1.31.2014

Fashion Friday: Flannel and Fur

Love this mix of classic plaids and tartans with cozy fur. Perfect for this crazy winter weather.



 

 

1.30.2014

Patterned Powder Rooms

My cousin Pamela lives in a big old historic house in Summit, NJ. It’s got lots of period-appropriate touches, but my favorite is her downstairs bathroom. It's tiny, but covered in this rich red wallpaper patterned with gold flowers. All the fixtures are gold too, and probably vintage, as is the big mirror. And the whole room is framed in creamy white molding. 
 
It works because of the scale of the room. The deep color and bold paper design would be overwhelming in a large room, but in a small bathroom you don’t spend much time in, it’s wonderfully dramatic.
 
This deep blue is a slightly more modern interpretation of Pamela’s bathroom, with similar molding. I love the contrast that the dark brown vanity provides.

.
 
Graphic black and white is great- minus that intensely 90’s black toilet seat cover! This could make a great bachelor or bachelorette pad bathroom, depending on how you accessorized.

 
I have  harbored an obsession with this bathroom for awhile now. I love this almost-neon wallpaper, especially contrasted with the mother-of-pearl tiles. Bright, beautiful, and feminine.

 
If you’re a little faint of heart, neutral patterned wallpaper boxed in by white paneling might be the way to go. I love the sharp way the mirror stands out. 
 
If you’re interested in getting the look at home, Quadrille, Layla Grace, and Scalamandre are great sources for unique and beautiful prints.

1.28.2014

Recent Reads


Picture source unknown
 

 
Really enjoyed this collection of Patchett’s essays on topics from writing to relationships.  My favorite was “The Mercies,” a story of Sister Nena, a nun who taught her in elementary school and later became a friend. Also enjoyed her tale of RV’ing with the man who became her husband. Great read, especially for commuters- the essays end and you won’t get stuck at a cliffhanger point just when it’s time to get off the train.
 
 
This book followed Lamott’s Traveling Mercies, and is the second in a three part series. In each chapter, Lamott reflects on finding God’s presence amidst various struggles, including aging, parenting, dealing with grief, and living through the Bush presidency.  I just love Lamott’s writing. Her voice is wise, soothing, and warm, and reading her books always helps me to take it easy and trust.
 
 
Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Ouevres Handbook, by Martha Stewart and Susan Spungen
 
An oldie but a goodie. Published in 1999, the recipes and ideas are classics. Appetizers range from upscale, perfectly presented canap├ęs to casual dips, and chapters are organized by presentation, ie, “Layered and Stacked,” “Dips,” etc. Plus, there’s a photo for every single recipe, though the photos are all up front, with the recipes in the second half of the book, an organization I found a little strange. Still, the content and quality is awesome. I’m looking forward to trying out the tropical fruit salsa for the Superbowl.
 
 
The Fault in our Stars, by John Green
I kept seeing this book everywhere. It’s about two teenaged lovers with terminal cancer, and while that alone sounded awful, the praise was so high I decided to check it out anyway. It was a sweet story, and better than I thought, but I’m still not sure what all the fuss was about. Maybe I’m just too old for young adult novels. 
 
 
The Husband’s Secret, by Liane Moriarty
 
This one came recommended to me by my mother in law. She wouldn’t tell me anything about the book except that I had to read it, and I resisted for awhile as our taste in books doesn’t typically coincide. I found it a bit dark at first, (surprising, given the pink flower on the cover!) but I couldn’t put it down. The book had tons of twists and turns, fascinatingly drawn characters, and a compelling multi-person point of view. Few popular novels really make me think, but this one brought up so many questions for me- what would I do? Why was this character a certain way? I don’t want to give too much away, as going into it knowing nothing made it better for me. An excellent read.

1.27.2014

Sunday Dinner

I love making elaborate Sunday dinners. Mr. B lounges on the couch and watches football, and I spend hours in the kitchen on something too involved for a workday. We eat dinner and spend the night on the couch together, catching up on our DVR shows or watching 60 Minutes. 

Last weekend, I put together a simple, satisfying meal of roast chicken, potato fennel gratin, and roasted brussels sprouts. It was comforting and delicious, perfect for the 9 degree weather we've been having here.

The recipes were pretty straightforward. I make roast chicken the same way every time- seasoned heavily with salt, pepper, paprika, garlic salt, and fresh rosemary, stuffed with a lemon, and baked at 425 for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until it's 175 in the thigh. I baked mine in a dutch oven with a cup of water added to the bottom to keep it from sticking and keep the dark meat moist. Perfect every time. 

Brussels sprouts were simply tossed with olive oil, salt, pepper, and about 1/4 cup of cubed pancetta pieces. These also cook at 425, for about 20 minutes. 

Finally, I used Ina's Potato Fennel Gratin recipe, only I swapped the Gruyere for fontina. Mr. B found the gratin a bit rich, but I ate almost half of it alone. It was delicious. A note, if you make this meal, the gratin cooks at 350, so adjust your other items accordingly, unless you're lucky enough to have a double oven. 


1.24.2014

Fashion Friday: Neon and Leopard

Love this outfit for a casual jeans Friday at work- perfect for going from the office to happy hour.


cardigan, Ann Taylor Loft  //  top, Pleione  //  jeans, Old Navy  //  boots, Via Spiga (old)  //  bag, Danielle Nicole (similar)  // necklace, J.Crew (old)

1.23.2014

Superbowl Recipe Roundup

I'm not hosting a Superbowl party this year, but wanted to share a few of my favorite tried-and-true recipes. Please note, most of these photos are not original.

So a football party isn't complete without wings. Truthfully, I usually order these, but if I have a smaller group, this baked version with a classic buffalo sauce is closest to how my mom taught me to make them.



I can't throw a party without including my favorite spinach and artichoke dip recipe. This one comes from Cooking Light, and while they suggest low-fat alternatives for cream cheese, I use two full-fat sticks of Philly.



You can't go wrong with candied bacon, a delicious, addictive app:
 
 
My number one, absolute favorite, go-to party recipe is this pulled pork sandwich below. It's done in the slow cooker so it's super easy, plus it can be made up to 4 days ahead, and freezes very well. Served on hamburger buns with extra BBQ sauce and maybe some cole slaw, it's perfect for the big game. 


I like having a vegetarian or pasta option as well. I have friends that don't eat meat, or keep kosher, or are just plain picky, so a basic pasta salad keeps them happy. This tortellini salad from Michael Chiarello is my favorite- a note, I usually sub red onion for shallot, as I like the color. I also use tri-colored tortellini for color.

If you aren't into pasta salad, stuffed shells or baked ziti work too.
Photo by me, recipe from Michael Chiarello

I don't throw a party without a signature cocktail. If I were hosting this year, I'd be making this rum punch to finally finish off a handle of Captain that's taking up too much damn room on my bar.

And here's your showstopper dessert: skillet brownie cake. Pop this in the oven during the third quarter, and serve warm with ice cream. 

So there's some of my top football foods. Share yours in the comments!


1.22.2014

Working Out Like a Boss


I used to avoid working out like the plague.  The sweating, and pain, and gym memberships didn’t appeal to me. Besides, my daily commute involves three miles a day of walking. I couldn’t possibly need more exercise than that.

My brother and my dad are addicted to the gym, and for a long time, they tried to convince me to join. I struggle a lot with anxiety and panic attacks, and my brother (who is a doctor) and my father (who experiences them sometimes too) were constantly pushing the anxiety-related benefits of exercise. My doctor joined the chorus too, with all three claiming that my walking was bullshit and didn’t raise my heart rate enough. And then my friend Heather, who has nothing to do with anxiety, wanted a gym buddy, so she got on my back too.

I ran out of reasons not to go- the gym is across the street from my apartment. The membership is $10/month.  I had an excuse to shop for a new wardrobe of gym clothes.

I signed up and promised myself I'd give it a solid try for a month, and if I still hated it, I could quit.

Big surprise, I didn’t quit, I’ve been going regularly for over four months now. I won’t lie, it takes effort to motivate myself. It’s annoying to squeeze it into a busy schedule, to be sore, even to shower twice in one day.

But the benefits outweigh it. I was surprised to find working out made me grateful for my body and health. It feels good to push myself to lift more, or run faster. And my anxiety is dramatically lessened, though for full disclosure I should admit there are many other factors at play in that.  I’ve also developed a bicep, only one for some reason, but still cool.

And on the non-fitness front, it’s been great to have a few nights a week to catch up with Heather too. It’s fun to gossip through our workouts, and I’m pretty sure if it weren’t for her I would barely be going.  

So here’s to four more months of gym going, and in honor of that, here’s some of my favorite Old Navy exercise gear. I love their stuff- it's inexpensive and cute!

from left: bubble tank, $8  //  active jacket, $28  //  compression capris, $15  //  compression pants, $25

1.21.2014

Lemon Blueberry Tart



A few months back, I took at baking class at ICE in New York City. We learned to make all sorts of tarts, and since then, I've been completely obsessed with tarts of all kinds.  My mother-in-law loves your classic grocery store fruit tart, so for a recent family brunch, I decided to make a lemon blueberry version.

I used Gina DePalma's pasta frolla recipe, because I wanted a sweet tart crust that was easy to roll, and combined it with Dorie Greenspan's amazingly delicious lemon cream.

You will need one nine inch round tart pan, or one rectangular pan, like I used.

Pasta Frolla (Sweet Tart Crust), from Dolce Italiano, by Gina DePalma
2 1/3 cups flour
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp baking powder
Zest of one small lemon
3/4 cup very cold unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup heavy cream

In the bowl of a food processor, combine flour, sugar, salt, baking powder and zest. Pulse a few times to combine. Add butter and process until the mixture is sandy, with no big lumps.

Whisk together the egg, yolk, cream, and extract in a bowl.  Add to the food processor. Pulse a few times, until dough comes together.

Remove dough from processor and  smush together with your hands, to even out any dry spots. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight. You can also freeze this for two months at this point.

When ready to bake, roll it out on a lightly floured workspace into a circle (or rectangle, depending on your tart pan shape), till it's about 1/8 inch thick. Roll the dough up over your rolling pin and drop it into the tart pan. Press the dough gently into the sides and corners of the pan, and run your rolling pin over the top to slice off excess dough. Chill tart shell for 20 minutes and preheat oven to 350.

After 20 minutes, line the pan with foil and weight with dried beans, lentils, or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes, then remove weights and foil and bake another 5-7 minutes, or until lightly golden, like below.




Let cool completely. Can be tightly wrapped and refrigerated for up to 3 days.

Lemon Cream, from Baking: From My Home to Yours, by Dorie Greenspan
1 cup sugar
Finely grated zest of 3 lemons
4 large eggs
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
2 sticks plus 5 tablespoons (10-1/2 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces, at room temperature


Put the sugar and zest in a large heatproof bowl that can be set over the pan of simmering water. Off the heat, rub the sugar and zest together between your fingers until the sugar is moist, grainy and smells delicious. Whisk in the eggs, followed by the lemon juice.

Set the bowl over the pan, and start stirring with the whisk as soon as the mixture feels tepid to the touch. Cook the lemon cream until it reaches 180 degrees F- use a thermometer! You m ust whisk constantly, but as you do, you'll see the cream will get very foamy, then the bubblers bigger, then it will start thickening and the whisk will leave tracks. This means the cream is almost ready. Don’t stop whisking or checking the temperature, and have patience—getting to 180 can take up to 10 minutes.
Once it reaches 180 degrees F, remove the cream from the heat and strain it into the container of the blender and discard the zest. Let the cream stand, stirring occasionally, until it cools to 140 degrees F, approximately another 10 minutes.


Once at 140, turn the blender to high, and, with the machine going, add the butter about 5 pieces at a time. Scrape down the sides of the container as needed as you incorporate the butter. Once the butter is in, keep the machine going—to get the perfect light, airy texture of lemon-cream dreams, you must continue to blend the cream for another 3 minutes. If the machine seems like it's overheating, you can pause for a few seconds after each minute.
Pour the cream into an airtight container and press a piece of plastic wrap to the surface and refrigerate. At this point, the cream can be refrigerated for up to four days, or frozen for two months.

To Assemble:
1 fully baked tart shell
1 recipe lemon cream
1 pint blueberries
1/3 cup apricot jam, optional (I skipped)

Spoon your lemon cream into the tart shell, smoothing out with an offset spatula or the back of a spoon. Pour blueberries over.

To glaze, combine the apricot jam with a tablespoon or two of water, and melt over low heat. Brush over blueberries. (I skipped this step as my mother-in-law hates the glaze).

Keep tart refrigerated. Best served the day it is made.



Lentil Salad



It’s January, and like everyone else in the world I’m trying to eat healthier. I’m being realistic about it too- healthy from Monday-Thursday. Weekends I can do what I want.  I’m not trying to lose weight or anything, I just think I could cut my cheese and carb intake slightly.

So I came up with this yummy, healthy lentil salad to take the place of the orzo or couscous we’d normally have on the side of dinner. It’s good warm, cold, or room temperature, and will last in the fridge a day or two.

Lentil Salad
1 cup lentils
2 ¼ cups chicken stock
¼ cup wine
1 package cleaned and cut butternut squash (do yourself a favor and buy this precut)
2 cups chopped Tuscan kale (don’t sub the curly variety)
¼ cup feta
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper

Preheat oven to 425. Arrange squash on baking sheet, drizzle with salt, pepper, oil (I don’t measure). 

Combine lentils, stock, and wine in a pot and bring to a boil. Lower heat and let simmer for 35-45 minutes, until tender and stock is absorbed.

While lentils cook, bake squash at 425 for 40 minutes.  

Combine lentils, squash, feta, and kale in a bowl and toss to combine. Drizzle with olive oil to taste, and salt and pepper if needed.

1.17.2014

Fashion Friday: Winter Lilly

Winter sweaters and boots are wonderful, but it’s easy to miss the fun brights of July.  Here’s a way to sneak the queen of summer, Lilly Pulitzer, into your winter wardrobe.

Add a vest:
 
Love this collection of colorful vests! Perfect to brighten up a cold day.


Or a goofy colorful scarf- this one looks awesome with her hot pink Hunters:

 
 
Layering the scarves is great too for a little extra warmth and glamour:



Carry your hot coffee in a springy mug:

 
 
Or you know what, let's just ask the obvious question on our sweaters:

 

1.15.2014

Pinterest and Presentation

Like every other female, I spend a decent amount of time browsing Pinterest for party ideas. A lot of times, the ideas fall into two categories: cheesy, as in the case of food cut in goofy shapes for a holiday (you know, like a Christmas tree shaped vegetable platters or green dyed cupcake), or completely unrealistic. Once, I saw tiny individual lunch bags, cut with pinking shears and stamped with a little design, used to serve a tiny handful of potato chips. Was it adorable? Of course. But how many of us out there are going to go through that much effort for potato chips? 

Or take the appetizers served on individual spoons idea- what host has 30+ little spoons to dish out a deviled egg on? And then as a guest, what do you do with your spoon when you're done eating?

So today I thought I'd share some of my favorite realistic inspiration- things that are executable by the average hostess, and beneficial for the guests.

My favorite is this idea for a summer clambake- three big buckets make for easy cleanup, and give a perfect rustic, summer look to your party. The containers really suit the theme.


I liked this photo of a make your own sandwich bar, probably because I do a lot of "make your own" parties, but also because it seems like a party a real person might throw. Things on Pinterest are usually so perfect they make you feel bad about yourself! But this is attractive, yet still easily accomplishable

I like how all of the ingredients are grouped, organized, and neatly presented, especially the rolls in the lined basket. The only thing I'd change would be to decant the feta and mustard into bowls or squeeze bottles- I hate serving anything in it's original grocery store packaging.


I really love this cheeseboard. It's easy to put together- three large wedges of cheese, a bunch of grapes, a spilled handful of almonds. Plus it's adaptable- swap out the marble board for slate, or a wooden cutting board, or whatever you have. If you forget to buy flowers, fill a drinking glass with tall grissini and there's your height element. Just make sure you remember cheese knives and make the first cut- no guest ever wants to be the first to cut into something! 



Another idea to change up your buffet display is to use height, instead of reaching for a big, flat platter. Using a taller serving piece in an unconventional way, like this tiered tray used for a s'mores bar, adds a lot of visual interest. This idea could easily be adapted for various breads for a crostini bar, or as another way to serve fruit.  

Finally, I think one of the best ways to up your presentation game is to have drinks presented nicely. The easiest way to do that is to fill a glass pitcher, and add sliced fruit or herbs to it- and it's much easier and faster than Pinterest's other idea, dipping individual glass rims in colored sugar.  

What are your favorite tricks for presentation?

1.10.2014

Fashion Friday: Luxe Casual

I love the “luxe casual” look.  It’s that mix of oversized sweaters and comfy materials, paired with leather, fur, and a statement bag.  It’s casual and put together at the same time, and insanely chic.  I put together a collection of some pictures that perfectly embody this, just in time for all this winter weather.







1.09.2014

Asbury Park

This polar vortex weather has me dreaming of summer on the Jersey shore, especially in my beloved Asbury Park. The hubs and I grew up around there, and I worked in nearby Fort Monmouth until it closed, so the area holds lots of meaning for us. We aren't really old enough to have seen its decline and general disrepair, but we appreciate its current renewal anyway.

So today I'm looking longingly at some Asbury pics we've taken over time, and hoping for an early spring!


Below is the boardwalk with the new boards installed after Sandy repairs:


Love this shot:



Stella Marina was a favorite date night spot when we lived around here, as was Watermark (not pictured) for its pineapple infused rum. 



McLoone's, originally  Howard Johnson's. Glad they didn't change the building.

The Stone Pony always brings me right back to high school when my husband (only a friend at the time!) and his band would drag our crew to their shows. I'd stand in the back and sing all the words while simultaneously trying to avoid the guitarist's creepy dad.



Iconic Wonder Bar:


We love to eat at Porta, an awesome, Williamsburg-y type pizza place with a great outdoor area and bar at night. The pizza is amazing. I love the 14 1/2, a spicy pie with soppressata, and the Lars and the Real Girl, a white pie loaded with taleggio and mozzarella. The drink selection is great too, with a well-chosen craft beer list and delicious cocktails.



This picture was taken in early spring last year. Look how gorgeously empty (and blue!) everythign is. I really love the beach without  people.


The town of Asbury has lots of great spots too. We sometimes hit up Brickwall, for its great beer selection (or, in my case, pickleback shots):


And my husband loves the gelato at Casa di Dolce:


Sigh. Can't wait for summer on the shore.

*All pics taken by my husband Brad.