Crafts & How-Tos

 

Healthy Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

What? Two baking posts in one week? Who am I, you guys?

I guess this is me unofficially adding “bake more” to my fall bucket list.

Today’s recipe is technically a cookie recipe, but the health nuts out there will appreciate that it is flour-, egg-, dairy-, and gluten-free. It does have nuts, but those can easily be swapped out if you have an allergy.

I actually made a variation of these cookies a while back (recipe here), but this time around, I made a few substitutions and the whole process turned out a lot better. Here’s how to make them:

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Healthy Chocolate Pecan Oatmeal Cookies

Ingredients:
2 overripe bananas
1 cup gluten-free oats
1 1/2 Tablespoons cacao powder
1/4 cup pecans, chopped

Directions:
Step One: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Step Two: Combine all ingredients, mashing the banana with a fork. Stir until the bananas are completely blended with the rest of the ingredients.

Step Three: Place 2-tablespoon clumps of the “batter” on a parchment-lined cookie sheet. These cookies don’t really spread, so you don’t have to worry about the cookies being close together. Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cookies appear slightly crisp on the outside. Let cool and enjoy!

Cacao is one of my favorite chocolate substitutes — it’s high in antioxidants, magnesium, and iron. It adds a rich, chocolatey taste without too much sweetness. (In this recipe, the overripe bananas make the cookies sweet enough.)

Next, I’d like to try a variation of these cookies with canned pumpkin instead of bananas. Stay tuned!

I’ve noticed a few bloggers making bucket lists for the seasons. You’ve probably seen them: In the summer, they want to go to the beach, try surfing, throw a BBQ. In the fall, they want to make s’mores, go camping, wear plaid, etc.

You all know I love fall. And you know I love making lists. So I figured, why not? Here’s what I would put on my fall bucket list:

1. Go apple picking.
2. Make an apple crisp.
3. Go camping.
4. Hike a trail through fall leaves.
5. Drink apple cider.

You may notice a propensity for the outdoors and, well, eating. I am who I am.

And what a coincidence, I’ve already checked off three of those things. Last Friday, Joey, Boges, a few of our friends, and I went apple picking at an orchard upstate.

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Bogey clearly loved it most of all, but Joey and I also had a great time picking our own apples and drinking cider. (Hello, Bucket List Items #1 and #5!)

Last night, I decided to check off item #2 by making apple crisp for the first time evah. Here’s the recipe I used, in case you have your own list to tackle this season. Bonus: It’s also gluten free as long as you use gluten-free oats.

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Whiskey Pecan Apple Crisp
(gently modified from this recipe)

Ingredients:

For the filling:
6-7 medium apples, peeled, cored, and diced
1 tablespoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons honey
1 teaspoon lemon juice

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For the topping:
1 cup hazelnut flour
1 cup gluten-free whole oats
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/4 cup honey
4 tablespoons unsalted butter

For the garnish:
Cinnamon Whiskey (I used Fireball)
Cinnamon for sprinkling
Vanilla ice cream and/or whipped cream (optional…but recommended)

 

Step One: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Step Two: Combine the apples, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, 3 tablespoons honey, and lemon juice. Stir until apples are coated evenly.

Step Three: In a separate bowl, whisk the hazelnut flour, oats, salt, remaining cinnamon, and pecans.

Step Four: Use a fork or your fingers to mix in the remaining honey and butter until the topping has a crumbly consistency.

Step Five: Pour apples into two 9-inch pie dishes or baking dishes. Cover with the crumble topping.

Step Six: Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top is golden brown.

Step Seven: Spoon half a cup to one cup of crisp into a bowl while still warm. Drizzle with 1 oz of the cinnamon whiskey. Top with ice cream, whipped cream, and cinnamon as desired. Enjoy!

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I’ve mentioned my (wedding planner) friend Cynthia a few times on my blog. She’s an incredibly talented event planner, and everything she puts together seems to go off without a hitch.

The adorable Cynthia!

The adorable Cynthia!

This is never more clear than at her annual tea party. This was the first year I was able to attend, and Cynthia asked if I wanted to share the details on my blog. Y’all know I love a party, so I happily obliged. Here’s what we ate (and drank), how she decorated, and what we wore.

The Details

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Like me, Cynthia appreciates the value of a paper invitation. A couple of weeks before her fete, she sent out these sweet invites. Each invitee was instructed to wear their “prettiest dress and loveliest hat.”

For decor, Cynthia created rustic-style centerpieces out of a variety of colorful flowers. The shabby chic theme continued with the place settings, which she created by combining about four different sets of china.

My contribution to the party was a game I dubbed “Tea (and Questions) for Two.” On slips of paper, I printed a variety of “getting to know you” questions. One person would draw a question that they would have to answer, and then they would pick someone else at the party they didn’t know as well to answer the question as well. Then the selected person would draw a new question that she would answer, and then she would pick a new person to answer, too. It was a simple, fun way to learn a little someone about every other person at the party.

The Food

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I can personally attest to the deliciousness of the food. We started with a strawberry, spinach, and feta salad, followed by three kinds of tea sandwiches (cucumber, smoked salmon, and chicken salad), lemon squares, Greek and black-and-white cookies, and, of course, scones. Here’s the recipe Cynthia used to create the scones:

Blueberry Scones (adapted from Robert Irvine’s eat!)

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Ingredients
1/4 cup butter, cold and cut in pats
1 3/4 all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 cup fresh blueberries, rinsed and dried
1/4 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 egg, beaten
zest of an orange

Directions
Step one: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Step two: In a large bowl, blend the butter pats with the flour, sugar, grown sugar, salt, orange zest, and baking powder by hand until the butter has been combined.

Step three: Add blueberries and mix well. Don’t crush all the berries!

Step four: In a second bowl, blend the cream, half-and-half, and egg with a whisk. Stir in flour mixture until dough comes together.

Step five: Remove scone dough from bowl and knead on floured counter, rolling 5-6 times. Do not overblend, or the dough will be too tough. Divide into 12 triangular shaped portions and arrange on a cookie sheet.

Step six: Bake until the tops are slightly browned, about 15-20 minutes.

Step seven: Serve with jame and clotted cream, flavored mascarpone, or creme fraiche. (We had the creme fraiche, and I can HIGHLY recommend it.)

The signature drink was (obviously) tea.

The Style

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I tell you what — you tell these girls to bring out their tea party best, and they will not disappoint. Cynthia even brought a selection of extra hats for anyone who didn’t have one on hand. I wore a floral dress from Forever 21 (a million years ago…but you can find a similar style here or here), a double strand of vintage pearls (okay, okay, they were just beads), and the world’s cutest hat from Fascinators First on Etsy. If you need a hat or fascinator, I can highly recommend her — the hats look exactly the same as in the picture, and shop owner Rita is willing to customize just about anything.

Over all, everyone had a lovely time at the party, and it’s always a great way to get to know a new group of gals. Thanks again for planning, Cynthia!

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Photos by Monica Vasquez — Contact me for her info!

Last weekend, I did something I’ve never had the gumption to do before: I did a bit of dumpster diving.

Well, technically there was no diving. Or even a dumpster. But I did spot a GIANT gold picture frame where they put our building’s garbage (in the alley behind the building) and take it home with me.

It’s in almost perfect condition (it still had the cardboard corner protectors on it!), and there weren’t any bugs or weird smells on it. (I swear, I inspected that thing like a hawk.) And it’s GIANT. Roughly 2×3 feet.

I think it could be the perfect solution to the blank space above my dresser (that continues to mock me every.single.day it remains blank). Now I just need to decide how I want to style it.

So far, I’ve come up with five different options — but I want opinions. Here’s what I’m thinking:

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Leave it blank (and possibly hang lights on it)
Apparently this is a trend? I don’t hate the look, and I do have a bunch of string lights from my parents’ party I could hang up. But it still feels…blank to me. Maybe the secret is having a whole bunch. I do have one other gold frame…but I’m not sure that’s enough.

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Create a chalkboard with paint
I like this idea because the repurposing possibilities are endless, and it could be created in an afternoon. Plus, it could be fun to switch up the quote for different season/events/etc.

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DIY (Cross-stitch) Painting
I’ve also been toying with the idea of painting something abstract-ish. I’m not actually that artistic, but I could definitely create something like this faux cross-stitch design. Remember when I made this adorable actual cross stitch? Maybe something like that, or a bigger, more abstract version like in this photo.

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Song lyric as art
Another alternative to a traditional painting that I can still DIY is this song lyric mural (that I discovered when the lovely Kayla pinned it!). I could do the lyrics of our first dance song, or find a poem I like, or anything, I suppose. Sort of a more permanent version of the chalkboard quote.

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Professionally commissioned Bogey portrait
I think I’m kidding. But also…kind of not? I mean, that’s kind of adorable. And maybe it could be awesome and hilarious? What are our thoughts?

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So, what do you think? Haaaaaaalp me.

How to Plan an Anniversary Party

My parents celebrated their 30th anniversary this year. By any standard, that’s an accomplishment. My parents always had the kind of marriage that made me want to get married, too, so it was important to me to help them celebrate this milestone. I planned a party in my mom’s home state of Ohio for the whole family. Here are all the details of where and how we partied.

The Location

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Their anniversary was in June, but the soonest I could get everyone together was August (close enough, right?). The party was in my aunt’s backyard (my mom’s sister), which turned out to be more than perfect. Not only is her backyard beautiful with giant trees and a huge hydrangea tree that created the perfect backdrop for photos, she also has a huge deck where we could put the tables. And, obviously, it was more budget friendly than renting a room at a restaurant — and it gave us a lot more freedom to customize the space.

We started the night on the patio where we had arranged cocktail tables and a drink table. On the deck, we arranged two long tables for dinner and hung string lights for a bit more ambiance.

The Flowers

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To save money, I arranged my own flowers for the party. My friend Cynthia is an event planner, and from her I learned not only how to arrange flowers, but also about the company Global Rose, which will deliver fresh bulk flowers (for incredibly reasonable prices — free shipping!) almost anywhere. I ordered 50 peachy-pink roses, 10 white hydrangeas, and bulk greens to fill in the arrangements. That gave me enough flowers to create eight mason jar centerpieces and two smaller arrangements for the drink table. The flowers arrived in perfect condition and held up beautifully for days. I recommend having your flowers delivered at least a day in advance so the roses have time to open up a bit more. (Note: Hydrangeas aren’t as hardy, so don’t order them too far in advance and keep them in water constantly so they won’t wilt.)

The Stationery

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I designed the menus in Photoshop and printed them on Kraft paper. For the gold “menu” at the top, I printed the original text in a light brown and then traced over it with a gold marker. I used the same marker to hand-write the place cards on Kraft paper tags.

To display the place cards, I made holders out of wine corks (I always save them). To create the holders, you’ll want to steam the corks for 4-5 minutes before using an exacto knife (or a bread knife if you realize you don’t have an exacto knife…that happens to some people). To keep the corks from rolling, I super glued a metal washer to the bottom of each one.

To finish off the tables, I printed black and white photos of my parents over the years and displayed them in simple white frames along with glass lanterns with candles.

The Food

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The food came from a local caterer, BOSS Corporate Catering. And, you guys? My only regret is that this company is in Ohio and I can’t use them anytime I want to have a party in New York. The food was so good, and Crystal, the owner, went above and beyond, helping us move the food into our chafing dishes and arrange it for the party. She was also extremely responsive and accommodating during the planning process, which took a lot of stress off of me. We had Sicilian skewers and goat cheese bruschetta for appetizers, then dinner was chicken marsala, penne alfredo, zucchini and summer squash, strawberry arugula salad, and fresh dinner rolls with honey butter. Dessert was a lemon berry mascarpone cake and a chocolate espresso cake.

The Drink

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The signature cocktail of the evening was an Elderflower Blush.

Ingredients:
Fresh strawberries
Fresh basil
Gin
Elderflower Liqueur
Seltzer
Prosecco or champagne

To make by the glass, muddle strawberries and basil in a glass and add 1 oz gin and 1 oz elderflower. Top with equal parts of the bubbly stuff. (We made ours for a group, so Joey muddled the strawberries and basil in drink dispenser and added equal parts gin and elderflower and about two cups of seltzer. We filled the glasses half full with this concoction and then topped up each with Prosecco.) Garnish with a strawberry and basil leaf.

The night came together beautifully. It was so great to spend time with my family that I don’t see that often, and my sister took the loveliest photos of us all. Happy anniversary, Mom and Dad!

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Sources:
Photography by Figment Art Photo
Food by BOSS Corporate Catering
Flowers from GlobalRose.com
Glass lanterns from World Market
Paper and frames from Michaels
String lights from Target
Rentals from Sun Rental

So…notice anything new? The blog got an update!

(If you are not actually on my site right now, you might not be able to tell. You should hop on over on a desktop when you can. Because design work is really hard for me, guys.)

I’ve been meaning to give the ol’ girl a little makeover for a while, but this week I finally got around to it. Not too shabby, eh? I also learned how to crop circles and overlay patterns in Photoshop. It was a big week.

Speaking of little updates, have we discussed my book collection? I love owning loads of books. One day, I hope to have a library or at least a giant wall of them somewhere in my home, but for now, I settle for two little shelves in the living room.

The problem? My book collection is often busting at the seams — and my sweet little shelves can only do so much.

Fortunately, I’ve found a few ways to incorporate the books into the rest of our apartment’s decor. This solves the problem of the shelves being too crowded, and provides me completely free decor ideas. Win-win!

Here are my four favorite ways to decorate with books:

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Anyone who has been in my apartment knows that I am extremely efficient with the amount of space we have. Our apartment is by no means large (heyyyy, NYC real estate…), but we’ve made the most of what we have. A perfect example? Our kitchen cabinets. For whatever reason (cough…they’re cheap…cough), our building owners didn’t built our kitchen cabinets up to the ceiling. That means there’s about two feet of dead space above the cabinets. Dead. As. A. Doornail.

Rather than mourn the lost cabinet space forever, though, I instead choose to look at the tops of the cabinets as a long-lost display shelf. I use it to store my dutch oven, the crock pot, cake stands, and, of course, all of our cookbooks. The best part? The books add a bit of color to an otherwise bland (and dead) spot.

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It has to be said: Our desk is really hard to photograph well. I feel like it looks nice in person, but it always comes across a little shabby in photos. But the point is, a few weeks ago I was on a mission to make our desk look a little more deliberate and involved in the rest of our decor. One way to do that (that was TOTALLY free)? Adding a few of our most colorful books to prop up our desk light.

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Another great place for a colorful stack of books? Our coffee table. When we first moved to our apartment, I was totally bummed out that we couldn’t paint. As a result, though, I’ve found a bunch of other ways to bring color into this totally blank slate. (Besides, given how fickle I can be with decor, it’s probably better that I couldn’t commit to one color in the beginning.)

A few of my favorite hardbacked books make a great focal point for the room. Bonus: My bookshelves are starting to look at lot less jam-packed.

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And finally, we mix a little nerdiness with a little bit of girlie-girl by using a stack of books to display perfume on our dresser. (And because I love a theme, obviously I tried to pick a few of my girliest books for this pile.)

How do you store your books?