Saturday, October 31, 2015

Our Spooky Fall Mantel

Happy Halloween!  Before sharing the details of our spooky fall mantel, I want to share a few other ways that we've been getting into the fall spirit this past week with yard work, spicy cookies, pumpkin carving and our new pet monster...

We started Sunday with a ton of yard work.  You know, all of the weeds I've been neglecting to pull all summer?  I finally gave them what they deserve:  execution.  I'm a bit of a sissy when it comes to bugs so I really hate doing yard work in the summertime.  Bugs are constantly buzzing my messy, high bun (Andy calls this my tower), spiders and other creepy crawlers are everywhere and I don't like it when the mysterious weeds and plants touch my sensitive skin so I like to be covered up while gardening and then I'm hot and itchy.  It is all gross and uncomfortable.  This fall weather really sets me up for success so we're embracing this motivation and getting some sh*t done before winter to have a nice starting point in the print.  Andy had the sprinkler system blown out so the pipes don't freeze this winter and then gave the yard a short hair cut while mulching the leaves that are insisting they take over yard.  It feels so good to accomplish something that has been hanging over our heads all summer and now pulling up to our house is so pleasant, with the freshly churned dirt instead of the unkempt beds of weeds!

I haven't made this Ginger Snap Molasses Cookie recipe in months and months.  But today it just felt right.  We needed these cookies and I made a very exciting discovery since I had to swap out a few ingredients and WHOA, these cookies got chewier, more flavorful and crunchier on the outside.  I put stars next to my changes in the ingredients here (see the original recipe here).

2 c flour
1 tbsp ground ginger (I've used fresh grated ginger and it's not as good)
2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
*1/2 c white sugar
*1/2 c DARK brown sugar
*3/4 c EUROPEAN butter, softened
1 egg
1/4 c dark molasses
*Sugar in the Raw on the side for dipping

Dark brown sugar is a different animal than light brown sugar.  Andy picked it up for me when I wasn't specific about what I needed and I'm so glad he did!  It is sticky and molasses-y and it has upped my cooking game in all good ways.

I've also started swapping in European butter and Irish butter for 'regular' butter sticks.  I think the fat content in these butters are higher and it makes everything better.  If you're worried about "more fat" just chill.  Fat is good for you in moderation and I'd much rather eat the real deal and let my body metabolize this real, good fat than give my body some modified version of butter flavor and say good luck!  Plus the recipe makes about 30 cookies from only 3/4 c of butter, you do the math.  These cookies are basically good for you :)

We managed to carve our pumpkins in time to put them on display before Halloween.  Let me preface my story with the fact that I go to bed at like 9pm these days.  When I told my best friend, who now has a 10 month old, that I was pregnant one of the things she said is "get as much sleep as you can!" and I've really taken this to heart.  I don't mess around with me time and I shamelessly schedule as much me/me &Andy time as possible right now.

It was 8pm on Monday by the time we were finished making dinner and cleaning up.  We had plans every day after work on Tuesday (spin), Wednesday (work happy hour) and Thursday (book club, oh ya!) so Monday was the only day that made sense to carve these suckers.  It was now or never.  So we two adults decided to set up shop in our kitchen and dig in.  It turns out carving pumpkins is a lot of work.  I was shocked when I couldn't even pierce the top with my 6" chef's knife, so I had to have Andy do it.  Then I was able to free hand the design with a super dull pairing knife that I took from my mom's kitchen when I moved away at 18.  I love this knife.  It's perfect for peeling and cutting anything softer than a carrot and I've been thankful many a time that the knife is in fact very dull.

Enough about my favorite dull knife.  We felt slightly silly but also charmed and nostalgic about carving pumpkins together without any kids around.  The moment we got to carry them outside and light candles in them was pretty fun :)  Jack-o-lanterns are so cute!

We could not wait for Jules' costume to arrive in the mail!  The second it arrived we excitedly ripped open the package, wrangled our cat and shove him into it.  He loves soft things and the costume is soft so that was a plus.  Other than that he was pretty confused why we would do this to him.  Because we love you so damn much, Jules, that's why.  This is LOVE.

^^ A few head scratches in his favorite box made him feel a little better about being dressed up!

Now, I can tell you about our spooky fall mantel...

After purchasing a few small items from Crate and Barrel and rearranging a few things around the house I put together a subtle, spooky mantel for our fireplace, yay!  (Since I didn't take a before picture, check out this Spring post if you want to see.)

For the first few weeks of my pregnancy I was 100%, hands-down convinced I was having a girl, nbd.  My sisters both had girls first, my mom had all girls, the writing was on the wall.  Surprise!  That's not at all how things work.  I won't get into the details and mostly people probably already know this, but it's all up to dad!

The point that I am trying to get to is that I bought this white mirror at Target thinking it would look really sweet in our little girl's nursery.  (Since this is happening, it is not going in the nursery, ha!)  I like it because it gives an oval shape while still being a sturdy square that I can lean against the wall instead of mount.

We've had this "Ant with Acorn" art floating around our house in various places and it looks very fall while fitting with the black and white vibe.  I've been wanting to get it framed but I think the lack of frame is better here for now.  I bought this Wire Votive Candle Holder from Crate and Barrel because it reminds me of a raven and ravens are kind of spooky.  Andy loves it too, yess...

I framed some of our ultrasound photos because our baby looks kind of like a spooky skeleton (am I right?!) and it fits with the black and white theme AND because it is fun to have them on display for now rather than a pile in a drawer where Jules can't destroy them.  I also purchased two small Black Pillar Candle Holders from Crate & Barrel because I knew I had two flameless candles I could employ and I wanted a little height with this mantel.  The Figuier Diptyque candle was a gift I received and smells of warm fig wood and leaves, yummy.

Like I said, the spookiness is subtle.  The real fun is when the lights go out and we get to light all of the candles!

Happy and safe trick-or-treating tonight!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Dry Spice Rub for Baby Back Ribs

One of my favorite parts of fall is tailgating on Saturday mornings.  An excuse to get together with family and friends that, some, we don't get to see over the winter and summer months.  It's a big reunion with tons of good food and drinks.  This is not a hot dogs and beer tailgate.  We fancy.

I don't know who started it but we'll typically have a theme.  For example, the "Baked Potato Bar" tends to be a fan favorite.  We have all the toppings:  lox, capers, goat cheese, cheddar cheese, cheese sauce, chili, pulled pork, chives, wafer-thin red onions, tomatoes...the works.  Another of my favorite is the "Greek" theme, with flaming cheese, baklava, gyros and spanakopita.  And always there is a slew of homemade cookies, possibly locally baked donuts and the infamous "Bubby Mary."  Bubby is my best friend's grandmother.  I'm not sure exactly how old she is, maybe 80-something?  She is spry, a die-hard University of Michigan fan and makes a mean Bloody Mary.  There is always decent wine and beer and we even have bottles of water because these are tailgaters that plan ahead.  A far cry from college tailgates where you're actually thirsty / slightly dehydrated and the only option is potato chips and natty ice.

Although I love to bundle up and mingle with people outside, Andy and I love the away games where we get to sleep in a bit, throw something delicious into the oven and get some work done around the house before tucking in to watch the game.

Enter, Baby Back Ribs.

We first made these a few weeks ago, to have for our One Year Anniversary dinner at home while watching Michigan shut out Maryland (that's romance!).  I found the inspiration behind this Dry Spice Rub just googling how to make baby back ribs since I've never made them before.  I didn't really follow the recipe I found but got a general idea and used the spices we have at home and this magic happened...  

So it is Monday.  Again.  I hope this recipe gives you some motivation and excitement to carry through to your next grocery shopping trip.  Pick up a couple of pounds of ribs and plan to make these babies this weekend.  They'll slowly get tender in the oven while you make the last tweaks to your costume or hand out Halloween candy.  We to pair these with my Kale Salad with Pomegranate Vinaigrette since pomegranates are available again, I'm hardly a straight meat and potatoes kind of girl, and I can't say no to some delicious roughage ;)

After a few hours this....

Turns into this....whoa.  I told you, it's magical.

Juicy, sticky, sweet, spicy, yaaaass!

Dry Spice Rub for Baby Back Ribs


3 tbsp chili powder
2 tbsp cumin
1/3 c white sugar
1/3 c brown sugar
2 - 3 tsp cayenne pepper
2 - 3 tsp chipotle pepper
3 large spoonfuls of dijon mustard
2 - 3 lbs of Baby Back Ribs


Preheat your oven to 275 degrees F.  In a large glass baking dish, cut a sheet of tin foil for each rack.

In a medium sized bowl, add the first six ingredients together, whisking until mixed evenly.  Place your rib(s) onto the sheet(s) of tin foil, and plop a spoonful or two dijon mustard on one side.  Now it is time to get messy.  So roll up your sleeves, make sure your hands are clean, and smear the mustard along both sides of the ribs.  Next evenly top each rack with the spice rub and use your hand to coat the ribs evenly on both sides.  It doesn't have to be perfect!  Just make sure the rub is mostly on the top of the ribs and not so much on the tin foil.

Put your ribs on the foil, in the baking dish, into the oven for 2 hours.

After 2 hours, remove the dish from the oven and drizzle with your favorite BBQ sauce.  We use Original Sweet Baby Ray's, nothing fancy, but totally delicious!  Bump your oven up to 350 degrees F and bake for another 20 mins.

Meanwhile, prepare any other sides you'll serve with the ribs and get ready to get messy and happy.

You, your love, sweet and spicy ribs, sticky fingers and football.  Sounds like a perfect date to me!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Rye Brownies

I'm so excited to finally share this brownie recipe with you!

These brownies are rich, chewy, fudge-y and they have this extra texture that has a je ne sais quoi that most brownies are lacking.

I found this recipe while reading the Wall Street Journal.  Of course while reading headline news I'll inadvertently make my way to the "Life" section.  There was an article in September on Claire Ptak, of Violet Cakes in London.  She bakes with the flours of grains such as rye and buckwheat.  Not only is it a healthier alternative to white flour, but it adds another dimension of textures to baked goods.  Apparently I've been craving this additional texture and didn't even know it!

I was pleased to easily find this Westwind Milling Company Organic Rye Flour at the Argus Farm Stop a block away from my office.  I expected this 'fancy' flour to be really expensive too and it wasn't at all.

Now I'm hooked and I have The Violet Bakery Cookbook on my Christmas list this year!

If you (dinner) party with me, I'm sure I'll make these for us soon in the future.  I cannot wait to share them!

I like to set the double boiler on a clean dish towel after I'm done melting chocolate/butter so I don't drip the excess water into my batter.  I like this pot and double boiler - both are on sale right now!

^^ Whipped sugar and eggs until it is light and airy with bubbles!

Then slowly pour in the melted chocolate and butter, using a spatula to temper the sugar-egg mixture.  If you pour too fast you'll risk creating scrambled eggs :-[

Doesn't that look velvety and luxurious?  Yummy!  Next add the dry ingredients...

A few turns of the paddle will do the trick.  I always err on the side of under mixing because I can always do the last bit by hand.  Notice you can still see the dry mixture when I'm ready to pour the batter into my prepared pan.

Oooh and finally the cooled product!  Look at those bits of rye peeking out between the layers of dense, fudge-y chocolate...

Rye Brownies


1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cut into medium-small pieces for melting
11 oz dark chocolate chips (I use Ghirardelli)
1/2 c cocoa powder (I use Ghirardelli on this too!)
1 1/3 c wholemeal rye flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 c sugar
1 c light brown sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp pure vanilla extract
Kosher salt for sprinkling the top


Butter and then line with parchment paper 8 x 12 baking dish.  In a medium size bowl, whisk cocoa, flour, baking powder and salt.

Melt the butter and chocolate chips in a double broiler, stirring occasionally, until butter and chocolate are almost melted.  Set the double broiler on a clean dish towel while it finishes melting.

Meanwhile, in an electric mixer whisk sugars and eggs until light and fluffy with lots of bubbles (on high for a few minutes).  Once they are nice and bubbly, slowly add melted chocolate into egg and sugar mixer, using a spatula to whisk/stir constantly.

Add dry mixture to the wet mixture and using the electric paddle, beat for less than a minute on slow to medium, just beating long enough to incorporate.  Pour batter, folding in dry spots, into your prepared baking dish.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes.  The original recipe doesn't bake them long enough for my taste!  Most of the time you'll want to be super careful not to over bake your brownies because they continue to cook while cooling.  Although that is still true with this recipe, I think these brownies get better the more you bake them!

Let cool completely - I'm serious, it's hard but necessary.  Using the parchment paper, lift from baking dish onto a cutting board, peeling off the parchment paper and use a sharp knife to slice into 2-inch bars.

Enjoy with a cold glass of milk!  Or coffee if you're into that sort of thing :)