Spring Bucket List

petit jardin en ville in old city philadelphia

It's spring folks! And I'm pretty damn happy about it. Things are feeling fresh and new, the city is sunny and people are out and about, my work is in full bloom and very green, it's just a nice time before it turns into Hades. 

The theme this season is cleaning, organizing, and making the house more enjoyable. I love our home, but winter has a way of making papers pile up and clutter just sitting around waiting to be put away. I want to take the next couple of months and really get that in order, along with trying to take more weekend and day trips to spend time outside and together. So here we go!

  1. Hang art in extra bedroom
  2. Take more weekend and day trips
  3. Make headway with the side hustle
  4. Plant herbs in pots out back
  5. Work on ice cream blog post
  6. Buy flowers more often
  7. Cook dinner at home more often
  8. Take bags of clothes to thrift store
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Recipe: Blueberry and Custard Sheet Cake

So, yesterday was G's birthday! ðŸŽ‰

If you don't know, I'm really into birthdays and celebrating them. It's important to take some time, do the things you like to do, eat good food, and celebrate a little bit. G and I both had off on Monday so we spent a quiet morning at home while I baked this cake, made a trip to Reading Terminal Market to get Beiler's Donuts and eat lunch, cleaned up around the house and watched some TV together, opened gifts, and then went to the movies. A simple day, but the weather was lovely and it was just nice to relax.

For the past 3 weeks or so, G and I have been avidly watching The Great British Baking Show (starting with the first season) and it's safe to say I'm definitely obsessed with it. So after a few days of me pestering G about what he wanted his birthday cake to be, he finally said "I want whatever that is on the tv!" and this cake idea was born. It's a standard vanilla sheet cake, topped with a creamy custard, fresh blueberries, and whipped cream. Simple, but different, and very tasty.

Blueberry and Custard Sheet Cake

Yields 15-20 pieces

Custard
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cup milk
2 eggs, lightly beaten in a small bowl
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cake
1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature
1 1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup cake flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup buttermilk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 pints of blueberries

Make the custard: In a large saucepan, whisk sugar, cornstarch, salt, vanilla extract, and milk until smooth. Cook and whisk over medium heat until thickened and bubbly, about 10 minutes. Once thickened, reduce heat to low and cook for 2 minutes longer, whisking the entire time. Before adding in the eggs, you'll need to temper them. Take 2-4 spoonfuls of the heat mixture and whisk it into the eggs, gradually raising the temperature of the eggs so they don't scramble. Repeat with 2-4 more spoonfuls before adding all the egg mixture into the pan. Bring to a gentle boil and cook for 4 minutes longer, whisking the whole time. Final mixture should be thick without lumps and a light yellow color. Pour into a large bowl, press plastic wrap across the top so it doesn't form a skin and let cool completely in the fridge for at least an hour. I left mine in overnight. When you remove the custard from the fridge, give it a good whisk before using it.

Make your cake: Preheat oven to 350 degrees and prepare a baking pan with butter. Line the bottom of the pan with parchment paper and then butter on top.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar for 5 minutes until light and fluffy. Scrape down the bowl and add in eggs, one at a time, until combined.

In a separate bowl, sift both flours, baking powder, baking soda, and salt to remove and clumps and combine ingredients. Mix in 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the creamed butter, then mix in half of the buttermilk and all of the vanilla extract until just combined. Repeat with another 1/3 of dry and the rest of the buttermilk, and then add in the final dry ingredients. Careful not to over mix. Pour mixture into the prepared baking sheet and spread evenly with a rubber spatula. Bake for 30-40 minutes or until the top if golden brown and a toothpick inserted comes out clean. Let cool completely.

Make your whipped cream: In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix whipping cream on high until sift peaks form. Add in powdered sugar and vanilla and mix until combined.

Assemble your cake: Once your cake has cooled, spoon the custard over the top of the cake using a rubber spatula to even out that layer. Press blueberries into the custard in a stripe pattern so they are evenly distributed on the cake. Top with a layer of whipped cake and enjoy! 

Because this cake is covered in whipped cream and custard, store any leftovers in the fridge and best served chilled. 

A Blueberry and Custard Sheet Cake for a Birthday! UnusuallyLovely.com
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Recipe: Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies

The season of jellybeans and Cadbury creme eggs is here! And though I can get down with some Starburst jellybeans, I'm really here for the Reese's peanut butter eggs. I know Reese's makes pumpkins and Christmas trees these days, but the egg shape is definitely my favorite. Why? I have no idea. It's literally just an oval of peanut butter draped in chocolate, but they're hands down my favorite ones.

So in the spirit of Reese's peanut butter eggs and indulging in all the chocolate and candy that's hanging around this time of year, I'm bringing you Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies. We aren't messing around with the frosting either. I want my brownies to be piled high with frosting so these are quite a rich treat. You could easily cut these all in half and feed 18 people and everyone would definitely be a happy camper. Or eat the whole pan yourself. I won't blame you!

Peanut Butter Frosted Brownies

Yields 9 large brownies

For brownies:
1 stick butter
4 oz semi-sweet baking chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cup sugar
3 eggs
1 cup flour
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

For peanut butter frosting:
1 stick butter, room temperature
1 cup peanut butter
2 cup powdered sugar
3-4 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 8x8 inch baking pan with butter and line the bottom with a piece of parchment paper. Grease the top of the parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and cocoa until combined.

In a small heatproof bowl, heat butter and chopped baking chocolate in the microwave until melted. Add into a large mixing bowl, whisking in sugar, then eggs one at a time. Once combined, switch to a rubber spatula and add in flour mixture until batter is comes together but be care not to over mix. Fold in chocolate chips. Pour batter into prepared baking pan and bake for 40-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean or with only few crumbs. Let cool in pan for 15 minutes, and then turn out onto a cooling rack to finish cooling.

While brownies are cooling, mix butter and peanut butter in the bowl of an electric mixer until combined and fluffy. Add in powdered sugar. Add in vanilla extract and 3 tablespoons of milk. If frosting is still too thick, slowly add in an additional 1-2 tablespoons of milk. Frost cooled brownies and serve.

Recipe: Frosted Animal Cracker Ice Cream

As excited as I am for warmer weather and sunnier days, I know that means that summer must be close behind. And I don't know if you've ever tried to make ice cream or ice cream treats in an un-air conditioned house and then attempted to style them in the middle of your living room for a photo session, but I can tell you that at the end, everything is sticky. And as much as I love styling food, ice cream on a hot day can be quite the challenging diva.

The other day I was lamenting about these same ice cream troubles when G, the practical human that he is, told me I should be making ice cream now while it's chilly out and save those post until summer. And though I think that's a wonderful idea, I just can't stand to sit on a post for that long! I want to share these recipes with you when there's still a little bit still left in the freezer, a donut or two still left on the counter. 

So I'm sharing ice cream with you today in hopes that it will hype you up for the summer ahead. Plus, it's just plain delicious (because how could frosted cookies thrown into homemade ice cream not be??)

Frosted Animal Cracker Ice Cream

Yields 6-8 servings

1 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
2 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pink food coloring (optional)
2 cups frosted animal crackers, chopped into small pieces with a few larger pieces

In a large bowl, whisk eggs until light and fluffy (about 2 minutes). Whisk is sugar until combined. Add in milk and vanilla extract and whisk until combined. Switch to a rubber spatula and stir in heavy cream. Pour mixture into ice cream machine and follow manufacturer's instructions.

I have the ice cream maker attachment for my Kitchenaid, which doesn't like chunky add-ins, so I added my chopped animal crackers 2 minutes before it was finished in the ice cream maker.

If you want a pink swirl in your ice cream, once ice cream is finished, spoon out about a cup of ice cream, add a small amount of red/pink food coloring, and combine until ice cream is pink. Pour ice cream into a loaf pan, randomly adding spoonfuls of pink throughout. Place a piece of plastic wrap over the pan, pressing it lightly into the pan so it touches the top of the ice cream. Place in the freezer to set for 2 hours (or overnight). Once frozen, scoop into a bowl or ice cream cone and top with additional frosted animal crackers. 

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Winter Bucket List in Review

You might remember that a few months back I wrote about things I wanted to knock off my Winter Bucket List. I thought today I would review how I did with that list and talk about winter as a whole. 

I don't know how I feel about this winter. At this point, I'm over the weather, over the dirty snow that's still lingering on the grass, and over not knowing what coat to wear. Winter felt LONG. And though during the holidays and my birthday is doesn't quite bother me too much, now that it's March I'm just ready for sun and warmth and open windows. But I guess that's how most people feel, right? 

As I've written about before, the beginning of this year also came with conversations about what I want to do with this blog, with my professional life, and with my side projects. I'm feeling very up and down about all of that. And I think like most people in a similar situation, it's a sliding scale. Sometimes I'm content and fine, sometimes I feel creatively stifled/unmotivated and pretty miserable, and sometimes I'm somewhere in between. But I've seen a little bit of progress and that's helpful, so I'm remaining hopeful.

But let's talk about this list... I didn't check too many things off this time around. That has a lot to do with many things, but mostly that winter makes me never want to leave the house. It's just too cold and miserable! Let's start with the things I did do:

Throw a Birthday Celebration for Myself: This was a no brainer for me because I LOVE my birthday. The weekend before my birthday I had a few people over for pizza and then hit up a divey karaoke bar with a handful of friends. PERFECT. On my actual birthday, I bought myself brunch and G and I went to dinner. Just the most perfect birthday. 

Go to Center City's Christmas Village: This honestly feels so long ago! Before Christmas, my mom and I went shopping in the Christmas Village they setup in Center City Philadelphia. It was lovely and I believe G and I took her out to dinner afterwards. Just a nice day.

Collaborate with Kate on a Photoshoot: If you've been following along recently then you know this was a complete success. Kate and I organized, styled, and photographed a brunch photoshoot for Galentine's Day. It was a very special day and photos can be found here, here, and here.

Organize that Extra Bedroom: This finally happened! I now have a space to work on my computer, a closet to store all our boardgames and my craft supplies, and we have a bed ready for guests. It's a really small bedroom to jam all that stuff into, but it works for now. And bonus, it actually gets pretty good light during the day.

Plan a Weekend Away: Although when I wrote this I meant more of a girls weekend away, G and I went on our trip to Miami and are planning a weekend in NYC later this spring. So I'm counting that a win.

Now some things I didn't end up doing from the list:

Have a good, relaxing snow day at home. I was actually away both times we got enough snow in Philly to close things down, so this never happened. I'm not too upset about that.

Buy proper, very warm winter coat. I don't know why I can never make myself do this. It's just such a lame way to spend a couple hundred dollars.

Take boxes of stuff to the thrift store. This didn't happened either. Once my mom told me she was having a spring yard sale, I decided to keep it until then. But I did purge my clothes and currently have two trash bags filled with clothes and bags to donate!

And finally, the only one I'm actually sad about: Go ice skating. This just never happened and I don't know why. We were all setup to do it one night and our friends bailed and then it never came up again. Oh well. Something to look forward to for next year. 

And that's it! I hope you liked reading though this winter bucket list and I'm excited to start talking about what I want to do this spring! <3

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