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Where I’d Go If I Didn’t Have to Stay Home: New Orleans, LA

Photo from Afar.com

I don’t know about you guys, but the last few months have given me quite a bit of time to sit and think, some things more serious than others. One of the many, many things going through my head right now is all of the places that I haven’t been. Places that aren’t all that far away, places I could perhaps drive to for a long weekend. Places like New Orleans, LA.

New Orleans has always been on Andy’s and my list of places we planned on visiting, but the timing never seemed to work out – there was always one reason or another to postpone. I decided that even though it isn’t safe to travel right now, it couldn’t hurt to do a little research, just so I could get an idea of what I’d like to do when all of this insanity is behind us and things find whatever the new balance will be. That little bit of research turned into me planning an imaginary trip, and I decided to share some of my findings with you guys. So let’s jump in.

Photo from “The Vintage” website.

Beignets – You can’t go to New Orleans and not sample the cities signature pastry. Andy and I had a bit of an argument over which establishment we would visit on our ficticious trip, and ultimately narrowed the list down to three:
Cafe Du Monde (Andy’s Top Choice) – Operating since 1862, this is the place to get beignets in New Orleans. Seriously, if you google “beignets” and “New Orleans” this place with be at the top of every single list. Deep fried squares of dough covered in a mountain of powdered sugar; this is where you want to go for a truly authentic treat. Beignets & Coffee, that’s it.
Cafe Beignet – This is another establishment (well technically four establishments) that came up under every search for “best beignets.” Cafe Beignet looks like the perfect place to indulge in powdered sugar covered pillows while also grabbing a quick meal. This option was included since it is perfect for people who may not have the time for a beignet only stop but still want to get their fix, and with their four locations, you will likely find one near other things on your vacation itinerary.
The Vintage (My Top Choice) – This is where Andy and I disagreed about the way to obtain beignets. I am all for tradition, but as a baker and an artist, I really enjoy seeing recipes modified and twisted to create something fun and new. Along with the tried and true beignet recipe, this cafe offers what they call “fancy beignets” that are filled, dipped and sprinkled with all manner of delightful additions (the selection changes regularly). It’s like it was custom made for me.

Photo from the Yelp review page.

Places to See – there are more of these than I can list in a single post, but I did want to highlight a few of the places at the top of my list.
Century Girl Vintage – I saw this place featured in a Buzzfeed video and it immediately went onto my bucket list. I couldn’t get over the stunning vintage clothing, the beautifully appointed shop, and the overall glamour of the entire experience! It was everything my giddy sparkle loving heart desired. Even better, they endeavor to be size inclusive and that completely blew my mind.
The Pharmacy Museum – Located in the Vieux Carre Historic District, this museum looks like something straight out of Harry Potter. Antique wooden shelves and cases are stocked with all manner of tonics and bottled remedies from the past. The museum provides a wonderful peak into the rich history of pharmacy and healthcare in Louisiana.
Royal Street – As I am not much of a drinker, I was interested in touring areas apart from the famous Bourbon Street. One post I found had this piece of advice “While the younger generation converged on Bourbon Street, I found magic on Royal Street – one of New Orleans’ more artsy areas. The street is lined with galleries, antique shops, estate stores and boutiques. For beads and “Who Dat” t-shirts, head one street over; for authentic New Orleans gems, stop into the stores on Royal Street and find what you’re looking for.” While I am no where near the “get off my lawn” age, the rest of the sentiment seemed applicable. I would now also like a “Who Dat” shirt to wear ironically.


The Garden District – Where the Mansions live. While doing research on this stunning neighborhood, I stumbled upon a listing for the Henry Howard Hotel . The house was originally built in 1867 and has been renovated into a stylish boutique hotel that honors the homes original charm while providing modern amenities. I decided that this will be where we stay on our imaginary trip. Bonus, it’s a short walk away from the trolley!
Voodoo Cemetery Tour – While this might seem a little cheesy, I’ve always been fascinated by the much misunderstood and maligned history of voodoo in New Orleans. This tour includes a guide to take you through the Historic Voodoo Museum, Congo Square, St. Louis Cemetery, and Marie Laveau’s house. I want to hear ALL of the stories!

Photo from Saffron NOLA Instagram

Where to Eat – No matter where I looked, food was a huge part of any list of recommendations for New Orleans. And not just the French and Cajun restaurants you’d expect. Creative, modern places that sound like a foodies fantasy. Frankly I could probably have done multiple posts about the places I’d like to try, but for this post I narrowed it down to three.
Saffron NOLA – Nominated for James Beard Best New Restaurant in 2018, this family owned business has been kicking ass and creating delicious entrees for two years now. The family has blended New Orleans traditions and ingredients with their heritage to create a menu that has landed this restaurant on my bucket list.
Coquette – “Contemporary Southern Cuisine” This eatery located in the Garden district is popular with locals as well as tourists. They focus on locally sourced products and draw global inspiration for their take on southern food. The menu is on the smaller side, but everything sounds incredible.
Peche – This seafood restaurant is focuses on working with local fisherman and farmers who harvest sustainably, and they also use “live-fire” cooking techniques. This made this list because I grew up with good seafood, and I am always interested in trying dishes that highlight quality ingredients and creative parings.

Photo from https://www.avenlylanetravel.com/

It was at this point I looked up and realized I had spent hours pouring through websites and itineraries, I had two screens full of tabs for fun potential hotel, food, and site seeing options. I realized I was getting really jazzed (pun intended) about this trip that I wasn’t actually taking. It felt like it might be time to save my progress and set the planning aside for now. Do I regret falling down the rabbit hole? Not one bit. Things won’t be like this forever, and when they’re not, I’ll be ready.


Quick & Easy Cinnamon Biscuit Bites

The first time I made these little biscuit bites, I was just standing in my kitchen on a Saturday morning craving something breakfasty and a little sweet. Something that wouldn’t require a lot of effort and wouldn’t have a long cook time. I really wanted some of those easy bake cinnamon rolls, but we didn’t have any. Finally I just threw together this little recipe and hoped for the best. It turned out better than I had hoped. The cinnamon sugar coating had caramelized the tiniest bit creating just the slightest hint of sweet crunch that gave way to a warm fluffy biscuit interior. Andy was delighted, and I posted a picture of them to my Instagram stories. When I checked my account later that day, I had messages from a couple different people expressing interest in the bites and asking if I could provide a recipe to recreate them. After sending replies, I decided that it might just be easier if I posted the recipe here and then anyone could see it.

Ingredients:
* 1 pop tube of biscuits (I used Trader Joes’s Buttermilk Biscuits)
* 1/4 cup granulated sugar
* 1/4 cup brown sugar
* 2 tbsps of ground cinnamon

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to baking temperature indicated on the tube packaging. Line cookies sheet with baking mat.
2. Combine sugars and cinnamon in a large resealable bag. Shake well to combine.
3. Remove biscuits form tube and separate. Cut each biscuit into quarters.
4. 4 or 5 pieces at a time, place the biscuit pieces into the cinnamon sugar mixture and shake to evenly coat.
5. Place the coated pieces on the lined baking sheet leaving space between to allow for the biscuits to expand.
6. Bake the pieces per the directions on the back of the tube. My biscuit pieces took 14-16 (just shy of the 16-18 minute suggested bake time).
7. Remove baked pieces from the cookie sheet and eat while warm.

Notes:

  • These bites are fantastic dipped in apple butter 🙂
  • If you can’t make it to Trader Joe’s, don’t worry; I’ve tried this recipe with Pillsbury Grands, and it works just fine.
  • I would avoid buying the flaky layers type of canned biscuits, though. You want these little guys to hold together and the layers will puff and pull apart as they bake.

Black & Brass Mini Ikea Wishlist

Usually I am of the school of “more is more” – I like things that toe the line of “too much.” Lately though, I’ve found myself drawn to pieces that are down right minimal. This weekend I found myself deep diving into the IKEA website, feeling the simplistic timeless Scandinavian design. The unifying quality of many of the pieces was the color scheme of black and bass. Clean, understated, but just a little dramatic.

  1. BEGÅVNING – I collect bell jars; I have them spread all across the house containing bits, bobs, and tiny treasures that I’ve discovered over the years. This particular specimen comes in two different sizes, and I feel like it will look lovely pretty much anywhere in my home.
  2. BRIMNES – My home office is in desperate need of additional storage. Right now I am using plastic storage bins and room organizers left over from my college years. A nice sturdy book case like this would look fantastic with some coordinating storage baskets, and I think it would be a much nicer alternative to my current situation.
  3. BOMARKEN – Much like the bell jars, I love a good glass case as much as the next treasure hunter. With the flat top of this piece, I’d be able to arrange things on top as well as within.
  4. BLOMNING & BLOMNING – Andy and I have a lot of tea, as in we could probably open our own tea shop. Sometimes the mixed and matched collection of bags, tins, and boxes can make organizing and storing our bounty quite difficult. A few of these little fellows would go a long way in fixing that problem. I just have to remember to label them before I throw the original packaging away.
  5. RANARP – One of the big purchases we made when we moved into our house was a king size heavy wood canopy bed. It takes up a great deal of our available floor space, and consequently the bedside tables we have are quite small. Too small for a traditional lamp and all of the other things that need to be there. A matching pair of these wall mounted lamps would look fantastic on either side of the bed and would solve our lack of additional lighting.

While you can still make IKEA purchases online or arrange for curbside pickup at your nearest store, I think I will probably wait until I can look everything over in store to make my final purchases. I like the pretties, but I think it’s better for us to err on the side of caution these days.


Currently: June 2020

And as the dumpster fire that is 2020 burns on, we find another month has passed, and we are almost half way through the year. Here is what is going on in my life currently.

Making – Soap. As you read this, another Brambleberry shipment is making its way to my house, and I have so many new things I cannot wait to try out. My first two soap makes turned out pretty well all things considered, but I ready to have a decent stash of supplies and to make multiple batches back to back. I am hoping to use what I have learned to create some specialty bars for friends and family for upcoming birthdays and maybe even the holidays.

Wearing – “Real” clothes. I spent the first 2+ months of the pandemic in my faded old house clothes. I skipped almost everything in my normal routine save for showering regularly, and keeping my hair ultra purple. At first, it was nice; I reveled in not putting on makeup and worrying about what I looked like. Then it started to feel gross. I was clean, but I felt frumpy and blah, and I hated seeing myself in the mirror. Finally I decided enough was enough, and I started getting back into my normal routine. Not the whole thing, but showering as soon as I woke up, getting dressed, and throwing on a quick five minute face of make up. I may only be walking down the hallway to my office, but it has done a lot of help my spirits.

Smelling – Petrichor. Florida is getting into it summer weather pattern of afternoon showers. It’s hot and sunny enough that the “fresh after rain” smell is only around for about an hour before everything is dry again, but it’s nice enough that I try to stick my nose out the back door when I get the chance and take a deep breath of the fresh and new before getting back to work.

Remembering – My brother. He would have been 32 on June 18th this year. I know a lot of my family has the most trouble around the anniversary of his death, but for me, it is his birthday. I can’t help but think about everything that he has missed and wonder what things would be like if he were still here. I deeply mourn the loss of our chance to have had an adult sibling relationship. That time after you’re no longer fighting over what show to watch or who gets to ride in the front seat. Where you get to spend holidays together and roll your eyes at the weird things that your parents are doing. I think we would have had a lot of fun.

To-Do Listing – Projects for the two room makeovers I am planning in the next couple of months. Before the world exploded, I was working with a friend of mine from design school who has been doing visual design for stores like Saks and Macys for the last few years. Recently, she has been dipping her toe into interior design, and she was the perfect person to help me figure out how to take all of my ideas and translate them into a cohesive usable space. Lock down definitely put the kibosh on the project for the moment, but it did give me time to tackle my junk room (aka my home office). Literal days (weeks) later, I have a clean, well-organized space perfect for all the telecommuting I’ve been doing, but it also has allowed me to start thinking about what I really want this space to be. I think I have some really solid ideas, and I feel like I am almost to the point where I might be able to stop planning and start implementing. I’ve always built my style around what I already had on hand or what I could pick up inexpensively, and the idea of an intentional from the ground redesign is so very exciting.

What are your summer plans, and what is going on in your life currently?


Bon Appetit: Miso-Almond Butter Cookies

If you had asked me a few years ago what I thought of when someone mentioned Bon Appetit, I would have said it was complicated foodie recipes for people who cared more about talking about food than they did actually eating food. Harsh, but for the longest time, it seemed so unapproachable and needlessly fussy. Then I started watching the YouTube videos being put out by the BA Test Kitchen and I had to admit I was wrong. Are there people there who take themselves a little too seriously? Absolutely, but there are plenty of others who genuinely enjoy food and are interested in exploring all that our current culinary renaissance has to offer.

This weekend I decided to dip my toe in the BA baking pool and try out a pretty straightforward cookie recipe that I’ve been eyeing for a while now. Miso-Almond Butter Cookies.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1¼ cups whole wheat flour
  • ½ tsp. baking soda
  • 10 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • ⅓ cup smooth almond butter
  • ¼ cup miso
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips or wafers (*see note)
  • Flaky sea salt

RECIPE PREPARATION

  • Place racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 350°. Whisk flour and baking soda in a medium bowl.
  • Melt butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling occasionally, until it foams, then browns, 5–6 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and let cool 5 minutes. Add brown sugar and stir until well combined, about 1 minute. Add egg and continue to stir until mixture is smooth, about 1 minute longer. Add almond butter, miso, and vanilla and stir until well combined. Mix in dry ingredients, scraping down sides of bowl as needed, until combined. *If you aren’t feeling the chocolate dip (instructions below), now is the time to stir in ½ cup chocolate chips. Let dough rest 10 minutes.
  • Scoop 2-tablespoonfuls of dough and roll into a ball (you should have 16 balls). Arrange on 2 parchment-lined baking sheets, spacing 2″ apart. Make a crosshatch pattern with a fork across tops of dough (if fork sticks to dough, dip into water before continuing). Bake cookies, rotating sheets halfway through, until lightly browned and firm around the edges, 12–14 minutes. Let cool.
  • Melt chocolate in a microwave in 20-second blasts, stirring in between, until completely smooth. Dip 1 side of each cookie into chocolate and return to baking sheets. Let sit at room temperature until chocolate hardens, about 2 hours. Sprinkle with sea salt.

Thoughts:

I think I built these cookies up a little too much in my mind. I was certain that they were going to be unusual, but hands down the most incredible cookie I’ve ever tasted… but they turned out to be merely okay. Probably a little better than okay, but still, I was kind of disappointed.

They were unique though; I don’t think I’ve ever had a cookie that toys with the savory, sweet balance in quite the same way. The miso added an earthiness that worked really well with the almond butter. I expected the browned butter to play a stronger roll in the flavor profile, but I think it just brought out the depth of the miso flavor and added a little more richness to the cookie overall. I let the cookies cool overnight before dipping them in chocolate, and my personal opinion is that they are better without the chocolate. I would like to pair them with some really great vanilla ice cream and maybe turn the two into an ice cream sandwich. Andy, on the other hand, thought the chocolate was the perfect addition and was of the opinion that it “made the cookie.”

Overall I am pleased that I gave the recipe a try. It took away a little of the intimidation that I felt from the BA recipes, and although the cookies weren’t my favorite, it was really nice to experience something I’d never tried before. Maybe I’ll do a deep dive and come up with another cookie recipe I just have to try.