Monday, September 29, 2014

NY Cheesecake with Strawberries

NY Cheesecake with Strawberries
So....I don't like cheesecake. (I knooow, I'm crazy.)

But even I can tell that is is one DANGED good cheesecake.
NY Cheesecake with Strawberries
New York, New York...one of the things I miss most about you is your food. Mostly the pizza. Ah...the pizza. But I also know that their cheesecake is pretty danged awesome (Michael certainly loved it.), so when Michael's birthday snuck up on me this year, I knew the perfect treat would be a NY style cheesecake---with strawberries...because he loves 'em.
NY Cheesecake with Strawberries
Apparently 1 whole cheesecake is a bit too much for my boy to polish off on his own, though, so we shared some pieces with my mom and his family as well. And from all these sources, the reviews came in: this is a DANGED good cheesecake. All you have to do is look at it to see the amazing texture (and, boy, does it smell great), and I've been told it tastes silky and tangy, yet sweet.

And making it is surprisingly easy (time consuming, but easy)--I didn't even need to do a water bath and it didn't crack (mind you, I've made this once. Perhaps it will crack for you--I do not know for sure.) This was my first full-sized cheesecake and it went so smoothly. And you get a total sense of accomplishment saying to yourself, "I just made an amazing cheesecake. GO ME!"

And soon you'll make this and I can say, "GO YOU!"

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Something Saturdays (9/27/14)

Short people problems--this is my life.

Saturday we went to a party for Michael's uncle's 60th birthday. It was fun to see his family-plus one of our waiters ended up being one of my 3rd cousins who I haven't seen in foreverrr (and it took us halfway through the evening to realize who each other were lol)! Sunday we had more family time-we saw Michael's mom's family and then went to visit with a few people from my dad's side who I love and haven't seen for awhile!

I had my final florist appointment this week! Still waiting on some quotes from people, but I think I have a good idea of who we're going to go with. I also ordered a few wedding related things (flower girl baskets, my shoes, etc.) and framed the first engagement picture that we're going to put on the wall (which is the main part of getting our house together we still have to do--hanging stuff on the walls).

My wedding ring came in--which means I got to reunite with my engagement ring! It is now resting safely on my ring finger, where it belongs :) And the gorgeous wedding band is safe in our safe with Michael's wedding band.

Michael's job is going super well! He had a work retreat on Friday and he had a blast. He completely loves his co-workers and bosses, so that's amazing. And his new schedule is working out great, too. We were actually able to go out to dinner together on Wednesday (and it was DELISH). Life is good :) I went to our old high school to visit his mom (a teacher there), his sister (a student), his best friend (also a teacher), and just other people that I encountered and it was really good to see people and tell everyone how happy we are and what a great decision it was to move back. :)

Friday, September 26, 2014

Mashed Potato Pizza

Mashed Potato Pizza
Sometimes inspiration hits you like a sledgehammer.

One day I was just on facebook, like I do, and I saw a girl I knew from high school posted a promo from a restaurant about how their "Mashed Potato Pizza is Back!" and I was just like "WHAAAAA??!"

And I knew I must make it.
Mashed Potato Pizza
What does a pizza consist of? Crust, sauce, cheese, toppings.
What does this pizza consist of? Crust, mashed potato, cheese, topping.

Pretty similar.
Mashed Potato Pizza
Pizza is always the perfect dish because you can completely, 100%, make it according to your preference. I used whole wheat thin crust pizza crust, because I like it. You can use whatever suits your fancy-whether that be store-bought or your favorite recipe. You can also use regular, plain old mashed potatoes or jazzed up ones (like garlic mashed potatoes! Or ones with sour cream!)--and you can use fresh mashed potatoes or save on time by using leftover. Top it with your cheese of choice. And then whatever toppings make you happy-which for me are chives/scallions. For you it might be bacon. Who knows!?

Also, if you're extra special and get your hands on some STAR Grilling Cuisine Cooking Oil (with garlic!) it makes a tasty addition when brushed onto the pizza dough before baking. Just saying.

It's fall. Comfort food season. What's more comforting than pizza AND mashed potatoes?!

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Turkey Spinach Provolone Pastry

Turkey Spinach Provolone Pastry
Oh haiiii. Remember that whole wheat puff pastry we made Friday? Well, I made that pastry dough in order to facilitate the making of this recipe. This recipe, which popped into my brain a couple weeks ago and which I knew I MUST MAKE a-tothe-sap!
Turkey Spinach Provolone Pastry
Now you might be thinking, "Why would you become obsessed with the idea of turkey and cheese inside of puff pastry?" I'm glad you asked. Back in NYC, Michael and I had a beloved bakery: Martha's. While we normally went there for the sweet treats, there was one savory piece of deliciousness that we also visited for: these delicious savory pastries that were highlighted on lunch specials. They had a few different kinds but we especially loved the turkey-swiss ones.

So I was like..."Yeah. Let's make that. But with provolone. And some spinach because that's healthy and it doesn't hurt. And, hey, let's make whole wheat puff pastry dough....YEAH! I'M MAKING THAT TONIGHT"--this was my thought process at work the other day. So I made the pastry dough and then I made these. The circle of delicious food blogger life.
Turkey Spinach Provolone Pastry
It was probably the best idea I've had in quite some time.

I can tell this is a new favorite. And I can tell because I'm already gearing up to make these again. And it took us barely more than a day to plow through the 8 I made the first time. So...yeah. New addiction.

But seriously...you cannot blame us.
Turkey Spinach Provolone Pastry
Listen up: these savory pastries are portable (ok...they're sort of giant so portable is questionable. Whatever.), quick and easy to make (if you already have some puff pastry chilling out in your refrigerator), customizable (oh you wanna make some ham and cheese pastries? OK! You want to make some sort of vegetarian version-maybe spinach and feta? Go to town! SKY IS THE LIMIT!), and oh...sooo...DELICIOUS.

Flaky, buttery, (and, if whole wheat, hearty), pastry gives way to melted and delicious cheese, a little hint of spinach, and some smoky turkey. Plus 1 of them is giant so half of one kind of fills you up. Mmmmm....You know what? I'm gonna go make myself some of these right. NOW!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Mini Nutella Brownies {4 Ingredients}-Baby Shower for Lauren from Keep It Sweet Desserts!

Mini Nutella Brownies {4 Ingredients}
Some of the best things in this world are small. Me, engagement rings, puppies, teacup pigs, mini brownies, and BABIES!!! Today is so exciting because a bunch of bloggers are coming together to throw Lauren, from Keep It Sweet Desserts, a BABY SHOWER!
I was lucky enough to meet up with Lauren a couple times when I lived in NY and she is seriously SO sweet and such a talented baker (to this day the best blondies I've ever tasted were hers!) So I was thrilled to hear she was expecting a little bambino! And it's a boy! I'm so thrilled and I know Lauren (and her hubby, Matt) are going to be such wonderful parents to their sweet baby boy. Lauren even made the really difficult decision to close her (amazingly successful) baking business to focus on their family-which I know was so hard for her but shows how incredible of a person she is and what a phenomenal mom she is going to be! AND she is also available for consulting (while still keeping up with her fantastic blog)-to help other people follow their dreams of opening a baking business and to learn from her expertise! Seriously, this girl is THE BEST. And now her little one could be here in the near future, so exciting! EEEEEEE!
Mini Nutella Brownies {4 Ingredients}
In fact, it's the impending baby-dom that led me to make these mini Nutella brownies for the shower. That, and the fact that it's a "mini" themed shower (which is like the cutest idea everrrr). But, anyway, these brownies are like CUHRAAAZY easy to make. Like...it took me less than 5 minutes to mix everything up and pop them into the oven. And then they bake for, like, 10 minutes. And then you have brownies! Hooray! I know Lauren is going to be completely swamped once her little fella arrives, but I know that girl loves to bake and loves sweets, so I think these could be a great little something for her to whip up really quickly while her little guy naps or some such. And then she has brownies. It's sorta brilliant.

P.S. I attempted to incorporate some blue into the photos via the napkin to make them a smidge festive, I know it probs. could've been a million times cuter but...I fail at decorating/styling my food. Apologies.
Mini Nutella Brownies {4 Ingredients}
So. You know I love Lauren. You know I'm so excited about her impending mommy-dom. You know these brownies are mini. You know they are quick and easy to make. But can we talk about how they taste?

Answer: AMAZINGGG.

These pack such a wollop of Nutella/chocolate-hazelnutty flavor! They are rich and perfectly gooey and chewy, with an awesome crunch from the hazelnuts on top! They are wonderfully bite sized so you can eat them in 1-2 bites, tops. See? Minimal effort required, even in the eating part. All around delicious and totally worthy of the dessert prowess and overall awesomeness that is Lauren.

CONGRATULATIONS LAUREN AND MATT!! 
I'm so excited for you and I can't wait to see photos of your sweet little boy!

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Something Saturdays (9/20/14)

Fun fact: I used to measure time by Arthur. If I asked how long church was my mom would say "2 Arthur's". This is how intrinsic it was to my child psyche.

Well, last weekend was A BLAST. So amazing to spend the entire weekend with my bestie. Plus we found some really amazing bridesmaid dress options (and probably some shoes for them online, as well. Alex already ordered them from Amazon to test 'em out). I also found my veil and tiara (that's right. TIARA. Don't judge me.)-which I then bought on  Tuesday after I had my mom come and look at them (50% off-what whaaaat.) And some other accessory things were sorted out/pondered upon. Also we ate a lot of food, watched movies/TV (including our favorite old film, "Pillow Talk"), laughed a lot, gave each other hard times, bickered, and met with Alex's younger sister (and a bridesmaid in my wedding), Carrie. Just like when we were kids :D.

Michael started his new job this week. New job also equals new schedule, so we had to readjust to waking up early again (although earlier. In NY we woke up at 7 every morning. Up until now we've been sleeping in until 9 or 10 AM--or 11/12 if you're Michael. Now we have to wake up at 5 AM. Eep.)

Also had some more florist appointments-including 1 place that has worked with my church for...um...ever, and they're friends of my maternal grandparents. And they gave me my lowest quote yet. So they're def. a front-runner. AND I had my first fitting/serious alterations meeting with my mom's dress and my alterations woman. We're making real progress and I'm starting to (mostly) feel better about it (although there are certain times where it's so frustrating when I want to change something but am told I "can't". Urghh.)

Plus it was Michael's birthday week!!! Due to busy-ness we unfortunately weren't able to make it as special as I would have liked, but we tried. :) I made him cheesecake (recipe coming soon) and was extra nice to him. We also had his birthday dinner with his mom's side of the family last night, plus Michael's best friend (and best man), his wife, and their daughters were there. It was so fun!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Whole Wheat Puff Pastry

Whole Wheat Puff Pastry
Forgive these pictures. I normally try to wait to make and photograph food until the light is good but one night I came home from work and decided I AM MAKING WHOLE WHEAT PUFF PASTRY TONIGHT, LIGHT BE DAMNED!

So....I did. Thusly the lighting in these photos is meh. But stick with me because homemade puff pastry is awesome, but now...not only can you make it preservative-free, you can also make it WITH WHOLE WHEAT FLOUR! I mean...I'm not gonna say it's healthy. There's a lot of butter. But ya know...it's better.
Whole Wheat Puff Pastry
Don't be intimidated by the idea of making homemade puff pastry. It's slightly time intensive but only because you have to chill the dough a bunch of times-so you can do other stuff while the dough chills. You can do laundry, make other food, clean, watch TV....ya know...productive stuff.

But the actual work put in is crazy simple. The hardest part is using your muscles to roll out the dough. Which isn't hard. If my wimpy arms can do it, so can yours!
Whole Wheat Puff Pastry
Then, once you've made your puff pastry, you divide it into thirds--or fourths (because a package of puff pastry is generally about 1 lb. and these recipe yields 3-4 lbs.--this will make it easier to use when you're making recipes that call for the storebought stuff) and then stick it in the refrigerator or freezer. Hooray! And when you bake up the pastry it's wonderfully flaky and buttery (although, sure, less flaky than with white flour) and has this awesome earthy, almost nutty, quality from the whole wheat flour. It's awesome. 

You'll see!

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Brown Butter Brown Sugar Toasted Almond Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt

Brown Butter Brown Sugar Toasted Almond Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
Today is my Michael's birthday!! It's the day my favorite boy came into this world so that I could then be born 3 years later and then 19 years after that I could fall in love with him and then 4 years after that we could get engaged and less than a year from now we can get married <3 Happy birthday sweetie, I love you more than anything!

And he and I loved these cookies almost that much. Which is like...a lot.
Brown Butter Brown Sugar Toasted Almond Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
I had something of an ulterior motive to making these cookies (as if I ever really need a reason to make cookies)--I was lucky enough to be sent some samples of Zulka's new sugars to try! You may remember that I've spoken about Zulka's Morena Sugar (my fave granulated sugar, btw) before. To sum up: Zulka is a family owned company that is dedicated to producing more natural sugar through responsible and environmentally friendly cane production. Their products are minimally processed, which helps preserve the flavor and natural properties of the sugar cane (which means it tastes better!)

And Zulka just came out with some new sugars, and I was able to try their Brown Pure Cane Sugar and Powdered Pure Cane Sugar!
Brown Butter Brown Sugar Toasted Almond Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
Powdered sugar is great and all but....brown sugar is where it's at. It's my boo. My sugar BFF. So when I tested it out I wanted to make sure I chose a recipe that was really going to showcase it, as well as show me how it would behave in my favorite use for brown sugar: chocolate chip cookies. This recipe was perfect because not only is there a big dose of brown sugar in the cookie dough, the almonds are also toasted and caramelized in brown sugar-double whammy! 

And btw-the sugar was phenomenal. Subtly more rich and flavorful than more processed brown sugars, it really took these cookies to the next level!
Brown Butter Brown Sugar Toasted Almond Dark Chocolate Chip Cookies with Sea Salt
Browned butter and brown pure cane sugar lend these cookies complexity and warm, delightfully comforting flavors. Brown sugar candied almond slivers add some smokiness and crunch. Dark chocolate is the bite that cuts the sweetness, and then the sea salt just ties everything together into a neat, delicious, cookie bow.

I LURVE THESE COOKIES.

As my fiance' and I were hunched over the cookie jar, shoveling fresh cookies into our mouths, Michael declared (around a mouthful of chocolate and almonds and cookies), "These are some of the best cookies you've ever made."

"Really?" I declared, probably causing bits of cookie goodness to escape and fly into his face, "EVER?!"

"They're up there," he confirmed, before reaching for another cookie.

You'd reach for another cookie too.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Homemade Potato Casserole

Homemade Potato Casserole
I love potatoes. I love casseroles. I love making things from scratch. This recipe combines all those things!

I feel like this casserole is that dish that everyone's aunt brings to family functions and everyone loves and gobbles up immediately. It's just like that-but sans all those preservatives. No one will know the difference, except that it tastes like way better (no offense all you aunties out there!)
Homemade Potato Casserole
I don't know if I've really said it but I need to let you all know something: my decision to move to Ohio was like....one of the best decisions I've ever made. Being home has been unbelievably amazing. I love getting to spend time with family, I love the area, I just really really love my life right now. Michael's happy. I'm happy. Everything is wonderful. And that's pretty darn awesome.
Homemade Potato Casserole
My point is that I would totally bring this to something with my family.

Allow me to describe to you what sort of taste journey you would go on if you made this casserole: soft, delicious, potatoes are cooked with onions and garlic and chicken broth for flavor. They also have some sour cream added, for that tangy/baked potato kind of spin. And of course...there is cheese. Always cheese.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Something Saturdays (9/13/14)

This video shows the How I Met Your Mother alternate ending and it is....better. Much better.

All of the things in this article...just...YES.

And this video--it gave me all the feels. I love Kermit. I love the Muppets.

Last weekend I was able to see the wax mold for my wedding band (and reunite with my engagement ring for a brief moment)--it's looking great and I should be able to get them both back next month!

I had a bunch of florist appointments this week and they're going pretty well. I def. liked a few of the people I met with (and also giggled to myself while another person told me her estimate-which was $1000 more than everyone else I've spoken to-is the least expensive I'm going to find and she threw in all this free stuff and "it's really cheap" and she dares me to go find a less expensive price but she bets the quality would be horrible....yes ma'm....the quality of those 5 other places I've been to before you is all awful I'm sure. *eye roll*)

This week's big excitement is THIS WEEKEND--my best friend (and maid of honor) is staying with me for the weekend (she lives in Columbus which is about 2 hours away) and we're going to do some bridesmaid dress scouting (I want to do a big visit with all the girls but first we'll narrow down some options), shop for my accessories (veil, tiara, jewelry, shoes, underwear....etc :P) and probably just have fun! SO EXCITED! We're probably having fun right now. As you read this.

Friday, September 12, 2014

1 Hour Dried Oregano

1 Hour Dried Oregano
Fun fact: oregano is a bully!

That's right-A BULLY! I have a planter that has basil, chives, parsley, and oregano. Over the course of a couple weeks the oregano started taking over the planter-getting all up in the other herbs' business (except the basil, the oregano couldn't mess with that tree!) The unfortunately part is...I haven't used any of it. It's just this big bully plant that I don't even use.

Correction....that I didn't use.
1 Hour Dried Oregano
Less than 24 hours after reading about this super easy way to dry oregano I had done it.

Because, you see, the only time I really use oregano is in pasta sauce, or maybe on garlic bread or some such. Not super often. And the bummer about herbs is they tend to um...die....eventually. And-sadly-summer is ending. So drying the oregano means it will LAST, and then I can use it when I need it!

Woot!
1 Hour Dried Oregano
Now let me tell you how this whole process went for moi:
  • I snipped off some oregano branches and laid them on our table. Michael commented how pretty they looked and that he'd like to own a table with glass where you see herbs inside. Um....ok.
  • Let it all sit overnight.
  • Woke up and preheat the oven to 170F degrees (turns out that is a quick preheat). I only have smallish baking sheets and a lot of oregano...so I did the whole baking for an hour thing in a few batches.
  • Crumble the leaves. And...um...yeah. That's it. Done! If you're cool you store the dried oregano in some sort of jar or some such. If you're lame like me then you put it in a ziploc bag which makes you think about how potheads always claim their drugs are oregano...and you hope nobody sees this bag and thinks you have a secret drug habit. But you're reassured that people would be much more likely to believe that Kayle would have dried oregano than...ya know.
Anyway. You get the idea. It's a simple process. And pretty darned cool. True story.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Browned Butter Cookie Dough PB Cups-Guest Post at The Domestic Rebel

Browned Butter Cookie Dough PB Cups
Hello my friends! Remember Hayley-that quirky, amazing, food genius also known as The Domestic Rebel?

Welllll-she's in NYC. WITHOUT ME. I know. I'm bummed.

Regardless, girlfriend needed some guest posts on her blog, and I was happy to oblige!
Browned Butter Cookie Dough PB Cups
Only the tastiest will do for Hayley, and these Browned Butter Cookie Dough PB Cups fit the bill! Browned butter peanut butter cookie dough-super rich and completely addictive-is encased in our old friend, dark chocolate, and then topped with salt because...I mean...it's a good idea.
Browned Butter Cookie Dough PB Cups
Michael and I ate these treats up in no time flat and I know you will fall in love with them too!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Peanut Butter Caramel Pie

Peanut Butter Caramel Pie
This recipe was supposed to be a copy cat recipe. But then I got a little too creative, and it sort of became it's whole, own, new thing. Which is totally awesome and delicious. And really...this just means I get to make another recipe to be the copy cat in the future.

Oh noooo not more caramel pie!  :P
Peanut Butter Caramel Pie
In case you're curious, I was trying to copy cat the gooey caramel pie from O'Charley's restaurant (a place near our house that we frequent and which has the GENIUS promotion of Free Pie Wednesdays). I did want to add some oomph to the pie initially by making it a gooey salted caramel pie. But then I went a step further and, after seeing a recipe for peanut butter caramel and thinking OH MY YUM, made it a peanut butter caramel pie. And then I got lazy and saw a recipe for microwave caramel and...you get the idea. This is how we ended up with this pie.

Which is a couple steps too far removed to be a copy cat of the O'Charley's pie but...regardless...

still friggin delicious.
Peanut Butter Caramel Pie
A delicious peanut butter graham cracker crust (my go-to graham cracker pie crust recipe, in fact) is topped with a layer of super easy to make (remember? lazy. Microwave caramel sauce. FORREAL) peanut butter caramel (which is super sweet but also rich and peanut buttery, and thusly has that delish salty element as well), some salted whipped cream (which I thought was genius but is actually kind of weird but, luckily, worked in this pie) and then some pecans because they're fun and tasty and were on that original pie.

PEANUT BUTTER FLAVOR TO THE MAX.

Sweet, salty, rich, gooey, crunchy, luscious....just....mmmm....ok?

And check back about that copy cat recipe....I'll get there (but in the meantime there's nothing wrong with creating a fun, entirely new thing, yeah? Yeah. No regrets about this pie. NONE.)

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Something Saturdays (9/6/14)

So-facebook, as always, is topsy turvy and you're just not seeing everything you may wish to see from your friends and/or from pages you like (like The Cooking Actress!)--Chocolate, Chocolate, and More described how to create lists to better be able to see everything you want from select groups. PLUS she rounded up all her fave food blog pages into one list which you can follow here.

This post is hilarious-and true! :p

I love Chris Pine and this trailer just made me really want to see Horrible Bosses 2.

*squeeeeee* I need to send this list to my future little brother-in-law to help him reel in a ladyyyy. (on the real real though I'm trying to play matchmaker with him and my 3rd cousin...and I'm so excited because I think they'd be SO CUTE together! And the last couple I helped make happen just got married so...yeah. Good track record.)

Finally got to see the pictures from July's photo shoot! If you're interested in seeing my Ohio modeling debut, check out this link. (here's a little peek at one of the photos:)
Photo credit: Jay Kossman Photography
My Blogna family reunion last Sunday was really nice-I loved getting to see my grandpa's siblings and some of my dad's cousins. It ended up running pretty short too so then I was able to pop over to my mom's mom's for Sunday at the pool :)

Good news this week: Michael has officially been promoted! He's been working towards this for the last month but he officially begins working as a case worker (which is a little closer to his field and it means he'll receive a pay raise plus have normalish hours again!), at the same facility he currently works, September 15!

I also had my first meeting with a florist, which went fine. I don't know. I've got, like, 13 more appointments to go sooo....lol. Later that day, though, I went to the monthly dinner my reception site holds with my mom, grandma, and Michael's mom. Michael's mom and my grandma hadn't seen it yet and they LOVED it! Every time I see that place I get all giddy :D

Friday, September 5, 2014

What I've Learned About Wedding Planning (So Far)

Soooo...doing a post on wedding planning today! Not sure how you guys feel about it so I'd love some feedback-let me know if you'd like to see more of this kind of stuff (such as tips on picking particular vendors? etc.!) I just figured I have learned a ton from this wedding planning, and a lot of people have told me I seem really good at it so. Yeah. Gonna lay some knowledge on ya, here we go!:

1. ORGANIZATION!!! 
What I've Learned About Wedding Planning (So Far)
Totally key. Michael and I are already pretty Type A, so we've had spreadsheets and lists galore for wedding planning since before we were even officially engaged. I have a file on my computer filled with free printables (found on pinterest and bridal blogs), a guest list spreadsheet, a playlist spreadsheet for the reception, a file full of various potential vendors for each category (photographer, venues, florist, etc.-with notes about each one, such as investment info., reviews, etc.), a photo list (all the shots I'll want our photographer to take on the day), gift ideas for the wedding party, etc. Also, utilize pinterest for inspiration or future info (the search function on pinterest that allows you to search only your pins has been a Godsend during this whole process)--bridesmaid dresses, wedding gowns, hair/makeup ideas, photo ideas for engagement/wedding photos, reception decor, and ridiculous amounts of info! (Feel free to check out my pinterest board to see if you find anything useful! I do periodically go through and delete things I no longer need but I'm trying to save particularly useful links on there). And finally, my #1 buddy and savior during this whole thing has been my wedding planner (book)! I have The Brides Essential Wedding Planner by Amy Nebens  (there appears to be a newer version available now)-my brother gave it to me for Christmas and I AM OBSESSED WITH IT! It has pretty much any and all information I could possibly need. Everyone teases me but it has been crazy helpful with interviewing vendors and collecting info and keeping me organized.

Organization is the #1 thing that has kept me calm and sane and in control with this whole thing. And that keeps it fun (for me, anyway!)

2. Planning Ahead
What I've Learned About Wedding Planning (So Far)
I know not everyone has this luxury but having time definitely makes it a lot easier. I don't feel rushed and, even though everyone keeps laughing at me for getting so much planning done earlier on, it means I've been able to take my time, pick the best people (and have plenty of options) before they get booked, and it means that when it gets closer to the wedding I will be able to stay calmer and not have to get all stressed and frazzled. I always say future me will thank me for everything I'm getting done now! Plus...not gonna lie...this is helpful with the budget, too.

3. Bridal Blogs/Wedding Websites

I have gained tons of knowledge, inspiration, and tools from wedding websites such as theknot and wedding.com (I also use weddingwire for most vendor reviews!). PLUS I've gained all of that and I've even won a couple giveaways (or been introduced to some amazing, inexpensive, products) from these bridal blogs (there are tons more but these are the ones I follow):
Ooh! And I don't know if this should be under this header or not but I highly suggest attending at least 1 bridal show near you! You'll gain a ton of info. and might even win some free stuff or discounts!

5. Firm Vision
What I've Learned About Wedding Planning (So Far)
Source:Occasions Party Centre
I don't know if this is necessary, but it helps. Michael and I have very firm ideas about what we want for most details of the wedding and this has made it easier to cut to the chase with a lot of our options. It keeps us focused and makes it harder for us to be swayed by petty squabbles, or vendors who are trying to upsell.

6. Flexibility
What I've Learned About Wedding Planning (So Far)
I realize this sounds like it contradicts the last rule but stay with me on this! Although it's good to have a firm vision-you can't be rigid! There have been SO many times during this process where I felt so sure I wanted one thing but then was shown a better or different option. Recent example: I was sure I wanted red vests and ties for the groomsmen until our consultant at American Commodore showed us what it would look like with a black vest. MUCH better! I also had been so sure that I wanted a sit down dinner, but when we looked at venues and I fell in love with mine and I saw the difference of prices and the fact that I was pretty much the only person who cared (plus we get to keep leftovers if we go with buffet)...I went with the flow and am doing a buffet dinner! (Although note: the head table is getting served so I still don't have to stand in line :P) The gist is: stuff happens. And sometimes other people know better. Be open to this. You might end up with something even better than your initial vision!

7. Budget
What I've Learned About Wedding Planning (So Far)
Source--couldn't find?
This is something that is going to vary A LOT between different people. The point here is: know your general budget, and work within it. Michael and I have no set number because...no matter what we weren't going to be able to afford this wedding. But our main thing has been to keep costs as low as possible without sacrificing quality, and I feel like we've been doing really well! When making a list of possible vendors I would get an idea of the prices out there, cross reference it with the quality, and then look into the ones that fell in just the right cross section (anything too high in price was a NO, anything with poor quality was also a NO) --and whenever we would have to make decisions, price was also one of the biggest factors (not the ONLY factor, but a large one.) In general, be wary of using friends or family as vendors in the wedding but do NOT rule them out! Weigh all the factors-what exactly they'd be doing, how close they are to you, how capable they are, etc. We're actually using Michael's uncle for our wedding invites (he owns a printing company so will give them to us at cost) and Michael's brother is our DJ! Since he's a groomsman I was really unsure but he reassured us and now I'm super excited to give him more experience (he has a growing DJ company) and save a little money on our end! Budget is something that is also going to be very affected by where you live. A wedding in Massillon, OH is WAY less expensive than one in NYC! So, keep that in mind.

8. Teamwork
What I've Learned About Wedding Planning (So Far)
WITH YOUR FIANCE'. Whether he (or she) wants to be super involved (like Michael) or completely does not care--you are a team and you need to respect his/her wishes. Various family members are going to try to assert their own opinions or ideas. This isn't necessarily bad. I'm not even saying to not accept their help or input--but make sure you and your partner are on the same page about it. If you're a team everything will go MUCH easier. Whenever someone from my or Michael's families does something annoying or controlling etc. in terms of the wedding we don't turn on each other. It's the 2 of us. In this. TOGETHER. This is good advice for marriage too, methinks.

9. A Sense of Humor
What I've Learned About Wedding Planning (So Far)
This is something you just need for life. Stuff is gonna get stressful, someone's family is gonna annoy you, fights are gonna erupt. But try your best to keep light hearted about things, have a sense of humor about it all, and realize that this wedding (while a super big deal---at least, to me!) is NOT life or death. It's all gonna be ok. And try to enjoy it! I'm having a blast wedding planning and I think everyone should be able to enjoy planning their wedding too :).

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Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Nut Butter Banana Oat Smoothie

Nut Butter Banana Oat Smoothie
I've been meaning to make smoothies more often. My brother's consistently healthy diet totally makes me want to be better. So, in the efforts to bring myself and you more smoothies--I froze some bananas and put 'em in the freezer. Because in my world every good smoothie begins with frozen bananas.
Nut Butter Banana Oat Smoothie
And, obviously, the point of these smoothies is to try to get some healthy stuff up in my system. So I also put some nice oats and flaxseed meal in there (they also help keep ya full! So you don't overeat later!), milk for...whatever milk does...and nut butter for protein! Yayyy!
Nut Butter Banana Oat Smoothie
Fun story related to my brother and trying to get into shape: Josh came over and we went to my fitness room (finally) and he proceeded to help me do a "Kayle version" of his workout regimen for the next hour. At the end of that hour Josh was like "Eh, not the best workout but it was better than nothing." and Kayle was like "Uh...I cannot walk. My legs hurt super duper bad."

Technically the next 2 days were where the pain set in but...I fel wiped out from that workout. And I know it shouldn't have been that hard. But ugh, man oh man...I am NOT in shape. Plus-I have never done any kind of weight training and Josh had me using all the weights and stuff (admittedly mostly the 8-10 lb. weights but...still.)

Moral of the story is: I need to get my act together. And I started yesterday--I am going to try reeeeally hard to start working out on the regular. Here we go! Keep me honest, guys!
Nut Butter Banana Oat Smoothie
But enough about my weak out-of-shape-ness.

Smoothie time. It's all thick and kind of gritty (but like...in a good way? Makes ya feel healthy.) and it tastes super yummy. All nutty and banana-y. As a smoothie should be.

If you have spinach, I suggest you throw some in. I was out so...I couldn't. But you totally should.

(Side note: I convinced my brother to start putting spinach in his smoothies. He was suspicious but I reassured him he wouldn't taste it. He then returned to me and was like..."Dude...you don't taste it. That's awesome. Spinach in all my smoothies from now on."  But I digress.) 

PB AND BANANAS FOREVAHHHH

Monday, September 1, 2014

Parmesan Gougeres

Parmesan Gougeres
Confession: I maaaay have overbaked these. So they're a smidge overbrowned.

Sorry. It's okay though because they still turned out AWESOME!
Parmesan Gougeres
Gougeres are pretty much French cheese puffs, made with choux (the same sort of pastry that brings you cream puffs). For these Gougeres I worked with what I had--which is Parmesan cheese and some chives and basil from my overflowing herb garden. But you can totally customize these to your preferences/what's in your kitchen!
Parmesan Gougeres
So here we have airy little mounds of heaven. They're all crisp on the outside and they taste like Parmesan and herbs and they're so light on the inside. These gougeres are crazy addictive-I may have eaten the whole batch within an hour of baking them. Oops. 

It's ok, though. I can always make more. And maybe use cheddar and chives next time! ooooh yum!

Make em. Trust me. They're so much easier than you'd think (don't let the French name fool ya) and they're whipped up crazy quick. Gougeres are also the perfect thing if you're entertaining-instant "oooohs" and "ahhhs" for minimal effort! Huzzah!

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