I Heart Cookies

Don't get me wrong. I love alot of things. The fall. Breakfast in Bed on Soapnet. Bailey's Chocolate Bar. Opening up the windows in the spring. Curling up each night w/ Mr. VB. My wine bottle opener. This song. Jeff Bridges. My rub-away bar that gets rid of the garlic smell on my hands.

I could go on and on.

Really. I could.

But, I also love cookies. And, these are pretty darn good. Then again -- they do come from Martha and I've never known the lady to make a bad cookie.

Honestly, I don't even know the lady at all. But word gets around.

Heart-Glazed Cornmeal Cookies
From Everyday Foods

2 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
1/2 tsp coarse salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 drops red or pink food coloring

Preheat oven to 400 F. Whisk together flour, cornmeal, and salt.

Cream butter and 1/2 cup granulated sugar until creamy, about 3 minutes. Add in egg and 1 tsp vanilla and beat until combined.

With mixer running, add in flour mixture.

Place 1/4 cup granulated sugar in a small bowl. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar. Place on lined baking sheet and flatten balls with the bottom of a glass. Press a cookie cutter into the cookie, but don't cut all the way through. Bake until they have golden edges, rotating pans halfway through. They will bake around 12 minutes, but check at 10.

Let cookies cool on wire rack.Whisk together powdered sugar, 1/4 tsp vanilla, and 1 3/4 tsp cold water. Whisk in food coloring. Glaze cookies and let cool.

To keep them super soft, store them in a tin w/ a slice of bread. Preferably a Christmas tin. Which is what I did this week. I think that was the key.

Eat your heart out, Martha!


Baked Sweet Potato Fries

It's only recently that I discovered sweet potatoes. Up until now, I've put all of my focus on the yukon.

The russet.

Maybe an occasional fingerling if I was feeling saucy.

All the while, completely ignoring the deliciously sweet sweet potato. No more!

I found this recipe on http://www.skinnytaste.com/. Gina's site is devoted to healthy meals (and all come with Weight Watcher points listed!). Check her out! I'm looking forward to trying many of her recipes this year.

Spicy Chipotle Sweet Potato Fries

  • 1 sweet potato, (about 5" long) peeled and cut into 1/4" fries
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • ground chipotle chile
  • garlic powder 
Preheat oven to 425°. In a medium bowl, toss sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, garlic powder and chipotle chile powder. Spread potatoes on a baking sheet. Avoid crowding so potatoes get crisp. Bake 15 minutes. Turn and bake an additional 10-15 minutes. Ovens may vary so keep an eye on them and be sure to cut all the potatoes the same size to ensure even cooking.


Say Hello to My Little Friend

It's snowing again in St. Louis! I spent a lovely day inside, baking cookies for my valentine, roasting garlic, reading on my Nook, and watching this little guy out my window. Well...big guy. I guess all of us aren't counting points all day long!

We whipped up some tasty recipes this weekend -- I can't wait to share them with you!


Master Bedroom Update {taking my sweet time}

It's been a couple of weeks since all the smack talk I was doing about updating our bedroom. Progress is being made, my friends. I assure you. Here's a peek at what I've done so far.

I recovered the bench and the headboard (before and after pics) -- getting rid of the "leather" and replacing it with new fabric.

You are only getting a brief glimpse of the headboard because:
a) I'm going to keep you in suspense until the Big Reveal and
b) I didn't make the bed the day I took this shot.

We also started painting. This has been more difficult than I originally intended because someone, who shall remain nameless, picked a bad color and we had to go and pick a new color. OK...it was me. It happens to the best of us.

Here's a shot of the first color. It was supposed to be gray, but turned up almost light blue. And not much of a contrast from the existing color.

So, back to Home Depot to try a different color. The cashier is a cute, older gentleman who always thanks Mr. VB for bringing in his beautiful assistant (ME!!!). I might just start going there for the compliments. But, I digress.

Here we are today! Yes, I am aware only half the wall is painted. Mr. VB isn't sold on the color yet. We'll be slapping up some chair rail this weekend, and I think once that is done, the room will look alot different.

Have a great weekend!


Snowed In & a Treat!

It's a snowday here in St. Louis! We got about 8 inches last night. The girls have been having a good time running around...

The chase is on!

Nose in the snow, looking for the treat I tossed out there!

Notice how Marley color coordinates with the fence. Such a fashionista!

A snow day wouldn't be complete without some homemade goodies! I've started Weight Watchers, in an effort to lose a few pounds before our trip in May (don't want to sink the ship!). This recipe for Whole Wheat Brownies comes from Everyday Food and by my calculations is 4 points.

I noticed too late that it calls for unsweetened apple sauce. To cut down on sweetness, I cut the brown sugar to 1/2 cup. They are very cake-like and turned out great!


Whole Wheat Brownies
Makes 16
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus more for pan
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (spooned and leveled)
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour (spooned and leveled)
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup packed light-brown sugar
1 1/4 cups unsweetened applesauce
1 large egg
8 ounces semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter an 8-inch square baking dish; line with parchment, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides. In a medium bowl, whisk together flours, cocoa, baking powder, salt, and baking soda.

In a large bowl, stir together sugar, applesauce, and egg. Place butter and 6 ounces chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over (not in) a pot of simmering water; stir until melted. Stir chocolate mixture into sugar mixture. Stir in flour mixture. Pour into pan and top with 2 ounces chocolate.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in center comes out with moist crumbs attached, 40 minutes. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. Use parchment to lift cake from pan and cut into 16 squares. (Store in an airtight container, up to 5 days.)


::2011 Projects::


I don't know about you, but this full week back to work after nearly two weeks of vacation was a long one. I just tried heating up my dinner in the pantry...that's never a good sign!

Last weekend, I quietly put up the 2011 project list for around the pad. So, to really hold myself accountable, I'm calling it out right now!

*Editor's Note: This is a short list of projects -- mostly consisting of painting and decorating. I fully intend to add to the list throughout the year. Heck, I'll probably add to it every day.

To start us off:

Our Master Bedroom

I've already recovered the bench at the end of the bed. There will be more recovering and maybe even some painting this weekend! We are also talking about putting up a chair rail...you'll just have to wait and see!

Once our bedroom is finished, we'll tackle:

 The Master Bathroom

Again, this is mostly painting (gotta get rid of those hideous cabinets!) We'll also look into changing the sinks and counter top.

Then, we'll start making our way downstairs. But, we won't get too far before we hit the next project:

Finish the Stairs

This is where we left them last spring. If you recall, I came home one day from work to find that Mr. VB had ripped the carpet off of the stairs. Much taping and painting ensued. Not to mention having to fill in where the stairs didn't actually meet up with the wall. We have never been happy with the colors we chose. So, more painting is in store! Glidden is going to love us.

Certainly, after all this painting, it will be time to head to the:

Laundry Room

I'm thinking stripes. And baskets. I love baskets. {Mr. VB, on the other hand, hates them}

Last, but certainly not least, I'd like to spruce this space up:

The Kitchen Pantry

Whoever said the pantry can't be super cute? Not me. I've seen some adorable ones out there...and I totally intend to copy them.

*Yet Another Editor's Note: From this photo, it would appear that we live on an assortment of vinegars and olive oil. Which we drink from martini glasses. This is not far from the truth.


French Toast with Pear-Cranberry Compote

Just like many people out there, getting in shape and losing a couple of lbs is one of my top resolutions for 2011. For that reason alone, I'm glad I was able to squeeze in this french toast during the holidays. 

Heck, for all I know, this french toast is the reason I can't squeeze into my favorite jeans. 

Well, that and the two dozen peanut butter balls I've consumed in the last three weeks.

For the french toast, I recommend the french toast recipe from America's Test Kitchen. I know it can seem like a pain. Drying out the toast. Warming the whole milk. Separating the eggs. But, trust me, it's worth it. Your thighs will thank you in the morning. This time around, we used Texas Toast (not the stuff in the freezer section...it's the thick loaf of bread mixed in with all the others) and it was delightful. The Test Kitchen says just regular ol' Bunny will work too. But, as long as you are going all-out, get some bread that will really soak up all the sinful goodness.

This was my first time making a compote and I tell you what...it doesn't suck. You can make this ahead of time and then just warm it up before you serve it atop your french toast. Or pancakes. Or pork tenderloin. Like I said, this compote does not suck.

For the pear-cranberry compote
(the recipe below is for four people, I halved it and had plenty for Mr. VB and myself)

  • 1/2 cup dried sweetened cranberries
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 4 Bartlett pears, about 1 3/4 lb. total, peeled, cored and each cut into 12 wedges
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 3 Tbs. firmly packed light brown sugar 
  • 1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon 

To make the compote, in a small saucepan over high heat, bring 1/4 cup water to a boil. Add the cranberries and remove from the heat. Let stand for at least 10 minutes. 

Meanwhile, in a pan over medium heat, melt 1 Tbs. of the butter. When the foam subsides, add half of the pear slices, arranging them in a single layer. Cook, without moving them, until golden brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Carefully turn the slices over and cook until golden brown on the other side, about 2 minutes more. Transfer to a bowl. Melt 1/2 Tbs. of the butter in the pan and repeat to cook the remaining pear slices. 

Return all the pears to the pan along with the cranberries and any remaining soaking liquid. Add the vanilla and the remaining 1/2 Tbs. butter, and sprinkle with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Gently swirl the pan and stir the fruit to combine, about 1 minute. Transfer the compote to a bowl and cover with aluminum foil until ready to serve.


    Master Bedroom Inspiration

    2011 is just a baby and I already can't wait to get started on the first project of the year -- our bedroom. The current state of the room isn't horrible, it just isn't as cozy as I would like it to be.

    Here we are today:

    During the next couple of weeks, we'll be busy painting, adding chair rail, recovering the headboard, and a adding few other special touches. I'm hoping to have some progress to show soon! But, in the meantime, here is a peek at some of the colors and fabrics we'll be working with:

    I love the look of mercury glass and am dying to get my hands on these lamps from Pottery Barn. But, at $200 each, they are a little out of my price range. Luckily, the good people at HomeGoods keep a close eye on PB and have similar lamps for $40-50.

    I've had my eye on the clean lines and fresh look of this bedding from Restoration Hardware for quite some time. As soon as I have $450 to drop on a comforter, that's the first place I'll go. Until then, I'm heading back to HomeGoods, where I found a nearly identical set for less than what I would spend just on the Restoration shams!

    Well, that headboard isn't going to recover itself. Progress pics will be up soon!