Archive | July, 2010

shop: sugar snap pea

22 Jul

Most of my life has been dedicated to the following thought process: go to college, graduate with a degree, land a job in that field, work for the rest of your life. I blew this thought process way out of the water my first month post-graduation. So, it has been introspectively encouraging to learn in the past year how utterly wild it is to operate on the belief that our paths in life are so conventional. The more I talk with people and the more stories I hear, the more I realize what a journey our lives are- that there is no straight path, or even one way to get to where we are going- rather the more indirect route taken, the greater the opportunity to learn, grow, and figure out what truly makes our hearts happy. After all, how do we honestly seek the outcome to this dilemma without first determining those things that fall short of our strongest desires?

Tonight, as the warm and sticky summer air filled the narrow district of lower King Street, I observed the edifying experience of a sweet friend’s unconventional path leading to an idea being realized; a passion that kept her up late at night with thoughts, rather healthy-obsessions, concerning baby get-ups and snack-food containers. Sugar Snap Pea, a modern baby and toddler boutique, debuted its grand opening with deliciously mini cupcakes and eager mommas at the appropriately fitting, half-sized address of 161 1/2 King Street.

What toddler doesn’t love a little sparkle… or anything that creates a mess? My contribution to the event was to hand cut the letters G-R-A-N-D O-P-E-N-I-N-G from foam board (this is where an exacto knife made its way into my best friend spot), slather with everyone’s favorite childhood school glue- Elmer’s, and sprinkle heavily with silvery glitter. Glitter still remains stubbornly attached to my hands and face- and I’m sure this ingenious art supply will continue to surprise customers and Sugar Snap Pea’s owner, Zhenya, on more than one glorious occasion.

I may have tasted 1 or 2 or even 3 cupcakes… but who’s counting? It all started with the carrot cake and naturally I had to taste the chocolate and red velvet. A little self-control was exerted though- I created a solid boundary between myself and the petite cake donning Sugar Snap Pea’s giraffe logo.

Truth: one of my many dreams is to write a book about the unconventional stories of compelling people I meet to encourage others to embrace the seemingly stagnant or unknown stages of life and find comfort in knowing that where they are is significant. I’ve learned how important it is to realize that right now is my life, that if I continue to wait for what is next or tell myself “when this happens, my life will begin”- my live will never begin and I will have lived my entire life waiting for “it” to begin. Ours lives are now, they are unconventional, and they are significant.

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“leapfrog” for royal icing sugar cookies

15 Jul

For some reason I have this ambition to recreate most anything I see, I’m all about trial and error. It can easily be described as a blessing and a curse- I learn way more about the processes of creating and design and truly appreciate the craftmanship of my inspirations… but occasionally my visionary pursuits lead to late nights and frustrations. If you had asked me whether or not my execution was going to be possible of one such attempt at 1:00am last night I may have given you a different answer, or shooed you out of my kitchen until I cleared the countertops (and floor) of any and all evidence alluding to the contrary.

Recently I’ve been interning at Leapfrog: a boutique public relations and marketing firm specializing in “lifestyle” related businesses – from specialty food products, dining and fashion to real estate and design. With ideas and pitches readily in my ear and on my mind, I set out to create my own “Leapfrogs” in an attempt to prompt the flowing of additional creative juices.

Goal: Hand pipe frogs with royal icing onto sugar cookies.

Scene A: A light dusting of powered sugar covers the kitchen countertops as it’s mixing (hands free might I add- thanks to the beauty that is a KitchenAid mixer) with egg whites and lemon juice until falling ribbons of royal icing are incorporated back into the bowl after only 5 seconds. Heaps of cooling sugar cookies rest upon wire racks, waiting to discover just how the piping and flooding of royal icing works.

Scene B: Royal icing floods way beyond the intended area of confinement, slowly dripping through the holes of the wire racks onto the kitchen counter where it quickly hardens into sugary mounds. Little “leapfrogs” hop to life as their bodies and tiny toes are carefully piped onto rounds of soft dough. Pots and pans, sticky spoons and spatulas, and open food coloring containers litter the countertops from wall to refrigerator- boasting the love and artisanal persistance devoted to the quite cheery and sugary goodness of these “Leapfrog” cookies…

 Sugar Cookies:

3 cups all purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup granulated white sugar

2 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 cap-full lemon extract*

1 cap-full orange extract*

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, and baking soda. Set aside.

In a bowl, beat the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs and vanilla, lemon, and orange extracts and beat until combined. Add the flour mixture and beat until you have a smooth dough.

Refrigerate for about one hour or until the dough is firm enough to roll.

Bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

* Adding these extracts enhances a basic sugar cookie recipe with a slightly unexpected tinge of citrus, my mom truly does know best.

(recipe adapted from Joy of Baking)

Royal Icing

2 large egg whites

2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice

2 cups powdered sugar

Combine egg whites and lemon juice in the bowl of an electric mixer and beat until incorporated. Add powdered sugar and beat on low until smooth (test the consistency by drizzling icing in the same mixing bowl- it should take the drizzle approximately 5 seconds to incorporate).

Use this thicker consistency to pipe the edges of your cookies and designs. Then thin the icing with small amounts of water until it reaches the consistency you want to “flood” the interior areas of your cookies.

Store icing in an airtight container as it does harden quickly.

If you are interested in ordering cookies with your company’s logo or personal design, pleace contact me at itsalwayssweeter@gmail.com for pricing information.

peaches: from blanching to preserves.

11 Jul

An impromptu Sunday afternoon peach blanching how-to quickly turned into the most delicious summer treat (not to mention a noteworthy way to escape the humid Charleston weather that only comes after seldom seen evening rain showers or well, let’s be honest- this is just typical July climate).

Peach blanching led to peach preserves which naturally led to ice cream and cookies.

Blanching, a first for this chocolate chip cookie connoisseur, is quite the magical process. Place the peach, either one by one or in small quantities, into a pot of boiling water for about 2-5 minutes.

Then plunge those tender peaches into a bowl of ice water. Here’s where all that small child wonder is realized, the transfer from heat to cool allows the skin of the peach to be easily peeled away.

But the surprises aren’t over yet. When slicing the peaches, you will discover that the blanching process has made the pit ever-so soft, allowing you to cut right through the entire peach. Slice the peaches, sneak a bite… or two or three, or sweeten the whole batch for peach preserves.

Equal parts peaches and sugar- that’s all you need to know to can your own peach preserves or to make vanilla ice cream yearn for a sweet, sweet topping. I combined one cup of sugar and one cup of peaches over low heat until the peaches appeared transparent. Stirring is essential throughout the process to prevent sticking and burning, never outcomes you want to accompany your trial recipes. Crank the heat up to medium-high heat and boil until the mixture of fruit and syrup drops from the spoon. I couldn’t resist the in-between stage of syrup and preserves as vanilla ice cream and ginger snaps made their way onto the counter. The combination of vanilla and warm, peach preserves syrup was quickly matched with the spicy crunch of old-fashioned ginger snaps.                                                        

Remove the leftover peach mixture from the heat (if you exerted enough self-control and actually have leftovers), stir to rid of foam, place in hot jars and seal. On a side note, blanching is also useful in preserving the color of vegetables and removing the skins from nuts. So go on and please the little kids or picky eaters in your life with bright, crisp vegetables, skinless fruits, and perfectly peeled nuts.

from the inside out.

11 Jul

Many things make my life sweeter. From handmade cards with grosgrain ribbon and custom designed jewelry with bright baubles in mind to sugary cupcakes accompanied by powdered noses and frosted fingers to beautifully inspired photographs. Creating has always been the one constant in my ever-changing, mildly impulsive world.

Attempting to find the one path I am most passionate about- the work I want to spend my waking hours pursuing- has proven slightly more difficult and less conventional than I ever imagined. So here is my attempt to stop convincing myself to take the “safe” route and to fully embrace my passion for creating and design. This blog will house my inspirations, encourage new pursuits often, and share what makes my heart full.

Here’s to hoping it’s always sweeter…

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