Monday, February 28, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake


I have this thing where I convince myself that any recipe with oatmeal is healthy. Apple Crumble...healthy. No Bake Cookies...healthy. Oatmeal Raisin Cookies...definitely healthy. The fact that butter, sugar, and all sorts of naughty ingredients are also involved means nothing to me.

So I am VERY happy to share my newest "healthy" recipe test - Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake...and as an added bonus, it contains booze! I got the base recipe from Bake or Break (an awesome recipe resource) and made a few tweaks based on what I had available in my pantry, and I loved it. It's the perfect comfort food cake for these ever frigid days. Enjoy!

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cake

1 1/3 cup chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon liquor, such as bourbon or whiskey (I used Canadian Club)
1 & 1/2 cups + 2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup unsalted butter, cut into small cubes, at room temperature
2 room temperature eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 & 1/4 cups firmly packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 & 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon

Preheat oven to 375°. Butter the sides and bottom of a 9″x13″ baking pan.

Toss chocolate chips with liquor in a small bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons of flour over the chips and toss until coated. Set aside.

Heat 1 & 1/4 cups water to boiling. Place the oats and butter in a large bowl. Pour boiling water over oat mixture. Wait 30 seconds, then stir to moisten oats and melt the butter. Seat aside for 25-30 minutes.

Whisk eggs, sugars, salt, baking soda, baking powder, and cinnamon. Fold in oatmeal, stirring until well combined. Fold in remaining flour, and then stir in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake 40-45 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 30 minutes.

** When using a convection oven **
I reduced the temp to 350 and only baked for 30 - 32 minutes.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Gluten-Free Dessert: Meringues Chantilly


I recently had a dinner party where one of my guests follows a gluten-free diet. Making a gluten-free dinner wasn't a difficult task, but I wanted my friend to be able to enjoy a delicious dessert too. I know there are a million mixes and recipes out there that substitute items to make them Celiac-friendly...but I didn't have time to recipe test to make sure the quality was just right. So I went with something that is inherently gluten-free - Meringues.

Meringues are egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and a tiny bit of cream of tartar, whipped to hard peaks. You then pipe them to the desired shape and size and dehydrate them in an oven over many hours.

The result is a deliciously flaky cookie that is a base for many other favorite being Meringues Chantilly. All you need to add to your meringues is a little raspberry sauce, whipped cream, and fresh berries.

Voila! A gorgeous, fancy, delicious, and gluten-free dessert that is sure to please.

Friday, February 25, 2011

String Chandeliers

DIY Decor.

When I saw this project listed on Ruffled blog I was immediately transported back to grade school. I think I made these string chandeliers at least once every year in art class from grades 1 thru 6. Who knew they were going to be hip in 2011?

I am usually 100% okay with living a clutter-free life. However, today I wish I could wind my way through an old basement or attic filled will childhood projects and memories. But as I look around my 1200 sq of space, it is very clear, that in order to dine al fresco with lovely objets d’art. I must get busy on this tutorial.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Art of the Pen

Home Decor.

If you took a close look at the picture below, you'd notice that it's much more than just an ordinary print. It's actually the entire written text of Pride and Prejudice...formed to create a print that fits the books subject.

With many classic literary options to choose from, Spineless Classics has a genius concept on their hands. And I don't even need Sherlock Holmes (picture below) to deduce that...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

It's a Wrap


Check out what happens when acrylic paint meets kraft paper.

The effect is modern, dramatic and takes the cool factor of receiving flowers up at least 10 notches. Thanks to Tokketok for this fabulous idea.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Link Love

Tuesday Inspiration.

Home Shopping Spy
This safari wall decal is adorable with a capital A.

Emma’s Design Blog
Clean lines and this copper pendant lamp make for a gorgeous bedroom.

United Plates…prints of states represented by food. So cute!

Oh Happy Day
A simple DIY takes ordinary streamers and makes them fabulously fringed.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Mushroom and Marsala Pappardelle


I decided at the first of the year to give Meatless Monday a whirl. I knew this would be a hard sell to my husband who would easily eat steak 5 days a week. So, I planned my first couple of meals very carefully to make sure to ease into the process and not start the plan off with something he would consider life altering like curried lentils.

I fortunately got very lucky with Rachel Ray’s mushroom and marsala pappardelle. Somehow the taste was between a stroganoff and an alfredo AND I even replaced the 1 cup of heavy cream with Land O Lakes fat free half and half. I used a combination of dried and fresh mushrooms and Trader Joe’s Egg Pappardelle Pasta.

In my household whenever we try a new recipe we give it the star rating but if it is off the star chart then it is deemed “restaurant quality” which is what this dish quickly became. I am happy to report that Meatless Monday is still thriving and for this I must take my hat off to the pappardelle that started it all.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Packaging Inspiration.


I peruse Dieline on a regular basis just to see what the graphic genius’ of the world have been up to. Packaging is a huge source of inspiration in so many ways, typography, color pallettes, shapes and sizes. I was very excited when I ran across the new branding for an ice cream shop called Honey and Mackie’s. The branding is hip, fun and modern all wrapped into one. Oh how the wheels are turning now! Check out the whole layout here.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Decorative Tray


Another brilliant project from the Martha Stewart crew. This beautiful tray is actually a fabric wrapped aluminum baking sheet. The result is gorgeous!

Here are the details.

Thursday, February 17, 2011


Home Decor.

Am I behind the trend on this? I had no idea there was temporary wallpaper on the market.

A group of NYC decorators launched a line of wallpapers that is easy to apply and easy to remove. I’ve never been particularly drawn to wallpaper but that probably has something to do with remembering the painstaking process of getting the measurements exact , mixing up that awful paste, getting the wallpaper on the wall just right at the speed of light before the paste dries.

This opens up endless possibilities. You could freshen up your home d├ęcor by the season, based on a whim or even for a party. What a great idea for nurseries, easy to change through the years. I know most of us growing up got one room makeover and whatever age it happened that was it for the duration. I remember visiting several high school friends home’s to find walls still adorned with race cars, bunnies, you name it.

This wallpaper does not only have modern graphics and warm tones but it could also solve embarrassing adolescent moments.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Weeknight Pepperoncini Pasta


The harsh weather of the last two weeks has forced me to become creative with my usual kitchen staples. I found a recipe in Bon Appetit that I thought sounded delish, but I had to tweak it a bit to make my available supplies work. is now my favorite go-to weeknight recipe...Pepperoncini Pasta. Spicy, creamy tomato sauce with hearty pasta that only takes about 20 minutes to make. You have got to try it.

Pepperoncini Pasta

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb ground sirloin
½ cup sliced peperoncini, plus 1 cup liquid from jar
½ cup onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried orgegano
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
¼ tsp cayenne pepper
1 24oz jar marinara sauce
¾ cup heavy cream
3/4 - 1 lb whole wheat penne pasta
3 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh basil and parm for garnish

Heat oil in heavy large pot over high heat. Add ground sirloin, cooking until browned, breaking into pieces, about 6 minutes. Add pepperoncini, onions, and next 6ingredients, cook until onions are tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add pepperoncini liquid; stir until most of liquid is absorbed, about 1 minute. Add marinara and cream. Cook until heated through and slightly reduced, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in another large pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain. Transfer pasta and 3 Tbsp of cheese to pot with sauce. Stir to incorporate. Transfer to a bowl. Sprinkle with basil and cheese.`

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Link Love.

Tuesday Inspiration.

a la mode
Delicious, beautiful and healthy

I always see pretty door knobs and wish I had a reason to buy them…now I do.

A new spin on fondue using cupcakes.

Bird's Party
Love this school themed birthday bash.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Apothica Contest Giveaway


Do you ever look at pictures from a party and marvel at the fact that you look like you aren’t wearing any make-up at all? Despite the fact that you stood in front of a mirror perfecting your evening look, the make-up just seems to disintegrate after hours of air-kissing, schmoozing, and dancing. What you need is a little Smashbox Photo Finish Primer.

Smashbox’s primers are the only primers that I’ve tried that can actually tame my oily T-Zone. I’ve been using them since there was only the original version, but now they have many custom options:

Light – For those with oily skin. It mattes everything out and is oil-free.
Bronze – To enhance a summer glow or winter getaway tan.
Blend - The apricot tone evens out and brightens skin tones.
Balance – The lavender tone rids skin of dullness. So long winter sallowness.
Adjust – This green tint eliminates red. The day after lots of cocktails never looked so good!

And if you’ve been afraid to invest in a primer, now is your time to give it a try. We’re hosting a giveaway with the online beauty source, Apothica, for a $25 gift certificate!

To enter you must do one of the following and then write a comment on this post letting us know what you’ve done:

Option 1: Facebook
1. Visit
2.Write on Apothica’s Facebook wall about what you think of Apothica
Bonus: Opt in to Apothica’s Newsletter

Option 2: Twitter
2.Tweet about Apothica on your own Twitter Account
Bonus: Retweet Apothica’s tweet about this giveaway

Option 3: Blog
2.Write something on your blog about what you think of Apothica
Bonus: Write about the brand I highlighted and link it to Apothica
** Bonus means that your name is entered in twice.

We’ll be taking entries through February 28th and announcing the winner on March 2nd. So make sure to check back and see if you’ve won. Good luck!!

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Inexpensive Wine Choices


Trader Joe’s Three Buck Chuck has reigned at the leader in cheap yet palatable wine for years now, but it seems that they have a bit of competition…Whole Foods has entered the race as well with their Three Wishes Wine.

I found this article particularly helpful in distinguishing between what works best in the world of ultimate vino frugality. No need to waste even $3 on making the wrong choice.

And keep in mind, you are probably not going to pass up on an Opus One for Charles Shaw or Three Wishes. But they are perfectly fine for table wine and cooking wine centric meals like Boeuf Bourguignon.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Zilch Margaritas

Calorie-friendly cocktails.

I’ll be perfectly honest, I haven’t enjoyed a margarita since they started putting the calorie content on menus. I love the slightly sour and sweet mix and it used to be one of my favorite go-to drinks but I can’t enjoy it now that I see the calorie and sugar content. Plus as I get older, sugary drinks cause me to stay in bed a little longer the next morning.

I was about to resign myself to a margarita-free life when along came Zilch Margarita Mix. It is sold in 10 single-serve packets and all you need to do is add tequila and water and voila you have yourself an 8 oz. margarita. The best part is that it contains zero carbohydrates and zero calories.

Zilch comes in a variety of flavors and also in one gallon party packet if you are planning a get-together. Now while I stay true to a real margarita made with fresh lime juice, I believe that with Zilch’s easy to-go packets, I can once again enjoy my margarita, chips and salsa cravings on a more regular basis.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Bloody Mary Bottle Service


One of my favorite Mexican Restaurants in both NYC and Chicago is Mercadito. And when I saw that they are doing Bloody Mary Bottles Service for their weekend brunch menu, I thought that was a genius.

Like a dressed up version of a traditional bloody mary bar, Mercadito’s bottle service includes one bottle of vodka, three different kinds of mixers, and a plethora of accoutrements. Your table just helps themselves to create your own custom cocktail.

Wouldn’t that idea translate well to entertaining at home? Place the mixers in lovely decanters. Put the garnishes in pretty little bowls. Place everything on a tray and serve tableside…how fun!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Chili in a Jar

Food service.

I ran across this idea at Giver’s log and thought it would be perfect for winter events. It is quick and easy and would make the perfect warm snack for a sporting event, ice skating or just good fun after a day of building snowmen. I like that you can incorporate the chili and cornbread in one grab-and-go jar and voila you have a healthy, hearty treat.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Link Love.

Tuesday Inspiration.

Cutest creative kids pic ever!

Mr. Kate
This ring is bad*ss. I love it.

Design Sponge
The wallpapered ceiling and red upholstery in this room is totally making me swoon. And don’t even get me started about the buffet.

The Scoop
As soon as the iPhone is officially part of Verizon, this case is mine!!

Monday, February 7, 2011

Valentine's Day Treat


It is snowing in NYC today and I am feeling a little bit of cabin fever. I have done all the paperwork and organizing I can possibly do and it is only 10:00am. I decided to embrace being snowbound and make these cute little cookies from Bake It Pretty to surprise my hubby on Valentine’s Day.

They look pretty easy and luckily I have all the ingredients already in the apartment. They are the perfect size to slip into a cellophane bag and tie with a ribbon or I may have a small box lying around that I can slip into his bag.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Customizable Breakfast Cereal

I love this concept. The creators at me & goji have put together an interactive cereal builder system, if you will, that allows you to create your very own breakfast cereal by using your favorite ingredients.

Goji’s base includes things like choco granola, five grain muesli and goji oats. You can then go to town with the additives like cocoa almonds, dried strawberries, acai powder and multigrain o’s just to name a few.

After selecting the components, you get to name your cereal which shows up printed on the outside of the tube and for an additional $2.99 you can include a photo.

The finished tube contains about 21 ½ cup servings and costs start at around $5.00 if using the cheapest base and go upwards from there. Typical cost plus shipping is around $10 per tube.

This is going to make a great “wow” factor for my upcoming breakfast meetings.

Friday, February 4, 2011

North American Aphrodisiac


It is said that oysters are aphrodisiacs. I don't know if I buy that claim, but I do know that they make me pretty happy. There's just something about the briny taste topped with a little minuet or cocktail sauce. Yummo.

photo courtesy of mpieracci on flickr

Bon Appetit magazine did a little feature in their February issue to break down the differences between the taste subtleties between different regions of origin. And what's great about oysters is that North America produces the best that you can get anywhere. I think Bon Apetit's feature is a great basic guideline to take away your fear of choosing the "wrong" kind for a special night out. Here are the basics:

West Coast - tend to be smaller, sweeter, and creamier.
East Coast - more briny but varying in size from small to quite large.
Gulf Coast - best enjoyed cooked (think Rockefeller or in a po'boy)

So for your special Valentine's dinner, consider picking some up from your local seafood purveyor or ordering them at dinner. Who knows...maybe they really are aphrodisiacs...

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Kale Chips


What is with this kale chip craze? I can’t go anywhere without seeing people munching on kale chips. They are showing up in restaurants in place of bread baskets, I saw two people eating them on the subway and one munching while walking down the sidewalk. So, I decided to give it a whirl. I tried a couple of different recipes and ended up liking the Neely’s the best. It is not the healthiest as it contains 1 tsp. of brown sugar but I liked the way it offset the bitterness of the green. If you don’t want any sugar additives it can easily be omitted.

This healthy alternative is a great at home snack, especially when you get that craving for something sweet and salty. But on a side note, your smile after eating kale chips is not at its pearly best. Definitely don’t suggest eating them at a party, on a first date or on the subway!

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Customizing Cabinets


Casegoods are not cheap, but we all need ample amount of storage to hide our odds and ends. Retailers like Ikea, West Elm, and Target have some inexpensive solutions…but they often feel a little basic and ordinary.

And that’s why I LOVE this DIY from Fresh Home Magazine. It costs next to nothing and adds such charm and pop to the ordinary.

Here are the details on how you can take on this task…and it only costs around $15:

1. Use your computer to create words in different fonts, enlarging as needed to reach the correct size, and print out.

2. Securely tape letters or words to drawer fronts.

3. Hammer upholstery nails through paper along letters' outlines.

4. Carefully pull off printer paper, leaving nailheads in place.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Link Love.

Tuesday Inspiration.

Williams Sonoma
Perfect for a Valentine lunch box treat.

Dottie Angel
Be still my heart.

Skillet cookie…Does this count as one serving?

Loving the frameless look with bull dog clips.