Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Life Lately + Recipe For Our Favorite Chocolate Muffins

^^ Andrew had his first theater performance in Oliver, their 6th grade play last weekend^^
^^He played the role of the Gent and was an orphan in the opening scene. He LOVED it! And did so well. ^^

^^Charlie is loving coach pitch baseball this year!^^

Spring has flown by, first was April, which was filled with lots of angst over making a big life decision.  We were almost moving, then decided to stay, and I struggled with what each choice required giving up.  It was the first time in life that the right choice wasn't apparent and it was tough.  I'm pretty sure there was no right choice, we just had to decide and know with each option we gained and lost something.  I learned a lot about myself and the incredible man I married through the process and it reaffirmed what we ultimately value above all else.  So that was April. Did. me. in.  May has been its own, typical, end of the year whirlwind of activities, between baseball, the 6th grade play, teacher appreciation, end of year celebrations, and new client projects, my to-do list is pages long and my meal planning has been an after thought.  It has me day dreaming of slow summer mornings (not too far off now), hence the muffins....

One of the things I enjoy most about summer are the unhurried mornings, and slow mornings mean indulging special breakfast requests.  I have a feeling these chocolate muffins will be on regular rotation.  It is a simple recipe, like all muffins, but feels a little more indulgent than a bran and flaxseed muffin. Not necessarily healthier, but hey, you got to live a little. :)

Recipe | Buttermilk Double Chocolate Muffins
(adapted from epicurious.com)
3/4 of a stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
2 ounces bittersweet chocolate chips
2 ounces semi sweet chocolate chips
2 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon fluer de sel (or kosher salt)
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
1 large egg
2 teaspoon vanilla bean paste (or vanilla extract)

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds in a regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.  Place the muffin pan on a baking sheet.
Melt the butter and the bittersweet chocolate chips together in a bowl over a saucepan of simmering water; or do this in a microwave. Remove from the heat.
In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking powder, baking soda and salt. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the buttermilk, egg and vanilla together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients and the melted butter and chocolate over the dry ingredients and, with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough—a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the remaining semi sweet chocolate chips. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin molds (I like to use an ice cream scoop).
Bake for 15- 20 minutes (do not overcook because they will get too dry, mine are are perfect at 15 minutes), or until a toothpick inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

My Work | A Charming California Cottage Before + After

I'm so excited to share a little glimpse into this lovely home with you!  This home belongs to the precious Matsumoto family in San Diego, CA and it has been a true pleasure to work with Karen, the wife and mother, and such a joy to watch her take the ideas and make them come to life.  She has done such a beautiful job!!

(Hi Owen, Hi Everett!! :))

The Matsumoto's moved back to San Diego after eight years of living in DC and Northern Virginia to be closer to their families.  As much as they love the area where they live, they miss the charm and classic East Coast architecture found in DC and they have been on a mission to bring a little of that to the West Coast.  They transformed the exterior of their home and came to me looking for help with the interior, starting with their living room and master bedroom.  Karen knew what she wanted but needed some inspiration to get going and a fresh perspective on what could be possible in her rooms.  Today, I'm going to share how the living room is coming together - it's so cozy and pretty, even though there are still finishing touches, like drapes and details in the foyer area, that will happen over time.

Here is the room before:

Here is the inspiration board I put together for the room.
(Sources and details are withheld from the blog post out of respect to the client. Thanks for understanding.)

One of the biggest recommendations was to add architectural interest in the form of built-ins, classic  millwork in the fireplace/hearth area and raised paneling or wainscoting in the foyer.  Whenever I can, this is one of the first places I suggest investing in, since it adds a level of character you can't achieve with furniture and fabrics alone.  Some homes have it to start (lucky ducks), but lots of newer construction homes need a little push in this area.  The idea Karen was most excited about was adding the built-in bookcases and "window" seat.  Here were some inspiration images I used to get her wheels turning...

adding sconces was a must!

^^I originally suggested painting them a darker gray blue like the above, but I love how fresh the white turned out.  Perfect for a home with so much natural southern California sunlight!^^ 

All of these are great examples of how to add the coziness of a window seat, even when there isn't a window. :)

Now here are the afters (or durings, since there is still more to come!): 
^Amazing, right??!! And how great do the old wingbacks look slipcovered?  And the new fireplace too!  The bookcase and reading spot steal the show though.^

It really does feel good to play a small role in such a transformation.  This is exactly what I had hoped for when I began my consulting business.  Thank you, Karen, for trusting me and for making it even lovelier than I imagined - you are one talented lady!!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Recipe | Slow Cooker BBQ Pulled Pork with Cucumber + Dill Slaw

Hello?  Is anyone still out there?  I have excuses that I will spare you from reading about, but time and the right mindset for blogging have been sparse this past month.   In the meantime, I thought I would pop in quickly to share a couple recipes that are worth adding to your arsenal for spring and summer. Since they are easy, they are perfect for weeknight dinners, but they would also be ideal for casual outdoor entertaining. Everything is made ahead of time and stores well, you could even make it all a day in advance, dare I say it even tastes better the second day?  I made this for dinner earlier in the week and both boys requested we have it again soon.  It's perfect outdoor, picnic feeling food, great for those first warm days when you can finally eat outside again (briefly, before the mosquitoes and humidity of summer descend upon us Midwesterners!).  I wish I had more meals like this one.

3.5-5 pounds of pork shoulder, trim outside layer of thick visible fat (buy from a good butcher, makes all the difference!)
2 medium yellow onions, sliced thinly
4 garlic cloves, minced
3/4-1 cup chicken broth or stock
2 TBS dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 TBS kosher salt

Place onions and garlic in bottom of crockpot, pour chicken stock over.  Make a dry rub by mixing sugar through salt together in a small bowl and rubbing over all sides of the meat.  Place meat in slow cooker and cook for 6-8 hours on high or 8-10 hours on low.  Remove meat and shred with 2 forks.  Remove and discard liquid from slow cooker.  Return meat and add favorite BBQ sauce (I used Stubb's Sweet Heat), you'll need about 2 cups, I just added the entire jar.  Mix well and keep warm if you are getting ready to serve it.  Otherwise refrigerate in a closed container.  Left overs would freeze well too.  I served it on potato buns from Fresh Market.

1 medium green cabbage, about 2 pounds, cored and shredded
1 large seedless English cucumber, sliced as thin as possible
2 TBS chopped fresh dill
1/2 cup white wine vinegar (I used Champagne vinegar)
2 TBS kosher salt
4 tsp sugar
1/2 cup cold water

Toss cabbage, cucumber and dill together in a large bowl. (It makes a TON, but settles down as it marinates)  Whisk the vinegar, salt and sugar in a small bowl until sugar and salt dissolve,  Stir in the water.  Our the liquid over the salad and let it marinate, tossing occasionally.  1-2 hours if you can.  It is great the next day too!