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real life test kitchen: easy rhubarb and ginger crumble

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Spring may be teasing us with these hot and cold days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t partake in some fruits of the season. Or should I say, vegetable of the season, since rhubarb is a not a fruit but more like a vibrant cousin of celery. I made this crumble last night, inspired by recipe from Good To Share by Sara Sara Kate Gillingham-Ryan. I admit I tossed a few strawberries in — but you don’t need them. I also eye-balled the ingredients because I wanted to make a smaller amount than the recipe called for. This is one that is easy to wing it. Crumble away!

Rhubarb Ginger Crumble — serves 4
What You Need:

4 to 5 stalks of rhubarb cut in 1/2 inch small bites
6 tablespoons of cold butter
1 cup of flour
2/2 cup of light brown sugar
1/3 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of diced crystallized ginger
1 tablespoon of fresh grated ginger
1/2 cup of crushed almonds
1/2 cup sliced strawberries (optional)
Vanilla ice cream – for serving

How to Make
1. Preheat oven to 350. Cut up the rhubarb and strawberries (if adding). Stir it in a bowl with fresh ginger and the granulated sugar. Add sugar slowly — you may not want to use whole amount.
2. In your electric mixer, use pastry blade to mix light brown sugar, flour and 4 tablespoons of butter until, well, crumbly. Add in almonds and crystallized ginger and mix with your hands until moist and clumpy.
3. Pour fruit mixture into a baking dish. Cut up remaining two tablespoons of butter into small pieces and sprinkle around.
4. Cover fruit with the sugar-butter-almond mixture. I like my crumble thick and crunchy, but you can decide how much you want.
5. Bake about 50 minutes or until bubbling and dark brown on top.
6. Cool slightly and serve warmish with ice cream.
7. Repeat all summer long!

Don’t miss another favorite recipe of ours: Easy Berry Crisp.

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need to spruce up your deck before summer? see how we did it

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This post was originally published early last summer. Things are finally starting to look green here and we can’t wait to start entertaining on our deck. The paint held up well over the long harsh winter. We’ll be getting to work on our front porch soon!

The straw-that-broke-the-camel’s-back was when Isadora’s BFF Sophie got a splinter in her foot. This has become a common event in our home due delicate bare little feet and a back yard deck that is past its prime. When it is our own girl, we just grab the tweezers and muscle through the splinter extraction … but with Sophie, that was not an option. The girl wouldn’t sit still to save her life, so we sent her home early, teary-eyed and limping. The next week, Chad started investigating our deck options. At first he thought merely flipping the boards would do the trick. After testing a few, we sadly discovered the underside of the wood was not much smoother than the top surface. Our current budget and life-improvement-plans do not allocate for a brand new deck, so we went for plan B: Lets paint it. We debated using a traditional stain, but wanted something that would literally change the texture of the deck under our feet. After much debate, we went with a product called Behr Deckover. (We considered something called Rust-Oleum Restore but that seemed a bit more heavy duty than we needed.) Soon we began to embrace the fact that our deck would no longer look like wood, and instead decided to embrace its colorful future. We chose a slate grey for the floor and a pale grey for the railing. The resulting effect reminds me of a traditional Cape Cod feel. Chad also mixed in some sand with the paint, which gave it a bit of grit. That way the texture is not slippery, even when wet.

To complete this project, our deck had to be sanded, and then three coats of Behr Deckover were liberally applied. With all the rainy days we had recently, this took about a two weeks to complete. At $35 a gallon, the total project cost us about $280.

We finished it off with a new, vintage-inspired table and chairs from OnWayFurniture.com that we got on sale for $350.

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want it now: fatboy’s heademock hammock

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We can hardly wait until the weather is warm enough to start occupying our outdoor spaces. Our deck and front porch look so lonesome through the winter — especially this year. One addition we may have to make to our porch furniture this year: A hammock for dreaming. This one from Fatboy is not only cozy, but it’s easy to clean and is extra cushy. And, it’s on sale! $386 at AllModern. Sweet dreams of made of this.

Headdemock Hammock in Turquoise

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toddler to little girl room: stencils are the new wallpaper!

As we wrote about the last week, our decorating brains have been hurting trying to make decisions that would last a decade in our girl Isadora’s room. We’ve been transforming it from toddler cute to something that she will (hopefully) love even as a teen, step-by-step. After choosing a paint color — Benjamin Moore’s lovely Beacon Gray — we decided to spruce up two of her walls with a pattern.

We called in a ton of gorgeous samples from wallpaper sites and were amazed at the variety. From the colorful to the clever, the choices seem endless. We kept being drawn to the simplest of patterns with classic vibes, and soon realized that what we wanted was a very basic repeat that was the same tone and color as the walls. We started exploring the idea of stencils — which at first had us cringing with thoughts of 80′s style flowers everywhere. After looking around we were pleasantly surprised to find that stencils have come a long a way! They are some very lovely patterns available, and after watching a few YouTube videos, Chad became confident that he could pull this off in Isadora’s room.

We went with Julia Allover from Cutting Edge Stencils. One kit is $53 and comes with one large repeat plus a top stencil for hard to reach spots near the ceiling. The nice thing about the “wallpaper” look is that you don’t have to worry about being perfect. It’s nice to show some slight variation in the pattern rather than perfectly straight lines.

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To create this look, we simply bought a small can of the next darker shade in the Beacon Gray spectrum – November Skies. In addition to the paint, you will need painter’s masking tape, paper towels, a foam roller, a tray and a (possibly) level. (A level is more important is you are using a more precise pattern than ours.

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The video below is what we used to guide us. The secret is to keep your brush nearly dry. After you load it with paint, dry it off on paper towels before touching the wall. Also, after filling in the stencil, wait for it to be nearly dry before removing to move. That way you minimize smears on the stencil itself. Make sure the previous painted section is dry before overlapping it with the plastic stencils.

One word of caution: Corners are super tricky. Chad used a stencil brush for those spots. Save the smallest spots — like over a door — for the very end, in case you need to cut the stencil down to fit.

The whole project took about five hours and cost less than $200 in total. We’ve never wallpapered anything before — but something tells us this was much less expensive and complicated.

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Got any questions? Leave a comment and we’ll do our best to get back to you!

From our partners

real life test kitchen: ina garten’s salted caramel brownies

This post was originally published in 2012 — but in honor of both Super Bowl Sunday and approaching Valentine’s Day, we thought we could use another dose of this yumminess.

I have a soft spot for things that are salty and sweet — especially things that are chocolately, salty and sweet (like my favorite Trader Joe’s candy). So when I spotted this recipe from Ina Garten in Food Network magazine, I couldn’t wait to give it a whirl. It’s from her new cookbook, Barefoot Contessa Foolproof Recipes, which could really be the title of all of her cookbooks. Her recipes never fail. This super rich, moist chocolate brownie would be outstanding on its own. It has a bit of instant coffee in it, which gives it a nice sophistication. Chocolate chips blended in the rich the batter give it a double wallop of goodness. Then, on the top of this magic, you drizzle caramel sauce finished off with a sprinkle of course, high quality sea salt. That touch propels these brownies into the stratosphere. The caramel and the salt are not every day pantry ingredients, but they are worth hunting down and using if you really want to make an impression. I promise you that everyone who you share these with (if you can force yourself to share them) will swoon. Use cautiously as they are hard to have in the house without devouring.

Here’s my take on Ina Garten’s Salted Caramel Brownie recipe. I highly recommend you buy her new book (I just did and will write about more of her dishes soon.).

What You Need:
2 sticks of unsalted butter
8 ounces plus 6 ounces Hershey’s semisweet chocolate chips (a little more than one bag)
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
3 extra-large eggs
1 1/2 tablespoons instant coffee granules (I used decaf Nescafe)
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, divided
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
5 to 6 ounces good caramel sauce
2 to 3 teaspoons flaked sea salt

How to Make

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour a 9 x 12 x 1 1/2-inch baking pan.
2. Melt the butter, 8 ounces of the chocolate chips, and the unsweetened chocolate together in a medium bowl set over simmering water. Allow to cool for 15 minutes. In a large bowl, stir (do not beat) together the eggs, coffee, vanilla, and sugar. Stir the chocolate mixture into the egg mixture and allow to cool to room temperature (very important!).
3. While that mixture is cooling, sift sift together the half cup of flour, the baking powder and salt in a separate bowl, and then add to the cooled down chocolate mixture. 4. In a separate bowl, stir the remaining 6 ounces of chocolate chips and the remaining 2 tablespoons of flour. Add the flour-coated chips to the chocolate mixture. Spread evenly in the prepared pan.
5. Bake for 35 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Don’t overbake!
6. As soon as the brownies are out of the oven, heat up the jar of caramel sauce (either in the microwave without the lid, or buy running really hot tap water over the whole thing). Make sure it is pourable. Use a spoon to drizzle the caramel evenly over the hot brownies.
7. Sprinkle with the sea salt. Cool completely and cut into 12 bars.

More Barefoot Contessa recipes we love:
Chinese Chicken Salad

Brunch Perfect Scones

Outrageously Good Brownies
Turkey Meatfloaf

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