Monthly Archives: January 2013

Chocolate chip cookies

Recently I made some chocolate chip cookies, inspired by this youtube video.

I didn’t follow the recipe exactly and I wasn’t able to make them as perfect-looking as he could, but I’m not a professionally trained chef and I will attest to the fact that they were the best-tasting chocolate chip cookies that I’ve ever made from scratch. If you’re interested in the recipe, keep reading!

Ingredients:

3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 egg yolk
1 cup butter (8 oz=1 cup=2 sticks of butter) ROOM TEMPERATURE
2&1/4 cup flour
1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 Tablespoons of water
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips (or any amount you wish to use in the cookies)

Recipe

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cream the butter and sugars (brown and regular granulated) together in a bowl (use a mixer if you can, otherwise this takes so much arm strength. I finally used a hand mixer after my arm started to hurt from using a fork, which works but is the wrong approach.)

butter in a bowl

butter and the sugars

mashed more than "creamed"

2. Add your flour and mix until lightly incorporated.

so much flour

incorporate that

3. Add your egg yolk and mix.

egg yolk

4. Add your vanilla and salt, and mix to incorporate.

vanilla smells so good

dough looks decent

5. Add your baking soda, stirred into/dissolved in the water.

just this much

6. Refrigerate dough if desired, around 30 minutes to make it easier to work with. If not, go ahead and roll out dough balls. I’m using my Silpat again here (as seen in use here) but you can use wax paper, pam, etc. to keep them from sticking.

dough balls

7. Flatten dough balls with the palm of your hand.

flat little cookies

8. Add your chocolate chips.

looks great right?

9. Now, I don’t know why, but these spread like CRAZY and didn’t look perfect. You’ll just have to see what works best for you… Bake at 350 degrees for 9-12 minutes, I baked them for 10/batch and let cool on sheet for two minutes before placing on a baking rack to fully solidify.

why do they look so crazy

10. Let cool completely.

cool, cool, cool

11. Enjoy your cookies!

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa


Day Trip: DeFuniak Springs, FL (houses & shopping)

As promised, here is the continuation of my trip! I had taken so many pictures I wanted to break this up a bit, in case you were only interested in one part, or didn’t have time for one massive post. It is also a bit difficult to organize this section, but I’ll start with the houses and move into the shopping, because there are a lot of houses to go through and I loved so many of them! I will try my best not to repeat any, unless I think they were amazing enough to warrant that. I had to take a few different ones of each house because that pesky sun and the trees kept making them completely un-see-able.

This one is probably my favorite house. I love the spire(turret?) and it’s absolutely beautiful with its trim and fencing. (I don’t know house terms, why should I, I just know this is gorgeous and I want to live here.)

and from the front

lovely

off white

storybook glen

columns (or pillars?)

stately from the side

more pillars

cute brick house, can't blow it down

This next house warrants a little bit of explanation, because it was absolutely amazing, first of all, and second because it was for sale by owner and they must be basically the nicest people ever because they have a drinking fountain outside for whoever is walking by to use at their discretion. You’ll see.

gorgeoooous

side-ish view

for sales

how sweet

in case you couldn't read

animals hiding in the bushes!

framed by trees

duplicated I know

pointy

brick-y

nice spire (tower?)

sweet gate

bricks again

big brick house (lovely)

cute chimney

yellow and proud

plants for privacy

orangey

This house had the cutest mailbox.

so cute

it's for letters

it was also for sale

this one was under construction

two decks

similar

trees and gate

Whew! That was a lot of houses. Even though this is a small town, this wasn’t all the houses in the area, but just some of my favorites. I hope you enjoyed seeing them! Now, onto the shops.

just a cute building

First, here’s Nook and Cranny, a shop of odds and ends and consignment shoes/clothes.

nook and cranny

door knobs

ram (astrology?)

red lamp

reminds me of the south

painting

birds

frame and boxes and things

delicate

I found the Herald!

And here’s the Big Store.

The Big Store

what the big store entails

so much pink!

ROOK (it's a game and my last name)

such a pretty sofa

bed frame

Jim Beam mirror

antique stove/oven

Shirley Temple

the huge piano

I also encountered the Little Big Store.

little big store

I also worked my nerve up to go into the health store. Up until that point, I hadn’t been in a shop where I was the only potential customer.

health store?

As far as a “food” store, I would not classify it as such. They did have a few food items, but the majority of the store was packed with supplements, vitamins and the like. I’m sure it’s a useful resource in the area as they carry many things exclusively for the area and promise satisfaction, but I didn’t find anything of particular interest (coming from a larger area) and this was the only store in which I was essentially ignored and not pleasantly greeted. Oh well!

I did not manage to get a picture of it, but I loved the local bookstore and purchased 6 items for only $11 from a great selection of new and (mostly) used books. That was probably my favorite shop in the area, but didn’t look like anything special from the outside. Looks can be deceiving, so when visiting a small town, be sure to just give things a try!

Looks like it’s time to go!

time to go! (I'm cheesy)

Maybe I’ll take the train!

maybe I'll take the train

Hope you enjoyed! Goodbye!

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa


Day Trip: DeFuniak Springs, FL (The Lake, churches and library + food)

Hope you like long posts because this is going to be one! I went to DeFuniak Springs, FL today as a day trip, over from Tallahassee. And I hope gorgeous old houses are just your cup of sweet tea (or whatever you like to drink) because they sure are mine! (NOTE: I AM ONLY INCLUDING THE LAKE, CHURCHES AND LIBRARY IN THIS POST, AS WELL AS FOOD. SOON, I WILL POST THE HOUSES AND OTHER BUILDINGS INCLUDING STORES.)

First, a little background on the area. Feel free to skip this and head on down to the rest of the post, because I did not spend a lot of time researching, and am rather quoting semi-directly the pertinent information from a pamphlet I got in town that is distributed by the DeFuniak Springs Visitors Bureau Inc. There is a small visitor’s center in town (it’s not hard to find, it’s right by the Little Big Store and just off circle drive around the lake) but it’s only open on Sautrdays. However, their pamphlets are available outside.

“Walton County was created in 1824. The census of 1920 reported the county population as 12,119, the 1980 census was 23,000 and the census of 1990 was 27,759. There are three incorporated towns in Walton County. DeFuniak Springs, Paxton and Freeport. Since early days farming has been an important occupation of the majority of the residents in Walton County. The historic downtown area is home to Lake DeFuniak, a naturally round lake that is approximately one mile in circumference and perhaps fed by a small natural spring. The lake is surrounded by beautiful homes and three churches, along with the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood and the Walton-DeFuniak Library, which is the oldest continuously operating library in the state of Florida.”

We can get started with my walk around Lake DeFuniak, which was very pretty (and I ended up walking around it twice, once on the path near the lake and the other time around the sidewalk to look at all the buildings!)

palm tree and lake, very Floridian

big, pretty, Lake DeFuniak!

play area

boardwalk with seating area

fountain at the lake

cute place for a picnic!

fancy cutouts of people from the past, everywhere!

Now, enough of the lake, let’s move onto the buildings! (I told you this would be a super long post)

Here is one of the three churches that surround the lake.

First United Methodist Church

fancy blue sky church

Across the street is the Chautauqua Hall of Brotherhood! Followed by another nearby church.

brotherhood hall, for the bros

here's the hall

nearby church

Next, I’ll show you the library. I was excited to go on a Friday because the library is open 9-5 M-F and closed on the weekends. I had read that they had a collection of antique weaponry, and was pleasantly surprised to see it hanging above the bookshelves on the walls! The library is beside the lake and included in the circle drive walking tour pamphlet. It also features a really cute reading garden.

cutest library!

super cute

extra extra read all about the library!

weapons oh my

axes?

fancy clock

weaponry!

armor?

love this picture

entrance to the reading garden

library reading garden (so cute!)

little reading corner

golden ragwort

Stoke's Aster

fountains

rosemary!

Next, I’ll show you where I ate. I chose Ed’s, not that there were many choices in the area, but I had read great things on Yelp!

Ed's super full parking lot of mostly trucks

 

nom nom

I had a cheeseburger combo meal with crinkle cut fries and a peanut butter milkshake for only $8.01!

MALISA? Who is that...

picnic at the park

This *may* be the best milkshake I’ve ever had. Honestly. I really loved it. However, the fries and burger were just average. Better than regular fast food, but not super unique or great. I think I should’ve tried their famous Pub Burger but I had trouble finishing all of this by myself!

Thank you for reading and in a new post, very soon, I will show you all the tons and tons of houses I know you’re craving. 🙂

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa


Beef stir fry with quinoa

I bought some assorted packages of meat (chicken, pork and beef) at the local grocery store and one of them was a beef package of “stir fry meat.” That’s where I got the inspiration for my meal. I’ve made stir fry many times in the past, and decided to use my hoisin garlic marinade on this meat, since it’s what I had on hand. Keep in mind that this is about 2-4 servings for me, when I am not stuffing myself full, and plan accordingly. This would also be good with fried egg or bacon in it. Here comes the recipe!

Ingredients:

One package of stir fry meat (I used beef that was pre-cut, about 1 pound)
Green onions
Red (or other) bell pepper
1/8 bag frozen peas and carrots
1/2 of an onion
3 cloves of garlic
Any other vegetables as desired
Sesame oil (for cooking)
Marinade (if desired, I used this)
Cooked quinoa (or rice)

Recipe:

1. Cook your quinoa or rice according to package instructions (1 cup quinoa to 2 cups water).

mmmm quinoa

2. Chop all ingredients to desired size (meat and vegetables).

peas and carrots already ready

red bell peppers are my favorite

green onions smell so good

regular chopped onion with garic

3. Heat your sesame oil in a pan and add your meat.

sesame oil smells great

look at all that raw meat

4. Flip your meat when the bottom starts to brown, to ensure even cooking.

evenly browning

5. Add your garlic and onions.

garlic-y

6. Add your frozen peas and carrots.

peas and carrots please and thank you

7. Add your chopped bell pepper and top it off with your green onions.

so colorful! like a rainbow of meat and vegetables

8. Cook thoroughly. Be sure not to overcook, or leave the meat too raw! It is a delicate balance. Then serve over your rice or quinoa and enjoy!

enjoyable

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa


(Salted) Dark chocolate truffle cookies

I decided to try my hand at making some cookies I saw over on How Sweet it Is.

These turned out very delicious (though I only ended up salting about half of them, because I was in a hurry to get them into the oven every time I was baking a new batch) and they didn’t spread as much as I expected them to. I also experimented with using my Silpat baking mat for the first time. It was great! I didn’t have any wax paper, so I just laid this down on my baking sheet and baked the cookies on it. This made for great, easy clean-up. You just wash the mat afterward and everything is clean (minus the bowls and utensils you used for prep!) These are really rich, dark chocolate cookies and I loved them. I did not choose to dip them in chocolate and sprinkles, but I would have if I’d had more time and I might the next time I make these!
AS A WARNING, YOU WILL NEED TO LET THE DOUGH SIT FOR 4 HOURS TO OVERNIGHT BEFORE BAKING.

RECIPE FROM HOW SWEET IT IS, adapted from THIS. Makes approx 30 cookies.

Ingredients:

6 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 ounces bittersweet (mine was 60%) chocolate, chopped
2 cups dark chocolate chips
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons dark chocolate/dutch process cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

Recipe:

1. Melt your butter, bittersweet chocolate and HALF OF THE chocolate chips in a bowl. I microwaved mine in 40 second increments, stirring when necessary, until completely melted. Allow mixture to cool.

butter is healthy, not quite a whole stick

chocolate deliciousness

fancy chocolate bar

baking chocolate broken up

goopy chips

smooth and melty

2. In a small bowl, combine the flour, cocoa powder, salt and baking powder. Set aside.

cocoa-y

flour-y

with salt and baking powder

all mixed up

3. In the bowl of an electric mixer (if you’re lucky enough to have one!) or in a regular large bowl, add your sugar and eggs and beat/whisk on high/quickly for about two minutes or until light and fluffy.

sugars

light and fluffy

4. Add vanilla and melted butter/chocolate mix, and stir until combined  (1-2 minutes.)

vanillas

vanilla mixed in

stirred in the chocolate

5. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and your whisk or mixer attachment, and add the mixed dry ingredients. Stir in with spatula until fully combined.

combining the flour

6. Fold in remaining chocolate chips.

chocolate chips for days

chocolate chips: WITH OUR POWERS COMBINED

7. Cover with plastic wrap and place in fridge for a minimum of 4 hours, to a maximum of overnight.

8. Remove from fridge when ready to bake. Line ungreased baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Wet hands and roll the dough between hands into 1 inch dough balls, placed 2 inches apart on baking sheet. This is when you can slightly salt them if you want. Bake for 9-10 minutes (in my experience, 10-12.) If baking in batches (which, lets face it with 30 cookies that’s pretty likely) place the dough back in the fridge, covered, between batches. When you remove the cookies, you can salt them again lightly if you want to. I did not. Be careful when removing these, you may want to let them cool a little, because they may be gooey. I placed them on a baking rack to cool, which did not take long.

six dough balls on my Silpat

with salt

cookies are delicious

9. Enjoy your cookies (WITH MILK!) These are great with milk because they’re so rich.

baking rack

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa


Simple dinner: Spaghetti, chicken sausage & veggies

Hello everyone!

It’s been a while hasn’t it? I haven’t been cooking as much as I’d like, but I did make dinner tonight and it was super simple but still delicious (and really aren’t those the best dinners?) so I thought I would share it. The ingredient amounts are going to be what I used, when I cooked it for myself, so adjust accordingly.

Ingredients:

Spaghetti (or other pasta) noodles
Chicken sausage, full cooked (your desired amount, or 1 per person on average)
A handful or two of spinach leaves
A few cloves of garlic, minced
A few small grape tomatoes
A small amount of olive oil to sauté
Grated Parmesan cheese (desired amount)
A dash of pepper

(Optional: Add additional items like mushrooms, bell peppers, onion, etc.)

Recipe:

1. Cook your noodles.

boiling pasta

 

2. Chop your sausage, tomatoes, chicken sausage, and any other additional items that you’ve chosen.

3. Add your olive oil to a medium-heat pan and sauté garlic, then add your chopped chicken shortly after.

chicken sausage and garlic

 

4. Add your chopped grape tomatoes.

tiny tomatoes

 

with some little tomatoes

 

5. Add your spinach and some black pepper. Sauté until medium-green in color and soft.

spinachy

 

6. Stir to incorporate ingredients.

all together now

 

7. Add cheese and let it melt!

cheesy

 

Melty!

 

8. Add on top of your noodles and enjoy!

all done

 

yum!

 

I really liked my chicken sausage, and I thought I’d show you the brand that I bought, just in case you were interested:

chicken-y

 

I don’t usually eat chicken sausage but I never imagined it’d actually taste good. This dish is actually a variation on something I’ve done in the past, which was exactly this recipe but without the sausage and cheese and tomato, and with the addition of red pepper flakes. There are endless possibilities.

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa


Shopping in Ballard & Hale’s Ales (+ Cupcake Royale and Majestic Bay Theater)

Near the end of my time visiting home I went to Ballard with my mom. You will have already seen some of the things we did, but here’s the last post from that time period!

Ballard! We parked near here

My mom and I planned on going to The Hobbit at the Majestic Bay Theater in Ballard. This is a small (though 3-story) locally owned theater which has nice, big screens, comfy seats, and no annoying ads at the beginning of the showings (which I appreciated). We had a lot of time (though not too much) before the movie, so we went to a few of the shops around the area and I took pictures at one, which was called Lucca.
They had some really cute things that I thought I would share here, although I can hardly summarize the number of things in the store. This is just a sampling.

Then I thought I would share the two interior nighttime pictures I took of the theater.

And, while we split a cupcake we didn’t eat it right away. But we did buy it before dinner, right next door to the theater at Cupcake Royale which was luckily open till 10 pm!

We split this one:

Then we finished the night at Hale’s Ales.

We ordered the fish & chips to split. The fries are under the fish.

Then we each ordered a beer, my mom got 2 of the 5-oz tasters whereas I just got a pint of one kind. We did each try all 3 beers though. First, the drink menu:

So here are the beers we tried:

El Jefe

El Jefe and Kolsch

And I’m 90% sure that the last one was the “visiting” Double Mountain India Red Ale.

We all preferred the two tasters, but I thought El Jefe was alright as well. Just not my favorite. As far as beer goes, though, I liked all of these and my favorite was the Kolsch. Which isn’t seasonal, so I guess that’s a good thing. Overall we had a good time in Ballard and I’d definitely come back to Hale’s. We sat in the bar and everything was great; it might be fun to come here just for drinks sometime.

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa


Macarons at Fresh Flours & Golden Gardens (Beach) Park

mushrooms! delightful

Ever-searching on our quest for macarons, my mom and I stopped by a bakery in Ballard called Fresh Flours. They had many delicious-looking baked goods.

assorted baked goods

 

more goods

 

the macarons! 6 flavors

 

the menu overhead

 

christmas goods 50% off

 

Don’t be alarmed by the Christmas sweets, it was much closer to Christmas when this visit occurred/pictures were taken so these were not super old cookies. They were still fresh and delicious, they had just not been sold yet.

We brought along a box of 5 to Golden Gardens and ate them there on a bench.

macaron box

Speaking of Golden Gardens, it was lovely! I’d only been here once before in the summer, and while I do prefer it then, it was not horribly cold and was still pretty to walk along near the end of December.

so many seagulls

 

boat

 

beach

 

So many footprints in the sand! This is a popular spot.

 

sand!

 

sunshine-y day

 

trees and beach

 

sometimes there are seals

 

This little bench area was pretty cute.

 

artwork by children

 

seahorses

 

other creatures

 

 

 

docks of boats

 

strip of rocks

 

the beach from the pier

 

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa


Portage Bay Cafe (Brunch) & Hiram M. Chittenden (Ballard) Locks

I went to Ballard recently(ish) to get brunch with my mom at Portage Bay Cafe and generally just walk around and see the area, while I was home for the holidays. We’ll start with the brunch (which was amazing) and move onto the Ballard Locks which I don’t recall ever visiting before this.

Portage bay French toast - Grains

Eggs to the end of page one

1/2 of menu back

2/2 of menu back

this is one of the walls

My mom and I both decided on egg dishes, though she was tempted by the French Toast. We wanted the toast and potatoes that came with the egg dishes.

I got the chicken sausage scramble, with sundried tomato + chicken sausage, red pepper pesto, roasted fennel, shiitake mushrooms and manchego cheese. It was so good and full of different flavors. It was a little bit spicy because of the sausage and a little bit salty and sweet because of the pesto, mushrooms, and cheese. So GOOD. i also liked the potatoes, though I did salt and pepper them a bit.

chicken sausage scramble

My mom got the Italian omelette, with fennel-spiked Italian sausage, fresh basil, Ladysmith cheese, tomatoes and sautéed mushrooms. She really liked it also and her potatoes are hiding under her toast.

mom's plate

After brunch we headed to the Ballard locks which were almost literally just around the corner. Just click on the name there for some background information, provided by those who I’m sure would do a better job than I. Essentially the locks modify/regulate water levels to allow ships safe passage between Puget Sound and Lake Union/Lake Washington. There’s also a fish ladder with a viewing area to allow spectators to stare at the fish.

The sign for the Locks

welcome!

Time for some garden shots.

welcome to the nursery

words about the garden (sorry for quality)

nice little garden-y place

the gate

we welcome you

garden plants

cool plant stuff

Back to the fish/locks/ladder/etc.

Going with the flow

the water comes from above

and comes out down below

Hiram himself

and a reproduction

that's quite a pickle

so many fish

now for the fish ladder

but wait, there's art!

the noble salmon must be recognized

and finally a chart of the fish

These last two pictures were taken indoors, in the horrible lighting of the fish ladder area. The last one was even more horrible because it was backlit. Sorry. We did see a few (about 3-4) small Steelhead while in the viewing area, but it wouldn’t have turned out on film. All the more incentive for you to visit in one of the busier months! 🙂

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa


Lunch in West Seattle and the quest for macarons

My mom and I headed off to West Seattle so I could get my hair cut. I was very happy because I only do that about twice a year when my hair gets a bit thick and unmanageable. After that we decided to walk around a bit and stop in some shops, and we also had lunch. I really wanted to go to my favorite West Seattle bakery, Bakery Nouveau, but they were closed. It was the day after Christmas and they had given their employees the day off but I was heartbroken, until Trader Joe’s saved the day More on that after lunch.

We went to a place called Azuma Sushi and both ordered off the lunch menu.

AZUMA SUSHI

culture

It was very cute inside and although we didn’t order sushi per se, the sushi that the other people around us had looked great. Both our meals came with miso soup, though I saw no reason to photograph that. It was what you’d expect from sushi restaurant miso soup. Pretty good.

I got the chicken teriyaki lunch, though ordered it without the salad.

chicken teriyaki and rice

My mom ordered the chicken katsu bento & tempura bento box.

20121231-185041.jpg

Both our meals were good and not too filing, which is what I expect from a sushi shop lunch.

Anyway, all the bakeries we called were closed and I was disappointed to learn that no macaron-carrying bakeries around us seemed to be open, so we desperately decided to visit Trader Joe’s to pick up some almond flour in a desperate attempt to make our own. Not finding any almond flour, it was a happy coincidence that we stumbled upon some frozen French mazarons of the Trader Joe’s brand. My only complaint is that they were peppermint flavored, but I could never stay mad at that store. If you do a quick search you’ll find plenty of bloggers talking about them, but they were new to me. You put them out for half an hour to defrost and they are supposed to be ready to eat. For frozen macarons, of a flavor that’s not my favorite, I still really enjoyed them and would recommend them if you’ve got a TJ nearby and can’t get or make fresh ones. They’re very cute and I think they’d be great for a party. Keep in mind that they’re pretty tiny, but priced well as far as macarons go.

little macarons

so pepperminty and perfect

Post by: Melissa
Photos by: Melissa