Best of .... Smashed Muffin 2011

Today, I had some unexpected time to myself and for once had the time and space to think and recollect about the happenings of 2011. So, I decided to come up with a list of random things, thoughts, happenings and ideas of Smashed Muffin related things (aside from the obvious) that are the "bomb dot com" in my book. (A friend of mine started saying that, or maybe she's been saying it for a while, but regardless, I love it and I'm totally stealing it.)

1) New Cookbooks and Foodie Reading Material
Flour by Joanne Chang

A friend at work tipped me off on this one as she had worked at Flour and let me borrow her personal copy of the book. However, shortly after it became quite clear that I would need my own copy. And let me tell you, discovering the cookbook has brought a lot of joy to this household. I've only made a handful of recipes so far, but all of them have been winners. Still need to try the sticky buns, but they will be a must make in 2012!
A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
When I worked at the Sun-Times, we had quarterly book sales of material that had been sent for our review. Books, CD's, DVD's. I acquired quite a collection over the years and picked a lot of books and such at random intending to get to them later, A Homemade Life being one of those such books. A friend was visiting from out of town and noticed the book on my bookshelf in my kitchen and told me I had to read it. I finally got around to reading it and I was not disappointed. Now, I'm obsessed. So obsessed, that I'm hoping to plan a trip to Delancey (the restaurant the author opened with her husband in Seattle) sometime in 2012.

Lucky Peach Magazine
While doing my Holiday Shopping this year, I came across the magazine Lucky Peach. I missed the first issue, but the second issue was kind of perfect for me because it was surrounded by the theme "the sweet spot." Not only am I obsessed with it because it's published by McSweeney's, but this issue also had an article about someone else I'm currently inspired by, Christina Tosi of Momofuku Milk Bar. I can't wait to try making the grilled ham and cheese sandwich (with smart balance "ham" of course), which is wrapped between two corn cake cookies. As one of the editors writes in the introduction of the issue, the sweet spot in your life can be anywhere, event that moment "when you've eaten too many cookies and decide to try making a ham sandwich with cookies as bread." What's not to love? The mag even came with a page full of stickers for you to decorate your fruit with. Cuz, let's be real. Even if you're not a kid anymore, it's still hard to eat your fruit and veggies sometimes. But making it fun, makes it go down easier at the moments when you need an extra nudge.

2) Good Eats
The Pickled Carrots at Birchwood Kitchen
Obviously, I couldn't recollect without mentioning the pickled carrots at Birchwood Kitchen. Not only was it the inspiration for this blog's beginnings, but those carrots were also one of my favorite go-to holiday gifts this year. With a feature on Tasting Table, I certainly hope others were as psyched as I was to bring a piece of the BK home with them.

Jeni's Spledid Ice Creams
This August, I was fortunate enough to visit Jeni's Splendid Ice Creams in Nashville, TN. They have other locations in Ohio, however, I really wish they would expand to Chicago. There are a handful of retailers throughout our local area that sell their pints of premium ice cream, however, it's not quite the same. Although, after discovering the new Jeni's sublime holiday video (I'm also obsessed with all their George Lange/Lange Studio videos by the way), I'm convinced that this should be the only way I chose to celebrate my new years, or any holiday for that matter.

4) All things Craft-tastic
Pinterest is my new favorite hobby. When I'm not writing, or at work, or crafting, or baking, I'm probably pinterest-ing. Ok, that's not a word, but you get what I mean. It's got it all, fashion, food, crafts and a whole lot of randomness that will make you smile. Check it out. You might find yourself perusing for hours. Or longer. It's kinda dangerous like that, but still pretty great.

5) Movie Moments
Stranger Than Fiction
Ok, so maybe this movie isn't from this year, but I did watch it recently. And while doing so, was reminded how perfectly cheesetastic (yet oh-so-loveable) the scene is where Harold Crick brings Ana Pascal "flours" in an attempt to win her over. I mean, seriously. Who needs "flowers" that are going to wilt and die, when you have "flours" that you can bake with and enjoy the benefits of for weeks or months (thank you freezer)?!  And I also second Ana Pacal's wish to make the world a better place with cookies. Bite by bite, it'll happen. Watch out world. Nothing makes the end of a long, terrible day seem to wash away than a delicious, gooey, out of this word cookie or dessert.

6) More videos to love
DOSE Market
This year, my new favorite thing to do when I'm not feeling Green City Market, was to splurge a little and visit Dose Market. The video sums it up pretty well, but if you're not convinced.... well I'm really not sure why you wouldn't be convinced, to be honest. 

I think I've already professed my love of Tattly, however this video just solidified my love that.much.more. It's very cute. And as they say on the blog, you won't be able to watch it without smiling, even just a little. Go ahead and try not to. I dare you.

Tattly from Made by Hand on Vimeo.

Butcher & Larder video by Big View Makes
I know it seems weird coming from a vegetarian, but I completely stand behind the message in this video. Bring the neighborhood butcher back! And heck, the owner used to be a vegetarian too, so you really can't fight me on this one. We're all on the same side, regardless of what you choose to and choose not to consume.

P&S Ep. 1 | Butcher & Larder from Sergio Salgado on Vimeo.

So, dear readers... What are/were your favorite moments of inspiration that you stumbled upon this year? What are you looking forward to the most in the coming year?


Holiday Gift Guide 2011

It's just about that time of year. I've felt a little stumped on the gift ideas lately as I have yet to cross off anything on my own "gift-giving list", nor have the lists been properly made and organized (yes, I'm a little OCD). But, then I got those wheels turning a bit and I thought, to myself, "Dab Nabbit! Hows about a Smashed Muffin Gift Guide?!" So here you have it folks, my top suggestions for gifts to give to you and yours this year. Want to get your hands on my "highly inappropriate" but oh so delicious holiday rum ball recipe for the perfect DIY gift? Send an email to smashedmuffingoods@gmail.com and tell me what you're getting the lovelies on your list...!

1. A couple years back, I went to a book signing event at my favorite book shop in the city, The Book Cellar. Not only is it a great place to get gift ideas, but it also introduced me to the editors and concept behind The Smith Magazine Six Word Memoir project. Specifically, the Six Word Memoirs on Love and Heartbreak by writers famous and obscure. The idea seemed rather genius to me at the time. Now I've come to learn that there's a game, yes, cheesetastic, I know. But what can I say, I'm a sucker for a game that relates to writing. SOLD.
2. I've seen my fair share of tattoos, but I have yet to sport one myself. Getting a tattoo in my book has always meant applying with soap and water. For your fellow non-committal inkettes, Tattly has just the thing. Sign up for their subscription box and get 8 temporary tattoos a month, for 6 months, for $60. JUST ADD WATER!

3. Speaking of Tattly, they also recently came out with a custom Field Notes edition. I happen to be a fan of Field Notes to begin with. I mean, who can't relate to their slogan - "I'm not writing it down to remember it later. I'm writing it down to remember it now." Not only am I all about the writing, but who can't find a pocket notebook handy from time to time to jot down those shreds of ideas we come across during a day that we grasp to remember? And, it's made in the USA to boot. ADD IT TO THE LIST!

4. While we're on the topic of writing and books, I'm going to share with you one of my favorite coffee table books. It may seem silly to some, but when I'm having a bad day, nothing brings me more comfort than flipping through the pages of this book and not being able to help myself from cracking a hopeful smile. Not to mention that Everything is Going to be OK is published by my favorite publisher, Chronicle Books. With the stresses of the day, sometimes we all need a friendly, inventive reminder to put things in perspective. What are you waiting for? You might even want to buy one for yourself, it's that good. Don't worry, I won't tell anyone. GO BUY IT ALREADY!


5. Wait, wait... Don't Tell Me! I know this one! The uber dork in me would love nothing more than to spend all my Saturday nights drinking chai in my living room and listening to the Wait, Wait... Don't Tell Me show (and thusly trying not to snort said chai out of my nose during the intense fits of laughter). You can do my nerdalicious fantasy one better and go to a live taping of the show at the Chase Auditorium Theatre. And if you have a foodie lover on your hands, I've always thought it would be the best treat ever to recreate Wait, Wait's Sandwich Monday for someone - the absurd, disgusting, delicious and everything in between. Mix well and it sounds like fun for all to me! Some available at local haunts in the city, some you can fabricate live in your very own kitchen. Just sayin.....

6. Growing up, I was always intrigued by nesting dolls. When I came across these nesting doll (ok technically they're called "matryoshka dolls") measuring cups at a recent trip to Paper-Source (or I've also seen them at Sur La Table), it was love at first sight. Not only are they adorable, but they're also quite functional. They're great if you're short on cabinet space - and you get double the measuring capabilities with tops and bottoms. Who can't use an extra measuring cup or two? Especially when they're so stylish and cute! ....WIN WIN! 


7. When I first moved to the big city (from the nearby western suburbs, but still), I quickly discovered the thriving crafting scene in Chicago. And thus, quickly fell in love with Renegade Holiday Craft Fair. I instantly gravitated to my favorite vendor for the perfect gift for all my Chicagoan friends, Circa Ceramics. (I find their magnets to be great gifts, for your Chicago and non-Chicago friends alike.) Handmade in Chicago, they have a line of bowls, cups, vases, plates, you name it, in the blue stripe/red stars design of the Chicago flag. WHAT'S NOT TO LOVE?!

8. While we're on the topic of making your kitchen fully stocked with functional and cute kitchenware supplies, I couldn't help but include this camera cookie cutter set from DIY Photography. I discovered these while browsing Feature Shoot's gift giving for photographers list. These truly will be the "best cameras you've ever tasted." SWEET!

9. Now that you're friends will be fully stocked with functional and fun kitchen ware, they'll need fresh and local ingredients to cook with. I can't think of anything better than a produce box from Green Grocer Chicago. GET COOKIN'!

10. My last gift suggestion kind of comes full circle. This blog's very first posting was about attempting to recreate, at home, the pickled carrots from Birchwood Kitchen. Then I got the newsletter from Tasting Table in my inbox last week, and it provided a friendly reminder of this blog's beginnings. If you don't have time to make them on your own, now you can take those pickled carrots (and more) home with you. At $7.50 per 12 ounce mason jar, you'll be stocking up on more than just the carrots (jars are also available in green and white wax beans, beets, cauliflower, and even brussel sprouts). WHAT'RE YOU WAITING FOR?!