Monday, October 29, 2012

Pumpkin Chocolate Swirl Brownies

Is everyone on the East Coast surviving this bitch of a hurricane so far? I hope so! The worst of it hasn't hit Boston yet so I'm trying to crank out this here blog post before the power goes. I have little optimism that it won't! This is a good one though and it may end up being a good post-hurricane treat. If you're nowhere near the East Coast of the U.S. then they're just a good any time treat.

About a week ago my roommate said to me, "Feel free to make anything in the brownie book I have!" Er, what?! You have a brownie book? Yes, she has a brownie book. These don't come from said brownie book, but the brownie seed was planted in the garden of baking ideas in my brain.

Pumpkin season is still going strong and I love baking with it so I set out to find a pumpkin brownie recipe. Obviously Martha had the perfect option!

1 stick (8 tablespoons) of unsalted butter
6 ounces chocolate chips or chopped from a bar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups sugar
4 large eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups pumpkin puree
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 ground nutmeg

Pre-heat your oven to 350. Butter a 9x9 baking pan and line it with parchment paper. I like to have some of the parchment paper hang over the edge of the baking pan so the brownies can pop out easily. Butter the parchment paper as well.

Using a double boiler, which is just a heat proof bowl placed on top of a pot of simmering water, melt the chocolate and the butter until their smooth. Make sure that the bottom of the bowl doesn't touch the water and that the water never really comes to a boil. If not, the chocolate can burn. Ain't nobody got time for that.

It will look a little gross for a while, but just keep stirring.

Smooth as a baby's bottom :)

Next, mix the flour, baking powder, cayenne, and salt in a bowl and whisk to combine. Don't let the cayenne scare you. It's just there to enhance the flavors and you can't taste it in the end at all.

That looks like just flour, but trust me, everything is in there!

Put the sugar, eggs, and vanilla in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat on high for at least 3-5 minutes until it's fluffy.

Turn the speed down to low and slowly add the flour mixture until everything is well combined.

It's a thick batter, but that's exactly the way you want it. Take half of that batter (it turns out to be a little more than 2 cups) and put it in a separate bowl. Fold in the chocolate and butter until its combine and you want to pour the whole thing in your mouth because it looks and smells so amazingly delicious.

To the other half of the batter that's still in the mixing bowl, add the pumpkin, oil, cinnamon and nutmeg and fold them in until their well combined.

Now we're ready to start layering the batter.

Pour half the chocolate batter in the pan and spread it evenly with a spatula.

Gently pour half the pumpkin batter on top of the chocolate batter. The batters are thick so they shouldn't mix. Spread the pumpkin batter evenly with a spatula.

You're going to do the exact same thing with the last two halves of each of the batter. When all the batter is in the pan, take a butter knife and swirl the batters together until they look like marble.

Bake these for 40-45 minutes. Even with my wonky oven I found the 45 was necessary to bake the middle enough so keep an eye on yours too.

YUM. Let them cool in the pan for a bit and then you can lift them out using the parchment that's hanging over.

Now, Martha's recipe calls for a topping of hazelnuts, but I don't think nuts have a place on or in a brownie. It's just not right. Frosting, however, has a place on a brownie. I really wasn't planning on frosting these because I thought they would be tasty enough, but after an overwhelming (meaning about five people) positive response for frosting on Twitter I decided to frost them.

Here is the simplest of simple chocolate frostings and a perfect amount for a 9x9 cake or brownies -

3 Tablespoons of softened butter
1 1/3 cups powdered sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tablespoons of milk
1/2 a teaspoon vanilla

Beat with a whisk attachment until is fluffy.

Frosting was a really, really, really good idea! These are so incredibly delicious! It makes a pretty cakey brownie, but the flavor is all that really matters

 Extreme close up of swirlyness!

I'm pretty happy that my hurricane preparedness includes these. I've only had one as of right now, but I expect to have many more by the time Sandy moves all the way through today. The pumpkin and chocolate mix perfectly and the frosting ads a perfect bit of extra chocolatiness. I highly suggest making these before all of the pumpkin is gone for another year.

Tell me how you feel about brownies. Also - frosting or no frosting?

Friday, October 26, 2012

Hot Looks Of The Week & My Faves

Image via Bauer Griffin
Berenice Marlohe In Julien Macdonald
Berenice Marlohe is the latest gorgeous woman to call herself a Bond Girl. Ms. Marlohe stars with Daniel Craig in Skyfall and previous to this accomplishment I had never heard of her. Oops. Like all stars of blockbuster movies, she's been gifted with her choice of garments for premieres, photo calls, and press events. I have loved everything she's worn, which you can see here, but this Julien Macdonald cocktail dress is my favorite. Sorry, Elie Saab. I love the sheer bodice and sleeves and it was such a smart move by the designer to have a long sleeve to off-set the sexiness of the dress. I love the back view as well and I have hair envy. I know who she is now!

Image via
Krysten Ritter In Reem Acra

Krysten Ritter has also had a stylish week. She's been out promoting her show, Don't Trust the B---- In Apartment 23 and attending every event ever. I have a feeling that show might be terrible, but at least she's been looking cute! My favorite of her looks is this Reem Acra dress. I love the lacy flower sleeves and the knot detail with the fabric around the waist. I think I would have preferred her hair up to show off the neckline, which you can see on the model, but it's not a deal breaker. Obviously I love the leopard Jimmy Choo heels. Leopard is such a perfect neutral to all of the jewel tones that are popular for fall! 

My Faves
Discount shopping - one of my favorite subjects! See how three editors from Refinery 29 created six looks for under $50 each by shopping at Marshall's, T.J. Maxx, and Strawberry. Lots of good style ideas in there too! 

I featured Leigh Lezark a few weeks ago and as if on cue, Harper's Bazaar did a feature on her closet ;) These photos make me what to buy a lot of shoes! 

Solange Knowles, whom I adore, is lending her talents to jewelry designer Lady Grey and selecting (I REFUSE to use the word that starts with C that the fashion and retail industry has uncreatively bastardized into oblivion.) her favorite pieces from their Fall 2012 collection. Their price points are great so if you're in the market for some new statement jewelry, shop! 

I had some leftover quinoa from my lunches this week that I turned into a quinoa "mac" and cheese for dinner last night. It's SO GOOD. I'll blog it at some point because I think it will appeal to a lot of people!   

I'm making these pumpkin swirl brownies this weekend and my word I am excited. Stay tuned for those!   

Old Navy is having a sale on dresses right now and I ordered a couple of cute ones (left, obv). I think I've said it before - Old Navy comes up with some gems sometimes so always check there when you're shopping for affordable clothes! 

That's it :) I hope everyone has a fun weekend!  

Monday, October 22, 2012

My Favorite Chili

By popular demand, meaning one person asked me for a chili recipe on Twitter, here is my favorite chili recipe :)

Everyone loves chili right? It's hearty and comforting and you can put just about anything in it and it will still be good. My mom made chili and corn muffins (mmm I should have made some of those) all the time when I was a kid so I have a long-standing love for it. I can't remember what cook book her recipe came from, but I know that it was ancient. Which just means that chili has been loved and delicious for a long time. I use ground turkey in my chili instead of beef. Turkey is healthier and I don't really eat beef, but beef would easily work. Here's the rest of the recipe:

1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
1 lb. ground turkey
1/2 tsp. salt
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tsp. chili powder
1 Tbs. cumin
1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 15 oz. can white beans
1/2 cup water
2 medium green peppers, chopped
3 small zucchini (or equivalent), chopped

Makes 4 servings

First things first, chop the veggies. I was crying too much to photograph the onion (damn those things!), but you all know what that looks like anyway. To cut the zucchini I just lop off the ends, split it in half, half it again and then cut about 1/2 in pieces. All pieces should be the same size so they cook evenly.

Next peppers. I think everyone cuts peppers differently. Here's how I do it: first, lay it on its side and cut the top off. Then pull out the seeds and the ribs. If you're like me, then you're cursed by pepper seeds. Those little buggers get everywhere and it's really hard to get them all out. Here is my patented move for getting all the seeds out: Hold the pepper so the open end is over the sink or garbage can. Then knock on it like you're knocking on a door and the rest of the seeds will come out. I'm sure people have been doing this for centuries, but just let me feel special for a while here. The pieces of pepper you cut should be the same size as the zucchini. Even cooking is the name of the game.

Now we're ready to cook some turkey. Heat your olive oil in a big stock pot or Dutch oven over meduim-high heat. Add the turkey and the salt and cook it for 6-8 minutes.

Start breaking up the turkey with a wooden spoon. This will get easier once the turkey starts to brown.

See? Next, add the onions and let them cook for 4-5 minutes until they become translucent.

Next go the spices. Add the cumin and the chili powder, stir, and let it cook for another minute. This will smell delicious.

Next, everything else goes in. Easy! Pour in the tomatoes and the juice they're in, the white beans, the water, and the vegetables.

Turn the heat down to medium and let it simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes while you stir occasionally. It will look the same, but bubblier when it's done.

And that's it! It's super easy and the whole things takes less than half an hour.

I eat this all the time during the fall and winter. It's so good, totally affordable, and there is hardly any clean up. That's such a bonus in my dishwasherless kitchen. You can make so many different versions of this chili as well. Use ground beef or ground chicken, change out the white beans for kidney beans, throw in some quinoa for extra protein, or change up the vegetables and spices. The variations are endless, but I think this one will always be my favorite.

Tell me your thoughts on chili. Like it? Love it? Should I have made corn muffins too? I think we know the answer to that one.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Hot Looks Of The Week & My Faves

Image via Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America
Kristen Wiig In Calvin Klein
Kristen Wiig often finds herself on the worst dressed list at awards shows because she continually wears things devoid of color and, um, good taste. Her go-to color is beige and for a woman with such a personality it makes no sense. Hopefully this simple yet gorgeous Calvin Klein dress will mark a turning point for her. Wiig wore this to ELLE's 19th Annual Women In Hollywood event on Monday, which was sponsored in part by Calvin Klein. I'm even more delighted that she chose a green dress from Calvin Klein since Francisco Costa's designs are so often colorless. Her new hair color sets it off beautifully as well. Keep it up, Wiig.
Image via Frazer Harrison/Getty Images North America
Emma Stone In Valentino
I honestly can't remember if I've gushed over Emma Stone here before and I'm too lazy to check right now, but I love her. I really, really love her. And her stylist Petra Flannery because she has helped make Emma one of the best dressed women in Hollywood. At least in my humble opinion :) Emma wore this adorable hot pink Valentino Resort 2013 dress to the ELLE event. It's so sweet and lady-like, but the punch of hot pink makes it fresh. And the Salvatore Ferragamo houndstooth pumps are GENIUS. Black and white is always a neutral and they make this look so stylish and young. I think Emma's next big press tour will be for Gangster Squad and I'm already salivating over her wardrobe prospects!

My Faves

Designer collaborations with department stores are nothing new, but Narciso Rodriguez's first collection for Kohl's is. It's good, but I'm not as excited about it as I thought I'd be. I think I'm most disappointed that most of the dresses are so form fitting, which is not really in my favor. I am in love with these pants and this coat though.

I adore Man Repeller's look from the WSJ Magazine's Innovator Of The Year Awards last night. I will always be a fan of a suit with a plain white T, statement necklace and sexy shoes. Her suit is from Zara and her shoes are Proenza Schouler.

Speaking of sexy shoes, J.Crew made these for me I'm sure. Neon and neutral and snakeskin AND a toe cap?! SOLD. Unfortunately I will never be able to afford them and I'm sure they'll sell out before they go on sale. The hunt for a knock-off begins now.

In other designers in department stores news, the Target + Neiman Marcus Holiday collection lookbook has arrived. It's light on clothes, but there are lots of other goodies to be had. Namely this gorgeous Altuzarra bar set, Alice + Olivia luggage, and this Tracy Reese top. Okay so one was clothes :)

Getting to see the homes of wealthy, stylish people is one of my favorite things. So let's take a look at Tibi designer Amy Smilovic's Greenwich, CT home, shall we?

That's all. I lacked creativity and motivation this week so hopefully there will be a turnaround for next!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Hot Looks Of The Week & My Faves

Image via
Leigh Lezark In Chanel
You may not be familiar with Leigh Lezark. She's a DJ with The Misshapes and a model and sits front row at just about any fashion show you can think of because of these things. She also happens to be really, really ridiculously good looking so I'm sure that helps her cause. Leigh attended Chanel Fine Jewelry's 80th Anniversary celebration of its "Bijoux De Diamants" collection. Don't ask me what that is because I am unaware. Chanel doesn't really need an excuse to have a party though. I think Leigh looks totally gorgeous in this dress from Chanel's 2010 Pre-Fall collection. I love that this dress was shown over two years ago, which makes it ancient in fashion years, but it's still relevant. That Chanel! Always timeless!
Image via
Rose Byrne In Target
Yes, Target! I picked this look not only because she looks great, but because we can actually buy it and it will look great on anyone. Rose attended the premiere of Target's Falling for You short film in NYC on Wednesday night. This skirt is from the Converse One Star line and you can buy it right here for $24.99. Her belt is from Target's Merona line and is only $16.99. One can never have too many leopard belts. They go with everything and can take any look up a notch. Even if it's from Target! Aside from Rose's Sergio Rossi heels, I'm not sure where the rest of her outfit is from but it wouldn't be hard to replicate at all. In fact, you could probably do it exclusively at Target and it would cost you far less than $100. And you'd be left with a skirt, sweater, and belt that could go with a bunch of other separates. Looking stylish does not have to cost a lot, my friends!

My Faves

I know I've mentioned her before, but I think Annie Ladino is one of the best fashion stylists in the biz right now. I love this profile that the Chicago Tribune did of her!

I have fallen in love with this Dolce & Gabbana dress. Unfortunately since I'm also in love with having a place to live and being able to afford food, I will never own it. Hopefully ASOS will do me a solid and knock it off!

I've made no secret of my love for Bauble Bar and Blair Eadie from Atlantic-Pacific. Those two loves came together and created a jewelry collection that is pretty fantastic and affordable!

A six ingredient apple pie cake? UM okay! Thank you, Martha.

I am desperado for a book shelf in my living room. My books and DVDs have been living in a pile on the floor since my former roommate took her shelf with her. I love the Sapien style book shelves, but I don't love their price. I also love the ones that lean and look like ladders. I will likely never be able to make a decision so have fun on the floor, goods.

Even though this was a short week it felt like a long one. Why does it always gotta go down like that?! I hope everyone has a fun fall weekend. I might be ready to take the plunge and get my hands on some apple cider, which I consume with the voracity of an addict and therefore only limit myself to 1 gallon per fall. That is a first world problem.  

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Zara Home Has Arrived

I think it's safe to say that Zara is a go-to for (mostly) affordable trendy clothes and accessories, yes? It was a happy day on Newbury Street when the European mainstay finally made its way there a few years ago. I was totally unaware that Zara made housewares until it was announced a few weeks ago that Zara Home would be available to purchase online in the U.S. for the first time this week. Zara Home! Since I'm ballin' on a budget and will be for the foreseeable future, another option for affordable, stylish housewares is very exciting. It looks like their price point falls somewhere close the West Elm end of the price spectrum. Not quite as affordable as Ikea, but definitely doable. Here are some of my favorite pieces:

Onokuni acryllic nesting tables - $189
Paisley pillow - ~$40
Everton pillow - ~$67
Yeti throw - $189
Marta rug - $189
Blanchard jar - $25.90
Mirium apron - $35.90 (can I just wear this as a skirt?)
Adder dish towels - $9.90
Lennon tray - $59.90
Alhambra pitcher - $16.90
Montse cake stand - $79.90 (I NEED this.)
Venice mirror - $79.90
Harvey vase - $59.90
Belen bookends - $35.90 (Although their trunks should be up since elephants with their trunks up are good luck!)
Consider this is a registry, if you will. Remember the Sex and The City episode when Carrie registers at Manolo Blahnik because she figures she's bought enough wedding/shower/baby gifts over the years that she's entitled to something too? Well, I'm not nearly that audacious and that's one of the reasons why Carrie is so obnoxious (She did have the original Manolos stolen from Tatum O'Neal's house, but still!), but there's nothing wrong with giving your friends and family a little nudge in the gift giving department, right?

My selfishness aside, Zara Home is pretty great and there's a TON more good stuff to check out! To celebrate their introduction to North American online shores, you can get free shipping for the entire month of October. I'm going for the cake stand first. How about you?