Mellark Bakery’s Apple and Goat Cheese Tart

I attended book club yesterday with my sorority sisters. The book: The Hunger Games

To go with the Hunger Games theme, I made an apple and goat cheese tart.

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Unlike the people of District 12 (even the Mellark family) we were able to eat such a rich dessert without even having to wait for it to go stale.

I was quite surprised to see how many recipes came up when I googled this dessert. It appears some people are crazy Hunger Games fans. I even found a website that contained recipes for almost all of the meals mentioned in the book. Some people must have a lot of time on their hands.

Anyways, I used a combination of recipes and came up with my own creation. The closest recipe to what I ended up going with is this one.

It was pretty easy, actually. I started with refrigerated pie crust, and spread it in a pie pan. I brushed the inside with an egg wash, to keep the custard from seeping through the crust while baking.

Next, I turned my attention to making the goat cheese filling. I whisked all the ingredients together, poured it into the crust, then baked it at 350 for 30 minutes, turning the pan halfway through.

While the crust and custard were baking, I made a mixture that came out very similar to apple pie filling. I was plesantly surprised at how thick it became.

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When the 30 minutes was up, I took the tart out of the oven and let it sit for a little bit. I needed the custard to harden a bit so that the apple filling didn’t seep through it.

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After about 5 minutes, I poured the apple mixture on top and returned the pan to the oven.

I baked it for another 20 minutes, then took it out of the oven and put the pan on a cooling rack.

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Hunger Games-based or not, the tart was really good. I just may be making this again soon.

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My Jam Plan

I finally did it. I made jelly.

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I had been wanting to try to make it for a while, but the pectin and the can sterilization scared me off. Then, I found this recipe (via pinterest, I LOVE that website!), which includes only ingredients I was familiar with – strawberries, rhubarb, sugar, etc. – so I tried it out.

It took a while, much longer than I thought it would. But the end result was phenomenal! I have never tasted such fresh jelly.

I followed the recipe exactly as it was written because I was afraid I’d end up with a gloppy mess if I didn’t.

I was a bit skeptical on how all of this

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would boil down and make jam, but it worked.

The jelly turned out great, and lately, we’ve been using it on everything from eggos to

toast to

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yogurt.

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The only bad thing about this jelly is its short shelf life. Because there are no additives or preservatives, this jelly can hold for only 2-3 weeks in the fridge. Luckily, that whole recipe only produced one medium-sized can’s worth of jelly, so it isn’t too difficult to eat it all before it goes bad.

I enjoyed making this and I hope to find more easy jam recipes to try soon.

The Cotton Year

I think it’s fun and kind of kitschy to give anniversary gifts corresponding to the traditional year gifts. Last year was paper. This second year of marriage is celebrated with cotton, though a modern list I consulted also lists china. Cotton is much more fun and practical, so I thought I’d go with that.

I had a hard time figuring out what to get Dan for our cotton anniversary. A shirt seemed to simple. He has a lot of ties. We have enough sheet sets from the wedding showers to last us for years to come. I wanted something a little bit off the beaten path.

During my search, I came across a ton of great cotton-related gift ideas. I didn’t use these, but I thought I’d help out a fellow wife who is coming up on her second year anniversary.

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1. What guy wouldn’t love a hat for his favorite team? We’re Cubs fan, and it’s baseball season, but feel free to pick an off-season sport hat (like the Bears) to give your guy something to look forward to when the weather cools.

2. Every man can use another pair or two of boxers. J. Crew has some fun designs, but they can be pricey. Old Navy usually has similar prints for a little cheaper.

3. Splurge on a new rug for your home. This may be one of those presents you pick out together and make a part of both of your gifts, but you’ll have a constant reminder of your second anniversary there on the floor.

4. Tie your gift to a promise of a fun event. Use your towel on the next trip to the beach or pool.

5. OK, I’ll admit this one is out of my price range, but I love the sentiment of looking at where each of you have come from and seeing the family you’ve made together. Since I’m a big DIY-er, I would try to make this one myself. Or, if hand stitching isn’t your thing, you can always design a family tree yourself on the computer, and have it printed onto fabric at spoonflower.  I particularly like these modern family trees, and I’m hoping to design something similar one day.

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(from my tree & me)

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(from etsy)

Frame it or hang it up as is for a great statement piece of art.

6. Another high ticket item, but could be done so much cheaper on your own. Here’s a great tutorial I cam across on how to make it. I love the natural look of the pillow, and it would look great on the bed.

I didn’t get any of the above, so what did I actually get Dan?

As I always try to make part of a person’s gift (it seems more special that way), I made him these pillow cases.

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They say “same thing as always,” which is our way of saying I love you.

The method of making them was easy enough. I bought a pack of two 600 thread count standard pillow cases. I washed and ironed them first, to avoid any shrinking issues.

Next, I found a font I liked in word and printed it out. I traced over it on the pillowcase in very light pencil. It’s kind of hard to see.

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I just sewed over it in plain sewing thread.

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For the store-bought gifts, I got Dan two other things with a cotton theme.

I got him a duffel bag for the many mini-getaways to come.

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On our last trip to Lake Geneva, Dan had trouble finding a bag that wasn’t carry on sized to hold his things, so I knew this gift would be perfect.

The final item was just a photo of the gift…for now. It is a hammock (from overstock.com).

Hammock

When we move to a house with a backyard, we’ll spend hours laying out in it. But for now, with no place to use it, I’m giving Dan the promise of buying him a hammock. It totally reminds me of our honeymoon in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. There, we sat in the hammocks after dinner and enjoyed the warm air and pretty view. Dan’s a tall guy, so he didn’t fit so well in those hammocks, but should fit fine in this large one.

Dan really enjoyed his gifts, which made me happy.

I guess I should start thinking now for traditional Year 3 gifts. The theme: Leather. Yikes.

Two Years of Wedded Bliss

It’s our wedding anniversary – 2 years and still going strong!

I gave you the play by play of our wedding last year, so check out that post if you want to learn all about our big day.

For today, I thought I’d share one of my favorite candid wedding photos, taken by a friend.

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Those big smiles on our faces get me every time.

I’m off celebrating, but check back tomorrow for a run down on gifts you can give for a year two (cotton) anniversary!

DIY Bridal Shower Gift

I was recently invited to a bridal shower that I could not attend. I still wanted to send a small gift though. I didn’t have a ton of time to make something super personalized, so I came up with this jar project idea to give the bride-to-be some cleaning supplies she’ll definitely need in her new apartment.

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In case it’s hard to tell, the present is a large glass jar (that can be used for anything) filled with things needed for a new apartment:

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Dishwashing soap

Sponges

Dish towels

Magic Erasers

Glade orange sherbert scented candle

I put a ribbon around the lid of the jar, then wrapped it up in a gift bag, but you really could just leave the jar as is since it’s so cute.

Pizza on the Grill

Yep, as one of our BBQs from this past weekend, we made pizza on the grill. It was a little tricky, and I’m not sure we did it the best way possible, but the pizza was crispy and tasty, so we must have done something right.

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We started with basic pizza dough. Nothing special. We made ours from scratch, but storebought (I like the kind from Trader Joe’s) works just as well.

We took our dough and spread it out onto a lightly olive oil drizzled baking stone. We put the stone directly onto the grill.

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Once the pizza looked done on the bottom, Dan drizzled the top with more olive oil and then flipped the pizza dough onto the grill.

Then, we quickly made the pizza while it cooked. We spread the sauce, added spices, put on the toppings, and sprinkled cheese all over it. Go as quickly as possible so you leave enough  time for everything to cook before the bottom gets overdone. If you’re planning to put veggies on that take a while to cook, I would suggest grilling those separately, as you won’t have enough time to cook them on the pizza itself.

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Once the cheese was fully melted, we took the pizza off the grill and ate it immediately.

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I would definitely do this again, especially when I’m craving homemade pizza in the summer. Although today, with the cold and drizzle, I’d be much more apt to make pizza in the oven just to warm up!