dessert

Himeji

The halfway point of our trip!  Then we make it to Tokyo!

So, next week won’t be a full week of Japan vlogs, because I promised I’d get back to a somewhat normal schedule.  Tokyo vlogs will be coming, though!  So stay tuned and have a great weekend!

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Weekend Recap: Bites, Sips, & Splurges

I had such a fantastic weekend that I wanted to share it with all of you!  Yes, Saturday gave us an unwanted spring snowstorm, but Sunday made up for it with the sunshine.  Here’s what I did last weekend:

Saturday, I made plans with my friend Chelsea to meet at a new donut shop, Blackbird Doughnuts.  This place is insanely popular and we had to wait in line that wove around the shop while a new batch baked.

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I tried the cinnamon sugar stack of three mini-donuts while Chelsea went for the lemon coconut.  I was head over heels for mine, and Chelsea enjoyed hers as well!  I will definitely be making a return trip to Blackbird Doughnuts!

Sunday, since it was such a beautiful day, I made some last minute plans to walk around Boston’s North End with my cousin Amanda and her roommate Marisa.  We got sidetracked walking through Faneuil Hall when we stumbled upon Uno de 50.

Headquartered in Madrid, Uno de 50 has unique pieces hand-crafted by Spanish artists.  Each piece is slightly different because they are all made by hand!  The store only gets 6 pieces of each item, so it’s unlikely that you’ll see someone walking around with your jewelry on.  I was slightly disappointed to see that they have a website, but still, the hand-made differences make, for example, the ring I selected look nothing like the website’s version.

We had a great shopping experience with super friendly staff who wasn’t afraid to pull the store apart so we could try on anything and everything.  They poured us wine while we shopped– a sparkling, fruity blush.  There was also a promotion going on where we got a free bracelet, tote bag, and journal with our purchases.

I chose an adorable skull bracelet & cool key wrap ring!

I chose an adorable skull bracelet & cool key wrap ring!  Amanda snapped the wine while we shopped!

What we loved was that each piece has a two-year warranty and can be brought in for free cleaning once per month!  We each left with two pieces!

Off our wine and shopping buzz, we took to the waterfront and the North End enjoying the sun and warmth of the day.  We, of course, stopped by my favorite place, Mike’s Pastry, for a couple of canoli for the Cassaro girls and a zeppole for Marisa!  After enjoying our desserts in the park, we headed home.

more photo credit to Amanda for this shot of me in front of the water.  Nautical + Italian = perfection!  That's the North end.

more photo credit to Amanda for this shot of me in front of the water. Nautical + Italian = perfection! That’s the North end.

I can’t even explain how nice this weekend was!  It definitely felt like spring, even though it’s snowed twice in the last three days…  How was everyone else’s weekend?  And what do you think of my new jewelry?

Farewell February

I’m not going to lie, I’m super happy this month is over.  February was a lot of indoor living, slush and sadness.

This month has buried Boston in snow and everyone’s seasonal depression has gotten worse. I feel like I’ve been super productive lately, but all of my progress is overshadowed by the little annoyances that have crept in… I’m ready for some changes, and a new month sounds like a good way to start!

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(1) Cheering the Patriots to victory in the suburbs with a blanket of snow already on the ground. (2) And then the storms came. Here’s Juno! (3) Cupcakes + coffee, super healthy breakfast on a snow day. (4) …Did I mention we got a lot of snow in Boston? (5) Got my hair done and vowed to be blonde forever. (6) I spent Valentine’s Day watching the Pokémon VCG regionals in St. Louis! (7) Majora’s Mask 3D came out!  This is one of my favorite games ever, so it’s great to have it portable. (8) I ate all of these macarons in one day, oops!  I’d love to try to bake some soon. (9) After 5 PM and it’s still almost light?  This is progress.

Are you looking forward to March as much as I am?

Tell me something good that you just can’t wait for!

MasterChef Junior: Raspberry Brûlée

This week was the semi-final of MasterChef Junior!  Jimmy, Jenna, Andrew, and Nathan are in for a night of delightful dessert making!  Well, maybe not so delightful for them  The first challenge for the last available elimination advantage is a crème brûlée relay!

Twenty un-sugared and un-brûléed crèmes sit out before the junior home cooks.  The race is on with sugar to sprinkle, blow-torches in hand, and 10 minutes to make the most perfect crème brûlées.  Nathan only gets one perfect crème brûlées, having burned most of his.  Jenna gets 4 perfect crème brûlées having the opposite problem.  Jimmy, meticulous as ever has 8 perfect ones!  Andrew was double fisting those blow torches, but only manages 4.  Jimmy wins!

Jimmy’s prize is to assign the desserts that each will be cooking for a spot in the final.  Raspberries rain from the sky to announce the theme of the challenge and the judges announce the desserts by degree of difficulty.

  • The raspberry napoleon is assigned to Jenna.  It’s the easiest, but Jenna is worried about all the different components taking up her time.
  • The raspberry trifle, Jimmy keeps for himself.
  • The raspberry mousse is given to Andrew, who is happy with that.
  • The hardest dessert, the raspberry tart, is given to Nathan, the dessert master.

Here are the results:

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Jenna did let time get away from her and her plating suffered.  Jimmy’s trifle is a bit messy as well and proportions are a bit off.  Andrew’s mousse had to be remade because it was at first too sweet; his remade mousse tastes much better but isn’t the right consistency.  Nathan was a superstar with this tart; he won his place in the finale with one taste.

Nathan was a shoe-in for the final, and they select Andrew to join him due to the way he saved his mousse.

I’m actually sad to see Jenna go.  I know her plating was a disaster, but on taste alone the judges gave her good marks.  For me, the texture of Andrew’s mousse is a bigger mistake that the plating error.  I felt she and Jimmy were both more deserving than Andrew.

Personally, I just don’t like Andrew’s views on food.  He thinks dessert is useless!  That being said, Nathan and Andrew could not be more different in their cooking.

I’m going Team Nathan!

Who are you cheering for in the final next week?

Blogger Holiday at Cambridgeside

I am no stranger to Cambridgeside Galleria.  In fact, I frequent this mall and probably have been at least once a week all year long.  No shame, guys, I’m a mall person and this is a big, beautiful mall!

Last week, I was lucky enough to attend a Blogger Holiday Glamour Swap at Cambridgeside!

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We got some fabulous ideas for gifts, amazing outfit inspiration, and of course, enjoys some sweet sips and delicious bites via California Pizza Kitchen.

photo via CPK because I ate mine!

photo via CPK because I ate mine!

Let’s take a moment to talk about this salted caramel pudding I ate.  I love CPK and have had dessert there many times, but this was an item I haven’t seen on the menu… perhaps due to my efforts to cook more and eat out less!  Clearly, I was missing out on this pudding, though.  I may have even taken a second helping… they were mini!

I guess I’m not the only one who found love in this pudding, because blogger Fran’s Favs has even devised a recipe for it!

 

The Yankee Swap gifts were donated by several stores throughout the mall and each gave me wonderful ideas for gifts for others, and maybe even for myself.  My Wish List this Wednesday is all things jeweled & warm!

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One | Ann Taylor $49.50 – black, gray, ivory, or blush
Two | Ann Taylor $59.50 – black, gray, ivory, or blush
Three | Club Monaco $69.50 – perfect in heather gray

We also got big swag bags with tons of samples & coupons!  OtterBox gave us the opportunity to get Resurgence battery cases… mine’s in the mail right now, so I’ll update you on the product review!  We headed over to Plammie Activewear afterward and were treated to a free panty.  Gosh, that store is so cute that it inspires me to workout more!  Sephora gave us all sorts of goodies too, including $10 gift cards.  You know your girl already spent hers.

 

Thank you, Cambridgeside for a wonderful night of sipping, shopping, eating, and repeating!  Aaaand I’ll probably see you tomorrow.

What do you think of these wish list picks?  For presents, or for yourself?

Cooking for Lazy People: Coconut Cupcakes

Welcome to Cooking for Lazy People, a new feature on my blog with almost coherent recipes that are almost certainly stolen from people I know.  Basically, I make things that look impressive but are quite easy to make.  Today: coconut cupcakes!

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My friend/coworker and I made these for another coworker’s late August birthday.  Birthday girl loves coconut, so we doubled-down for this “recipe.”  All the credit goes to formerly mentioned friend, as she is the true Betty Crocker.  I stood by and watched for most of this, mixed a little and jumped in to frost at the end.

Here’s what you need:

  • Boxed white cake mix – we used Duncan Hines which required the following three ingredients
  • 3 eggs
  • cup water
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • Canned white frosting
  • Coconut extract
  • Tender flake shredded coconut

 

Here’s what you do:

Follow the directions on the box.  Add 2 teaspoons of coconut extract to the batter and 1 cup of shredded coconut.  I know, this seems weird.  Is the consistency going to be all weird?  No. No, it’s not.  We used a hand mixer to get the consistency we wanted.  It is going to be slightly lumpy looking because of the flakes of coconut, though.

Bake as directed.

Prepare the icing as they cool.  We mixed a couple drops of the coconut extract into the icing, to taste.  Since the cakes were so coconut and the frosting already so sweet, we wanted a little bit of contrast.

Spread remaining shredded coconut flakes on a plate– not spread out finely, but piled.  Ice cupcakes and dip upside down into coconut flakes so the frosting picks up the flakes.

These cupcakes look super professional, taste absolutely delicious, and were ridiculously easy to make!  They were a big hit at the office, especially with the birthday girl!

Dinner at Highland Kitchen

This winter has been a rough one.  I hadn’t really seen any of my friends since my birthday last month… we’ve all been hibernating a little.  Last Friday, we finally got out of our apartments for a good meal.  My friend Sarah chose Highland Kitchen in Somerville.  The cuisine, described as “Seasonal American Comfort Food,” was absolutely perfect for the rainy night.

We had a party of four, and we were all starving after our work days.  We heard the wait could be pretty intense, so we got there early, around 6:30.  We got seated immediately!  Within 15 minutes of being seated, the restaurant was packed and we were glad we got there when we did.

Everything that came out of the kitchen looked so, so good.  The cocktail menu was pretty overwhelming.  The winner was the elderflower margarita that Chelsea ordered, which was perfectly sweet and tangy!

We went ahead and ordered the buffalo fried brussel sprouts for an appetizer.  Man, these were delicious!  I’m a big fan of buffalo anything.  I make buffalo cauliflower at home fairly often, and would like to try to replicate a version of this sometime.

I ordered the pan roasted chicken which came with an herb gravy, sweet potato hash, and broccolini.  The chicken was super moist and cut like butter.  The sweet potato hash was the perfect side.

Sarah, the resident vegetarian, ordered a veggie burger and was over the moon about it.  She said it tasted like meat and thought it could be the best veggie burger she’s ever eaten.  Kelsey ordered the gumbo, which I had the opportunity to sample– its spiciness was perfect!

clockwise: ambiance @ Highland Kitchen, elderflower margarita, buffalo brussel sprouts, & my delicious pan roasted chicken!

clockwise: ambiance @ Highland Kitchen, elderflower margarita, buffalo brussel sprouts, & my delicious pan roasted chicken!

Finally, after reading rave reviews about the banana bread pudding, we decided to order it for dessert to share.  I usually only eat chocolate desserts, but I’m a huge fan of bananas foster and that’s exactly what this tasted like!

my favorite part of the meal-- dessert!

my favorite part of the meal– dessert!

This bread pudding was super light and airy, drenched in warm caramel and topped with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Chelsea confessed she doesn’t even like bananas but loved the dessert.  The wait staff was nice and let us stay and chat without pressuring us to move on.  We all left extremely full and extremely happy!

I’d love to go back to Highland Kitchen– there’s a lot more on the menu I want to try!  I definitely suggest checking this place out!

My friends and I are looking forward to nicer weather so we can get out to more new spots.  We typically need them to be vegetarian-friendly– suggestions always appreciated!

{photos via iphone5 // all opinions are my own}