Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Momofuku Milk Bar

Two weeks ago, I had the opportunity to meet my friend, Jennifer, in New York for a crazy 24 hour visit. Before I left, I was able to stop and check out the Momofuku Milk Bar. I've been dying to try one of David Chang's restaurants for quite some time and I have heard amazing things about their desserts so I figured stopping at Milk Bar was the best I could do with limited time.

Most of the desserts at Milk Bar need to stay refrigerated which isn't ideal for a long trip back to DC. However, they had a great selection of cookies that were perfect for me to take home to Van. I picked up one of each type - compost, chocolate, cornflakes and marshmallow, corn, and blueberry. Unfortunately, I didn't do a good job of taking pictures, but the cookies (especially the corn cookie) earned rave reviews from Van and the Boys. Based on the reviews from the Boys, I would say they were good enough to consider buying the Milk Bar cookbook to be able to recreate them at home.

In addition to the cookies, I decided to pick up some of the birthday cake truffles for myself to enjoy before I left New York. The truffles were incredibly rich and had a really unique taste and texture. They tasted like a combination of milk, cake and cereal with sprinkles. The texture was also really interesting with a dry, crumbly outside and a dough like inside. I am glad that I tried them, but next time I think I would try something else or stick with the cookies.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

The Imperfectionists

                                                                           Source: via Katie on Pinterest

Admittedly, I got this book because of its cover. I was looking around the airport, killing time and the pretty font on the cover of this book peaked my interest. The summary that focused on an international newspaper in Rome seemed interesting so when I returned to my gate, I downloaded it to my Kindle.

What is most interesting about this book is the way the story comes together. Each chapter is a different piece of the puzzle working backward from the present day while moving forward from the creation of the paper. The last few chapters were by far the best, but the book didn't quite live up to the "magnificent" reviews.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Lemon Pound Cake

I was looking for something light and fresh to make for Easter and found this delicious lemon pound cake recipe from Food & Wine. What made this cake intriguing was the use of grapefruit juice and yogurt. The recipe calls for a glass loaf pan which I didn't have so I used my regular metal one instead. I think the results would have been better with the glass pan. I felt like the edges on mine were a little over-done.

This cake is simple to make, but does take a while since there is a 50 minute bake time followed by the lemon syrup coating and then the glaze. I'm pretty sure the boys felt like this cake was never going to be ready. Thankfully, it turned out to be well worth the wait.

Clockwise: Floured loaf pan, dry ingredients, sugar and butter, yogurt and grapefruit mix and lemon ready to zest.

Cake Batter Ready to Bake

Baked Ready for the Glaze

Final Cake Ready to Eat

Monday, April 23, 2012

Affo - What???

I am in love with Affogato! It's all my favorite things - delicious, creamy gelato with a shot of expresso poured over top. Of course, quality makes a huge difference and we are lucky to have the awesome Pitango Gelato not far from our house. Pitango focuses on the freshest ingredients and locally grown as much as possible. The gelato at Pitango is actually better than a lot of what we had in Rome so this is the real deal!

I pretty much can't make it anywhere near Pitango without stopping in for an affogato. I love that you can also try different flavor combinations. My favorites are the Bourbon Vanilla and Stracciatella (Vanilla with Chocolate Chips). Get creative and give one a try!

Affogato at Pitango Gelato

Thursday, April 19, 2012

Nautical Details: Flip Flops

I found these awesome flip flops on sale at the J. Crew outlet over Easter weekend. They are super comfortable and didn't require the normal breaking-in period that most other flip flops require. Best of all they look great with pretty much all of my casual spring / summer wear and have cute anchor details to boot!

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Hunger Games

Thanks to Suzanne Collins, I am ahead of schedule on my reading list. I started reading The Hunger Games in March and quickly got sucked into the story. In two weeks, I completed The Hunger Games, Catching Fire and Mocking Jay.

This series is really intense and I think as an adult you look a lot deeper at the struggles that the characters face. Throughout the series, you see the terrible things that humans are capable of - which is not too far of a stretch from many of the things that occur in our world today.

Throughout it all, you see the resiliency of the human spirit and our potential to overcome.

                                                                             Source: via Katie on Pinterest

March Madness

Between my husband's birthday, our vacation in Athens and Rome, a busy few weeks at work, I wasn't able to to find much time over the past 6 weeks for blogging. I am trying to catch up with a vengeance. I find that balancing priorities and time is a constant challenge lately.

On the positive side, I have a wealth of material just waiting to be posted. I am excited to get back into the routine and share all the things I have been working on of late.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Something New for The Kitchen: Peppadew Peppers

There are so many wonderful ingredients out there and to keep from getting into a rut I am always looking for something new for the kitchen. I thought that this would be a great regular feature to help introduce new ingredients and hopefully encourage others to be a little more adventurous in their cooking.

For dinner last Sunday I decided to make Chicken Scarpariello. The recipe called for Peppadew peppers which I had never heard of before. Of course, I was intrigued. I did a little research and learned that Peppadew takes sweet peppers grown in South Africa and preserves them. The resulting peppers are sweet, tangy and not too hot. (Admittedly, I have a really low heat tolerance.) The best part is that Peppadew has provided jobs for thousands of people in Africa and works to support local farmers.

I was able to find these at my local Whole Foods and they were great in the recipe. Peppadews would be great addition to stir fry, dips or just to add a little kick to your meal.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Paris Wife

Like so many people, I find myself spending too much time focusing on my hectic schedule, work, email and all of the distractions that keep me from doing some of the things that I most enjoy. This year I am trying to refocus my energy, unplug a little more and spend time on things that I love like reading. I decided to set a goal of reading at least 12 books this year.

To start I decided to read Paula McLain's book, The Paris Wife. I got this book at the end of last year and hadn't read it so I figured it was the perfect time. This book is a fictional account of the marriage of Ernest Hemingway and Hadley Richardson. The author based the story on the letters and memoir, A Moveable Feast.

The book imagines the life of Hemingway and Richardson during their time in Paris and their challenging relationship together. Readers get a glimpse at what some of the conversations might have been like between the two and chronicles the inevitable changes that happen as people grow and change.

The book was a great read and I loved the picturing all of the places in Europe that the characters traveled, especially their time in Spain. This book caused me to reflect on marriage and how deeply you can love someone despite the pain and hurt that they might cause.

                                                                   Source: via Katie on Pinterest

Monday, February 20, 2012

Best Ever Lemon and Olive Oil Cake

Last Saturday we decided to make paella for dinner and turned it into family dinner night. I was looking for something light and simple to make for dessert and turning to my epicurious phone app. I've had olive oil cakes a few times at restaurants, but had never tried to make one myself. I thought it would be a good balance to the rich and heavy paella. The best part was that I had all of the ingredients at home.

This recipe is so simple and the resulting cake is amazing. Based on the looks of the final cake, I thought that it would be really dense, but it was extremely light. This cake would be great with a berry compote and was delicious with the gelato that Van picked out.

The egg yolks and sugar

The whipped egg whites

The final cake batter

Ready to Bake


Ready to Eat!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Clare's Greek Dip

One of my fabulous coworkers, Clare, found an amazing new job and to celebrate her last day at our office we had a dip party. We all bring different dips and chips and make it lunch. Clare picked out this awesome recipe for me to make and I had to share. I think it is probably the easiest thing I have ever made and it was great. This dip is really light and refreshing and especially good with pita chips.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Creative Clutches from Kate Spade

I couldn't get too far into this blog without discussing my love for Kate Spade. I have been a huge fan for years and have been slowly building my collection. I love the personality, creativity and style of this brand. Kate Spade is always fun, fresh and a fabulous addition to any day.

One of my more recent obsessions are the creative clutches that have debuted over the past few years. It all started with the newspaper clutch. As soon as I saw it, I just knew I had to have it. This bag is almost too real. Every time I open it up, I get comments - "Oh my gosh is that a bag"or "I thought that was really a newspaper". It is the perfect conversation piece and the perfect bag to take to brunch.

                             Source: via Katie on Pinterest

My newest obsession is the All Aboard Ship Clutch. I think this would be the perfect clutch for summer and I can just picture carrying this on vacation - in the States or abroad. How cute would this be with a vintage inspired red dress at a summer wedding?

                             Source: via Katie on Pinterest

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Comfort Food and One Kick-A$$ Cobbler

After a couple of really long, crazy weeks at work I was seriously craving comfort food. To me, nothing is more comforting than a beef potpie with a cheddar biscuit top and a berry cobbler. So last Friday became family dinner night with the Boys. I have to say it was a huge success since not a bite of potpie was left! And the cobbler? Well it was probably one of the best things I have EVER baked!

Here it is from start to finish. It took about 3 hours to make both dishes including all of the prep and bake time. The most difficult part was probably getting the cobbler crust to come together without adding too much liquid. Overall, these recipes are great for even novice cooks.

The original recipe for the beef potpie is from Food & Wine and can be found here and the cobbler is from the December 2011 issue of Southern Living and can be found here. I have adapted the potpie recipe since the original makes two 9x13 pans my notes are below. Enjoy!

First I peeled and sliced the parsnips, carrots, onion and garlic for the potpie. The original recipe for the potpie doesn't call for garlic, but the first time I made it I felt like it was too bland so I started adding 2 cloves of garlic. I also chopped the rosemary and added the fresh thyme to a small bowl so it would be ready. I also use at least one full tablespoon of the herbs instead of half for one 9x13 pan.

Sliced Parsnips, Carrots, Onion and Minced Garlic

After I finished the prep for the potpie, I preheated the oven and made the crust for the cobbler. This dough barely came together for me and I ended up adding about one extra tablespoon of milk. I think that if you have a large food processor it might be really helpful to use to combine the crust.

Once I had the dough together, I divided it into two and rolled out half the dough. Wrapped the other half of the dough in plastic wrap and put it in the fridge. I used a pizza wheel to cut the dough into strips and placed them on a slightly greased baking sheet. I baked the strips of crust and then placed them on a rack to cool.

While the crust was cooling, I turned my attention back to the potpie. I used my Le Creuset to melt two tablespoons of butter and two tablespoons of olive oil. Then I added the veggies. I cooked the veggies about 7 minutes until they were soft and then added the beef and herbs. It is really important to use very lean ground beef for this recipe. I use 90 / 10 or 93 / 7. I tried using 80 / 20 and it didn't turn out as well.

Cooking the Beef with the Veggies
After cooking the beef, I added 2 tablespoons of flour. Then slowly I added the chicken broth and milk. I use about 3/4 cup of milk and 3/4 cup of broth. I find that each time I do this part I end up changing the amount of liquid and flour slightly to get the right consistency. At this point, I add a little less than a half of a 10 oz bag of frozen peas and less than half a 10 oz bag of frozen corn. Corn isn't in the original recipe, but I like adding more veggies where I can.

At this point, I add salt and pepper and make sure that I taste the mixture. Based on how things taste and the consistency, I make any adjustments to seasoning or cooking time. Once everything is just right, I add the mixture to a 9 x 13 baking dish.

Potpie Ready for the Biscuit Top
Then I make the cheddar biscuit topping. I add 2 cups of flour to a bowl and used my pastry blender to cut in 3/4 stick of butter. When it is the consistency of coarse meal, I add 1 cup of shredded cheddar. I add 1 cup of milk and stir until the dough comes together. I add golf-ball sized rounds of the dough to cover the top.

Ready to Bake

If you are baking the potpie after the cobbler crust, make sure that you have increased the oven temperature to 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Place the potpie in the oven to bake for 40 minutes. If you are worried about the liquid in the potpie spilling over, place the pan on a jelly roll pan.

Next it's time to finish the cobbler. Take the dough out of the fridge and roll it out on a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into strips. Then add the frozen berries to a large mixing bowl. I used two 10 oz bags of blackberries and one 10 oz bag of blueberries. Then I added just under two cups of sugar with the flour and lemon juice and combined.

Berry Mixture
Add half of the berry mixture to a greased 9x13 baking dish. Break apart the pre-baked strips of crust on top and then add small pieces of butter on top. Cover the crust pieces with the rest of the berry mixture. Use the strips of dough that were just rolled out to form a lattice pattern over the top of the cobbler. Place the remaining butter in between the lattice and sprinkle sugar on the top of the crust.

Ready to Bake
Wait until the potpie is finished cooking and cooling to lower the oven temperature for the cobbler. Place the cobbler in the oven to bake for 50 - 60 minutes. The cobbler should be finished baking right about the time you are done eating dinner. Let the cobbler cool a bit then serve with ice cream or Cool Whip. Of course, we had both.
My Instagram Photo of the Finished Cobbler

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Soup Season

There is nothing better than a bowl of soup on a winter day. Last week I dove into my Lee Brothers cookbook and made their delicious Rosemary Butternut Squash soup. This soup is exactly what the Lee Brothers focus on in their cookbook - Simple, Fresh and Southern (admittedly, I added extra ham). Honestly, the most difficult part of this is peeling and cutting the squash.

To make this soup, I sauteed ham, rosemary and garlic in a pan. Then I added the squash and simmered it in 3 cups of water for about 7 minutes. I used my blender to puree the soup and that was it - ready to eat. I added freshly ground pepper and two tablespoons of buttermilk for garnish.

This soup would be a great way to start a meal, but I used it as an easy to reheat dinner after a late night at work. The really nice part about this recipe is that it made the perfect amount for about 4 or 5 servings so we didn't end up eating this soup for a week.

Simmering the Squash

Pureed Soup

The Finished Product

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Booze with Bows

A few weeks ago, the Boys had a Stock the Bar Party and the obvious question was what to bring. Of course, Van had the perfect answer - Hendrick's Gin.

Not familiar? Let me introduce you...

Hendrick's is a gin that everyone can love. It is infused with cucumber and rose petals and thankfully lacks the I-just-poured-Pine-Sol-in-your-drink profile of many other gins. What make Hendrick's even better is the beautiful bottle and overall design, not to mention that their website is awesome.

Paired with a grosgrain ribbon this bottle makes the perfect gift for your host or hostess.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Into the Vietnamese Kitchen

Now that my kitchen is fully operational again, I had the opportunity to dive into my newest cookbook, Into the Vietnamese Kitchen by Andrea Nguyen. I decided to start with an easy recipe, Garlicky Oven-Roasted Chicken or Ga Roti.

I made the marinade on Saturday by combining soy sauce, sugar, black pepper, soy sauce and canola oil. I let the chicken marinade in the fridge overnight rotating it occasionally to make sure that it was evenly coated. Sunday evening I baked the chicken at 400 degrees for about 40 minutes starting with the skin-side down and flipping it after the first 15 minutes.
The Marinated Chicken Before Baking

The finished chicken was delicious and was perfect for lunch the next day. For dinner, I paired it with rice and sauteed broccoli. I loved how quick and easy this recipe was and it is a great addition to my arsenal of go-to meals during the work week.

The Finished Product

Monday, January 30, 2012

Our New Kitchen

With our love of cooking and entertaining, the kitchen is truly the heart of our house and the most used room by far. Since moving into our house about three years ago, it has been on our list of projects we would like to tackle. We were lucky to be able to finally make that dream happen (Thanks, Honey!). Our kitchen had great bones with good cabinets, lots of storage space and a functional layout. All we needed to do was get rid of the linoleum and update the countertops. We found a great local company that completed the job on-time and on-budget and we are absolutely thrilled with results.

We wanted something different and selected a porcelain tile that looks like hardwood, a dark granite with lots of grays and beige and we tied everything together with a glass tile and stone backsplash. Since our kitchen doesn't get much light, we painted the walls a super pale blue. We polished everything off with new sink and faucet. It is amazing the difference that those little details make.


Our Ugly Laminate Countertop
A Close Up of the New Granite

The Linoleum Floor

The New Tile Floor

Sunday, January 29, 2012

One Last Hurrah

Before we embarked on our kitchen remodel, I needed to make one last batch of cupcakes in my "old" kitchen sort of like one last hurrah. So I decided to tackle a project that I had been on my to-do list for quite a long time -- making a homemade version of the delicious creme-filled cupcakes that I grew up eating.

As the base, I used my standby Hershey's Perfectly Chocolate Chocolate Cake recipe and then I made my own mix of Marshmallow Fluff, sugar and heavy creme for the filling and this amazing chocolate ganache for the top.

I used a pastry bag with a round tip to add the filling to the cupcakes after they cooled. It is really important to make sure that the cupcakes are completely cooled otherwise the filling will melt. After the cupcakes were filled I dipped them in the cooled ganache and put them in the refrigerator to set.

The results were awesome and I would definitely make these again. I was really impressed at how easy this project was and how well the finished cupcakes turned out. Most importantly, everyone loved them!

Dry Ingredients

Cupcake Batter
Star Wars Cupcake Liners Especially for The Boys
Filled Cupcakes

Sunday, January 22, 2012

What is Confection?

According to Merriam-Webster, confection is -

1: the act or process of confecting (putting together from varied material)
2: something confected: as
: a fancy dish or sweetmeat; also : a sweet food
: a medicinal preparation usually made with sugar, syrup, or honey
: a work of fine or elaborate craftsmanship
: a light but entertaining theatrical, cinematic, or literary work

This is my confection - full of foods, clothing, accessories and all of those details that make life especially sweet.
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