Saturday, February 27, 2010

Grilled Romaine Salad

Recipe.

Everyone needs a little variety to appease their palate. Why not try a super easy and delicious spin on your normal salad. I started seeing this trend pop up in restaurants but never tried it at home until now. What a surprise, it only took about 5 minutes and there is something really tasty about the combination of charred lettuce paired with a vinegary or creamy dressing.

You can buy romaine hearts already prepared at the grocery store which makes this dish even easier than all the cutting and chopping it takes to prepare a green salad. The dish would also be great for entertaining since you can prepare the dressing ahead of time, grill your romaine hearts and set aside until ready to serve.

We grill year around at my place, but you can also make this dish on your indoor grill as well. The only difference is that you won’t get the charred grill marks but the taste is equally delicious. This is a fantastic way to add a little variety to your normal routine or if you are looking for an easy side to impress a few guests.

I use this recipe from myrecipes.com.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Wrap It Up

Kitchen Supply.

I have a great love of artisanal cheeses. Soft, semi-soft, stinky, nutty...it doesn't really matter. However my husband does not share my love. So when I buy a beautiful piece of fancy cheese, I'm always afraid that it's going to go bad before I can eat it all. As much as I'd like to eat an entire block of cheese in 2 days, my calorie count says "no way."

I spotted these specially designed cheese wrappers from Murray's Cheese in Bon Appetit this month and I think I'll give them a try. They are supposed to allow the cheese to breathe but stay mold-free. If these papers work like they are supposed to, I will be so happy to make 2010 the year of guilt-free cheese exploration!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Special Sauce

Recipe.

I'm a firm believer that when entertaining it isn't necessary to make every single food item from scratch. Stick to your strengths and embellish store-bought items to make the overall presentation still impressive and special.

One of my "secrets" to making a special dessert in a pinch is to have a good homemade sauce on hand to spruce up store-bought desserts. This month's issue of Bon Appetit features a recipe for Caramel-Orange Sauce. They recommend serving it over their recipe for Ricotta Cheesecake...I'm sure that's an unbelievably delicious combo, but I have other ideas in mind.

Make the sauce a couple of days before your dinner party and reheat before serving. Then I'd use it to top whatever suits your fancy. Perhaps Hagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream or Mrs. Fields Cheesecake or even your local grocer's pound cake. Just serve everything on a pretty dish and no one will be the wiser that you didn't slave in the kitchen for hours.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Colored Bubbles

Fun find.

As a kid one of the exciting things about summer was it meant you could spend countless hours outside blowing bubbles. It never got boring! That’s probably why nothing much has changed with bubbles in the last 60 years…until now.

Tim Kehoe has finally perfected stainless colored bubbles. To get to this point, he has stained his face, his car, several bathtubs and a few dozen children. His perseverance paid off as Popular Science awarded Zubbles, a Grand Prize innovation award and even called it the “toy of the decade.”

If you have a children’s party in your future this is guaranteed to be a hit. You may want to jump on the bandwagon sooner rather than later as they are now being produced in limited quantities and are available here.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Link Love.

Tuesday Inspiration.

Crow and Canary
This Dude and Chick card should bring a smile to any child of the 80’s.


Matt Bites
Blood orange caramels…I’m officially intrigued.

This lavender dessert buffet is stunning!

Dark grey walls. Stunning chandelier. White Saarinen table. Drool.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Red Hot Mixer

Registry Must.

If I didn't already have my very own Kitchen Aid Mixer, you better bet that I would be sprinting to the store to buy this 90th Anniversary Limited Edition Candy Apple Red version. With a color and finish like a Vintage Corvette, you will be the envy of the neighborhood. Brides of 2010...add this to your registry and know that I am SO jealous!!

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Sarah's House

TV Show Obsession.

You always hear how important it is to have a diversified portfolio. I feel the same way about my TiVo line-up. I like to balance a healthy dose of cooking shows, comedies, dramas, brainlessness (hello Housewives of any city), and interior design/home repair. My current obsession is HGTV's Sarah's House.

The concept of the show is that she purchases a home that needs TLC from top to bottom and transforms the entire she-bang one room at a time under very real budget constraints. I have a background in interior design, and it is so nice to see a show that highlights attainable remodeling/renovation goals in a cohesive overall scheme. And Sarah's style is fresh and fun to watch. I highly recommend that you add it to your TiVo line-up as well.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Modern Cupcake Designs

Custom Cupcake Designs.

To get these great looking cupcakes all you have to do is peel and place. This is thanks to Ticing.com which has created a number of modern, hip designs to help you put the finishing touches on your cakes or cupcakes.


If you have a specific design that you are trying to tie into your d├ęcor, no problem, just send Ticing an image and they can create a custom edible icing sheet for you.



Thursday, February 18, 2010

Better Beach Bag

Accessories.

I think most areas of the country have been hit pretty hard with a harsh winter so far. And I don't know about you guys, but that just makes me daydream about a Spring getaway so much more. I haven't taken a "Spring Break" since my Freshman year of college, but this year Brandi and I will be in the Caribbean for a destination wedding...and we intend to extend our stay for some much needed fun in the sun.

I'm in the process of putting together my vacation clothing right now...and adding where necessary. And let me tell you...my summer bag from last year is long, long, long past its prime. Which is what brought me to Mar Y Sol Handbags. Their fair trade bags are handmade in Kenya & Madagascar. Gorgeous colors and unique woven designs are their trademark and I'm absolutely smitten. And what's even better is that they are very affordably priced. Just what the wardrobe doctor ordered!


Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Oh Canada!

Recipe.

The Olympics kicked off last Friday night. This got me thinking that one night this week I would prepare some Canadian specialties for dinner which we could eat in front of the television while watching ski jumping.

Of course when I think of Canadian cuisine the first thing that pops into my mind is poutine. My Canadian husband was quick to point out that poutine is a French Canadian specialty and really not eaten in Vancouver. I’m going to pretend that I didn’t hear that mainly so I can eat fries topped with gravy and cheese. Hopefully they drink Molson in Vancouver because that’s how I plan to wash down all the cheesy goodness.

If you would like to join me in my ode to Canada then check out this basic poutine recipe from RecipeZaar.


Monday, February 15, 2010

Chile Lime Cucumbers

Recipe.

I saw this recipe in the Food Network Magazine and thought it looked delicious, healthy and unusual. It was listed with the Mexican specialties but I think it could be served as an appetizer with any cuisine.

When I am drinking beer or tropical drinks I like nothing more than a little salty, spicy snack. So, slice a few cucumbers and put the Negro Modelo on ice, pina coladas in the blender and invite over a few friends.


Directions:

Slice 4 Kirby cucumbers into spears and drizzle with lime juice; chill until ready to serve. Grind 5 dried arbol chiles and 4 dried guajillo chiles with 2 teaspoons salt in a spice grinder (or toss 2 teaspoons arbol chili powder and 4 tablespoons guajillo chili powder with the salt). Toss 1 cup roasted peanuts with some of the spiced salt. Sprinkle the cucumbers with more spiced salt and serve with the peanuts.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Frozen Assets

DIY Ice Vase.

While I was flipping through my Rachel Ray Magazine this month I saw these great little ice vases. They were designed by Serge Peloquin, artistic director of the Hotel de Glace in Quebec, Canada. What I love about them is the simple square design. I have seen many ice vases in my day but let’s just say most of them are very “ornate” and therefore not really my cup of tea.

These vases would look great in a grouping and could easily be varied to fit your space. They would be great outside if you have a venue that you are trying to spruce up, flowers in ice vases along the steps or walkways is a fantastic way to catch people’s eye. Sometimes outdoor signage can be tricky in the winter.


It’s simple, affordable and unique. Unfortunately the photo was not online, so the above is a scan that has been cropped. You can check out the real deal in the February issue of Everday With Rachel Ray.

Instructions:
Fill cardboard cartons with water. Dip a thin, circular object, like a wooden spoon handle, into the center to create a hole and tape it in place. Freeze overnight. Remove, then peel away the carton. Place flowers into the hole of each ice block and set on rimmed plates to catch any melting water.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Cakes for a Cause

IHOP National Pancake Day Celebration.

Everyone get out your calendar. February 23rd is National Pancake Day.

To celebrate this glorious food occasion, IHOP will give all of its customers one free short stack of pancakes from the hours of 7AM - 10PM. And all they ask is that you consider making a donation to local children's hospitals through the Children's Miracle Network or other local charities.

If there is ever an excuse in the world to start off a Tuesday with a stack of pancakes, it is to help this wonderful cause. So get a group of office pals together for an early start to the day, and march yourself to you nearest IHOP. It's not often that you can feel completely good about slapping on extra butter and blueberry syrup on a stack of buttermilk cakes, so don't miss this opportunity to help your community (and your appetite).

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Message in a Mug

Special Touch.

I love when the barista hands me a hot cup of latte with a pretty little design in the foam. Since most of us don’t have a thousand dollar cappuccino maker or a barista at home to greet us every morning with the hot beverage of our choice, I have found the next best thing.


CoffeeStencil.com offers a stencil that you can put over your beverage, shake a little cocoa powder or cinnamon and a secret message will appear. They have over 200 ready made stencils that make life’s everyday greetings appear in your coffee or you can personalize the message of your choice.

I especially like this idea because it can apply to any scenario. It can be a fun, little sexy message between you and your sweetie. It can be an extra little positive message in your child’s morning hot chocolate. I know a lot of parents who have been attending their children’s school plays lately. How cute to wake up to "break a leg" in your mug. It could also be a “wow” factor at a wedding if you have an after hours coffee bar or even at the family brunch the next morning.

Where else can you spend $10 to make somebody’s day?

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Meatless Meatballs and Sauce

Recipe.

There is just something so exciting about receiving a cookbook as a gift. I love to read through the recipes and think about all of the possible entertaining options. My Aunt Debbie is a long time reader and tester of the Cooks Illustrated magazine by Cook's Country. I love helping her with recipes from her lovingly used magazines with lots of notes scribbled in the sides from many road tests.

So when my Christmas gift this year from Aunt Debbie was the Cook's Country Best Lost Suppers cookbook, I couldn't wait to start making my own notes on some new found recipes. One the recipes that really intrigued me was Aunt Nina's Breadballs and Sauce. The idea of using bread in lieu of meat for meatballs is sort of a nod to gnocchi and I can always use another vegetarian option in my repertoire.

Let me tell you it is delicious, filling, and quite an affordable meal to boot. Definitely give this a try sometime...especially if you have a vegetarian friend who craves comfort food. It's delicious!


Aunt Nina's Breadballs and Sauce
Serves 6 - 8

Breadballs

1 cup water
1 large egg
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil
1/4 t pepper
1 (16oz) loaf Italian bread, torn into small pieces
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan
6 tbsp olive oil

Sauce
1 onion, minced
2 (6 oz) cans tomato paste
1 tbsp sugar
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp dried oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
pepper
2 cups water
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 tbsp fresh parsley
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese
1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

For the Breadballs
Whisk the water, egg, parsley, basil, and pepper together in a large bowl. Add the bread and cheese and mix with your hands until well combined. With wet hands, form the mixture into 1 1/2-inch breadballs (you should have 30 total).

Heat 1/4 cup of the oil in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add half of the breadballs and cook until well browned on the first side, 2 -4 minutes (do not move them until they have browned on the first side). Continue to cook until they are well browned on all sides, about 5 minutes longer, turning as needed. Transfer the breadballs to a bowl. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil to the pot and return it to medium heat until the oil is shimmering. Repeat with the remaining breadballs.

For the sauce
Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of the oil from the pot and return to medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5-7 minutes. Stir in the tomato paste, sugar,garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook until the tomato paste begins to brown, 2-4 minutes. Add the water, tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 hour.

Return the breadballs to the pot, cover, and continue to simmer until the sauce is thickened slightly and breadballs are tender, about 30 minutes longer. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, sprinkling each portion with Parmesan and basil.

Serve over pasta and enjoy.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Link Love.

Tuesday Inspiration.

Bloesem
Swings should be mandatory in every home.


The Winding Road
This circus birthday bash is the stuff memories are made of

Little Brown Pen
Get your parisian fix while looking at beautiful inspirational photography.

Healthy indulgences are on the menu this week after Superbowl Sunday.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine's Treat

Etsy.

Feel like spreading a little love this Valentine’s Day? What could be easier than paying $4.50 and getting unique, designer packaging dropped into your inbox in PDF form from Benign Objects Etsy Shop. All you have to do is buy a few candy bars and voila you have the makings for a creative, memorable Valentine’s Day surprise.








Saturday, February 6, 2010

Problem Solved.

Book renting service.

While apartment living has its perks, such as, never having to shovel snow or mow grass. It also forces me to choose my purchases wisely as there is little space for storage. One area of tension in my household is BOOKS. My husband loves to read and re-read his books, so he likes to hang on to them. I like to read them and then pass them on, partially because the pile of books in the corner has become taller than me.

I casually throw around hints, like maybe so and so would like to read the book you just finished or, wouldn’t it be great to be able to donate to the local library. The answer is always the same, and I must say, it gets me every time. He is saving the books because one day we hope to own a country cabin and he envisions a wall of books that offers hours of reading on lazy days.

That being said, he can keep his pile of books but I would like to keep it from growing. So, when I saw BookSwim I nearly jumped for joy. It is essentially a Netflix for books. It works with exactly the same premise. You place the books you are interested in reading into your personal queue and they arrive at your door. You are allowed to keep the books as long as you like and then return it to receive another. They have a database of over 150,000 books and different plans based on how many books you plan on reading. The basic plan starts at $9.95 per month.

Not only is this good for my personal life it is also good for the environment. I love a win-win.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Williams-Sonoma

Must Have Kitchen Gadgets.

Oh geez. I have a firm/semi-firm rule about not buying specialized kitchen gadgets. The reality-based side of my brain says that they take up too much room to warrant their occasional use. But then I get a new Williams-Sonoma catalogue in the mail, and all of my reason goes right out the window. My newest obsessions are:

The Calzone Maker
I know this isn't that hard to do without a gadget, but look how nice and easy it looks here. I kind of have to have it.


Giant Donut Cake Pan
There are few things in this world that my husband likes more than a donut. If I made him a donut cake for his next birthday, he might pass out from excitement. Yes...I need this.


Ebelskiver Pan - aka filled pancake pan.
Also on the list of things that my husband loves is things filled with nutella. I can just picture how happy he would be to bit into a nutella-filled pancake. And I wouldn't be too upset to have one either.


Whoopie Pie Pan
It's the hottest trend in desserts for 2010. Is there even a question if I should get this? I think not.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

New Sponsor: Storkie.Com

Oh boy...more paper to love.

Our newest sponsor, Storkie.com, has an amazing array of customizable invitations and cards to choose from. And we're not talking about customizing just the font types and colors. Storkie's dynamic designs allow you to customize the graphics too. I had so much fun playing with these two adorable invites to create unique color schemes and graphics. And I'm pretty sure that you will too.

Check out Storkie.com for everything from bridal and baby showers, to party invites, to custom stamps to match your design.


Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Valentine's Day Haute Chocolate

Gift Idea.

My husband and I usually skip out on exchanging gifts on Valentine's Day, but I might break tradition this year. While I'm perfectly content with a box of mystery chocolates (I like even the orange cream ones), I think that I might gift my husband a twist on his very favorite method of consuming chocolate - hot chocolate.

To mix things up a bit, I'm thinking that the Vosges Couture Cocoa Sampler might be nice. With their three flavors La Parisienne, Aztec Elixir, and La Bianca in one package, it will give my hubby lots of variety.
And then to really mix it up, I think I might throw in this ultra-cool Molinillo. It's the secret to the frothy Mexican hot chocolates. Just place the base of the molinillo in the cup, put the neck between your two palms and twist. Instant luxury. Of course, this part will end up being more of a gift for me to add to my kitchen gadgets...but it's the thought that counts, right? :)


Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Link Love.

Tuesday Inspiration.

Poppytalk
This Valentine’s Day banner isn’t overly saccharine sweet…it’s just right.



Grey Likes Weddings
Love the suspenders. Love the jumping. Love the shot. What a great wedding photo.


Once Wed
An icing tip used as a place card holder? Genius!!


Unhappy Hipsters
Interesting Dwell magazine pictures paired with smug imaginary hipster dialogue, makes this hilarious blog worth perusing often.


Our Labor of Love
So simple, yet so lovely…

Monday, February 1, 2010

Merry Mardi Gras

Drink Recipes.

So you were good all January to make up for overindulgences during the holidays. Now it's February and it's time to let loose and blow off some steam. And there is no better excuse for fun in February than Mardi Gras...I mean when else is a Tuesday the highlight of the week?

Mardi Gras is on February 16th year, and we want to be totally prepared. This year we're going to mix things up a bit and try something different than the standard hurricane drink. Colleen Mullaney, author of It's 5 o'clock somewhere, has shared some of her fave New Orlean's style cocktails with us. I think these are just what we needed to get our night going!!

Whiskey Smash
Serves 4



8 oz./237ml Jim Beam bourbon
4 mint leaves
Half a lemon, quartered
1 oz./30ml simple syrup
Sprig of mint

Combine all ingredients except bourbon in a large glass. Using a wooden spoon, smash the ingredients together. Add whiskey and transfer to a cocktail shaker. Shake vigorously, strain into glasses filled with crushed ice and garnish each with a sprig of mint.


****************************************************

Voodoo
Serves 4


8 oz./237ml Finlandia Mango Vodka
8 oz./237ml mango nectar
8 lime wedges, plus 4 more for garnish
12 fresh mint leaves, plus extra for garnish
Soda

Muddle the mint and the lime wedges in a cocktail shaker. Add the mango nectar and vodka and allow a few minutes for the flavors to marry. Put 4 ice cubes in each glass. Strain mixture into glasses. Top with soda, garnish with mint and lime wedges and serve.