Saturday, March 31, 2012

Peeps Rice Krispies Treats

Alarmingly similar to Funfetti Pie.

My relationship with Peeps is fraught. It’s not that I dislike the little sugar-crusted chicks. Rather, it’s because I love them so much. I’m fiercely protective of my marshmallow Peeps—I only buy them at Easter, so I savor them, eating one a day until they’re gone. 

            My love has cost me.  

            The first time it happened, I was 9 years old, a chubby 5th grader who survived primarily on sugar. I'd carefully tucked my Peeps away in my Easter basket, like any fat kid would, to avoid sharing them. Then one disappeared. I leapt to action, and posted “Missing Peep” signs outside my father’s bedroom. He looks to have eaten more than his fair share of Peeps in life, so he seemed the most likely thief. He never confessed.

            Then, years later, it happened again, on a first date. After dinner, my date and I headed back to my place, and he promptly—rudelyraided my pantry. He zeroed in my Peeps (I can't blame him), and scarfed down every last pink bunny. I never went out with him again.

            All of this is to say, I need a little Peeps therapy. I tried to visit the Just Born factory, conveniently located a few miles from my apartment. They wouldn't let me in. So, I decided to liberate myself by melting down 1717!of the fluffy guys for Peeps Rice Krispies Treats. I even burned a few. 

Poor guys. They don't know what's coming.

Peeps Rice Krispies Treats
Adapted from: Serious Eats 

What you need
17 marshmallow Peeps
1.5 Tbsp butter
3 cups Rice Krispies cereal


Put it all together
  1. Melt butter in a saucepan over low heat. Add the Peeps, keeping each color in a separate part of the pan, and stir until melted. Do not leave them unattended or they will burn! As soon as the butter melts, remove the pan from the burner.
  2. Stir in Rice Krispies cereal, until the melted marshmallow is evenly dispersed.
  3. Press into a greased 8" square pan, and while still hot, top with sprinkles, gently squishing them into the Rice Krispies. Cool completely before serving.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Quick & Easy Craft: Monogrammed Plates

Laura is the name; LAR are the initials. Clever parents.

I went to an SEC school where two things ruled: football and monograms. I never quite figured out the whole football thing—sorry, Peyton—but I did adopt the Southern tradition of slapping my initials on everything from my towels to my sheets. I’ve since run out of textiles to monogram, so the natural next step was wall art. You know, in case my cat anyone forgets who’s in charge around here. 

Monogrammed Plates

What you need 
Three 9” plates* 
1 sheet cardstock scrapbook paper 
X-ACTO knife 
Foam brush 
Mod Podge (glossy) 
3 spring wire plate hangers 

 * I picked up mine at Marshall’s for $4 each. Discount home stores are the perfect place to find unique but affordable plates. Or, for a more eclectic look, buy three mismatched plates at a thrift store. 

Put it all together 
  1. Use the pencil and ruler to draw a straight line across the paper, three inches from the bottom. 
  2. Search Google Images for “monogrammed letters.” You’ll find charts depicting every letter of the alphabet; choose a style you like. Use the image as a guide to draw your initials in pencil on the cardstock. The bottoms of the letters should align with the edge of the paper, the tops with the line you drew.
  3. Carefully cut out the letters with the X-ACTO knife. Erase any pencil markings.
  4. Using the foam brush, apply a thin layer of Mod Podge to the center of your first plate. Position one of the letters on the plate's center, then apply a coat of Mod Podge to the surface of and around the letter. To avoid brush lines, use a circular motion when applying the Mod Podge. Repeat with the other two plates.
  5. After your plates dry, apply another layer of Mod Podge if any of the letters’ edges are not completely sealed. 
  6. Stretch the spring hangers onto the backs of the plates, and find a spot on your wall to display them!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Best of the Bake Sale: Funfetti Pie!

My cat, Samson, generously donated his plate for this photo.
As a general rule, I don’t like cake. I find it unsatisfying—it lacks the density of cookies and the oozing sweetness of pie. But there’s one exception: Funfetti cake mix. I’m childishly drawn to the boxed stuff, sort of like I’m attracted to glitter or hot pink. And inexplicably so. The colorful confetti of sprinkles adds little beyond visual appeal—no flavor, no texture—yet I find myself eagerly whipping up any Funfetti-containing recipe. (Or happily blowing my diet on Truffula Chip Pancakes.) First, it was Momofuku Birthday Cake Truffles. Then it was Funfetti Chex Mix (aptly called “crack” by my coworker). Now, it’s Funfetti Pie.

I made the pie for a charity bake sale—a bit risky, but appropriate, I thought. The recipe combines the best of the bake sale: flaky piecrust, sugar cookie dough, Funfetti cake, and buttercream frosting. In other words, enough sugar to send me into a diabetic coma. In a good way, of course.

Funfetti Pie
Adapted from: Cake Spy

What you need
Pre-made flaky piecrust, thawed
Sugar cookie dough
Funfetti cake mix
1 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs

1.5 cups powdered sugar
1 c butter, softened
½ tsp vanilla extract
½ Tbsp whipping cream


Put it all together

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. Press an even layer of sugar cookie dough, about ½” thick, into the bottom of the pie crust.
  3. Prepare the Funfetti cake mix according to package directions, using the water, oil, and eggs. Pour it into the pie crust, until it’s about two-thirds full. (You will have leftover cake mix.*)
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes. The cake should be golden brown. Remove from oven, and let cool completely.
  5. To make the frosting, use a stand mixer to blend the butter and powdered sugar. Start on low speed, then once it’s fluffy, crank it up to medium speed for 3 minutes.
  6. Add the vanilla and whipping cream, continuing to mix on medium speed for 1 more minute. Spread frosting on completely cooled pie, then decorate with sprinkles.

*I suggest eating it by the spoonful, since calories don’t count while you’re baking. Or make cupcakes. Whichever.

 Sorry, iPhoto blemish remover wouldn't hide my cutting-board mess.
The results

Critic #1: "Just what I needed. It was delicious, and exactly what you'd think Funfetti pie would taste like."

Critic #2: "Just like you: different, interesting, irresistible, and not TOO sweet." 

I'm still deciding if I need therapy after comment #2. 

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Magnolia Bakery Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

I walked past Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan last week with great regret. Not because I indulged—but, rather, because I didn’t. I was in a hurry, so I was forced to resentfully trudge past. My one consolation: the Magnolia Bakery cookbook waiting on my bookshelf at home. Limited by the contents of my pantry—a paltry supply, at bestI opted to test-drive Magnolia's Oatmeal Raisin Cookies.

With some hesitation.

I'm a bit of a cookie snob. I’m fiercely loyal to my mom’s deliciously crispy oatmeal cookies—I have to be, since she so lovingly allowed me spoonfuls of the dough as a kid—but my real soft spot is for soft cookies. Magnolia didn't fail me. 

Oatmeal Raisin Cookies
Adapted from: The Magnolia Bakery Cookbook

What you need
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 ½ cups firmly packed light brown sugar
2 large eggs, at room temp
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
1 ¼ cups rolled oats*
1 ½ cups raisins

*I love to experiment with flavor combinations in my cookies, so I often use sweetened instant oatmeal. This time, I added Quaker Chocolate Chip Oatmeal. My favorite combo: Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal, with a touch of real maple syrup drizzled into the dough. Keep in mind, instant oats lend less texture than old-fashioned oats do.

Warning: You won't be able to eat just one.

Put it all together

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. 
  2. Mix together the flour, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  3. Cream the butter (make sure it’s soft!) with the brown sugar until smooth, about 3 minutes. Mix in the eggs one by one, then stir in the vanilla. Add the oats and flour mixture, and mix well before adding the raisins. Refrigerate dough for half an hour.
  4. Roll dough into 1” balls, and place on a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper. Bake for 14-17 minutes. (Hint: The shorter the baking period, the softer the cookies.)
  5. Cool on the cookie sheet for a minute, then transfer to a cooling rack.

The results

I, admittedly, love all things sweet. So, as standard protocol, I have at least one male and one female review my baked goods.

Her review: "I like that it's not too sweet. It's a smoother texture than the typical oatmeal cookie, but I can still taste the oatmeal's flavor and chewiness."

Rating: 3.5/5

His review: "Buttery. I can taste the raisin, but I can't detect the oatmeal."

Rating: 4/5 

Saturday, March 24, 2012

5-Star Style: Hotel Martinez

Suite des Olivier at the Hotel Martinez in Cannes

The first thing I do at a fancy hotel? Check out the bed. I love the tightness of the crisp, clean sheets tucked into the mattress, the way the heavy hotel bedding cocoons around my body. It feels so luxurious—nothing like the wad of sheets I grapple with in my own bed. And with a fantastic bed invariably comes fantastic d├ęcor. (Who doesn't love lying in the hotel bed, pretending the upscale furnishings are your own?) Expensive hotels strike the perfect balance between elegance and comfort—something we should all strive for in our own bedrooms, right? Luxury needn't be confined to one or two nights at a five-star hotel. You can enjoy it on a daily basis, without spending outrageous amounts.

My first 5-star style icon: the Suite des Olivier—said to cost $18,000 per night—at the seaside Hotel Martinez in Cannes, one of the world's priciest (and most beautiful) hotels. The suite melds art deco style with classic, almost royal, touches, like the tufted headboard and the silken bedding. Perfect. 

Tufted Headboard 

Splurge: Lorraine Tufted Headboard (Pottery Barn, $700-800)
 Steal: Skyline Furniture Tufted Arch Headboard (Wayfair, $260-360)


Steal: Barbara Barry Pinafore Collection (Macy's, $60-300)

Pendant Light

Splurge: Tamburo Stone Silver Foil Pendant Light (Amazon, $418.50)
Steal: ET2 Lighting Spiral Polished Chrome Mini Pendant (Amazon, $129)

Side Cabinet

Splurge: Aura Hand Painted Cabinet in Black (Wayfair, $574)

Steal: Unique Wood Mirror Decorative Storage Cabinet (Amazon, $399)



Splurge: Armen Living Dupont Microfiber Ottoman (Wayfair, $136.80) 

Steal: X-Leg Square Bench (Target, $82.59) 

Splurge: Draffen Collection Rug (Home Decor Center, $581)
Steal: Hand-Knotted Agra Mini Squares Blue Wool Rug (Overstock, $258)
Side Chair 
No need to splurge herethis chair is perfect and under $200!

Steal: Coaster Home Furnishings Accent Arm Chair (Amazon, $172)

Splurge: Zuo Wilco Table (Amazon, $550) 
Steal: Steve Silver Matinee Round Glass Dining Table (Amazon, $358)

Splurge: Indoor 1-Light Glass Sphere Table Lamps (set of two; Overstock, $150) 
Steal: Crystal Table Lamp (Target, $70)