Friday Pie Day: Chocolate Pecan Pie

Happy Friday!! It feels like this week has been eternal. Really.

Chocolate Pecan Pie 2Anyway, about pie. I love pecan pie! What I don’t love, though, is the weird goop that always seems to live between the crunchy-sweet pecans and the buttery crust. It’s made of corn syrup, among other things, and the texture kind of creeps me out. So when my cousin asked me to make pecan pie last holiday season, I developed a recipe that didn’t really have a goop layer. My pecan pie has a layer of chocolate.

Yup, a glorious layer of melty dark chocolate, on top of the flakey, buttery crust and underneath the crunchy sweet pecans. There’s also some bourbon. So, pretty much- this pie is perfection.

Chocolate Pecan PieMaking this pie is super easy- arrange the dough, scatter chocolate, scatter pecans, mix and pour the liquid bits and bake. It’s rich and chocolate-y and not too sweet, the perfect finish to any holiday meal. Or, in my case, the perfect things to bring to fire fighters when I visit on the weekend 🙂 Enjoy!

Chocolate Pecan Pie
1 pie crust
3/4 cup dark chocolate, chopped
2 eggs
3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
1/2 cup white sugar
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup bourbon
8 oz pecans, chopped (or whole!)
1/3 cup butter, extra soft but not melted

Assemble the solid parts: Preheat over to 325. I used a tart pan, and I guess normal people use pie pans…but I like the surface area of a tart pan. Anyway, stretch the crust into whatever pan you’re going to use, and sprinkle the chocolate over top. For the pecans, you have a few options- I laid my pecans out nicely for this pie, and it took about five minutes. Alternately, you could do what I usually do, which is chop them and stir into the filling mix.

Assemble the filling: In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar. Add the cinnamon, bourbon and a dash of salt. You could also use some vanilla in the place of bourbon, or even in addition to it. Whisk in the butter- it needs to be extra soft so that you can stir it in, but so that there are still pea sized chunks of it; it shouldn’t be all the way incorporated. Add the pecans, if you’re going the chopped route, and pour the entire mess into the crust. I bakes mine for about 45 minutes, until the top was solid and you could tell that the middle was cooked through.

Serve: after you cool for about an hour, or you can make ahead and reheat. The melty aspect of the chocolate was a highlight of this recipe, buts still pretty insane when it’s cooled- choose your own adventure! Either way, think about topping with some whipped cream, and serve it up with hot coffee. Delicious!

Thursday Thoughts: 2014 Gift Guide

Welcome, my friends, to this week’s edition of Thursday Things! We’re getting into the holiday season, so it should come as no surprise that we are talking about gifts today.

I love looking through gift lists- I know that consumerism can be overwhelming, but I really like seeing all the new things that came out this year! I can spend irrational amounts of time on Pinterest sorting through lists of gifts for women, for teenage girls, for yogis, for book lovers, for mamas, for professional women, for techies, for hostesses, for bakers, etc. And, throughout the year, I pin some of those things to my own Perpetual Wishlist board.

Today, I took some of my favorite items on the board and created my 2014 gift guide. This list doesn’t have a particular audience in mind, but are some items that anyone would love to see under the tree this year.

So tell me, friends- what’s on your wish list?

Gift Guide

Clockwise, from the top:

Crabtree and Evelyn La Source Handcream: this smells so good, and leaves my hands perfectly moisturized without feeling greasy. This would be an amazing stocking stuffer!

Oakley Changeover Sunglasses: I’m traditionally a girl that buys two or three pairs of sunglasses every summer at TJMaxx, and then lose them over the course of a few months. I’m thinking it’s time for a change, though- it might be time for some nice sunglasses that actually have a case that I keep track of for years on end. I’m also one of those people that can’t go outdoors without sunnies, so these might be the perfect gift!

Nixon Watch: one gift that I always love is a good watch. I like to be on time to everything, and watches give me a feeling of being in control of my time. I love bigger, men’s style watches that I can wear loose on my wrist, and this one would be a gorgeous addition to my collection.

External Hard Drive: there are truly six memory cards floating around in my wallet, and I’m always looking through each of them to find the right photos. Next year, though, I swear that I’m going to organize all of the photos onto an external hard drive- and this one is the perfect candidate for the task.

Tea Pot: for the past three winters in our house, I’ve been thinking to myself- we could really use a teapot. Well, this is the year, and this glass one looks like the most gorgeous candidate!

Chemex: I have a theory that coffee tastes better when you pay a little attention to it. This chemex pour-over set up with be the perfect addition to any coffee bar, and an excellent compliment to a new tea kettle!

Yoga mats, blocks and straps: there are so many benefits that you can take from yoga- it’s great for your physical health, in terms of balance, strength and flexibility, but it also effects your mental and emotional health. While yoga certainly requires no equipment, having some blocks and straps can really help you reap extra benefits.

Garmin VivoSmart: it’s 2014, and everyone’s busy. It can be hard to fit in a workout, to track calories, to make sure you’re getting enough sleep. Fortunately, the VivoSmart makes things just a little bit easier. It monitors your heartrate to let you know when you’ve been sitting for too long, and it buzzes to let you know it’s bedtime, among other awesome features. This will be the perfect gift for anyone who is looking to improve their health this year.

 Pearl and Diamond Earrings: it’s weird, I know, but I always have this impression that professional women a) wear lipstick and b) always have pearl earrings in. These earrings are sensible enough for work, but also gorgeous for dressing up. Plus, my mom has a pair just like them that I adored growing up 🙂

Nifty Climbot: there have just been one too many situations where I’m stacking books and scarves in order to create the perfect spot for my camera to rest at the right angle while I take photos. Not only will this tripod stabilize my camera, but the legs are the perfect combination of bendy and supportive, so you and adjust and wrap them nearly anywhere! Perfect for anything from phone cameras to DSLRs.

Passport cover: when you travel, if you’re anything like me you have your passport out for check in, and then you tuck it into any of the pockets in your carryon and can’t find it again when you need it. Fortunately this cover will keep your passport a bit more visible, and offer you a convenient pocket for boarding passes and receipts.

Moccasins: it might just be me, but I think that slippers are the perfect gift for every Christmas. Some people do pajamas, but I say its time for a Christmas Eve slipper tradition. These particular moccasins are fleece lined and incredibly cozy, and the rubber soles make it easy to step outside to grab the paper without getting your feet wet. Plus, they’re perfect for driving to grandma’s house đź™‚

His and Hers pillows: these are absolutely the perfect addition to your bedroom dĂ©cor, and would be a sweet housewarming gift for your favorite couple friends. Or, you know, adorable in your own bedroom, if you’re looking to gift yourself!

Perfume: many people have one perfume that’s their signature scent, and that’s fine! I am not one of those people, however- I like to get a new scent each year and experiment with different varieties. Then, when I smell a particular perfume again, I remember some highlights from that specific year. For next year, I’m loving this Ralph Lauren scent- it’s a little sweet, but also dark and kind of sexy…a perfect forecast for the upcoming year!

Leather Portfolio: for me, nothing says ‘I kind of have things together’ as someone who is carrying a portfolio. Your work could be a scattered mess in there, but carrying your notes in one of these give off a perfect professional vibe. I think that one of these portfolios in a pretty color would be a perfect gift for someone who is just launching an awesome career.

These are some of the things on my list- what’s on yours?

Sausage Tortellini Soup

Guys, I love winter- I do! I adore the cold, crisp weather. I like walking on the sidewalks on campus when I’m headed into work and the sun hasn’t risen yet. I like the way that people are a bit more orderly in the winter, because everyone just wants to get where they’re going in as efficient a way as possible. I like the snow, and driving in the snow, and snow in my hair, and snow covering my car. Also, I like seeing Howie in jim jams- that’s a serious winter highlight.
Sausage Tortellini Soup
There are some days, though, that really take it out of you in a way that doesn’t seem to happen so much in the winter. Days when the weather is weird and drizzly and just gross. Days when it never really gets light, and the sun doesn’t even try to peek through the fog, and that’s a little depressing. Days when everyone is a little snappy because no one is enjoying the day so everything kind of sucks.
Sausage Tortellini Soup2
Not to be Susie Sunshine, but I actually like those days, too! Because those are the days that call for going home, pouring a glass of wine, and making a huge pot of soup. I don’t know about you, but for my house, the restorative power of soup is insane.
Sausage Tortellini Soup3
Today I’m bringing a recipe for tortellini soup. There are quite a few ingredients, but it comes together really easily and could be on the table in about 40 minutes. Like many of my recipes, this one is endlessly customizable- change the veggies to whatever you have on hand or eliminate the meat if you want to go veggie. I sometimes get a little squicky about beef broth, depending on where I’m shopping, so I’ve been known to swap it out for chicken or mushroom. Every version I’ve made of this has been great and, as a bonus, freezes really well. Next time you’re struggling through a gross day and need some comfort, think about making this Sausage Tortellini Soup- it will turn your day around, I promise!
Sausage Tortellini Soup
1 small zucchini
1 pepper
4 plum tomatoes
2 carrots
2 stalks celery
2 cups kale
1 pound bulk Italian sausage (or links with the casings removed)
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup red wine
1 tsp basil, dried
1/2 tbsp. oregano, dried
1 tbsp. parsley, dried
1 can cannellini beans
8 oz can tomato sauce
5 cups beef stock
I package fresh or frozen tortellini or mini ravioli
Freshly shredded parm
Prep the veggies: slice the zucchini in half length wise, and slice in 1/4 inch slices; dice the bell pepper into 1/4″ pieces and seed and dice the tomatoes; peel and dice the carrots, and dice the celery. Set all of the previous ingredients aside. Rinse and slice the kale into pretty thin strips, and place in a separate bowl. Dice the onion and grate or mince the garlic, and set these separately of the other ingredients.
Cook the sausage (if you’re using sausage) and veggies: Heat your soup pot to medium high heat (I like to used enamel coated cast iron dutch ovens) and add the sausage. Break apart with a fork or a wooden spoon, and cook until slightly browned, then drain off any excess fat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for three to five minutes, or until the onion starts to become translucent. Add the wine to the pot to deglaze, and use a wooden spoon to start to push up the browned bit of sausage that are stuck to the bottom. Once the wine has mostly been absorbed, and the zucchini, pepper, tomatoes, carrots and celery. Cook the veggies for another 4-5 minutes, or until they start to soften and take on a bit of color.
Finish the soup: Stir in the basil, oregano and parsley, and cook for a minute. While that cooks, drain and rinse the beans, then add them to the pan. Stir in the tomato sauce and stock/broth and bring to a boil. Add the tortellini and cook in the soup, according to the pasta instructions. When the tortellini is cooked, turn off the heat and stir in the kale. Let the kale soften for a few minutes, then ladle into bowls and top with shredded parm. Serve with a hunk of crusty bread, and this is the perfect winter evening meal…with plenty left for the week’s lunch. Enjoy!

November 2014 Subscription Box Reviews: Birchbox, Ipsy, and Sample Society

I know that December subs are coming out over the next week, but I still wanted to include my November comparisons- I always like to see how the subscriptions stack up against each other!

Birchbox ReviewBirchbox

Monthly delivery for $10/month

Includes 4-5 beauty and lifestyle samples

This month my box included Juice Beauty Green Apple Peel, Bain de Terre Styling Oil, Tocca Hand Cream, Not Soap Radio Body Wash, Ellovi Lip Butter, plus a bonus foil packet sample of Justin’s Chocolate Almond Butter. Overall, I am thrilled with this box! Juice Beauty is a great brand for sensitive skin, the Lip Butter was surprisingly awesome and I already knew I loved the body wash, which is why I chose it as my sample pick. Plus, I really love getting a bonus sample, especially something yummy and convenient like the almond butter- it lived in my purse for a week until I needed an emergency snack and at it smeared on an apple 🙂 I’m traditionally a bit weary of styling oil, and I feel like I have a ton of hand cream samples, so those weren’t my favorite items. Since the rest of the box was awesome, though, those really weren’t a deal breaker- great job this month, Birchbox!

Monthly delivery for $10/month

Includes 4-5 full sized or deluxe sample products, plus a makeup bag

This month my box included Be a Bombshell Eye Base, IT Cosmetics Bye Bye Under Eye,  J Cat Beauty Lip Paint, Mark Anthony Argan Oil Hair Spray, Temptu Highlighter, and the glittery cosmetics bag pictured here. For at least the second month in a row, I’m pretty skeptical about my Ipsy box. The thing is, it felt like I wanted to love everything when I opened my box! But then I started to use everything, and my enthusiasm waned. First, the eyeshadow base- I’m not a fan of Be a Bombshell, and I thought the idea of a shimmery base that’s supposed to act like a primer was weird. The under eye cream was a great idea, but a miss for me because it was the wrong skin tone- I wish that ipsy wouldn’t guess at things like this because it’s a completely wasted sample. I was thrilled to see the super dark/berry colored lip paint. The color didn’t work on me, though, and it was impossible to apply with any precision, which is really the part that irritated me the most- I can deal with a color issue if I could at least get it on my lips! The highlighter is fine, and I actually love the subtle sheen, but I’ve been inundated with Temptu products recently and would love to see more variety. So, overall, I was actually really disappointed- I was so excited to see my products, but then none of them actually wow-ed me. I guess that’s the point of the sample subs, though…at least I’m trying new things?
Sample Society Review

Allure Sample Society

Monthly Delivery for $15/month

Includes 4-5 Full sized and deluxe beauty and makeup samples

This month I received Alterna Caviar Oil, Calvin Klein Reveal perfume, LORAC Cobra Mascara, Malin and Goetz Bergamot Body Wash, MD Cream Beauty Balm. Honestly, guys- the only item in the box this month that held my interest was the mini mag, and that was only because the editors of the mag pretty much snarked on every single item they included in the box. They called the Caviar syrupy, and included tips for washing it out; they used words like ‘porny’ to describe the perfume and ‘wtf’ in relation to the mascara wand. Reading that before I even opened the box certainly did not inspire confidence in the products, and I wasn’t much more impressed after I sampled them (stopppp with counting the perfume as a sample, especially if there’s nothing else that’s awesome in the box!!). Next month has a few full size samplers, though, and a Crabtree and Evelyn hand lotion, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed- I have faith in you, Sample Society!
So that’s what I have for last month’s subs. Is there another subscription that anyone else is loving lately??

Happy December!!

Friends- hello!

You know, one month ago I was preparing for a November blogging challenge, and all of the sudden life started happening, so hard. Two huge reports due at work, and my department is understaffed. Statistics exams, and I don’t know anything about math. Grandma D passed away and, while not altogether surprising, it was a bit sudden and certainly heart breaking. Friendsgiving for thirty planned, and then cancelled. Blerg.

Unsurprisingly, I struggled to even keep my head above water- certainly, it was a character building month, and I was a quick study on the art of juggling, prioritizing, and triaging.

But now it’s December 1. It’s well past my bedtime, and Howie and I are snuggled into the flannel sheets, drinking hot cider and planning for my favorite month of the year. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that we are coming off of a glorious vacation week in sunny Port Charlotte and plunging head first into Christmas, birthday and anniversary celebrations over the next six weeks…truly, December is such a glorious month!

All of this to say- hi, again! I’ve missed the consistency that blogging brings to my life, and am looking forward to sharing more again with you this month. December is jam packed, that’s for sure, and that will certainly translate to a ton of content. Over the next month, we’ll be bring some serious Friday Pie Day, a bit of wellness, fabulous book reviews, a few holiday projects, and a ton of Howie– and you know there will be food. I hope that you are all just as excited as I am!

So tell me- what’s your favorite part of the season? Or are you seriously grinching it over the winter?