Our Snorting House Guest, 22 Laps on a Track, and other July Events

Hello blog world!  As July winds down I wanted to share some of the things we’ve been up to this month.  So, without further ado, here I go!

1.  We have a tiny house guest who snorts occasionally. (OK, a lot.)

Meet Spencer.  This feisty little pug belongs to Matt’s sister and her husband and he’s staying with us for a few days.  He has quite a personality and is constantly snorting and sniffing his way around the house and yard.  Quite a difference from the big GSPs and labs that I am used to!  There are more photos of this little character at the end of the post if you haven’t gotten your fill of pug pictures yet.

2. I chose to run 22 laps around a track yesterday.

Yup, that’s 5.5 miles in case you were counting.  Yesterday I must have gone crazy because I voluntarily joined a running club for their weekly speedwork at a local track.  This was my first time running on a track since 2007 and boy, was it different than running a hurdle workout!  The goal was to run the intervals at 5K pace and I actually did that surprisingly well, but apparently an 8 minute 5K pace is pretty slow because even the slowest of the women lapped me at least once during the workout.  But, I guess that’s why I’m trying speedwork… to get faster!!! 🙂  I’m not sure yet but I think I might just go back next week.

Tuesday night speedwork

3. On Saturday we hosted a party for 50 people..!

Did I mention that Matt and I have been crazy busy with housework and yard work since May?  That’s because we knew we were hosting a huge fiesta-themed bridal shower for our awesome soon-to-be sister-in-law and we wanted to get everything looking good.  “Looking good” included a complete overhaul of our front walk landscaping, tons of gardening, repainting and steam cleaning the room that used to be Bailey’s hangout, and a multitude of other self-imposed tasks around the house.  It all came together perfectly on Saturday when 50+ people arrived for the shower.  (That’s a lot of people, by the way.)  The party was a blast but I’m also kind of excited that it’s over… now I might actually find some time after work to sit down and relax! (Or, you know, blog!)

4. Pup of the Month, Miss July edition:

Way back in November I learned that Bailey was chosen to be featured in Purebread Deli‘s 2014 Calendar.  Purebread is a local bakery/cafe that has a dog theme and as part of winning the contest we got a free calender full of dog photos and coupons.  Bailey was named “Miss July” so her photo has been gracing the wall of my cubicle at work all month.  It’s hard to believe that she has been gone exactly 6 months today.  Matt and I still miss her a lot but we are at least fortunate to get to spend time with the other dogs in our family like Spencer, Bella and Hershey.
(The calendar photo was taken at a DockDogs event in 2012 – you can read about it in this post if you’re interested.)


And now, as promised, here are more pictures of Spencer.  He’s pretty cute, right?  🙂  Have a great night!

Whoopie Pies!

We’re home from Las Vegas so it’s time for more holiday recipe catch-up.  Next up on the list: homemade whoopie pies!

Whoopie Pies

We spent the last hours of 2012 at a New Year’s Eve Extravaganza and Celebrity-Themed Potluck hosted by Kristen from Swig O Sunshine.  The rules of the potluck were simple: bring a dish with a celebrity-named twist.  Matt and I were determined to come up with a fun contribution and, after weeks of bouncing around ideas we chose Whoopi Goldberg Pies with Leonardo diCappucino Filling.  (We previously wanted to make Twice-Baked Channing Taters but the logistics of keeping cheesy ‘taters warm until midnight ultimately pushed us in the dessert direction instead!)  Other cleverly-named treats at the party included Guacy Balboa guacamole, Honey Brie-Brie baked brie, Brad Pittzelle cookies (with and without Jennifer Anise-ton!), Bernie Mac and Cheese, and several Kevin Bacon-themed goodies.

This was our first attempt at making whoopie pies but, thanks to the classic recipes in this whoopie-filled cookbook they turned out great!  We followed the recipe exactly (right down to using vegetable shortening instead of butter in the filling) and then we added the necessary diCappucino flair with some powered instant cappucino.  The instant cappucino didn’t have a super strong flavor so if we were going to make the coffee-flavored filling again we might try instant espresso instead for a little more kick.

I made this sign to go along with our 'whoopi' pies at the potluck dinner.

I used cartoon faces and photoshop to make a sign that illustrated the celebrities that inspired this dessert at the potluck dinner.

Whoopi Goldberg Pies with Leonardo diCappucino Filling (from Whoopie Pies)

Ingredients for the Classic Chocolate Whoopie Pie…
1 2/3 cups All-Purpose Flour
2/3 cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 1/2 teaspoons Baking Soda
1/2 teaspoon Salt
4 tablespoons Unsalted Butter, at room temperature
4 tablespoons Vegetable Shortening
1 cup packed Dark Brown Sugar (we used Dark Muscovado Sugar)
1 Egg
1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract
1 cup Milk

Ingredients for the Classic Marshmallow Filling…
1 1/2 cup Marshmallow Fluff
1 1/4 cup Vegetable Shortening
1 cup Confectioner’s Sugar
1 tablespoon Vanilla Extract (to turn this into “diCappuncino” filling, substitute in 1 tablespoon Instant Espresso that’s been dissolved into 1 tablespoon warm water instead of the vanilla)

To make the pies, sift together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.  In a stand mixer, combine the butter, shortening, and brown sugar on low speed, then increase the speed to medium and beat until the mixture is smooth and fluffy, about 3 minutes.  Add the egg and vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.

Slowly add the flour mixture and the milk and and mix on low to thoroughly combine.  Scrap a spatula down the sides of the bowl to loosen any dry ingredients and then beat until completely combined.  Use a spoon to drop batter in 1 or 2 tablespoon increments 2 or 3 inches apart onto a parchment-lined baking sheet.  (We used 2-tbsp scoops which resulted in about 26 3.5″ pie halves; go smaller for more but just be consistent since they’ll need to fit together later!)  Bake the pies on the center rack of a preheated 375° oven for about 10 minutes for 1 tbsp pies or 12-13 minutes for 2 tbsp pies.  Remove from oven and allow to cool on the sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to racks to cool.

Whoopie Pies ready for filling

To make the filling, beat together the marshmallow fluff and vegetable shortening for approximately 3 minutes.  Start on low speed and increase to medium until the mixture is smooth and fluffy.  Reduce the speed to low and slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and vanilla (or espresso!) and mix until incorporated.  Increase mixer speed to medium and beat for about 3 minutes until the mixture is fluffy.

Once the pies are completely cooled arrange them in pairs with one flat side facing up as shown in the above photo.  Place a generous amount of filling to the flat side of the pie by either spooning the filling on or using a pastry bag for a more polished look.  Top the filled pies with the other pie halves and enjoy!

Whoopie Pies 2

Shh… It’s a Surprise!!!

Last weekend my mom and I threw a surprise birthday party for her fiancé.  I don’t want to get into too many personal details, but suffice it to say that he was VERY surprised to walk into his own kitchen after a day at the golf course to find 20+ of his closest friends and family ready to party!

My mom and I had a blast planning the menu and secretly hiding the food in the days before the party.  By the morning of the party my mom had managed to successfully conceal 2 dozen brining chicken breasts, impressive amounts of peppers, onions and potatoes, and all of the dips, dressings, and glazes in the refrigerator behind little walls of soda and beer cans and a few strategically placed bags of salad greens… good job, Mom!

One of my culinary contributions to the party was a platter of single-serving Caprese Skewers.  Combining each bite of cherry tomato and mozzarella onto skewers allowed our guests to snack on the caprese with just one hand (leaving the other free for a beverage!) which made this a great appetizer for a party.  It’s also an easy dish to make for a party because you can assemble the skewers several hours ahead of time and then simply garnish with some fresh basil right before serving.

Bite-Sized Caprese Skewers with Tomatoes, Mozzarella, Basil & Balsamic Glaze

You will need…
2-3 small handfuls Arugula
25-30 Marinated Mozzarella Balls, approx. 1″ in diameter
2 pints Cherry Tomatoes, cut in half and kept “paired” with their halves
Toothpicks; can use the slightly longer “sandwich picks” for a little extra space
6-8 extra Cherry Tomatoes, cut into quarters
Balsamic Glaze (use a bottled glaze or make your own balsamic reduction)
10-15 Basil Leaves

Arrange the arugula along the center of a serving tray.  Slice each mozzarella ball into 4 pieces by slicing off the rounded ends (2 pieces) and cutting the center of the ball in half (2 pieces).  Set the small rounded ends aside.

Skewer the top of a tomato half with the toothpick and slide the tomato onto the stick.  Next, slide one of the center mozzarella pieces onto the toothpick.  Skewer the bottom half of the tomato and slide it into place on the toothpick as shown in the photo.  Repeat with all of your halved tomatoes and mozzarella, arranging the skewers onto the arugula as you go.

Sprinkle the rounded mozzarella ball ends and the quartered tomatoes onto the arugula as a garnish.  Drizzle the balsamic glaze over the entire tray.  If needed, you can refrigerate the tray until party time at this point (that’s what we did!).  Before serving, roll up the basil leaves and use kitchen scissors to cut them into long slices.  Arrange the basil slices over the caprese skewers.  (The basil isn’t shown in my photos since I took them a few hours before the party started.)