My 3 Monsters: March 2015

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Torte Milanese featuring Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry Sheets

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This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry.
Hi guys!  Last week I stepped far, far out of my blogging comfort zone and attended a BEAUTIFUL brunch hosted by Laura from Pink Cake Plate and Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry.  It was super fun to meet some other local bloggers {people I follow online, but have not met in real life!}, but the highlight of this amazing event was the puff pastry smorgasbord created by Laura.

Pepperidge Farms Puff Pasty Brunch at /
She made a bunch of dishes for us to try – some savory and some sweet – with Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry.  I think I ate my weight in puff pastry that day because I simply had to try one of everything … for you guys, of course.  Nobly, I took one for the team and downed all this deliciousness. Everything I do, I do for you, my friends!  

Pepperidge Farms Puff Pasty Brunch at /
These Black Current Cheese Pastries were TO DIE FOR.  I’m a sucker for a good, flaky cheese pastry. And those mini Cookies and Cream tarts – Oh. My. Goodness!

Pepperidge Farms Puff Pasty Brunch at /
The talk of the event were these unbelievable woven puff pastry salad bowls Laura created.  Would you believe she said they were not difficult to make?  Me neither, but I saw her step-by-step photos and it really seemed do-able.  The secret is the Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry sheets.  That stuff is incredibly easy to work with – almost fool-proof. {Remember the cheater Pain au Chocolat I made a while back?  Super simple!}  We all got to take a package home to create a “masterpiece” of our own.

Pepperidge Farms Puff Pasty Brunch Recipe - Torte Milanese at /
So, here’s the back story of my recipe.  Years ago, I attended a class at church and learned how to make puff pastry from scratch.  I mean, it was YEARS ago – my now-13-year-old was still a toddler.   It was right before Thanksgiving and I decided to use my new puff-pastry expertise  to make a straight-up, old school Julia Child recipe – Torte Milanese – for Thanksgiving brunch to impress my in-laws.  I followed all the steps – rolling out the dough, measuring the dimensions and thickness, slathering with butter, folding in thirds, chilling and rolling out again . . . and again . . . and again, to create something like 64 layers of pastry and butter.  This would be a much funnier story if I could tell you it was a disaster, but it wasn’t.  It was delightful and delicious.  And I NEVER MADE IT AGAIN. For, like, 12 years, because who has time for alla’ that on a regular basis?! {Sorry, Ms.Julia.}

Pepperidge Farms Puff Pasty Brunch Recipe - Torte Milanese at /
But with Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry sheets, Torte Milanese is actually deceptively simple to make. And dang impressive, to boot.  It’s just layers of scrambled egg, sautéed spinach, roasted red peppers, Gruyere cheese, and ham all wrapped in a flaky puff pastry shell.  But when it’s baked up all golden and beautiful … 

Pepperidge Farms Puff Pasty Brunch Recipe - Torte Milanese at /
… it’s the perfect centerpiece for a brunch spread.  And yummy!  Let’s not forget to talk about how yummy it is.  Julia Child knows her French cuisine, guys. I really like the spinach, red pepper and ham combo of a classic Torte Milanese, but you could totally mix it up, too.  I’m thinking of chorizo, fire roasted chiles, and pepper jack cheese for an Arizona kick, paying homage to our home state.  Or maybe bacon, tomatoes, and sharp cheddar cheese.  Broccoli, cheddar, and chicken for a more dinner version.  It’s hard to see how you could go wrong here!

Torte Milanese 
{serves 10}

12 large eggs
¼ C. milk
1 ½ tsp. kosher salt, divided
¼ tsp. black pepper
1 ½ Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 Tbsp, minced shallots
2 tsp. minced garlic
2 9oz. bags fresh spinach
1 jar roasted red peppers
1 pound grated Gruyere cheese
8 oz. thinly sliced good-quality ham
2 packages Pepperidge Farms Puff Pastry sheets (4 sheets)
non-stick cooking spray

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Thaw puff pastry according to package directions.  Assemble a 9-inch spring form pan and spray with non-stick cooking spray.

Whisk eggs in a large bowl with milk, ½ tsp. kosher salt, and black pepper until well blended.  Melt butter with 1 Tbsp. olive oil in a heavy large non-stick saute pan over medium heat.  Add the egg mixture and cook until no longer runny, but still very moist and creamy.  {The egg will continue to cook and firm up inside the torte so you don’t want it too dry to begin with.}  As the egg cooks, use a spatula to scrape the cooked egg from the bottom and sides of the pan and fold into the rest of the egg mixture. Spoon onto a large plate and allow to cool completely. 

Wipe out your pan and heat remaining 1 Tbsp. oil over high heat.  Stir in shallots, garlic, and remaining kosher salt.  Add spinach one handful at a time, stirring to coat spinach with the oil.  Continue until all spinach had been added and is wilted – about 3 minutes.  Place cooked spinach in a colander and set over a bowl to drain.  Once spinach is cool, squeeze it to extract as much liquid as possible so pastry will not get soggy as torte cooks.

Remove roasted red peppers from jar and use paper towels remove as much liquid as possible from them.  Slice into strips.  If you leave them whole they make the torte a little harder to cut and eat.

Roll out 2 sheets of puff pastry to form 2 13x11 inch rectangles.  Overlap long edges slightly and press to seal together.  Transfer pastry to spring form pan.  Press into bottom of pan and smooth up the sides.  Allow excess to hang over the sides of the pan.  {Hint: Sprinkle bottom of pastry shell with parmesan cheese or a few bread crumbs to keep it from getting too soggy.}  Spoon eggs into pastry shell, forming an even layer that reaches all the way to sides of pan.  Sprinkle ¼ of grated cheese over eggs.  Arrange sautéed spinach in a layer on top of cheese.  Sprinkle ¼ of the cheese over the spinach.  Form an even  layer of roasted red pepper strips. Sprinkle with ¼ of cheese.  Cover with the ham and sprinkle the remaining cheese on top.  Trim overhanging dough to about ½ inch and fold over on top of filling layers.

Pepperidge Farms Puff Pasty Brunch Recipe - Torte Milanese at /
I was inspired by Laura’s beautiful salad bowls and wanted to try making a basket weave top for my torte. Use a pizza cutter to cut remaining sheets of puff pastry length-wise into ½-inch wide strips.  Lay approx. 8 strips side by side vertically on a lightly floured surface, leaving a small space in between each strip.  Weave remaining strips horizontally over and under the vertical strips to form a basket weave.  Roll lightly over the top of woven strips with rolling pin to make it easier to transfer dough.  Transfer dough to top of torte and trim to fit top of pan.  Press edges gently to seal with dough from sides.  Brush underneath with a little bit of water to help it seal.  To make the edges look a little more finished I used my finger to wet around the perimeter with water and pressed a few of the remaining ½ inch dough strips on top.

Pepperidge Farms Puff Pasty Brunch Recipe - Torte Milanese at /
At this point you’re ready to bake it.  You could brush the top with an egg wash by mixing an egg with about 1 Tbsp. milk and brushing all over top of pastry.  I chose not to do this and it browned up really nicely on its own.  I guess it’s a personal preference.  The egg wash will give it a little bit of a shine.  Bake at 375 degrees for 90 minutes, until deep golden brown.  If the top starts to look too brown, cover with a sheet of foil for remaining cooking time.  Remove from oven. Run a knife around the edge remove spring form pan.  Cool 30 minutes before slicing.  This will prevent the cheese from oozing and help the torte keep its shape when cut.

Pepperidge Farms Puff Pasty Brunch Recipe - Torte Milanese at /
Don’t be intimidated by the length of this recipe.  It really is super easy to make and my family was totally impressed.  Remember it’s been 12 years since I last made this – even my husband only had a sketchy recollection of it!  If you’re preparing your Easter brunch menu, or just want to put a really impressive dinner on the table for your family, give Torte Milanese a try.  {Or head to to find some other amazing dishes!}

Happy Spring, friends!

This is a sponsored post written by me on behalf of Pepperidge Farm Puff Pastry.


Vintage Soda Storage Crates

Vintage Soda Storage Crates at /
Hi guys!  We're working on a major overhaul of our boys' bedroom right now and I can't wait to reveal the finished space. We spruced it up a bit 5 years ago and it has remained basically the same since then.  We're going for a lighter, brighter feel, while maintaining a healthy dose of the vintage industrial look they already had going in there.  I originally shared the tutorial for these Vintage Soda Storage Crates on Reasons to Skip the Housework last summer.  I absolutely love them so we decided to make a few more and use them as the focal point of the new built-in storage unit we are building in the room.  They ended up costing about $6 each and took 30 minutes to create both of them. That’s my kind of project!

Vintage Soda Storage Crates at /
Begin by purchasing unfinished wood crates at your local craft store.  With a coupon on my phone I got 2 for $11 and change.  Remove any price tags and stickers that may be on them.  I didn’t bother to sand the rough edges at this point because I liked the rustic look they had.

Vintage Soda Storage Crates at /
Using  any paint you have handy, roughly paint the interior and exterior of the crates.  I do mean roughly, too.  I really wanted them to look like they have seen better days.  You can paint them as much or as little as you like.  I find that the more inexpensive the brush you use, the better this style of painting will turn out.  This is a perfect opportunity to use those super cheap chip brushes, but I would steer clear of foam brushes for this.  The rough wood will shred them.

Vintage Soda Storage Crates at /
I was serious about making these crates look old and used, so once the paint was dry I sanded it off a little in some places and used a distressing ink pad to darken up the edges and add some grunge to it.  They are starting to look exactly how I want them!  Now we just have to add the vintage soda labels.  You can find a bunch of cool designs in this Flikr set.  Katy Beck has made them available for personal use under a Creative Commons license. {Thanks so much Katy!}  Just download and print your favorite designs right on your home printer.

Vintage Soda Storage Crates at /
My husband is Canadian so we HAD to use the Royal Canadian label for one of them!  Cut out the label , then paint a thin coat of matte finish Mod Podge onto the front of the crate.  Position the label on top of the Mod Podge and press into place gently.  It’s OK if the paper ripples a little bit — that just adds to the aged look.  Seal the image in place by painting another thin coat of Mod Podge on top and allowing it to dry.  If you want to age the crate even further, once the Mod Podge is dry you can gently sand the label to distress it a bit.

Vintage Soda Storage Crates at /
You could also dry-brush over the label like I did on the Squirt crate.  Dip a very dry paint brush into your paint then brush almost all of it off onto a paper towel before gently brushing across the label to dull it down and make it look older.

Vintage Soda Storage Crates at /
I am in love with these funky Vintage Soda Storage Crates!  They will be perfect for keeping my boys’ junk stowed away on the shelves in their bedroom and they are so much more fun to look at than plain old baskets.  They’ll really add to the vintage industrial vibe we are trying to create in there.    

Come back soon -- we'll be sharing the industrial built-in shelving project and some cool decorating ideas for teen boys.

Have a great day, friends!


White Chocolate Chip Blondies with Caramel Chai Sauce

This is a sponsored post brought to you by International Delight Chai Tea Lattes.

Hi guys!  What does your happy place look like?  I mean, really.  Are you a beach bum, dreaming of sand between your toes and salty air in your lungs, or are you in heaven soaking up the sun poolside with an ice cold drink?  Maybe you're a spa gal with a mani-pedi addiction? Or an out-doorsy, communing-with-nature type?  Personally, I am never happier than when I am in my kitchen, baking something sweet and yummy to share with the people I love.  You can have your trips to Paris or your concert-going night life if that's your thing.  Being a bit of a homebody, I prefer a quiet kitchen with a stocked pantry any day.  When I really need to unwind and re-energize myself, I pour myself a cool beverage and spend some quality time with my mixer!

Mondays are my favorite -- that's when we have our "Family Night" . . . and I have the perfect excuse to bake.  When I get home from work, I head straight to the kitchen to chef up a yummy treat that will be the highlight of our evening as we play games and laugh, reconnecting as a family.  The cares of the day melt away the minute I begin that weekly ritual. One of my best creations lately are these White Chocolate Chip Blondies with Caramel Chai Sauce, inspired by International Delight Chai Tea Lattes.   {We can't eat healthy every day -- Family Night is always dessert night.} The Chai spice flavor in the sauce takes this dessert to a whole 'nother level of goodness.


3/4 C butter, melted
1/2 C granulated sugar
1/2 C. brown sugar
4 large eggs
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 C. white chocolate chips

Caramel Chai Sauce:

1 C. International Delight Caramel Chai Tea Latte
2 T. butter
1/2 C. white chocolate chips
1/4 C. sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a mixing bowl, cream together butter and sugars.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing well in between.  Stir in vanilla extract, then add flour, baking powder, and baking soda.  Stir until well incorporated.  Fold in white chocolate chips.  Grease a 9x13 pan.  Pour batter into pan and bake for 25-30 minutes, until golden brown.  

While the Blondies are baking, prepare the sauce by combining all ingredients in a small pot.  Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly to avoid burning.  Continue to cook and stir until mixture is bubbly and begins to thicken.  Remove from heat and allow to cool.  {I'm impatient so I stuck the pan in the freezer to help it along.}  The sauce will be pretty thin, but will thicken more as it cools.

Remove the Blondies from oven and serve warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a drizzle of Caramel Chai Sauce, and a few more white chocolate chips for garnish.

These were so good, I'm pretty sure everyone licked their plate clean so none of the delicious Caramel Chai sauce went to waste.  Whatever your happy place is, International Delight Chai Tea Lattes can make it even better! Sign up for the International Delight newsletter for more recipes, coupons, and fun.

This is a sponsored conversation written by me on behalf of International Delight. The opinions and text are all mine.


Peanut Butter and DOVE® Cranberry Cookies

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #LoveDoveFruits #CollectiveBias 

Peanut Butter and Dove Cranberry Cookies at /
Hi guys!  I've mentioned several times here on the blog that 2015 is going to be our family's year of "Getting After It".  One of the things we're "getting after" is our health.  We're going to the gym several days a week {at least we're trying really, really hard to get there more regularly}, we're adding more fresh fruits and vegetables to our daily meals,  and limiting desserts.  The dessert thing is tough for me because I usually crave a little something sweet in the evening.  I was super excited to discover new DOVE® Fruit when I was shopping at Walmart the other day.  

Peanut Butter and Dove Cranberry Cookies at /

Peanut Butter and Dove Cranberry Cookies at /
A little handful of delicious dried cranberries, blueberries, or cherries covered in DOVE® dark chocolate is a perfect indulgence at the end of the day and leaves me satisfied without undoing all the healthy things I've done all day long. 

You are probably wondering why I am talking about healthier eating in a post about cookies, right?  I did say we were limiting dessert, not eliminating it altogether.  Call me crazy, but a life completely devoid of cookies is not a life I want to live! Everything in moderation. I'm learning how to make my family's favorite desserts a little differently so that we don't have to feel so guilty when we decide to reward ourselves with a treat occasionally. Peanut Butter Chocolate chip cookies are a go-to in our house, so I used that idea as an inspiration.  I found a great Oatmeal Peanut Butter Cookie recipe that had no flour or butter, and very little sugar.  Then I adapted the recipe a little bit by using low-fat peanut butter and adding delicious, sweet DOVE® Fruit Cranberries instead of plain old chocolate chips.

Peanut Butter and Dove Cranberry Cookies at /

Peanut Butter and  DOVE® Cranberry Cookies

1 C. creamy reduced-fat peanut butter
2 Tbsp. honey
4 Tbsp. light brown sugar
1/2 C. (heaping) old-fashioned oats
1/8 tsp. salt
1 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 C. DOVE® Fruit Cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In the bowl of a mixer, combine peanut butter, honey and brown sugar. Add egg and mix well.  Add oats, salt, baking soda, and vanilla extract until combined.  Stir in the DOVE® Cranberries.

The mixture will be thick and slightly crumbly -- that's OK.  Take heaping tablespoons of dough and roll them in your hands to compact the dough and form balls.  Gently flatten each ball after placing  it on the cookie sheet.  These cookies do not really expand or puff up as they bake.

Bake 7-9 minutes until light golden brown on top.  Watch them carefully so they don't burn.  I like to use my stoneware baking sheets because you can take the cookies out a little early and they finish cooking as they cool.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the pan.  {If you eat them warm, they'll be a bit crumbly . . . but still delicious!} This recipe makes approx. 1 dozen cookies.

Adapted slightly from Chelsea's Messy Apron.

Peanut Butter and Dove Cranberry Cookies at /
You would not believe how yummy these cookies are!  They are still considered an indulgence {or a "sometimes food" as we call it}, but it's a better-for-you indulgence.  Guess what!  You won't even miss what's missing -- tons of sugar and fat.  They taste every bit as decadent  as the original version.

Peanut Butter and Dove Cranberry Cookies at /
Have I convinced you to try DOVE® Fruit for yourself?!  If so, you can download a coupon to save on your DOVE® purchase.  See more great DOVE® Fruit recipe ideas on the DOVE® Fruit social hub

I've shared how we are trying to indulge a little smarter as a family.  How does your family indulge? Leave me a comment with your favorite better-for-you treat!

Have a great day!



Faux Pallet Art World Map Free Printable

Faux Pallert Art World Map Printable at /
Hi guys!  I shared this project a while back on Craftaholics Anonymous, but I thought I'd share it again today in case you missed it.  Are y’all fans of pallet art?  I love the cool, rustic look of it and have thought about trying to re-create some of the amazing projects I have found via Pinterest.  Sadly, that’s as far as I ever got — THINKING about it.  {That’s not true.  I did make some mini pallet art projects.}  Here’s the thing – and maybe a lot of you are in the same boat – I don’t have a ton of tools . . . or spare time.  I wanted a “Lazy Girl’s Pallet Project“.  If you’re anything like me, this project will be right up your alley!

Since we painted our walls white this fall I have been working to add colorful, fun accessories to our home.  I decided a big patchwork-style world map would be a perfect anchor piece for a gallery wall above the couch in the living room.  Get your pen and paper because here are the complex steps:

1. Download the free Faux Pallet Art World Map Printable image.
I have scaled the image to several common sizes so you can decide how big or small you want your map to be.  Mine is a 20 x 30 inch poster print.  You can also get the image in 16 x 20 inch, 11 x 14 inch, and 8×10 inch versions.

2. Print the image.

Faux Pallet Art World Map Printable at /
This can be done at your favorite photo printing center.  I usually use Costco for larger prints because you can’t beat their speed or their prices.

3. Hang the image on your wall– with or without a frame.

Above is the poster print stuck to the wall college-style {with plasti-tack}, which I would probably consider if I were putting it into one of my kids’ rooms.  Or if I were still in college and renting.  I like the casual look of it.  I wanted to be a little “fancier” since I’m 40 and technically a grown-up, so I mod-podged my poster print onto a canvas to give it a little dimension when hanging on the wall as you can see below.

Faux Pallet Art World Map Printable at /
Super easy, cheesy right?!!  That’s all there is to it, my friends!  You have instant {faux} pallet art, folks.  It looks faaabulous and you didn’t hardly have to do anything!  You can see it still looks a little bare and relatively colorless here, but imagine {with the power of Photoshop} that same map surrounded by a carefully curated collection of marquee letters, clocks,  and other cool pieces:

Faux Pallet Art World Map Printable at /
You gotta love virtual room makeovers, right?  This map would work equally well in a family room or a kid’s room — anywhere you need a pop of color and whimsy.

Where will you put your Free Pallet Art World Map Print? I’d love to hear how you display and use this free printable!

Have a great day, friends!


My Latest Decorating Obsession: Kantha Quilts

My latest decorating obsession: Kantha Quilts at /

Hi guys!  As I mentioned previously, we are working on sprucing up our master bedroom a little bit.  By “we”, I of course mean “me”. Except for when I need a little brute force – then it’s a legitimate we.  I like my man to have more muscles than decorating opinions, and he happily obliges.  Actually that’s not entirely true.  I am blessed with a husband who has pretty good taste . . . and he is blessed with the wisdom to let the girl with the interior design degree have her way.  Usually.

We’re a good team, in decorating and in life. He half-watches HGTV with me and nods in approval when I make a comment and I half-listen while he talks about sports and throw out a “That’ll move the chains” once in a while so he knows I’m really “getting it”.  We’re in love.

But that’s not why I gathered y’all here today.  No.  The topic of today’s discussion is Kantha quilts.  In the beginning, my color and pattern choices for the bedroom were pretty . . . well, safe.  Neutral.  Boring.  I was longing for a bright, colorful pop of wild, large floral pattern to pull it all together and breathe some life into the design.  Inspired by this sleeping bag fromAnthropologie, I wanted to make a thin quilt to fold up at the foot of our bed that was solid on one side with a bold floral on the other.  

I have spent hours and looked at {literally} thousands of floral print fabrics online, but none of them spoke to me in that special way that sets my heart all aflutter.  In my hours of going down the Pinterest wormhole, I came across a miraculous solution to my problem – Kantha Quilts.  Kantha {pronounced KHAN-taa} is a type of embroidery used to make simple quilts.  Originating in Bangladesh and the eastern states of India, rural women use old saris and cloth and layer them with a kantha stitch to make light blankets, throws or bedspreads. Vintage Kantha quilts made from gorgeous old saris can be found all over the internet, but they are kind of  pricy.  

My latest decorating obsession: Kantha Quilts at / 

By Googling "Kantha Quilts" or "Blankets from India", I found several shops that sell Kantha quilts made out of bright, beautiful, modern floral and bird prints on cotton fabric.  Many of the shops were humanitarian in nature, giving the proceeds back to the communities in which the blankets are produced. {Win, win!}  The quilts are thin – typically without batting in between the layers – so they are perfect for warm areas {like here in Arizona} or for layering your bedding without adding a bunch of bulk.

My latest decorating obsession: Kantha Quilts at /
I was nervous about ordering one because the colors look so vastly different from one photo to the next.  What I LOVED in one photo, I HATED in another and I couldn’t tell which version was the one I was going to get.  For example, the three photos above are of the same fabric, believe it or not.  I finally gambled on the one above that was either going to be predominantly navy blue and red or black and magenta.  I figured I could work with it either way.  

I worried that, coming from India, my quilt would take forever to arrive and I was super anxious to see it in person, but it showed up on my doorstep within a week.  What arrived was more on the black/magenta side, but it has so many other colors in it that it works in my space and I LOVE it.  

My latest decorating obsession: Kantha Quilts at /

My latest decorating obsession: Kantha Quilts at /
My latest decorating obsession: Kantha Quilts at /

It is the perfect accent piece from which I can pull coordinating colors and patterns for throw pillows and other accessories in bedroom and adjoining bathroom.  Just for your viewing interest, here are a few other quilts I considered before settling on my black one:

My latest decorating obsession: Kantha Quilts at / 

My latest decorating obsession: Kantha Quilts at /
My latest decorating obsession: Kantha Quilts at /
{images via Beeing Gypsy -- this is the Etsy shop where I purchased my quilt.}

What do you think?  Have you heard of Kantha quilts before?  I’m kind of in love with them right now.

Have a great day, friends!

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