# wyoming visitors

The last six months have been made infinitely better and easier by our family and friends visiting our new digs. We’ve been hashtag-blessed by so many familiar faces and smiles — it’s really helped what’s been a difficult transition. Here’s the rundown of who beat the snow to check out Wyoming:

The summer brought two visits by friends Chris and Chilali, with baby Tallis of course.

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This kid is so adorable. I’d like to think I’m the Crazy Aunt for all my friend’s kids, and not just my own sibling’s. Share the love crazy.

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Chilali and I doing what we do best — eating ice cream.

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We also got to see best friends Sean and Wallis twice — the second time being a bit longer, so we could try the food rations we bought from the zombie apocalypse shopping area earlier this summer.

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Eh, not too bad. Tasted like the outer part of a fig newton (which means I hated it).

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We also got to show them Joe’s new school…

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…and celebrate Sean’s birthday early. Marrrrrgaritas!…and beer!

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Also on the repeat-visit list is brother Lee, who helped with band camp and, later, a marching contest.

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We managed to have a little fun while he wasn’t working.

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He and Bella did a lot of this. She looooves him.

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Next up was Aunt Pam! I made the Waffle Queen herself some waffles for dinner, topped with a buttermilk bourbon caramel sauce. Honey, hush.

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I know I look like my mom, but don’t Pam and I look alike here? We always have a great time together.

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Then came my mom and Mike!

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Ever the jokester, my mom brought me the animal noses from my fifth birthday party to recreate the magic before my (then) upcoming birthday.

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So funny. What *wasn’t* funny was the first UW football game that started at 10:30pm after we waited around in the rain, hiding under the bleachers. I’ll save you those photos. But, on a happier note, I also made them waffles. Not just any waffles, but THESE WAFFLES, which are the best thing ever. I promise.

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Flying in just before the weather got nasty for good, was my dad!

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We explored the area and found THE BEST pumpkin spice latte at a local coffee shop…

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…and toured the Wyoming Territorial Prison (by ourselves — a little eerie).

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I made him a squash lasagna (I had to use sweet potatoes, because…#wyoming) that was awesome and we also introduced him to the one place that has good Mexican food in town.

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….SMILE, JOE! 🙂 The boy was ready to eat.

We also got to see Wyoming beat Boise State at a very cold and windy football game, but it was worth it to see the fans storm the field.

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Not a visitor, but Joe did take me to Fort Collins for my birthday weekend in September. The food and weather were perfect. I especially loved Colorado State’s trial garden. It’s been our one weekend break since August, so we cling to it like a lifeline.

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Other than that, we’ve been working, shoveling snow and going to football games. The last few saw me in the stands like this.

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So. bitterly. cold.

Now we’re ready for the holidays–desperately needing a break, some sleep and a lot of battery recharging. See you in 2017.

# thanksgiving 2016

Three posts in one night! I’m on a roll. 🙂 Maybe I’ll be caught up on all the fall happenings before we reach 2017. …maybe.

Our Thanksgiving was a quiet affair — a manageable meal for the two of us with only our favorites gracing the table. Most of the recipes were new, with a few staples making repeat appearances. Everything was easy and almost everything we were able to make ahead. I did very little other than reheat on the day of — that’s the perfect Thanksgiving to me!

Here’s the rundown:

We started with a cheese plate: warm brie with honey and pomegranate seeds…

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…and a new favorite: Wensleydale Cheese with Cranberries. SO. GOOD.

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To drink, we had a festive apple cider sangria with apples, pears and more pomegranate seeds.

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Joe did a great job with his turkey….

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…while I handled sides like mashed sweet potatoes…

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…homemade green bean casserole with onion rings (YUM – a new favorite)…

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…and cornbread stuffing with vegetarian sage sausage.

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We also made some Rhodes rolls to pair with Joe’s favorite strawberry rhubarb spread and my favorite vegetarian gravy by The Grit (not pictured).

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I was trying to get a picture of our tabletop before we ate, but ended up needing to capture the little eager face waiting for us to sit down and dig in. Isn’t she precious?

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Desserts were pumpkin chocolate cheesecake bars (DELICIOUS) and a new recipe for pecan pie bars (I like these better).

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Here are all the recipe links!

Apple Cider Sangria — How Sweet Eats

Green Bean Casserole — Sally’s Baking Addiction

Cornbread Stuffing — Carlsbad Cravings

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Bars — What’s Gaby Cooking

Pecan Pie Bars — Sally’s Baking Addiction

# glazed orange scones

When my dad visited us in Utah, we made some pretty killer pumpkin scones. For his trip to Wyoming this fall, I asked if he wanted to up the scone game and he suggested trying a knock-off recipe of Panera’s orange scones.

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I’ve never had one from Panera, but he assured me that our take was pretty darn close and they were absolutely delicious. Orange for days.

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The key is the zest–put it in the batter and put it in the glaze. Everywhere you look should be little flecks of bright orange.

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The sour cream doesn’t hurt either!

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Another key to perfect scones: I’ve said it a million times, but you’ve gotta have cold ingredients. The liquid, the butter, the dry — I keep everything in the fridge until I need it.

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Once you start handling the batter, do so lightly and quickly. Scone batter is dry, don’t worry. You want just enough moisture to bring it together. (We had to add extra in this high altitude.)

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They were so delicious. Move over, Panera!

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Glazed Orange Scones

1/3 cup sugar
3 medium oranges (zest of two for batter, zest of one for glaze)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, frozen
1/2 cup sour cream
1 large egg

Glaze:
3 tablespoons unsalted butter; melted
1 cup confectioners’ sugar; sifted
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

In a medium bowl, combine sugar and orange zest (from two oranges); mix with your fingertips until the sugar is moistened and fragrant. Add in the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and mix until combined.

Grate butter into flour mixture on the large holes of a box grater; use your fingers to work in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

In a small bowl, whisk the sour cream and egg until smooth.

Using a fork, stir sour cream mixture into flour mixture until large dough clumps form. Use your hands to press the dough against the bowl into a ball. The dough will be sticky first, but as you press, the dough will come together.

Place on a lightly floured surface and pat into a 7-inch circle about 3/4-inch thick. Use a sharp knife to cut into 8 triangles; place on prepared baking sheet, about 1 inch apart. Bake until golden, about 15 to 17 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes and prepare the glaze.

In a medium bowl, prepare the glaze by mixing together the melted butter, confectioners’ sugar, vanilla, orange zest (from one orange) and orange juice. Whisk until smooth. Dip the top of the scones into the glaze and allow the glaze to harden. At this point, you can leave them as is or go for the double dip. I glazed my scones twice.

# chocolate-peanut butter pretzel cake

Hellllloooo! I haven’t been in a blogging mood for a while, but I have still been documenting things we’re doing as if I someday will. Right now I’m watching my husband on ESPN as he stands in pouring rain, conducting his band at the San Diego Poinsettia Bowl. Poor guy. It was so nice when we were there three years ago.

But let’s talk cake. Specifically my birthday cake from S E P T E M B E R. For shame! But look how gorgeous it is! (Thanks in part to those beautiful flowers from my awesome friend, Amy!)

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Joy the Baker never, ever, ever lets me down. This cake is on the cover of her Homemade Decadence cookbook that I absolutely love. It has all of my favorites: peanut butter + chocolate + pretzels. The perfect salty sweet combination.

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At three layers tall, it was obviously waaaay too much cake for just the two of us, but go big or go home. (We didn’t eat it all, btw. My fitness app would want me to tell you that.)

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Because it took us so long to eat *about half* of it, the pretzels on the side became stale and mushy, so if you’d going to make this, eat it with a crowd and eat it fast. I did love how the frosting would push its way through the holes.

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Some people don’t like making their own birthday cake, but I really enjoy it. It’s always like a gift to myself.

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This cake, other than the pretzels getting stale, was near perfection–the peanut butter frosting being my favorite part {duh, just check out the ingredient list!}.

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A good choice for anyone who is a card-carrying member of the Peanut Butter + Chocolate club. Grab your Bavarian Inn cake toppers and get to it!

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Chocolate-Peanut Butter Pretzel Cake

source: Homemade Decadence

Chocolate Cake:

3 c. cake flour
3/4 c. unsweetened natural cocoa powder
2 tsp. baking powder
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
1 tsp. instant espresso powder
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. packed light brown sugar
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
2 c. buttermilk

Salted Peanut Butter Buttercream Frosting:

2 c. (4 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 c. smooth all-natural peanut butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1 Tbs. vanilla extract
6-7 c. confectioner’s sugar
3-4 Tbs. heavy cream

Toppings (optional):

mini pretzels
salted peanuts
chocolate chips

To make the cake:

Put oven racks in the center and upper third of the oven and preheat to 350-degrees. Grease and flour three 9-inch round baking pans.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, baking soda, salt and instant espresso powder.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugars together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3-4 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 1 minute after each addition. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low, add half of the flour mixture, and beat until incorporated. Add the buttermilk in a slow stream and beat until thoroughly combined. Add the remaining flour mixture and beat until just combined. Remove the bowl from the mixer and finish stirring with a spatula. Divide the batter evenly between the three prepared pans.

Bake until golden brown on top and a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean, 20-25 minutes. Let cool in pans for 20 minutes before inverting to wire racks to cool completely before frosting.

To make the frosting:

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until softened, about 1 minute. Add the peanut butter, salt and vanilla and beat well. Add 2 cups of the confectioner’s sugar and beat until well combined.

Add another 2 cups of sugar along with 3 tablespoons of heavy cream. Add the remaining 2-3 cups of sugar and remaining cream and beat until it is your desired thickness. Beat on medium speed until the frosting is smooth and fluffy, about 4 minutes.

To assemble:

When the cake is cooled, assemble layers with frosting and a handful of crushed pretzel pieces between each one. Then frost outside of cake. Top with mini pretzels, salted peanuts or chocolate shavings or chips.