Faking perfection: cocktail mixers.

On Friday we continued our blog swapping series with the ladies over at A Good Hostess

{ Below is a preview of my post }

I’m a graphic designer so this isn’t really my forté, but let’s do some math. Blog post math. I can’t mix drinks + outdoor dining = today’s post. I don’t know if this means I’m obsessed with booze, or just lazy…but let’s talk about summer cocktails mixers.

Williams Sonoma Margarita mixers

As much as I would like to be the hostess who can whip up some amazing cocktail for a summer party, I’m just not that girl. Lena even bought me a book about outdoor entertaining with beautifully styled pictures and fabulous drink recipes. I’m sure it was supposed to be inspiring, but it just made me feel totally inadequate. Between the cleaning and prepping and shopping, and overall spazzing, perfection is like the last thing I have time for. But just add booze, now that I can do. Stick something in a blender, I can do that, too. Pour it into a pretty glass and pretend I busted my ass? Done.

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Outdoor dining and grown-up plastic.

On Friday we continued our blog swapping series with the ladies over at A Good HostessThe blog is run by two sisters who share their ideas for a stylish home and living the good life in minimal square-footage. They teach you that classy and sassy are not mutually exclusive, and that a good hostess always knows when to use the f-word.

{ Below is a preview of my post }

Summer is approaching. The season of hot dogs, bocce ball and quality time spent around the chimenea. But when hosting a BBQ, who says we have to resort to paper plates and plastic cups? There are so many grown-up “plastic” dinnerware options that are totally fab (and reusable and dishwasher safe)!

Williams Sonoma Outdoor dining melamine plastic dinnerware Crate and Barrel Outdoor dining melamine plastic dinnerware

Lena gifted me a set of plastic wine glasses from Crate & Barrel a few years ago and I was so obsessed that I went and stocked up on more the next year. And then I got swept away in the spirit of the season and bought a full set of melamine plates. And acrylic serving trays. And really cute corn holders. Etc. C&B has a lot of really bright, fun and durable outdoor dinnerware. And if you want to bring the level of sophistication up a notch, Williams-Sonoma has a great selection of dinner and drink ware that you would never know was plastic. Seriously, you could use this stuff every day. No one would know.

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Ms. Mixalot.

Blog Swapping Series, Part 4: The blog swapping with our besties over at A Good Hostess continues. They will be bringing you their obsessions and we’ll be discussing our hostessing skills. Check out my post, where I discuss the essentials for achieving domestic-baking-goddess status. All you will need is a tiara! }

Let me take a moment to be a bit cocky. I’m one mean cook. I make chicken parm, lasagna, lamb kebabs, shrimp diablo, and roasted pork tenderloin that are to die for. Ash would also tell you that I make one killer mixed green salad. Here comes the “but” though…but I can’t bake anything other than scones to save my life.

Baked NYC Williams Sonoma Brownie Mixes

As a certifiable chocoholic, it’s particularly unfortunate that I can’t make brownies. My saving grace has become Baked NYC brownie mixes. After discovering their delicious decadence at their Brooklyn bakery, I found Williams-Sonoma sold their mixes. Further investigation of the WS food section led me to find Sprinkles cupcake mixes and Momofuku cookie mixes.

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Perfect fall treats: Apple Pie and Pumpkintinis. (That’s right, Pumpkintinis!)

I have a confession to make: this is the first apple pie I’ve ever made.

While I’ve spent my time trying to master things like mascarpone tarts and typeography cookies, I seem to have forgotten about some classics, like apple pie. Or maybe I just didn’t know what I could bring to the recipe to make it new and exciting and creative. Still, it didn’t deserve to be neglected.

Apple Picking at Lyman Orchards Apple Picking, Apple Pie

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Williams-Sonoma Home Baked Comfort. Something to aspire to.

I don’t know about you, but Williams-Sonoma’s cookbooks are among my favorites. The recipes aren’t always the quickest or most simple, although I love their Food Made Fast series, but they are usually always worth the time and effort.

Remember my cookie  adventure?

Williams Sonoma Home Baked Comfort Cookbook

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A British classic: the Bakewell Tart.

I’d like to say that I originally tried this recipe in honor of my British in-laws, but really, it was to honor my love of almond baked goods. But, my first experience with a Bakewell Tart was on a trip to England with my husband, where we stocked up on a ton of sweets, including a package of Mr. Kipling Cherry Bakwells. Cherry + almond = heaven. And seriously, the Brits have the best sweets. That’s a topic for another day though, I could go on forever about my love of Fruit Gums.

Also, I was looking for an excuse to try my Mini Tart Pans from Williams Sonoma. I’ve made this Bakewell Tart before with the 9-inch tart pan, so this time I thought it would be fun to make mini 4-inch pans of cherry-almondy-buttery-crust-goodness. Trust me, there is nothing better.

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Cookies + typography = a baking designers dream!

But also my cookie nightmare.

In theory, the Message-in-a-Cookie kit from Williams-Sonoma is a great idea. It was given to me for my birthday and I thought it was the perfect gift for a designer who moonlights as a baker. However, not the perfect gift if you’re a perfectionist freak like me.

Anyway, I had the perfect occasion to use these cookie cutters: favors for my friends baby shower. I had visions of perfect cookies that were perfectly decorated. I probably got those visions from the box. But my cookies don’t look like the ones on the box. Sigh.

Last weekend I tried three different cookie dough recipes. You can read about that lovely adventure here. I thought the winning recipe would be the one that came with the kit. But they didn’t taste as good as the other recipes I tried. And remember, I’m going for perfection here. I think it was because the recipe didn’t use baking powder (used to make the cookies rise) so they were a bit more dense. But they probably don’t having baking powder for a good reason. When the cookies rise, the type gets a bit…squishy.

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My weekend in cookie & craft hell

The only plans I had this weekend was to bake some cookies. I wanted to finally try out my Message-in-a-Cookie kit from Williams Sonoma. Of course I didn’t want to use the recipe that came with the kit. It required too much refrigeration time and I’m not patient enough for that. Plus, I wanted to try the Vanilla Almond Sugar Cookie recipe from Love & Olive Oil. I’ve had this on my recipes-to-try list forever. So I made the dough which was easy enough…until I started rolling it out. It says in the recipe that the dough is supposed to be crumbly, which it was, but it was too crumbly for these cookie cutters. Either way, I continued rolling and cutting, and I baked 3 batches. They didn’t look great though. Mainly because I had a hard time rolling them out to a consistent height, some edges got too brown, an some not brown at all. Fail #1. The upside, they taste amazing!

Message in a Box

So, still not wanting to try the recipe that came with the kit, I busted out my grandmothers tried and true recipe. After I made the dough, I realized I had to refrigerate overnight. Ugh, so much for instant gratification. So, I put the dough in the fridge, and set out on my next project (more on that in a sec).

Sugar Cookie Recipe

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