Archive | November, 2010

Let the Countdown Begin…

27 Nov

The countdown to Christmas has officially started.  Seriously, check it out at

What better way to kick off the Christmas season than fighting your way through crowded stores on Black Friday?  Well, I tried.  I went to one department store and saw the lines and decided there was nothing I needed that badly.  The only stores I was willing to wait in any kind of line at (with two kids in tow mind you) were Michaels and JoAnn’s

Since my Christmas decorations are in storage containers in the back of a closet that I was unwilling to dig through today, I decided to make a new wreath for the front door.  There is no better starting point than the front door!

The Christmas decorations for the “Easy Family Get Together” in the December issue of Parents Magazine are all adorable, but the wreaths really caught my eye.    I love that they are both modern and have an organic quality.  The moss makes them a little traditional, but the cute felt flowers are unexpected and fresh (ironically). 

Cutting the felt circles was probably the most time-consuming part.  But once that was complete, the rest went pretty quick.  I’d say I spent less than an hour on this project and I had a one year old tugging at me.

I am loving the finished product.  Most importantly, I am pleased that from the outside it appears that I have my act together and am ready to bring on Christmas!  If only they knew….

I Am Thankful For…Chocolate!

24 Nov

A Heath bar is one of my favorite candies. While it is pretty convenient to run to your local grocery store to purchase one (or three), it is definitely more gratifying to make your own. This super simple candy is not only easy to make but it looks great too and it is just begging to be gifted…possibly to your Thanksgiving hostess….

I contemplated eating all of it for dinner tonight, but thought it better to bring it along as we make our rounds tomorrow for Thanksgiving. I know what you’re thinking…candy at Thanksgiving?!  I for one am definitely thankful for chocolate and believe that it should have a place at the Thanksgiving table…in any form!  Try it out!  You can make a million different variations.

1 cup butter
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 package of saltine crackers
1 package of chocolate chips (I used milk chocolate)
1 package of your favorite nuts (I used walnuts)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F.  In a saucepan, melt the butter with the brown sugar.  As that is melting, arrange the saltines on a jelly roll pan in a single layer.  Bring the butter and sugar mixture to a boil and remove from heat.  Pour the butter over the crackers gently, being careful not to let the butter move the crackers around.  Using a spatula, spread it out if needed so that everything is well coated.  Bake for 5 minutes.  While that is baking, melt your chocolate chips, either via double boiler, or in the microwave on 50% stirring every minute until melted.  Remove the pan from the oven and pour the chocolate on top, gently spreading to cover everything.  Top with the nuts and press into the chocolate.  Refrigerate to harden.  Once fully hardened, break it into pieces and store in an air tight container with a layer of wax paper or parchment paper in between.

This is so simple and when placed in a beautiful tin or other festive container, would make a tasty gift!

Happy Turkey Day!

A Praline Disaster

22 Nov

For our annual International Thanksgiving Party, I contributed desserts. I made the classic pumpkin whoopie pies, but I wanted to try out a new recipe that my friend Betty Crocker gave me. It sounded great on paper–pumpkin cake, praline topping, pecans, and doctored up cream cheese frosting–how could it go wrong?

I have myself to blame. I was running late, as usual. After baking the whoopie pies I realized that I did not have any cupcake papers for the season. I ran down the street to my local Michaels. They were, of course, totally cleaned out of all Thanksgiving decorations. I settled on gold. At that disappointing moment, all of San Diego descended upon my Michaels. I waiting another 10 minutes in line to pay for my second choice cupcake papers.

By the time I got home, I had thirty minutes to finish my cake, put the whoopie pies together and get myself together. An impossible feat.

The whoopie pies are so simple and travel really really well so they were not the problem. My praline pumpkin cake, however, was a different story.

Sadly, this is my praline pumpkin cake’s finest moment. In a flurry of activity I frosted and boxed the cake before it had completely cooled. In the 5 minutes it takes to get to Summer’s house from mine, the frosting had melted and the top layer of cake had fallen off and broken into several pieces.

When we arrived I was informed that I also looked as if my top layer had fallen off and broken into several pieces (thanks, Summer).

We were able to salvage some of the cake by cutting it into bite-sized pieces and serving them on a cute dish.

If its true that it’s what’s on the inside that counts then this recipe is a winner. It tastes warm and gooey. The pumpkin flavor of the cake was just enough and it was ultra-moist. The praline was sweet and crunchy, and adding the pumpkin pie spice to the cream cheese frosting was just genius!

I would call this attempt a disaster, but I would definitely try this recipe again…when I have a little more time on my hands!

The Cheesecake Chronicles: Pumpkin Cheese(sorta)cake

11 Nov

and the winner is….


Why? Because I am the oldest and my recipe is the easiest and quickest and least messy! So I win and I also made it up all by myself out of spite against Caas and Vettski because they didn’t include me on their little competition! No, I am not bitter at all… I am just as sweet and humble as my pumpkin cheesecake!

shopping list:


trader joe’s pumpkin cream cheese

yield: however many you plan on making!

time: oh, say about 5 minutes/whole bagel, max

prep: toast your bagel, generously spread the seasonally great TJ’s pumpkin cream cheese across your bagel, use a fork to make your pie imprints around the edges and make your little holes so four and twenty blackbirds don’t come flying out at you… VOILA!

copyright 2010 summer browner

everyone loved them (except lucas but he doesn’t count because he has a palette of a 20-month old, literally).


it is so unique! and it is so l.a.

10 Nov

hey ladies (and dudes!),

mark your calendars for this awesome design & gift show december 11 – 12. 2010 at the california market center’s penthouse! it’s only $10 and it’s the largest independent design show in the country… i know i’ll be there shopping around, buying local, and supporting my los angeles community (even though i am not in la)!

Here’s a little note from their site:

UNIQUE LA partners with a non-profit for every show and donates a portion of sales to the organization. Our partner for the Spring Show was Ed Begley Jr.’s’ GreenWish, which raises awareness and funds for nine local environmental groups including Friends of Los Angeles River, Surfrider Foundation and Algalita.

dead leaves on the falling ground…

8 Nov

a couple weeks ago (say for my dad’s birthday, 17 oct) we all packed our bags and went on a trip out to oak glen, california. where is that you ask? it is a very long drive through wilderness and no-man’s land but once you get close to the apple farms and pumpkin patches you remember why you embarked on such a journey!

copyright summer browner 2010


the coolest grass roots family band from arizona played while we enjoyed our bar be que lunch. i heard they would be back for christmas!

the history:

Nestled in the apple growing foothills of historic Oak Glen, Riley’s Farm is a working apple orchard and living history farm featuring pick-your-own fruit, living history education, dinner theater, group banquet facilities and extended, historically-themed overnight stays.

copyright summer browner 2010


Not only can you pick your own fruit BUT they reenact the Civil War, let you make your own old fashion apple cider, walk miles up to pick your own pumpkin, and let you sample everything on the farm! December will host Christmas Carolers and a Christmas in the Colonies! can’t you imagine all the sweet and unexpected surprises you can offer for Christmas? not only do you get to visit historic apple orchards and smell the real life of the farm but you get to give homemade goodness to friends and family!

copyright summer browner 2010


don’t forget to stop by riley’s neighbors the willowbridge apple farm! my dad had to have their apple butter then he was ready to go home! although not as large as riley’s but just all the more hospitable and yummy!

The Cheesecake Chronicles: Double Layer Pumpkin Pie

7 Nov

As I’ve pointed out before, I am an almost-homemade kind of girl. I love finding recipes that call for regular ingredients that are easily found at my local grocery store. Even more, I love finding recipes that offer short cuts!

I am not quite as ambitious as my dear cousin, Caasi. I used a ready-made graham pie crust for my no-bake recipe.

1/2 8oz. pkg. Cream Cheese, softened
1tbsp milk
1tbsp sugar
1 8 oz. tub of thawed whipped topping
1 graham pie crust
1 cup milk
1  15oz can pumpkin
2  4 serving vanilla flavor instant pudding & pie filling
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. ground cloves


First mix the cream cheese, 1 tbsp. of milk, and sugar with a wire whisk until its well blended.  Then very gently stir in half of the whipped topping.  This will make up the cream cheese layer of your double layer pumpkin pie.  Spread into the crust. 

Then mix 1 cup of milk in a large bowl with the pumpkin, dry pudding mixes and spices.  Again, beat with a wire whisk until its well blended.  Spread this pumpkin mixture over the cream cheese mixture. 

Refrigerate the pie for 4 hours until it sets.  When you serve it, top it with a dollop of the remaining whipped topping.

I’m not really a big cheesecake person, so this recipe is perfect for me.  The cheesecake taste is subtle in comparison to the pumpkin.  My better half, however, LOVES cheesecake so this was not quite enough for him.  But luckily he also loves pumpkin pie so it wasn’t totally wasted on him.

The Cheesecake Chronicles: Pumpkin Cheesecake

5 Nov

9:34pm: Okay so we at Whoopie Cookie decided to have a Pumpkin Cheesecake “Throwdown” (a la Bobby Flay on The Food Network). I was coming off a great cheesecake victory! My first ever and it was spectacular! Being that it’s Fall and the fact that I have a pumpkin food fetish, I decided to try cheesecake of the pumpkin variety.

The night started out great. I made the crust faster and with more confidence than the first time I battled cheesecake. I was feeling like a pro. In the oven it went and onto blending up the filling. Ugh… the filling. I let the cream cheese soften a little too much. It was kind of runny instead of creamy and I hadn’t even added the last ingredient, eggs. I decided to give it 5 minutes in the refrigerator to set… disaster averted. I returned the mixing bowl to my stand mixer, I was locked and loaded. Speed low, I added egg number one, threw away the shell… egg two next. Egg two cracked, into the mixing bowl…with half the shell that slipped its slimy way out! Oh no! I’m trying to stop the mixer before the shell was in a million pieces… but I turn the speed the wrong way- into hyper mode!! What the?!?! I finally got it stopped. I removed the bowl from the mixer and fished out the egg shell. Thankfully, it only broke into 2 halves. I stuck both hands in feeling for shell, I was a little happy to feel how silky smooth the filling was. I guess you call that the silver lining? I dodged, so far, two potential cheesecake disasters! I pour the mixture into the crust (now out of the oven). Perfection! I carry the tray gently to the oven and place it on the rack. I slide the tray and it gets stuck for a second… just enough time for the filling to cover the crust on the backside! (Insert expletive here…)! I shut the oven door and start to laugh… now I know what Julie Powell felt like while she was on her mission to complete the Julie/Julia Project! I know cheesecake is no Beef Bourguignon or boning a duck… to me, it feels pretty close! 35 minutes left until cooling time…

10:32pm: The cheese cake is out. I prepared the sour cream topping. I know it sounds gross, but it’s a mixture with sugar and vanilla so it’s actually good! I spread that on top and I have five more minutes until cooling time! By the way… it smell delicious! Who cares what it looks like, as long as it tastes good, right?

10:45pm: Waiting 45 minutes for cooling in the pan. If I can get past the removing of the springform side…

11:26pm: Only one more hour of cooling, now that the pan sides are off. Then I get to go to bed. It seems as though I may have pulled this off! Can’t wait to try a slice tomorrow… and Laura- if you are reading this- I am 99% sure I got all the egg-shell out! I’ll see you tonight! 😉

A Modern Twist

2 Nov

The last two times we were able to make it to Disneyland I made it a point to have silhouette’s cut of the kids.  Big heads (aka oversized craniums) run in the family so we are particularly well suited for such an art form.

These silhouette’s are of course very traditional in nature.  I love finding new ways to incorporate them into modern design. 

Over the weekend I was looking for some art work to hang in our dining room.  I needed something with brown tones.  So I purchased a roll of woodgrain contact paper (honestly I’ve been looking for an excuse to use it) from Home Depot for about $6.

I very carefully cut pieces of contact paper to fit my frames (11×14).  Then, after having traced and cut out the silhouettes, I traced them onto the back side of the contact paper.  Again, very carefully, I cut them out.  You could use an exacto knife for this, but I used my favorite scrapbook scissors because I feel like I have more control with them.

I peeled the backing from the contact paper a little bit at a time sticking it to a plain sheet of 11×14 sketch paper.  I used my ruler to smooth out any air bubbles as I went. 

This was so easy and inexpensive to do, and I am IN LOVE with the results!

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