Chocolate Lava Cake

IMG_9538I’m not a big fan of cake, which puts me in the minority. Lava cake, however, is a thing of its own, and a treat I can have on any given day. I recently made little chocolate lava cakes for a few girlfriends, and it was the perfect ending to a relaxing evening. Each bite, with it’s oozing warm chocolate center was incredibly rich, and each cake disappeared within just a few minutes.

IMG_9540What’s great about this dessert isn’t just that it’s rich and indulgent, it’s also very easy to put together and most people likely already have all of the ingredients for it in their homes. You can also prepare ahead of time, and bake just before serving for a freshly baked warm treat for guests.

Ingredients (serves 4): 2 eggs, 2 egg yolks, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 4 oz bitter-sweet chocolate, 2 tsp flour, 2 tbsp cocoa powder

IMG_9533Instructions: Combine eggs, yolks, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer, and beat at medium speed. Meanwhile, heat the chocolate and butter on a stovetop over low heat, just until it’s oozy but not completely melted, whisk together to combine. Once the egg mixture has thickened (about 4 minutes),  add the warm chocolate and butter mixture to the eggs, as well as the flour, and beat for a few more seconds to combine.

IMG_9535Butter four ramekins, and lightly dust with cocoa powder, shaking out any excess. Pour in the batter, dividing equally among each dish. At this point you can either bake immediately, or refrigerate until a few minutes before serving. When ready to bake bring batter back to room temperature, and bake in 450F oven for 7 minutes on a baking tray. You will see that the sides are set, but the middle will still be soft. Invert each cake onto a small plate, and let sit for a few seconds before lifting ramekin. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with fresh berries.

IMG_9539I plan to make this treat again for Valentine’s Day, and I know I will be making it many times in the future. It is a decadent dessert to enjoy during these winter months, with good friends, or to finish a dinner for two.


Guest Room Decor

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Over the past few months we have been slowly working on different parts of our house, and recently completed the very first room. The guest room was the only room in the entire house that did not require any large structural changes, only needing essential bedroom decor pieces, and standard improvements such as fresh paint and new lighting fixtures.

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We painted the trim and doors throughout most of the house a soft color called ‘dusty gold.’ It’s delicate and subtle, adding variation without calling too much attention to itself. Decorative cover plates for light switches and outlets are other simple but effective elements that we installed throughout the house.

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We put everything that a guest might need in the room, such as towels, toiletries, and a water carafe.

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There is a small patio connected to the room, and we decided to give the exterior door a knob with a lot of presence.

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We’ve already had my parents come visit, and it was such a pleasure to host them in our very own home. We’re very happy with how this room came out, and are excited to have a warm and welcoming space to host our friends and family.


Winter Whiskey Cocktails

Contrary to the light and refreshing cocktails of spring and summer, winter cocktails tend to be hearty, and even occasionally medicinal. The warming and comforting notes of these three cocktails make them some of my absolute favorites to sip on during the winter months, and each is a welcome treat when fighting off a cold.

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Hot Toddy: A classic winter cocktail filled with spicy flavor, the hot toddy is a smooth sipper that’s incredibly easy to make at home.

1 cup water, 2 allspice, 2 cloves, 1 cinnamon stick, 1 teaspoon honey, 1 teaspoon lemon juice, 1.5 oz bourbon. Bring water to a simmer in a saucepan, add all ingredients to hot water and mix well. Serve hot and garnish with lemon slice.

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Penicillin: Incredibly complex in flavor, the penicillin cocktail was created as a general cure-all. The process of making the ginger syrup may be a bit time consuming, but delivers key flavor notes to this soothing cocktail.

2 oz blended scotch whisky, 3/4 oz ginger syrup,* 3/4 oz lemon juice, 1/2 oz Islay single malt scotch. Add blended scotch whisky, ginger syrup, and lemon juice to a shaker filled with ice. Shake well and strain into a glass with ice, pour Islay single malt scotch into glass so that it floats on top. Garnish with candied ginger and lemon peel.

*For ginger syrup: 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup peeled and sliced ginger, 1/2 cup sugar. Simmer all ingredients together in small saucepan until sugar dissolves, refrigerate any remaining syrup.

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Brown Derby: One of our two specialty wedding cocktails, the brown derby is one of our all time favorites. The punchy citrus flavor of the fresh grapefruit juice combined with the sweet honey syrup make this the ultimate comfort drink.

1.5 oz bourbon, 1 oz grapefruit juice, .5 oz honey syrup (equal parts warm water and honey). Add ingredients to a shaker filled with ice, shake well and strain into cocktail glass. Garnish with grapefruit peel.

 


Embroidered Christmas Cards

IMG_9454For this years Christmas cards, we decided to incorporate embroidery, which is something that I had never done with paper before. The designs themselves are simple, but the colored thread adds an extra element of dimension and texture.

IMG_9453Each card started with a print out of a sketch that was cut into an oval shape. I then punched small holes using a needle along the images to make the embroidering go smoothly.

IMG_9456These cards were a fun way to practice my love for embroidery, and a great opportunity to make cards that are unique from those that we’ve made in past years.

Wishing all a very Merry Christmas!


Chocolate and Peanut Butter Cheesecake

Now that the weather is chilly, I’m finally using our oven again, and have been whipping up a variety of decadent treats. A recent favorite is this multilayered cheesecake, whose incredibly rich flavor makes it one to save for special occasions.

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Chocolate Crust

Ingredients: 8 oz dark chocolate cookies, 1 stick butter. 1/2 cup dark brown sugar, 1 cup dark chocolate chips

Instructions: Add the cookies, brown sugar, and chocolate chips to a food processor. Process until all ingredients are fully combined, and you have a finely ground mix. Add dry ingredients to a bowl, and slowly add hot melted butter, mixing as you go. Using a rubber spatula, add the crust mixture to a 9″ springform pan, pressing along the bottom and sides until you have a 1″ crust around the edge. Place pan in the refrigerator to set the crust (15 minutes).

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Chocolate Hazelnut Fudge Layer

Ingredients: 2 cups dark chocolate chips, 1 cup heavy whipping cream, 1 tablespoon peanut butter, 1 1/2 tablespoons Nutella, 2 cups chopped hazelnuts

Instructions: Add heavy cream to a saucepan and heat on stovetop until cream begins to simmer. Add chocolate chips, peanut butter, and Nutella, whisking as you add each ingredient until chips are melted and fudge is smooth. Pour about half of the fudge into the cooled pan, spreading evenly. Sprinkle 1 cup of the hazelnuts over fudge and freeze for about 30 minutes, until fudge sets. Save the rest for the top layer.

Peanut Butter Cheesecake Layer

Ingredients: 16 oz cream cheese, 1 cup smooth peanut butter, 2 tablespoons Nutella, 1 cup sugar, 3/4 cup sour cream, 3 eggs, 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 325F. Allow cream cheese to soften to room temperature before you begin. Add cream cheese, peanut butter, Nutella, and sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on medium speed until all ingredients are blended. Add sour cream, eggs, and vanilla extract while mixer continues to beat ingredients. Pour cheesecake batter into the springform pan, using a spatula to even out the top. Place the springform pan in a oven safe dish at least 2″ deep. Pour water into baking dish until water is about 1″ up sides of pan. (Note: it helps to wrap the bottom of the pan with foil to prevent water from getting into cake). Bake for about 90 minutes, until cheesecake is mostly firm, and middle section is just a little wiggly. Let cool for about 20 minutes, then place in refrigerator for at least 6 hours.

Top Fudge Layer: Once cheesecake has set in the refrigerator, re-heat the remaining fudge until smooth again. Let cool until it is no longer hot, but still fluid for spreading. Spread the fudge over the top of the cheesecake and sprinkle with 1 cup chopped hazelnuts. Place back in the refrigerator to set the top layer, about 30 minutes.

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Herb and Garlic Rack of Lamb

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The strong flavor profile of lamb makes it something that I only want to indulge in every once in a while. However, since our fantastic lamb dish at Le Mouton Blanc on our honeymoon, I’ve decided to make it at home every so often. This recipe is very simple, and elevates the already flavorful meat just the right amount.

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Ingredients: 1 frenched rack of lamb (1-2 lbs), 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp oregano, 1 tbsp rosemary, 1 tbsp fresh thyme, 1/2 tbsp mint, 2 tbsp parsley, 1 tsp paprika, salt and pepper to taste

Instructions: Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet. Meanwhile, pat lamb dry and season thoroughly with salt. Sear the lamb front and back, about 3 minutes per side. Place the rack of lamb on a roasting dish.

Pre-heat oven to 400F. Combine the chopped herbs, spices, garlic and remaining olive oil in a small bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Rub herb mixture all over the lamb until well coated. Put in oven, uncovered, and cook for 15 minutes. After the first 15 minutes cover the rack of lamb in tin foil and cook in oven for an additional 5 minutes. Remove from oven and let sit with foil covering for 10 minutes.

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Cut the rack into individual pieces and serve with favorite sides.


A Welcoming Entrance

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We’ve decided to start small before jumping into the larger renovation projects for our house, and sprucing up the front entrance seemed like the natural place to start.

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There were already some lovely features, such as our mail slot next to the door, so we knew it just needed a few adjustments to look complete.

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We liked the idea of adding a hint of color and pattern to the blank space right above our front door, so we created a stencil with a floral pattern and mixed some old acrylic paints to get the colors we wanted.

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We love the feel of autumn, and the browns of the house are complimented nicely by a seasonal rustic wreath. When searching for a wreath, we noticed that most pre-made ones were very large and heavy on fake leaves, so we created a simpler one using a variety of pieces found at our local crafts store.

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A more overt reference to the autumnal season are the many squash that we put out on our front steps.

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Its so much more fun to choose a variety of shapes, sizes and colors, rather than stick with the typical orange pumpkin. In the winter, these will be a welcome addition to our dinner table.

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The house was already full of charm, but we love how these additions give it a personal touch. We also look forward to mixing up the look for each season.


Pain Perdu

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The staple autumn flavor is typically pumpkin, but I tend to lean more towards apple flavors when thinking of autumn meals and treats. Autumn has been taking its time to arrive to Los Angeles this year, but that hasn’t stopped us from craving classic comfort meals. Recently, I decided to make some pain perdu (French toast), and paired it with warm freshly made apple compote. The weather has barely begun to crisp up, so we took our brunch outside to enjoy in the cool breeze on a weekend morning.

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For the apple compote: 3 large apples peeled and cubed (I like to use 3 different kinds of apples to combine sweet, tart, and sour), 1/3 cup raw sugar, 2 tablespoons water, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 1 small sprig cinnamon, 1 tablespoon pie spice.

Add all of the ingredients to a saucepan and toss to coat apples. Simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until apples are cooked and sugar is dissolved.

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For the pain perdu: 1 baguette loaf sliced into long oval pieces, 2 large eggs, 1/4 cup milk, 1 tablespoon pie spice, 1 tablespoon sugar, 1 stick butter. Whip the eggs, milk, pie spice, and sugar in a bowl. In small batches, add the mixture to a flat plate and place pieces of bread on the plate to soak, flipping over after 2 minutes. Melt 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan and add the soaked bread in batches of 2 to 3 slices. Flip over after about 2 minutes, until bread is starting to brown. Cook the bread in batches until all pieces are done.

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Serve pain perdu with a side of the apple compote, a sprinkle of powdered sugar, and maple syrup.


Moving Announcement

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Now that we’ve settled into our new home, we decided to make a little moving announcement to mail out to our close friends and family. It’s a great way to let others know of your new address, while making it a little more intimate than a social media update. As previously noted, I’m a big fan of snail mail, so naturally we went the old fashioned route and decided to print and mail out little cards.

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After printing a photo of our house, the contours were traced using hatching to simulate the look of engraved illustrations from 19th century newspapers. We then added text to convey our new address, and a small border before printing. The finished product is cute and personal, and was very simple to make.


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