My coworker.

As I hang up the phone after my conference call in my home office, I walk through my family room to the kitchen to fill my water glass and can’t help but be distracted by my coworker. She is in a daze, in that remote state, going in and out of sleep. She hasn’t had a lot of work to do this morning, it’s all falling on my plate. I decided to snap a photo with my iPhone to show the boss later.

Sleeping on the job. Busted!

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Hokie Tartlets

A mini red velvet brownie with a simple cream cheese icing will be the MVP of your next tailgate.

Red Velvet Brownies with cream cheese icing – Hokie style!
Makes 24

1 stick (1/2 cup)  unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 oz red food coloring, plus more for the icing
1 1/4 cups flour
3 T unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 t salt

Easy cream cheese icing:

1 cup whipped topping, thawed
6 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
1/4 c. powdered sugar
Yellow and red food coloring for that Hokie orange!

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray mini-muffin pan with baking cooking spray, covering top of pan and each individual compartment, to ensure your brownies will come out easily.

In mixer, beat together sugar and butter. Add eggs, one at a time.

Slowly add in food coloring. Mix as much as you need to get to a true Hokie maroon, likely an ounce or so.

In a separate bowl, mix flour, cocoa powder, and salt.

Gradually add in flour mixture, starting at a slow speed, and getting faster as powder mixes in.

Beat until smooth.

Using a mini-scoop, add batter to pan.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until toothpick entered into one of the center brownies comes out clean.

As soon as the brownies come out of the oven, start making an indentation in each brownie, using the back of a small spoon.

While the brownies are cooling, make the easy cream cheese icing.

In a small bowl, beat the cream cheese until smooth. Add in the whipped topping and the powdered sugar. Beat together and slowly stir in the food coloring. To get a nice deep orange, use 20 drops of yellow and 9 drops of red. Continue stirring until the food coloring is applied evenly and the icing is smooth.

If you’d like, add the icing to a cookie/icing dispenser, or, to a ziploc bag with a snipped corner. Pipe the icing into each cooled cup.

Serve at your next tailgate! Serve immediately or refrigerate until ready to eat.

Go Hokies!

Curtains galore

Moving to the suburbs you find yourself with a large number of windows, which correlates to a large number of curtains that must be purchased. And, curtains are expensive! So while I tried to dress my windows pretty quickly, we phased in the blinds and some rooms were left for later.

So it was time to address my office.

My sister had an old sewing machine being stored at my parents house from 1999, and I thought, how difficult could this be? Watch a YouTube video, become proficient in sewing, and then sew two panels using some beautiful fabric I find at a local craft store.

Boy, was I wrong.

I went to the craft store and found that material is the same, or more expensive than actual curtains. But, I of course found a pattern I fell in love with, and figured my office was my only chance to pick a girly pattern, so I went with it. I found one on sale for 50% off, and although it still hurt the wallet, I was looking forward to putting my YouTube new-found sewing skills to the test.

Two hours of trying to get my bobbin in order and a couple of broken needles later, I was on the brink of tears. Thankfully my neighbor came to the rescue and got me on track, and I was able to finish the job.

I sewed each side in, about half an inch, so that it would give a clean finish.

And, because I think it makes curtains look polished, I went with a clip and ring curtain hardware set, so putting up the curtains was as easy as hanging towels on a clothesline.

And there you have it. My DIY curtains. Total cost $65 for material, and 2 hours of frustration before my neighbor intervened. It may have just been my sewing machine that was the cause of the issue, but not sure I’d tackle this again. I do hear that there is fabric glue/tape you can cheat with, so something to consider for another room down the line. Or, I could just watch some more YouTube.

Breakfast guests? Meet the egg tartlet.

I love breakfast/brunch/morning lurking with guests. Friends spend the night, wake up feeling rested, and head down to get some coffee. And rather than spend a lot of time cooking, I’d rather spend some time drinking coffee with them. So, easy brunch food gives me that flexibility.

Meet the egg tartlet.

You simply crack and egg into a greased muffin pan, and sprinkle toppings (bacon, cheese, scallions, tomatoes, mushrooms, you name it!), so, scramble them beforehand and mix with the ingredients to your liking.

Bake at 450 degrees for 8-12 minutes, or until the eggs are cooked how you like ’em.

Easy breakfast without cooking everyone’s omelettes a la’carte, and tasty, too!

Cul-de-sac potlucks

Here in the ‘burbs we have monthly potlucks.  Our cul-de-sac gets together, rotating houses each month, and we eat, chat, drink, and the kids try not to kill each other.

We toasted to March last weekend, consumed our share of Skinny Girl margaritas, and ate some amazing BBQ.  I was in charge of apps (*love*) this round, and made one of my favorite crown pleasers, an adapted Pampered Chef recipe of artichoke dip in a breadbowl.  Delish, might I say.

Artichoke dip 

Bread bowl + extra loaf of French or Italian bread
4 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/2 cup milk
1 can artichokes, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, pressed
1 packet of vegetable soup mix (dry)
2 T lemon juice, fresh squeezed
1 8 oz container sour cream
2 T fresh parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 450.
Beat cream cheese until smooth in a microwave safe bowl. Add milk, artichokes, garlic, and soup mix.  Cover and microwave on high for 5-7 minutes until warmed (but not to boil).
While heating, scoop out bread bowl and cup additional loaf for 1 inch cubes (for dipping).  Arrange bread cubes and bread bowl on cookie sheet and spray with olive oil cooking spray.
Once finished heating, remove dip from microwave and add lemon juice and sour cream.  Stir and add to hollowed bread bowl.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Bake at 450 for 13-15 minutes, until bread is golden brown.
Remove from oven and enjoy!

Image from marthastewart.com.

Homemade whipped cream (with a side of strawberries and cake)

After a Nutella-inspired desert on Friday, I knew when our other good friends were in town on Saturday I needed to have something else up my sleeve.  Back to Sweets and Treats, and enter homemade strawberry shortcake.  I started with Martha’s version, but changed it a little.  My version is below.

There is nothing better than homemade whipped cream.  Nothing.  I think it is a little piece of heaven, and served best with sliced strawberries and yellow cake.

Berry sweet

Strawberry Shortcake

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs plus 2 large egg yolks
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
1 pound strawberries, hulled and thinly sliced
1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin (from a 1/4-ounce envelope)
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray bottom of an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

Using an electric mixer on high speed, beat butter and 1/2 cup sugar in a large bowl until light and fluffy.

Add eggs and yolks, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in vanilla. With mixer on low, alternately add flour mixture in 3 parts and milk in 2, beginning and ending with flour mixture; mix just until combined. Spread batter in prepared pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 30 to 35 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes; invert onto a wire rack to cool completely.

Using a serrated knife, split cake in half horizontally; place bottom half, cut side up, on a serving plate.

In your cleaned mixer, beat whipping cream and 1/4 sugar until soft peaks form.

Arrange half of strawberries over bottom cake layer; top with half of whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border. Cover with top half of cake, cut side down. Top cake with remaining whipped cream, leaving a 1-inch border. Apply strawberries on top. Refrigerate cake until ready to serve, not more than 2 hours (or risk frumpy strawberries).

Photo courtesy of marthastewart.com.

Nutella Samosas

With all of the amazing recipes at our finger-tips, whether through online blogs, Facebook, Pintrest, or even online magazines, it’s easy to have a pinboard full of recipes to try. When the weather gets warmer, I get motivated to try new recipes, and last weekend was no different.

Friday night, we had a good friend over for a visit that has a sweet tooth.  I scrolled through my Sweets and Treats board and found a Nutella samosa recipe that I decided to try.  I wasn’t able to locate the spring roll papers that this recipe referenced at Wegmans (my favorite grocery experience of all time), so I went with egg rolls instead.  These are much better pan-fried than baked, but the creamy hazelnut center is the perfect accompaniment to a meatless Friday pizza night.

Nutella Samosas

Egg-roll or spring roll paper (found in the produce section, near the tofu)
Nutella
Sugar
2 T Flour and 3 T water (to make the paste)

Yep, that’s it.

Make the “glue” by mixing the flour and water together.

Get the spring roll paper in rectangles.  I used cooking shears.

Get your Nutella ready.

Put a tablespoon of goodness on the rectangle bottom right corner.

Fold up to make a triangle.

Fold over.

And diagonal down / over again.  It’s okay if some chocolate comes out of the sides, you can fix it with your “glue”.

Then once you get to the end, dab your finger in the flour/water paste to seal the samosa.  See the shiny part?  That’s the “glue”.

And then fold the flap over and seal.  Seal all of your holes so chocolate stays in the samosa, and cut off any extra dough.

I baked mine to try to be healthy, but frying is better, and makes for a less crunchy samosa.  Pan fry them in a half inch of canola or vegetable oil, 1-2 minutes on each side, and then sprinkle with sugar when done and hot.