Honey Lavender Coffee Creamer

/home/wpcom/public_html/wp-content/blogs.dir/ae1/69902393/files/2014/12/img_2088.jpg I don’t know what I would do without my morning cup of coffee. I usually preset my machine on mornings when I have to work and I get really excited for it while I’m grinding the beans at night. My alarm goes off in the morning and my coffee starts brewing as I get ready with my eyes on the prize.

I know Alyssa loves her honey lavender lattes, so I thought I would try to make something similar in order to make my morning cuppa a little sweeter. This creamer is subtle but delicious. Adjust your amounts to fit your flavor preference and look forward to your morning coffee a little more.

Honey Lavender Coffee Creamer

Ingredients

  • 1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
  • 2 cups milk, half & half, heavy cream, or some combination of those 3. (I used 1 1/2 cups milk and 1/2 cup heavy cream)
  • 3 tsp dried lavender
  • 1TBSP Honey

How To Make It

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  1. Combine all ingredients in a saucepan.
  2. Slowly bring it to a simmer over medium heat stirring occasionally just until the milk starts to froth.
  3. Once you see little bubbles start to form, cover and remove from the heat. Let everything cool to room temperature, about 45 minutes.
  4. Taste your mixture. If you want it a little stronger, repeat these steps one more time.
  5. Pour your creamer into a strainer held over a large bowl with a spout, or a funnel into your creamer container.
  6. Pour into a cup of coffee and enjoy!
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Friendsgiving

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Last weekend, I came up with another excuse to gorge myself with way too much food yet again. I had a few friends over and we had a little “friendsgiving” a couple of weeks after Thanksgiving because we all have totally crazy schedules. I don’t have many pictures because my friends are shy and I didn’t want to force them into this awkward “take pictures for the internet!” type of thing. Plus, I live in the moment and totally forgot to take pictures of everything.

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Our menu consisted of classic Thanksgiving fare with a twist as 1/3 of us were vegetarian. Everyone was in charge of different aspects. I made the main course, appetizers, and dessert. And I made some apple cider just for funsies. I made some individual pot pies, 4 chicken, and 2 tofu for the main course. I even came up with this cute idea of using pie crust letters to show which pies were vegetarian. I am kicking myself for not taking a picture. I should also note that I used Ina Garten’s chicken pot pie recipe, which states that it makes 4 servings. It probably makes a little closer to 400 servings. I have no idea who could eat that much pot pie, but my friends went home with enough leftovers to make about 4 more pies each. Oh, Ina.

When you have pie for dinner, you can’t have pie for dessert too, which left me a little stumped. Pie is the go-to Thanksgiving dessert. Plus, I was a little overwhelmed with the pot pies and didn’t really have time to create a fancy dessert. Bennett came up with the great idea to make a little s’mores bar with sterno candles and tons of fancy chocolates. I highly recommend it. He also bought those flowers without so much as a hint from me. He’s got this hosting thing down pat.

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My most proud moment is probably this centerpiece I made. It’s a miniaturized version of this tutorial with some glasses with salt and tea lights and scattered metallic pom poms. I kind of love my paper hollies.

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We even got Kirby in the Christmas spirit with the sweater Lacey got him. I kept it on him until everyone got to see him, but his fur coupled with the sweater made for a very hot dog. Too bad you look so cute in that sweater, dude, because you will have to wear it again.

All in all, it was a rather successful even. We all ate until we hurt, and we had a ton of fun. The food was good, and so was the chatting, and I didn’t get too stressed out while preparing. Success!

The Easiest (and Cheapest) DIY Wreath Ever

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I like wreaths, but I don’t like wreath making. And I really don’t like spending a bunch of money on a wreath either. I decided I needed one, though, so after a little research for inspiration online, I got to work creating a wreath that fits my simple Christmas decorating personality and my thin wallet.

You literally need 4 things to create this wreath:

  • Dollar Store Christmas Garland
  • Bottle Brush Trees
  • Hot Glue
  • Ribbon

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All I did was take my garland and wrap it into about a 14 inch circle and wind it around itself. You can hot glue the ends together if you’re worried, but the wire works really well.

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Figure out your arrangement for the bottle brush trees by laying everything on the ground. When you find what you like, just hot glue those guys straight onto the wreath.

Add a ribbon to the top to hide your wreath hanger.

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You’re all done!

I do feel like it needs something. I think that something might be flocking, but I’m a little to frugal to purchase something so frivolous. I do have some leftover pinecones, though, do you think those would look good on the bottom?

My Go-to Dinners Part 1: Fried Rice

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This series is mainly for Alyssa, who by the end of living with her for one summer, had both me and my boyfriend terrified for her health. Seriously, we actually went out and bought her some easy to make meals that were at least mildly healthier than Spaghetti-Os and Ramen. Sorry, Alyssa, but hopefully this series can help you learn to cook healthier meals even if it does take a little extra work. I’m going to try to do this once a month. I’ll share some really easy meals with you guys that can be made from whatever you have in the fridge. Assuming you have healthy things in there. It’s taken me a long time to get to this point, so maybe these posts will help you get to cooking healthy meals all the time a lot quicker than it took me.

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I’m hoping this will also teach you how to shop for yourselves too, telling you what I think you should always have on hand and how you can use those items. Some of this stuff might seem a little weird, but I either use pretty much everything in this recipe elsewhere. I’ll let you know why I think you should have some of the weird stuff on hand.

So, here we go.

Easy Go-To Fried Rice

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • 1 1/2 cups Brown Rice, cooked – Always have brown rice on hand. It’s so filling and a great source of protein.
  • 2 cups Chopped Vegetables – Whatever you have on hand is fine. This particular version I made used carrots, red pepper, and. I put onion in pretty much everything I make. In the past, I’ve also used peas, green onion, kale, spinach, and those frozen stir fry veggies. Seriously, anything goes.
  • 1 medium Onion – This is separate from the veggies because it needs to be in there, and you should always have onions on hand.
  • 2 cloves Garlic – I just keep a few cloves handy for pretty much anything I make. Garlic is another ingredient that just goes with everything.
  • 2 TBSP Vegetable Oil or Olive Oil – The secret to keeping food from sticking.
  • 1 egg
  • Soy Sauce
  • Optional: Some form of protein. I use tofu cooked with this method, but you can use chicken or pork if you like.

Okay, here’s where we get to the weird stuff…

  • 2 TBSP Hoisin Sauce – I pretty much only use this for fried rice, but it can be found in the Asian food section of pretty much any grocery store, and it’s a condiment so it lasts a while.
  • Rice Vinegar – If you do even a small amount of Asian food cooking, this is a must, it really helps bring out the flavor.
  • 1 tsp. Cumin – I use cumin for pretty much everything. A little chili powder, garlic salt, oregano, and cumin is all you need for quick taco seasoning. It’s great with Asian dishes too.
  • 1/2 tsp. Ginger – I only use ginger for recipes like this, but it’s another good spice to have on hand
  • Chopped Cilantro – Cilantro is pretty much the cheapest herb you can buy and goes great with a lot of different foods. If you don’t use it all, it’s not a big deal because I think the 60 cents was money well spent for even one meal.
  • Lime Wedges – I’ve kind of learned to always have a few limes on hand. It might seem weird, but it’s really great to have for pretty much any Asian or Mexican dish. A little lime juice over a burrito, awesome. 

Okay, my justification for just always having these items is over. Now it’s time to make some fried rice.

    1. The rice to fry is day-old rice. It’s difficult to have the forethought to actually cook the rice the night before, but it’s well worth it. That thirsty, dried out rice really soaks up all of the flavors and ends up with a great texture. If you really want fried rice for dinner the same night, make sure to cook the rice ASAP. At the very least, you don’t want to even think about anything else until that rice is fully cooked. Once it’s done, take the lid off your pot or rice cooker, and let that steam out. Stir it around occasionally so the rice dries out evenly. It won’t be as good, but you won’t end up with a pile of mush either.
    2. If you want a protein, marinate it for 10 or so minutes in a little soy sauce and rice vinegar before cooking. Thoroughly cook your protein before adding it to the rice.
    3. Next, take the biggest frying pan  you have, or a wok, and heat up your oil over medium heat while you chop up your onion and mince your garlic.
    4. Once the oil has thinned out and can easily flow throughout your pan, add a little rice vinegar and then throw in your onion and garlic and saute, stirring occasionally until the onions are slightly transparent.
    5. Add the rest of the veggies and stir.
    6. Now, add your Hoisin Sauce, Cumin, and Ginger and make sure all of the veggies are well coated. Sprinkle with a little salt or soy sauce and saute for about 5 minutes.

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  1. Once the veggies are cooked crack your egg into a small dish and beat it until it’s scrambled. Then, push your veggies aside and pour the egg right in the pan. Stir the egg constantly, trying to get as few veggies in the mix as possible. You want scrambled eggs that can be stirred in later.
  2. Once the egg is fully cooked, stir everything together so the egg is evenly distributed.
  3. Now, add your rice and protein and stir constantly until everything is nice and combined and the rice and protein have had time to absorb some of the sauce. If you like the taste of the Hoisin sauce, add another tablespoon or so to the mix.
  4. To serve, add your rice to a bowl, sprinkle with a little cilantro and squeeze a lime wedge on top.

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How Much is Too Much Crafting?

Tree Stocking Holder

Guys, I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew in the DIY department. I decided to make all of my Christmas gifts this year. In addition to that horrible mistake, I’m also trying to come up with awesome crafts for my work blog. I made the mistake of not hiring any new bloggers and just deciding to create more of my own posts. Now, in the middle of the holiday craft rush, I’m trying to create these amazing holiday crafts for an email and just the blog in general, and I’m trying to create stuff that is gift worthy.

As a result, my house has been taken over by crafts and Christmas. Seriously, who already has stockings hanging? Me, because I had to make stockings for work, and even made stocking holders. And to get the pictures looking good, I had to decorate my mantel. I have a winter wonderland mantel right now, and it’s not even officially winter.

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I think the bane of my existence, though has to be these stupid ornaments I’m working on for my (hopefully) last holiday project this month. Do you see that disaster on my kitchen table right now? Those suckers have been drying for 2 days now, and I tried to get everything done yesterday, but they still weren’t dry when I was working with them. I’ve ruined 2 pairs of pants, a sweatshirt, and have paint in my hair from these guys. I also dropped an ornament on the floor, and the inside wasn’t dry so in addition to the glass all over my floor, there was also wet paint. It was a fun night.

DIY Marbled Ornaments

I think the majority of the torture is over now. Alyssa’s gift is done (I started it in August, so you’d better like it) I’m working on Mom’s gift now, and I would like to thank you, Lacey, for giving me an extra month to work on yours. I’m actually having some fun with the gift making, but I feel super weird about already having Christmas stuff up. There’s no point in taking it down, though, and I happen to love Christmas decorations. I’m hoping since I’m getting all of this horrible crafting stuff over with before it’s even officially Christmas, maybe I’ll be chock full of the Christmas Spirit by the time it’s actually okay to celebrate.

So, that’s what’s up with the late posts and why I might possibly be a Grinch come December. I hope you guys like your gifts, probably not as cool as something I could buy, but you’ll all know that blood, sweat, tears, and Kirby fur went into them. All in the name of love.

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

Lava Mug Cake

Sorry for not posting on Saturday everyone! I’ve been really busy lately, and not in a fun way. More in a “why is there suddenly so much stuff to clean” way. Plus, I waited until the last minute to make my Halloween costume, which meant all of my free time was spent creating a costume I had to explain to everyone I saw.

Aaaannyway, on top of all of the stuff I’ve had to do lately, I have developed quite a sweet tooth. It’s weird, because I will normally choose savory over sweet in a heartbeat. These past few weeks, though, I’ve been craving chocolate like nobody’s business. Last week, I needed chocolate chip cookies, to the point where I got home from work and immediately took the butter out of the fridge to soften.

Peanut Butter Lava Mug Cake

I don’t need a bunch of cookies all the time, though, sometimes I just want a super quick way to satisfy that craving with one serving, and mug cake is totally the answer. I’m not a huge cake fan, but lava cake always does the trick. It’s like a brownie with hot fudge poured over it. Add some peanut butter, and that sweet tooth won’t know what hit it. Here’s the recipe to make your own:

Peanut Butter & Chocolate Lava Mug Cake

Ingredients

Ingredients

  • 2 TBSP Butter, Melted
  • 2 TBSP Water
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 TBSP Cocoa Powder (I love the special dark for this)
  • 4 TBSP Sugar
  • 4 TBSP All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 TBSP Peanut Butter (I’d recommend creamy for this, but crunchy was all I had)

Steps

  1. You can melt the butter right in your mug, then add your water, vanilla and salt, whisk together.
  2. Add your cocoa powder and whisk until smooth
  3. Then, add your sugar one tablespoon at a time, whisking in between until smooth.
  4. Finally, add your flour, in the same way as your sugar, and whisk well. You should have something resembling cake batter at this time.
  5. Drop your peanut butter off a spoon right in the center of the batter, and press it down a little so the sides of the drop are covered by the batter.
  6. Microwave for 50-60 seconds, right around 55 seconds was perfect for my microwave, the peanut butter melts, the sides become a nice, moist cake, and there is still a little molten chocolate.
  7. Let it sit for a couple of minutes. Your lava cake will be lava hot right out of the microwave.
  8. I also recommend keeping a glass of milk nearby. You’ll need it.

Cooking School

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I’ve been trying to save up money lately, so I’ve had to scrimp on a lot of things. I used to be a take-out master. It seemed like we would order in or eat out at least twice a week. And we definitely didn’t have health in mind when deciding where to eat. I’ve had so many burritos from the local Mexican drive-thru. The greasiest sandwiches were always my favorite. I could eat my weight in the deep fried tofu that comes with Pad Thai.

Now that I’m trying to save money and eat healthier by cooking my own food, I’ve decided to have a little fun along the way.

I discovered this online cooking school by The Kitchn’s Cooking School and have been having so much fun with the challenges. In addition, it’s helped me be a little more adventurous with my cooking. I can now successfully poach an egg, made my own spatzle from scratch, I made some hollandaise sauce, and I made a vegetable pot pie from scratch.

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I definitely recommend at least going through the lessons. Each weekday presents a new food or technique and teaches you what you need to know to be successful. It even has recommended recipes if you need a little inspiration.

Alyssa, this goes double for you. I know from living with you that you tend to rely on boxed meals, ramen, and cheap restaurants when you’re responsible for your meals. Looking through these lessons can really help you build your confidence in the kitchen and make cooking fun instead of a chore. Do it!!

Son’Bitches Recipe

Son'Bitches Cookies

I recently finished the final season of How I Met Your Mother after it went on Netflix, and I think the thing that stood out most for me wasn’t much of the story, but the moment in the very first season when Lily starts to describe the mother’s homemade cookies. Peanut Butter, chocolate, caramel… I needed to make those son’bithes right away.

Son'Bitches Cookies

The basics of this recipe are very similar to my Brown Butter Monster Cookies but with a few tweaks here and there. It’s a peanut butter cookie base with dark chocolate chunks and ribbons of caramel. Add a little coarse salt on top if you’re feeling a little fancy. It won’t disappoint.

Ingredients

Son’Bitches Cookies

Ingredients

  • 1 Cup Butter, softened
  • 2 Cups Creamy Peanut Butter
  • 1 1/4 Cups Brown Sugar
  • 1 1/4 Cups White Sugar
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 1/2 TBSP Vanilla Extract
  • 2 1/2 Cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp Coarse Salt plus extra for sprinkling
  • 2 Packages Chocolate Chunks
  • 1 cup caramel topping

Steps

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. In a very large mixing bowl, cream the peanut butter and brown butter until it’s fluffy and light in color.
  3. Add your 2 sugars and cream again until fully incorporated.
  4. Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until they’re fluffy
  5. Add your milk and vanilla and mix until incorporated.
  6. Slowly add your dry ingredients to the wet while mixing.
  7. Stir in your chocolate chunks.
  8. Drizzle your caramel topping over the dough and fold it in. It is very important that you mix as little as possible. You want caramel ribbons.
  9. Drop about 1 Tablespoon sized balls onto a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Optional: Lightly press the tops of your cookie balls to create a flat surface and sprinkle a little salt over the top of the cookies before baking.
  10. Bake for 11-13 Minutes.
  11. Pull out of the oven and allow to cool.

Son'bitches Cookie Recipe

Enjoy those son’bitches!

Making Sushi and What I Learned for Next Time

2 Veggie Sushi RecipesTo me, the idea of making sushi was a little scary and very intriguing. I mean, people in Japan spend years learning how to perfect just the rice. I intended to make myself yummy sushi in an afternoon. I wasn’t looking for perfection, though, just a fun new dinner idea. It turns out that if you’re not aiming for perfection, making your own sushi is surprisingly easy. There was nothing perfect about my rolls. They’re rolled too loosely, the veggies slipped out of either end while I cut it, and I even undercooked the rice. But I had a lot of fun with the process and I was a little shocked with how much I liked the results.

I made 2 1/2 kinds of sushi. I can’t claim I made 3 types because I don’t consider adding one ingredient to another roll a whole new type of sushi. During my research, I read somewhere that you can put a layer of plastic wrap between the bamboo rolling mat and the nori (seaweed). You’ll see from my photos that I quickly gave that up. Lesson 1: Don’t do that, there’s a reason that traditional Japanese sushi making doesn’t include plastic wrap. It made rolling much more difficult as the plastic wrap would very stubbornly stick to the nori as I tried to roll it. I think this ended up being my worst roll.

Steamed Beet and Mango Sushi

Not the worst roll in flavor, though. One of our favorite restaurants in Portland is Sushi Mazi on Division. Our favorite roll is basically the one above, steamed beets and mango. It’s sweet and earthy and delicious. So simple, but so, so good.

Cucumber Avocado Cream Cheese Roll

This is a cucumber, avocado, and cream cheese roll. I really liked this one too. The cream cheese compliments really well with the rich flavor of the avocado and the crisp cucumber. Yum.

If you look closely at the pictures, you can see that this round has the rice spread a lot closer to the edges. I learned from cutting through my first roll that you want to get your inside ingredients as far over as possible so you still have lots of flavor in the end pieces.

Steamed Beet, Mango, and Mint Sushi Roll

For my last roll, I thought I’d try something new by adding some mint to the beet and mango roll. Mint tastes great with mango so I thought this would be really good. It was fine, but not my favorite, which leads me to my last lesson: simple is always better when making sushi. As long as you have great ingredients, you don’t need much to really have it stand out.

3 Sushi Rolls

Don’t be afraid to try making your own sushi! As long as you’re okay with not being as good as those guys who spend years studying and perfecting their craft, you’ll have lots of fun and a great new dinner idea!

Tested and Approved Pinterest Recipes

I might be one of the few people in the world that actually pins with a purpose. Now, I can’t say I’ve even tried 50% of the recipes I’ve pinned, but I have tried a lot. I have definitely had a couple of fails. There have been recipes that were just too difficult to recreate, and ones that just didn’t taste up to par. I’ve also had some that I loved. Here are a few of my favorite recipes that I’ve found on Pinterest. Some are easy, others are a little more difficult, but well worth the effort. I’m not a great cook, though, so if I can do it, pretty much anyone can.

Homemade Pretzel Bowls via A Beautiful MessThese pretzel bowls via A Beautiful Mess were surprisingly easy to make. I kind of loved to making these, and the end result was delicious. It’s perfect for an upcoming fall evening. They are very heavy, though so don’t make a heavy cream based soup to put in it. That was our biggest mistake. I ended up putting a broccoli and cheese soup inside, and it was way too much. Everything was delicious, we actually couldn’t stop eating, even though it actually started to hurt. The tomato soup shown in the picture will probably be your best bet.

Cadbury Creme Egg Brownies via The Merrythought

I made these cadbury creme egg brownies from The Merrythought for Easter and they were a huge hit. There are lots of layers involved, but everything comes together really easily. The faux cadbury creme is actually a great compliment to the dense chocolate brownie recipe too. They are extremely sweet, so make sure everyone you’re serving these to has a sweet tooth.

Confetti Rice Salad via Andrea Meyers

Andrea Meyer’s confetti rice salad recipe is a favorite for vacations and camping in my household. It is best served cold and is packed with tons of protien and veggies. It’s also a great way to use up excess veggies around your house because it pretty much goes with anything. It’s a great go-to for a summer meal, too because the only thing you have to cook is the rice.

Buffalo Cauliflower via Persnikety Plates

The buffalo cauliflower from Persnickety Plates is probably Bennett’s favorite Pinterest recipe. Buffalo chicken is the one thing he misses most since he became a vegetarian, so when I told him I found a recipe made from veggies, he was all over it. I’m not a huge fan of buffalo flavoring, but I will say that this stuff with some ranch dressing makes for a really good snack that can fill you up without it being too heavy.

Simple Yellow Curry via A Beautiful Mess

I made this yellow curry from A Beautiful Mess the other day and am still reeling from how easy it was to make. It’s one of my favorite Thai dishes, so I was really excited to find out that I could make it for a fraction of the cost of ordering it, and it tastes just as good! It seriously took me less time to make this than it did for the rice to cook, it was that easy. It did end up a little thinner than I like, so I think when I make this again, I’ll add a little less water.

Black Bottom Coconut Squares via View from Great Island

I made these black bottom coconut squares from View from Great Island for Lacey’s going away party and really liked them. I think Bennett was the biggest fan, they barely lasted another day in my house. The brownie bottom wasn’t too sweet for the rest of the cake, and the coconut toasted perfectly. The cake on top was really moist, too.

I’ve had many more successes than I have had failures from Pinterest recipes. Always make sure to check out the links and read the preparation steps before you decide to make any of your recipes. Some things can be way overly complicated for the end result, and other things will surprise you with how easy they are. Definitely try out anything that looks good and don’t be afraid to tweak and experiment!