Usage for Decorative Boxes

You may often come across these types of decorative storage boxes that are sold when you go into a store. And I personally have become quite fond of finding different uses for them so I would like to share:

1. Wine Boxes for flowers

I first did this for my mother’s birthday when I had bought some tulips for her at the farmers market and brought them into a restaurant with me. At the time, I had double layered plastic bags and filled it with a bit of water for the flowers, securing the hem of the bags onto the edge of the box opening with a rubber band. But as you can see above, you can also place a glass bottle en lieu of that as well.

2. Photo boxes for toiletries 

The bathroom sink I have does not come with drawers so this is how I store my toiletry items. Since I have an nautical anchor theme going on in this room, I keep decorative boxes on shelves that go well with the theme.  I also prefer keeping the tissue box design to also look oceanic for that reason!

3. Parties and Special Occasions 

Parties too often have some sort of theme to them and I recently helped chip in for a friend’s baby shower by providing party favors that coincidentally also went well with my ongoing anchor and nautical theme I had going on in my bathroom. So I went and got another larger photo box that had the nautical look to it and customized the lid with the baby’s name in hopes of it becoming useful for the nursery since I kept with the look the parents-to-be came up with for the room. I stuffed it with heating/cryotherapy pads I had made to go with the “relaxing” beach theme that was requested for the shower (for which I also used nautical anchor printed fabric to stay consistent).

4. Hat storage 

When people discover my love for hats and gloves and realize how much of it I own, one of the questions that usually come up is how/where I store them. Since most of my clothing shopping is done online, my hats do not come with a hat box like they might if I were to purchase them at a fancy hat store. The deeper rectangular shaped ones are great for storing some stacked sideways (this works for hats that do not have wide brims) and the smaller, rounder shaped ones make for great use in traveling with relatively compact-sized fascinators and hats that you don’t want to have be crushed inside your suitcase by the rest of your items.

These decorative boxes are typically categorized as nesting boxes. Though the wine boxes might be a bit more difficult to find online they can also be called nesting boxes.

Though there’s the phrase “think outside the box”  —- I would like to think that I am thinking about what to put inside the box.

-M

Banana Cheesecake Brownies

Valentine’s Day is coming up and it’s all about chocolate. I recently came across a cheesecake brownie recipe and decided to combine the brownie element with my ever-popular banana bread element and my a take on a classic hostess chocolate cupcake-looking treat. The aftermath:

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~Recipe~ (yields about 2 dozen cupcakes)

For the brownie batter:

  • 1 c butter, softened
  • 1 c brown sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp almond extract
  • 2 c chocolate chips, melted
  • 2 bananas, mashed
  • 1 tsp salt + sprinkles of cinnamon + cardamon
  • 1/2 c flour blend of almond flour, coconut flour and regular flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder

For the cheesecake batter mixture:

  • 1 block (8oz) cream cheese
  • 1/4 c sugar
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract or cream cheese extract

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (F)

Mix all of the wet ingredients for the brownie batter together first (though I would mix in the eggs last to prevent the eggs from getting cooked from the heat of the melted chocolate). Add in the dry ingredients to form the brownie batter. Fill each cupcake paper about halfway full with the brownie batter.

Blend all of the ingredients for the cheesecake batter and top each brownie batter-filled cup with a bit of the cheesecake batter.

Bake for about 11 minutes or until done (but not overly done) and let it cool in the oven

Et voila! Bon appétit~

– M

 

 

A Great Way to Use Leftover Halloween Candy

I’ve never been much of a candy person. But I do love desserts. Like how I have never been crazy about Oreo cookies —- but I LOVE cookies n’ cream ice cream.

So, I decided to take some Halloween candy and turned them into cookies. It’s not too far of a stretch from the classic M&M cookies. But I decided to take inspiration from the names of the candies themselves:

Case #1: Snickers Snickerdoodles 

People LOVE my snickerdoodles and everyone seems to have a favorite flavor/version of the varieties I make. While my pumpkin snickerdoodles are a fall favorite, this is a great way use up those snickers bars and have fun saying “snicker” twice. You can take a basic snickerdoodle recipe and simply incorporate chopped up pieces of snickers bars in there, which is what I did below:

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Case #2: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cookies

So I actually didn’t have Reese’s peanut butter cups. I bought the dark chocolate peanut butter cups from Trader Joe’s (which is my personal preference). But you can use any peanut butter cups and use it in a peanut butter cookie recipe as I did. While you can chop the peanut butter cups and incorporate it into the cookie dough like I did with the snickerdoodles, I decided to also insert whole peanut butter cups into the dough balls before baking them in the oven and this was the aftermath:

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I did notice that there was more moisture in tact with the whole peanut butter cup version most likely due to the melting effect that took place on top of the cookies. It did obviously make it a bit more difficult to stack those ones without smudging the tops. So for practicality, I would recommend the incorporating chopped up pieces method.

I often will store cookie dough balls in the freezer upon making the dough to make it easy for me to be able to pop them in the oven whenever I need them in a hurry. That way you will also be able to stretch the life of the halloween candy without making people feel sick of eating it months later.

Et voila! Bon appétit~

– M

 

 

My Take On Healthier Mashed Potatoes

I have a fairly consistent diet that I stick to on a regular basis since I am a single woman who is only responsible for cooking for herself.

However, when it comes to cooking for others it’s a different matter. I recently spent a few days cooking for hungry teenagers on a trip to Canada and decided on a whim to try a spin on the mashed cauliflower I keep hearing about people doing in place of mashed potatoes.

Mine is more like a 50:50 ratio of mashed potatoes:mashed cauliflower. It definitely looked and tasted like mashed potatoes and no one knew that there was cauliflower in there.

Moreover, I decided to do another take on it after coming home and blended it in with an element I have in my regular diet (butternut squash soup) en lieu of gravy.

(In Canada, I had a bed of tomato-based sauce with cooked vegetables to put under the mashed potatoes en lieu of gravy)

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These are the ingredients I basically used to make this dish:

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Chicken broth is a good option instead of water (not photographed). The progression of how I make it looks like the following:

I peeled the potatoes and diced them into the pan along with bits of the cauliflower. I dropped in about half a block of light cream cheese in and added the liquid (water or chicken broth will do). I filled it up to where the vegetables are inside the pan but I wouldn’t panic if you feel like you added in too much liquid since it will evaporate eventually anyways as you cook it down. I then put a lid on it and simmered it in the pan on medium heat until the vegetables cook down, about 10 minutes (it will depend on how much content you have in your pan too).

Then, when the vegetables are soft enough, mash it. While many people have an actual potato masher, I prefer to have item be multi-functional so I usually use the bottom of a heat-proof cup or the wooden rolling pin I used in the photo. As I continued to cook down the liquid until the consistency thickens, I consistently stirred with a spatula. Note that when you cool it down the thickening process will continue to happen so it’s alright if it seems slightly under-thickened.

For the combination that was photographed, I served the mashed potatoes/cauliflower with the butternut squash soup en lieu of gravy and garnished it with chives.

Bon appétit!

-M

My Take On the Maxi Dress

Last year, I dedicated a blog entry on celebrating my friend Muse Meileena’s birthday. When we went to ModCloth’s pop-up store in San Francisco, I tried on the maxi dress with the high-low hemline in made of multiple shades of purple.

Back in late January, I decided to purchase the dress and finally decided to sport it for a summery look over the Memorial Day weekend. It was actually in anticipation of watching the film The Huntsman, but the movie ended up not playing at the theater that my girlfriends and I went to go watch it at.

I was very close to even going as far as concocting a cape made of a similar material to give it an extra royal look for the event (Though we did end up watching the X-Men movie so if it would have not been completely inappropriate to have a cape). Instead, I made a purple peacock feather fascinator to wear in my hair.

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I no longer have my purple pair of Nina pumps but still have a matching pair in fuchsia so I decided to bedazzle them with purple rhinestones:

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Click here to buy the satin bow pumps (available in different colors too)

Pairing that all up with my purple gloves and voila:

Click here to buy a matching maxi dress in green (the purple variety is not available at the moment)

As you can see from the photos this dress is so fun to move in! It was driving the dog I live with nuts because he kept wanting to chase the hem of the dress trailing behind me every time I walked around in it (I guess the look got at least one male creature chasing after me)

As I’ve said before, one of my mottos is to to enjoy looking like a princess but not act like one.

– M

 

 

When Life Throws Lemons

I’ve recently started saying to friends and family “When life throws lemons at you, I make lemon curd.” While I personally don’t grate the lemon into my lemon curd, I do like the idea of not wasting the lemon peel so I’m also including a gluten-free lemon polenta cake recipe that I’ve tweaked over time which uses the grated lemon peel in the recipe. So before making the lemon curd I often will grate the peel first before I go about squeezing the juice out of the lemons.

In spirit of the previous blog entry I did on clever storage ideas, here’s also a method I use for storing away finely grated lemon peel in the freezer using silicone cupcake cups that I wedged in pairs inside a glass pyrex container to keep portions separate:


 

~ Miss M’s Lemon Curd ~

  • 4 Lemons, juiced (don’t worry about taking out the seeds yet)
  • 1/2 c sugar
  • drizzle of vanilla extract + pinch of salt
  • 4 egg yolks (you can also save the egg whites for something else!)
  • 6 Tbsp butter

I use a non-stick sauce pan but if I were to use something else, I would definitely go the double boiler route (putting the pan over another water-filled pan). If you are using the non-stick pan like me, I would say go ahead and do a straight cook on direct heat on the stovetop. As you can see, I just put everything in the pan at the same time and CONTINUOUSLY stirred it with a spatula until it’s the consistency of the image to the bottom right:

When it looks done (if you can start seeing a glimpse of the bottom of the pan for very brief moments as you run the spatula through it’s done), transfer the mixture into another container (I usually use a 1-Quart Pyrex bowl which is a perfect size for the amount yielded by this recipe) by pouring it through a sieve. This will filter out the seeds from the lemon as well as other items that you don’t want in the curd in order to end up with a smooth consistency.

Let it cool off a bit at room temperature and occasionally check on it to stir up the curd (which will help get rid of the light film of thickened curd on the surface). Then, I like to pour them into smaller containers for storing and gifting in Mason jars or Weck jars as I have done in the photos below:

You can put a ribbon around the neck of the jar and attach a label to indicate when the batch was made as I like to do:

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Don’t forget to keep the lemon curd in the refrigerator (where it will stay good for about three weeks).


 

~Lemon Polenta Cakes~

  • 2/3 c (100g) polenta aka cornmeal
  • 1 3/4 c (200g) almond meal, sometimes called almond powder*
  • 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 12 Tbsp (168g) butter
  • 3/4 c (150g) sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • Zest of 3 lemons
  • 1 tsp vanilla

*Note: You can also substitute a little bit of the almond meal with coconut flour

Again, I prefer to use a non-stick sauce pan for this. In the pan, melt the butter with the sugar and salt on medium heat. Take off the heat and stir in the vanilla and zest. Then, alternately stir in the dry ingredients with the eggs (making sure you don’t cook the eggs from the residual heat). Pour in muffin cups and bake in a preheated oven at 350° F for approximately 20 minutes or until slightly brown on top. Remember, you can underbake and bake more if necessary but you can’t unbake something!

Here’s the cakes made into cupcakes for my father’s birthday:

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I filled/topped the cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and raspberries & toasted almonds.

As a savory meal compliment, you can also make/use them as cornbread muffins!

Bon appétit,

M

Clever Storage Ideas ~Holiday Edition~

Some of you may recall an easy DIY (no assembly required) bookshelf idea I shared in a posting earlier this year.

I have decided to share a few helpful storage ideas for the holidays in the spirit of giving one a gift that keeps on giving!

1. Rings & Earrings – Take out the paper cups lining the Ferrero Rocher chocolate box you got during the holidays and you have yourself a jewelry organizer box. The circles are perfect sizes for these small pieces of accessories.

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Click here to buy the same Ferrero Rocher box of chocolates (with the chocolates still intact)

2. Cupcakes & Cupcake liner cups – As I bake regularly, I purchase boxes and boxes of these cupcake paper liner cups and have found that these boxes they come in are the perfect size for transporting individual homemade cupcakes to take to people. In turn, I store the paper liner cups inside a cylinder-shaped tea canister that used to have tea bags inside. Some of you may recognize the tea canister from the purchase I made at the grand opening of Redemption that I posted about earlier this year.


Click here to buy the boxes of the cupcake liners I use

3. Chicken broth (or any kind of broth) – This time of the year, I like to bake the seasonal honey-baked ham sold at Trader Joe’s weekly and use the left carcass/bone to make a big batch of broth (and the rest of the year I make chicken broth as mentioned in a previous blog entry on how to make chicken broth). I pour the broth into the silicone ice cube making trays so that I can pop them out whenever I want to use them. I love the silicone ones because they form the perfect cube-shaped ice cubes and they’re easy to pop them out.IMG_1431

Click here to buy a silicone ice tray similar to mine

The holidays can be overwhelming and stressful for a lot of people so hopefully knowing how to store things will help make your life a little less chaotic and more organized!

The other tip I have to prevent an overwhelm of receiving so many new things as gifts (especially this time of the year) is to do a pre-cleanse of old things that you want to get rid of and make a trip to the Goodwill truck or the Salvation Army to donate them. In fact, I do this at least monthly all year long. It will prevent the problem of not having enough room for the new things coming in and general hoarding.

Happy holidays!

-M