Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Rob's Bachelor Party

Thankfully Rob's idea for a bachelor party was nothing close to 'The Hangover'. He wanted a laid back wing-eating dinner followed by a mini pub crawl on Dickson Street. Of course, I was absolutely thrilled to hear this is all that would make my man happy. But of course I couldn't let it be some little affair that would just seem like a guy's night out. I had to theme it and make treats for the boys.

I made some simple invitations to make sure the guys would know what was going to happen. Of course I went with 'The Hangover' theme!

Next, I had stumbled upon Heather's blog on Pinterest. She made Hangover kits for her soon-to-be-husband. I asked her to create some artwork for Rob's kits and this is what she came up with!

Awesome right!? I had her create one for each Rob, Josh, and Tom representing the cast of 'The Hangover'. I grabbed some brown paper bags at Michael's and stuffed them with hangover cures. Gatorade, water, travel size advil, Pepto-Bismol, hand sanitizer, and gum. Rob said it was the best idea!

The next two things I did for him are my favorite! I was lucky enough to have Josh's wife help me with this beer cake. I had gotten 3 cardboard cake rounds from Michaels; a 8-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch, some fun ribbon and curly bows. The only other thing you need is a 30-pack of can beer. I went with Miller High Life because that is Rob's favorite. I asked Emma to assemble it all since I wouldn't see Rob the day of the wedding. She just stacked it, no gluing needed! The guys loved it and drank it while they were getting dressed for the wedding!

Then there was the liquor bouquet! I made one for each of the guys for their groomsmen gift. And since Rob is a gardener it makes perfect sense! All you need is a small flower pot, a Styrofoam ball that will fit inside of it, a bag or two of fake grass, some wooden sticks (I used skewers that you grill with), hot glue, and some travel size liquor bottles. I did types of whiskeys since that is really the only hard liquor Rob drinks, but there are a lot of options out there. Stick the Styrofoam ball in the vase. Hot glue some of the grass to the ball so you can't see it. Hot glue the wooden sticks to the back of the liquor bottles. Let these dry real good before sticking into the ball. I let mine dry for a whole day. You can wrap a cute ribbon around the vase too if you would like. I made mine about 2 weeks in advance and the sticks didn't break. In fact, Rob still hasn't drank any of his and they are still intact. (I thought the bottles might be too heavy for the sticks). 

 I also decorated a cooler for Rob. I knew that he would want cold beer on our mini-moon and thought it would be better than a plain ole cooler. I decorated the front with wedding details-there is no bride because he hadn't seen my dress yet! The sides commemorated our bachelorette/bachelor parties. The back decorated with our mini-moon to Eureka Springs and our honeymoon to St. Maarten (which is in a week!!). On the top I included a line from our invitation ' joy and celebration of our marriage' and on the very bottom in the inside 'happily ever after'. I know I am not the best artist, but I think it turned out well!

I wanted our big day to be about Rob as well. I knew I was going to get a lot of spoiling and I didn't want him to miss out. Plus it is an extra reminder of why he was marrying me :)

Valentine's Day

We celebrated our first 'official' Valentine's Day together this year! Sadly, I didn't put any decorations up. I didn't even make a wreath..tisk tisk. We had an amazing dinner and dessert. For dinner, Rob made some cheese fondue with grilled chicken, broccoli, french bread, and potatoes. I whipped up some Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies, from this lovely blog. YUM YUM. Full stomachs and full hearts!

 Our Valentine's Day table-scape. Yes, I made the heart plates. But it didn't work out so we had to toss them. We only really needed them for Valentine's Day anyways!

Red Velvet Cheesecake Brownies

Red Velvet Layer:

3 1/4 cups flour
2 1/4 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
3 large eggs
1 cup vegetable oil
4 tablespoons milk, divided 
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon red food coloring
2 teaspoons white vinegar

Cheesecake Layer:

2 8oz packages cream cheese, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13 x 18 jelly roll pan with butter.
In large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, salt, and baking powder. Set aside. In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons milk, vanilla extract, red food coloring, and white vinegar.
Combine the dry and wet ingredients, until completely combined. The batter will be a really thick, almost moldable texture...but don't worry, that's what you want. Remove 3/4 cup of the batter and place it in a medium bowl. Whisk in the remaining 2 tablespoons of milk (into the 3/4 cup of batter you just took out). Set aside the 3/4 cup batter.
Pour the remaining batter into the prepared jelly roll pan. Using a spatula, smooth out the batter to reach all the edges.

Now, in your stand mixer, beat cream cheese and sugar until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add eggs and vanilla, beating until combined and there are no lumps. Pour the cream cheese mixture on top of the red velvet layer and smooth mixture till it reaches all the edges.
Drop spoonfuls of the remaining red velvet batter (that you mixed with milk) onto the top of the cheesecake layer. Drag the tip of a knife through the red velvet and the cheesecake layers to create swirls.

Bake for 30 minutes, rotating half way through, or just until the center is set and it no longer jiggles. Let cool completely on a wire rack before cutting. Use a medium sized heart cookie cutter to create the perfect Valentine's Day treat!

Rob prefers to eat the red velvet side up and I prefer the cheesecake side up. They are so good! I took some to work and got compliments on them as well. Enjoy!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Week 7- Italian Braised Short Ribs

Oh this is the best recipe yet! It was easy to make as well. I made everything the night before, refrigerated it,  and just turned the crock pot on at lunch the next day. It took me about 30 minutes to whip everything together. This recipe is from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Slow Cooking cookbook. Can't wait to cook more from it!

Italian Braised Short Ribs

3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 1/2- 6 lb beef short ribs, english cut
1/4 cup olive oil
2 oz pancetta, chopped
2 yellow onions, finely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
2 carrots, chopped
2 tablespoon tomato paste
1 tablespoon sugar
1 cup of dry red wine
1 can diced tomatoes
1 cup beef broth
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 bay leaves
2 fresh sprig rosemary
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon dried oregano

On plate, stir together the flour, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Turn the ribs in the seasoned flour, shaking off any excess. In a large frying pan over medium-heat, warm the olive oil. Working in batches if necessary, cook the ribs, turning occasionally, until evenly browned, about 10 minutes. Remove from pan and place in crock pot.

Add the pancetta to the pan and saute, stirring often, until most of the fat is rendered, about 5 minutes. Add the onions and saute until just beginning to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the carrots, tomato paste, and sugar and cook, stirring frequently, until well blended, about 1 minute. Add the wine and deglaze the pan, stirring and scraping up the browned bits on the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Bring the wine to a boil; stir in the tomatoes, broth, and balsamic vinegar; return to a boil.

Add the tomato-broth mixture to the crock pot with the ribs. (This is where I refrigerated mine overnight) Add the bay leaves, rosemary, thyme sprigs, and oregano. Cover and cook until ribs are very tendered; 3 hour on high-heat or 6 hours on low-heat. Season with salt and pepper.

We had mashed potatoes with ours. Spread the cooking juices over the ribs for an extra touch. Amazing! The ribs fall right off the bone. We also used baby carrots instead of regular carrots, but still cut them in half. Rice would also be a good side as well. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Week 6- Rosemary Chicken with Potatoes

I definitely branched out of my crock pot comfort zone this week! Last Friday my mom gave me a new cookbook to help with my cooking ambitions. Cooking at Home from Williams- Sonoma; it is a great collection of their most sought-after recipes. It also explains what you should have stocked in your pantry and other basic cooking terms. Perfect for a beginner like mine!

I had a wonderful day off. Had an early meeting that started my day off as productive! I finally picked out my old sorority t-shirts for a blanket. Can't wait to get that done! I cleaned house and was waiting for Rob to come home from work. I started flipping through the cookbook and noticed a Chocolate Pound Cake recipe that I already had the ingredients for! Not only did I make dinner but now a dessert too!

Rosemary Chicken with Potatoes
1 chicken, about 3 1/2 lb
1 lemon, halved
6 fresh rosemary sprigs
4 russett potatoes, peeled and cut into 3 inch cubes
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 cup chicken broth
salt and ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Trim any visible fat from the chicken and pat dry. Rub the chicken inside and out with the open sides of the lemon halves. Place 2 of the rosemary sprigs along with the lemon halves in the body cavity. (Make sure to remove giblets). Truss the chicken and tuck 1 rosemary sprig under each wing. Place the chicken on its side in a roasting pan and surround with potatoes.

In a small pan, melt the butter and stir in the oil. Brush the butter mixture evenly over the chicken and potatoes and then sprinkle with the dried rosemary and thyme.

Place the chicken in the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Turn the bird so it rests on its opposite side. Add the broth to the pan and baste the chicken with the pan juices. Roast for another 30 minutes. Turn the chicken with breast side up, baste with the pan juices, and season with salt and pepper. Roast until 170F, about 30 minutes longer.

Transfer the chicken to a warm platter and surround with the potatoes. Garnish with the remaining rosemary sprigs. Tent with aluminum foil and let rest for 10 minutes before carving. Serve the pan juices in a warm bowl on the side.

I used fingerling potatoes instead of russett. I just used a whole small bag of those. Also, we had forgotten to get some kitchen string so I couldn't truss the chicken. Does anyone know where I can find kitchen string? It was an simple delicious recipe. Chicken so tender and tasty!

Here is our chocolate pound cake. Served it with blackberries and chocolate syrup. It is a heavy cake and not our favorite so that is why there is no recipe. But it was still yummy!

This week I am making Italian Short Ribs. Can't wait! Hope everyone has a great week and a Happy Valentine's day!

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Rob's Wedding Shoes

To take a break from the cooking recipes, I want to share some of the funnies of our wedding day. I have been looking through all of our wedding pictures lately and its neat how he captured almost every second of that day. Thanks to Jeremy Scott of Hudson Photography for taking all the pictures! So here is my first story!

Rob's Wedding Shoes

Rob and I are big Tom's fans. So when I was deciding what gorgeous shoes I wanted to wear, Rob already had his mind made up. A style of black Toms. No question or doubt in mind, that is what his groomsmen and him would wear. So we got the guys size and gifted the Toms to them. Then the big day came along.

All the guys were getting ready at The Dickson Street Inn, which is just a 3 minute walk from the venue. I had asked the photographer to go to the Inn first and then come to me at the venue. I wanted to capture these 3 dear friends spending time together. Rob has known Tom since junior high and Josh since junior year in college.

The photographer wanted to take pictures of the Toms first, since that was a focus of our wedding. He asked Rob for his pair, but behold...there was only one shoe! How is it possible that he only brought one shoe?!

Rob and the boys frantically search the room trying to find it. Rob hopped on the phone with Masons (my old workplace) to see if they have another pair in his size. Did I mention this was an hour before he is suppose to walk down the aisle?!?!?!


Thank goodness, Masons does have a pair! But sneaky Josh here 'finds' Rob's mate! Emma, Josh's wife, had hide the shoe from Rob right before she left. She had told Josh where it was. He only waited 15 minutes to let Rob know!

Jeremy, our photographer, had walked in when Emma was telling Josh where the shoe was. So he decided to be part of the game. He said I had demanded the Toms picture be the first picture he took of the guys getting ready! Oh my, what I would have done to be there! 

I am so glad this was the only issue we had all day! Thank goodness it was a small freak out and a fake one at that!

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Week 5- Lemon Blueberry Bread & French Toast Bake

I was lucky to have two days off in a row this weekend! It was lovely spending time with Rob and my family. I was able to do some baking and it turned out wonderful! I made a Lemon Blueberry Bread and French Toast Bake. The lemon blueberry bread was for dessert. I recommend the French toast bake for a bunch or if you have house guests. I prepared it the night before, only took like 10 minutes max.Both were good!

Lemon Blueberry Bread

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
1 cup fresh blueberries
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk

Lemon Glaze
2 tablespoon granulated white sugar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cooking oil on the bottom and sides of a 9x5x3 loaf pan.
  2. In a bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, and lemon zest. Remove 1 tablespoon of the flour mixture. Place the blueberries in a separate bowl and toss in the 1 tablespoon flour.
  3. Using the electric mixer, beat butter until softened. Add the sugar and continue to beat until light and fluffy. Add eggs one at a time. Beat in the vanilla extract. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture in 3 parts and milk in 2 parts alternatively, starting with the flour and ending with the flour. Mix only until combined.
  4. Scrape half the batter into the loaf pan. Add the blueberries in the middle. Add rest of batter on top.

  1. Bake for 55 to 65 minutes. Or until a toothpick comes out clean.
  2. For the glaze, stir the sugar with lemon in a microwaveable bowl. Place in microwave for about 30 seconds or until sugar has dissolved.
  3. After the loaf has cooked, place on wire rack in pan. Poke holes in the bread. Brush the lemon glaze on top of the loaf. Cool completely.

French Toast Bake

1/2 cup of melted butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 loaf of Texas Toast
4 eggs
1 1/2 cup of milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
powdered sugar for sprinkling
ground cinnamon for sprinkling

Melt butter in microwave. Add brown sugar. Stir till mixed.
Pour butter/sugar into bottom of 9x13 pan. Spread evenly.
Beat eggs, milk, and vanilla.
Lay single layer of Texas Toast in pan.

Spoon 1/2 of egg mixture on bread layer. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top, evenly.
Add a 2nd layer of Texas Toast.
Spoon on remaining egg mixture. Sprinkle some cinnamon on top, evenly.
Cover and chill overnight.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.
Sprinkle powdered sugar on top before serving. Serve with maple syrup, optional.

Yummy! Enjoy!