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It’s the most wonderful (busy) time of year

by karoline on December 17, 2014

cashew turtles

With a bun in the oven and a high-maintenance toddler, things have been even busier this holiday season than they have in years past.  That said, next year promises to be even busier!  Instead of making proper posts on all that we have been up to, I’ve chosen a few of the highlights and put them together.  Above, is a very inviting photo of cashew turtles that I shot for the Boston Globe.  Since I had so many leftover packaged caramels from apple orchard season, I decided to try the author’s suggested method of melting them down and adding a bit of cream.  It worked like a dream and could not have been easier.

peppermint bark

I also had the pleasure of shooting this very yummy version of peppermint bark.  The salty pretzels buried in the milk chocolate layer make them irresistible.

homemade paint

Illness and the 3-day potty training method (SUCCESS!) left O and I trapped in the house for a whole week in November.  We made good use of our time, crafting away.  One of her favorite projects was the homemade paint.  We used this simple recipe from Imagination Tree.  The only comment I’d make is that the paint quantity was quite large, and it does not hold well for long periods of time.  So, in the interest of saving resources, I’d cut the recipe in half.

homemade paint

We also could have used slightly less food coloring, but I wanted to guarantee that our colors would overshadow the blue tint from the dish soap.

crayons

O has a compulsive habit of peeling crayons.  We put that habit to good use when we decided to gather up the broken ones and melt them into new fun shapes.  The only silicone molds I had on hand were for caneles, but they worked perfectly.  For tips on how to make your own, check out this link.

hello kitty cupcakes

I have made quite a few birthday treats for O’s friend, Rachel.  This year, she went with a Hello Kitty theme (again), but I kept it simple.  Vanilla cupcakes with my standard buttercream and a store bought decoration we all I could muster.  The end of the second trimester is hitting me hard, and this mama needs to be off her feet a little.  Still, the kids (especially O) enjoyed them.

Bonne et sante bars

I’m closing out the year with as many work projects as possible – have to earn some money to make room for baby and plan for whatever might come of a “maternity leave”. These bonne et sante bars will run in the Globe in January, and are chock full of healthful ingredients like chia seeds, flax seeds, almonds, cranberries and much much more.

Happy cooking and crafting to you all during this magical season.  Stay tuned for pics of our TWO pink bedrooms.

 

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Fish cupcakes

by karoline on October 26, 2014

fish cupcakesAlong the way of our journey with infertility, I met a truly special person.  Sara, the former leader of my RESOLVE infertility support group, became an instant lifesaver for me.  We first bonded over the fact that we both were able to successfully conceive and deliver a healthy baby girl but then really struggled to give our little girls a sibling.  Sara held my hand through all of the uncertainty, answered my questions via email, text, and the occasional hysterical phone call.   She always offered a kind an encouraging word, all the while fighting her own battle.  When we at last arrived at our first IVF cycle, Sara assured me it was less scary and overwhelming than it really seemed.  She remembered each and every time I had an appointment, sending a quick text on the morning of to say “good luck”, “fingers crossed” or just a “let me know how things go.  i’m thinking of you.”  I was amazed that someone could find the time to be so selfless and caring as to be so truly on the ball regarding somebody else’s cycle.  Heck, my own husband couldn’t even keep up with all the appointments.  Every woman going through IVF should have a Sara.  And I hope to someday be able to pay it forward to one of our fellow infertility sisters.

I’m happy to report that Sara is only 1 month shy of delivering her second child, a BOY!  Her kids will be almost the exact same number of years apart as mine will be.  When Sara asked me if she could buy cupcakes from me for her daughter’s birthday, I promptly told her no but offered to do them for free.  It was really the least I could do for her, given what an amazing friend she has been to me throughout the past year.

fish cupcakes

Since Sara is about ready to pop. the party was a small, casual gathering of family members.  She didn’t really have a theme but mentioned that her daughter likes fish and that they plan to take her to the Shedd Aquarium next week.  I saw these cupcakes on Pinterest a long time ago and have been looking for a reason to make them ever since.  They are simple and silly yet cute, fun and delicious.

School of Fish Cupcakes

Above is the photo from which I modeled my own cupcakes.  Pretty close, right?  (Excuse my poor photography.  We were running behind so I didn’t have enough time to properly compose a shot.  Instead, I just snapped a few with my phone.  Either way, you get the idea.)

fish cupcakes

I hear the cupcakes were a success, and the birthday girl was quite pleased.  Can’t wait for the arrival of Sara’s little one.  She is truly a deserving mother.

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Celebrating 60 years together

by karoline on October 23, 2014

60th anniversary10 years ago, I flew down to St. Louis with my then boyfriend to meet his entire family.  We had only been dating about 5 months, but things were serious already.  My first encounter with the Anschutz/ Goodnick clan would be at the 50th anniversary celebration for B’s grandparents.  At the time, I was fresh out of culinary school and working 2 jobs: one as a baker at Julius Meinl (an Austrian coffee shop in Chicago) and the other as the fish cook at the very fancy Ambria (a Spanish/ French fusion restaurant that has sadly since been retired).  The cake for this celebration was purchased from a local shop and transported to the event — unassembled —  in the trunk of B’s mom’s car.  Of course, the layers slid around and crashed together, leaving them less than desirable upon arrival.  My MIL looked to me to fix the disaster.  She handed me a rubber spatula and a can of Pillsbury frosting.  With rookie baking skills and no stores open in their tiny town, there was little I could do.  I was humiliated.  She ended up slapping some baby’s breath in front of the damage and calling it a day, but I was scarred.  I was supposed to be a baker.  Why couldn’t I have fixed the cake?

elegant anniversary cake

Fast forward 10 years, and B and I have been happily married for 8.5 years ourselves.  I no longer feel the need to impress the clan, who are now part of my family.  We have a crazy intense toddler and one on the way.  And, we live a 5-hour drive from the location of the 60th anniversary celebration.  But, I just couldn’t help myself.  I had to volunteer to make the cake for the party.  10 years of embarrassment would be remedied with fancy cake for the 60th.  Well, it didn’t quite turn out that way.  Life was crazy leading up to our trip down south & I am TIRED.  I stressed big time about the cake surviving transport all the way down there.  Still, I assembled the cake, packed the car carefully, and drove like a nun with precious cargo.  We made it in one piece without even a scuff.  When I saw the flowers that were intended to dress up a very plain cake and hide the imperfections, I cringed.  The roses were huge and would have looked best on a cake 4 times the size of mine.  With no other choice, I pouted and sulked — I’m blaming the pregnancy hormones — and sent B to the store to find better flowers.  Of course, we weren’t in the teeny town of Staunton this time, and there were stores actually open, but our options were quite limited.  I did what I could with a slew of white daisies and sat down lamenting the fact that I could not have a drink to take the edge off.

IMGP3806 (2)

Still, the cake was a hit.  Everybody loved the super smooth buttercream and the extra sweet raspberry filling.  (Few party guests opted for slices of the store bought birthday cake that accompanied mine on the dessert table.)  And, what really matters here anyway?  Two people got the chance to celebrate 60 years of life together with their family and friends.  They were surrounded by their 3 daughters, 6 grandchildren, and 2 great-grandchildren.  I’d say that’s what counts.  How many of us will even be lucky enough to make it to 60 years together?  B’s grandparents were young when they married (one barely 20 and the other in her teens), not like modern couples who wait till their late 20s or even 30s to tie the knot.  Just living that long — and not killing each other — is reason enough to celebrate.  Congratulations, Carol and Dean.  I know I am sure grateful for your time together since without it, I wouldn’t have that sweet, sweet O or my awesome hubby.

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Corey’s 1st birthday (lion smash cake)

by karoline on October 17, 2014

lion smash cakeMy college roommate is still one of my favorite people in the whole world.  So, when her son turned one, I was eager to make his smash cake.  Corey’s mom selected a jungle theme for the party, and I sent her a bunch of photos on Pinterest so she could pick out a style that she liked.  This is the one she chose:

Lion Birthday Cake by cakeheaven1, via Flickr

I came pretty close, right?  Well, we won’t see it on “Nailed it” anyway.  (She also favored this lion cake, but I wanted to try out a new style.)

first birthday

As a general rule, we should probably stop singing “Happy Birthday” to one year olds.  They don’t seem to enjoy it very much.

smash cake

Corey recovered nicely and after a few minutes snuggling with his mama, he was more than ready to dig into his very own cake.

smash cake

He REALLY got into it (not like this birthday girl).

smash cake

Seriously, I don’t think I have ever seen a more enthusiastic smasher (though this birthday boy came close and my own O did a pretty destructive job at her smash cake photo session).

smash cake

He was even giving out high-fives to his cousins, who wanted in on the mess!

smash cake destruction

That was one enthusiastic kid!  It was worth every second of my efforts to see this little/ not-so-little guy attack that cake.  Congrats to his mommy and daddy on surviving the first year and raising such an incredible boy!

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What’s cooking…

by karoline on October 4, 2014

white chocolate chip cookiesAs a food stylist who works from home, people often wonder about what it is that I do for a living.  It is easiest conceptualized in photos.  I cook and bake in my own kitchen, in the process creating an extraordinary mess, and then attempt to make it look appetizing and beautiful in a photo.   I pull from my vast collection of props (thank God for basements), and set up my photo near a window or in a shaded area outside.  I’ve selected a few of my recent favorites for your viewing pleasure.  Easier said than done sometimes.   When I sell a photo, I no longer own the rights to it.  So, these are not the exact images that have been sold, but they are from the same photo sessions as many of my pictures that appear in the Boston Globe.  (When possible, I will included links to recipes, but several of these have not yet been published.)  This first is white chocolate chip cookies with walnuts and dried cranberries.  They were eagerly gobbled up by my hungry family just as soon as I set down the camera.

Tandoori chicken

This photo of tandoori chicken is a rare example of when my editor and I disagree.  Pictured here was my absolute favorite shot from the series, but it is not the one that she chose.  Ah, well, I’ll keep the rights to it. (And, it is entirely possible that her well-trained eye is seeing something that I am not.)

plum frangipane tart

Is there anything more elegant than a simple, fruit tart?  This version is filled with plum and hazelnuts.

sloppy joes

Something about this Sloppy Joe is very, very appealing….though the one pictured here is also appetizing.

dutch baby

I find desserts that include fresh fruit to be the easiest dishes to photograph.  They are innately beautiful, just like this Dutch baby with fresh cherries.

apple crisp

Continuing with the fresh fruit theme, I think I have made my point, though I enjoy the photo of apple crisp more from the angle she chose.

udon noodle soup

Understated elegance in soup form: udon noodles with miso broth.

I do LOVE my job.

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Happy Birthday, Daddy!

by karoline on October 4, 2014

cupcakes, toddlersBen made the usual request for his birthday, this year…anything with coconut.  Lately, though, he has requested chocolate along with his coconut.  A few years back, prior to the chocolate requests, I went with a simple white cake and the obligatory coconut.  Then, he requested German chocolate.  I obliged, and disguised it in the form of a White Sox cake.  Last year, we had a giant housewarming party for his birthday, so I kept things simple and baked my favorite chocolate cupcakes (from Joanne Chang’s Flour cookbook) and topped them with cream cheese-coconut frosting (try this version from Southern Living).  They were so popular that Ben’s cousin’s fiancee requested them for her bridal shower, and Ben asked for them again this year.  The best part?  They couldn’t be easier.  So, even when this tired and pregnant mama has her hands full, we can still find time to make Daddy happy.

baking with toddlers

As a teenager, my go-to babysitting tactic was to bring the kids into the kitchen with me.  Aside from that, I was pretty much useless with the little ones.  We went to the park and watched lots of movies, but the real fun was had when the mixer and the oven were running.  I have been waiting more than 2 years for O to be ready to help me in the kitchen, and it seems the time has come.  When she heard we were making cupcakes for Daddy, she couldn’t get to the kitchen fast enough.  I may have mentioned it, but she was a very active participant in Sylvia’s cupcakes and Eloise’s beach ball cookies.  This time, though, she was ready for the big leagues: using a piping bag to do the frosting.  Since they were just for Dad, I was happy to give her free reign.

baking with toddlers

Of course, if I ever caught a pro holding a pastry bag like this, I’d cringe, but you can’t expect much more from a toddler.  They just aren’t strong enough to do it one-handed.  She was SO very proud of herself.  My heart just melted.  She kept asking, “Mommy, does ‘is’ one ‘yook’ good?”

baking with toddlers

Of course, no cupcake is complete without sprinkles- at least not in O’s mind.  She probably ate more than she got on the cupcakes, and I’ll be cleaning them off the floor for months….but, the end result was worth it.

chocolate coconut cupcakes

Of course, I couldn’t let her have all the fun.  So, I piped a few myself.  Before she went to bed, O left out one cupcake on a plate alongside a handmade card and a glass of brown liquor (poured by mom).  Pretty good, right?

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Beach ball cookies

September 22, 2014

Our good friend, E, turned 2 this week and had a fabulous party at The Water Works indoor water park in Schaumburg.  Since pizza, cake and ice cream were included with the party, I offered to bring some beach ball cookies as party favors. I thought these would be easy peasy, but it turned out […]

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A look back through portraits

September 18, 2014

I spent the morning searching for a professional photographer who A. is available on apparently short notice (2 months) and B. is a more skilled photographer than I am who can give me a series of artsy, creative family maternity photos.  After hours of research and MANY phone calls, I finally found Bright Eye Photography, […]

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Girl Baby!

September 8, 2014

Our 2.5 year old daughter is absolutely gaga over little girl babies.  Suffice it to say, she doesn’t carry quite the same affection for boy babies.  Prior to 12 weeks, we had not wanted to tell her I was pregnant for fear that we would have to explain it if something went wrong.  Hopefully, we […]

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