Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Our Wedding on Style Me Pretty!

Eeek!! If you are planning a wedding, or have gone through the process, you probably know how helpful and inspirational Style Me Pretty is. I am delighted to announce that our September wedding is featured on the SMP California Weddings! I absolutely loved planning and putting together all the details of our day and am thrilled to see our beautiful photos, by Stephanie of This Modern Romance, up on such a major wedding site. Please take a peek and show us some love!


Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wear What You Eat

Wear these delicate and whimsical Ruffle Bloom Shoe Clips by The Belle and the Beau (I discovered, after browsing, their shop is based in a town less than an hour away from me!) and eat this fruity and tart twist on a classic favorite-- Lemon Meringue S'Mores from Cooking Classy.

Gosh! I SO want a S'Mores right now! 

Friday, April 26, 2013

Herb Quinoa Biscuits

 Quinoa biscuits?! A baked doughy companion made with my favorite healthy "grain"?! I didn't even know the made quinoa flour!
 Until this week...when I plotted to find a way to use it in a baking to replace regular flour and then proceeded to add a bag of it into my shopping cart. 
 I didn't look up any recipes that use quinoa flour prior to creating these biscuits so I wasn't really sure what to expect. I kept the process pretty simple and was intrigued by how my bowl of dry ingredients smelled like vegetables and quinoa. It had good health written all over it!
 These biscuits are surprisingly savory, dense, and flavorful-- a good partner to a bowl of soup or other warm meals. I was pleased to discover that their crumb was similar to that of regular biscuits, just a little less doughy. These guys taste great warm out of the oven and stayed pretty crisp the same day. However, if you're looking for a biscuit that will keep for the next day to enjoy with leftovers, be sure to pop them back in the oven for some re-toasting. 

Herb Quinoa Biscuits
makes eight approx. 3" biscuits

2 cups quinoa flour
1/4 cup flax meal
1 tbsp herbs de provence
3/4 tsp salt 
1/4 tsp pepper
4 tsp baking powder
2 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp unsalted butter, cold and cubed
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil (plus more for brushing)
1 cup fat free milk (or skim, low-fat buttermilk)

1. In a large bowl, throughly whisk together the quinoa flour, flax meal, herbs, salt, pepper, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the cubed butter and use your fingers to cut it into the dry ingredients-- move quickly because you don't want the butter to melt (the mixture should appear like coarse sand). Make a well in the middle and add the olive oil and milk. Use a fork to mix everything together-- the batter will be sticky.

2. Transfer the dough onto a well floured surface (since quinoa flour is pretty pricey, I used whole wheat flour-- it doesn't really matter). Use your hands to gently knead and fold the dough over a few times. Pat it down with your hands, or a small rolling pin, until the dough is about one inch in thickness. Dip an approximate 3" circle cookie/biscuit butter (or a cup/any cutter you want to use) into the flour and cut out biscuits to place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a non-stick sheet. Brush the tops of each biscuit with olive oil.

3. Bake the biscuits in  a 450 degree oven for about 10-15 minutes or until the biscuits are browned and golden.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Not Just a Housewife

This post is for all you domestic divas and ladies with even an ounce of traditional homemaker desire.

Today I woke up before my alarm went off at 6:42 A.M., rolled out of bed and ate a light meal prior to my daily workout. At about 8:15 I start a load of laundry and transferred clothes from the dryer to a basket. It's still pretty quiet in the house-- dogs are still sleeping and my hubby has a few more minutes before his alarm will wake him. Downstairs, I get his lunch ready and then prep our dinner-- all I have to do is put everything I need into the slow cooker to get the magic rolling. It's now about 8:35 and I hear the sound of Ellie's tail thumping against the floor upstairs-- Henry's up and the door is about to open for the dogs to come darting down. This is my cue to get the coffee going and breakfast cooking. Green smoothie-- check. Egg white omelet-- check. Henry feeds and lets the dogs out for their A.M. routine, washes his hands, and then we sit down to say a prayer before eating the day's most important meal. 
It's about 9:15 now and just a few minutes away before he has to start getting ready for work. We exchange a few little kisses and then I start unloading last night's dishes so I can start a new load. I bleach and scrub the sink down, wipe and sanitize the counters/table, and feel like my day is really starting now that the kitchen is clean. I take a few minutes to update my planner, check my Instagram, read up on my Facebook newsfeed, and catch up on a few of the latest posts from some favorite blogs. At about 9:30 I remember there's a load of laundry in the wash so I quickly transfer it to the dryer. Before folding the pile from this morning, I place another load of whites in the washer. After realizing, I can't find half of the mates to my socks, I finish folding and start to put the clothes away in our drawers. Henry's now deciding what to wear to work so I pick out something goofy for him. He naturally turns it down but laughs at my joke before I suggest something else. While he changes and starts to do his hair, I make the bed. Next, I jump and lay on the bed for a few minutes while I chat with Henry as he finishes up. 
 At 10:00, I go downstairs and make sure everything is ready to go for his lunch. I do a quick check of our mail pile and sort through bills and junk mail. While Sophie and Harlin are starting to wrestle in the living room area, I hear my husband pick out his shoes for the day and put them on. I already vacuumed and mopped yesterday, so today I just need to do a little more dusting. As a am in the closet grabbing the Pledge, I turn to kiss my love good-bye and wish him a good day at work. It's now about 10:20-- after I dust all surface areas, base boards, door trim, stairs, etc. I hop into the shower (I don't plan on staying in my sweaty gym clothes all day).  I take my time and enjoy the nice water, dry off, and complete the rest of my makeup/hair routine. Before going downstairs I take the opportunity to clean up our master bathroom-- spray the shower, sanitize and wipe down the toilet/counters/tub, and organize our toiletries.

The time is about 5 till noon and I am feeling pretty good--energetic and enthused, actually. Our house is in great shape, my workout is done, and dinner is already being made. Man, I sure feel like one domestic housewife.

Maybe it's due to my parents influence with their very traditional stance on home life. Maybe it's because I just have a nurturing personality and I like to care for others and my home. Maybe because Martha Stewart is kind of a huge role-model. Whatever it is-- you can call me domestic and traditional.

A few months ago, I was a little embarrassed about this fact, but now I own it. However, a few months ago, I was also at the peak of some pretty huge life changes, an emotional roller coaster laced with depression, and a realization that the career I worked my butt to build didn't fit with my life at the time being. The thought of leaving my role as an educator was scary and filled with guilt, but the guilt was worse when I allowed myself to just even think of how much joy I would get out of being able to spend more time caring for my husband, marriage, and home. Uh-- leave work because your life demands it, but enjoy an early retirement at 25 to live as a housewife until you start a career again? I definitely felt like a fool/loser. Most mid-twenty-year-old-gals I knew working their butts off at the start of their profession, or finishing up their schooling to start their dream jobs. I felt crazy for leaving and even more nuts for knowing it was the right call. My normal weekdays filled with lesson plans and instruction soon shifted to housewife duties and a small amount of private tutoring (and blogging)-- what a change. And, to be really honest...I loved it.

I didn't love the not working part (still trying to pursue more work in my field and dessert catering goals)-- in fact I have a hard time still transitioning from bringing home my bacon to just eating it. I loved that I could care for my husband and do things around the house to stay organized and clean. I felt like I was really living out one of my greatest purposes as a wife. However, whenever I would get the question, "So, what do you do now that you're not working?" I would still stumble over my words and couldn't quite bear to admit that although I was working part time during the week, truthfully for the time being I was a housewife-- simply put. Yes, right now at the age of 25 with a graduate degree, I am a housewife.

Being a housewife doesn't mean you sit around like Peggy Bundy and eat Bon-Bons during your favorite soap opera. Sure, that may apply to some-- but not to this housewife. Being a housewife means taking charge of my God-given talents of nurturing and caring for my husband and family. If I can be the one to help make the ship run a little tighter and smoother or help my husband have an easier day (because that man truly works hard), then I will and I am going to be proud of it. I won't settle for being just a housewife.
More often than not in this day-and-age and society, traditional views on how a woman should be in the house are shunned upon or seen as a lost cause. I'm not saying that being a homemaker and domestic are the best and only way for women, but if you ever doubt your role as one of these and are feeling insecure or inferior-- don't. Being able to manage a home is so underrated at times. Eventually, I do plan on working full time again (maybe part time or from home when we have children), and I still hope to balance what I can with my domestic roles. For all you ladies out there that are already doing this-- I salute you.

Take pride in caring for your loved one, it's a blessing,...and just maybe keep the Bon-Bons in the freezer for the occasional treat.

Better yet, keep a green smoothie ready for an energy filled mid-day meal. They help you tackle those gross cob-webs in high and hard-to-reach corners.

"A wife of noble character who can find?
    She is worth far more than rubies. 
 Her husband has full confidence in her
    and lacks nothing of value.
She brings him good, not harm,
    all the days of her life. 
 She selects wool and flax
    and works with eager hands. 
 She is like the merchant ships,
    bringing her food from afar. 
 She gets up while it is still night;
    she provides food for her family
    and portions for her female servants. 
 She considers a field and buys it;
    out of her earnings she plants a vineyard. 
 She sets about her work vigorously;
    her arms are strong for her tasks."
-Proverbs 31:10-17

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

His & Hers: Wing Tip Oxfords

After being together for so long, I have started to notice how sometimes we actually do match when people comment, "Aw...you guys dress alike!" Needless to say, these are not on days where I am wearing a skirt or heels. However, it's true-- we both appreciate a lot of the same retailers and style trends and our aesthetics definitely "match" more often than not, lately. It still amuses me though when we come out of the closet wearing "would be Sadie Hawkin's outfits".  Recently, I picked up a pair of these Cole Haan Alisa Oxfords (similar) and was giddy and amused at the fact that I could add to the collection of wing tips in our show closet (my hubby sure loves them!).
Do you ever find yourselves matching with you significant other? If so, how? Do tell. :)

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Our Office Space: Work in Progress

 Redecorating a space is really a test of patience. Be patient with how much time it takes, how much money needs to be saved, and how messy and unorganized the process will be until everything is complete. However, it's really nice when the big picture starts to become visable. That's how I feel about our loft office space. We painted the walls a cool cucumber hue back in January and since then, I have slowly started to accumulate furniture pieces and accents for the room. Although it is not quite finished and still missing some essential pieces/elements I have planned for it, I thought I would share the progress. 
 The metallic gold bookshelves were a bargain I grabbed on Craigslist-- both for about $50. They were originally black and I fixed that quickly with some spray paint. I really like the vintage design on the sleek structure. Also, the large white desk is actually a dining table I found (also on Craigslist) for $50, too. I sanded it down, primed it, and painted it a clean white. I love how large it is to use as a desk for two and a spacey craft table.
I wish I could capture how beautiful these curtains are in real life-- the picture doesn't quite do it. Husband and I purchased these from Anthropologie last summer when they were on sale for $30. Unfortunately, we purchased four panels and when they shipped we were notified that they only had three left. The were intended for our large living room window wall, but I like that they fit into our office loft space. The detail is soft without being too girly-- Henry actually really loves them, too!
This large typeface wall art is one of my favorite parts of our office space. A vendor was selling all kinds of different size letters in various colors and patterns made out of sheet metal at the Alameda Antique Fair a few weeks ago. The letters themselves are really cool and industrial and I thought they would be another great element that would contribute to the eclectic feel I wanted to create. I chose to spell out "ours" since the room is a space we will share-- not just "his" or "hers", but "ours".

So that's the work in progress for our office space! As soon as I make a little bit more progress on my walk-in-closet transformation, I'll share pictures, too.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Whole-Grain Strawberry-Coconut Muffins

 In this world, not all muffins are created equal. Sorry, that's just the way it is. Fortunately, these Strawberry-Coconut Muffins leave you feeling oh-so-good and satisfied you won't care about any other muffins. Well, only if you're into the good-for-you-and-made-with-healthy-wholesome-ingredients kind of thing.
I've been testing out several different recipes using coconut flour due to its high fiber and low-carb content. Although it can be tricky to work with, these muffins incorporate the unique flour without compromising a moist and tender crumb. To sweeten them up, all natural coconut sugar plays a major role along side fresh and dried strawberries.
Great for on the go, or easy and healthy snacking-- these muffins will surely curve your hunger as they are quite filling and tasty! Give them a go and let me know how you like them. Enjoy!

Whole-Grain Strawberry-Coconut Muffins
makes about 15 standard size muffins

1 1/2 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 cup oat flour
3/4 cup coconut flour
2 1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup finely ground unsweetened coconut (or flaked/shredded)
1/2 cup crushed freeze-dried strawberries
1/4 cup poppy seeds
4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp ground cinnamon
2/3 cup coconut oil (at a liquid state)
1 1/3 cup fat-free milk
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/2 tbsp orange zest
2 cups fresh strawberries, chopped

For the topping
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1/2 cup coconut sugar
1/4 cup finely ground unsweetened coconut
1/4 cup crushed freeze-dried strawberries
2 tbsp coconut flour
1/4 cup wheat germ

1. In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly whisk together the flours, sugar, coconut, freeze-dried strawberries, poppy seeds, baking soda, salt, and cinnamon.

2. In another medium bowl, combine the coconut oil, milk, vanilla extract, and orange zest.

3. In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon, coconut sugar, ground coconut, dried strawberries, coconut flour, and wheat germ. Add the cold butter and use a fork or pastry cutter to blend the butter into the dry ingredients until everything is well incorporated-- the mixture should appear like crumbly sand.

4. Use a fork to gently mix the wet ingredients into the dry-- everything should still be slightly lumpy. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold in the fresh chopped strawberries. Use a standard size ice cream scoop to portion out the batter into a paper-lined muffin tray-- be sure that each cup is filled with a rounded scoop (these will not rise much so the amount you bake will basically be the size of your muffin). Sprinkle some of the topping onto each muffin. Bake in a 350 degree F muffin for 12-15 minutes until the tops are crisp and brown and a toothpick comes out clean when testing if they are done.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wear What You Eat

Wear this dainty and feminine White Lace Bib Necklace by 1000 Roads and eat this light and luscious Coconut Cake with a delicate topping of coconut flakes by Karen of Honestly YUM.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Cooking with Quinoa

Quinoa is the grain of all grains, in my opinion. In fact, it's actually a seed disguised a grain-- this means it gets extra brownie points for being clever. It's high in protein and I often replace rice with it. In fact, it wasn't until about a month ago that our kitchen was stocked with a large quantity of brown rice (we're bad Asians).
I started cooking with quinoa a few years ago and now I can't get enough. It's definitely one of my super foods and I am always trying to find new ways to eat it. However, when I first started cooking with it, I had some bad experiences that resulted in overly mushy or extra crunchy/under cooked seeds. If this sounds like some of the experiences you are having, even with the directions on the box-- or you're just trying to ingrain the cooking procedure in your brain-- then hopefully you will find this post handy.

How to Cook Quinoa Perfectly

Tips to Remember:
1. Follow a 1:2 ratio of quinoa to liquid.
2. Rinse your quinoa well before cooking.
3.One cup of dry quinoa will yield you about 3 cups, cooked.
4. Although there are many different colors/kinds, they all cook the same.
5. Red quinoa is a little nuttier in texture than the common white variety.
6. You can make a lot of quinoa at once and store the uneaten batch in the fridge for about a week.

1 cup rinsed uncooked quinoa (red or white)
2 cups water (You can use stock also, but if you plan on adding it to sweet salads or breakfast dishes water is the best option.)
1/4-1/2 tsp salt

1. In a sauce pot, combine the quinoa, water, and salt. Turn the heat on high and leave the pot uncovered.
2. As soon as a moderate simmer starts,  turn the heat to low and cover the pot with the lid. Set a timer for 15 minutes-- don't open the pot at all (not even a peak!) until the timer goes off.

3. Turn off the heat and let the quinoa sit in the covered pot for about 5 minutes. Remove the lid and then use a fork to fluff the quinoa-- serve and enjoy!

Some Recipe Ideas for Quinoa

Breakfast Quinoa w/Dried Cherries & Almonds
Serves 1 (doctor this up however you want; try different fruits, nuts, and sweeteners!)
1 cup cooked and warmed quinoa
handful of dried bing cherries
handful of dry-roasted and sliced almonds
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp honey (plus extra for drizzling before serving/eating)
1/4 tsp cinnamon

1. In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients by gently mixing together. Spoon into bowl or serving dish, drizzle with extra honey, and sprinkle a dash of cinnamon (optional). Enjoy!
Red Quinoa & Muscat Grape Salad
serves about 2 (small-medium sized portions)
2/3 cup warm cooked (with water) red quinoa
1 cup Muscat grapes, halved
1/4 – 1/3 cup fat-free feta cheese
2 tbsp cup dry roasted pine nuts
2 cups mache (lamb’s lettuce)
sun dried tomatoes
3 tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp red wine vinegar
3 1/2 tsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp pepper
1/4 tsp salt
1. In a medium bowl, combine the grapes, feta, and pine nuts. Add the warm quinoa and mix to combine. Add the lemon juice, vinegar, oil, , salt and pepper; mix again to combine. Gently toss in the mache and add a few sun dried tomatoes on top (or toss more in if desired).
Vegan Chickpea Patties
Makes about 6 4- 4 1/2″ patties
*I think this recipe would be great with some shredded carrots, onions, and other veggies...try and experiment with your favorites. 
1 1/4 cup soaked garbanzo beans
1 1/2 cup rice, cooked (I used white Jasmine because it was available; I think brown rice would be great, too) 
3/4 cup water
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup flax seeds
1/4 cup quinoa, cooked
3 tsp yeast flakes (couldn’t find it/didn’t use it and they turned out just fine!)
2  tbsp chickpea patty seasoning (recipe as follows)

Chickpea Patty Seasoning
1/4 tsp salt
2-3 cloves of minced garlic
1 1/3 cup yeast flakes (I have made this with and without...the difference isn't substantial)
3 tbsp onion powder
2 1/2 tsp garlic powder
2 1/2 tbsp. salt
1 tsp celery seed
2 1/2 tbsp Italian seasoning 
2 tbsp dried parsley

1. Mix all of the seasoning ingredients together and store in an air-tight container. Keep in the refrigerator if not using right away.
2. Blend the garbanzo beans until fairly smooth in a food processor. Mix all the other ingredients in another large bowl, add the beans, and mix again.  Form into patties and bake  for 30 minutes in a 350 degree F oven-- flip them over at 15 minutes.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Liebster Award

Wow! Thank you to Tesia from Listen and Breathe for nominating me for the Liebster Award. This award is such a lovely gift and a awesome way to network through the blogging community. Let's get started!

Liebster Award Rules for Nominees:
1. Post 11 facts/things about yourself.
2. Answer the 11 questions created by the blogger who nominated you.
3. Provide 11 questions of your own to ask the people you nominate.
4. Nominate upcoming blogs with great content.
5. Make sure you let the bloggers know if they have been given the award.
6. No tag backs. :)

11 Facts About Myself (Amanda from OMP!)
1. I am a Christian. To me, this isn't a label of a religion I slap on. I am actively living with an open heart, mind, and soul that yearns to build a stronger relationship with the great man above through scripture. I am learning more everyday.

2. Within the last two months, I have acquired the taste of black coffee-- no sugar or any kind of sweetener. I never thought I would be here...but I am!
3. I was born in Newport Beach, CA and grew up in Orange County, CA. I have those So. Cal girl roots.
4. I love the smell of men's fragrances and hygiene products. It's a nice bonus to be able to smell my hubby's deodorant when we hug. Yes, sometimes I take a big whiff of those armpits. Bahaha.
5. Running is one of my favorite forms of exercise  The way I feel about running on a cool and crisp morning or night is a little poetic-- the rhythm of my feet hitting the ground as it is synched with my breath, with good tunes playing through my ear, feels amazing to me.

6. I am currently getting my butt handed to me on a platter by Shaun T. through his Insanity workout program. I am in the middle of week 2!
7. I own two wigs and a handful of silly clothes as a result of spirit days when I was a teacher!

8. Tiny dots in irregular patterns and clusters freak me out. I become very uncomfortable when I see them and often times get the feeling one may receive listening to nails on a chalkboard.
9. I can't jump very well. This makes #6 extra challenging. I am usually the one on the ground in jumping pictures...haha.
10. I have baby fever. Husband and I are very excited for when the time comes for us to be parents. We hope that this will happen within the next two years-- not anytime soon, though.
11.  When I wake up, I usually get excited for breakfast within 10 minutes...hungry/sleepy girl problems. :)

Answer to Tesia's Questions:

  1. What kind of home decor style are you, chic or vintage? I like to mix it up. It's a little of both...I love keeping things eclectic.
  2. What’s your favorite inspirational blog? http://www.ohjoy.blogs.com/
  3. What kind of qualities are in your dream man/woman? Well. Right now, he is passed out asleep next to me in bed and he looks very cute (bed head and all). He is determined, supportive, trusthworthy/faithful, dependable, humorous, loving, and wise (those aren't all the qualities I love about him, but those are definitely some strong ones).
  4. Do you enjoy reading with books or an iPad/Kindle/Nook?  Neither! I love our iPad, but I still prefer reading actual books. I love turning pages and taking in that book smell. Also, I love displaying my books around the house.
  5. Can you handle the hot or the cold weather? I guess I can handle both, but I much prefer the wold weather. Boots, coats, sweaters, scarves-- I like to layer on clothing.
  6. Nachos or chips & salsa kind of person? Hummus and pita chips. ;)
  7. Are you a PC or an Apple person? Apple, but my old laptop is a PC. It's the odd ball in our family, but I still show love.
  8. Are you a tea or coffee person, if none of the above, what kind of beverage are you? I love tea more, but haven't been drinking it as much as coffee lately.
  9. What’s your favorite nail polish color? Essie Made of Honor or Pop Art Pink. I like the soft and sweet pinks the most.
  10. What’s your favorite color palette? This is hard to answer because I love so many different color combinations! I wear and use them all depending on how I am feeling or what the purpose is. I am currently turning a spare room into a walk in closet and the color scheme I have going on is white, gold, plum, and light teal. I also love teals with coral, yellows with blues, and black with neutrals like beige or ivory.
  11. What’s your favorite vegetable, and how do you eat it? Mushrooms! I love it on all kinds of savory foods. I enjoy it roasted with fresh herbs such as rosemary and thyme with a little bit of balsamic vinegar. We haven't been eating pasta or pizza a lot lately, but I adore loads of mushrooms with white truffle oil on these kinds of dishes. So. Good!

My 11 Questions for My Nominee(s) to Answer:
1. What do you usually eat for breakfast?
2. Why did you start your blog?
3. Where is your favorite place to be in your home? Why?
4. Fill in the blank. "If I were any item in the grocery store, I would be _____________ because ____________".
5. Cupcakes and ice cream or croissants and macarons?
6. When did you last laugh so hard you felt like you couldn't breathe or you were going to pee your pants?
7.  What does a typical Friday night look like for you?
8. Compared to anywhere between 1-5 years ago, what is one thing that has changed the most about yourself?
9. If your best friend/significant other had to describe you in 5 words, what would they be?
10. What was the first CD you purchased?
11. What is your favorite part of your day (or week)?
My Nominees:
1.  Oh Shine On Katie has a great food blog that is filled with delicious and healthy recipes. She makes yummy baked goods with healthy substitutions-- I am all about that! Plus, her writing is quirky and makes me smile. 
2. Life a la Steph Steph is a sweetie pie and I love her simple yet sophisticated style! Her fashion blog is genuine and makes me giddy.
3. Love and Whimsy Milynn has a precious blog filled with charming details of her life. She takes great photos and I usually wander over when I am in need of a good photo boost for visual happiness. I can tell she's a sweetheart, too!

That's the Liebster Award for you all! xo

Monday, April 15, 2013

Cookies for a Cause

I love to create delicious and lovely things in my kitchen, but the best part about that is when I get to pass on my creations to someone who loves them just as much as I do. This is especially delightful when a good cause is involved.

Well, lucky for me! A few days ago I just finished working on one of my largest cookie orders yet to aid in fundraising for an amazing couples' journey in adopting a child from Uganda Africa. The couple, JC and Leslie, held a fundraiser dinner on Saturday, April 13, and I truly wanted to be a part of helping them bring home their baby! They are inspirational and you can read more about them and their adoption process on their blog, The Elliot Adoption Journey.

To say the least, it took about 10 cups of butter, 12 cups of sugar, and clouds of flour to make 225 adorable custom sugar cookies for this event. With just little ol' me in the kitchen, it did take a few days, but truly enjoyed each minute spent on this project. I felt so joyful that I could do something I love that also helped out with an event. What a blessing and treat!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

To Whom It May Concern

Just like when a child misses school days...

To Whom It May Concern,

Please excuse me from missing the last few blog posts. I had a very busy week and then the husband and I slipped away to Yosemite Valley for the weekend. I will return soon with updates and my usual OMP! posts. 

Thank you for your understanding.

Amanda N.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Find Your Just-Right Rug

1. modern  // 2. boho // 3. whimsical // 4. rustic // 5. classic // 6. romantic

When it comes to finding an area rug for any room, there are so many different options. However, I find it to be such a process because I am quite picky about rugs-- this makes sorting through tons of styles a long ordeal. I find it to be easier when I have an idea and style in mind for the space I am working with. Whether you are looking for a bold statement or are hoping to keep things simple and subtle, here is a collection of a few of my favorite styles. All of these area rugs are affordable for their large sizes-- you can thank Overstock for that (it's actually where we've found all the rugs in our home)!

Which rug is just-right for your space?

Monday, April 8, 2013

Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cream Tart

 When I was still teaching, I often would lay awake at night thinking about my class-- lesson plans, students, organizing, etc. This was pretty common throughout the month as there was always so much to do with so much going on. However, now that I am not working in the classroom setting, I find myself losing sleep due to recipe and project ideas. Friday morning at 4:30 A.M. I was wide awake scheming on how I was going to make this dreamy idea of a chocolate coconut tart a reality.

I tossed, turned, and then finally got up about an hour and half later. Yes, this does mean I woke up before sunrise to test a new dessert recipe I made while laying in bed. Baking in my jammies when the house was still (the dogs didn't even wake!) was kind of amazing. Interestingly, I used to think that getting to work at 6:30 A.M. to plan and make copies when the school was quiet was amazing. Oh, how time has changed things...
Anyway, this tart ended up being sensational! The buttery chocolate crust is a perfect shell for layers of rich super dark chocolate ganache and smooth coconut pastry cream. This is the perfect dessert to enjoy with a cup of coffee. It's definitely not too sweet which truly allows each flavor component to stand out. With a little drizzle of homemade salted caramel, this tart is sure to please!

It almost feels like the big fancy cousin of an Almond Joy.
So. Good.
Okay, before you look at the recipe and soon realize the process looks LONG, you should know that the steps involved are not actually tricky-- pinky promise!

Dark Chocolate & Coconut Cream Tart
makes a 10" tart

For the crust (adapted and inspired by this recipe):
1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 tbsp coconut oil
3 tbsp luke warm water
1 tbsp white sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

For the dark chocolate ganache:
1/2 cup chopped 60% cacao dark chocolate (or darker)
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the coconut pastry cream:
2 1/2 tbsp white sugar
1/2 tbsp cornstarch
pinch of salt
2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup whole milk
3/4 cup coconut milk (from the can)
1 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

For the whipped cream (optional):
3/4 cup heavy whipping cream
2 1/2 tbsp powdered sugar (add more if you prefer)
1 tsp coconut rum

For the garnish:
unsweetened coconut flakes, lightly toasted on a baking sheet in the oven until golden brown
dark chocolate shavings
salted caramel sauce (I always use this recipe or you can buy some from the market)

1. Make the crust.  Preheat the oven to 410 degrees F. In a medium oven-safe bowl ( I used a glass mixing bowl), combine the butter, coconut oil, water, and sugar. Place the bowl on the middle rack and bake the mixture for about 15-18 minutes. The butter should start to bubble and turn brown. Be very careful when removing the bowl from the oven and transferring to the counter.

In another small bowl, whisk together the salt, flour, and cocoa powder. Slowly whisk this into the hot butter-- be careful! This will cause sputtering so be sure to stand back a bit. Once the dough has formed and begins to pull away from the bowl, transfer it onto the middle of a fluted 10" tart pan. Use a spatula and spread the dough-- once it has cooled enough and is safe to touch, use your fingers to evenly press the dough throughout the pan. Use a flat and round measuring cup, or the palm of your hand, to help push the dough onto the sides and ensure as even a layer as possible. Reserve a small amount (1/2 ball) of dough and bake the crust in the oven for 15 minutes. Once it is finished baking, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool completely. *Note: If there are large cracks, you can use the reserved amount of dough to patch up the crust by taking bits and pressing down onto the breakage when it comes out of the oven.

2. Make the dark chocolate ganache. In a small sauce pot, heat the heavy cream on medium. Be sure to stir often to avoid burning. Once the cream starts to simmer, turn off the heat and pour it into a bowl containing the dark chocolate. Use a rubber spatula or whisk to stir the chocolate and cream until everything has melted together smoothly. Mix in the vanilla extract and then allow the ganache to cool for about 10 minutes before pouring onto the tart crust. Use the spatula to evenly distribute the chocolate. Place the tart into the refrigerator to chill for about an hour before layering on the coconut cream. *Note: If you're impatient, like me, you can place the tart in the freezer for about 10-15 minutes while you make the coconut cream to speed up the process.

3. Make the coconut cream. Use a hand mixer to cream together the sugar, corn starch, salt, and egg yolks until the mixture is pale and creamy-- set aside. In a small sauce pot, heat the milk, coconut milk, coconut oil, and vanilla extract on medium. Stir constantly and bring to a low simmer. Turn off the heat and, while whisking the egg mixture quickly with one hand (or using the hand mixer on low), slowly pour in 1/3 of the hot cream. Mix in the rest of the cream and then transfer everything back onto the stove. Heat the pastry cream on low. Make sure to stir constantly and scrape from the bottom. Cook on medium until a low boil is reached-- the cream should be thick and coat the back of the spatula. Remove the pot from the heat, transfer the cream to a bowl, and cover it by placing a piece of plastic wrap directly onto the surface (to avoid a film forming). Allow the coconut pastry cream to cool down for about 20-25 minutes (place in the fridge to speed this up).  Pour and smooth the coconut pastry cream over the chocolate ganache layer-- place the tart back into the fridge to chill while you make the whipped cream.

4. Make the whipped cream. Using the whisk attachment of a hand mixer, beat the heavy cream, powdered sugar, and coconut rum together until stiff peaks form. Use a spatula to smooth over the layer of coconut pastry cream. *Note: I made two tarts-- one with whipped cream and one without. Both tasted fantastic and although the whipped cream is a lovely addition, without it this dessert is still quite heavenly...so it is definitely optional! :)

Garnish the tart with toasted unsweetened coconut flakes and dark chocolate shavings. Drizzle with salted caramel sauce. Keep the tart in the fridge and remove about 5-10 minutes before serving.