Liebster Award

One of my very favorite things about the blogging community is the friendship and support I’ve come to find from so many wonderful bloggers. I was nominated for the Liebster Award by Smiling Notes and mypinchofyum.

liebsteraward

Smiling Notes blog is a delightful ray of sunshine, full of fun adventures and delicious recipes. And Priti at mypinchofyum definitely opens up my world to new foods I wouldn’t normally be exposed to. Thanks to both of you for thinking of me.

I really enjoy writing these kinds of posts because they’re like a little glimpse into who I am.

Here are the rules for the Liebster Award:

1. Thank the person who nominated you and provide a link to their site.

2. Include the Liebster award sticker in your post.

3. Nominate ten other bloggers who you think are worthy of this award.

4. Answer the ten questions asked to you by the person who nominated you and make ten questions of your own for your nominees.

Questions from Smiling Notes

1. What inspired you to start your own blog?

This was something I’d been contemplating for a long time. I studied creative writing in college, so having a blog always seemed like a natural thing I should just do. But every time I tried it felt forced, and when creativity isn’t organic, it doesn’t come out right. Honestly, the spark that finally made it happen came about one day when a coworker of mine said something about following your true passions. While I knew turning around and simply opening up a bakery wasn’t exactly going to happen, I knew I could immediately do this (a virtual cafĂ©) and start putting myself and the things I love out there. I don’t even remember exactly what she’d said, but it struck me hard, and as soon as I got home I created the site. It felt organic. It felt natural.

2. Who is your No.1 Support system in your life?

Different people support me in different ways. My parents have provided unrelenting support for me throughout my entire life. Their love has never once wavered. They are incredible and I love them dearly.

I have to say that the one person in my life who I can open up every single part of myself to–every thought big or small, every quirk, every delight and every mistake is my boyfriend, Brayden. He supports me no matter what. I’m lucky. I found my soul mate.

3. Do you speak any other languages apart from English?

Brayden and I are planning to start taking German classes soon. And I think Japanese is the most beautiful language.

4. One thing you cannot live without?

Right now, boba tea. Obsessed.

5. What is your favorite place/ destination that you have visited?

This one is tough. I’m torn between Ireland and Seattle, WA. Visiting Ireland was like a fairy tale; sometimes I can’t believe it even happened. Seattle is where I want to live my life every day.

6. Do you have any pets?

We’ve got plans for some fur babies!

7. Which is the best post that you have written so far? (please link it)

Rather than best post, I’d say the one I’m most proud of is my Homemade Brioche French Toast. It has certainly been the most fun to make and it really pushed me with my baking.

8. Which quality in people do you appreciate the most?

The first thing that comes to mind is “empathy.” I truly enjoy being around people who have the wherewithal to think outside of their own boxes, and in turn make the people around them feel at ease. It’s honestly more of an aura about a person. Almost as soon as I’ve met you, I know if we’ve made a connection or we haven’t.

9. What is your comfort meal on a lazy/ sick day?

Whatever’s currently baking in the kitchen!

10. What is your motto in life?

There is something good in every day. Enjoy the present moment.

Questions from mypinchofyum

1. What do you value most in your life?

My family of course, but also my freedom. I couldn’t imagine having that taken away. I also value food. A lot. Meal times are, like, the highlights of my day.

2. What inspired you to start your blog?

See question #1 from the previous set 😉

3. Do you speak any other language apart from English?

This feels like deja vu. See #3 from the previous set.

4. What do you like the most – vegetables, chicken, pork, beef, lamb or seafood?

Vegetables for sure. There are so many to choose from and they are sooo good!

5. Which is your favorite spice?

Cinnamon

6. Best moment in your life?

Summer of 2012. Brayden and I were still in college and not yet living together, but I stayed at his apartment with him while I worked a summer job on our university campus. It would take a long time to explain why, but it was simply the best time of my life. We hiked mountains, played in the pouring rain and baked all the time. Now I get to live with him every day, and that’s pretty much the best time of my life, too.

7. Is there any food ingredient or dish that you will never eat?

Sorry to all you sushi fans out there (I know your love for it is fierce!), but I just can’t do it. I have tried it before, but the mere smell of sushi and rice wine makes me queasy 😩

8. Which is your favorite cuisine in the world and why?

Am I allowed to say pastries, breads and cheeses? I love all kinds of foods, but baked goods, particularly on the slightly sweeter side, make my heart sing.

9. What is your signature dish?

I feel so serious answering this question for some reason. I don’t know that I have a “signature dish”, but I think my muffin game is pretty spot on.

10. Where would you live if you could live anywhere you wanted on the Earth?

This is another really difficult one because there are so many amazing places. I feel this deep-seeded connection with docks, harbors, boats and large bodies of water, so I know I would want to live in a port city. As I mentioned above, Seattle is one of my favorite places in the world.

liebster-award

And now my questions:

1. What is your favorite taste: sour, sweet, salty, bitter or umami?

2. Describe a weird quirk of yours.

3. If you could be a part of the first society to colonize on Mars, would you do it?

4. Who is your favorite author?

5. What is your favorite season (time of year)?

6. Who would you rather be, Gandalf or Dumbledore?

7. What is your favorite meal of the day? (c’mon, you know it’s breakfast)

8. If you could live either in the mountains, near the ocean, in the countryside or in the city, which would you choose?

9. How do you get your emotions out?

10. What is your favorite smell?

❀

My super awesome nominees:

love the little bakery

Stylebychia

Crumbs and Tea

The Sugar Tin

Cozy Eats

Lifestyle Pastry

Milk, Chai & Honey

The Cinnamon Scrolls

ginandmorecake

Tragic Girls

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The Messiest, Most Delicious S’mores Hot Chocolate

We’re bringing a night in front of the campfire indoors for this one. The simplicity of roasting s’mores over a fire is one of my favorite things about summer time. I also love hot chocolate (who doesn’t?), so I came up with something that I think captures the essence of that classic treat but in a breakfast-y drink form.

S'mores Hot Chocolate

It turned out pretty gooey and messy, and so I ended up with “The Messiest, Most Delicious S’mores Hot Chocolate.” Prepare your sweet tooth for this heaping cup of marshmallowy chocolate. Of course, simply putting marshmallows over hot chocolate and letting them melt isn’t enough to elicit that campfire feeling, so I used a marshmallow “roasting” method in the kitchen that I think worked out well.

This decadent drink has all the fix-ins of a traditional s’more. The graham cracker crumbs, roasted marshies and chocolate mix together for a sweet, rich drink that’ll feel reminiscent of those good times roughing it out in the woods (except you’ll be at home under a blanket).

S'mores Hot Chocolate

This recipe makes two cups of hot chocolate. The amount of marshmallows used are meant to be split between two cups, or you know, you can make one giant mug for yourself. 😉

The Messiest, Most Delicious S’mores Hot Chocolate

2 cups whole milk

60 g Symphony Bar milk chocolate (or 1/2 a standard-sized candy bar)

1 heaping tsp cocoa powder (unsweetened)

1 tsp Nutella or other chocolate hazelnut spread

About 10 large marshmallows (more or less depending on your preference)

About 4 graham cracker squares

Chocolate Syrup

Caramel Sauce

Crush the graham crackers into fine crumbs using a rolling pin and bunch them up in a nice, large pile. Prepare your mugs by pouring a bit of chocolate syrup on a plate and dipping the rim of each mug into the chocolate. Then, dip the rim of the mugs again into the crushed graham crackers.

In a medium-sized pot, pour the milk over medium-low heat and add the Symphony Bar, cocoa powder and Nutella. Whisk until everything has melted. Be sure the milk does not get too hot.

Let the hot chocolate sit at low heat while you prepare the “roasted marshmallows.” Set your oven to broil-high, and place the marshmallows on a foil-lined baking sheet. Put them in the oven and watch very closely. The marshmallows will start to roast quickly. Take them out when they’ve reached your preferred level of toastiness. I took mine out after about 1 1/2 to 2 min.

Carefully pour the hot chocolate into each mug, followed with the roasted marshmallows. Sprinkle some of the extra graham cracker crumbs over the top and generously drizzle with caramel and chocolate sauce. Happy sipping!

S'mores Hot Chocolate

Infinity Dreams Award

My heart fluttered with joy when the wonderful blog “The Sugar Tin” nominated me for the “Infinity Dreams Award.” I think this kind of award reminds me of the very root of why I blog: because I have these simple passions, like baking and writing. Because I want to share the things I love.

Infinity Dreams Award

So the rules of the “Infinity Dreams Award” are pretty simple. Link back to the blogger who nominated you (thank you, Sugar Tin!), list seven personal dreams (no matter how big or small) and nominate a few other bloggers to continue the chain of positivity. 🌙

Here goes nothing!

1. Travel the world

Travel has always been indescribably important to me. I heard a quote once that went something like, if you only stay in one place for your entire life, you’ve never left the first few chapters. Seeing the world means seeing places I could never imagine, having new experiences I couldn’t fathom, encountering cultures that teach me something new about the way I view life.

2. Own a bakery/coffee shop/café

This is the one I get all giddy over, thinking about how my cafĂ© would look–how it would be comfy, casual, quiet, yet inviting. It’d be an everyday spot for regulars to relax and ease into their days with good service, a soothing atmosphere and food/drinks they’ll want to tell everybody about. It’d be a place where newcomers feel welcome and where it’s easy to bring a book or a friend along and stay for hours. To me, a great establishment is all about atmosphere, service and quality. But of course, even thinking about trying to start a brick and mortar establishment is scary and a little overwhelming. The desire for this is actually what ultimately influenced me to start this “virtual” cafĂ©. I’m always thinking about bigger plans though…it’s all baby steps, but you never know!

3. Find the love of my life

Okay, so I’m putting something on this list that has already come true, but it’s always been one of my very biggest dreams. It may sound cheesy, but I think my boyfriend deserves a lot of credit and recognition for the incredible person he is and what joy he brings into my life. It didn’t take long after meeting him to know that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with him. He’s my absolute best friend in the world and he makes me smile every single day. I could never say how thankful I am for him.

4. Live in a society where environmental awareness is the norm

There are plenty of places out there that advocate for the importance of composting, recycling, reusing and generally paying mind to the way we affect our planet. But wouldn’t it be amazing if everyone everywhere devoted the time to it? Beyond waste management, I want society to put a greater focus on protecting and preserving this beautiful earth. It can be as simple as making little changes in the way you conduct your day-to-day life.

5. Move out of my home state

I love my home. I live in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona and have lived here for my entire life, from quaint Gilbert to the heavily cultured Tucson to Scottsdale, chic and full of adventure. The mysterious, spell-binding desert landscape, the gorgeous mountains on every horizon, and the majestic saguaro cacti will always capture my heart, but I have this burning desire to experience new landscapes and ways of living.

6. Thank Hayao Miyazaki for his work

Japanese animation director and writer Hayao Miyazaki has had a profound influence on my life. From my first experience with his films as a child seeing Kiki’s Delivery Service to that awe-inspiring moment when I saw Spirited Away, Miyazaki’s films have shaped my outlook on the world. They make me feel like there really is magic out there, spiritual realms and amazing adventures to be had. His films capture the magic of child-like wonder, while also encouraging people to think about the big issues out there, like environmentalism. He’s brilliant. If I could, I would try to put into words what his work has meant to me over the years (I’d have to learn a little Japanese to try to tell him!).

7. It is quite difficult to think of seven dreams I have in my life because I know I’ll think of more later, or ask myself while lying in bed at night, why didn’t I include that? So I’ll end it with this: I hope that all of the people I love in my life will reach their own goals and dreams. None of it really matters if you don’t have the people you love around you to share in your happiness and triumphs. I have a beautiful family and friends–more than anything I want to see them all happy.

If you’ve read all of this, I truly thank you for taking the time to invest yourself in a few of the things that hold meaning for me.

Infinity Dreams Award

And now, here are my nominations for the “Infinity Dreams Award”:

Mypinchofyum

Mel in the Mitten

Thenotsocreativecook

The Dairy Free Baker

The Irish Blonde

soymilk on a sunday

Strawberry Muffins With Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Kitchen time has been so fun lately. Like more fun than usual. I’ve really been exploring my creativity with baking and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with the outcome.

Strawberry Muffins w/ Mascarpone Whipped Cream

So I had mascarpone whipped cream on top of brioche french toast at my verrrry favorite breakfast joint, Snooze, recently and I’m kind of obsessed with it now. And since strawberries are in season, I figured why not combine the two somehow for a sweet summer treat.

These strawberry muffins taste almost like a strawberry shortcake. They’re like wonderful, decadent dessert muffins and the mascarpone makes for a nice creamy addition. I think they would go well with brunch as a sweet portion, coupled with a savory side or main dish. Or you can simply have dessert for breakfast (yessss).

Strawberry Muffins w/ Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Let’s get to it.

Strawberry Muffins w/ Mascarpone Whipped Cream

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

3/4 cup sugar

A dash of salt

2 tsp baking powder

A dash of cinnamon

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 egg

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

Organic strawberry preserves (this tastes best, but you can use whatever strawberry jam you’d like)

8 oz strawberries (about half a carton)

For the Mascarpone Whipped Cream:

8 oz heavy cream

4 oz mascarpone cheese

2 tbs + 1 tsp sugar (or sweeten to taste)

Grease a muffin tin and preheat the oven to 400Âș F.

In a large mixing bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon and sugar. Then in a liquid measuring cup lightly whisk the egg, vegetable oil and milk. Slowly add this to the dry mixture and fold until blended. Add the vanilla. We’re going to leave them as “plain muffins,” as the strawberry portion comes after they’ve baked in the oven.

Bake for 20 min, or about 18 min if using a dark, non-stick pan.

Meanwhile, we can get going on the mascarpone whipped cream. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, add the heavy cream, mascarpone and sugar (if you aren’t sure how sweet you want it to be, start with less sugar. You can always add more as you go). With the beater hooks slightly chilled, beat the mixture on high until it stiffens into a fluffy, whipped texture, about 3 min. Set it aside in the fridge.

Thinly slice your strawberries and set aside.

Strawberry Muffins w/ Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Once the muffins are done, allow them to cool on a rack for 10-15 min, then carefully slice each muffin in half horizontal ways so that you have a round little “muffin sandwich.” Spread a generous amount of strawberry preserves and as many strawberry slices as you would like on the bottom half and place the other half over the top. Drop a dollop of whipped cream over the top and garnish with strawberry slices. I added a bit of sliced almonds as well (you know I’m all about that crunch factor).

These are great to share with someone else, and be sure to have a couple of forks on hand! You’ll also want to make sure you store these in the fridge so the whipped cream does not melt. Enjoy enjoy! ❀

Strawberry Muffins w/ Mascarpone Whipped Cream

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

These scones are heavenly. I feel like I’m being transported to a delightful little countryside manor every time I take a bite of one.

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

This recipe actually came from a superior at work (like several levels up superior) who began an email conversation with me a few weeks ago after she discovered my blog. We’ve been talking about all things baking, home, lifestyle and DIY since then. Again, it never ceases to amaze me who you can get in touch with when you put yourself out there. So after making my “Glazed Baked French Toast” for a weekend up north, she gave me one of her go-to recipes and it sounded so good I had to make it as soon as I got home. I added just a bit to it (the blueberries, cinnamon and allspice, for instance). You can never go wrong with blueberries and cinnamon when it comes to breakfast.

Boy am I grateful she let me in on this one–these scones have lightly golden toasted outsides with a soft yet crumbly interior, coupled with juicy blueberries. And the buttermilk notes really shine through, bringing it all together for a delightfully not-too-sweet flavor. You may be used to scones that are fried up and have a tougher, slightly crispier texture, but these are more similar to biscuits.

Blueberry Buttermilk Pancakes

Alright, let’s do it!

Blueberry Buttermilk Scones

3 cups all-purpose flour

1/3 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

A pinch of allspice

A dash of cinnamon

2 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

3/4 cup butter, room temperature

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen

1 egg + 1 tbs water for the egg wash

Yields 16 scones

Prepare a baking sheet with a non-stick spray and heat the oven to 400Âș F.

Mix together the flour, sugar, allspice, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a large mixing bowl. Add the butter in and mix with a large fork or with your hands to get a crumbly, dry meal-texture.

Next, slowly add the buttermilk and stir just until everything is combined. Add the blueberries and stir softly. This is mainly if you are using fresh berries, as they will burst easily and it’s not quite the same when all of your scones are dyed blue.

Divide the dough into two parts and on a heavily floured surface, roll the dough into about 1 1/2 in thick rounds. Cut each round into eight pieces so they resemble biscuits or cut them into triangular wedges. Transfer them to your baking sheet and lightly spread each scone with the egg wash. I then added a sprinkle of sugar over the top of each one.

Bake for about 15 minutes or until the tops look lightly browned. I suggest enjoying them with a bit of butter and a hot mocha ❀