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You know those weekly roundups that people do on their blogs? I love them. Although I don’t currently have my own version on Espresso and Cream, I soak up the roundups from other people.

Recently my dear friend Laura posted a round-up which included a link to the blog Un-Fancy. It was all about creating a capsule wardrobe. If you’re like me and have no idea what a capsule wardrobe is, then check this post out. As I was reading the post, all I could think was, “Yes! That’s me!” 

Truth be told, I have a lot of clothes in my closet. It’s a little ridiculous how many items of cute, nice clothing I have. But when I go to get ready in the mornings, I have the hardest time finding something I really love wearing. I have a handful of dresses I love, a favorite pair of jeans and a few shirts I go to time and time again, but the rest of the items in my closet just sit there looking pretty 90% of the time. That’s crazy talk!

I don’t think I’m alone in feeling this way, but I’m incredibly sick of spending money on clothes I don’t really love. It’s wasteful and frustrating. So I decided to take the Un-Fancy challenge.

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How does the challenge work?

1. Pair down your wardrobe for a single season to just 37 items. (okay, I cheated and included 40) This doesn’t include workout gear, pajamas, undergarments, swimsuits, and/or jewelry and accessories. The items should only include pieces you really love and get super excited about wearing. Keeping this in mind helped when deciding what to keep. I just kept asking myself, “Do I really love this piece? How often have I worn it lately?”

2. Store all your off-season clothing somewhere else. Put all the in-season items that you took out of your closet for the challenge in a box for storage. I love that you don’t need to throw out the clothes just yet. If you really miss something you can go get it from the box. It made it much easier to part with these items.

3. Don’t buy anything new for the full season! Yikes! That made me nervous, but thinking about the money I’ll save each month in our clothing budget got me excited. I’m planning on putting that money away for the next three months for the next step…

4. After you’ve made it through one season, you can start to think about the next season’s capsule wardrobe. Some summer pieces may transfer over into the fall season and so on, but you can only have the same limited number of pieces. You can, however, make purchases for this next season. The idea is that after a full season of doing this experiment, you’ll get a good feel for your true style. And since you can only have 40 (or 37) items in your closet at any given time/season you’ll make smarter, more “you” purchases. I’m guessing the items I buy will also be more expensive and higher quality. Less = more!

5. Keep doing this for a full year. At that point you should have a fully fleshed out capsule wardrobe. After that, you enter maintenance mode, slowly and carefully adding pieces only as needed and only if you truly love the item you’re buying.

Does anyone else feel as excited about this idea as me? Something about it speaks to my inner minimalist, and more than anything I’m driven by having a closet full of curated items that I deeply love. The prospect is so appealing! I’ll be sharing more photos of my Un-Fancy challenge this summer using the group hashtag #unfancy and following the blog’s writer, Caroline Joy on Instagram for inspiration. I would encourage you to take up the challenge, too, if you’re as frustrated as I am!

Has anyone considered taking on a challenge like this? Is anyone on board for doing the Un-Fancy challenge with me? Let me know! I would love to follow along with you on your journey!

Madison

Wine Platter 1 | Espresso and Cream
Now that summer is practically here, it seems like everyone in Minnesota is coming out of hibernation and getting outside after a very long winter being stuck indoors. We put our stamped concrete patio in late last summer, so we’re dying to put it to good use this year. It’s amazing how much bigger our house feels when we have an outdoor space that we love.

For the longest time after college, the idea of entertaining sent me into a tizzy, feeling like I had to cook a gourmet meal every time we had friends over. Consequently, I avoided having people over very often because it was so time consuming and stressful! But after Joe and I got married, my extrovert hubby pushed me to entertain more and more frequently, having friends over for dinner, drinks, the NFL draft and for the BCS championship and any matter of other small events. Getting into a regular rhythm of having people over forced me to find a way to entertain without breaking the bank or losing my mind.

I’m still working on setting a beautiful, casual table. That’s something my mom currently helps me with to a great degree. Perhaps she should do a guest post sometime soon? But I do feel pretty comfortable having people over regularly without going crazy. In fact, I have actually grown to enjoy it.

Wine and Cheese 3 | Espresso and Cream
Last weekend we had our friends Ben and Jen over on Sunday night for wine and snacks on the patio. I’ve found that having people over on Sunday night is one of my favorite things because it seems to prolong the weekend a little bit, giving me something to look forward to on Sunday night rather than just thinking about how sad I am that the weekend is over and has gone by so fast.

I didn’t really plan much in advance, but my mom and I did pick up a few items at Whole Foods on Sunday afternoon. The following was included in our spread:

1. 1 bottle of red wine from our wine rack
2. A couple different beers we had in our fridge for the guys
3. “Edamame Caviar” purchased from the Whole Foods deli section (must recreate at home!)
4. Two types of cheese (one hard, one soft; served at room temperature for best flavor)
5. Grapes (cut into small clusters for easy eating)
6. Roasted, salted almonds
7. Chips and crackers (a mix of crackers and blue corn tortilla chips)

It was the perfect combination of sweet, salty and hearty foods that also served as a light dinner. And although we used small white plates from Pier 1, you could make clean-up even easier by keeping a stash of pretty disposable plates on hand. There is nothing nicer than throwing the plates away at the end of a night when you just don’t feel like washing dishes, is there?

Wine and Cheese 2 | Espresso and Cream

How do you like to entertain? Are you comfortable entertaining casually and more frequently? Or do you prefer to do one big party every now and again? 

Madison

Homemade Burger Buns 3 | Espresso and Cream
I’m not quite sure what makes some weekends so wonderful and fulfilling, but this weekend was one of those great weekends. It felt like the perfect combination of relaxation and productivity with just the right amount of time spent with friends and family, and a little down time, too. Since the weather was absolutely beautiful, we grilled and spent more than one night drinking wine out on the patio.

Joe and I have this pretty great deal going. Since his parents are cattle farmers, we have a deep freeze filled with all the beef we could ever ask for. It makes it easy to entertain during the summer because we can always throw a roast in the slow cooker or brats and burgers on the grill. However, burger buns aren’t something I always have on hand.

Case in point? This weekend when my mom was visiting and we didn’t have any buns on hand. Instead of going to the store, I decided I could use the yeast we had at home to make hamburger buns from scratch. I found a great recipe from All Recipes and was amazed at the results. The rolls were really quick to pull together and didn’t take a lot of hands-on time. I simply pulled the dough together and went about our other weekend activities while the dough took time to rise.

Homemade Burger Buns 2 | Espresso and Cream
There’s something so incredibly gratifying about making bread from scratch, hamburger buns included. Although it may seem like a little bit of an undertaking, I promise that the flavor and texture of the rolls makes it worth the extra effort! Joe said that the burgers we made this weekend were some of the best he’s ever had. Maybe he’s just getting the good husband award, but I’ll take the compliments when they come.

Homemade Burger Buns 1 | Espresso and Cream

Homemade Burger Buns 4 | Espresso and Cream

Homemade Hamburger Buns
Author: 
Recipe type: Bread
Serves: 8
 
Homemade hamburger buns are easier to make than you might think and they're incredibly delicious! Totally worth the small bit of extra effort to make them at home.
Ingredients
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 packet (0.25 oz) active dry yeast
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour, plus additional for kneading as necessary
  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • Topping
  • 1 egg, whisked
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt for topping, if desired
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a hook attachment, combine the water, yeast and sugar. Stir until well combined. Stir in 1 cup of the flour until well combined. Add in the remaining flour and salt, along with the egg and butter.
  2. Knead using the hook attachment of the mixer for 5 to 6 minutes. Dough should be smooth and elastic but not sticky. Add an additional tablespoon or two of flour if necessary.
  3. Place dough in a greased bowl, covered, in a draft-free place (I like to put it in a slightly warmed up oven) for an hour or until doubled in size.
  4. Once dough has risen, punch down and knead a couple times. Divide dough into 8 portions shape into discs about ½ inch thick. Place rolls on a parchment-lined baking sheet a couple inches apart. Dust tops of rolls with flour. Cover with aluminum foil or plastic wrap and place in a draft-free location for another hour or until doubled in size.
  5. Heat oven to 375F. Brush tops of rolls with the whisked egg. Sprinkle with salt. Bake 12 to 16 minutes or until deep golden brown. Cool completely. Cut rolls in half and fill as desired.

 

Caramel Chocolate Rolls 1 | Espresso and Cream

My husband is the first person to tell you he isn’t big on sweets and dessert. He would much rather have a beer after dinner than a piece of chocolate and almost always prefers savory over sweet. There are, of course, a few exceptions to the rule, like when pie or chocolate cake or caramel rolls are involved.

I made these caramel rolls on a whim the other day (on a weekday, actually!) as a way to mix things up from the typical oatmeal that I make for Joe every morning, but he’s also been enjoying them as a sweet treat in his lunch boxes and after dinner. I mean, seriously, I don’t want to brag but they were pretty darn delicious, filled with cinnamon sugar and butter and drizzled with chocolate warm from the oven. I shared this photo on Instagram last week (which is pretty much my favorite way to interact online these days) and it seems that I’m not the only person who loves caramel rolls with chocolate.

Caramel Chocolate Rolls 2 | Espresso and CreamThe dough recipe I used was inspired by this recipe from AllRecipes. I made this dough the first time as hamburger buns (with a little more salt) and they were amazing. And since I was on a roll, I kept going and made sweet rolls, too. So this weekend I hope you take the time to sit back, relax and maybe make something that takes a little extra time to prepare but is totally worth the effort.

Caramel Chocolate Rolls 3 | Espresso and Cream

Caramel Chocolate Rolls
Author: 
Recipe type: breakfast
Serves: 9
 
Ingredients
  • Dough
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1 packet (0.25 oz) rapid-rise yeast
  • 3½ cups all-purpose flour (plus additional for kneading and flouring the counter)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • Filling
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ½ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • Topping
  • ½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted
Instructions
  1. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, combine water, yeast and 1 cup of the flour. Whisk until well combined and foamy. Let sit 5 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the egg, butter, sugar and salt. Add mixture to yeast mixture in mixing bowl. Whisk until well combined.
  3. Add in the remaining flour. Use the dough hook on low speed for 5 to 6 minutes or until dough is soft and flexible but not sticky.
  4. Place dough in a large clean bowl sprayed with cooking spray or brushed with oil. Cover with plastic wrap or a towel and place in a draft-free place (I like to warm my oven up slightly, turn it off and then place the bowl of dough in the slightly warmed oven) for 1 hour or until dough is doubled in size.
  5. Punch down dough and knead a couple times. Heat oven to 350°F. Roll dough out onto a floured surface and use a rolling pin to roll into a 20x12-inch rectangle.
  6. Spread butter onto dough, leaving ½ inch around edges. In small bowl, combine the brown sugar, sugar and cinnamon. Sprinkle over the butter.
  7. Starting on the long end of the dough, roll into a log, pinching the edges to seal. Cut dough into 9 rolls. Place rolls in a lightly greased 9x9-inch or 8x8-inch square pan.
  8. Bake 16 to 22 minutes or until rolls are baked through and just golden brown around the edges. Immediately turn rolls upside down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with the melted chocolate. Serve warm.

 

ChocolateChipCookieForTwo_1-682x1024
I’m not very good and remembering or celebrating food holidays, but one of my favorite desserts on the planet is a warm, chewy chocolate chip cookie. I think it has something to do with the simplicity of a chocolate chip cookie and the nostalgia having eaten them a lot as a kid. If it were up to me, I would have freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies in the house every day*, if not for the taste but for the amazing smell they leave throughout your house.

Since today is National Chocolate Chip Cookie Day, I dug out my favorite recipes from the E&C archives in case you need another reason to celebrate!

Grain-Free Chocolate Chip Cookie Cake for Two (above)
Soft and Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies 

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Cookie Dough Stuffed Brownies (ahh, to die for!)
The Only Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe You’ll Ever Need (my go-to recipe)

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Nutella Chocolate Chip Cookies (above)
Whole Wheat Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookies 
Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Cookie Truffles 
Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Questbars

*Since I can’t eat chocolate chip cookies every day, I satisfy my sweet tooth with Quest bars now and again. I’ve mentioned my love for Quest bars before, but I recently tried their Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough flavor and Oh. My. Gosh. They are good. I try and focus on eating whole foods as snacks as often as possible, but when I’m traveling or running errands all afternoon, nutrition bars with a clean ingredient label are a close second.

**Quest bar sent me these bars for my review. Opinions are real and strictly my own. Quest bars are something I normally purchase with my own money and genuinely love. 

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