How Sweet It Is: Baking Treats for IOS Customer Appreciation Day

Steve’s store held its annual customer appreciation day on Saturday and I was asked (and paid!) to make a few different treats for the festivities.  They had a hotdog/hamburger cart (which had the best veggie burgers ever), as well as a bouncy house for the kids to go crazy in.

I usually experiment in the kitchen trying to make indulgent treats like cakes and cookies into something a little healthier, and the people at Steve’s store are always happy to taste test some on my creations.  So, when I was asked to make the treats, of course I knew that they had to be a healthier version of your average dessert.  I came up with a list of options for Steve’s boss to choose from, and she ended up picking out five things to be served on Saturday.  I was super excited because I was getting paid to play in the kitchen, but I was also incredibly nervous because my tiny little kitchen was supposed to turn out about 300 tasty treats in one night.

I got home around 5 o’clock on Friday and savored the sight of my clean kitchen for a few minutes before starting to work.  I knew that with all the stirring, whisking, and baking action that would be going on over the next six hours, my nice and sparkly kitchen would be replaced with something that looked like a tornado just spun through it.

And I was right.  I snapped this picture after I had loaded the dishwasher and cleaned up a little, so it definitly doesn’t do the extreme mess much justice.

Overall things went pretty smoothly and I was able to make delicious treats for 200ish people and thankfully everything was eaten by the end of the day.  I didn’t see anyone gag as they took a bite of my whole-wheat, semi-healthy treats, so that was a plus in my book.

I used recipes from some of my favorite blogs, but did a bit of healthy editing by using whole-wheat flour, reducing the amount of sugar called for, or adding a bunch of cinnamon because let’s face it, cinnamon makes everything better.  I normally replace refined sugar with honey or maple syrup in baked goods, but since I was making a ton of treats and on somewhat of a budget, that wasn’t really feasible.  I think my kitchen saw more sugar being used in a six hour period than it has in an entire year, but I tried to at least cut the amount of sugar the recipe called for in half so it didn’t make me feel too terribly.

So, here’s what I made!

Snickerdoodle Blondies (Vegan and made with pureed chickpeas instead of flour)

Whole Wheat Chocolate Brownie Cookies

Peanut Butter Brown Rice Crispy Treats with Sunflower Seeds (Vegan)

Whole Wheat Strawberry Cupcakes with Strawberry Frosting

Cinnamon Honey Popcorn

You can find the recipes here: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

Once I got everything set up on Saturday, I was happy to hang out with Socrates and secretly observe the people gathering around the food table.  Everything seemed to be a hit, and having a couple of vegan options proved to be much appreciated.

We went for dinner at Zucca Pizza, a new restaurant that opened up a couple weeks ago beside our regular farmer’s market.  They had a guy playing James Taylor and other relaxing music, so it was a pleasant surprise to dine outside and enjoy the music.  Later that night Steve watched a movie while Socrates and I crashed from our tiring day.

First solo baking gig = success!

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You Need A Haircut, You Really Need A Haircut

Whenever I hear someone say that they really need a haircut, my child of the nineties brain immediately references this old awesome haircut commercial that used to play on Disney a million times a day.  Does anyone else remember this?

If you know me, you most likely know my preference about Steve’s hair.  I like it when he keeps it long and hippie-ish, so whenever he tells me that he really needs a haircut, it becomes a three or four week tug of war between us.  I try my best to delay the inevitable haircut and he keeps bugging me about it until I finally cave and am forced to say a sad goodbye to his long pretty locks.

In an attempt to be more domestic and wifely, this time around when Steve started mentioning it was haircut time, I asked if I could cut it.  To my surprise he actually said yes.  The chance of having uneven choppy hair courtsey of my haircutting skills wasn’t enough to scare him out of an opportunity to be cheap and get a free haircut.

Before picture: (not sure why he chose this location to play with the iPad…)

So we sat down to start the journey toward a cleaner-looking, short-haired Steve.  I put a towel under a chair in the living room and went to work.  I was a little antsy knowing that we had a bit of a time constraint because of a friend we had coming over, but I reluctantly took a breath and cut that first strand.

It wasn’t as bad as I thought it was going to be.  It looked pretty good by the time I was finished, but I think it’s going to take me a few more times to get the hang of cutting evenly without having to spend a chunk of time at the end checking for longer/uneven hairs.  We accumulated enough hair on the floor to make a pretty nice wig.  My hair falls out like crazy so I’m thinking maybe I’ll start collecting Steve’s hair to make a wig when I finally go bald one of these days.  Okay, it’s not that bad, I’m just being dramatic.

Overall, we were both satisfied with the way it turned out.  We both found a few uneven hairs throughout the next few days, but I just prefer to say I was going for the “textured” look.  Socrates was pretty jealous of all the grooming that was going on, so he quickly got in on the haircut action and came out looking quite dashing.  Here’s his before:

We took him to a new groomer that was recomended by our vet and she did a fantastic job.  Doesn’t he look like he’s ready for the dog show?  Too bad he doesn’t know how to act civilized like those obedient dogs…

27 (Hundred) Dresses: Making A Wall Mounted Garment Rack

I very rarely wear jeans or shorts.  Most of the time you will find me in a dress, sometimes a skirt.  Jeans and shorts are convenient because you can just fold them up and stack them away in a drawer, but dresses require hanging, and hanging requires lots of closet space.  Closet space is one thing we don’t have a lot of in the Bentley household.  I grew up with a pretty big closet, and our last two apartments had huge walk-in closets, so moving to our current apartment with the barely-counts-as-a-hole-in-the wall closet space was quite an adjustment for my dresses and I. My clothes started migrating over from the closet to the stairwell and then took up residence on the blinds of our bedroom windows.

This was not acceptable to my needs-to-be-neat personality, so what to do?  Husband to the rescue of course!  Or maybe he just grew tired of my complaining about lack of hanging space…

Anyway, I took to Pinterest for some garment rack inspiration.  We have a second bedroom that doesn’t really get used, so we had enough room to fit a decent sized rack.  Initially I wanted a rack that had wheels, but after looking at pictures and totaling up the price of all the parts, we realized that making a wall-mounted rack would be much less expensive while still getting the job done.

Here are a few of the photos I found to help show Steve what I was picturing.  They are from herehere, and here.

I can’t take credit for much more than the idea of solving our closet problem with a garment rack and finding pictures of pretty ones that I liked.  Steve did all the structure designs and material research, and I basically sat on a crate in the plumbing aisle of Home Depot while he picked out the items he would need to build the thing.  Having a husband is awesome 🙂

Steve started out by lining up the pieces on the floor and then screwing them all together.  He wrapped the end of the bars in plumbers tape before attaching the curvy pieces, but I honestly have no idea why.  Once everything was put together, he used the drill to screw the two round pieces into the wall and waalaa!, a garment rack was born!

It only took about an hour from start to finish, but we both needed a little food fuel and entertainment to get through the construction.  Since Steve was so wonderful for putting the rack together for me, I was tempted to not showcase his movie choice, but I just couldn’t resist.  Bend, and snap!

I begged and begged to paint it all yellow like one of the Pinterest pictures that I saw, but we (ahem, Steve) decided against it since the industrial feel of the exposed pipe wasn’t too shabby to look at anyway.  I did paint the piece that touches the floor yellow just to see what it would look like, but it didn’t impress Steve enough to convince him to paint the whole thing.  I was okay with leaving it as is for now since it’ll be easier to adapt to the decor of our next house.

Socrates and I were of course very useful during this whole process…

I didn’t think I was going to like the wall mounted option as much as a rolling garment rack, but I really actually like it a little better.  It feels like it’s more apart of the room since it’s attached to the wall, and I’m not sure how the rolling wheels would have worked on carpet anyway.  It’s also easy to vacuum under as opposed to having to roll it out of the way to clean.  And all the dresses the were currently residing in plastic bins stored under the bed are now happy to have a place to call home.

Pretty In Pink

I love Saturday mornings, especially in the spring and summer.  Going to the farmer’s market, seeing all the people and cute dogs, the fresh veggies and still warm bread, and finally getting it all back home and getting to unpack all your treasures and sit down for a nice and relaxing breakfast.

The weekdays usually consist of Steve throwing breakfast together for me while I finish getting ready.  There’s usually no time to sit at the table and enjoy the morning, and eating breakfast on the 5-minute car ride to work really isn’t that ideal for my slow-eating self.  Saturday mornings give me the opportunity to make what I want and actually sit down, take it easy, and enjoy the morning (usually with a little puppy dog sitting in my lap giving me cute/sad/begging eyes).

Normally I have eggs or waffles, but since it was already 80 degrees at 9 am this morning, I decided on a strawberry-banana smoothie with granola and some whole wheat toast with strawberry jam that we bought at the market this morning (it’s made with honey instead of sugar, score!).  It was so yummy and of course pretty because of all the pink.  Socrates wasn’t afraid to embrace his feminine side and proceeded to inhale his portion of our pretty pink breakfast.

Play Time With Jake + Whole Wheat Banana Nut Doughnuts Recipe

Steve was in Texas all last week/weekend so it was a perfect time for me to head back to Snow Hill to visit the cutest toddler on the planet (with some work mixed in, of course).  I had to help my mom cater a wedding, but I took the day off on Monday so that left plenty of time to play with Jake and bond with the fam.  I actually took a few pictures of the days adventures, and the pretty weather definitly helped to capture some good shots.

Needless to say, Socrates thoroughly enjoyed his play time outdoors.  It’s rare that he gets to run around freely in the city since he’s not smart enough to not run out in front of the oncoming traffic (silly puppy).  He’s slowly warming up to Jake after over two years of meet and greet sessions, but I still think he holds a slight grudge since Jake stole the love of his Grandma Doris and everything (who could blame him?) 🙂

I scrambled around in the kitchen before I left trying to use up all of my food that may spoil before I returned.  I ended up freezing a bunch of my almost too ripe bananas to make ice cream a little later on this week, but I also decided to try out a banana doughnut recipe that I’d been eyeing for a while (and to finally use the doughnut pan that has been sitting in my kitchen all lonely for the past 6 months).  These were really delicious right out of the oven, especially when coated in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar.

Whole Wheat Banana Nut Doughnuts

recipe adapted from Naturally Ella

Yields: 6-8 regular sized doughnuts

Ingredients: 

3/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour

3/4 tsp baking powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 cup pecans, chopped

1/2 cup milk

3 tablespoons coconut oil (melted so that it’s liquid)

1 egg

1 banana

2 tbs maple syrup

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and grease the doughnut pan with butter

2. In a medium bowl, stir together the dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, nuts)

3. In a separate bowl, mash the banana.  Whisk in the milk, oil, egg, and maple syrup.  Pour the liquid into the dry and stir until just combined

4. Using a pastry bag or ziplock bag with the corner cut off (I used a pancake pen), squeeze the batter in even circles around the doughnut pan

5. Bake for 12-15 minutes until doughnuts spring back to the touch.  Let cool for 5 minutes in the pan, and then flip onto a wire rack to cool.

Once the doughnuts were cooled, I sprayed them lightly with olive oil (butter would also work, I just didn’t have any) and then dunked them in a mixture of 1/4 cup sugar and 1 tablespoon cinnamon.  These are sweet enough on their own but I think the cinnamon sugar topping really gave them an extra boost.  Either way, Socrates and I couldn’t keep our hands (paws) off of them!

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Happy Monday Everyone!

I’m kind of dragging today so I’m glad the first day of the work week is over and done.  I had a nice and relaxing weekend, so I should have been a little more upbeat today, but that just didn’t happen.  Steve and I spent most of our weekend watching Dawson’s Creek episodes and enjoying the nice weather.  We actually never watched the show when it came on over a decade ago, so it’s been fun jamming along to the awesome ‘90’s soundtrack and reminiscing about our middle/high school dances and generally just feeling very old.  I’ve also learned that I definitely want to name my first born son Pacey.  Not only does it rhyme with my name, but I (and dare I say Steve too) have a major crush on Joshua Jackson’s cute-as-a-button character, and the name Pacey is just so fun.

We got our CSA from Atherton Market on Saturday and along with the usual veggies, we picked up some homemade butter and a gallon of strawberries.

I haven’t used the butter yet but I’m interested to see how differently it tastes than the much less expensive butter we normally buy from the grocery store.  I’ve been eyeing the butter for a while now but have been put off by the $4.50 price tag for a half pound since that’s what we normally pay for a full pound of organic butter at Earthfare or Trader Joe’s.  I like that I can talk directly to the farmer and find out about the cows environment and diet, and I was finally swayed to try it out when the farmer told me about how the cows were grass-fed and led a super happy life.  I admit it, I’m a sucker for buying eggs/milk/butter, even if they are more expensive, if I can know for sure that the animals are happy and treated well.  I’ll probably continue to buy butter from the farmer’s market regardless of the cost.  Maybe it will encourage me to use less butter and voting with my dollars and supporting local businesses is always a good thing in my book.

On Sunday afternoon, Steve and I went to see The Five Year Engagement so that we could snatch up the cheaper price of the matinee ticket.  I remember when movies used to be $7, and now a regular showing at our local movie theater is $10 or $11 (hey, that’s over a pounds worth of farmers market butter!).  Being the poor couple that we are, we went to the 1:00 showing and got in for $7.50.  It’s always a bit odd coming out of a movie theater in the middle of the afternoon.  There’s just something inside my brain that expects it to be night time when I leave so I wasn’t ready for the blinding sun when I stepped outside.  The movie was awesome, but then again, we both love anything with Jason Segal in it.  I generally love going to see a comedy with Steve because he pretty much laughs at everything and always laughs significantly louder than anyone else in the theater…yeah, he’s that guy, and I love him for it!

I did a bit of baking and ice cream making this weekend too.  I made whole wheat snickerdoodles, which were okay, but not nearly as delicious as they look in the picture.  I need to try them again before the recipe is post worthy.

I also made some whole wheat banana nut muffins since my bananas were about to go bad.  The most delicious item of the weekend was the strawberry ice cream that I made from the gallon of strawberries we bought at the farmer’s market.  A gallon is a lot of strawberries, so we’ve been in strawberry heaven all weekend, and I’m actually munching on a few as I type this (my keyboard is turning a nice shade of pink).

This is the first time I’ve made strawberry ice cream, so I do have a few changes I’ll make next time around.  This ice cream was really good right out of the ice cream maker, but once we froze it overnight it was frozen solid and nearly impossible to eat without sitting it out on the counter to thaw for 15-20 minutes.  Steve says that it’s probably due to the water content in the strawberries, so next time I’m going to drain the juice from the chopped strawberries and just pour in the actual strawberry pieces.  We still have some strawberries left so I think I’m going to try out a recipe I found that uses coconut milk and roasted strawberries (this should take care of the water excess issue).  I’ll let you know how it goes but in the meantime, here’s the recipe I used for my first shot a strawberry ice cream.  You’ll notice that the recipe uses maple syrup instead of a refined sweetener like sugar.  I used this Cuisinart Ice Cream Maker where you make the ice cream in a freezer bowl.

Homemade Strawberry Ice Cream

Adapted from 100 Days of Real Food

Ingredients:

– 3/4 cup heavy cream

– 3/4 cup full-fat milk

– 2-3 tablespoons maple syrup (add a tablespoon or two more if you like your ice cream on the sweeter side)

– 15-20 fresh strawberries

Directions:

1. Combine the heavy cream, milk, and maple syrup in a measuring cup and mix together

2. Chill in refrigerator for at least a few hours

3. Chop strawberries according to how chunky you like your ice cream

4. Pour the milk mixture into your ice cream maker, then add the strawberries (if you’re eating your ice cream right away, pour it all in.  If you plan on freezing some for later, strain some of the excess juice out of the strawberries)

5. Once the ice cream reaches your desired consistency, turn off the machine and enjoy.  For me this took about 15-20 minutes

I was too excited about the yummy ice cream to try to snap a good picture, so hopefully this picture will entice you enough to give it a try!

I think that’s all for the day, especially considering I came home to this note:

And here’s what I found:

Stacy Eats: Tales of CSA Cooking

One of my favorite blogs is Kath Eats Real Food where she basically takes pictures of her breakfast, lunch, and dinner and blogs about it three times a day.  As silly as it sounds, it’s actually given me a lot of inspiration in the kitchen, and good for Kath because she gets paid to do it (seriously, her blog is her job, how awesome!).  Our dinners were pretty simple this week so instead of blogging about the recipes, I thought I’d just share pictures of some of our eats for the week.  We’ve been getting a huge bag of veggies each Saturday from our CSA, so it’s fun to open the fridge and make dinner out of unique local veggies that we normally wouldn’t buy at the grocery store.

Mixed Green Salad with Homemade Croutons, Candied Pecans, Sunflower Seeds & Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Sauteed Kale, Onion, & Scrambled Egg Sandwiches/Pitas

Lemony Swiss Chard Pasta with Parm & Toasted Walnuts

Veggie Fried Brown Rice

Strawberry Salad with Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

We still have some beets and kale to use before we get our fresh bag of produce tomorrow, so I’m thinking of trying to perfect kale chips and maybe making some red velvet cupcakes with the beets (you can’t taste them, it’s just a way to make the cake red with using food dye).

My favorite dinner of the week was definitely the strawberry salad.  I’m so happy it’s finally strawberry season, and even though I’m going broke buying an extra pint or two a week, they were certainly a tasty addition to the salad.  I figure this salad was too delicious not to share, so the super simple recipe is below.

Strawberry Salad with Maple-Balsamic Vinaigrette

For the vinaigrette:

Mix 1/4 teaspoon dried basil, 1 teaspoon mustard, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 2 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 teaspoons lemon juice, and a clove of minced garlic in a bowl.  Slowly stream in 1/2 cup of olive oil and whisk until the mixture thickens.  Add salt and pepper.  Store any leftover dressing in the fridge.

For the salad:

Toss the dressing with the salad greens.  Top with toasted walnuts and strawberry slices and enjoy!

And of course a food post wouldn’t be complete without a couple Socrates begging photos: