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Whatever your struggle, whether you are not sure what to make right now, or there is something deeper going on, there is no better feeling than making and enjoying something of your own creation and taking pride in it.  This is a compilation  of delicious recipes that work and bring joy into ones home.  Cooking should be a step away from the every day stresses we all experience.  It’s the joy that is experienced through creating something with ones hands and having a full sensory experience. The “Hey, I made that!” moment.  The sharing of food that can be shared with other and that brings a smile to another person’s face.  The smell and taste that makes memories. True happiness comes from within, but starts with a full stomach.

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Blueberry Scones with Lemon Glaze

Popular.  That’s what so many of us what to be. Even after we leave school and enter adulthood, many of us still crave it.  Even if someone doesn’t know you or even speak to you.   You can win the war of ignorance.  Food wins the war.  Want to bring something quick and easy before a long day of work and win the approval of your coworkers?   Give this a whirl.  Best of all, if there are leftovers (highly doubtful) you will win their approval by saying “hey, feel free to take it home for a quick breakfast in the morning.”

For the scones:

1 cup of heavy cream (plus more for brushing on top)

1 large egg, beaten

1 tsp of vanilla bean paste (or extract)

Zest of 1 lemon divided between the scone and the glaze

2 1/2 cups of AP flour (and some for dusting your work surface)

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 tbsp baking powder

1 tsp salt

6 tbsp cold butter cut into cubes

3/4 cup of blueberries (fresh or frozen)

For the glaze:

1/2 cup confectioners sugar

1 tbsp of fresh lemon juice

a couple drops of lemon extract

1/2 tsp of lemon zest

Directions:Preheat oven to 425 F.

  1. Mix first four ingredients in a separate container.  Set aside.
    wp-1462972999636.jpg

    The wet items to be combined: cream, vanilla bean paste, egg, and lemon (not yet zested)

     

  2. Combine dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, salt, zest) into a food processor fitted with your metal blade for 10 seconds to combine.
  3. Add in butter and pulse until butter is the size of small peas.
  4. wp-1462972995071.jpg

    The dry items to be combined in the food processor.

    4.  Move dry ingredients from the food processor and place in a bowl.

  5. Add blueberries and stir to coat without breaking them up.
  6. Make a “well” in the middle of your dry ingredients and pour in your wet ingredients.
  7. Stir gently until a barely together dough forms.
  8. Place barely together dough on floured workspace and use the tips of your fingers to work the dough into a disk.

    wp-1462972985588.jpg

    The dough in its barely mixed stage.  Finger tips only from here.

  9. Using a pizza cutter (or pastry cutter or bench scraper or knife) cut scone dough into 8 pieces or smaller as long as they are the same shape to ensure even cooking time.
  10. Place cut scones onto a cookie sheet .
  11. Brush with some extra heavy cream for an even golden brown top for the scones.
  12. Cook 14-16 minutes.
  13. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.
  14. Prepare glaze: Combine all glaze ingredients and mix.  Glaze shouldn’t be too runny otherwise you will have soggy scones.
  15. When scones are cool use a spoon a place some glaze on the top of each.
  16. Enjoy and the hero of your workplace!
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The last remaining scone.  Meant to take pictures earlier, but my coworkers emptied my tray before I took any.  This one was safely at home meant for the morning.

Better than Thomas’ English Muffins

Carbs.  There are few things that bring joy to our lives like carbs. It’s instant gratification.  Sometimes it’s later regret. Many diets tell us we should eliminate them when possible, if that’s the case, then we should cherish the carbs we are allowed to have.

English muffins from the classic white and orange package.  Yum.  Breakfast, lunch or dinner (in pizza form of course) are my favorites no matter how old I get.  I recently bought myself a book to which I treasure, Bouchon Bakery.  If you are a native New Yorker or Californian, then this place is the stuff of myth and legend.  They have a recipe in there for English muffins, but I would have to start a week in advance.  Not going to happen.  They can do their magic.  I’m hungry now.

I recently hosted Easter brunch in my home and felt English muffins were an essential

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Easter brunch.  Yes, from scratch.

brunch item.  As an added bonus, left over English muffins make for a quick breakfast (lunch or dinner) and can be added to the freezer for several months if wrapped properly.

This recipe is made from simple ingredients, is not overly time consuming, and can easily be shared with others.  Best of all, its a really money saver, see here for a full break down HERE.  Don’t worry about waste.  Make this once and it will be very hard to go back to the grocery store.

 

 

Better than Thomas’ English Muffin recipe

Adapted from Sur La Table Class

Yield- 18-24 English Muffins

3 cups of warm buttermilk

2 tablespoons of yeast (I prefer Saf-Instant)

3 tablespoons of honey

6 cups of AP flour

3 tablespoons of granulated sugar

1 tablespoon salt

3 tablespoons of butter at room temperature

FullSizeRender (2)

The wet ingredients: buttermilk, butter, and honey

corse cornmeal or polenta

cooking spray

  1. Warm buttermilk in a pan to a temperature where its no longer cold but not scalding hot.  110 degrees is good.
  2. Pour buttermilk into a stand mixer bowl fitted with the dough hook attachment.  Put yeast in buttermilk.  Let sit for 5 minutes until you smell the yeast-y goodness starting to work.
  3. Add honey.  Mix to dissolve.
  4. In a separate bowl, combine: flour, sugar, salt.  Stir to combine.

    IMG_5014

    Dry ingredients: Sugar, Salt, 6 cups AP flour, yeast. Polenta does not go directly into the mix.

  5. Bring separate bowl to mixer and add in slowly 1 cup at a time at slow speed on your mixer.
  6. Add butter to mixer and knead until smooth
  7. Use cooking spray cover a separate bowl where the mixture will rest. Pour dough into separate bowl.
  8. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled.  (check in about 30 minutes)
  9. Once doubled put approximately 1/2 cup of polenta on your work surface (I used a cookie sheet to keep the counters cleaner) and spread out your dough.
  10. Use your hands to flatten the dough to approximately 1″
  11. Use a 3″ cutter to cut dough circles.
  12. Cover a cookie sheet with 1/2 cup of polenta and place cut dough circles on that surface.
    Image

    First row: dough, dough after roughly doubling.  Second row:  Cut muffins, using griddle to brown muffins before placing them in the oven.

     

  13. Let cut muffins rise once more until doubled.
  14. While they are doubling, preheat your oven to 350 degree.
  15. Get a griddle out and heat griddle on medium heat
  16. Place muffins on hot griddle and flip once golden brown approximately 1-2 minutes.  Muffins will not be cooked all the way through.  You just want the visual effect of browning.  The oven will take care of the rest.
  17. As muffins are browned on both sides place them back on cookie sheet.
  18. Once cookie sheet is full place into oven for 6-8 minutes or until cooked through.
  19. Once cooked through its decision time:  Split it open and toast, let cool on rack and store.

    Image (1)

    Top: Use griddle to brown Bottom: Finished in the oven and cooled on a rack

 

Want to make these extra special?  Make a compound butter!

Strawberry Butter

8 ounces European style butter (kerry gold, etc.) at room temperature

1/4 cup of Strawberry preserves

Pinch of salt if using unsalted butter.   Or to taste with salted butter.

  1.  Whip both ingredients using a hand mixer or stand mixer until thoroughly combined.
  2. Enjoy.
  3. Wondering why European style butter?  Fat content.  Fat=flavor.  Try it once.  You’re welcome.IMG_5052

Summer Corn Bread

Summertime.  If you are a teacher, parent or child, this is the time of year that always seems to get away from us all too quickly.  The weather is hopefully great and without natural disaster.  Vacation is embraced and flexible.  It’s the time of year that encourages people to get together more often in the form of BBQs.  By the time Labor Day rolls around, you might have had your fill of burgers and look forward to the pumpkin flavored items of the fall or the soups and stews of the cooler weather.

Finished Cornbread in skillet

Finished Cornbread in skillet

Summer is quickly escaping us, so it was time to make corn bread. It can be made in the oven or on the BBQ.  The best way is in an iron skillet.  The iron skillet is one of the most under appreciated kitchen tool.  I think because it cannot be placed in the dishwasher and takes some maintenance.  Once you get past those minor details, it’s a wonderful tool.  I was once told in a cooking class that an iron skillet actually imparts iron into your food.  I haven’t researched it, but I’ll embrace that idea.

Summer Corn Bread Adapted from Better Homes & Gardens New Cookbook, 12th edition

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup cornmeal

3 tablespoons of sugar

2 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1 tablespoon of butter

2 eggs beaten

1 cup of whole milk

1/4 cup melted butter (or oil)

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees and place skillet in oven.
  2. Mix flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl.

    Dry ingredients

    Dry ingredients

  3. Take the wet ingredients (except for the 1
    Wet ingredients

    Wet ingredients

    tablespoon of butter and add them into the dry ingredients and mix lightly.  Stir is about 10 times and leave it alone.  It’s ok if it is a little lumpy.

  4. Leave the batter for 10 minutes.
  5. Take the skillet (while wearing a thick oven glove) out of the oven and place the butter in the hot skillet and keep the butter moving.  Once the butter is mostly melted and has coated the sides, dump the batter into the skillet.
  6. Bake for 18-20 minutes (depending on your oven and size skillet you are using)
  7.  Serve warm.
  8. If you want it with more corn add approximately 1/2 cup frozen corn.
  9. This can be used to make corn muffins as well.
  10. Enjoy!
  11. If there are left overs, you can use this to make a corn bread based stuffing.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Bacon Bark

Some days you have bad days.  The type of day that makes you say “Why did I get out of bed?”  Days were everything turns to mush.  I mean everything you touch breaks, shatters, curses at you, bites, or just makes you question every decision you’ve ever made in your life.  Those are the days I realize I need dessert. Unfortunately, I don’t have many desserts just laying around.  A salad is not going to cut it today.

IMG_4124

Salted Caramel Ice Cream with Chocolate Bacon Bark

 

Now, this is not an excuse to binge on a gallon of ice cream.  You can have all things in moderation.  Just make the scoop of ice cream slightly bigger on those days.  It’s August and it’s New York.  So yes, it’s warm.  This recipe is like 2 desserts in one.  There is the ice cream.  Then there is the bacon bark.  The two play nicely together. It’s sweet, savory, and salted all together.  Salt really cuts the sweetness of both the caramel and the chocolate.

One last word on this recipe since it uses egg yolks: don’t throw out the whites! Make a souffle or macarons with it.  Eggs are too expensive to waste.  College and a few dozen eggs both seem to require loans.  Even if you add them to your morning breakfast, it’s better than just wasting them.

Salted Caramel Ice Cream

1 3/4 cups granulated sugar, divided into 1 1/2 cups and 1/4 cups

1/2 cup of water

4 cups of whipping cream

6 eggs yolks (save the whites for breakfast or something else)

1 tablespoon vanilla bean paste

2 teaspoons of sea salt, more if you’d like

Directions

  1. Place 1 1/2 cups of sugar & water into a saucepan.

    Top: Sugar boiling. These photos are 1 minute apart. You need to watch. Bottom: Heat off, then cream in. Notice the boiling.

    Top: Sugar boiling. These photos are 1 minute apart. Be careful of burning it! Bottom: Heat off, then cream in. Notice the boiling.

  2. Heat until sugar dissolves.
  3. Increase heat until syrup turns deep amber (12-15 minutes)
  4. Remove from heat.
  5. Add cream.  It will bubble like a witches cauldron.
  6. Stir over low heat until it’s smooth.
  7. Put it aside
  8. In a separate bowl, mix egg yolks and 1/4 cup sugar.
  9. Add vanilla
  10. Slowly add caramel  and mix continuously.  You are not trying to cook the eggs.
  11. Once you’ve added all the caramel to the eggs, pour mixture back into saucepan.
  12. Heat over medium heat until mixture coats the back of a spoon (3-5 minutes)
  13. Place mixture in refrigerator to cool (3-4 hours)
  14. Taste and stir in 2 teaspoons of sea salt.  More if you’d like.
  15. Get ice cream machine out and follow the directions ( I have a kitchenaid attachment.)
  16. Once it’s soft set, place in freezer.
  17. Enjoy!
  18. Don’t forget about those egg whites!  Make big macarons and have an awesome ice cream sandwich

Bacon Bark (for eating by itself, courting a person you are romantically interested in or just as a garnish for ice cream)

So it’s not diet food, but it can most certainly bring most people unspeakable joy.

3-4 ounces of good chocolate, semisweet is best (this is up to you, some have gotten into high % cocoa chocolate, but I’ll leave this to your preferences. I’d skip the white chocolate on this one though)

4-6 slices of bacon or pancetta, cooked very crispy

  1. Cook bacon until crisp.
  2. Cool bacon.
  3. Chop bacon finely, set aside IMG_4121
  4. In a double boiler, melt chocolate
  5. Once chocolate is melted, pour melted chocolate onto a piece of parchment or silpat.
  6. Make a thin layer of chocolate with a spatula
  7. Sprinkle bacon over the thin layer of chocolate.
  8. Let cool completely.
  9. Break up the chocolate into different sized chunks.
  10. Enjoy!  With or without others.IMG_4123

Overnight Waffle Recipe

If you have the time and want a super light recipe for waffles, this is a good one (assuming you know that the next day will be a lazy day). The waffles will not be greasy, but will be super light and crispy and the batter will keep better in the refrigerator. Be sure to keep your waffle iron on its hottest setting.  It will recover quicker between batches.  If you want waffles that will reheat better in the toaster oven, see the Regular Waffle recipe.  It’s the fat content thats the difference.  This is less grease, but won’t be quite as tasty reheated.  On the other hand this batter holds better in the refrigerator.  Up to you depending upon your needs.

Overnight Waffles

Overnight waffles

Overnight waffles

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour

2 Tablespoons of sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 1/14 tsp of yeast (or 1 packet)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 3/4 cups milk

2 eggs

1/3 cup oil

Directions

1.  Mix the first four ingredients in a bowl.

Wet ingredients

Wet ingredients

2.  Mix all the wet ingredients together.

3.  Combine in the wet & dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.

4.  Cover and place in the refrigerator.

5. The next day there should be some bubbles.  This means the yeast is working.

Yeasty goodness.

Yeasty goodness the next day.

6.  I have a small Cuisinart waffle maker.  Using a 1/2 cup measure works without the dreaded overflow.  If you are worried about overflow and making a mess, place a piece of parchment on half a baking sheet and cleanup will be a breeze.  Enjoy and don’t peak until the light says its ok to look.

Overnight waffles

Overnight waffles

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

The holidays are a time when I get my cinnamon fix.  Maybe because the weather is cooler, the oven is on more often, and it’s time for the autumn and winter spices that many are so familiar with.  I’ve always wondered why Starbucks doesn’t add more cinnamon flavored items rather than just pumpkin.  I mean pumpkin everything.  Maybe I’m the only white girl who does not want pumpkin everything.  Maybe that’s just me.

One of the things I looked forward to most are to Mom’s cinnamon rolls. She only makes them twice in any given year.  August is clearly not the month I would get them.  Does not mean that I don’t crave them.  But cinnamon rolls are not something you can make on a whim.  No, the ones in the refrigerated section of the grocery store pale in comparison to the real ones.

So, it’s time to look at alternatives in the breakfast arena: Waffles.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles.  Yum.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles. Yum.

There are two types of waffles you can make depending upon how much time you have:  Regular waffles and Overnight waffles.

If you are running low on time or just woke up and realized you want waffles, make the regular waffles, see here for the recipe:

If you have a little time the night before and want a light and crispy waffle go for the Overnight waffles.  See recipe here: Overnight waffle recipe

Which ever you chose, it’s the toppings that make this recipe.  It’s a great alternative to maple syrup or butter.   Sometimes the best foods are the familiar ones with a twist.  It’s changing up the little things may make this a favorite.

Cinnamon Roll Waffle topping

IMG_4091 (1)Cinnamon Topping

1 stick (1/2 cup) of butter

3/4 cup brown sugar (don’t use the “brownulated,” it just doesn’t mix well with melted butter)

1 Tablespoon of cinnamon (I like Penzeys Cinnamon)

Directions:

  1. Melt butter in a pan.
  2. Once butter is melted stir in sugar.
  3. Once sugar is incorporated add cinnamon and remove from heat.
  4. The goal here is a sugar mixture and not caramel or browned butter.  No butter bubbles please.

Cream Cheese Topping

1/2 stick or 4 Tablespoons of butter

2 ounces or 1/4 cup of cream cheese

3/4 cup of confectioners sugar

1 teaspoon of Vanilla extract or Vanilla paste

Directions:

  1. Melt butter.  This time I melted it, covered of course, in the microwave and not in the metal bowl picture.IMG_4092
  2. Stir in 2 ounces of cream cheese.
  3. Slowly add in confectioners sugar.  Doing this quickly will ensure the fact that you will look like a geisha girl.  You’ll have less of a mess later.  You’re welcome.
  4. Mix in vanilla.

Now, put the cinnamon topping over the waffles and then the cream cheese icing and enjoy!  If you have someone who says “it’s too sweet” or “I don’t like things that aren’t salty.”  Go back to the waffle mix- If you have bacon bits or precooked crispy bacon that can be chopped finely, then add it to the mix for the salty and sweet combination.

Finished and delicious.

Finished and delicious.

Macarons

Plain Macarons

Plain Macarons

Macarons (noun)  Deriving from the French word meaning “awesome intimidating slice of heaven cookie.”  I’m sure some foodies out there will correct me.  No, that isn’t actually what the word means, but it’s what it should mean.  They are intimidating and notoriously fickle cookies to make. They are beautiful.  They are expensive to buy.  So why not make them?  They are expensive to purchase, but not nearly as expensive to make. They will take practice.

IMG_4083

Wilton Treatology Flavoring System. A small investment to break up flavors on your typical dessert.

Here is where it gets fun.  I was in Michaels (with a coupon of course) and walked down my favorite aisle.  The cake decorating aisle.  It’s my happy place.  I just wish I had more occasions to bake and decorate.  I am an adult who still likes to color; cake decorating is just an extension of that.  So upon me walking into that aisle what do I see?  Wilton Treatology system.  A whole box of possibilities.  After the basic recipe I’ll list awesome flavor combinations that I have found that work well.

Plain Macaron recipe adapted from Martha Stewart Living, January

1 cup confectioners sugar

3/4 cup Almond Flour (available online & in most grocery stores and yes it’s expensive and no you really can’t substitute anything for it)

2 Extra Large Eggs Whites

Pinch of Cream of Tartar

1/4 cup of superfine sugar

Food coloring of your choice

Directions

  1.  Preheat oven to 375 degrees
  2. Wisk egg whites in stand mixer on medium speed until foamy
  3. Add cream of tartar to stabilize them
  4. Mix until soft peaks form
  5. Put mixer and low speed and add superfine sugar
  6. Bring mixer up to high and mix until stiff peaks form about 8-10 minutes
    1. If you are unsure if they are stiff peaks.  Remove your wisk from the mixer.  Using your wisk, hold egg mixture up toward ceiling. If the mixture does not move, then you are good.  If it folds down, then it needs to keep going.
  7. This moment to add your food coloring 1 drop at a time.  Do not add too much as the mixture can only handle so much liquid.
  8. Keep egg mixture to the side for now
  9. In a food processor, mix confectioners sugar and almond meal.  Pulse a few times to make sure there are no lumps.  Pulse 3-4 times
  10. Fold (not in food processor or stand mixer) in almond/sugar mixture into the egg mixture.  Fold until mixture is shiny and not lumpy.  This is the part that experience will teach you and where most will go wrong
  11. Place mixture into a pastry bag and pipe circles on to a baking sheet lines with parchment or a silpat
  12. Tap bottom of cookie sheet to make sure any excess air is out of the cookies
  13. Place into oven and reduce heat to 325 degrees
  14. Bake for approximately 10 minutes
  15. Remove from oven and let them cool for 15 minutes or until they easily come off of your sheet.
  16. Bring oven back up to 375 if you have another cookie sheet to go in, if not, it’s time to turn off the oven
  17. Place on a wire rack to make sure they are completely cool.  Do not fill them until they are cool.  You will end up as a Pintrest fail.
  18. Troubleshooting:
    1.  Here are some common mistakes

    1. If some cracked- this can be normal, humidity, oven temperature unevenness can do this, or just the way they were folded can put too much air into them.
    2. If they have no “feet”.  You have over folded and deflated them like Tom Brady.  Yes, a few PSI on egg whites matters.
    3. If all cracked- you have underfolded them, leaving them with too much air.
    4. In all of the above cases, they will still be yummy and delicious, just not picture perfect.  Eat them, enjoy them, but don’t throw them away.  They make good lunch bag snacks, break them up and put them on ice cream, give them to hungry family members.  Kids (without nut allergies) do like them quite a bit.
  19. Display them nicely if you are going to bring them somewhere (I
    Raspberry, peach and salted caramel macarons for a recent party.

    Raspberry, peach and salted caramel macarons for a recent party.

    sometimes hide the slightly cracked cookie on the bottom of a perfect one on top.)  I made a bunch for a July 4th BBQ and put them on a Veggie platter.  When I have my bridal shower, hopefully I’ll have nicer display pieces.

Flavorings (for the cookie)

Salted Caramel macarons- 4-6 drops of Wilton Treatology Salted Caramel Flavor

Peach macarons- 4-6 drops of Wilton Treatology Peach

I’ll post more flavor combinations in the coming weeks.

Fillings (for the middle of the cookie)

Make sure that your cookie is cooled completely before attempting to fill.  

Jams/Jellies– Keep with seedless jams (raspberry, peach, strawberry)

Breakfast

It’s the meal to get your day started, but often becomes one that is rushed or scoffed down in an effort to get to where we need to go in the morning.  For some, it’s a meal that needs to wait awhile. Yes, there are people out there who do not just get up and eat something.

I’ll admit it, most mornings my breakfast comes out of a box called Special K.  No, those breakfasts are not that special.  I even try to add mini chocolate chips to make it more special. It serves a purpose of filling me, but does not bring up any feelings of wow, I made this, or anything else for that matter.  I just makes sure that my stomach does not sound like a herd of whales before lunch when I’m trying to teach class.

The special breakfasts were the ones on the weekend when the rush of the morning did not exist.  There is nothing more special than waking up to the smell of bacon frying up in the morning.  That was the sign of a relaxing morning without all the rush and one could take the simple pleasure of enjoying the meal, rather than using a ram rod to shove it down before you had to get out the door.  Here are some of my favorites for the morning.

Cinnamon Roll Waffles

Desserts

“No dessert until you finish your dinner!”  A word heard in so many households, uttered by parents and dreaded by children (and adolescents).  Admit it, this has to be some of the best type of leftovers to have.  Even though these have a longer shelf life that most “real food” leftovers, if they are well made, then they are usually the first gone.  If they are sitting around after a couple days, well, the dessert just was not that good, or there are just THAT many left overs where physically you could end up with diabetes.  When I say dessert that’s not that good, I mean store bought stuff that taste like nothing but shortening and pure sugar.  Let’s be honest, when you go to a party, you want to come home with an empty dish.  That is the perfect validation that it’s mission accomplished.  Here are some desserts to make sure that you’ll come home with an empty dish (or double the recipe to make sure that you’ll have left overs for your household)

Iced Cream- Salted Caramel

Macarons

Appetizers

The about me says that I’m single, but this is only partially true.  I’m getting married in January of 2016.  So what exactly does this have to do with appetizers?  I enjoy weddings.  I’m in my mid thirties, so I’ve been to enough of them.  I adore cocktail hour especially in New York City.  To me it’s usually the best food of the evening.  If I could have planned my wedding as an endless cocktail hour and Viennese Hour (dessert’s answer to cocktail hour), I would have been the happiest person on Earth. That and having it at a winery.  I love wineries.  Alas, maybe one day.  Sucks to live in one of the most expensive metropolitan areas and be a teacher at the same time.

So dream wedding to the side, I still enjoy appetizers, or what my fiance and I refer to as “picky food.”  If I’m not cooking, our relationship gets by on “picky food.” I recently picked up a book called “Tiny Food Party” by Teri Lyn Fisher and Jenny Park.  The pictures look like my dream wedding.  If I could live off of little bites of yummy food, I would.  My waistline would not forgive me for such things, but like I was taught growing up, you can have all things in moderation.