With Sweet Dreams and Even Sweeter Days

Monday, January 30, 2012

Morning, Morning

5:00am and I, well let's just say... we're not friends.

I was perfectly happy without them in my life to be quite honest, and now that they are, we don't even acknowledge each other.  We only coexist.  We butt heads.

7:30am and I, we're ok.  Not great mind you, but ok.  We nod as we pass each other in the hallway of life.  No friendly conversations or anything, but we tolerate each other.

9:30am and I, we're tight.  We're meant for each other.  Some things you just know.

I am a creature of habit.  When I get on a food kick, I can eat the same thing literally for days in a row without it getting old.  No matter what time of day the alarm clock has been singing these past few weeks, this has been my go to breakfast.

It's brain food.  Awesome food.  Comforting, warm, and filling, when time and patience sometimes runs short.

Fuel yourself.  Treat yourself.  Embrace.  Indulge.  
Weekday.  Weekend.  Go.

Enjoy.


Breakfast For One
Servings: 1

Ingredients:
- 1/2 cup original old fashioned oats
- 1 cup of water
- 1 Tbsp peanut butter (my favorite is cinnamon raisin swirl)
- 1 cup coffee (with any flavorings desired - I go 1/2 Tbsp creamer 1/2 Tbsp sugar)
- 1 cup berries of your choosing

Directions:
Boil water in a medium pot.  When water is boiling add in oats and turn heat to medium.  Cook for 5 minutes or until desired texture is reached.  Take off heat and stir in peanut butter immediately.  Top with berries and serve alongside a hot cup of coffee, hopefully not at 5am.


A Mary Original

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes

I know.

It's the end of January and pumpkin season is over.

I know.

And truthfully, I had packed away the three or so pumpkin recipes I had left to share and figured I would save them for next fall, when I thought they'd be more well received.

Then I was sitting there the other night, looking at all the pumpkin recipes I still wanted to make, and something dawned on me.

Maybe some of you out there, maybe you're just like me.  Maybe you like your pumpkin in January just as much as October.  After a quick text to a friend about this matter (because really what are best friends for if you can't text them about serious pumpkin questions) we were right on board.

So while my other pumpkin recipes will be hiding out until next fall (I think - I make no promises!) this one was too good not to be shared... right now.



During my high school years I used to go to Starbucks constantly.  Of all the drinks I would indulge in, my two main picks were hands down pumpkin spiced lattes and peppermint hot chocolates.  Even though I don't go there near as much anymore, whenever I do find myself in a Starbucks these two drinks are still some of my absolute favorite treats.  

Truth be told I find a great pumpkin spiced latte pretty hard to resist.

That's why when I saw the recipe for Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes on one of my favorite blogs, I just knew they had to be mine.  And boy did they deliver.  A light pumpkin cupcake topped with a whipped cream frosting and sprinkled with some cinnamon and a little caramel is straight up heaven any time of the year.

I know all you Starbucks aficionados will be quick to tell me that caramel isn't a part of the pumpkin spice latte drink, to which my sincere response is....

is caramel ever a bad thing? 


Think on that.  

My only regret is I didn't share these sooner.  A true winner.  Enjoy.


Pumpkin Spice Latte Cupcakes
Servings: 12

Ingredients:
For Cupcakes:
- 1 1/3 cups flour
- 1 1/2 Tbsp espresso powder (not instant coffee)
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1 tsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
- pinch grated nutmeg
- pinch ground cloves
- 1 tsp salt
- 7.5 oz pumpkin puree (slightly less than a cup)
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs

For Frosting:
- 1 cup heavy cream, chilled
- 1/8 cup powdered sugar
Ground cinnamon
Caramel sauce

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a standard muffin tin with paper liners.  Combine dry ingredients (flour to salt) in a bowl and whisk together.  In a separate bowl with an electric mixer combine pumpkin, both sugars, and oil until well blended.  Beat in eggs one at a time until combined.  With the mixer on low speed add the dry ingredients until just combined with no lumps.  Fill each cupcake well 2/3 full with batter.  Bake until a toothpick inserted into the middle of a cupcake comes out clean (18-20 minutes).  Place tin on a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes.  Then take cupcakes out and place on wire rack and let cool completely.  When cool, make icing.  Combine cream and powdered sugar in a clean bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and whip to soft peaks.  Transfer to a pastry bag fitted with a decorative tip (or just spread on cupcakes - keep it simple friends!) and swirl frosting onto cooled cupcakes.  Dust with ground cinnamon and drizzle with caramel if desired.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.


Recipe adapted from: Annie's Eats



Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Oranges


I am a snacker.  Tried and true.

I would rather eat my way through any day, little by little, bite by bite, over three big meals every single time.  It's just the way I've always been.

In grade school, back when snack time was an acceptable norm, I ordered a soft pretzel every single day.  Without fail.

Never mind that snack time is still an acceptable norm in my life every day.

Never mind that today I ate a soft pretzel at 10:30 am, approximately the same time as grade school snack time.

Know thyself.

But that's not the point.


The point is snack time can be swanky.  Snack time can be grown up too.  Snack time can be (will always be) awesome/my favorite time.

Enter these oranges.

Talk about awesome.

They're pretty much as basic as you can get, fresh oranges dipped in some dark chocolate and sprinkled with coarse sea salt.  A testament to the fact that simple sometimes is better.  These took me a total of five minutes to make and were one of the best snacks I've had in a long long while.

Curled up with a cup of tea and getting some work done set the scene for a perfect afternoon.

And since I had a little bit of chocolate left over after dipping my orange, I couldn't just let it go to waste.

Added bonus of growing up - chocolate covered pretzels any time you want.

Embrace your snack time.  Revamp your snack time.

Whether you make them for you and a friend or just to enjoy yourself, the important thing is that you do.

Simplicity is key. 

Enjoy.


Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Oranges
Servings: 1

Ingredients:
- 1 navel orange (or similar)
- 3-4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
- coarse sea salt

Directions:
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Peel orange and separate segments.  Melt chocolate in a bowl in the microwave on high heat, stirring every 30 seconds, until melted and smooth.  Dip half of each orange segment and place on baking sheet.  Sprinkle immediately with a little coarse sea salt.  Continue with all segments.  If chocolate hardens, return to microwave for another 30 seconds and stir.   Place in the freezer for 5 minutes to harden chocolate.  Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve.

Recipe inspired by: How Sweet Eats

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Gingerbread Rice Krispie Treats

I know I sit here and tell you a lot of what I make is super easy.  And truthfully, most of it is.  I get my thrills from no fuss, no frills things that come out fancy anyway.  It's just me.

But you have to believe me when I say, these are super easy to whip up.  Like 5 minutes active time.

5 minutes!!

By the time you finish reading this they could already be cooling, waiting patiently to be consumed.  Rice krispie treats are the ideal baking sweet for a beginner to start with.

These are really hard to mess up.  And even if you do mess up, odds are it's still going to be delicious.  Messing up is a relative term anyway.  Marshmallow + krispies is hard pressed not to = great.

And when you add some winter spice it just goes above and beyond.

These were my secret ammunition.  They straight up smell like the holidays.  Try not to eat 1 or 100 when you're taking them out of the bag.

I added these along with some ground ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves to really amp up the gingerbread flavor even more.  If you can't find these marshmallows don't worry.  Just add more of the spices to suit your tastes and we're still in business.

These rice krispies are best enjoyed on a vacation in sunny Florida with extended family wearing sundresses and sitting on the beach.  Because obviously that is where gingerbread things fit in the most in life.

Who said gingerbread things can't be enjoyed in a sundress on the beach?

My only regret was that I didn't save a few for myself at home so that when I returned to the cold weather and real life, I wasn't without them.


But everyone got to enjoy them so it was worth it.  And when my Aunt Sheri went home with the whole plate, we loved her even more.

Not pictured: Sheri and the rice krispie treats.  Sher, if you're enjoying one right now on the beach in a sundress.... lie to me.  Lie.to.me.


Beach or no beach, these are so incredibly good and oh did I mention?  They're not half bad in the healthy factor zone.  So you have no reason not to make them.

They could have already been done by now.  Go!


Gingerbread Rice Krispie Treats

Servings: 9 large or 16 small

Ingredients:
-6 cups rice krispies cereal
- 4 Tbsp unsalted butter
- 1 (10oz bag) gingerbread marshmallows
- 2 dashes ground cinnamon
- dash of ground nutmeg
- dash of ground ginger
- pinch of ground cloves

Directions:
Spray an 8x8 or 9x9 inch pan with cooking spray.  Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat.  When melted add marshmallows and stir until melted but not burnt.  Take off heat and sprinkle in spices.  Pour in rice krispies.  Stir until evenly coated.  Pour into prepared pan and press down with rubber or metal spatula to make even.  Let cool on a wire rack (or if you're impatient like me throw them in the freezer for 5-10 minutes).  Cut into bars and enjoy.  Store in an airtight container or covered at room temperature.  

Recipe: A Mary Original


Saturday, January 7, 2012

Happy 1st Birthday Mary Quite Contrary Bakes!

I'm so sorry for my week long hiatus, but New Years Eve afternoon... right after I posted my round up of 2011 actually, my computer decided to crash.  After an impromptu run to the mall and a weekend of work, it was back to me safe and sound but then the next morning (at 4:00 am no less) I was packed in the car and headed to the airport to visit beautiful Florida.

I had such ambitious plans to blog while down there, but on the first day in it was evident that my internet was not going to work on my laptop.  I took it as a sign to shut the computer and just go out there and relax for the week, and I jumped at the chance.

It was the four most wonderful days I've had in a long time.  I honestly can't believe how much we packed into it.  I'll be sure to share more about the trip in my next post, but for now I will say it was crammed full of relaxation, great food, loved ones, rosemary blood orange gin sparklers (recipe to be posted!) and so much laughter I can't even quantify it.

But on Wednesday was in fact my one year Blogiversary, or my blog's first birthday - whichever you'd rather, and I had planned to post about it for ages.  So here I am a few days later, but much less worse for wear.


A year ago from Wednesday was the first day I ever posted on my blog.  You can read the blog post right here.  I remember wondering at the time if I would be able to keep up with this, or if would fall by the wayside.  I'm so pleased that I'm still right here baking and photographing away, with no intentions of stopping.

Speaking of photography, this is one aspect of my blogging in the year that I have seen tangible improvements in.  I am by no means at the end point of where I want to be, but looking back it's almost astonishing to me how much I've gained just from chugging along.

The photos of the birthday cake I made for the teeny blog birthday celebrations were photographed in the exact same spot as the Panettone Bread Pudding, at the same time of day, and with the same exact camera... on the same setting no less.


January 2011.

January 2012.

This above all things makes me so excited to see where I will be next year with my photography, and all the wonderful things I will be able to experience to get there.

There's no recipe here today, as I just used my favorite vanilla cake and basic buttercream recipes to bake up a tiny cake for celebrating.  I promise a super delicious and simple (I'm talking 5-minutes) recipe that travels really well on Monday or Tuesday.  How I know it travels well is that I was only able to eat one before I brought them to Florida, where they were devoured within one night by my extended family.

But for now, quite simply, Happy Birthday.  May this next year of blogging be just as much fun as the first.