Burlap and Sage Baby Shower

Pinterest has really changed the way we throw parties.  Or at least parties with my sister.

For me, parties are about food and people.  She loves parties to be beautifully decorated and perfect.  So when it was time to throw her another baby shower, Pinspiration had to happen.

This weekend we threw a baby shower for my sister’s second child.  Baby James will be here soon, so what better way to celebrate him than with some cute decorations and tasty foods.  Normally, I would want to make a ton of foods to feed a crowd, but things have been crazy over here in Foodologie-land.

Here’s a quick update before we get into the baby shower details.  I’m currently homeless.  Jesse and I moved out of our apartment last week.  Our stuff is in storage and we’re moving from house to house for the next few weeks until we move up to the Bay Area at the end of the month.  Between moving and work and life, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to make food in advance.  Instead, I focused on decor and kept the food simple (and store-bought).

I think it worked out well and was far less stressful than trying to make all the food myself.

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We rented tables and sage green table cloths.  My sister bought a burlap runner that we trimmed to fit each table.  

The centerpieces were simple but nice.  Some beautiful hydrangeas, some small candles and some letters to spell out James.   The flowers I got at Costco that morning.

Tip: Costco is a great place for flowers if you’re throwing a party! IMG_9084

For favors, we got some little burlap sacks and put some hershey kisses and hand sanitizers in them, along with a little tag that says Thank you.

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Upon arrival, guests took a photo of themselves and filled out a “Wishes for Baby” card, with cute advice for Baby James.

Then there was food of course… IMG_9105 IMG_9106 We kept it simple with a sandwich bar and salads.  

The salads included: green salad, pasta salad, potato salad, and fruit salad.

For Dessert, we had various treats (mostly for decorative purposes) and pies! IMG_9108

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Like I said, I didn’t have a whole lot of time to bake, but Coco’s has some seriously good and reasonably priced pies.  Definitely recommended.  We had fresh strawberry pie, dutch apple pie, banana cream pie, chocolate cream pie and cheesecake pie with lemon curd.  

They all looked and tasted great!

For drinks, I did strawberry flavored water and a fun concoction I found on pinterest, a mix of pineapple juice, lemonade and sprite.  It was a bit too sweet but tasty! IMG_9095 We didn’t do any baby shower type activities.  Instead people just had fun while eating and drinking.  

Overall, this baby shower was much less stressful to plan.  Keeping the food simple made the whole event come together more easily.

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I hope the mom-to-be (aka my sister) liked it.

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I can’t wait to meet Baby James!

Coming up next on Foodologie…. Fun-employment and a few trips coming up before the big move.  Hopefully some good eats along the way.  Stay tuned!

What’s your favorite part of throwing a party?

Peanut Butter Goji Soda Bread

I missed the boat on St. Patrick’s Day.  There was no green beer or corned beef and cabbage, but I did get a little inspiration from the Irish yesterday… Soda Bread.

I’ve never actually had soda bread, but a lot of people seem to like it.  So given the Irish inspiration and some jars of peanut butter and a bag of goji berries sitting around, a great idea came.  Let’s put the two together.

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The good news is my experiment was a success!  Again, I’ve never had soda bread so I’m not entirely sure what’s it’s supposed to taste like but this one was good.  Faintly sweet and with a hint of peanut butter.

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I kind of think you could make an amazing PB&J with this soda bread, but it would be all sorts of dense and intense.

Feel free to give that a try.

Peanut Butter Goji Soda Bread

3 cups all purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
3 tbsp sugar
6 tbsp butter, cold
1/2 cup The Bee’s Knees Peanut Butter
1/2 cup dried goji berries, rehydrated, liquid reserved
1/4 cup plain yogurt mixed with
3/4 cup water (1 cup total) or 1 cup buttermilk if you have it
1 tbsp melted butter

Take some hot water and pour it on the goji berries to rehydrate, set aside until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 375F.

Mix dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add butter and use your fingers to work it into small pieces.  Add peanut butter and do the same.  It’s ok if there are chunks of PB, you’ll work it in more later.
Strain goji berries and reserve the steeping water.  You’ll need about 1-2 tbsp of it.  Add yogurt mixture and goji berries to the flour mixture.  Work into a ball.  Add goji berry liquid as needed (I used about 2 tbsp).

Once you’ve got it into a ball.  Transfer it onto a parchment paper lined baking sheet and form into a round thick disc shape.  Score the top in an X shape with a knife.   Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with additional sugar.

Bake 45-50 minutes or until it passes the toothpick test.  Allow to cool completely, serve and enjoy!

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This recipe makes one pretty big loaf.  It’s a lot of soda bread, but worth it.

Anyone ever tried making bread pudding with soda bread?  I think that could be amazing!

GIVEAWAY! Don’t forget to enter the Peanut Butter & Co Giveaway.  It ends this Friday!  To enter, go back to the Chocolate Peanut Butter Goji Berry Pie Post and leave a comment!  Entering is easy, winning is awesome.  Tell your friends!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Goji Berry Pie

Before I went to Thailand, I got an email from Peanut Butter & Co. about a Mystery Ingredient Challenge they were doing this month.  The deal was: they send me peanut butter and a mystery ingredient, then I make something tasty with it.

Of course, I was excited about it because…

1. I love peanut butter.

2. I love making things with peanut butter.

After a few weeks my mystery ingredient arrived: Goji Berries.

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I have to tell you.  I had never tried goji berries.  I imagined sweet little dried fruits, but actually they’re pretty tart!  I was excited to see what I could pair with goji berries other than peanut butter.  Then conveniently, pie day happened…

So of course, I had to make a pie.  Then the idea came: rich chocolate ganache with peanut butter and goji berries.

Chocolate PB Goji Pie

It really was as awesome as it sounds (and looks?).

Chocolate Peanut Butter Goji Berry Pie

1 Graham Cracker Crust (store bought or homemade)
1 cup heavy cream
9 ounces dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup Smooth Operator Peanut Butter
1/4 dried goji berries (plus extra for garnish)
1/4 tsp coarse seal salt (optional)

Heat heavy cream in a saucepan with goji berries.  This way they’ll soften and plump up.  Meanwhile, in a separate bowl, combine chocolate chips and peanut butter.

Pass cream through a strainer and pour hot cream on chocolate and peanut butter.  Let it sit a few minutes and stir to combine.

Take the rehydrated goji berries and place in the bottom of the graham cracker crust.

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Pour chocolate mixture on top.  Garnish with goji berries and coarse sea salt (optional).  Chill for 4 hours and serve with whipped cream.

This turned out great! It was dense, not too sweet and a great balance of flavors.  It’s got sweet, sour (from the goji berries), bitter from the dark chocolate and a touch of sea salt on top really balances it all out.

Also, can we talk about how easy it is?

I didn’t have time to get photos of the slices, because I took it to a Pi(e) Day party, because I wanted to be sure to get this up in time for a giveaway!

Peanut Butter & Co. is giving one Foodologie reader a free Peanut Butter & Co. Prize Pack!

To Enter: Leave a comment on this blog post telling me your favorite way to enjoy Goji Berries OR if you’ve never tried them… what would you like to eat them with?

The giveaway ends Monday March 23rd! So be sure to enter and tell your friends about it too!

WINNER: Mary W! Winner has been emailed :D  Thanks for entering!

P.S. I have a few more Peanut Butter/Goji recipes up my sleeve.  Stay tuned!

Thailand… or Where I Want Everyone to Go on Vacation

Hi friends! I’ve been away for a while, but here I am.  As you might know, I went on vacation to Thailand (and Cambodia!) for 2 and a half weeks.  It was fantastic!  I pretty much want everyone to go Thailand for vacation.

We went to four major places:

1. Bangkok
2. Chiang Mai
3. Siem Reap, Cambodia
4. Krabi  <– my fav!

So let me tell you all the reasons I loved Thailand and Cambodia (I keep forgetting I went to Cambodia too!).

1. Elephants!

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There are a ton of different elephant adventures you can do in Thailand.  We tried to do one that was as humane as possible.  We went to the Elephant Retirement Park near Chiang Mai.  It’s a place where elephants “retire” from tourism and labor.  Riding can be harmful to elephants so instead, we got to play with, feed and take a mud bath with the elephants.

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Obviously, hanging out with elephants isn’t something you do everyday.  Definitely an awesome experience.

2.  The Food.

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You knew this was coming, right?  Everything I ate in Thailand was amazing.  Seriously.  I don’t think I ate a single thing I didn’t like.    We mostly ate at street stalls, because they were everywhere and cheaper than full on restaurants.  Most meals would cost $1-2 (about 40-60 thai bhat).   Tables always had a variety of condiments so you could add things to your dish: Sugar, Fish Sauce, Ground Chili, and Pickled sweet peppers (I was a fan of those).

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One thing I ate probably on a daily basis was morning glory.  I have no idea what morning glory is (other than clearly some type of green), but I’m a fan.

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Here was one time I got it in Chiang Mai.  Spicy stir fried morning glory with chicken, served on rice.

Another favorite: stewed pork belly on rice.

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I had this one in Bangkok on the last day.  OMG.  Amazing.  I wish I could have it again.  I know it doesn’t look fancy, but it was the best thing I ate in Bangkok.

Another winner in Thailand: Beverages.  I loved the iced coffee (they put sweetened condensed milk in it, you can’t lose) and the fruit shakes.

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I had a fruit shake and a coconut probably everyday.  All sorts of amazing.

Overall, what I loved about the food was how fresh it was.  Everything you ordered was freshly made with actual fresh foods.  Coming back home was tough on that front.

3. The Temples and Palaces.

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Absolutely Beautiful! The detail is amazing.  I wish we had seen more, but two weeks wasn’t enough.

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4.  Angkor Ruins

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Not in Thailand, actually in Cambodia and technically also temples and palaces, but so impressive they deserve their own category.  I’ve been lucky enough to see a lot of amazing things in my life: Mayan Pyramids, Great Wall of China, Terra Cotta Army, Machu Picchu… All of these things were fantastic in their own way… but Angkor Wat and the other Angkor ruins are amazing just based on sheer size and detail.

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Seeing Angkor Wat at sunrise is totally worth it.  Part of me wanted to not take pictures and just enjoy it, because the pictures don’t do it justice.  But I took pictures…

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Also note: People aren’t lying when they say it’s hot in Cambodia.  It’s hot.  Really hot.

5. The Beaches

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Oh the beaches.  I live about a mile from the beach in California, but it’s not the same.  The beach in Thailand is amazing.  As someone who is not a big fan of the beach, I loved the beach in Thailand.

I wish we had more time at the beach, only 4 days, but that was enough time to relax… and get engaged…

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And get a tan…

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And play with monkeys on the way to dinner…

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and drink plenty of coconuts!

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Like I said, I looooooved Thailand.  I would go back in a heartbeat (I think I could definitely use more time at the beach).  I pretty much want everyone to go… you should!

Coming next… While I was in Chiang Mai, I took a cooking class so I have some Thai recipes to share with you soon.

What’s the best place you’ve been on vacation? For me Thailand was awesome! I also love Italy, but who doesn’t?

Culinary Bucket List: Monkey Bread

I’ve been excited about the concept of my culinary bucket list ever since blogging about it last month.  I guess I should have set some ground rules… or really one important ground rule… the rule of perfection (or lack of).

Whatever I make on my culinary bucketlist might not be perfect, but I’ll try anyway.

With that said…

The first item to check off the list: Monkey Bread.

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Oh monkey bread.  I had no idea what to expect, because I had never eaten it (or made it).  It’s like a giant cinnamon roll stuffed into a bundt pan and covered in butter.

You really can’t lose.

I did learn, however, that monkey bread (like cinnamon rolls) gets hard and dry after sitting out.  This is best devoured hot.  Straight out of the oven is best.

Mine wasn’t perfect.  In fact, when I turned it over, it got a little stuck.

Ok honestly, it was a bit of a mess…

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I used a recipe I found online and make some changes (as usual). I added pecans because that sounded great.

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I skipped the glaze and that was a mistake.  I should have made the glaze, but it looked so intense on it’s own that I thought it wasn’t necessary.

Lesson learned.

I won’t share the recipe I used, but feel free to check out this recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction that I based mine on.

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Overall, monkey bread was tasty, but I don’t think I need to make it again.  It was intense, but maybe I’m just not a big fan of cinnamon rolls in general?

Next time, I’ll know not to skip the glaze.

Next on the Culinary Bucketlist/Foodologie is Thai food!  I’m off to Thailand for 2 weeks.  I’ll be back with updates, photos and tasty recipes… then when I return there will be some peanut buttery goodness too.

Lots to look forward to!

Are you a fan of Monkey Bread? or just cinnamon rolls? or neither? 

 

Fancy Deconstructed Breakfast Burrito

It’s been years since I’ve watched cooking competitions like Top Chef, but back in the day, I was an avid watcher.  I remember that chefs took a common dish and made it fancy by calling it “deconstructed.”

You know… Deconstructed Peanut Butter and Jelly would be something to the effect of pan fried bread with peanut butter mousse and roasted berries.

Fancy, right?

Deconstructed was all the rage about 10 years ago.  Is that trend still happening?  I’m not hip enough to keep up with trends, so I’m still doing things “deconstructed.”  Hence this deconstructed breakfast burrito.

Deconstructed Burrito1We all know and love Breakfast Burritos.  But I decided to make a healthier (and fancier? That’s open to interpretation) version for your average weekend morning. Jump on the deconstructed train and make this deconstructed breakfast burrito.  

It has everything you need: eggs, beans, tortillas and… kale. I know, kale has no business being in a breakfast burrito, but we’re being fancy remember! So here it goes…. Deconstructed Burrito2

Fancy Deconstructed Breakfast Burrito

1 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup kale, washed and finely chopped
1 small tomato, diced
1/2 lemon, juice only
salt and pepper to taste
4 eggs
1/4 cup Monterey jack cheese,  shredded
1 cup refried beans of choice
2 flour tortillas (I used whole wheat)

Heat olive in a pan on medium heat.  Add onions and cook a few minutes until translucent.  Add kale and cook a few more minutes (about 2-3).  Add tomatoes and cook another minute or so.  Season with salt and pepper, then mix in lemon juice.  You want it to be a little salty since you’re not adding anything to the eggs.

In the meantime, beat together eggs.  Add eggs to pan.  Scramble it all together.  Set aside.

Heat tortillas (either on a pan or in the microwave a few seconds).  Place tortilla on a plate, spread with refried beans, top with scrambled eggs, sprinkle with cheese (about 2 tbsp per tortilla, or more if you want) and serve! You can try to wrap it up or eat it with a fork and knife, if you’re looking to be fancy. Ok let’s be honest.  I always thought the deconstructed this was a bunch of crock.  But that said, this dish is awesome.

Deconstructed Burrito3Call it what you want: Burrito? Kale Egg Scramble? A Hot Mess on a Plate?

Whatever you call it, it’s all sorts of tasty and definitely breakfast-worthy!

What’s your favorite fancy breakfast? I love eggs benedict (is that even fancy?)

Basic Country Bread and My New Bread Baking Obsession

Last year, I bought the Tartine Bread book.  There was a special on Amazon.  It was $2.99 on Kindle.  I couldn’t turn it down.

I remember I started reading it while on the plane to Philadelphia.  The photos are so amazing and the recipes so detailed that I knew I had to try it as soon as possible.   Weeks went by and I didn’t bake any bread.  The thought of making a starter was intimidating to say the least.  Then, on December 2nd (funny how I remember these dates), my friend brought me some of her starter.

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Blog friends, meet Bernard.   Bernard is about 5 years old and comes from a culinary school in Michigan.  Now a part of him is with me, and through Foodologie with you too.  Here’s here to help us make bread.

I love that my friend named the starter.  It makes the process so much more fun.  Because after all, he needs to be taken care of and fed.  I feed Bernard on Monday nights and leave him in the fridge until I’m ready to bake some bread.

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Some of this glorious bread.  It’s nothing short of amazing.  It might take days to make, but it’s worth it.  And it all starts with Bernard.

The night before I want to make bread, I take a big spoonful of starter and mix it with pretty much equal parts flour and water (if we want to be specific 3/4 cup water + 3/4 cup Flour and about 1/4 cup starter will give you enough leaven, or fed starter, to make 2 loaves of bread).

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So I let that sit on the counter.  It gets all bubbly and smelly in the most endearing way possible.  Once it’s bubbly and ready to go (you’ll know it’s ready when you drop a bit of it in some water and it floats), I mix it with flour and water.  Once it’s all incorporated, I let it sit for about half an hour.  After half an hour, I add a bit of salt and some more water.  Then the first “bulk rise” begins.  This takes 3-4 hours.  You don’t have to do much, just turn it every so often.  That means dip your hand in water, then dip your hand in the dough and turn it a bit.  Pretty simple right?

After a few hours (assuming it’s in a fairly warm temperature, sometimes I’m too cheap to put on the heater and so I turn the oven on for a few minutes, turn it off, then put the bread in there to keep it warm), I turn it onto a well-floured surface and divide it in two.

This part is tricky.  The dough is sticky.  It sticks to everything. Your hands. The towel. The surface. Your hair.  Everything.  My first time around was rough.  I think I was a little shy with the flour, but after the next few times, I leaved that a lot of flour is necessary.  So you divide the dough into and fold it into two rounds mounds.  Then it sits for hours.    I know right? There’s a lot of sitting involved.

So those mounds sit for another 3-4 hours on the counter covered with a towel (flour that towel too, because seriously the dough will stick to it).  I’ve also tried leaving it in the fridge overnight.  That worked too.

After the dough has sat for a good while (either 3-4 hours or overnight in the fridge), you can start getting everything ready to bake.  I bake this bread in a dutch oven.  I think the dutch oven is my saving grace, because I’m pretty sure my oven is a bit messed up.  The dutch oven ensures an even bake, so you can’t argue with that.

So I turn the oven to 500F and put the dutch oven in there (empty that is, with the lid on), for about 20-30 minutes.  You want it to get piping hot.  This also gives you bread a little more time to rise (or to get to room temperature if it was sitting in the fridge).

Again, I reform the loafs into a round loaf then score to top.  Scoring apparently is important because it allows the bread to rise to it’s full potential.  I have a really hard time with the scoring.  In Tartine Bread, they suggest using a razor; I use a knife.  We made due with what we have, right?

Then the next tricky part, putting the dough in the dutch oven without burning your hands.  The dough isn’t the sturdiest.  The water content is pretty high so it’s a very sticky dough.  But it’s easy enough.  Drop it in, re-score if necessary and put in the oven with the lid on, reduce the temperature to 450F and bake for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes, remove the dutch oven lid and continue to bake for another 25-30 minutes or until it reaches the level of brownness you like.

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Remove the bread from the dutch oven, allow to cool then serve.  You can repeat the baking process with your second loaf now.  The dutch oven doesn’t need to heat as long.  I usually just put it back in the oven for about 5-10 minutes then move on.

For the full recipe, check out this write up in the New York Times.  It has all the measurements and weights you need to get your bread making on.  I still can’t get mine to look exactly like their bread, but sooner or later, I’ll get there.  But even if it doesn’t look exactly like the Tartine loaves, it tastes amazing.

To say that I love this bread is underselling it.  I seriously love this bread.

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It’s great for sandwiches (ahem, grilled cheese anyone?).  Awesome toasted with butter.  Amazing if you spread it with jam.  The process might be time consuming.  Scratch that, it’s totally time consuming, but it’s worth it.

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So this is my newest obsession: bread.  I want to make it all the time and eat it all the time, but I probably shouldn’t, so gifting loaves of bread is becoming my new thing.

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Now that I’ve mastered the basic country bread.  I’m ready to move on to new varieties.  Of course, croissants and brioche are on my bucket list for the year, but I also want to start experimenting with different flours: whole wheat, rye, etc.

Let’s get our carbs on!

Are you a home bread baker or just an equal opportunity bread lover?  What’s your favorite kind to bake or eat?