Monday, February 21, 2011

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins

This morning I posted an entry on The Art of Hospitality over on the PrettySweet: Heaven-Minded blog. I am now posting this recipe to go along with it, because truly - it's a great breakfast recipe for overnight guests. Bacon, eggs, oatmeal chocolate chip cookie muffins, and maybe fruit? Coffee or tea? It's the way to go.

These muffins have a great texture from the oatmeal - and a great crunch from the sprinkle of turbinado sugar on the top. Don't leave this step out. I almost forgot until I took one more look at the recipe...and then pulled the muffins right back out of the oven and added the topping. It's a fairly healthy muffin recipe, too. Fairly. ;)

Just don't make fun of how much milk that my coffee requires...Got it?

These muffins are best right out of the oven, but they really are still good for the next few days. If you reheat them, say, in the microwave, feel free to add another little sprinkle of the turbinado sugar to pull the crunch back into play. Those sugar crystals tend to dissolve overnight...

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Muffins
Makes twelve muffins

1 c. rolled oats (I did quick oats)
1 c. milk (I used skim + a little half & half)
1 egg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste
1/4 c. butter, melted
1 c. whole wheat pastry flour (or all-purpose flour)
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 c. chocolate chips (I used half milk and half semi-sweet)
sprinkle of raw turbinado sugar

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Add the oats to a bowl and cover with 1 cup of milk. Let the oats soak for 5 or 10 minutes while you prepare the other ingredients.

Whisk the egg and the brown sugar together in a large bowl until smooth. Add vanilla and melted butter, whisking again until smooth. In another bowl, mix the dry ingredients: flour, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon. Add both dry mixture and the oat mixture to the egg mixture. Fold in the chocolate chips.

Line your muffin tin with paper liners. Evenly distribute muffin batter into the twelve cups. Sprinkle the tops of each muffin with raw turbinado sugar. Bake the muffins for 15-18 or until brown and cooked through. Serve with a pat of butter on the top, if desired.

Adapted from How Sweet It Is

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Heart Day: Flowers

I just love flowers. They can be growing in the yard or they can be a cut bouquet popping out of pretty vase on my kitchen counter. Either way, I regularly stop to admire them and take a few photos. But bouquets (especially roses and especially this time of year) can be expensive. Therefore, I am totally O.K. with my bouquets coming directly from "big, bad" Wal-Mart. They often have quite a good selection and they are affordable enough to buy here and there throughout the year. Sometimes I even purchase them for myself if there's something special that I can't seem to pass up.

Admittedly, they may not quite up to par with fresh bouquets, say, from a street vendor in Europe. When I studied in Belgium for a semester, I remember the various buckets of flowers lined up for selection. It was a point and smile order system because although I knew a teensy bit of French, I was too timid to Actually Use It. The blooms were gorgeous and the prices were just as nice. I found myself wishing for little flower markets to suddenly appear back home. Sigh!

Enter the flower station at Wal-Mart. Totally doable. And Jeremy feels the same way, so for Valentine's Day, he can get me flowers and an actual gift, if he so desires. Which is totally fine by me.

I love bouquets with unique fillers, like this purple stuff (name, anyone?) and the tall grassy stuff. And daisies always remind me of Meg Ryan's character in You've Got Mail. "Don't you think daisies are the friendliest flower?" Yes, Kathleen Kelly, I do. You're true.

I wanted to give you a few hints on how to take care of your cut bouquets, whether they come from the yard or the store. Because you want them to last as long as they can. First of all, if they came from the store, you're gonna want to recut the stems. This makes it easier on the flowers to keep drinking as much water as they want. Also, cut the stems at an angle.

I have a pair of scissors (they're plain ole scissors but they're = plant-friendly) that I use for only plants. If you remembered my fabric scissor comment from the post about the craft room, it's similar in theory to that. Except no, not really. Fabric scissors need to cut fabric only; if they start cutting on other things, the blades will dull and they will start raveling your fabric. Plant scissors (in my house) are reserved for plant materials. These scissors will not stay clean and that's O.K. But because they're for plants only, nothing else ever gets messed up with them. Did that make all kinds of sense or did I just basically tell you that I have too many rules? Don't answer that.

If some parts of your bouquet have woody stems (like the purple filler), you can take an extra step here. Smash the end of the stem to help it absorb even more water. Super simple.

Alright, find an appropriate vase for your bouquet. Reference this post at The Art of Doing Stuff for more info. on that. She has good ideas. As for me, I have a small stash of vases I've bought or been given. You can also recycle pretty juice bottles or Mason jars for smaller bouquets. For bigger bouquets, I tend to use this one often.

It's tall and medium sized, which holds the flowers upright and allows you to keep the stems somewhat long. It'd be perfect for a dozen roses, too. (Again, reference the above post to tell you what could happen with the wrong vase. It's kind of hilarious. =) Also, the pretty scalloped edge and designs on this particular vase dress up my entire arrangement, no matter what I put in it. Word to the wise.

I always use room temperature water to fill the vase with. The flowers are already in a bit of shock after being cut and moved around and taken in and out of water. You don't want to shock them further with freezing cold or burning hot water in their new home. Be nice to your flowers and they'll be nice to you. (Did I really just say that?) Some people suggest that you actually recut the flowers underneath running water, but I hardly ever do that. Honestly, I can't tell a difference.

If the bouquet came with a little packet of plant food, by all means, use it. Stir well to dissolve. Now you're ready to arrange!

You may want to keep the bouquet in the same exact arrangement in which it first appeared to you. If it's already pleasing to your eye, well, that's the easiest thing to do! Just grasp the bouquet, snip the stems, and insert the flowers into the vase. Done.

If you want to rearrange some things, which I often do, it doesn't take much longer. I lay a big paper towel (or three) on the counter and set the flowers on top of it. Then I first put the flowers with the largest representation in the vase. In this case, the daisies. Simply a bouquet of daisies. Then I started in with the magenta gerbera daisies, white lilies, and the pink carnations, evenly spacing them out a bit. The fillers came next and I finished up with the grassy stuff. So easy.

Another tip is to recut your stems a bit every couple of days or so. Don't cut too much, though, or you'll end up with an Incredible Shrinking Arrangement. But you won't really have to worry about that if you have tulips...I find it extremely interesting that they're the only flowers that still keep growing after they're cut. The flowers change day by day. Very, very cool.

You'll also want to change your water every couple of days or so. Sometimes I go a little longer without changing it if I don't have any more plant food available.

And that's all the flowery tips I can think of right now. I surely don't claim to be a professional florist, but I am interested in it enough to pick up some things here and there. Hope these hints are helpful to you, too!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Heart Day: Chocolate Covered Strawberries

First of all, let me ask...why are chocolate covered strawberries only a Valentine's thing? They are so pretty and so fun and so delicious that I think I shall start making them year round. Or at least the whole month of February, while they are still on my mind. And again in the summer, when strawberries are truly in season. Oh, yeah.

Yes, you can pay someone to make them, which I have done before (and they WERE awesome) but they're expensive. Sigh! So sometimes I say to myself, "Self, you can make this. And self, you can save some money." And that's what happens. (Side note: my husband loves when I make these kind of comments to myself.)

This year I found some Baker's Dipping Chocolate in little microwaveable containers. Brilliant! I bought both semi-sweet and milk chocolate containers and it was beyond easy. Just follow the directions on the container. Then, since I have a little stash of sprinkles, I prettied them up even more than mere chocolate can do. (Though mere chocolate is enough. For the rest of the year.)

Refrigerate for a few minutes. Serve. In the words of Ina Garten, "How easy is that?"

Up next...Part II: Flowers, Part III: Dinner, and Part IV: Gifts

P.S. One more picture...this is what happens when non-professionals try their hand at the drizzling thing...

Hope your Valentine's Day was very happy!

Monday, February 14, 2011

My Handy Valentine

Remember this?

The craft room. The old, disheveled "craft room" where crafts were never made because you could barely walk through it?


Now...instead...there's this!

Bless my husband for putting up wire shelves to house my abundant selection of "permanent" flowers. Luckily, this shelf also allows for hangings things from it, so now all my wreaths (some purchased, some made) have a nice home, too. My friend Jen helped me organize all of this (by color, season, holiday) even though she might have rolled her eyes a few times. ;) It also holds my selection of raffia (far left end) because I use it for everything! Wreaths, bows for presents, tying a tag on something. Get thee some raffia.

And we've found that keeping the Christmas tree up (and away) is the easiest way to start things when decorating time comes again the next year. So, there it will sit, all the craft room. It makes me happy. Again, my friend Jen poked fun at me for making sure the ribbons were spaced evenly. Hey, it'd drive me crazy All Year Long if it looked wonky. (Are you starting to see why it takes me so long to do something?)

(Yes, I still have some Christmas presents I haven't given out. 
What of it?)

Next, there's this lovely window with lovely natural light pouring in. I might get a little worktable to set in front of it when I can establish that said lovely natural light will not pour straight into my eyes when I sit there. We'll see...

This is maybe the most unconventional and exciting part of the craft room remodel. Thanks to Jeremy's fantastic idea, my gift bag station resembles my favorite store...Hobby Lobby! ;)

I have a plastic tote underneath with all the bows and whistles. Handy, handy, is it not??

Here's the closet. SO MUCH BETTER. I love it. All the Christmas decorations, autumnal decorations, Easter decorations, etc. - they're all sorted and in their proper place.

And this side of the closet will hold my enormous assortment of after-Christmas-sales of shatterproof ornaments to make more of these wreaths for next year...(I laughed when I saw it, in spite of myself...what's that line from?)

And that side of the closet also holds plastic containers of stamping paraphenalia, card-making and scrapbooking stuff (though I don't technically scrapbook - but I have good intentions), painting supplies, and various crafting odds and ends. And the top shelf (not seen) holds lots of styrofoam for making flower arrangements. All pretty stinkin' easy to get to!

Several years back I bought this old red cabinet from my friend Amanda when they were moving. It holds floral design stuff - and fabric scissors (Jeremy doesn't understand the concept of fabric scissors, but I'm trying to teach him! ;) - and glue guns, plural. Because one is never enough. Or something. And now that the room is organized I can actually use the workspace on top to Make Things. Isn't that just crazy?? Sigh.

I'm very blessed that my husband knows how to build things and make things and organize things. And since we've recently discovered our love languages, I know that his "acts of service" in helping me with this big project means, in fact, that he looooves me! So when I look at my craft room and think about his help, I can always remember that. =)

Happy Valentine's Day to my sweet, handy, and extremely funny Valentine! I love you so, so much!!

Happy Heart Day to all of you, too! Thanks for coming here and reading and commenting. I enjoy our visits quite a lot. =)

P.S. There's one more thing (again, a great Jeremy idea) that will make this craft room complete. Care to venture any guesses?

Friday, February 11, 2011

HaliHannigan's Cupcakery

I'd been hearing rumors of this new cupcake shop in our neighboring town of Jackson for awhile now. So while I was out running errands the other day, I stopped in to HaliHannigan's to take a peek. I cannot lie...and also to conduct my own taste-test. =)

First of all, this place is CUTE. And charming. I wish I had a picture to show you. It's got a pink floor, to which I immediately said, "Yes, please." (Jeremy's agreed to paint our hardwood the same color. Happy Valentine's Day to me!! Also, April Fool's Day is soon, is it not?) The rest of the decor was super cute also, but the real draw, of course, are the cupcakes themselves, all pretty on display in two glass cases.

They offered 4 cupcakes for $10.00, which seemed reasonable for beautiful (and delicious) cupcakes. They had about 10-15 flavor offerings and the cashier told me the varieties change constantly - their Facebook page will continually spread the news of the current menu options. I could tell they had a great selection of Valentines cupcakes at this time of year, so I wanted to be sure to tell you about about this place before this weekend. In case you live around here - and in case you're not a baker or you're too busy or you're what-have-you...

I picked out the Peanut Butter Chocolate Explosion, Cherry Cheesecake, Turtle Cheesecake, and Chocolate Raspberry. We had friends in town for the FHU Bible Lectureship this week (and had such a great time with them!) so we had a cupcake-tasting party after one of the evening lectures. I had given my mom the turtle cheesecake one, but we really had plenty left to taste because our friend Matt doesn't really like sweets. (Something I will never understand.) Jeremy, Julie, and I are the normal ones - and we enjoyed every bite!

My mom's Turtle Cheesecake

Chocolate Raspberry

Cherry Cheesecake

Peanut Butter Chocolate Explosion

The consensus: The Cherry Cheesecake one was incredible! And the hands-down winner. The tastes and textures were amazing. Running a close second was the Chocolate Raspberry, which had pink edible glitter. (Pink glitter that you can eat!! Oh, yeah. Happy day.) We were so sugared up that we barely even got to the PB and chocolate one. It was good, but we were all partial to the others.

From their Facebook page, it looks like they will also have chocolate covered strawberries and some other fancy Valentine treats during the next few days. Mmmm! HaliHannigan's Cupcakery is located in The Columns, near Ashley Furniture - and whatever gym is over there. ;) You should check them out. I think they're pretty sweet. And no, they're not paying me to say so. =)

Happy Friday!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Aprons and Awards

See this apron? The small one in the front? The one with the heart stenciled on it?

I made it YEARS ago, with lots of help (obviously) from my mother and grandmother, to enter in a contest for 4-H. I didn't win. It was because "it looked too perfect that an elementary school kid couldn't have possibly made it." Can you believe that?? Hahaha! Hooo boy!

Actually, I know I had a lot of help, but they didn't do it for me. They taught me how and I did it. I can't help that I did it so well! So perfect and without a stitch out of place. Anyway. I'm not still bitter about that contest. I'm not. I think it's kinda funny. Because it does look pretty perfect. ;)

I got it out to display for Valentine's Day. No, I don't have a Packers or a Steelers apron, so this one will have to do. =)

I may not have won that 4-H contest way back when, but I did get a sweet blog award (actually, two! one for this one and one for PrettySweet: Heaven-Minded) from my friend Heather at Yet To Be a few days ago. It made my day. =) Thank you, Heather! I think you're awesome and your photography is awesome and I think we ARE, indeed, kindred spirits in many ways.

To accept this award, I am supposed to do a few things: tell you seven things about myself. Also I need to tell you about some newish, stylish blogs in my own line of vision and bequeath them with the Stylish Blog award - and course, notifying them afterward. Woo hoo! I love to share! And lastly, link back to my bestower of the award, which I already did. (Note: I thought spellcheck was going to tell me that "bestower" is not a real word. But it is! It's real!)

First of all, to my friend Sarah, who tells us small-town folks about her adventures in New York City at A Georgia Peach in the Big Apple. I looove keeping up with her and hearing about her acting auditions and volunteer work and general big city life. I think it's awesome that she's pursuing her dreams. Someday we'll see you in the movies, Ms. Decker!

And to my friend Jennifer, who just started a new blog for her stationery business at Hart to Heart Stationery Designs. She has done digital scrapbooking for quite awhile and then got into making personalized party invitations and supplies for her three children. Her stuff is adorable! And she has the best party ideas. =) I think she's very reasonably priced, too. Check her out.

And now...the seven things:

1. I already told you about the heart apron that I didn't win a contest with.

2. And I already told you that I didn't have a Packers or a Steelers apron. (And that, my friends, is because sometimes I don't even watch the Super Bowl. Gasp!) But I do, pretty much, collect aprons. As you can tell. The one to the right of the heart apron was a wedding gift from my sweet friend Mindy (who is a pretty stylish blogger herself - but alas, her blog is not new.) She knows me well. =)

3. I hate to dust. And my house tells on me ALL the time. Big, heavy SIGH. But right now, it's nearly spotless...because we have company. The house looks awesome. =) At the moment I am highly motivated to keep it just so.

4. I'm not a phone person. I'd much rather email somebody and they can answer me anytime they choose to. Phone calls make me a little nervous, but they used to make me A LOT nervous. I'm much better than I used to be, but I still usually have to psych myself up for making certain calls.

5. I totally enjoy coffee, but it needs to be a light roast, like Breakfast Blend. Jeremy is the same way - the other stuff is too bitter for us. Also, CoffeeMates' Italian Sweet Creme is pretty delightful.

6. I have been designing my first book cover. Not for a book I wrote, though I would like to write one. But for my dad's small printing/publishing business. I am working part time for him and I am really enjoying it!

7. The craft room renovation is sooooo close to completion. Woo hoo! One more step! Hold on and stay tuned...

Happy Tuesday!