Peep Pops

17 Apr

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I had big plans for posting a tutorial last night on the braided Easter egg bread that I’m making for Sunday. But then we had friends over and attempted to decorate two dozen eggs. And then we had mojitos… and wine… and dessert (with some calzones and salad, too). And then I climbed into bed before 10 pm (by about 4 minutes), something that I rarely do without putting up a fight. So here we are, instead, with a post about a crazy-easy Easter dessert: Peep pops.

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Maintaining my previous assertion that pops can make anything popular, I bring you Peep pops. Just buy the little marshmallow creatures in your favorite colors and add them to lollipop sticks!

Peep pops

To display the pops, an easy option is to put them in a low jar. If you have a bit more time, add floral foam to the bottom of a basket (or takeout container from the dollar store, in my case), and top with fake grass. A whole flock of Peep pops would look great in a colorful Easter basket!

Mini Bundt Cake Nests

14 Apr

Mini bundt cake nests

We love, love, love our chocolate bundt cake recipe. As I’ve said before, it’s a magical one bowl concoction that is easy to throw together, serves a ton and is crazy delicious. I like to undercook it just a bit, so the inside is incredibly moist. Yum.

Usually, I find the fact that it doesn’t require frosting to be an advantage of the recipe. But sometimes you need something cute and festive, and Easter is one of those times.

Mini bundt cake nests

Armed with a bag of adorable pastel jelly beans, I crossed my fingers and prayed that the recipe would work in my mini fluted pan. I hoped the little cakes would naturally look like tiny nests, and I’m happy to say that (with the help of some chocolate shavings) they did!

Nest supplies

Decorating Ingredients:
Mini chocolate bundt cakes or cupcakes
A chocolate bar
Chocolate chips
A bit of cream
Speckled jelly beans or malted milk balls, 3 per cake

Mini bundt cake nests

Directions:
1. Pull a knife across the back of your chocolate bar to make chocolate shavings. More details on my last chocolate nest dessert. These nests are pretty small, so the shavings can be tiny.

2. Make a bit of ganache: Add a handful of chocolate chips and a splash of cream to a glass bowl; stir and microwave in 30 second bursts until smooth.

3. The ganache acts as glue, so use the back of a spoon to spread a little bit over a cake.

4. Carefully press chocolate shavings in a circle on top of the cake. Angle some toward the middle, as well; you need to fill the hole a bit, so the candy doesn’t fall straight in.

5. Add candy eggs on top of the nest, using a bit more ganache if needed.

Mini bundt cake nests

Cakes keep well in an airtight container for several days — if you make enough for them to stick around!

Candles and Wheatgrass in Eggshells

10 Apr

Candles and wheatgrass in eggshells

This is part two of my wheatgrass Easter decorations! Since I was growing a lot of wheatgrass anyway, it was little additional effort to grow some in eggshells.

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Because shells don’t have drainage holes, be careful not to flood them when watering. You can also skip covering them. Otherwise, the growing directions are the same as for a larger container.

I bought the super cute ceramic egg crates at TJ Maxx and use them in the fridge year round. They’re everywhere at Easter time — World Market sells some that are nearly identical, and of course Anthro has them. If you aren’t interspersing candles with your wheatgrass shells, cardboard egg cartons would be equally cute and effective. I loved the look of cardboard when I planted succulents in eggshells.

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Eggshell candles are also incredibly easy to make! There are plenty of tutorials for adding wicks and hot wax to eggshells, but that’s completely unnecessary. Standard tea-light candles are the perfect size to drop into shells; just remove the metal tin! Be sure to use decent quality candles, so that the wick doesn’t just drop out the bottom when you remove the tin. And I think this goes without saying, but wash those eggshells very thoroughly!

Now what else can we put into shells besides eggs?

Wheatgrass Easter Centerpieces

8 Apr

Wheatgrass Easter Centerpieces

I grew wheatgrass for several projects last Easter and really enjoyed the process. It’s the perfect project for kids (or the rest of us who love instant gratification) because it grows so quickly. Even so, there are just a few days left to plant wheatgrass in time for Easter!

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You can buy wheat berries (seeds) at Whole Foods and similar stores. The Bob’s Red Mill package I bought (containing a million times more than I needed) was about $3. The only other supplies you need are some soil and a container with drainage holes. In case you have trouble finding and identifying wheat berries, here’s a close up of what they look like:

Wheat seeds

The grass from these seeds was plenty tall in 10 days. If it gets too tall before Easter, you can just trim it!

12-day-old Wheatgrass

I planted my grass in a few metal trays (from the dollar store and a thrift store). Greg added the necessary nail holes to the bottom of the trays for drainage. I didn’t realize it at the time, but the grass looks nicer in something with sides — it hides the dirt and seeds that are otherwise visible.

How to Grow Wheatgrass:

1. Soak seeds overnight. (Be sure to soak enough seeds to completely cover the surface of whatever vessel you’re planting them in.)

2. Add soil to your container and water it.

3. Sprinkle the seeds on top of the layer of soil.

Wheat seeds

4. Place your container in indirect sunlight, then loosely cover with plastic wrap or a transparent plastic tray to retain moisture.

5. For the first three days, water heavily in the morning. If the grass seems dry, mist or water again in the evening. Keep the container covered.

6. After three days of growth, uncover your grass. Continue to water heavily once per day.

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To finish the centerpieces, I downloaded and printed the adorable banner from Paper Coterie. (Paper Coterie is apparently recently out of business — sorry about that. Pomegranate Paper Co. has a similar banner, you just may need to scale it down a bit.) I hot-glued the banner pieces to string, and glued that to wooden skewers.

After realizing that my dirt wasn’t deep enough to hold the skewers upright, I stuck the skewers into hard-boiled eggs, instead. Worked like a charm! The polka dot eggs in my centerpieces were blown out before decorating, but you could use dyed hard-boiled eggs — just don’t leave them outside in the sun for the day!

Hard-boiled egg as banner stand

After the holiday, trim your wheatgrass and throw it into a smoothie! You can also grind up leftover berries to make flour.

I have another small wheatgrass project coming later this week — so go buy some wheat berries and stay tuned!

French Apple Turnovers

4 Apr

Apple Turnovers

Greg and I just returned home from a wonderful visit with my grandmother in Florida. I have several Easter posts coming up, but first I wanted to take a moment to share these apple turnovers!

Grandma is on a fairly regimented health-food diet, and it seems to have been good for her over the last few years. However, she started talking about her love for apple turnovers during our visit, and I couldn’t pass up the chance to try to make them for her. (Don’t worry, Grandma can have occasional treats.)

Baked goods = love, right?

Me and Grandma

I’ll never forget a few years ago, when we were visiting my grandparents on my grandfather’s 80th birthday. I made another new-to-me recipe — rice pudding — because my dad said Grandpa loved it. Grandpa was thrilled, and we put a birthday candle in it and everything. When Grandpa passed away unexpectedly less than two weeks later, I was even more grateful for taking the chance I had to make something special.

Apple Turnovers

So, back to the turnovers! I served them warm, with ice cream, and Grandma and company loved them. I was pleased with how nicely they came together, despite not having parchment paper, or a brush for the egg, or much time to make them pretty. (We were in a rush to get to the beach!) The filling can be made in advance, or the whole turnovers can be frozen before or after baking (and you know how much I love that)! Since apple isn’t my favorite filling, I’m already dreaming up all the interesting things I can fold into pastry dough for dessert at a moment’s notice!

I used this basic Epicurious recipe (it calls for store-bought pastry puff) and added a pinch of cinnamon. You’ll notice in the comments that others added lots of spice — it’s up to you!

Baileys Brownies

13 Mar

Irish Cream Brownies

This is officially my easiest St. Patrick’s Day recipe. I won’t even waste time with chit-chat: for an Irish spin on a classic dessert, simply prepare box-mix brownies using Irish Cream liqueur instead of water. If you need a dessert for a St. Patrick’s Day party, you’re just half an hour + a bottle of Baileys away!

Shamrock-shaped Irish Cream Brownies

I used a low-fat mix, as it was the first box I pulled out of my cabinet. (Clearly, I am not a brownie snob. All brownies, except those with cinnamon/cayenne, are welcome in my house). I subbed in 1/2 cup Baileys for the 1/2 cup water and otherwise baked according to the package directions. Oh, except I forgot to grease the pan, which I don’t recommend!

Irish Cream Brownie Ingredients

If you get bored with all the extra time you have to spend not baking an elaborate dessert, cut those brownies out into shamrocks! (Just remember that you’ll end up with far fewer brownies and lots of scraps if you go the cookie cutter route. Best to make two pans!) You could also leave the brownies in the pan, but top with green sprinkles. Or keep them plain + classy. Either way, people will love them. I promise!

Irish Cream Brownies

What to Wear: Air Travel

6 Mar

I don’t pretend to be an expert on fashion, but I do want to share my year-round outfit formula (and the rationale behind it) for flying! Packing and traveling can both be stressful, and figuring out a go-to formula has saved me time and anxiety, in addition to keeping me comfortable in some ridiculous airport situations.

What to Wear for Air Travel

T-shirt or tank top: Choose a shirt that you’re comfortable wearing on it’s own, not just a little cami that you’d be embarrassed to wear in public. This first layer is for keeping cool during that terrible hour(+) you might spend stuck on the tarmac in the stifling heat.

Boyfriend cardigan: Even in the summer, planes and airports can be freezing (I’m looking at you, ORD). A long outer layer keeps you warm, and also keeps you covered, even while contorting into ridiculous positions to get things our of your under-the-seat carry-on. Cardigans are also very easy to slip on and off, either as the plane changes temperature or as you run through the airport.

Skinny jeans: Or whatever pants you’re planning to take on the trip and are comfortable in, really. I choose skinny jeans so that in the winter I can wear them with my boots. Sometimes I trade out the tee and jeans for a comfy dress and leggings, but I keep the cardigan and scarf.

Boots: In the winter, boots are going to take up a ton of space in your suitcase. If you only travel with carry-ons (like I tend to), you’ll want to wear your biggest piece of footwear. Just make absolutely sure that they’re comfortable and, if you have any layovers, make sure that you could run across an airport in them. Air travel is not a place for high heels.

OR

Sandals or ballet flats (and socks!): In the summer, I simply switch out my boots for flips or flats (again, keeping in mind that I have to be able to run through an airport in them). I also bring a pair of socks and keep them accessible, in case my feet are freezing during the flight (a common occurrence in window seats).

Scarf (floral or striped): No matter the season, I like to bring a scarf. I might not wear it in the summer, but it’s a nice, small, flexible backup item to have on hand. You can use it to keep light out while trying to sleep, or just wear it to keep warm. In the winter, it’s yet another easily-removable layer, should you find yourself sweltering on the tarmac or running through the terminal. (Are you seeing a pattern here?)

Coat: Wear/carry one in the winter — preferably one that functions as a comfy pillow. Did you know that in addition to your carry-on + personal item, you can also typically carry a coat, reading material, food and an umbrella? If your bags are full to the point of overflowing, carrying a book or two can really help!

Extra hair elastic: If I wear my hair down, I’ll inevitably want it up at some point. Even if it’s already up, I once used a hair tie to secure a broken shoe. (Flip flops break at the most inconvenient times, like at the airport… or when you’ve just walked across the border into Mexico. True story.)

For the most part, skip the jewelry: There are exceptions to this — certainly short flights or pieces of jewelry that you wear so often that you don’t notice them. I often find myself taking out earrings or taking off long necklaces when trying to sleep comfortably, though. And you certainly don’t want to wear valuables that might fall off in transit — you’ll never find them! Just bring your jewelry in a cute container, and slip it on as the plane lands. This avoids any hassle in the security line, as well.

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I personally own and love that mint cardigan, those boots, and those flats. I have an especially hard time finding flats that don’t cut into my heels, and I love those H&M flats! For $12.95, they absolutely can’t be beat. I can’t decide what color to get next!

In the meantime: Spring Break, here I come!

Baptism Cross Cookies

4 Mar

Cross Cookies for a Boy Baptism

We welcomed my little nephew James into the Catholic Church on Sunday! He is an incredible blessing to his parents and to our whole family, and we were so thrilled to celebrate with all the amazing people who love him!

Cross Sugar Cookies

I made these cross sugar cookies for the reception that followed. (I actually baked and decorated them at the same time as the initial shower cookies, then froze them for a couple weeks.)

Baptism Cross Cookies with Names

This is the first time I tried polka dots in the wet frosting, and it was addictive fun. Bake at 350 (where I find most of my sugar cookie tips) has a video on the “flat dot” technique. You basically just flood the cookie, wait a minute, then drip dots of another color of icing (but same consistency) on top.

I also tried to be fancy and do a few cookies with “James” written on them. Kinda cute, right?

Frosted Baptism Cross Cookies

P.S. I had a difficult time choosing an outfit for the baptism that wasn’t one of my three blue and white polka-dotted dresses! I might be obsessed. Is it possible to give up polka dots for Lent?

Irish Flag Marshmallow Pops

1 Mar

Irish Flag Marshmallow Pops

It cracks me up that kids find anything on a lollipop stick absolutely irresistible. I can’t help but notice it at parties over the last couple years, especially as desserts in pop-form have become so popular!

Cake pops? He’ll take 3. Donut pops? Yup, as many as she can hold. Marshmallow pops? Every time they run by.

Irish Flag Marshmallow Pops

These easy-to-grab treats fly off the table, often as their more-complex and — let’s be honest — better-tasting companions dwindle. That’s what makes them perfect, though. Pops are super cute and easy — it’s great that kids adore them! Save the Baileys Cheesecake with Guinness Ganache for the adults. (And speaking of Baileys, I have a quick chocolate + Irish cream recipe coming up — happy March!)

Irish Flag Marshmallow Pops

Ingredients:
Marshmallows
Lollipop Sticks
Green candy melts
Orange candy melts
A thick slab of styrofoam or several coffee cups, to hold the drying pops

Directions:

1. Melt a handful of green candy melts in a small, deep bowl according to the package instructions.

2. Dip one end of a marshmallow straight down into the melted green until 1/3 of the marshmallow is covered, then lift straight back out. The flag lines won’t be perfect, but the more carefully you dip and lift, the closer they’ll be to straight.

3. Dip the last half-inch or so of a lollipop stick into green candy melt, and then insert it into the still-wet, green-dipped side of the marshmallow.

4. Set the marshmallow down on the un-dipped end, and let dry.

5. After the green hardens on the marshmallows, melt a handful of the orange candy melts.

6. Hold each marshmallow by the stick and dip the un-dipped side into the orange candy melt.

7. Stick the marshmallow pop into styrofoam to keep upright until the candy dries. If your lollipop sticks are long enough, I’ve also just set them down into coffee cups. It isn’t as secure, and you’ll need several cups, but it works in a pinch.

Palm Springs

20 Feb

Coconut Mojito at Parker Hotel

My Seakettle posts might give the false impression that I spend all my time baking. (so. many. desserts!) In reality, though, a pie chart of my time would be happily split between creating things (including desserts, but also websites, gifts, decorations), and traveling. Oh, and squeeze in a little time to do research for those two things — actually, make that a lot of time — since I’m a maximizer to the max. (And let’s just leave cleaning and grocery shopping etc. off my happy pie chart. The more you travel, the less frequently you have to do those things!)

Anyway, I’d love to document our crazy travels here on Seakettle, if you wouldn’t mind hearing about them! We can test it out with Palm Springs. Let me know what you think!

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Palm Springs is in the desert, about an hour and half east of LA. It has a long history as a resort town — a warm winter escape for the rich and famous (and the old and ailing). True to form, it was 80 degrees when we visited in January. (In fairness to the San Fernando Valley, it was even warmer at our house.)

Greg and I have driven past Palm Springs many times on our way to Arizona, but never stopped. After seeing Palm Springs popping up in my feed reader and realizing that people are flying to California just to visit Palm Springs, I figured we better go see what the fuss is all about!

Palm Springs Resorts

Things We Loved:

Resort-hopping
Even though we weren’t staying at one of Palm Springs’ chic boutique hotels, we enjoyed wandering around their public lobbies and gardens. The courtyard at the Saguaro is bursting with color and bass (and bocce ball!). The Ace pool is also hopping, but we just wandered through their macrame-riddled lobby and past the giant ACE sign in the parking lot. Their dark bar looked like a cool retreat from the Palm Springs heat! We also enjoyed the quirky lobby and beautiful grounds at the Parker Palm Springs, where you can enjoy a cocktail (coconut mojito!) in any number of little outdoor seating areas.

Mid-Century Everywhere
I couldn’t quite afford to buy the furniture, but I definitely appreciated the mid-century vibe oozing out of every shop and restaurant in Palm Springs. Dazzles is a fun and jam-packed little shop. I also loved browsing the fancy curated furniture galleries just to see some of the unusual mid-century pieces!

Bacon Tasting
We enjoyed brunch — particularly the bacon flights — at Cheeky’s (even though we’re convinced that they labelled the slices incorrectly)!

Milk Shakes
I can’t remember the last time I had a milk shake, but in Palm Springs we bought them twice! Great Shakes had tons of super delicious options, plus an adorable mini donut on top. Cuteness. A bit outside of town, we headed to Windmill Market & Produce for their famous date shakes. I assumed I wouldn’t like them (I didn’t even order my own.), but it was SO good!

The View from Mt. San Jacinto
The aerial tramway ride was a bit pricey, the staff was unfriendly, and we were packed like sardines (Sunday midday), but the views from the top were wonderful. It’s 30 degrees cooler at the top and a completely different world — more like hiking near Yosemite than a mile from the desert! Wear tennis shoes (my bad) if you plan to leave the building at all — it’s a downhill series of switchbacks right off the bat. You can sign up for a free wilderness permit to hike away from the crowds (at the bottom of the hill, head to your right to the ranger station), though the city views are to the left (where all the people are!).

The Proximity to Joshua Tree National Park
Having never previously stopped at Joshua Tree, either, Greg and I spent the last night of our long weekend camping there. It’s such a beautiful desert landscape! The Joshua trees are cool, of course, but my favorite plants were the chollas. I could write a whole post on our day in Joshua Tree, so maybe I will!

Palm Springs

We have to go back for:
• Hiking, particularly to Palm Canyon and McCallum Oasis
• Visiting the date farms, in season
• A picnic with lunch from The Sandwich Spot
• Staying at one of the boutique hotels
Modernism Week (happening now!)
• Dinner in a restaurant. Ha! (We had waffles for dinner — homemade, in our hotel room, without utensils! It was amazing.)

If you know of any hidden gems in Palm Springs, please share!