lately: #chesterlyeverafter

Last weekend, we celebrated the marriage of our dear friends, Seth & Allison. It was an amazing, epic, fabulous, stupendous, and fun weekend – so full of love and laughter, we were sad to see the end of it! From the start of the festivities at the rehearsal dinner, to the final send-off after Sunday brunch, we couldn’t have asked for a better time. I was honored to be a part of the bridal party, and couldn’t think of a better way to show off the weekend than here, for you all! I hope you enjoy the peak in : ) 

Cheers to the beautiful new couple! 

Alicia x0x0

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lately: wedding time!

Last weekend, two of our dearest friends tied the knot. It was everything I could have possibly imagined, and even more so! The hubs and the groom go way back – we’re talking grade school, peeps! He was the best man in the wedding, and I was so proud of him – he prepared the most amazing trip for the guys, gave a wonderful toast, and basically rocked the title of “best man”. But I digress. 

It wouldn’t be in true Alicia form to let such a momentous occasion pass by without sharing some of the shots from the weekend with y’all, so here’s a peak in! Cheers to the newlyweds, we love you!

Alicia xoxo

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lately: 3rd anniversary weekend celebration

Last weekend, the hubs and I celebrated our three-year anniversary. Our original plans {a weekend of camping at one of our favorite spots, full of hiking, winery hopping, and cooking delish campfire food} was foiled by the awful weather – but nonetheless, we made a marvelous weekend out of it! In true form, I documented the time we spent together celebrating and it couldn’t have been more fun. Here’s a peak into how we spent it! 

Alicia xo 

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happy 3rd anniversay <3

To my wonderful husband: 

Cheers to the past three years of marriage, to 6-1/2 amazing years together, and to infinity more. We’ve created wonderful memories, laughed way too hard, and shared countless X’s and O’s. My life couldn’t be more perfect, but everyday that I spend with you – it is. I love you! 

lately: winery hopping

Because the hubs and I just cannot get enough of exploring local wineries and breweries, we took advantage of a free weekend last month and made our way up to Charlottesville, VA. Being only a mere 2 hours {and that’s a bit of a stretch!} from our home, it is the ideal weekend getaway – a Saturday afternoon spent exploring venues we’ve not yet been to, dinner down at ‘The Corner’, and a little bit of bar exploring before calling it a night! And, you know us, we couldn’t leave enough alone…we made sure to squeeze in a hike on the way home Sunday morning! Here’s a peak into the places we visited, many of them recommended by my dear friend {and wine connoisseur} Suzanne : ) 

Enjoy! -Alicia xoxo 

Saturday Afternoon: Hopping 

{Bold Rock Cidery, Fly Fox Vineyard, Blue Mountain Brewery, Pollack Vineyard, Loving Cup Vineyard, Albermarle CiderWorks}

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Saturday Night: Out and About {Mellow Mushroom, Basil}

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Sunday Hike: Humpback Rocks, Appalachian Trail

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Sunday Afternoon: {Barren Ridge Vineyard, Rockbridge Vineyard}

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cookies n’ cream cake

Oreo lovers, you’ve found your ::literal:: slice of heaven.

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We all know pretty well by now that I have a sweet tooth the size of the planet, but it’s not too often that I do a lot of baking. Don’t get me wrong, I love baking! – it’s a methodical, precise process; entirely different from the way most of my day-to-day cooking goes. But the art of baking requires concentration and focus; sometimes I need that in the kitchen. Which is why I always let the hubs choose as intricate a birthday dessert as he wants. It’s a win for the both of us – he gets an awesome dessert, and I get my focus fix {and yes, the entirety of the dessert is consumed solely by the two of us!}.

This year’s cake was a no brainer. I mentioned above that Oreo cookie lovers have found a slice of heaven. I kid you not, this cake is hands-down the embodiment of an Oreo cookie, crafted into a glorious 2-layer cake. Every inch, every crumb of this cake pays homage to the iconic cookie. We have crumbled Oreo wafers in the actual cake base. The creme filling finds its way into the frosting that is sandwiched between the two cakes. Whole Oreos have been pulverized into a fine powder, and folded into the buttercream frosting.

One  might think that such a cake will be cloyingly sweet. But I promise that it’s not! I tweaked the original recipe just a bit; eliminating a bit of the sugar, presenting alternate options for the oil and sour cream ingredients. It is a perfectly balanced dessert; sure, it’s indulgent, but worth every delicious bite.

 Have I described it well enough? Are you running to the kitchen to make this?

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Because you very well should be : )

~~~

Oreo Cookies n’ Cream Cake {recipe adapted from Sally’s Baking Addiction

Oreo lovers will fall head over heels in love with this decadent creation. Full to bursting with both Oreo cookie crumbs and the oh-so-loved creme filling, it hits all the right notes. Finished with a fluffy buttercream frosting, this cake is sure to win a spot in your hearts – not to mention, bring back fond childhood memories of dunking Oreo cookies into a tall glass of milk! 

Ingredients: Chocolate Layer Cake

3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder {not dutch process}

1 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 cups cake flour*

1 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. salt

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/4 cup applesauce {you can also use vegetable or canola oil}

1 cup full fat sour cream or full fat Greek yogurt, room temperature

2 tsp. vanilla extract

1/2 cup hot coffee or hot water

3/4 cup  Oreo cookie crumbs**

*if you don’t have cake flour, simply remove 3 Tbsp. of the all-purpose flour, the add in 3 Tbsp. of cornstarch. Sift the all-purpose flour and the cornstarch together before using

**scrape out the filling before pulsing the cookies, and set to the side for later use

Ingredients: Oreo Cream Filling

6 Tbsp. unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

reserved Oreo creme filling {from the 3/4 cup of Oreo cookie crumbs}

2-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 Tbsp. milk or cream

2 tsp. vanilla extract

Ingredients: Vanilla Buttercream

3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 tsp. vanilla extract

4-1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar

1/4 cup milk or cream

10 additional Oreo cookies, pulsed into a fine crumb

To Prepare:

Position oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat to 350 degrees. Generously spray two 9″ cake pans with nonstick spray, and set aside.

In a large bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, blend the cocoa powder, sugar, cake flour, baking soda, and salt together on low speed for 30 seconds. Add in the eggs, applesauce {or oil of choice}, sour cream {or Greek yogurt}, and vanilla. Mix on low speed for one minute.

Remove the bowl from the mixer and add the coffee and Oreo cookie crumbs; stir to combine. Some of the chocolate chips will melt as you stir. Avoid overmixing the batter!

Pour the batter into the prepared cake pans. Bake for 28-32 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cakes come out clean. Allow cakes to cool completely on a wire rack.

While the cakes cool, make the Oreo Cream Filling. 

In a large bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer fitting with the paddle attachment, cream the butter, shortening {or just all butter}, and reserved Oreo creme filling on high speed until light and fluffy. Add the confectioners’ sugar, 1 cup at a time, alternating with the milk/cream and vanilla. The filling will be thick, but you may add more milk/cream if you prefer. Set aside, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

While the cakes cool, make the Vanilla Buttercream. 

In a large bowl, using a handheld or standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter on high speed until fluffy, about 1 minute. Beat in the vanilla on low speed, then add in the confectioners’ sugar 1 cup at a time, alternating with the milk/cream. The buttercream will be thick. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the Oreo cookie crumbs. Set aside, tightly covered, in the refrigerator.

Once the cake is cooled, assemble the cake.

Place one cooled layer on a cake stand or large plate. Using an offset spatula or knife, cover the top with a 1″ thick layer of the Oreo Creme Filling. Top with the second cake. Cover the tall layer cake with the Vanilla Buttercream.

Slice and serve! Leftover cake can be covered and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

make ahead tip: the cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. The frosting and filling can be prepared, then covered and refrigerated overnight. Assemble and frost the next day, when you are ready to serve. 

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that was the size of one slice <3

philly mac n’ cheese

From a culinary standpoint, birthday celebrations are a big deal in our house. I look forward to them every year {more so the hub’s birthday than my own} because not only are they are good reason to pull out a good bottle of wine, but because we tend to go over the top in terms of dinner.

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We celebrated the hub’s birthday not long ago, and we spent quite some time trying to figure out what kind of meal to prepare. Every year, I let him decide on exactly what it is he wants. No limits, no rules – his dinner wish {and dessert!} is my command. It’s pretty much a win-win for both of us; he gets a meal of his own creation, and I get to have fun whipping it up in the kitchen!

When he settled on the more traditional mac n’ cheese, I asked him to come up with some sort of twist on it, sort of a way to spice it up a bit. We bounced ideas back and forth…flavor combinations, dishes that he likes, we we somehow steered the conversation to sandwiches.

“What about a philly?”  I asked him. His eyes lit up, and I knew we had found the dish of the year. The end result? – a combination of a few staple dishes in my repertoire, with some funky additions that make it perfect for him. It’s an indulgent dish, and you bet that we will be bringing this out again once the cooler autumn months come around.

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Enjoy!

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Philly Mac n’ Cheese {recipe adapted from Williams-Sonoma}

Definitely one of the more creative birthday dishes we’ve dreamed up over the past few years, this mac n’ cheese hits all the notes of a classic cheese steak sandwich: perfectly loaded with cheese, traditional vegetable add-ons, and of course…oh-so indulgent. 

Ingredients:

1/2 lb. dried pasta, such as cavatappi

non-stick cooking spray

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

3 Tbsp. cornstarch

1 cup milk of choice

1/2 cup low-sodium chicken stock

3/4 cup freshly shredded Gruyere cheese

3/4 cup freshly shredded champagne cheddar cheese {if not available, feel free to swap out with extra sharp cheddar}

1 package frozen spinach {cooked, drained, and cooled}

2 cups baby portabella mushrooms

2 cups chicken {cooked, cooled, and shredded}

1/8 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/8 cup Panko {Japanese bread crumbs}

olive oil, for sauteeing the mushrooms

salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

To Prepare:

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spray an 8″ x 8″ glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray, and set aside.

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook, stirring occasionally, until not quite al dente, about 2 minutes less than the package instructions. Drain and transfer to a large bowl, and set aside.

In a small nonstick skillet, cook the mushrooms with a splash of olive oil until lightly sauteed, about 5-7 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and set aside.

Return the saucepan to medium-high heat and melt he butter. Add the cornstarch and cook, stirring well, until the cornstarch is thoroughly incorporated, about 1 to 3 minutes. Whisk in the milk, chicken stock, and an generous pinch of salt; bring to a boil. Simmer, whisking frequently to smooth out any lumps, for 4 to 5 minutes. Remove from heat, and add a pinch of pepper and stir to incorporate. Slowly add in both the Gruyere and champagne cheddar cheese, making to sure combine thoroughly.

Pour the cheese sauce over the pasta and stir well. Next, fold in the spinach, mushrooms, and chicken. Transfer to the prepared baking dish and top with the Parmesan and Panko. Bake until the top is lightly browned and the sauce is bubbly, about 25-30 minutes. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving.

Serve with a side of roasted vegetables {we opted for asparagus!}.

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