Easter 2017

While I’m over here taking my sweet time trying to write up all the fun I had in Nashville last month, I didn’t want to miss the chance to share a cute and easy Easter tablescape from this past weekend! But first, a short life update.

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Sean and I are currently searching for our first house, a process I am already not enjoying very much. (I lack a particularly important virtue, ahem, patience.) Couple that with my always-busy, can-never-sit-still schedule and you have a recipe for unlimited amounts of frustration. Luckily, my laid back, go-with-the-flow husband keeps things in check, both for me and for our budget which I’m willing to blow any time a just-out-of-reach Colonial comes on the market.

Besides the obvious reasons for wanting to own a home, one of the things I’m most looking forward to is being able to entertain. While I do love our current rental condo and will most likely cry unnecessarily when it’s time to move out, the fact that I can’t sit more than 6 people comfortably in our main living area is not conducive to the type of hosting I want to do. (This includes Pizzazzerie-level planning, decorating, themes in case you were wondering.) The possibilities are endless and so are my hopes for this house.

So anyway.

For the big holidays like Christmas and Easter at my parents’ house, my mom and dad are usually so busy getting dinner ready that they have no problem whatsoever relinquishing the table to me. This year, I wanted to keep it simple and highlight the Lindt GOLD BUNNY figures I picked up from a sale at work. My mind immediately visualized the set up: white tablecloth, gold chargers, white napkins, a Lindt GOLD BUNNY, a few chocolate eggs, simple candles and a bouquet of white and/or yellow flowers in a crystal vase in the center.

This table came together in under ten minutes. I used my parents’ good silverware but any would do (maybe even gold flatware if you have some?!) Since everyone was drinking different beverages, I set one wine glass at every place setting to make the whole thing look cohesive and finished. It was simple, elegant, and every one loved it.

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My parents, as always, made an incredible dinner so I brought dessert: a Lemon-Blueberry layer cake with cream cheese frosting (recipe from Sally’s Baking Addiction.) It really was the best way to end such a wonderful holiday with our family. Maybe next year I’ll host Easter brunch at my house….

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Do you have any first-time homebuying tips? Ways to not completely lose your mind during the process? Please send them my way!

Life Lately

Once again, it’s been over a month since my last post. I feel like 2013 is flying and there’s absolutely nothing I can do to slow it down. And since my last post, lots of things have been happening.

The DanceWorks Boston Season 6 show was a huge success and I got amazing feedback on my piece, “World Spins Madly On.

My beautiful dancers. Couldn't have asked for a more incredible group!
My beautiful dancers. Couldn’t have asked for a more incredible group!

I got a job (insert a million exclamation points and a massive sigh of relief here.)  More details to come (and maybe a giveaway..?) but I am loving my new career as a Social Specialist at Lindt & Sprungli Chocolate USA. And despite my commute that is roughly an hour each way, I have plans on moving up to New Hampshire, just over the Massachusetts border to make it a little easier. Additional details on that will also be coming shortly.

I work at a chocolate factory... I really can't complain.
I work at a chocolate factory… I really can’t complain.

I’ve known this guy for over a year. It’s crazy to think how fast a year has gone by. I feel like it was yesterday that we met at our friends’ wedding and three short days later I was boarding a plane for 7 weeks in London. I wouldn’t change anything about this past year with him.

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I shot my first gun. A semi-automatic shotgun to be precise. I had so much adrenaline pumping through me, I was shaking after I shot it. I didn’t actually hit anything, but that just means there’s lots of room for improvement. And it seems that Sean has also caught the shooting bug so I foresee some shooting ranges and target practice  in our future.

And yes, those things do kick you in the shoulder when you fire them. In case you were wondering.
And yes, those things do kick you in the shoulder when you fire them. In case you were wondering.

My 4th of July looked like this:

Amazing right? Here's where I found the tutorial. Totally worth the extra effort. http://www.glorioustreats.com/2011/06/4th-of-july-flag-cake.html
Amazing right? Here’s where I found the tutorial. Totally worth the extra effort.
How awesome are our shirts though?
How awesome are our shirts though?
Love me some Picstich.
Love me some Pic Stitch.

I played laser tag, bought a bridesmaid dress, and had all sorts of fun bonding with my friend Sam’s bridal party. June 7, 2014 is going to be insane.

I can't wait for next June.
I can’t wait for next June.

My 25th birthday is in less than 2 weeks.  Um, what? Wasn’t I just in Paris turning 24?

My 24th Birthday in Paris... #takemeback
My 24th Birthday in Paris… #takemeback

So that’s a quick look of what’s going on around here. What big plans do you have this summer? Have you ever made that flag cake before? I’d love to know your feedback.

A Quick Update

Things have been rolling along here, just puttering through this winter that suddenly got 10 times worse when Blizzard Nemo decided to dump close to 30 inches of snow on Massachusetts last weekend, but hey, shoveling is part of life too.

Snowball fight BEFORE the storm actually started.
Snowball fight BEFORE the storm actually started.

Now that things are cleaned up a bit, here’s what’s been going on lately.

My wonderful boyfriend turned 27. Or as I like to remind him: the end to his mid-twenties and the almost-approaching-30 years. Needless to say, that doesn’t necessarily thrill him. But I did get him Bruins tickets for an April game against the Islanders and made this…

#masterpiece
#masterpiece

… so he was pretty happy.  I found this beauty on Pinterest (follow me!) and followed this recipe to put it together. I highly recommend it even though it was a lengthy process.

I successfully made Honey Oat Bread from scratch.

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I’ve only attempted a yeast bread one other time and this one was way better. I usually shy away from recipes that call for 3+ hours of resting/rising time just because I usually don’t have that much time and I’m not very patient. But on a cold day with nothing to do and a lonely packet of instant yeast in the cabinet, why not?  I recommend this recipe.

– My friends threw me a surprise Master’s graduation party…. and I had absolutely no idea. My best friends and dance friends were there and I got presents and drank (a lot of) Asti in celebration. It was wonderful.

This is my "What the hell is going on here?" face.
This is my “What the hell is going on here?” face.

– DanceWorks Boston Season 6 started!

I’m in 4 routines this time around, and choreographing my 5th DWB piece to “World Spins Madly On” by the Weepies.  I’ll take a group photo at our next rehearsal.

– I’m going to host my 2nd giveaway soon!

Freshly baked cookies may or may not be included … don’t miss it!

Tell me! What’s new in your life? What would you like to see as a theme for a giveaway that includes cookies? 

Brunching at Back Deck

As I walked into the Back Deck Restaurant on West Street in Boston on Sunday, I couldn’t believe that it had been over a year since I last attended a Boston Brunchers‘ event. It was also the first brunch where I got to use my new fancy camera!

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Since the Patriots were playing in the AFC Championship game later that day, I knew I had to work at 3pm, so when Renee sent a contest around to win a seat at this brunch from 12pm-2pm, I knew I couldn’t pass up the chance to enter. When I was selected, I was beyond excited.

When I sat down, I was greeted by a few familiar faces, like Erika, Meghan, Liz and Jess.  I wasted no time choosing a signature drink from their menu: an Orange Cooler, complete with OJ, orange vodka, Cointreau and lime juice. I loved it. If it was acceptable to have one of those every morning, I would. The alcohol was subtle, but present and the juice was fresh. Perfect start to brunch.

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Each bruncher got to choose an item off of the menu to try and we decided to start with some appetizers to share at the table: grilled zucchini with a garlic mayo, eggplant spread on pita, squash soup, chicken livers, hot wings with dipping sauce, and a honey-drizzled grilled grapefruit.  I wasn’t particularly fond of the chicken livers, and the grapefruit was difficult to eat, but everything else was delicious.

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As I perused the menu trying to decide what to order, I felt the brunch menu leaned more towards lunch than breakfast. Maybe I’m just strange, but even during “brunch”, I almost always choose a breakfast item. So that’s what I did, settling on Eggs Diablo. I must’ve been feeling a little adventurous since a) I almost never order egg-y breakfast items and b) this dish came complete with a habenero sauce (which I asked for on the side just in case…)

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I would say that the dish was good, but not mind-blowing. The eggs were perfectly cooked: fluffy, light and just runny enough, but I didn’t taste much spice on the “spicy” pork. The black beans and tortillas tasted as they should. I think I would’ve preferred toast to the tortillas under the beans. I didn’t really eat much of it. The crispy tortilla strips on top, however, were a textural element that I enjoyed. When I took taste of the habenero sauce, I was instantly thankful that I asked for it on the side. While tasty, even the smallest amount warmed my mouth and throat and any more would’ve overpowered the whole dish. When I was able to get everything on my fork all at once, I must say it was quite delicious. Separately, however, the elements on the plate were good, but not great.

The other menu item I was eyeing was the Challah French Toast, which the bruncher sitting next to me happened to order. The moment I took a bite, I knew it would’ve been more my style. It was crisp on the outside, creamy on the inside, and had a bourbon and caramelized banana sauce… Heaven. And, it was huge!

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But we weren’t done yet. Our server came over with a dessert menu and, like our appetizers, we got a few to share. The “Drunken 3 Musketeer” ice cream was by far my favorite.

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Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed this brunch and would recommend Back Deck for any Sunday. Heads up – they have a kiddie menu too so don’t be afraid to bring the kiddos along!  If you’re looking for a reasonably priced good time, try it out!

*The Back Deck provided brunch free of charge to the Boston Brunchers and I was asked to write a review of the meal and experience I had. ALL opinions stated here are my own.

Virtual Bake Sale!

Attention Chocolate & Wine Readers!

I want/need/must tell you about an amazing opportunity to make a huge difference.  A difference to a first-time marathon runner and an incredible charity.  And an opportunity to get some delicious goodies!

My good friend/fellow Boston blogger and bruncher, Amanda, is running the Boston Marathon for the first time.  She is running for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and is attempting to raise $4,000.  Right now, you can attend her blog’s virtual bake sale and bid on a variety of baked goods by some of her favorite bloggers (myself included!!!!)

These are my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls. You should probably go bid on them.

Simply visit her website between now and January 28th to bid on the items.  All of the proceeds go towards the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society and will help her reach her goal.  Amanda is a kind, passionate person who wants nothing more than to run 26.2 miles successfully and have an impact on this charity.  YOU can help her make it happen.

Questions?  Shoot me an e-mail!  And please let me know via comment if you bid on anything/win anything, especially if you bid on/bid on my Double Chocolate Oreo Balls!

MY PLEDGE:

For every Chocolate & Wine reader who bids on a baked good from Amanda’s bake sale and leaves me a comment here telling me you did, I will donate $1 to Amanda’s charity.  For every baked good a Chocolate & Wine reader bids on AND WINS, I will donate $5 to Amanda’s charity.  And if a Chocolate & Wine reader wins MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, I will donate $15 to Amanda’s charity site!!  Either way, this is a win-win-win situation to help people in need!

Rules:
(PS – these are based on the honor system.  If you say you bid on something, please make sure you do…)

1.  Bid on an item on Amanda’s bake sale and leave me a comment telling me you did.  Include what you bid on and how much you bid.

2.  If you win an item, leave me a comment telling me what you won and how much you paid for it.

3.  If you win MY Double Chocolate Oreo Balls, leave me a comment telling me you did and how much you paid for it.  Then enjoy them immensely when I send them to you!

I mean... yum.

I’ll keep a pledge tally and tell you how much I will personally be donating at the end of the bake sale.

Good Luck and Happy Bidding!!

1st Blogiversary & 1st Giveaway!

Happy 1st Blogiversary Chocolate & Wine!

Is it rude to wish yourself a Happy Blogiversary?  Maybe… sorry about that.

One year ago today, I was sitting at my desk at work, searching the Internet for something to make for dinner when I decided to start this blog.  At first, it was to document recipes and photos of the food I make.  From there, it spiraled into a cornucopia of food, fitness and fun.  And I thank all of you for helping it (and me) get to where it is now.  I am more than grateful for how much support I have gotten for this blog over the last year.

For my 1st Blogiversary, I also want to do my first ever giveaway!

I love giveaways.  I follow lots of blogs that are lucky enough (and popular enough) to have companies sponsor them and send them gifts to give away to their readers.  I may not be at that point just yet (it’s coming though… any day now!), I still want to host a giveaway all my own.

So what will be included in this fabulous giveaway?  Some of my favorite things that I’m sure you will enjoy!

1) My favorite pastime.  Baking is one of my favorite things to do so I want to bake for YOU! (You see how I even made up that little rhyme? I’m good like that.)  The winner will have a choice of peanut butter blossom cookies, sugar cookies or multi-chip cookies that I will send to them.

2) My favorite peanut butter.  If you haven’t tried Better ‘n Peanut Butter, this is your chance to get a whole jar for yourself.  Warning: If you like said PB and eat the whole jar, I am not responsible. (Note: Allergic to nuts? Enter anyway and we’ll figure out an alternative together!)

3) A Favorite Book.  Let Me Eat Cake by Leslie F. Miller.  A must-read for food lovers!

4) My Favorite Chocolate.  I mean, it’s only fitting to include this.  It’ll be a surprise to the winner which chocolate I choose.

5) My Favorite Wine….Glass.  Apparently it’s frowned upon by the law to mail actual wine.  However, you will receive a pretty cool wine glass that you can pour your own wine in.  And I’ll tell you what my favorite wine is so you can go find it!

There will also be a few surprises in there that I’ll keep secret for the winner.

Who Can Enter?  Anybody!  As long as you enjoy fun, free gifts, I’d love for you to win!

PLEASE REMEMBER to include an e-mail address that you check on a regular basis in all of your comments!  It would be shame to not be able to contact the person who wins!

Ways to Win:

1) Mandatory Entry: Leave a comment telling me what your all-time favorite food and/or pastime is!

Extra Entries:

1) Follow me on Twitter (@ChocoAndWine) and tweet “I want to win @ChocoAndWine ‘s 1st Blogiversary Giveaway!” Then leave a separate comment telling me you did.

2) “Like” my page on Facebook and write me a separate comment telling me you did.

3) Sign up for Chocolate & Wine e-mails using the link on the sidebar “CRAVING MORE CHOCOLATE AND WINE?”.  Leave a separate comment telling me you did!

Good luck to everyone!  Entries can be submitted until Sunday, September 11th, 11:59pm EST. I will select the winner using a random generator and will announce who won on Monday, September 12th!

Cake Pops

My NDA summer officially begins next Monday (yep – the 4th of July) when I board a flight to Kansas.  Never been there and very excited to visit.  Ergo, I have lots of routine learning to do which is why I opted out of the gym yesterday to dance around in my living room.

My afternoon...
And some Rachael Ray!

I also decided that I want to invest my time in trying at least 2 new recipes a week.  Recipes that are healthy, fun and different.  Last night, I dove into the world of Cake Pops after Hungry Girl remade them.  (The secret to their low calorie success = marshmallows!)

Warning: This recipe, while not complicated, gets VERY messy.  It says to “dampen your hands often” to prevent the cake from sticking, but the cake will probably stick to your hands anyway.  You will become a gooey mess and wonder why the hell you are doing this about halfway through the process.  Are we all okay with that?  Alright.  Moving on…

The cake pops are chocolate-y, soft and rich and while they are supposed to resemble the classic pops that Starbucks now offers at 200 calories each (and those things are teenie tiny), this recipe lightens the load and they are BIGGER.  They are 3 PointsPlus on Weight Watchers (oh yeah, did I mention I’m trying that again? But the book version this time, not the online.. more details about that another time) and I could’ve eaten the whole tray.  I restrained myself, don’t worry.

Cake Pops
Adapted from Hungry Girl
Should yield 20-24 pops, I got 21

Ingredients:
Half a box of Devil’s Food Chocolate Cake Mix (about 1.5 cups)
1/2 cup no-sugar-added applesauce
1 cup Cool Whip Free
12 regular-sized marshmellows, halved widthwise
1 cup mini chocolate chips
20-24 lollipop sticks

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Spray an 8×8 baking sheet with nonstick spray and set aside.

Combine cake mix, applesauce and 1/2 cup water in a bowl and whisk thoroughly to combine.  The batter will be thick but if it’s a bit lumpy, add a bit more water to thin in it.  Pour batter into the prepared baking dish and bake in oven for approximately 35 minutes or until a knife comes out of the center clean.

Let cake cool completely.  This is very important – don’t ignore it!

While the cake is cooling, you can line a baking sheet with parchment paper and make room in your fridge for it.  That should take all of 30 seconds, leaving you plently of time to watch tv, read a book or stalk follow a blog.

Once cake is cooled, place it in a large bowl and crumble it with your hands until you have crumbs.  Add the Cool Whip and use your hands to combine the two.  The mixture should hold its shape once fully combined and will be very moist.

Place half of the mixture on a non-wooden cutting board and form a log.  Slice the log into 12 equal pieces.  Dampen your hands often to help prevent the cake from sticking (…..) Take each piece, roll into into a ball and flatten it on your palm.  Place a marshmallow half in the center of the cake and mold the cake around the ‘mallow until it is completely covered.  Roll the cake-covered-mallow in your hands to form a ball and place on prepared baking sheet.  Repeat with all of the pieces and the other half of the cake mixture until you have a lovely sheet full of cake-covered marshmallow balls.

Insert a lollipop stick into the center of each pop.  Be careful not to go all with way through the ball. 

Melt the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl.  Start with 45 seconds on 50% power, and then in 30 second intervals at 50% power, stirring in between until the chips are melted completely.

Using a spoon, cover each cake ball with chocolate and place back on the baking sheet, stick up.  Transfer sheet to fridge and let the chocolate harden (should take about 45 minutes.)

Then mow inhale enjoy responsibly!

Marshmallow-y goodness.