Wedding Updates!

You guys, wedding planning has taken over my life. It is all-consuming in the very best way possible. When people say this might be the happiest time of your adult life to date, they are right! Planning a wedding with John has been literally a dream. I am loving (almost) every second of it!

Since our date is a popular holiday weekend, we wanted to take care of all the major things that were important to us first. That paired with my Type A personality, it’s safe to say that we have the bulk of the big decisions made (think date: May 27th 2017, venue, planner, florist, photographer, caterer, music, paper goods, dress!). Next on the agenda- cake tasting and honeymoon research!

Here are a few of my favorite snaps from the last couple on months…

Stay tuned for more updates soon!

315 DAYS AND COUNTING!!!

Travel Diary: Saint Croix, U.S. Virgin Islands

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John and I spent the first week of March relaxing on the beaches of St. Croix with the rest of the Garrett crew! It was such a wonderful week full of fun surprises (we got engaged!) and perfect weather. The house we were staying at was a short walk from Cane Bay Beach and had lovely sunsets. There was plenty of nice hiking and even better snorkeling! Doesn’t get much better than that, huh?

We did a lot of different activates throughout the week, but here are my top picks

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Golfing at the Buccaneer Resort

This also just so happens to be the same place where John got down on one knee. I don’t golf, but that third hole will always hold a special place in my heart. In addition to the golfing, the dining on the resort was also great. I may be biased since our dinner there was a private one (set up in the old sugar mill), but the food and service were outstanding!

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Point Udall

The easternmost point of the United States makes this a must visit spot with unbeatable views. Plus, right off the point there is a nice hiking trail that goes down to an amazing secluded beach, where we spent one of our afternoons.

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Snorkeling (or diving) at Cane Bay Beach

This is on the top of our must-do list. The water was warm, clear, and full of sea life! We saw plenty of fish and coral, but the highlight was the sea turtle we got to swim with! If you plan to do a lot of snorkeling bringing a swim shirt (like this one) is encouraged. I didn’t take that advice and my poor burnt back paid the price.

Eating at Rowdy Joe’s Northshore Eatery

We highly recommended this little joint, especially for lunch. It has plenty of outdoor seating and the food was tasty! We heard it’s also a pretty hopping place in the evenings, although we didn’t have a chance to check that out.

Bioluminescent Kayaking Tour in the Salt River Bay

We booked a tour with Virgin Kayak Tours and it did not disappoint.  With only 6 Biobays left in the Caribbean, this nighttime kayaking trip was such a cool and unique experience! Once it gets dark, you kayak across to The Biobay, where you’ll witness the seriously magical underwater lights. These mini single celled organisms, Dinoflagellates, sparkle in the water when you dip your hands/nets/paddles in.

Happy Traveling!

 

Dark Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

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I made these delicious cupcakes for Valentine’s Day this year. That was weeks ago, I know! But, better late than never, right? The past few weeks have been crazy! Between a busy work schedule, going on vacation, and GETTING ENGAGED my time has been very consumed (in the best way possible)! While John and I have been sitting down to the computer together to look at wedding venues (eeek!), this is the first time in  weeks that I have sat down at the computer to write. Sad, but true. In the coming weeks I am looking forward to sharing all of our wonderful St. Croix vacation photos (plus some of the surprise engagement shoot photos) with you! Stay tuned!

Back to the cupcakes- I have to say, I think this is the best gluten free dessert that has come out of my kitchen! The cupcakes were flavorful, moist, and had the perfect (non-gluten free) consistency which can be really tough with GF baking. While they were not hard to make, they were not easy either. Cutting out the center of the cupcakes and trying to get the tops back on after I filled them was tedious. I suppose you could probably not worry about putting the top back on if you knew they were all going to be eaten that same day. Otherwise I worry the filling would leak out and make the frosting funky. Thanks, but no thanks.

Ingredients

For the Cupcakes
  • 3 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
  • 1/3 cup (unsweetened) cocoa powder
  • 3/4 cup hot water
  • 3/4 cup gluten free flour
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 cup + 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 tsp white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
For Filling
  • 1 large jar cherry pie filling (I used a local Door County pie filling)
For Frosting
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 3-4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1-2 Tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place the chocolate and cocoa powder in a medium bowl, then pour hot water over chocolate mixture and whisk until smooth. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill (20 minutes or 10 in freezer).
  2. While the chocolate is chilling, in a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour,  sugar, salt and baking soda. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together oil, eggs, vinegar and vanilla.
  3. Once the chocolate has cooled pour it into oil mixture and stir until well combined, then add flour mixture and whisk until silky smooth.
  4. Pour the batter into paper lined cupcake tin (12 count). Bake in preheated for 17 – 19 minutes. You can check  if they are done by inserting a toothpick into the center of a cupcake, if it comes out clean they are done!
  5. Allow cupcakes to cool in baking tin for a few minutes before you transfer to a wire rack. Allow the cupcakes to cool completely before you try to cut them out. If you don’t wait, the cupcakes will be very difficult to cut not to mention impossible to frost!
  6. With a small sharp knife cut a hole in the center of each cupcake. You want to make them big enough and deep enough to be able to add about 2 tablespoons of pie filling to each. Note: you can trim the bottom part (actually the top of the cupcake) that you cut out so it sit flat when you put the tops back on!
  7. For the frosting, in a large mixing bowl add butter and beat until it’s whipped. Add in the first 3 cups of sugar, cocoa powder, 1 tablespoon milk, and vanilla extract. Beat this on low-medium until creamy. Note: If the frosting is runny add more  powdered sugar, if the frosting thicker than you would like add more milk.
  8. Using an icing bag (or cut the tip off of a Ziploc baggie) and frost your cupcakes. Top with cherry and enjoy!

 

Bon appétit!

Friday Favorites: Travel Essentials

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1. Eugenia Kim Hat you need for all of the days you plan to spend at the beach.

2. Stella McCartney Sunglasses that are sure to make a statement.

3. Fashionable FRENDS Headphones.

4. Kate Spade New York Passport Holder in the perfect shade of pink.

5. Sensi Studio Watermelon Tote that can double as a carry on and beach bag. WIN-WIN!

6. KOR Water One Water Bottle because staying hydrated is important, and you don’t want get stuck buying $5 waters at the airport.

7. Super fun Elina Linardaki Saltwater Sandals that scream I am on vacation!

8. White + Warren Cashmere Eye Mask so you can catch some zzzs on those long flights.

9. Cozy White + Warren Cashmere Travel Wrap Scarf

Fresh Fruit Tart

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After seeing dozens of lovely fruit tarts in bakery windows and in the pastry cases at Whole Foods for months and months, I finally decided I needed to try making one myself.  It just so happens that while grocery shopping a few weeks ago, I was surprised to find there was a huge produce sale going on. The berries were all on super sale and I took it as a sign. It was now or never time for that fruit tart I had been longing to make. But seriously, when is fruit ever on sale in Wisconsin in the dead of winter? Correct answer is never.

But, It’s not like everyone has a tart tin laying around. I had to make a quick pit stop at Sur La Table on my way home from the grocery store. They had so many great options and sizes! The mini tart tins may or may not be on my birthday wishlist this year.

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Ingredients

For the Crust

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups gluten-free flour (I used Trader Joe’s GF flour this time)
  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

For the Filling

  • 1 package (8 oz) low fat cream cheese, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

For Topping

  • kiwis
  • blueberries
  • blackberries
  • raspberries

For the Glaze

  • 1 (6 oz) can frozen limeade concentrate, thawed
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

Directions

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a large mixing bowl combine the powdered sugar, flour, and butter. Using a low speed, mix until ingredients forms a ball. The dough will be soft and crumbly. Using your hands, press the dough evenly into a 12 inch tart pan that with a removable bottom.
3. Bake crust for 10-12 minutes or until it is VERY lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
4. Now, you can make the glaze. Combine the limeade, cornstarch, lime juice, and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat for 3-5 minutes. You should notice the sauce becoming clear and thick, that’s when you know it is done. Set aside to cool.
5. While the crust is cooling you can make the topping. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, and vanilla together until creamy. Once cooled, evenly spread the topping. Remember: You absolutely have to wait until the crust is cooled, if you get impatient and try and frost it too early it will rip the top up.
6. Slice up fruit and begin to arrange it on the tart. Starting at the edge of the crust, working your way to the middle. You can get creative with your circles! Fill in any extra spaces with a small fruit like blueberries. End by clustering the fruit of your choice in the center.
7. With a pastry brush, glaze the entire tart. The more you use the more tart the flavor! Note: you will not end up using all of the glaze.

Bon appétit!

 

Friday Favorites: Treat Yourself

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1. The perfect cherry pie made with a little extra love.

2. Pink heart macarons I am totally obsessed with. Surprise, surprise.

3. Chocolate covered pretzels that are almost too pretty to eat.

4. Mini heart cookies.

5. Heart shaped chocolate dipped rice krispie treats.

6. Black forest cupcakes that I plan on making this weekend.

7. (Adorable) chocolate dipped shortbread cookies.

8. Champagne raspberry cupcakes that scream GALentine’s Day!

9. Red velvet donuts perfect for homemade Sunday brunch.

 

Happy Valentine’s Day! XOXO

 

Roasted Sweet Potato Rounds

DSC_0021I made these cinnamon sweet potato rounds with herbed ricotta, walnuts, cranberries, and bacon for my dish to pass at our last game night. Not only were they pretty easy, but they tasted amazing! They were the perfect balance of sweet and savory. Wanna know what else was sweet? Winning game night. Sorry friends, one last chance to brag. For those of you who have never played the Ticket to Ride: Europe board game, go and buy it right now. It’s so much fun! Plus, you can play it as a single or with teams.

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Ingredients

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp ground cinnamon
For the Herbed Ricotta:
  • 1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
  • 2 tsp italian seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp honey
  • 1/4 tsp salt
For Topping:
  • 1 cup raw walnuts
  • chopped bacon
  • 3/4 cup dried cranberries
  • additional honey

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Wash, peel, slice sweet potatoes into 1/4 inch thick rounds.
  3. In a medium bowl toss sweet potatoes with olive oil and cinnamon. Transfer to foil lined baking sheet and bake in preheated oven for 35-40 minutes, flipping potatoes half way through. You just want your rounds to be lightly browned and crispy around the edges.
  4. In a small bowl mix ricotta cheese, italian seasoning, honey, and salt. Stir until well combined. Set aside.
  5. Pan fry bacon until nice and crispy. Let cool on paper towel. Once cooled enough to touch, chop into bite size pieces. Set aside.
  6. Chop walnuts and spread on a baking sheet. With 10 minutes left on the timer for the potatoes, and place the walnuts in the oven to lightly roast.
  7. Remove sweet potatoes and walnuts from the oven. Place a dollop of ricotta mixture on each round and place in the oven for 4 minutes, just until ricotta is warm.
  8. Top with chopped walnuts, bacon bits, and dried cranberries. Drizzle with honey and enjoy!

Bon appétit!

Cinnamon Rolls

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Cinnamon rolls are one of my favorite breakfast treats. I think I have found one single GF cinnamon roll in all of my gluten-free days (5 years and counting!). Soooo I decided to give making my own a try over the holidays! I forgot you have to use live yeast and let the dough rise, so this ended up being a more time consuming breakfast than I had planned. Once I realized how long the dough needed to rise and how many times (twice), I decided to make it the night before and let it do its thing until morning. Thankfully the Garrett’s sun porch was the perfect temperature to leave the dough out there overnight!

Rolling the dough was a little tricky. It was SUPER sticky and I had to use a lot of flour to be able to roll it out. I thought that was going to be the hardest part, but I was wrong. I sprinkled the dough with the fillings only to realize I had no idea how I was going to tightly roll this into a log. The dough was warm and soft and still very sticky. I dusted my hands with flour and rolled to the best of my ability. My log turned out a little lumpy but overall not too shabby. Whatever the rolls were lacking in shape, they made up for in taste!

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Ingredients

For the Dough

  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 3/4 cups whole milk, room temperature
  • 2 large eggs, well beaten at room temperature
  • 1 stick unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 5 cups gluten-free flour (I used Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Baking Flour)

For the Filling

  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 cup chopped nuts (I used walnuts)
  • 6 Tbsp unsalted butter, room temperature

For the Icing

  • 4 oz or 1/2 package cream cheese (I like the 1/3 less fat), room temperature
  • 1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 2 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • pinch of salt

Instructions

  1. Fill a small bowl with 1/4 cup warm water then sprinkle in the yeast and add a small pinch of sugar. Stir until water and yeast are well combined. Set the mixture aside for 5 minutes or until the yeast starts to slightly bubble and become foamy. Note: I learned the date of the yeast package doesn’t really matter as long as it still activates when you use it. I used yeast with a 2014 date and it worked perfectly!
  2. In a large mixing bowl, combine the milk, eggs, melted butter, sugar and salt. Mix well. Stir in the yeast mixture and begin slowly adding the flour. Mix until well combined. Remember, the dough will be pretty soft and sticky. But, if it’s too loose to even get out of the bowl, add a little more flour and mix well. Once the dough is firm enough, cover with plastic wrap then place it in a warm spot to rise for about 1 hour or overnight like I did. Note: If you are going to leave it overnight, make sure you put it in a large enough bowl lightly covered so it has room to rise.
  3. Now, the dough should have nearly doubled in size. Dust your work space (I usually use a baking mat) with plenty of gluten-free flour. Place dough ball on floured surface and sprinkle with additional gluten-free flour so your rolling pin doesn’t stick. Roll dough out to somewhere near an 18″ by 18″ square.
  4. In another bowl, stir together the brown sugar, regular sugar, nuts and cinnamon until well combined.
  5. Spread the soft butter evenly across the dough then cover with the sugar/nut mixture. Tightly roll the dough up and cut it evenly into 12 slices. I dusted my knife with flour between cuts to keep it from sticking and deforming the rolls (even more than they already were ha).
  6. Grease a 9″ x 13″ baking dish and places the rolls in evenly. Cover with plastic wrap then place in a warm spot to rise for another hour or so. They should noticeably rise during this time.
  7. In preparation for baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  8. Once the rolls have risen again, bake in preheated over for 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. While the rolls are in the oven you can make the icing.
  9. In a medium mixing bowl, mix together cream cheese, butter, powdered sugar, vanilla and salt. Beat on low/medium speed until icing is creamy.
  10. Once the rolls are browned to perfection remove from the oven and transfer pan to a cooling rack. Once they have cooled slightly, frost and serve warm!

Bon appétit!

Travel Diary: North Carolina

Happy (late) 2016 everyone! After a little time off, I am back in action! We had such a great trip to Asheville, North Carolina to visit John’s family over Christmas break. It was a week full of all of all my favorite things. Good food, even better company, and warm weather. I was lucky enough to have John playing tour guide for the week and showing me around all of his favorite spots. Here are a few of the highlights from our trip:

Grove Park Inn

After a great breakfast at Abejas House Cafe (a new Garrett family fave) we stopped by the Grovewood Gallery. Asheville is full of fabulous local artwork, and this place is not any different. We opened the doors and I didn’t even know where to start. The gallery has work ranging from jewelry and pottery to bedroom furniture, and everything in between. The whole time I kept thinking how amazing it would be to furnish a home with all of theses unique pieces! The price point varies quite a bit, so you’re sure to find something in your budget.

After the gallery we walked over the the hotel, which is actually more like massive resort. The hotel hosts a national gingerbread house competition each winter that brings swarms of visitors. It was a site to see! I was not only surprised by the number of houses that were on display, but the wide array of styles. I naively thought this was going to be run-of-the-mill gingerbread houses. I was way way off the mark. The level of craftsmanship and the creativity was astounding. Highly recommended!

Biltmore Estate

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After we went out for another delicious breakfast , this time at The Corner Kitchen, we headed to the Biltmore Estate. We missed visiting the Biltmore last year, so this time around we made a point to put it on the agenda. Let me tell you, it did not disappoint. The estate was so much bigger and more beautiful than I could have imagined. The tickets can get a little pricey and it was crowded, but between the house tour/conservatory/winery, it’s totally worth it. The house itself is lovely. The original decor was very well maintained (surprisingly so), and I found the history behind every detail interesting. The over the top Christmas decorations didn’t hurt either. After we toured the house we wandered around the grounds and ended up at the conservatory, which totally lived up to my (high) expectations. I would love to go back in the spring when the rest of the outdoor gardens are in bloom!

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The Blue Ridge Parkway

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We took advantage of the beautiful weather and spent the day exploring the highest parts of the Blue Ridge Parkway. We started off doing a hike up Black Balsam, which was crazy windy and cold at the top. Not my ideal weather conditions. On our way back down I finally figured out (curiosity was killing me) what all the men in trucks with big dogs riding in the back were doing. Hunting bear! I expected them to say tracking rabbits or something. After I got over the shock, we headed to Devils courthouse. That was a short walk (not really a hike) up to the top with gorgeous views. We continued to take the parkway to Richland Balsam, the peak of the parkway. Again, more amazing views. I can see the appeal, North Carolina.

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Happy Traveling!