fat from the stew. Stir in the carrots, potatoes, parsnips, onion, mushrooms, thyme and sage. Cover and simmer over low heat until the vegetables are tender, about 35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
[Recipe by Ethan Stowell,]



Monday, October 6, 2008

Bridesmaid Gifts

I had to save this one up until after the wedding, as I didn't want to give away the lovely gifts I was giving my girls! I wanted to get them each several fun--hopefully useful--things, as well as get each of them the same things, but with a different twist.

I was looking for some sort of reusable bag for them to stash all their goodies. Months and months ago, my mom and I were out shopping for other things when she happened upon some bright colored faux leather bags at Express.

Uh, can we say super cute?! Totally stylish, big and purse-like, these can be used again and again. Oh, and did I mention I got myself the orange one? Love it! wink

Each girl got a different color and I made cute tags that called out whose was whose.

Now for the contents! I wanted to get them each earrings they could wear on the wedding day. Nothing like my new staple brand...Givenchy.

Sorry for the crappy picture, but they really were quite lovely. Small and simple, but just the right amount of sparkle and elegance for the occasion.

And, of course, we all knew how our feet were going to be feeling by the end of the night. What better remedy than orange flip-flops?

They could dance to their hearts content in these babies.

I also had been thinking for quite sometime that I wanted to get them cute scarves or pashminas. It was an easy decision when I found these scarves on sale at Macy's.

Again, I got each of the girls a different color. Can you tell I like bold? They are so soft. I hope they keep them warm and snuggly when it's chilly out.

Another item, which I failed to get a picture of was this yummy body scrub.

[Image from]

I ordered them each a tub of it in a scent called champagne. Perfect for the occasion, no? And it smelled delish. Now I'm wishing I had gotten myself some!

And last but not least, since I love my books and most of my girls do too, I picked out a book that I thought they each would enjoy. Again, a different book for each girl and a handmade bookmark to go with it...

All in all, a pretty cool gift, I think. I would have been happy to receive one anyway. I made them each a handmade card and wrote a nice note in each one. Hope you liked the gifts girls!

And thanks again for all your help! biggrin


Friday, October 3, 2008


Well, I think everything that can be completed is....and things are now out of my hands! I'm just out to enjoy myself and have as much fun as possible in the next couple of days. All this endless planning is finally coming to fruition.

I'll leave you with the latest forecast, which is looking darn nice! How lucky are we?

I'll see you on the flip side, post honeymoon. I'm sure I'll have lots to share!


Thursday, October 2, 2008

Bach Party

My girls threw me a fantastic bachelorette party about 2 1/2 weeks ago. We had quite the group...a mix of my high school and college friends...and I think everyone got along just great. We definitely made the most of our day together and had the best time!

We started off in the early afternoon with painting pottery. Let me just say, by the end of it we were all convinced that they should warn you not to pick too big a piece of pottery the first time, as you may get in a bit over your head! There were several of us rushing to finish as our time was up...


I also felt like my idea was good in concept, but I was pretty much convinced that my piece of pottery was going to come out looking like a 5 year old did it. I chose a nice platter that was divided into four sections. Becky has picked them up and is giving them out this weekend, so time will tell if it's a piece I will actually use....or one I will stash in the back of the cabinet, never to see the light of day again! smile




From the pottery place, where we had yummy margaritas and snacks, we headed back to our hotel rooms in downtown St. Louis. We grabbed our "happy hour" drinks from the hotel with our drink tickets, some more snacks, and then headed back to our rooms, where I opened gifts. I got several nice pieces of lingerie, some "sexy bride" underwear, as well as a cool, sparkly Cardinals hat. Thanks girls!




After the gift opening, we got all spruced up for a night on the town!


I was given a lovely veil to wear, as well as a "suck for a buck" lei.


Once we were all prettied up, we headed down to the lobby where the security guard offered to take our picture. wink


From there, we headed to The Landing for some dinner and dancing. We all had lovely penis straws during dinner, so there was no doubt what we were out for that evening!


See them on the table there? I was also sporting a light up diamond ring, which is what I'm showing off in the above picture.

Here I am with my maids (Becky was running a half marathon the next day, so she only joined us for the pottery)...


After dinner we headed out to the bars. The girls had a game called "That Guy" which was basically a deck of cards, each with a different guy you had to hunt down in the bar. A couple of examples... "A guy from the band" and "Get a guy to show you his underwear" and on and on. We broke into two teams and tried to see who could finish first. It was a lot of fun. And we have photo evidence of our successes...






As the night wore on, I began raking in the money on the "suck for a buck" scheme...totaling $68 by the end of the night.


There was lots of dancing and lots of fun... And how often do you see a guy dressed in a kilt?



We closed down the bars at 2 AM...or maybe 3 AM....I don't know! We all headed back to our hotel rooms, changed into our PJ's, I guzzled about 3 bottles of water, and then shortly ended up like this...


Thanks for the great party girls! wink


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