Basil Lemon Bars (Instead of Packing)

I’ve been cooking with basil a lot lately so bear with me on this one before I move on to obsess over another flavor in the weeks to come.

I had some basil leaves left over from my sweet pine nut basil bites so I figured I might as well throw them into the shortbread base on the lemon bars I made for a cookout a few weeks ago. Let me just say I am so so glad I decided to do that.

While amazingly delicious, these are probably best not served outdoors when it is especially windy. The wind hit these before anyone at the cookout had the chance to grab one off the plate and everyone in the vicinity got covered in powdered sugar.

I’m heading to Providence this weekend to see my youngest brother graduate college so I’ve been a bit frazzled all week trying to get ready for the trip and wrap up the last few assignments for my chocolate class. That’s why I’m pulling out this oldie but goodie that I tried out for ‘research’ a few weeks ago. Because I’d so rather write this than pack. Although there’s a lot I’d rather do than pack.

I love trying other bakers' recipes because I often learn new skills but also get to learn more about other people’s mindsets and processes in baking. For someone like me who doesn’t have a lot of professional food training (I’m being pretty liberal here with my calling Craftsy classes professional), trying out other people’s recipes is a must!  

Find the full recipe for the lemon bars on Joy the Baker’s blog. For the basil version, just mix 2 tablespoons of chopped basil into the sugar for the crust before starting out.

 

5 Tips for Needlepointing Homemade Wedding Gifts

Wedding registries are great. When it comes to picking out a gift for one of your best friends for her special day however, it can feel a little impersonal to go with a medley of bowls, kitchen tools and fancy glasses she might only use once a year.

For the record, I don’t think you should ignore the registry entirely (it’s there for a reason after all). But, if you’re buying gifts for the wedding, two showers and bachelorette party, you have some wiggle room to get creative with the gift for at least one of those occasions.

Since I talk about needlepoint wedding gifts all the time, from pre painted canvases to freeform designs, I thought it was about time I outlined some of my best practices for designing door hangers and ornaments as wedding gifts.

Consider the time commitment. I won’t lie to you and say that the effort required to needlepoint a small pillow is the same as that required to order ornate vases from Crate and Barrel. It’s not. Before you even go any farther down this path, ask yourself whether the couple in question will appreciate the gesture of needlepointing a personalized gift. I’m not suggesting you include a note with the pillow that reminds them how many hours you spent stitching it while catching up on reruns of Veep, I’m just saying that if these particular friends are likely to stick your gift in a drawer and struggle with what to say in their thank you note to you, maybe go with the vases.

Use household items to outline your project. Determine from the get go what kind of a gift you want to stitch, and how big you want it to be. Is it a Christmas ornament? Is it a door hanger? Is it a pillow? Great, outline the shape on your canvas and go from there. I like to use the rim of water glasses to make the Christmas ornament shape and coasters or the rim of my breakfast bowls for door hangers. Cookie cutters also work well for this purpose.

Use the save the date as a creative guide. The save the date is often a good indicator of the couple’s taste. This is likely the first insight you’re getting into their wedding so you’ll want to make the most of it. Use the colors and fonts on the save the date as a guide for your own canvas. Serif block letters or ornate cursive? Shades of blue, green or purple?

Prioritize the elements on your canvas.  It can be hard to narrow down what to include on your canvas. The couple loves golf, they met in college and have three dogs. You won’t be able to fit all of that onto the canvas and that’s okay. Simple is better. Since I live in Virginia, I attend a lot of Virginia weddings and I’ve found that Etsy-inspired door hangers that feature the state outline are always a huge hit. Find one element you want to highlight (a state outline or wedding logo for example) and add one or two more elements to complement it (like the wedding date or wedding hashtag).

Be mindful of finishing time. I can’t reiterate this enough but plan out your stitching to allow for finishing time! If you’re making this gift for a wedding shower, you’ll want to actually have it finished in time to give it in person.

Feeling inspired to stitch gifts for weddings you are attending this year? Tell me about it! I’m always looking for inspiration for my next wedding door hanger.

Bachelorette-Ready Peach Cupcakes

People tend to hate on Mondays because it’s the first day back after the weekend. It’s not uncommon for me to open up Instagram at lunch and be bombarded with messages about people loading up on so much caffeine to make it through their struggle of a day or else moaning about having a case of the Mondays. And hey, I’m not hating on these people because trust me, I’m guilty of all of the above. I’m just saying maybe we should all give Mondays a second chance.

In fact, I like to think that Chris Harrison is ABC’s cure to a bad case of the Mondays. That’s right, The Bachelorette is back tonight and I’m so excited to see how what promises to be the most dramatic season ever plays out. Just kidding. I don’t anticipate anything overly jaw dropping to happen but I’m team Jojo so I’ll be tuning in to watch true love unfold while her mom takes a wine bottle to the face in the background.

As peaches are slowly coming back into season, I thought it would be fitting to serve up some peach cupcakes at my first Bachelorette viewing party of the season. Yum right?

Because I opted for peach puree in the icing to get a lot of peach flavor, this icing is a little runnier than my usual icing so I wasn’t able to get too fancy with the icing and the cupcakes. The real bummer here is that I won’t be able to make rose puns tonight and ask my guest if they ‘accept my rose’ while I hand them cupcakes. Perhaps that’s for the better.

Cupcake Ingredients

  • 1 Cup (200g) granulated sugar
  • 12 Tablespoons of butter, softened
  • 3 Eggs
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla
  • ½ Cup almond milk
  • 1 ½ Cup (125g) flour
  • 3/4 Cup diced fresh peach pieces (from about 2 peaches)

Icing ingredients (Adapted from the Wilton Buttercream Icing recipe)

  • 1 Cup peach pieces (from about 3 peaches)
  • 1 Tablespoon granulated sugar
  • ½ Cup vegetable shortening, softened
  • ⅓ Cup butter, softened
  • 1 Teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 4 Cups powdered sugar
  • 1 Drop orange food gel (optional)

Recipe

  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and prepare a muffin tin with cupcake liners
  • Cream the granulated sugar and butter until lighter in color, about 2 minutes. With the mixer on low, add in the eggs one at a time, followed by the vanilla and then the almond milk. Gently mix in the flour until just incorporated, followed by the peach pieces.
  • Scoop the batter into the prepared pan, filling each liner ¾ of the way full. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of one of the cupcakes comes out clean, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, place on cooling rack and let cool completely before icing.
  • To prepare the icing, start by making a peach puree while the cupcakes are in the oven with the peach pieces and granulated sugar in a saucepan over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. Once the peaches are very soft to the touch, transfer the contents of the saucepan to a food processor and pulse to break down. Let cool before continuing with the rest of the icing ingredients.
  • Cream the vegetable shortening and butter until smooth. Mix in the vanilla extract and powdered sugar, one cup at a time. Once fully combined, mix in the peach puree and drop of orange food gel.

 

Sweet Pine Nut Basil Bites

I won’t pretend that the idea to make savory desserts is new, it’s not. In fact, I use basil all of the time on this blog. Seriously. All of the time.

These little basil bites came about as a result of some homework for my chocolate class last week. The first version had far too much white chocolate ganache which confused all of my taste testers but when I reduced the chocolate to just a drizzle on the pine nut brittle, it took its rightful place as a refreshing flavor pairing with the sweet pine nut brittle.

The best part about these is that they are so easy to make and take no fancy kitchen equipment. While I think everyone should be equipped with a scale, a candy thermometer and a endless supply of icing bags, I know that just isn’t the case.

I’ve just watched the series finale of Castle (because apparently I was the only person still watching that show) and I’m so confused and upset that I’m going to need another batch of these to make myself feel better. Eating my feelings is too real right now.

Do you like making sweet treats savory and confusing all your friends? Tell me about your favorite ingredients!

Ingredients

  • ¾ Cup pine nuts
  • ½ Cup granulated sugar
  • 3 Tablespoons heavy cream
  • 1 Tablespoon basil, packed
  • ½ White chocolate chips

Recipe

  • Prepare a tray with parchment paper and set aside.
  • In a pan over medium high heat, roast pine nuts until fragrant and just starting to turn brown. Remove from heat immediately so they won’t burn.
  • Meanwhile, put sugar in a pot over medium heat and let melt, swirling occasionally until melted and amber, about 8 minutes. Once this is done, remove from heat and pour pine nuts in with a wooden spoon. Use spoon to form small (anywhere from teaspoon to tablespoon-sized depending on preference) mounds of pine nut brittle on the prepared parchment paper. Let cool for about an hour.
  • When brittle has cooled, combine heavy cream and basil in a food processor and blend a few times to chop basil. While this is happening, put white chocolate chips in a microwave safe bowl and microwave for about 2 minutes, stirring every 20 seconds until completely melted. Add to food processor and pulse a few times to combine.
  • Add chocolate basil mixture to a plastic bag and cut a tiny hole in one corner. Use bag as you would an icing bag to drizzle the white chocolate ganache over the brittle. Let chocolate solidify before enjoying.