Projects

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I’ve been feeling crafty this week and actually doing something about it. As I’m sure you’ve noticed from the obnoxious Pinterest posts (case study here), many of us are ready for fall, myself included. Therefore, I made this slightly-autumnal wreath for our apartment’s front door.

The wreath cost $4.99 from Joann’s, and I had the fabric scraps already, so this was an inexpensive project. I used this tutorial for the roses, attached them with hot glue to the wreath, and sewed a little muslin sleeve for the hanger. Done!

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Second project: I crocheted a pencil case in preparation for the semester’s beginning tomorrow. I was able to complete this during one movie (don’t ask me about minor plot details though) and it was a solid pattern. Link here.

Recipe Redux

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This week I took a recipe I developed a few years ago for the online magazine Modern Handmade Child (Maple-Sweetened Apple Pie With Oat Crust) and made it gluten-free for Zach and me. All I had to do was replace the all-purpose flour with a GF flour blend and it worked beautifully! If you are extremely sensitive to gluten, it would be a good idea to use gluten-free oats as well.

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This is a unique pie because the crust and the crumble topping are both composed of the same dough – made with whole oats, flour, maple syrup, and butter. The filling is sweetened with apple juice concentrate, meaning there’s no refined sugar in this recipe.

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My favorite way to eat it is for breakfast with a generous dollop of plain Greek yogurt….it feels indulgent while still being relatively healthy.

Zoo a la Carte 2013

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Every year in August the Milwaukee Zoo hosts an event called Zoo a la Carte – basically, a bunch of restaurants from the city set up food stands within the rambling zoo and you get to look at animals, enjoy the gorgeous summer weather, and indulge in fair-type foods. Why didn’t I think of this?!

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The husband and I went yesterday with his family and had an awesome time. Most of the animals seemed to be napping, but at least they were very visible and sitting still for photos.

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For lunch Zach had shark shish-kebobs with mango dipping sauce (I don’t like fish, so kissing him after this was disgusting) and I had wonton nachos.

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The concept of wonton nachos intrigued me, and these were good, but I think they could have been much better. Basically, they were wonton chips covered in teriyaki chicken, nacho cheese, and sour cream. Not sure who was making the executive decisions on topping choices. I think they should have done the chicken, some kind of crunchy, sesame-y slaw, and maybe a drizzle of a sour cream/siracha/sweet chili sauce. Oh well.

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For drinks we chose a mango-strawberry smoothie and mango bubble tea.

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Zach followed up his shark with some really delicious bacon-cheese fries. Nothing fancy, but they were hot, fresh, and well-seasoned.

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Dessert was the best part (naturally).

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Zach had a chocolate-covered strawberry….

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….we split a creamy, decadent square of crustless raspberry-ganache cheesecake….

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…and I shared this pièce de résistance with Zach’s wheat-eating brother and friend. It’s a turtle funnel cake; basically a funnel cake covered with ice cream, hot fudge, caramel sauce, pecan pieces, and whipped cream. I usually don’t go for desserts this sweet, but the crunchy, not-too-sweet funnel cake balanced out the sugar overload on top and it the perfect combo of texture and flavor. We got so sticky and powder-sugar-covered, but it was totally worth it!

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I can’t wait to go again next year.

While Washing Dishes

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While Washing Dishes

While washing

Dishes he makes

This face:

Chin out, lips almost

Kissing, eyes scanning

Back and forth

As dirty becomes clean,

Clean becomes dry.

I watch and think:

If he were to die,

I wouldn’t first miss

His complete and solemn

Self, romantic and achieving,

The man they would

Talk about at the funeral;

I would miss this.

Apartment Projects-in-Progress

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I’m slowly but surely making our apartment feel like home. DIY projects are hard to fit in with a full work/school schedule, but sometimes for me making time to work on them means putting my smartphone or TV away and getting down to business.

1. I’m repairing a vintage quilt I found at a garage sale and making a hanging sleeve so I can mount it above our couch. $2 art!

2. Working out an idea I have for a granny square art piece that would have hanging rows of increasingly-smaller squares.

3. Piecing together two mixed media posters that I’ve gone back and forth on for a month now. I think they need trim (that’s what the rickrack is for) and some painted words. We’ll see.

Recipe: Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Mocha Cake

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Salted caramel? It’s amazing. But if you add espresso and chocolate, it can only get better. So much going on, and yet still so elemental. Salty, sweet, bitter, rich….like the best celebutantes.

This was clearly the thinking behind Starbucks’ fall drink, the salted caramel mocha, and I firmly believe that if a flavor combo could possibly be turned into a cake, it ought to be. And if said cake can be gluten-free and still raved about by wheat-eating people, it definitely ought to be.

I made this cake for pizza night last week and it was quickly devoured. My brother-in-law, who typically hates chocolate cake (with wheat!), loved this moist and flavorful version (without wheat!). The cake is labor-intensive because there’s two frostings – an espresso Swiss meringue buttercream and a salted caramel cream cheese frosting – but if you’re in need of a sophisticated, lick-the-spoon dessert for a special occasion, this cake cannot be beat.

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Gluten-Free Salted Caramel Mocha Cake

For the brown butter fudge cake:

-4 cups gluten-free flour blend with xanthan gum (I used Gluten-Free On a Shoestring’s Cup4Cup knockoff recipe)

-2 cups brown sugar, packed

-2 cups white sugar

-1 lb. butter

-1 cup cocoa powder

-1/2 cup sour cream

-1/2 cup milk

-4 eggs

-2 teaspoons baking soda

-2 teaspoons vanilla extract

-2 cups boiling water

For the espresso Swiss meringue buttercream:

Make one batch of Sweetapolita’s Swiss meringue buttercream and add 2 ounces of cold espresso (I took some from the cafe I work at, but you could just buy some at a coffee shop).

For the salted caramel cream cheese frosting:

Make one batch of Barefeet in the Kitchen’s salted caramel frosting.

To make the cake:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. Grease two 8″ round cake pans and line them with parchment paper. Whisk the flour, brown sugar, and white sugar together in a large bowl and set aside.

2. Whisk the sour cream, milk, vanilla, eggs, and baking soda together in a liquid measuring cup. Set aside.

3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. Continue cooking over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until the foaming has subsided and the butter is golden brown and smells nutty. Whisk in the cocoa powder and boiling water.

4. Stir the butter mixture into the flour mixture, then add the sour cream mixture and stir until thoroughly combined, thick, and shiny. Fill the prepared pans 2/3 full of batter (you will have enough leftover batter for about 12 cupcakes). Bake the cakes for about an hour, or until set in the center and pulling away from the edges (cupcakes bake for about 20 minutes). Let cakes cool completely.

5. Remove the cake from their pans by flipping them onto a cutting board. Cut each cake in half lengthwise. Wrap the four layers in plastic wrap and freeze on a cookie sheet until ready to use.

To assemble the cake:

1. Remove the cake layers from the freezer and allow to thaw until somewhat firm to the touch. Have your frostings ready at room temperature. Place one cake layer, top down, on a cake stand or cake board. You’re ready to decorate!

2. Fill each layer of the cake with a thin layer of caramel frosting and then a thicker layer of espresso buttercream. Crumb coat the cake with the espresso buttercream, and then frost it with the caramel. Use the remaining espresso buttercream to decorate with a pastry bag and tip, if desired. I sprinkled ground coffee and salt very lightly on the top of my cake.

3. Store the cake in the refrigerator but allow to come to room temperature before serving. Enjoy with coffee or espresso!