Wednesday, August 23, 2017

My Wonderful Wedding: Part 2

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There were too many things to list in just one blog post, so I separated this into two! Check out Part 1 for all the other amazing things that made our wedding so special.


The Ceremony - We are not religious, and only a little spiritual, so we were having trouble finding a Justice of the Peace in our budget. Thankfully, my friend Erin saved the day by revealing she is an ordained Minister! She put together such a touching ceremony script. I came down the aisle to "Can't Help Falling in Love With You," as sung by my friends Reggie and Kim, who did live music for the ceremony on a uke, bongos, flute, and tin whistle. We had a prayer read by my Nana, to honor the sides of the family who were a bit more religious, and my friends Allie and Christina read "i carry your heart" by ee cummings and an excerpt from The Little Prince respectively. Our moms led a blessing for our rings. Finally, we wrote our own vows and slipped in a few butt jokes because that's how we roll. I loved how wonderfully all the pieces of our history were honored in this ceremony, and it is one I'll never forget.


The Flowers - I had no idea how many flowers you need for a wedding. None. And no idea about budget! I figured bouquets, boutonnieres, done. Nope... I was so overwhelmed with this piece of the day. After a little shopping around, we found Nuttlemen's Florist in Northampton. So many friends and family have used this florist, and Mary was just amazing. Not only were her flower arrangements absolutely gorgeous, but she was just a joy to interact with. My mom was so taken with her, that we actually invited her to stay for the wedding--and she and her daughter ended up helping with so much more than just flowers. The fact they go above and beyond for their customers, and have been doing so in the valley for years, is why they come so highly recommended. My bouquet was a beautiful blend of pink and purple roses with white wax flowers, and my bridesmaids had slightly smaller bouquets that were the opposite. Cory's boutonnieres were actually fly fishing lures that had been hand made by an Etsy shop--a nod to his love of fishing. For the tables we had small roses and some wax flowers, and the ceremony was adorned with sunflowers. All my favorite flowers and colors just made me so happy.


The Details - Our centerpieces were, what I referred to as, "a mish-mash of rustic things." So we had mason jars with fairy lights, milk jugs with flowers, a birch candle holder with candles, a little wooden "Love" sign, a frame with the table numbers lovingly hand-numbered by my Nana, and some butterflies floating above it all atop a slice of tree trunk. We had burlap table runners, gorgeous letters "C&A," a special memorial to my dad (a handmade white vase with his favorite flowers, white roses, inside and his old handkerchief around it. Plus lots of butterflies and pink roses all around. Big thanks to my mom who, among a million other things, spent the year leading up to the wedding collecting these all bit by bit. It turned out even more perfect than I could have imagined!



The Food - Hands down, the best wedding food I've ever had. (If you saw my last post, the food was provided by the venue, The Salem Cross Inn). And, as a food blogger, you know I'm picky! I'm pretty sure I'm not just being biased to my own wedding, either. Multiple friends and family echoed this same praise. We went with prime rib for the beef option, and a feta stuffed chicken for the chicken option. The vegetarian offering was stuffed summer squash with quinoa. Even the sides were top notch--the mashed potatoes were to diiiie for and the veggies were so fresh and tasty. There were a few different types of rolls pre-dinner, including a sweet roll, and those were perfect and freshly baked as well. Everything came out PIPING hot, which we appreciated since it was such a big crowd and we've definitely been to weddings where temperature was not taken into consideration. The venue was extremely considerate of food allergies, and made the appropriate accommodations. We wanted the prime rib to come with a side of au jus, but they did provide it when requested on an as-needed basis. Dinner service was quick and efficient and the waitstaff was lovely. I'm dreaming of going back and having more of those potatoes and prime rib now...



The Cake - My family always got their cakes from Gregory's Pastry Shop for as long as I can remember. So, despite a pretty steep plating fee that my venue put on alternative cakes, we knew we had to make it work. The cake was three layers--two of them with chocolate cake and chocolate mousse, and one with white cake with strawberries and cream filling. Both layers were delicious, though I only know this because I remember the samples we got beforehand. Sadly, I missed out on eating more than just the traditional "first slice" bite. I bought the sugar butterflies on Amazon and the bakery placed them on the finished cake. I kind of wanted more butterflies on it (they didn't use them all) but otherwise the cake was perfect.


The Photographer - Carly Weekley Photography of Arizona did our photos. Why did I pick a photographer who lived so far away? Because she's an old college friend and I've been a fan of her work for years. I remember the first time I saw a wedding shoot of hers I was so impressed--it really looked straight out of a magazine! And, regardless of bias, I think that the pictures turned out beautifully. She had so many fun poses for us, and really got all of the details down. I half-considered hiring a second photog since she works without an assistant, but turns out I definitely didn't need one. It was like she was in a million places at once all by herself! Carly was creative, supportive, and helped make my day truly amazing. I love the shots she got and would recommend her to anyone!



The DJ/music -  Cory's second cousin is a DJ, but unfortunately he wasn't available for our event. Thankfully, his colleague at Milestone Entertainment of New England was! Gabe was great--he had the energy we were looking for and kept our reception moving along.  His voice was like a wacky radio announcer and I loved it. The song list was extensive but the only parameters we gave were the songs we needed to have and Gabe did the rest--our first dance was Frank Sinatra's "I Got You Under My Skin," my stepfather-daughter dance was "Hero" by Mariah Carey, and Cory's mother-son dance was "My Wish" by Rascal Flats. I wanted to honor by dad, who passed away in 2007, by playing "Butterfly Kisses" and my uncles (both family and family friends) surprised me by dancing with me so I didn't have to be alone. After all the tears--my own included!--dried, we welcomed everyone to the dance floor to dance to "Footloose," a favorite of my theater friends since that was our senior year musical. The DJ did a great job with upbeat dancing the night away.



The Photobooth - We rented this as a package deal with our DJ. A photobooth was my must-have silly wedding thing. And it was a HUGE hit! The only place we could fit it all was the upstairs area of the reception, so I worried that people wouldn't use it. But they did, and the results were hilarious. There was a booth attendant who took care of the printing and passing out of props. The booth would print two strips of each set of photos, one for the guest and one was put into a scrapbook for the guests to sign. It's a fun keepsake and we got digital downloads of all the photos in case anyone wanted extra prints.



The Favors - We practically had swag bags. I was so worried about the unpredictable July weather in Massachusetts that I wanted to make sure if it was balls-hot outside our guests would be okay. I may have overdone it. So, on each chair we had a bag that included the following: our program (designed by Cory), sunglasses and a koozie with our names and a hidden water bottle inside, a paper fan, glow sticks for the reception, and bubbles for our recession. On each table we had a little box that contained a pot and seed starter for everyone to grow their own Texas Bluebonnets, and as guests left we handed them a bag of Italian cookies from La Fiorentina, a tradition in Cory's family.


My wedding was incredible, and such a wonderful and happy day. Planning a wedding from 2000 miles away is a feat, and we couldn't have done it without help. Huge thanks to my mom and stepdad, as well as Cory's family, for all their help. We are so lucky to have you guys as parents! And thank you to all our guests who came out to share this day with us--we hope you had as much fun as we did!

One final thing--this is Cory's reenactment unit, giving us a sword arch as we walked back down the aisle! A fun touch and shout out to Cory's family's traditions.

Monday, August 21, 2017

My Wonderful Wedding: Part 1

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You guys. I don't want my wedding to be over, but it's been a month and a half of blissfully married life already. I keep re-living the day and being happy that it was so wonderful. I've already gotten my pictures printed and hung all around me, and they always make me smile.

Since I'm a blogger, I thought I'd share the bits and pieces that made up my amazing day!


The Rings - The diamonds are all from my family. The center diamond in my engagement ring was the ring my mom and dad put on layaway when they were engaged and visited every week. The two other diamonds are from my great-grandma's wedding ring, and Cory's parents' original engagement ring. The wedding band is made up of my mom and dad's anniversary diamond insert. The smaller diamonds are slightly different shapes and sizes, but I love how the asymmetry makes it unique. I chose a swirl type base and had the other diamonds added in. My ring was originally made by a local jeweler in my parents' hometown, but unfortunately there were some major issues with it. Thankfully, my mom's friend one town over was able to fix it for me, and design my wedding band to nestle perfectly within the customized engagement ring. If you live in Western Massachusetts, definitely check out Ted's Creative Jewelers! His custom work is GORGEOUS and I truly wish I had come to him in the first place. Cory's ring is titanium, and he got it from Hannoush, a local jewelry chain.


The Invitations - Cory made them! They came out gorgeous and we had so many people ask where we got them or if they were super expensive. I think, in total, we paid about $300 for the paper, ink, and postage. Cory hand-lettered them on a borrowed press, and we backed them onto purple paper and tied with twine and a tag with our initials. Then I went through with butterfly stamps for some extra flare. If you're interested in hiring Cory as a reasonably priced designer or printer, you can reach him on his business Facebook page.



The Wedding Party - I was so lucky that Cory's friends are my friends too, because our whole wedding party felt like one big happy family. My party included Allisonn and Jenn, two of my best friends from elementary school and high school; Jessika and Jill, my two best friends from college; and Emma, Christina, and Lauren, who became my best friends once I graduated and started living on my own. Emma and Jenn shared the role of Maid of Honor, and they were amazing. Emma lives in MA, so she was able to pop over at a moment's notice to help my mom, and was a huge help once I was home as well. Jenn provided morale support in Texas, and then kicked into MOH gear once we both were in town. Cory's party included both our brothers (Andrew and Trevor), his best friend Chris from college, our friend Jess who became our friend in Austin but has known Cory since high school, and John and Dan, who were my good friends in high school (I even dated Dan!) and became Cory's friend when we started dating. We all had SO much fun together and our respective Bachlorette and Bachelor parties were a blast.




The Dress - I'm extremely lucky that so many of my friends are so talented! My good friend Cristen runs Aliber's Bridal in Greenfield, Massachusetts, and I knew that's where I would find my dream gown. I used to model dresses for her store at bridal shows, so in exchange I got a little discount, too. Cristen REALLY knows her stuff. She already knew what I liked since we were friends, but I've seen her work with strangers too--after researching your personal style, she pulls a number of dresses on the day of your appointment. Based on your likes and dislikes in your first round of trying on, she narrows the search until you find your perfect dress. My dress was absolutely gorgeous, and I think it was the third or fourth dress I tried on. Fitted sweetheart neckline with large lace details in a less traditional pattern (I loved the modern look), with a flowing skirt with just a tiniest hint of pink. We jazzed it up a bit with a crystal belt, which gave it the little bit of sparkle I was hoping for. It was so flattering and so pretty. For my shoes, I wore cowboy boots. GUYS. Cowboy boots are the BEST wedding shoe, hands-down. My heels didn't sink in the soft grass, I was able to keep them on all night for dancing, AND they doubled as a sort-of purse to keep my phone in for pictures. I highly suggest them to anyone.



Wedding Colors/theme? - I've always loved purple and rose, so those colors were prominent throughout our wedding, with bits of yellow as a highlight. I let my bridesmaids pick their own dresses in a dusty rose color (called "Quartz"), which was easiest at David's Bridal since they were across the country. The quality of dress wasn't perfect, but I didn't want my bridesmaids to spend more than they had to. Cory picked khaki colored suits with lilac details (in "Wisteria" also from David's Bridal) and although they didn't match the bridesmaids perfectly, they complemented each other well. We didn't set out with a wedding "theme" but because we put in so many little details of things we loved, there was a sort-of half Texas Rustic, half butterfly theme. My bridesmaids wore cowboy boots, which ended up being a great decision for our outside farmland wedding, because one of my maids of honor stepped in cow poop!



The Venue - We could not have picked a more perfect venue. I have always dreamed of a rustic outdoors wedding, and had looked at a few outdoorsy venues (farms, orchards, etc) before my mom suggested The Salem Cross Inn. It was absolutely perfect. Not only was it nestled on a few acres of farmland (there were COWS out there!) but it was originally a colonial inn. I don't know if I've mentioned it on this blog before, but Cory grew up doing Revolutionary War reenactments with his family. So it was the PERFECT aesthetic for us. We were married outside by the gazebo, and had our reception in the gorgeous barn room attached to the main restaurant. There were so many areas of the grounds that were perfect for pictures! Thankfully, the weather held out, but had it rained we would have had the wedding in the "basement" area--which sounds weird but it had big bay windows looking out into the farm land, pretty lights hung on the walls and hanging from the ceiling, exposed wooden beams, and a large fireplace--so even that would have been gorgeous!

...Okay so, I'll have to cut this into two blog posts. Check back for Part 2!


Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Heirloom Tomato Galette with Ricotta

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This recipe originally appeared on my old blog, Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine, which I let expire after not using it for a year. When I realized blogger didn't publish these anywhere else but the domain, I tried to re-buy it and found some spammy site had bought it up instead. So, I am rescuing some of my better recipes and re-publishing them here!


When I first developed this recipe, it was my first fall outside of New England. And let me tell you, New England has the best fall season. The leaves are gorgeous, the veggies are delicious, and the air is finally not humid and it's lovely and cool. However, I always lamented the end of summer because it meant that winter was just a whisper away.


Living in Texas, the fear of winter is definitely gone. But I do miss fall. Thankfully, I have a few weddings I'll be attending during that time, so I'l be able to get a little glimpse of those wonderful leaves. In the meantime, I'm just happy I don't have to worry about a looming cold!


And while Texas doesn't have the same amazing veggie game that New England does, it does have the best fruit I've ever tasted. And, remember, tomato is a fruit. Plus, due to the warmer climate, we can grow things year-round! Local chain supermarket, H-E-B, has such a wonderful focus on local food that I can get fresh Texas tomatoes whenever I want. These little baby heirloom tomatoes are so pretty! And they are truly amazing.

This galette reminds me of a very fancy pizza. Prior to creating this recipe, I'd only ever had sweet galettes, but this one has made me a believer in the savory. It's a great dish to make after a trip to the farmer's market!


Heirloom Grape Tomato Galette with Ricotta Filling
(Crust based on instructions Food52)
Dough:
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1.5 sticks of COLD butter, cubed
  • 1/4 cup of ICE water
  • 1 tbs garlic powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 egg (for glaze)

Filling
  • 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved (I used Heirloom)
  • 1 tbs corn starch
  • 1 heaping tbs herbs de provance
  • salt
  • ~1/4 cup ricotta cheese

-Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

-Mix together flour, garlic powder, and salt. With your hands, a pastry cutter, or a food processor, mix together the flour mixture and the cold butter. If using your hands: pinch together the butter into the flour until the biggest bits left are the size of peas. If using a food processor: Pulse until the biggest bits are pea-size.

-Sprinkle the ice water over the dough, folding gently and making sure the ice cubes don't fall in. With your hands, gently press the dough together until smooth. If too crumbly, use a tablespoon more water at a time.

-Spread some plastic wrap on the counter, and press dough into a disc. Wrap up, and put in fridge for at least 1 hour.

-Prepare filling: Mix together tomatoes, corn starch, herbs, salt. (A splash of red wine vinegar or balsamic might be nice here too!) Let sit for 5 minutes.

-Back to the dough... Pull it out of the fridge and gently roll into a circular, flat disc (Ideal thickness is about 1/3", but I think mine was closer to 1/2", oops). Place on a cookie sheet lined with parchment or a silpat.

-Spread ricotta cheese in the middle of the disc, leaving about 3 inches or so around the edge. Pile tomatoes on top of the ricotta.

-Carefully fold the edges of the pastry up and around the tomatoes. Pinch lightly to make sure it stays closed.

-Whisk egg and use a pastry brush or your fingers to "paint" the edges of the crust. Sprinkle with more garlic powder, salt, or herbs if you'd like.

-Bake for 1 hour OR until the crust is golden brown. (mine took 35 mins)

-Transfer, GENTLY, to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving. Serve with slices of fresh basil.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Who Needs a House When You Have Avocado Toast and No Future?

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Photo credit: Sushigirlatx instagram


Because we may not have long left on this Earth thanks to our fearless leader's noble tweets, I thought I'd share a vital recipe to our Millennial lives:

Avocado toast.

Is there really anything better? Artisan bread with ancient grains, smooth, creamy French butter, a smashed avocado, and all your hopes and dreams.

Photo credit: Sushigirlatx Instagram


Avocado Toast
You will need:

  • 1 Avocado ~$25,000, roughly your yearly paycheck after graduation and/or one year of tuition at a state university
  • 2 slices Artisan bread ~$5,000? Carbs amirite?
  • 1 pat high quality French butter ~a million dollars, it's French
  • 1 pinch Himalayan sea salt, preferably one you got on your yearly summer trip to Asia where you took selfies with disadvantaged youth ~$10,000*
  • 2 pinches crushed red pepper, from Italian vacation backpacking through Europe ANYONE CAN TRAVEL IF YOU PUT YOUR MIND TO IT ~$8,752
  • drizzle of olive oil from that same vacation when you extended it a week to visit Athens ~$2000 because aren't they going through some sort of economic crisis? Now is the time to book your flight.
  • Eccoutrements! Such as veggies from the Farmers' Markets, meats of all sorts, extra gluten, poached goose egg $85-7000
  • 1 glass Charles Shaw wine 2 BUCK CHUCK FTW $2 (because you're using a glass that holds the whole bottle)


-Slice the avocado in half --if you're over 26 and no longer on your parents' health insurance, please be careful with the knife--and scoop out just enough of the fruit** to leave at least a centimeter (metric system is cooler than you) of flesh in the peel. Fill with your favorite fair trade latte and set aside to sip while you complete your meal.

-Place your slices of Artisan bread in the toaster and remember what the warmth feels like because nuclear winter might be an actual thing to be afraid of soon. Allow the bread to toast until it's the color of President Trump's skin after too many rounds of golf at his resort.

-As you consider your future and crippling student debt, spread the softened butter over the crusty surface. Book another vacation on your credit card because #YOLO.

-Use a fork to press the avocado bits onto the bread. Sprinkle the salt and crushed red pepper over the top and notice that it kind of looks like nuclear fallout. Or does it? We'll know soon!

-Drizzle with that drizzle of olive oil. Is it organic? If not you better get your ass back to Greece and get a new one.

-Do not serve on a napkin because you're a Millennial and we are KILLING the napkin industry so hard right now.

-Make sure the lighting is perfect for your Instagram photo. Use the portrait setting (YOU'RE WELCOME) and then wash it out with filters. #hashtag.

-Take a bite and kiss your dreams of owning your own house goodbye. The American dream is dead anyway (we killed it) Because war and avocados. Haha, aren't Millennials the worst?


Photo credit: Thesmokingho Instagram

*Feel free to substitute with the tears of baby boomers who are rly dissapoint in you rite now
**YES, Avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable, you plebeian. #mansplaining

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Gluten Free Peach Crumble Cake

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Every so often I try to go low carb or paleo in a fruitless attempt to shed some weight. It never works, because I always fail, BUT I do learn some pretty neat recipes. Also, I like avoiding the bloaty feeling that comes with eating too much glutenous stuff.


When it comes to baked goods, ESPECIALLY ones for breakfast, I actually really love using coconut and almond flour. I'd almost say I prefer it! It's just an added bonus that they're marginally "better" for you and have more fiber/vitamins and protein than traditional white flour. To be honest, whenever I'm breading meat for dinner I use almond flour. It just. tastes. better.

So, I'm not saying this is health food. It surely isn't, and the bourbon caramel I drizzled on top made any "paleo" claims fly right out the window. But I loved this cake. It was the perfect snack to munch on while I binge-watched The Great British Baking Show.

Anyone else addicted? I need to track down more episodes somehow, as I already devoured the ones on Netflix.


Anyways, if you have any sort of reservations about gluten free flours, I encourage you to seek out Paleo recipes. You're not going to get a fluffy, sugar-riddled birthday cake out of it, but you will find solid flavors and a bit more substance. And you'll avoid the weird aftertaste that some GF blends have. Bonus: many stores are creating their own in-house generic labels for these flours, so they aren't nearly as pricey as they used to be. If you have a Trader Joe's nearby, you can get a bag of either for well under $10. Score!

Gluten Free Peach Crumble Cake
(Adapted from Savory Lotus)
  • 1/3 cup coconut flour 
  • 1/4 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tsp apple pie spice (or equal parts cinnamon, ginger, cardamom)
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 cup melted coconut oil
  • 1/4 cup melted butter + 2tbs for topping (or sub with more coconut oil for dairy free)
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/3 cup coconut sugar (+ extra for sprinkling on top, ~2 tbs)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 egg whites
  • 2 peaches, sliced
  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • optional: caramel for drizzling.

Preheat oven to 350F. Generously oil a 9" diameter cake pan and sprinkle with coconut flour.

In a large bowl, sift together the dry ingredients. Set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together all wet ingredients EXCEPT the egg whites. Be sure to let your melted fats cool so as not to scramble the eggs.

Slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet.

In another large bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form. Fold the batter into the egg whites in quarters, being sure to lightly incorporate each.

Pour into the pan and arrange the peaches on top.

Mix together the walnuts and remaining coconut sugar with the remaining butter. Sprinkle in clumps on top of the peaches to get the crumble effect.

Bake for 28-30 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean. Let cool to room temp, and sprinkle with caramel, if desired.