Friday, November 29, 2013

Aunt Jann's Christmas Elves

My aunt Jann decided to host my family's Christmas Eve get together this year. Its a pretty exciting thing because its been years since she hosted... and many of our Christmas Eve childhood memories are us being with family, at her beautiful house, eating her scrumptious food! 

But, one stipulation was that me and my siblings, and our significant others, needed to help her decorate her tree. In return she feeds us with yummy food and drinks. (We made this deal of decorating for food years ago when she first grew tired of all of the many Christmas preparations). She calls us her "Christmas Elves".

We all went over there today, hung out, decorated the tree, enjoyed her delicious homemade chili, and even recreated a picture me, my brother and sister took years ago when us elves helped trim her tree. 

Here are some pics:
This is me and my bow-making skills, and my sis and I getting the ribbon just right.


The sissy working her magic.

This is the pic we recreated. I cant remember how long ago the top photo was taken, but I think I was in my early twenties. I am now 30... so it was some time ago. 

Here, Aunt Jann is showing me, my sis, and my brother's gf some pics of us when we were younger.

And here is her fancy tree, all finished. Beautiful, isn't it?!

We really enjoyed spending time with our aunt and uncle today, and look forward to Christmas Eve when our whole family can be together to celebrate the meaning of Christmas.

Hope you had a wonderful day!

~B



Turkey Greatness!

Happy Thanksgiving Friends!  I hope you all had a wonderful day with family and had the opportunity to reflect on the things you are thankful for. 

Not only was this the first Thanksgiving I have ever hosted, it was also the first family get together I have ever hosted for my husbands family! Needless to say, I was putting a little pressure on myself to make sure the meal went off without a hitch. (And I hoped it would taste as good as my moms!). Here is a rundown of how I prepared and roasted the turkey:

The first question I posed was TO BRINE OR NOT TO BRINE? My mom makes fabulous, moist turkey and does not brine it beforehand. But my dad did a brine on the turkey last year, and I remember the bird being really moist. I saw an episode of The Pioneer Woman and thought her brine looked good, so I pushed away my fears and decided to go all in.

What You'll Need for the Brine

3 Cups Apple Cider
2 Gallons Cold Water
4 Tablespoons Fresh Rosemary (Or 2 to 3 Tablespoons Dried Rosemary)
1 & 1/2 Cups Kosher Salt
2 Cups Brown Sugar
3 Tablespoons Peppercorns
The Peels of 3 Large Oranges

First, cut the tops and bottoms off the oranges (so it won't roll around) and cut the peels off.

Add all ingredients into a large pot (stock pots are great!).

Bring this to a boil, then turn off the heat, cover, and let it seep until its cooled to room temp. (Let me tell you, this takes a lot longer than I thought it would! Haha. The Pioneer Woman says that halfway through the cooling process, you can put the pot in the refrigerator to speed it up. I had to do this. First, I got another large pot and poured the brine from one pot to another over and over to let some heat escape. Then I kept the brine in the two pots and put them both in the fridge. I figured it would cool faster that way).

Once the brine has reached room temp, we put the turkey in an oven bag (breast side down) and poured in the brine (there are brining bags out there, we just couldn't find one). We put that in a roasting pot and into the fridge. The Pioneer Woman says you want to brine a turkey for at least 16 hours, although 24 hours is better for larger birds. My turkey only got to brine for about 8 hours, but it was still scrumptious! 1/2 to 2/3 of the way through the brining process, flip the bird over in the bag. 

Once you have brined the bird for as long as you want, discard of the brine, rinse the turkey, then soak the turkey in some cold water for about 15-20 minutes (you can do this in a clean sink, a large pot, or do like us and just use another oven bag). After those 15-20 minutes are up, drain the turkey of any water trapped in the cavities, and pat dry with a paper towel. 


NOW ITS TIME TO ROAST!
My family has been roasting their turkey "The Alton Brown Way" for years, and let me tell you - this turkey will come out perfectly roasted and super moist every time. 
Here's what you do:

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees.
After brining the turkey and patting it dry, place the turkey on a roasting rack in a shallow roast pan or cookie sheet, breast side up. Tuck the wings under the turkey so they don't flap about. Get out some foil and fold into a large triangle, large enough to cover the breast of the turkey. Rub some canola oil on the foil to prevent it from sticking to the turkey. Press it against the breast to mold it to the appropriate shape and size. Set the "breast plate" aside for later use and rub some canola oil on the outside of the turkey. Place the turkey/roasting pan in the oven on the bottom rack, feet side in first (and it might be a good idea to add a cup or two of water to the bottom of the pan so the drippings don't burn and make your fire alarm go off). Roast the turkey for 30 minutes at 500 degrees. Once those 30 mins are up, change the temp to 350 degrees, put the breast plate on the turkey and then let it do its thing until the temp of the thickest part of the breast meat reaches 161 degrees. (TIP: get one of those digital meat thermometers that you can put in the turkey before putting it in the oven, and then set the thermometer to go off once the internal temp of the turkey has reached 161 degress. Its so handy!)

When the turkey hits 161 degrees, take it out of the oven, and let it rest (just sit there) for 20-30 minutes (covered in foil to keep in the heat) before you cut into it. If you don't let it rest, the juices will flow right out of the bird when you cut into it, and will make it dry it out. 
Here it is! Looks good, no?!

And here is my handsome hubby, ready to carve the turkey!

I'm so happy with how the turkey turned out! I will definitely always roast my turkey the same way. And I'm guessing I will always use the same brine recipe - it worked so good, why change it up?!

Let me know if you give this a try and how it turns out!

I couldn't have made this delicious turkey without the help of The Pioneer Woman, and Alton Brown.

Here is the link to the Pioneer Woman's website with her brine recipe: http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2010/10/my-favorite-turkey-brine/
(Her directions are much more clear, and wittier! lol. And she has some great pics. Also, her recipe calls for bay leaves. I didn't have any, so I didn't use it in my brine). 

And here is the link to Alton Brown's roasted turkey recipe on the Food Network website: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/good-eats-roast-turkey-recipe/index.html
(This page also has his brine recipe, which my dad used last year and it was great - although my dad doesn't like Allspice, so he didn't use it. It also mentions some things you can put in the cavity of the turkey to enhance the aromatics. I didn't do this. I just follow his roasting directions). 

Enjoy! 
~ Brianne




Saturday, November 23, 2013

SUPER Yummy Gluten Free Chocolate Pumpkin Cake

Ok, so I have been craving pumpkin bread and pumpkin cookies all month long. But being allergic to gluten added some difficulty to my quest to find a yummy pumpkin flavored treat that I can eat. I decided to take matters into my own hands and throw some things together... and luckily for me, it turned out WONDERFUL! And, its super simple because I used a gluten free cake mix to help me out! 

Here's What You Need:

Gluten Free Chocolate Cake Mix (I used Betty Crocker)
(and you'll need the ingredients listed on the cake mix - in this case, some eggs, water and butter)

15oz can of Pumpkin Puree

1 & 1/2 Teaspoons Each of Cinnamon, Nutmeg and Ground Cloves
(I might have actually used a little less on the cloves)

Vanilla Extract
(I never measure with vanilla extract - I love it too much. I just poor in what looks good. But if you need some sort of guideline to follow, try about a tablespoon... or two :)  )

*Milk Chocolate Chips - Optional


Here's What You Do:

Mix all those delicious things together real well. Then, grease a cake pan or bunt pan (this is what I did), and poor in the batter. (This is actually where I added the chocolate chips. I meant to just add a few to the batter, but forgot to, and didn't realize it until I had poured the batter into the bunt pan. I just sprinkled in a handful and then pushed them under the surface of the batter). I baked the cake according to the directions on the cake mix. When the cake was still warm, I flipped it out of the bunt pan onto a platter and went to work on a glaze. (Feel free to use good old canned frosting! I just didn't have any on hand... so this is what I did...)

Glaze:

In a microwave safe bowl, I threw in some powdered sugar, drizzled in a little milk, some vanilla extract, and some cinnamon. This is all done to taste, so I don't have any measurements to give you... just tweak it until it you like the flavor. Pop it in the microwave for a little bit to help dissolve the sugar. 

I sprinkled some brown sugar over the bunt cake, then drizzled on the glaze.

I had no idea how the cake was going to turn out, but I was SOOOOO happy with the flavors - and it was SO moist! I took the cake to work and all the girls loved it! 

I didn't think to get a pic of the cake until we were nearly finished with it, so I'm sorry its not a good photo! But I will be making another one for Thanksgiving, so I'll be sure to get a decent pic for you :)


UPDATED 11/28/13 ** Here is an updated pic! I made the cake for Thanksgiving - and it was a hit!
(I was so busy running around cooking all sorts of things for Thanksgiving, that when I made this cake I totally forgot to put in the spices!!! But, being the clever lass I am, I decided to take some brown sugar, then add a little cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves and I sprinkled that over the top of the cake once it was baked. Then when I made the glaze, I added some nutmeg and a little clove to the cinnamon/vanilla/powdered sugar/milk that I already use. It worked perfectly!!! I think my husband and dad prefer the cake this way. Just wanted to let you know of another way to make it).


Enjoy! And let me know if you make any modifications, and how it goes!!!

~B





My First Stenciled Wall!

I was itching to do SOMETHING to my dining room wall (well, our main floor has more of a Great Room feel, so really, its just the wall our dining table sits against), and my husband and I were going back and forth on whether we wanted to stencil it or wall paper it. It took us a few months to figure out what we wanted to do, but we ended up stenciling it, and I LOVE the outcome!

First, I will say, stenciling was a little more challenging than I thought it would be, and I was pretty frustrated with the process at times, but it was worth it in the end. (Although I am waiting a little while before I do my next stenciling project, haha). 

We ordered our stencil from http://www.cuttingedgestencils.com/. We used the Gabrielle Demask stencil design: 
damask-stencil 


This is what our wall started out like:


My husband then painted two layers of Behr Cracked Pepper (matte/flat finish) on the wall:
(The paint is not quite dry yet in this pic, so it looks a little darker than it actually is)


I was in charge of stenciling, We used Behr Broadway in a high gloss finish. Here are some of the "in progress" pics:





You want to use a stencil roller with very little paint on it, so you don't get seepage, but even with using very little paint on the roller, I still had some issues along the way of paint seeping under the edge of the stencil and building up, causing your lines to bleed/smudge. After I had used the stencil a few times, I had to let the paint on it dry, then peel it all off (which was VERY time consuming and annoying). There are definitely imperfections, but when you step back and look at the whole wall, you don't notice those small blemishes. (I'm very much a perfectionist, and it bothers me that some areas are not perfect, but really, the imperfections give it character... and your guests really have no idea they are there. I have had many people think we used wall paper on the wall!).


The final outcome is GREAT! We love it!

 (Sorry the lighting isn't really great on this pic).

We still need to add some decor to the wall (thinking of getting one of those shiny white acrylic deer head busts possibly, or maybe just putting the studded black leather mirror that we used to have on this wall back up.... I haven't made up my mind yet). I'll post updated pics once I have this wall decorated. 

Let me know your thoughts or if you have any questions!

Until next time,
~B

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Gluten Free Pho!

  Hi friends! So, a few weeks ago, my poor hubby had an icky cold and just felt awful. I decided to pick him up some pho on the way home to try to help him feel a little better. As I watched him eat it, it made me REALLY want some, but there is no guarantee pho will be gluten free - in fact, a lot of the time, pho restaurants do not use gluten free broth. So I became determined to make my own yummy gluten free pho!

  I put some chicken in the crock pot with some organic gluten free chicken broth and some spices (salt, pepper, parsley...) and let that do its thing. (I had to work that day so I just put it on an 8 hour setting). When that was done, I put a cup or two chicken broth in a large glass microwave-safe bowl. I diluted the broth with a little bit of water (I think I was afraid it might be too salty). I popped that in the microwave for a few minutes until it was nice and HOT! While that was cookin', I boiled some water for my gluten free brown rice noodles. I picked up a box that had plain noodles (made in organic green tea), and they were super yummy. 

  *They also have noodles with a little bit of seaweed,  garlic noodles and shiitake mushroom noodles!
(I found these noodles at Central Market)

  While the noodles boiled, I shredded the chicken into decent sized pieces then threw it in the bowl of broth. I drained, quickly rinsed, then added the noodles to the broth as well as some bean sprouts, basil, cilantro and lime juice.

   
  Since I didnt have any plum sauce, or whatever it is that you add to the broth (haha), I added some Mrs. Bragg's Liquid Aminos. Its a yummy, natural soy sauce full of healthy amino acids. The pho turned out SOOOO good. My hubby and I shared a BIG bowl and even he thought it tasted pretty great!

  
  This recipe would be so easy to alter to use your favorite meats, veggies and toppings/extras. You could easily use beef, shrimp, add some veggies... the sky's the limit!!!

  Give it a try and let me know what you think! 

Happy eating!!!
~B

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Hair Quick Tip

Want to know how to make your hair have a little more volume and movement?!

  Velcro rollers!!! You heard me right - velcro rollers are a wonderful tool to give you a little more volume and shape to your style! They are over looked, but are effective and easy to get - why not give it a try?!
(You can find velcro rollers at your local drug store).

  Use velcro rollers on dry hair, hit them with the blowdryer so they get nice and hot, let them cool then take them out. They will look a little crazy at first, but flip your head over and run your fingers through hair, flip your head back up, then smooth out your hair if needed. Hold the shape in place with hairspray! Its that easy! Here are some pics to give you an example (I wasn't originally planning to make a blog post about this, so I forgot the before pic... but trust me, my hair is super fine and limp):



* BONUS TIPS: Help build your style by using the correct hair products! Before blowdrying hair, use a root booster at the roots, (such as Redken Rootful) and a heat protectant on the midshaft to ends of your hair (like Redken Satin Wear). Once hair is dry and you are about to put in your rollers, spray each section to be rolled with a stronger heat protectant. This will also add hold and memory for your curls so they last longer! (I used Redken Spray Starch 15). 
Let me know if you have any questions!!!! Send me some before and after pics and I'll post them on my blog!
Have fun,
~Brianne

  

Monday, May 27, 2013

Front Yard Mini-Makeover!

When we purchased our house, we were not informed that there would be a manhole cover, yellow water marker, and yellow water pipe in our front yard (our house wasn't fully built when we bought it). So as you can imagine, I was a little bummed and unsure what to do to camouflage this unattractive sight! I decided to do a mini-makeover, until we find a better solution. I purchased resin containers (that look like ceramic!) and flowers from my local Fred Meyer, and used our concrete bird bath to help hide the unsightly pipes. I think it turned out pretty good! Its not all covered/blocked, but the new flower planters and birdbath do take your eyes away from the pipes and manhole cover.

Before:


After:


Much better, huh!!!!?
And here is our little Peanut enjoying the sun...


We have a lot more ideas/projects for our yard/home, so keep checkin in!

Hope you all had a great weekend!
XO 
B

Monday, April 29, 2013

Yummy "Chex Mess" Recipe!

I pinned this recipe on Pinterest a while ago, and although I don't necessarily like the ingredients in the recipe, I knew OTHER people would love it (I'm just a weird one and don't like Reece's or carmel...).

I made this first for my husband and his coworkers, and he said they loved it... so I decided to make it for my brother's bday gathering last weekend. I was actually surprised by how much everyone liked it! Its similar to a recipe found on the Chocolate Chex box, but this recipe has some additional yummy treats added to it.

Here are some pics and the recipe for the "Chex Mess" (as my husband named it) - it will be a HIT if you make it - I promise!!!



Chex Mess Recipe

Ingredients:
8 cups (1 box) Chocolate Chex cereal
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
6 tablespoons of butter or margarine
3 tablespoons light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup Reece's Peanut Butter Cups, mini size
1 cup mini marshmallows
1/2 cup caramel bits (found by the chocolate chips in the baking section, or chop up regular carmels)
1 tablespoon heavy cream (you may want to add a few extra tablespoons - see directions below)
1/2 cup milk chocolate baking chips (or more if you are a huge chocolate fan)
1/2 cup vanilla (white) chocolate baking chips
1 teaspoon of coarse sea salt

Directions:
1. Into large microwavable bowl, measure cereal and set aside. Line cookie sheet with foil or waxed paper.

2. In microwavable bowl/measuring cup, microwave brown sugar, butter and corn syrup uncovered for 1-2 minutes, stiffing after each minute, or until melted and smooth. Stir in baking soda until dissolved. Pour this carmel mixture over cereal, stirring until evenly covered. Microwave for 3 minutes, stirring after each minute to distribute the carmel mixture more evenly. Spread on cookie sheet and let cool for around 10 minutes, or until cool to the touch. Break into bite sized pieces - its kinda like a brittle! (The first time I did this, I think I lost track of time and it cooled for an extra few minutes, which made it easier to break into chunks. The second time I did it  I was in a hurry and let it sit for just those 10 minutes and it wouldn't really break apart very well, it just crumbled, so I decided not to break it apart just yet... I'll let you know what I ended up doing). 

3. Make sure chex mixture is cool to the touch (so candy doesn't melt). Evenly sprinkle the peanut butter cups and mini marshmallows over the mixture.

4. In small microwavable bowl, microwave carmel baking bits and cream uncovered for 1 minute, or until chips can be stirred smooth. Use a spoon or fork to drizzle over snack. If the caramel is very warm still, the drizzle will be a bit runny. If you want a thicker drizzle, just continue to stir it a little until it cools a bit, then drizzle. Microwave the milk chocolate chips the same way (I actually added about a tablespoon of cream here too, because the chocolate wouldn't melt well), and drizzle over mixture. And now (you guessed it), microwave the vanilla/white chocolate chips the same way (and yes, I added some cream here too), and drizzle over mixture. QUICKLY SPRINKLE COARSE SALT ON MIXTURE WHILE THE CHOCOLATES AND CARMEL ARE STILL WARM. (I actually sprinkled a little bit of salt on after the carmel, then after the milk chocolate, and then after the white chocolate... just so I knew it would stick better).
5. Refrigerate until set. Break apart (here is where I just broke that second batch apart) and store in tightly covered container.  (I don't know if mine didn't have enough time to set up, but as people ate it it was still a little drippy - the chocolate never fully hardened (but like I said, I was in a rush that second time). So just be aware that it could be a little messy!

It makes quite a bit!!! And it will last for days if you tightly cover it when not eating it. 
The pic below is just one batch. 



Please let me know how you like it, or if you make any modifications!

Happy snacking!
~B

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Pinups and Pitbulls Photo Shoot

  I had the privilege of doing hair and makeup at a photo shoot for a calendar several weeks ago. The calendar will be sold to raise money for AARF (Animal Aid and Rescue Foundation), an amazing non-profit organization that is dedicated to supporting and promoting the preservation and well-being of all animals. My husband and I rescued our sweet little Pheiffer from AARF a little over a year ago and I'm so happy I could help them by donating my time and skills for this calendar. The models are wonderful ladies who help run and volunteer for AARF, and of course, there are some adorable pitbulls too! I even had the opportunity to spend some time with Floppy, AARF's mascot. I LOVE animals, especially dogs, and I'm just so glad I was given the opportunity to help!!!  Please visit http://myaarf.org/ for more information about their organization or to see animals available for adoption.

  Here are some behind the scene pics from the shoot. Enjoy!!!  ~B










Monday, April 22, 2013

Unintentional Hiatus

I'm bummed I've been so busy lately that I haven't been able to write any posts! I have a few things I've been wanting to blog about... and so I'm hoping over the next few days to cover all those things. I hope you've been having a beautiful spring so far! Keep checking in to see new posts!!!

xoxo
~Brianne

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Healthy Gluten Free Crockpot Dinner

So the other day I realized I had a mostly full box of gluten free chicken broth sitting in the fridge that needed to be used up (it was left over from when I made a crockpot jambalaya). I decided to throw some ingredients together in the crockpot to make a soup of some kind and it turned out pretty good! Its a little similar to the jambalaya except that it does not have the sausage, shrimp and Cajun seasoning... and I added carrots to this crockpot meal. Here is what I used:

Roughly 3 Cups of Gluten Free Chicken Broth
28oz Diced Tomatoes w/Juice
Two Large Carrots - Diced
One Green Bell Pepper - Diced
1 Cup Diced Celery
Around 1 1/2lbs Skinless, Boneless Chicken Breast - Cut into Cubes
2 Tsp Dried Oregano
2 Tsp Dried Parsley
1/2 Tsp Dried Thyme
Black Pepper To Taste

I threw all those ingredients into the crockpot and let it do its thing.

Here's what it looked like when done:


Right before serving, I decided to throw some rice in the rice cooker to we can serve the "soup" over the rice if we wanted to. My husband prefers it be served with lots of rice, chicken and veggies, and not so much broth:

I like there to be lots of broth:

We both really loved this meal! (Although we will plan to use more chicken in the recipe next time). 

So there's an easy, yummy crockpot meal for you to try! Leave a comment if you give it a try, especially if you change it up somehow - let me know what you did!

Happy Eating!
~Brianne




Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Nail Obsession - Gel Nails!

  Ok, so I have discovered a new nail polish trend and I'm loving it! Gel nail polish!

  Gel nail polish is similar to shellac, but a little thicker, so it makes the nail stronger. On average, gel nail polish is supposed to last around two weeks if applied correctly.

  A little back story: I used to get my nails done every two weeks - I LOVED my acrylic nails! But when I started beauty school I stopped going to the nail salon to save money. For a while I did my own acrylic nails, but the smell of the chemicals in the house was so strong and gross - I didn't like breathing that in, and stinking up the house. (I was also worried about my pets breathing in the chemicals).

  My natural nails are thin, weak and break easily, so its hard to grow my nails out. Also, nail polish does not last long on my nails. I heard about gel nail polish from a friend and looked into it... and decided to give it a try.

  I purchased Gelish Soak-Off Gel Polish from Sally's Beauty Supply. Its a bit of a process to apply gel nail polish, as you have to apply a special base coat, two coats of the polish, and then a special top coat - being sure you cure each coat under a UV or LED light. The polish lasted for nearly two weeks - only two fingernails started to lift/chip around day 12, but I feel that was due to application error (I might have touched my skin with the polish when applying.... which you do not want to do.) All my other nails were going strong... but because of those two nails chipping, I decided to change my polish. Also, my nails were SO much stronger with the gel polish!

  If you guys like, I can go into more detail about the steps and each product used in another post...

  But here are a few pics of the outcome - sorry its not the best quality... I wasn't planning to post the pics online so I didn't take very good pictures, lol.


  Let me know if you guys would like a tutorial or additional information on gel nail polish! 

  Until next time....
  ~Brianne




Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Building a Website is Hard!

So, I've been trying to decide if I want to build my blog on Blogger or on Wix, and let me tell you... it's been SO hard trying to figure out how to build a website and try to make it look and work like a blog! I love how Wix's website builder looks so great and has so many templates and options.... but so far it doesn't look like there is an easy way to make a page look and work like a blog. I just wish I knew what ALL the possibilities were without having to try to build it myself first. I don't want to spend a ton of time trying to get it to work and then find out it won't work how I want it to... and I'll have wasted a lot of time and energy for nothing. Ugh. Well, lets hope I can get this figured out soon because I just want to start on my blogging/website - I have so many ideas and thoughts and cant wait to get started. Until next time......
xoxo ~Brianne

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Welcome!

Welcome to my little corner of the web! My vision for this website is to blog about my life, as well as post makeup, hair tutorials, and fun DIY projects. It's going to take a little time to get this website up and running, so thank you for your patience!  XO ~ Brianne