The Newlywed Chefs

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UncommonGoods

DSC_0200This post is sponsored by UncommonGoods. We (The Newlywed Chefs) were provided with the products in this blog post as compensation. As always, all opinions are our own.

This summer, Neil and I will have been married for SEVEN YEARS. What the what! I can’t believe that it’s already been that long. Usually, on anniversaries, we buy something for the two of us that is really… well… practical.

“That tree needs to come down in the back yard! Happy Anniversary!”

“I really need a new work bag! Happy Anniversary!”

“My computer died and I need a new one STAT. Happy Anniversary!”

However, we DO like to buy gifts year round that really make us think of each other. It doesn’t have to be Christmas, a birthday, or anniversary. Lucky for us, we have a great place to get some gift giving ideas year-round from a place that is open 24/7: UncommonGoods. On their site, you will find unique jewelry, designer decor, tabletop items, and handcrafted gifts created without harm to animals or people.

There are many things I love about this company, but here are a few highlights (information directly from the UncommonGoods one sheet):

  • UncommonGoods is independently owned, which gives them the freedom to support causes they believe in and impact the world in a positive way. With every purchase you make, they donate $1 to the non-profit of YOUR choice. Since they’ve started this Better to Give program 12 years ago, they’ve donated over one million dollars to charities around the world. Awesome.
  • They are a B Corporation. That means they use the power of business to solve social and environmental problems. They meet a rigorous standard on a wide range of issues, including wage levels, environmental impact, and giving back to the community.
  • UncommonGoods CEO Dave Bolotsky is passionate about the role of business in implementing a fair minimum wage. They run all operations out of the historic Brooklyn Army Terminal, where the lowest-paid seasonal worker starts at 50% above the minimum wage.

We ordered a few items from their anniversary gift line. You can check out gifts from that collection here. First, we ordered a beautiful Oval Oak Wine Carafe. Not only do we love using this to decant wine, but it also just makes for a great decoration around our kitchen when it’s not in use.

DSC_0211This carafe is also listed on their “Anniversary Gifts for Him” page which you can find here. (Is it just me, or is buying gifts for guys harder than buying gifts for girls? Glad they have some recommendations!)

Next, we ordered a Salts of the World Test Tube Set. Since we’re foodies we loved exploring the salts in this collection. I also really enjoy reading the bios of each gift maker. For example, these salts were made by “Brett,” who has a compelling background featured on the gift webpage.

DSC_0218Finally, this next gift is perfect for people that like to play with their food. It’s a Molecular Gastronomy Kit and cookbook featuring out of this world recipes and creative approaches to cuisine.

DSC_0227You can find these and other creative gifts all on the UncommonGoods webpage. They also have personalized gifts to add a unique individualized touch here.

Using the Molecular Gastronomy Kit, we made balsamic vinegar pearls and are planning on using them this week to top a plate of fresh tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil. They were SO easy to make. We just froze oil for at least 30 minutes, boiled the balsamic vinegar with the provided agar agar, then piped the balsamic mixture into the oil.

DSC_0245Spoon out the pearls, rinse with water, and voila! Balsamic vinegar pearls!

DSC_0257Fancy!

DSC_0274No matter if it’s your birthday, anniversary, or just a Tuesday, you can find unique, creative, individualized gifts at UncommonGoods. We’ll be frequenting this site much more often and recommending it to friends who are stumped when it comes to finding the perfect gift.

Mixed Berry Pound Cake with Lemon Frosting

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I have my dream job. Some of you already know this, but I’m am a board certified music therapist working in the public school system here in St. Louis with students who have special needs. Although the school year is wrapping up for me, I am looking forward to summer break. I plan to do the following (hold me to these people): go to the pool, go to Florida, get better at food photography, spend more time on the blog, learn bass guitar, learn ukulele, go to the pool, repeat.

Anyhow, with all the business the end of the year brings, it’s important not to let the growing to-do list bog you down, and find ways to practice self-care. For me, self-care equals cooking (lucky you) and blogging about it. So, after a very busy Tuesday, I came home, put my bag down, and put my apron on.

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This pound cake is deeeeeense, but I like it. If you’re looking for a light and fluffy cake, look elsewhere. We’re talkin’ two sticks of butter, six eggs, thick icing, and berries bursting with summer flavor. We seem to always have leftover berries that don’t get eaten quite fast enough, and this is a great recipe to use them.

For those of you currently in school or who work for a school, you got this! Finish the year strong and celebrate your achievements with a big ol’ slice of this cake. You deserve it.

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Mixed Berry Pound Cake with Lemon Frosting

Prep Time: 30 min. Cook Time: 70 min.

Ingredients:

For the Cake: 

2 sticks butter, softened
2.5 cups sugar
2.5 cups + 2 tablespoons flour
2 lemons, juiced and zested
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup milk
6 eggs
2 cups mixed berries, roughly chopped

For the Frosting:

3 cups powdered sugar
4 tablespoons milk
1 lemon, juiced
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter a bundt pan very well (get every nook and cranny!) and set aside. Combine 2.5 cups flour, baking soda, and salt together in a bowl and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs, vanilla, lemon zest, lemon juice, and milk and continue to mix.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and mix on low until well combined. Using a spatula, fold in the berries. Pour batter in the bundt pan and spread evenly. Bake for 60-70 minutes or until a knife inserted in the cake comes out clean.

Cool for at least 30 minutes in the pan, then flip the bundt over onto a cooling rack and cool the rest of the way (this could take an hour).

To make the frosting, whisk all frosting ingredients using an electric mixer until fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed. Generously spread frosting over cooled cake. Enjoy!

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Fresh Spring Rolls + Peanut Sauce

 

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Our buddy Leo is Filipino. Back when Neil and I were in college, Leo would welcome us to his house and cook an amazing homemade Filipino meal every time we visited. Some of the most memorable dishes were fried plantains, paella, and fresh spring rolls. I had spring rolls at Vietnamese restaurants, but never really understood the art and time that is poured into these beautiful rolls before meeting Leo. He taught that they’re not that hard to roll once you get the hang of it. First, you want to make sure your mise en place is set up properly. Hot water, rice sheets (found at most global or asian grocery stores stores), cooked chicken (or other protein), and plenty of veg.

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Place the rice sheet in a bowl and pour hot water over it. Let it soak for about one minute, using your fingers (don’t burn yourself!) to carefully loosen it up in the water.

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Once again, I should have gotten a manicure before shooting this post. Sorry, y’all.

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Next, lay the wilted rice paper out on a flat surface. I know, it looks weird, it feels weird, let’s just acknowledge it now and get over it.

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Okay! Moving on. Lay it out on a flat surface and begin to build your wrap.

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The sky is the limit here. We always include some sort of protein (most often chicken), and various crunchy veggies for a nice contrast in textures. The next few pictures could be presented in flip book format. (Ah, I used to LOVE flip books!) For this recipe we used chicken,

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red pepper,

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carrot,

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cucumber,

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… and cilantro. Again, the sky’s the limit. Kale, sprouts, roasted pork, bacon, sauces, whatever. Load it up!

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Then it’s time for the most technical part of the spring roll- WRAPPING. Welcome to How to Wrap 101. If you’re a perfectionist when it comes to holiday gift wrapping, you will be a pro at this. If not, well, keep practicing. Okay, starting at the bottom of the wrapper, bring it up to the middle of the wrap and around your fillings.

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Tuck it in tightly. If your wrapper is sticking, simply rub it with a bit more hot water to help it along.

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Next, grab each side corner of the wrap and bring them toward the middle, sticking them down as close to the middle as the filling will let you stretch.

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If you can, meet both sides in the middle and press gently so the rice paper sticks to itself.

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Finally, as you roll the spring roll over itself, tuck in the ingredients very tightly. Fold until all of the wrapper is rolled.

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Place each spring roll on a plate and cover each layer with a damp paper towel to separate and keep fresh. Serve with our peanut sauce. This sauce has been featured in a few of our recipes, and honestly, I could take a bath in it. It’s the perfect combination of creamy and sweet, finished with a hint of heat.

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Fresh Spring Rolls with Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

For the Spring Rolls:

20 rice paper sheets
1 lb. chicken tenders
1 red pepper, 1/2″ thick strips
1 cucumber, 1/2″ thick strips
1 carrots, 1/2″ thick strips (shredded carrots work well also)
1 handful cilantro, chopped

For the Peanut Sauce:

1 cup smooth peanut butter
2 tablespoon soy sauce
1 teaspoon red pepper flake (optional)
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
5-10 tablespoons hot water (until desired consistency is reached)

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350°. Place all chicken tenders on a baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook 15-20 minutes until cooked through. Cool and cut into thin (1/2″-ish) strips.

Set up the mis en place (bowl of chicken, red pepper, cucumber, carrot, cilantro). Place one rice paper sheet in a shallow bowl and cover with hot water (about 150°) for one minute. Use your fingers to move the rice paper around and loosen the gluten. Once wilted, place on a flat surface (a cutting board works well).

Place chicken, red pepper, carrot, cucumber, cilantro, and any other toppings just below the center of the rice paper. To fold the roll, first bring the bottom of the roll to the center and around the ingredients. Tightly tuck the wrap under the ingredients. Next, bring outside left and right edges of the wrap to the center and gently press. Roll the wrap forward over itself to complete the wrapping process. Press all edges of the wrap to seal.

To make peanut sauce, place all ingredients except water in a food processor and blend. Add hot water one tablespoon at a time and continue to blend until desired consistency is reached. Some like a thicker sauce, some prefer a thinner sauce.

Dunk spring rolls in the sauce. Repeat. Makes about 20 spring rolls.