My littlest brother is 17 and getting ready to finish his junior year in high school. He’s in the jazz band and wind ensemble where he plays the sax. 13 years ago when I was a freshman in high school the band started a tradition of having a cake auction at the last concert of the year to help raise money for the next year’s band. Every year of high school I made a cake that was auctioned off. This year I helped my own brother make a cake. I chose a recipe from Heather at Sprinkle Bakes because 1) it was full of chocolate and 2) it had basic techniques I thought my brother should know. The recipe sounds complicated, it’s a Chocolate Mousse Cookie Dough Bombe, but if my brother can do it I assure you that you can too.
We started by assembling the brownie layer. We wanted to make sure it had time to cool before we packed it away to rest overnight before we assembled it the evening of the concert. While making this layer my brother started sharing what he called “Legit bro tips” or what he thought were helpful tips about baking and cooking. I’ll share them just as I promised. His first legit bro tip- “oh year we made brownies, I made them when I was 8. I think I know what I’m doing” which I’m sure is his way of saying easy enough.
Next we assembled the cookie dough layer. This layer is made by stirring up the ingredients in a mixer, then pressing the mix into a plastic-wrap-lined bowl. This prepwork will make it easier at the end. You don’t want to leave gaps because this will become your dome when you flip the cake over. My brother’s legit bro tip- “real easy, can’t mess this up.” This layer also leaves some leftover cookie dough which is wonderful because there are no eggs and no baking in this step so it’s safe to munch on.
Next up was making the mousse. This was the most educational portion of our day in the kitchen. I taught my brother how to separate eggs (legit bro tip- Make sure to break that in half) and how to temper eggs. He didn’t believe that the mixture had thickened enough to cover the back of the spoon as instructed so he learned another legit bro tip- don’t be afraid to pull out a spoon and test. Then he was introduced to the Kitchenaid mixer and its ability to whip cream. He saw most of the stages and learned the difference between soft and stiff peaks (legit bro tip- those are the hard ones). We mixed the chocolate and cream together and then the dish started coming together. We poured the mousse into the cookie dough, then covered it in plastic wrap and froze it overnight.
The next day we took off the plastic wrap, placed the brownie layer on top of the mousse, and trimmed the remaining cookie dough. Then we flipped it. It was the moment of truth- would all our hard work pay off?
Now this is where the cake gets its death by chocolate reputation, you cover this massive treat with a chocolate ganache. We quickly whipped that up and my brother poured it on.
We sent the cake off to the cake auction and a lovely buyer bought it (aka our mom- do you think she would let her son’s first homemade cake go to someone else?). She was kind enough to share it with us on Mother’s Day though there was very little left the way the family had devoured it.
Doesn’t that look amazing? It somehow tasted even better than it looked. We’ve come to our final legit bro tip- “It’s bombastic.”
If you’re looking for the recipe, make sure to check Sprinkle Bakes. It’s absolutely worth it.Pin It
I’ve been working on a few projects in the yard. First up, a status check on that front flower bed:
Last year’s drought was tough on this bed so the plants that made it are real survivors. We lost all the dwarf rhododendron early on and both the azaleas and one hydrangea were lost by late summer. We still have the hydrangea on the left and it’s getting a solid leaf base early on. The pink and white rhododendron in the back–are both purple but very alive so we’ll take them. We added six geraniums last year that stayed green all winter and we’ve got a clematis climbing the trellis in the middle. There are some plants to replace but it’s looking alive again.
My corner flower bed has a project going on that’s about 90% complete. I’ll share it soon but here’s a hint:
Last week I saw flurries again. Can you believe it? Last year I was trying not to turn on the AC and this year it is snowing a month past spring. In the same week I saw 90 degree temperatures and two trips to the basement for tornado sirens. And it’s flooding. Welcome to Missouri.
I’ve got another project about 40% complete. One day I came home from work to catch my husband digging in the yard. He’d gotten off work early and decided to start another flower bed. Forget a nap or a beer, he likes working after work. We’ve planted a shipment of hostas, a new jack frost brunnera and my lovely coworker just gave me some elephant ears that are likely to end up in here too. We’ve filled the car up with mulch twice but we’ve only gotten so far. Compared to a photo two summers ago, I think the yard is finally making some progress.
I decided not to finish any of these projects today. Sure I could have but I’ve been running around working like crazy, gardening, cooking meals for the week, and planning my high school reunion. Then I saw this face and realized you have to make time for the important things in life, like playing with a pitbull and her ball.
How could I resist a face like that?
Last post I was still trying to figure out where to start with the colors for my newest piece of furniture.
My bar cart came looking like this. The distressed light blue just wasn’t what I was looking for but I like the bones of the piece. I recently picked up a batch of color samples from the store. The shades on either end were ruled out immediately when I saw them in the room. The green blended into walls too much and the aqua was just too bright. I was down to two reds and two blues.
I did a crude Photoshop of the bar cart with the colors I had left. Nothing perfect, just an idea of what I liked. I think this was the most helpful way to rule out colors. I realized I really liked the idea of a pop of red in the room. Blue was just too safe for me and it will tie in perfectly to the red couch in the next room.
I’m not 100% sure which red I’ll grab when I get to the store but I feel like I’m on the right track.
I just bought a new rug. The photos on the Pottery Barn website made it look bright but I knew from the comments to expect more taupe than white.
This was the untouched reality (though without much natural light)
I’m totally into my new rug and how well it goes with my other art in my dining room but the taupe background fooled all my usual sites for extracting a color palette. They just kept pulling out the brown even though I wanted to see the greens, golds, pinks and blues. I even tried a site listed in the comments, Dominant Colors, but just ended up with more mud.
I finally found success over on Colourlovers. If you join the site you can upload a color and use a selector to choose which 5 colors you want until you have the perfect palette.
Knowing I have plenty of neutrals in my room already, I was searching for an accent color pulled from the rug that I can use to paint a piece of furniture I bought around Christmastime. The palette came out a little rainbowy but I think I have 5 really gorgeous colors to choose from.
Just from seeing each color, I know I already have a color much like the far right one in the room. I’m leaning towards the sienna shade or the more aqua one. What do you think would look best in the room?
I’m back with one last Lenten meal for you. This one is another healthier-than-fish-fry kind of meal courtesy of Cooking Light. I love that this recipe uses asparagus that’s in season (unless you live somewhere that just had another 14 inches of snow like I did) and has some of that delicious gnocchi I cannot get enough of lately.
This meal only takes about 10 minutes to cook and there aren’t many dishes so you can use your Friday night for something other than dinner. Do any of you do a blackout night on Friday? I’ve tried stepping away from the computer and phone for those nights to just devote to some couple time or some reading. It’s easier some nights than others (if the husband is gaming it’s hard for me to stay offline too) but I made it through 3 books last weekend and got back on track for my Goodreads goal.
Have a good Easter to you all! I’ll be back next week with some color inspiration.
- 1 lb asparagus
- 1 pound peeled and deveined large shrimp
- 2 quarts water
- 1 (16-ounce) package gnocchi
- 1/2 cup pesto
- Chop asparagus into 1 inch pieces. Heat up a skillet.
- Bring 2 quarts water to a boil in large pot. Add gnocchi and boil for 2-3 minutes until the gnocchi rises to the surface. Strain.
- While the gnocchi is cooking, saute the asparagus in the skillet for 4 minutes. Add the shrimp and saute for another minute. Mix in the gnocchi and the 1/2 cup of pesto and cook for another 3 minutes until done.
If you’re like me you’re 2 Fridays away from the end of Lent and are maybe a little sick of all that fried fish. Don’t get me wrong, I love seafood and love fish fry (St. Ferdinand in Florissant has the best in STL if you were wondering) but this is the time of year I’m usually just about done with the same meal over and over again.
As a lighter alternative, salmon and cheese ravioli seems a good change. You can throw in a fresh lemon and some fresh spinach to really embrace the spring produce coming into season. This recipe takes only about 20-30 minutes so it’s weeknight friendly so it’s perfect for a Friday or any other night.
- 1-8 oz package refrigerated four cheese ravioli
- 1 lemon
- 2-6 oz frozen salmon fillets, thawed
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1-6 oz package baby spinach
- 1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 Tablespoon butter
- Cut lemon in half. Make a thin slice from each side and reserve.
- Spray a glass pan with aluminum foil. Place salmon in pan and drizzle one half of the lemon over both pieces of salmon. Top each filet with a slice of lemon and 1/2 tablespoon pat of butter. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until flakey.
- While salmon is baking, boil water and cook the ravioli until it floats to the top. Drain.
- About 5 minutes before the ravioli and salmon are done, heat olive oil in a pan. Saute the spinach and garlic in the pan and squeeze the remaining lemon half on top.
- Serve with salmon on top of spinach and the ravioli on the side.
The best thing about March has to be Thin Mints. It can’t be the weather (high was supposed to be 60 and I saw snow) and it can’t be the days off work (that would be 0) so it has to be the Thin Mints. Last year I celebrated with an alcoholic overture to the cookie but this year I made a chocolate bark.
Place a single layer of pretzels in a pan lined with wax paper. Melt your chocolate in 30 second intervals until smooth when stirred. Repeat this process with the candy melts. Pour the chocolate on either end of the pan and pour the candy melts into the center of the pan. Swirl the chocolate and candy melts into a pattern. Toss on crumbled Thin Mints and sprinkles. Place the pan in the fridge for about 20 minutes before breaking apart the candy bark and enjoy!Pin It
Last year one of my favorite experiences was seeing the Lantern Festival at Missouri Botanical Garden. The gardens are always beautiful but the lanterns were gorgeous pieces of art in a beautiful landscape.
That last one there was so incredible. At night it lit up and breathed smoke. My favorite at night was this one:
Seriously, how gorgeous are all the reflections? I’ve profiled the gardens on my old travel blog and I have to say that even without the lanterns that place is beautiful. I came away from that visit so inspired by what I could do in my own yard. Can you just see adding lights to a water feature in your own yard to play with texture?
I was pleased to see the gardens suffering from the same effects of drought that my yard was. Even the pros suffer too! I realized I was just fine in many of my plant choices and sometimes living in Missouri means bad years. I’m hoping this year will be a better one. Tomorrow will hopefully be the last snowfall of the season and I expect the rest to be melted by Friday. I won’t plant then because I’ve got a Muse concert to see but Saturday this girl is putting on her shoes and planting grass seed.
Back on topic to the cooler plants though. The botanical garden has a plant finder tool to help you decide what plants around Missouri and the gardens will work in your own yard. I used it with some of the photos I took of the hanging baskets in the garden.
This basket has lantana, swedish ivy and coleus in it. I learned from the plant finder that lantana blooms in July (when I was there) and that it resists drought well which is probably why it was thriving so well. Bonus: it attracts butterflies.
This basket also has lantana but this time it’s paired with a licorice plant. Crazy how you can get such different planters both starting with the same species.
This basket has vinca, spurflower, and spider lily. The finder tool helped me to see that all would do well in the shade meaning I can still have a gorgeous basket even in the darker corners of my yard.
What do you use for garden inspiration?
My life hasn’t seemed that blogworthy lately. It’s been hard adjusting to 2013, a year where I seem to be sick or exhausted at every turn. I promise to try to make more of an effort if you promise not to judge my lapses and lack of major DIY. With spring coming I’m hoping to escape the house soon and get out in the yard. Right now my yard is filled with 6 inches of snow being rained on and snow is about 20 minutes away again. Last year at this time I was regretting not already planting grass so my March 1 deadline for 2013 seems a bit off. I’ll let you know when I get there.
So what has my life been like lately? Full of work. I’m really trying to reshape my department at the job I don’t blog about and I have tons of ideas. Since I don’t want to share details of my work too much (don’t want to lose this job!) I’ll share some highlights of my day that I kept inside my head without any real details.
- While reviewing old files came across what looked like black mold. Sneezed. Worried this means I’m dead and realized dead people shouldn’t be worrying.
- Went to a higher-ranked person with a file and got this as an exact answer “I promise to look up that thing you asked and give you a vague and confusing answer” and then 4 hours later he delivered exactly what was promised.
- Spent 20 minutes discussing why my software cannot work more than 2 weeks in a row with my tech consultant buddy. He gave a lot of tech speak but I think it was something like “we do not want you to achieve greatness” which I get. Don’t want to make everyone else look bad.
- Found a dead spider in another file. Wondered if this was better/worse than mold. Then realized file should be in a different location and sent it on its way. Yes, with the spider inside. No one will ever open it and if they do they will remember why they shouldn’t have.
- Work. Lots of work. No details here because it makes my eyes glass over so yours will too.
Then I went home, dreamed my software worked and then for what seemed like hours I input data into that software. I used to dream these outrageous things like my dog was on trial for being Fidel Castro and now I dream about filing and typing numbers. I really need to get back to a hobby.
I do have some crafty ideas. I’ve bought some pots for a garden decoration, I’ve bought what might be the beginnings of a Mother’s Day gift idea, and tomorrow I’ve got a special pork loin recipe that just might make the cut. I don’t cook dinner that often now since I arrive home last in the evenings. I usually prep the meal while Daniel cooks it. I’m a bit of a control freak (and I don’t want to do burgers and Easy Mac 5x/week). Sometimes I just let him run wild and he’s been getting very creative. He’s taken to watching America’s Test Kitchen and Cook’s Country and I’m hearing requests for gumbo or being advised on the proper knife techniques. I won’t complain if he makes dishes like the maple mustard salmon he made a bit ago.
I’m a reader. Sadly last year was one of the first where I didn’t hit a minimum of 50 books read. (I blame 3 jobs, 2 major illnesses, and a running program) I did end up reading a lot of very long books (an average of 500 pages each) so I was pleased about that and I did end up reading some really great books. I wanted to share my top 5 books for 2012 and hear if you have any recommendations for 2013.
Let’s Pretend This Never Happened: (A Mostly True Memoir) by Jenny Lawson
Jenny Lawson aka The Bloggess is one of my favorite bloggers. She’s funny and beloved by the internet and she uses all that charm and love to accomplish some awesome things like the traveling red dress and a Christmas miracle. Her Beyonce story is still one of the funniest things I’ve read (and it’s in the book). I wondered to myself if I really cared enough about some stranger on the internet to read a memoir and I wasn’t sure even as I picked up the book. I just wanted to read some funny things like on the website. When I read the book, I found I liked Jenny IRL (okay, in book form) even better than her internet form. Jenny has battled a lot in her life but her humor, honesty, and taxidermic lifestyle really made this book into a fun read.
The Winter Sea by Susanna Kearsley
I have a weakness for historical fiction. This doesn’t involve a ton of “famous” people in history but it does partially include figures like James I. If you love Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander series this book is partially set right in the middle of that. If you’re more into the fiction part of historical fiction this book has a love triangle or two, a gorgeous setting, friendship, and the writing of a book. I loved this one and plan to devour some of Susanna Kearsley’s other novels.
The Mockingbirds by Daisy Whitney
The Mockingbirds might be classified as a young adult book or maybe new adult but it’s a snappy book that really emphasizes empowering young women. It’s set at a boarding school, it involves secret societies, family relationships, and a bunch of strong women. There’s also a dark plot it follows involving rape but it’s not a story about rape. I first read about this one on Forever Young Adult and they did not leave me astray. If you’re wondering about the title, it does and it doesn’t refer to Harper Lee’s classic. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean.
Zeitoun by Dave Eggers
This book is a tough one. Dave Eggers immersed himself in Abdulrahman Zeitoun’s life while writing this book and it’s packed with so much emotion that it is often hard to read. The book is set in and around Hurricane Katrina and Zeitoun’s time in the storm and in the world of the unknown. I still have tears come to my eyes when I remember parts of what he saw in New Orleans. That being said, Zeitoun has been in trouble with the law lately too. I can’t tell if this changes how I feel about the book. The text and suspense of a book that plots out a time I lived through is still haunting. Without reading the book you might not understand how hard it is to reconcile the Zeitoun of the book with the one in the news, or how easy it is to understand all at the same time. If you want a gritty read that will make you ask “why?” about everything, this is the book that will do it.
The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Another young adult book but I refuse to apologize for loving this one. The best parts involve love, passion, mystery, and friendship. This book starts off right away talking about cancer but refusing to be a cancer book. I’m a cancer survivor and I was hesitant to start this tear-jerker worrying that it would bring back hard times for me but it was so uplifting. I started it right after I wrote my resolutions post and it was so fitting. This is a book on how to live your life and how to let go of your fears. I’m sure everyone and their mother have recommended this book to you and if you still haven’t read it, you need to take this as your final nudge.