Fashion Friday: Colored Sunglasses

Colored sunglasses are so fun for spring and summer.  I love the idea of tossing on a bright turquoise pair of shades with white shorts. 
Best of all, this is what I call a ‘throwaway trend,’ meaning it’ll be long gone in six months so you shouldn’t bother dropping big bucks on it. And sunglasses, which are always plastic, don’t look worse when they’re cheap. This might be the only time I ever recommend going to Forever 21
Below, check out my favorite kooky colored glasses:
Sources from top: Coach  //  Tory Burch  //  Outlook Eyewear  //  Ray-Ban  //  Tom's  //  Outlook Eyewear  // H2W


The Best Breakfast Dish

Frittats are my favorite thing to serve for a group brunch.  I’m never satisfied with a weekend breakfast that doesn’t include eggs, but they’re not exactly easy to prepare for a group. I mean, what would Ina say if you stood there and made individual omelets?  A frittata makes things simple, allows for endless combinations of fillings, and is great at room temperature, so you can make it in advance.

I toss all my ingredients in a pie dish and just bake it, skipping the stovetop step- so this is a good recipe if you don’t own an oven-safe pan.  I like the nine inch white pie dish from Wilton, which is under $10.

My favorite frittata is the potato, bacon, and feta frittata from the Smitten Kitchen cookbook. I roast the potatoes the night before so I can assemble everything quickly in the morning. Sometimes, I also add fresh arugula.
 photo PotatoFetaBaconFrittata_zpsc91900bb.jpg

Potato, Bacon, Feta Frittata, from Smitten Kitchen by Deb Perelman
Serves 6 as part of a brunch buffet, 4 if serving alone
5 large Yukon Gold potatoes
2/3 cup crumbled feta
8 large eggs
2 scallions, sliced
5 strips bacon , crumbled (I actually use the precooked kind that you can just microwave)
2 tbsp milk or cream
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400.
Peel potatoes and slice very thinly on a mandolin. Arrange in a single layer (fine if a few overlap) on a baking sheet, and coat with olive oil, and a generous amount of salt and pepper.  Roast for 30 mins, until crispy around edges.  You can do this step the night before, or boil the slices for 7 minutes if you are pressed for time.

In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, cream, and a little more salt and pepper.

Spray a 9 inch pie dish evenly with nonstick spray, and arrange the potatoes in the bottom.  Top with the bacon, then feta, then scallions, and pour egg mixture over. 

Cover dish with foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Then, remove foil and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until puffed and set in center. Sometimes, I will also carefully broil it for just a minute or so to give it a nice golden look. Be careful- don't overdo that!

**If you want to make this (or any frittata) for a larger group, up to 12 as part of a brunch buffet, use 12 eggs and plan to bake it for 55 minutes at 375.  You’ll need a bigger pie dish- I use a 12" from Emile Henry 


Recent Reads

A Scattered Life, by Karen McQuestion
This was an Oprah’s book club pick, and I’m not really sure why she chose this book. It centers around Skyla, a happily married, if slightly bored, mother, whose life begins to change as she takes on a job at a local bookstore and befriends her flighty new neighbor, Roxanne. The book’s themes include recognizing that what you have is enough to make you happy, as well as how to love those around you.
It sounded so good, but honestly, this one fell flat for me. The main character’s problems and feelings weren’t well developed, which made the solutions less impactful, and it felt like nothing happened until the last 20 pages. I flew through this in a day- it wasn’t boring, just not amazing or all that thought-provoking.
I love biographies, entrepreneurial stories, and Lilly Pulitzer, so this was a win for me. There are a few chapters where the author gets into a deep and detailed “who’s who” of 1800 and 1900s high society, which I could have lived without. But overall it’s an interesting read, with lots of great stories of Lilly’s life and business. 
For full disclosure, I’m only 2/3 through this book, but I’m loving it so much I wanted to share already.  The author, Patty Chang Anker, finds herself living a life very limited by fear, and for the sake of her children, chooses to begin to face that fear. The book starts off with her boogie boarding to face her phobia of the ocean, and moves into other common fears like flying and public speaking, before progressing to deeper topics such as death and loss. 
Anker is such a warm, real person, and it comes through vividly on the page.  She candidly shares her experiences, providing honest, uplifting, yet realistic assessments.  Reading the book is like having a conversation with a friend. It’s helped me to see that the way my brain frames situations or events are not always this concrete truth, and that fears and supposed inabilities can be challenged for a more fulfilling life.   
What’s a Hostess to Do? by Susan Spungen
Susan Spungen was the food editor for Martha Stewart Living magazine, and penned this book as a guide for hostesses of varying experience levels throwing all sorts of parties.  It’s divided into chapters on various occasions and holidays, and includes tons of tips on planning and timelines, as well as tried-and-true recipes.  I loved this book and have read it over and over and over, though I have not tried any of its recipes.
I bought this on the Kindle, but there are lots of pictures so if you are a cook who prefers books, you may want to try this in the book format. 
Mother, Daughter, Me by Katie Hafner
Hafner’s memoir details the year that her mother came to live with her and her daughter. The situation is made complex and interesting by the fact that Hafner’s mother was an alcoholic throughout her entire childhood. There are tensions among the generations, but issues are hashed out and reconciliations made, and the book is a great read, though sad at times.


Sunday Dinner: Prosciutto Wrapped Pork Roast

A large part of cooking success depends upon choosing a good recipe.  People will often complain a recipe came out badly, and then I’ll find out they typed something into Google and used any old recipe that came up.

If I’m trying a new recipe, I prefer to use bloggers I trust (Stacey Snacks always, and Smitten Kitchen) or Ina Garten. I trust Ina enough to make her recipes without test driving them first.

I also trust highly reviewed recipes from well-regarded sites, such as Epicurious or the Food Network. I usually find that for the most part, a large number of reviews can be trusted.  Three five-star reviews are not very compelling, but 300 4 and a half star reviews are usually a good indicator of a quality recipe. There’s enough people who tried it and reviewed to account for mistakes, different tastes, etc. 

One other thing to keep in mind is the site’s audience- AllRecipes tends to attract more “middle America” tastes and home cooks (think chicken marinated in Italian dressing), whereas something like Food and Wine's website will bring in cooks and recipes that are a little more gourmet (think chicken banh mis with homemade kimchi).  Use sources that fall where you do in the homestyle to gourmet spectrum.

This past Sunday dinner was an example of a recipe well chosen.  My family was over and I wanted to make a pork roast, so I selected an old recipe of Giada’s de Laurentiis’ with 228 great reviews. 

The recipe called for a boneless pork loin, wrapped in pancetta (I used prosciutto), and then roasted in a mix of chicken stock and wine for an hour. It was quite delicious, and definitely an elegant and easy main course. 

I made a few changes to alter it to my family’s taste, so the recipe below is my version, with the link to the original provided as always.

Prosciutto wrapped Pork Roast, adapted from Giada de Laurentiis
Serves 6
3.5-4 lb boneless pork loin roast, tied
¼ lb prosciutto or pancetta
1 tbsp fresh rosemary, very finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 ½ tsp garlic salt
Generous amount salt and pepper
1 ½ cups white wine
1 ½ cups chicken stock

Place your pork roast in a roasting pan or large baking dish. Drizzle over with oil, then rub generously all over with salt, pepper, rosemary, and garlic salt. Drape prosciutto or pancetta over the roast. Let sit for at least one hour, or overnight.

When ready to cook, preheat oven to 400 degrees.  

Add ½ cup of wine and ½ cup of stock to the pan with the pork. Place in oven and bake for 1 hour, adding an additional ½ cup each wine and stock every 20 minutes. Cook for an hour, or longer until desired temperature. Giada advises 145, my parents prefer their pork done to 160, so that’s what I did. It took about 1 hr and 10 minutes. 

I served this with roasted potatoes. Recipe, if you can call it that, is below.

Roasted Potatoes
1 ½ lbs baby red potatoes
Generous amount olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fresh chopped parsley

Preheat oven to 400. While oven preheats, line a large aluminum baking sheet with foil and quarter the red potatoes (or cut into sixths if bigger).  

Place potatoes on baking sheet and drizzle with lots of olive oil (I probably use three tablespoons or so), and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 

Roast for about an hour, until browned and crispy, turning once or twice during baking.

Garnish with fresh chopped parsley and serve alongside roast.


Passover Plates

Easter and Passover are just around the corner, so I thought it was time to start sharing some table setting and entertaining ideas. Passover’s first, so today I have some of my favorite serveware items for the holiday.

1. Lenox L'Chaim Challah tray: So it's not the right holiday for challah, but the tray is a beautiful way to display your main course.  $100

2. Spode Matzo Plate, $45

3. Lenox Judaic Collection Elijah Cup, $40

4. Bernardaud "Louvre" Seder Plate, $237 (mini plates are sold separately)

5. Godinger Stratford Candlesticks, $15 for the pair


No Boys Allowed: Pasta with Goat Cheese and Asparagus

I hear one day it will be spring. I'm seeing only evidence to the contrary, as it's been the longest winter ever, but I'm still holding out for some sunshine. And when it's here, the farmer's markets will be packed with the best spring goodies, especially my favorite, skinny green asparagus.

Which are important for this dish that I've dubbed "No Boys Allowed Pasta." It's definitely "girl" food: strands of thin spaghetti, tossed with tangy goat cheese, asparagus, and chopped kalamatas. It's light yet flavorful. I threw it together one night after work and my husband politely declined and actually ordered himself wings.

His loss. This was a delicious, refreshing meal, perfect for a springtime lunch or light dinner with your best girl friends. It comes together in the time it takes to boil water for pasta, making it perfect for an after-work get together.

Pasta with Goat Cheese and Asparagus (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 4

1 box angel hair pasta
1 5 oz log of goat cheese, crumbled
1 lb skinny asparagus, sliced into 1 inch lengths 
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 tsp chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup kalamata olives, chopped
Zest of 1 lemon

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  While water boils, assemble all your ingredients in a large bowl, big enough to hold all the pasta.  Add pasta and asparagus to the pot, and cook until both are al dente, about 3 minutes.

Drain pasta and asparagus, reserving 1/4 cup of cooking liquid.  Add pasta, asparagus, and reserved liquid to bowl, and toss to coat. Add more cooking liquid if needed. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately.


Great New Purchase

This basic tee I picked up this weekend at Banana Republic is my definition of a great purchase.

It’s extremely versatile- the non-cotton material makes it great for work when tucked into a skirt and paired with a cardigan, plus it works great with skinny leather leggings and heeled ankle boots for a night out. 
The price is right- it retails for $70 but it’s Banana, there’s always a coupon. I paid $42.
The fit is perfect- loose enough to be edgy without being ill-fitting or baggy. 
The simple colorblocked style is available in the above white with a black top half, or the reverse, black with white shoulders.  And it’s the perfect backdrop for my favorite accessory, the statement necklace. 
Some reviews online complained about the sheerness of the shirt, but I have no issues with that, as I don’t ever get dressed without a black or white camisole underneath whatever I’m wearing. 
Love it.  This will definitely be on repeat for me this summer.


Springtime Stripes

One of my favorite looks for spring and summer are nautical navy and white stripes. They bring in just the right amount of a seaside vibe, but layer perfectly for cooler spring weather.

Below, some great takes on this totally classic look:

Rach Parcell of Pink Peonies combines it with a gauzy scarf and mustard cardigan:

Layered over chambray makes a nicely polished combo as well. Plus, I love her navy watch:

It's even great as a maternity look:

Or in dress form with an open button down:

Or on its own:


Vintage Silver

I’ve been wanting to start collecting transferware, so I made a trip to an antiques shop this weekend to pick up my first few pieces.  I’m not usually an antique person, so I was surprised to find myself wanting to start a completely different collection: vintage silver. 

The shop had tons and tons of silver wine buckets, trays, teapots, and pitchers, all polished up and looking new.  I’m still regretting not purchasing a huge, unique vintage silver lazy Susan- I've had to call my mother the past 3 days in a row to have her remind me of the price and why I walked away!
Check out how beautiful vintage silver can be for entertaining. I don't think it will be long before I'm back at the shop to start another collection.

1  //  2  //  3  //  4  //  5


Winter Slaw

I know we're all ready for spring, but the truth is there's still no spring vegetables or anything out there. It might feel warmer today, but I'm still in winter eating mode. 

I saw this on a recent rerun of Barefoot Contessa and thought it looked delicious, although it’s possible I was confusing the salad with its creator, Tyler Florence. 
Either way, it was simple, not too heavy on the ingredients, and the perfect accompaniment to a light Monday night dinner after boozing and hitting restaurants all weekend. 
Winter Slaw, from Tyler Florence
Serves 6-8
6 oz Brussels sprouts, trimmed, halved, cored
6 large kale leaves, rib removed
½ small head radicchio, cored
¼ cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
½ cup good olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
1 cup dried cranberries
1 6-oz chunk of good Parmesan cheese*
Cut the Brussels sprouts, kale, and radicchio into very thin strips and combine in a bowl. 
Whisk together lemon juice, oil, salt, and pepper. Pour on the dressing and add cranberries.
Using a vegetable peeler, shave the chunk of Parmesan into thin shards.
Toss, and serve relatively soon. This can’t be made in advance as the lemon juice will change the color of the greens.   
*If it comes in a green can it is NOT good!!! Buy a real chunk of Locatelli, imported from Italy, and grind that shit yourself. Don’t get me started on Parmesan.


Buffalo Wings

Kind of randomly, buffalo wings were one of the first recipes I ever learned to make.  When I was a teenager, my parents finished the basement and in late high school and college breaks, I used to love having people over. My group of friends is heavy on the men, so buffalo wings were a staple.

My mom taught me using the recipe she's used for years, the "original" one, supposedly, that she clipped from an issue of Good Housekeeping from before I was born.

This is one of those recipes that's best kept simple; doctoring it up with too much junk doesn't do you any favors. 

Classic Buffalo Wings
Serves 6 as an appetizer

3 lbs wings
2 tbsp oil
Garlic salt
4 tbsp butter
1/2 cup Frank's Red Hot (must be Frank's)
1 1/2 tbsp white vinegar
Celery sticks
Carrot sticks
Ranch or blue cheese dressing

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut the wings into 3 pieces- the flat, the drumstick, and the wing tip. I find it's easiest to bend the joints in the wrong direction to loosen them, and then to just chop through with a scissor. Or, you can ask your butcher to handle this for you. Discard wing tips or reserve for stock.

Arrange wing pieces on a foil lined baking sheet. Coat with oil, then sprinkle over with the salt, pepper, garlic salt, and paprika. I don't measure this, I just eyeball it- it's not rocket science.

Bake for one hour, turning over halfway through.

Just before wings are done, combine butter, hot sauce, and white vinegar in a saucepan.  Heat through to melt butter. Stir to combine, then add wings and toss to coat.

Arrange wings on platter with dressing of choice and carrot and celery sticks.

These will be gone before you can blink.


Fashion Friday: Crop Tops

I’m tiptoeing into the crop top trend for spring. I’m not really a fan of excessive skin, or belly shirts, but done right I think this trend looks great- very fresh.  The key is covering up your belly button to just show a slice of skin.
I like the pairing best three ways: with a maxi skirt, a pencil skirt, or layered over a button down. 
Here’s some inspiration on how to wear. My favorite is, of course, the pencil skirt idea, though I think the maxi or layered look translates better to my actual life.  
What’s your thoughts on crop tops?
Sources: 1  //  2  //  3

Sources: 1  //  2  //  3

Source: 1  //  2  //  3


Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus with Homemade Mayo

There are certain friends you can do anything with. That’s how it is with me and Jenn- she can always text me with some random suggestion and I’m always up for it, and vice versa. We’ve taken cake decorating classes together, done crafts, and both find it helpful to plot out stores to visit in malls before we actually go shopping. 

One afternoon where we were both off from work, she decided we needed to try making mayo from scratch. Not something I had ever considered before, and definitely not a phone call I’d get from everyone, but sure, why not? 

We used the food processor and after wasting 2 cups of oil, gave up. But Jenn got it right later on, and raved about how good it was. 

Months later, I decided to finally try it out on my own. It was so simple- 1 egg yolk, 1 cup of oil, salt, and a whisk-induced arm workout.  The mayo was delicious, with a lighter texture than the bottled stuff and a more delicate flavor from the olive oil.

I took the liberty of flavoring my mayo with lemon, parsley, and capers, and I used it as a topping for roasted potatoes and asparagus. It was sooo good. This is perfect dinner party fare, or would make a delicious side for a spring holiday meal. 

Roasted Potatoes and Asparagus with Homemade Caper Mayo
Serves 4-6 as a side dish
2 lbs fingerling potatoes (I used a mixed color variety bag)
1 bundle fresh asparagus
Olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 425 and line an aluminum sheet pan with foil. 

Slice potatoes in half or in quarters if very large. Drizzle with olive oil, add salt and pepper to taste.  Place on sheet pan and roast for 35 minutes.

While potatoes cook, prepare asparagus. Snap them at the ends to remove the woody part of the stems, and then cut the spears into 2 inch lengths.

At 35 minutes, add asparagus to pan with potatoes and roast another 10 minutes. 

Place on serving platter and dollop with mayo, recipe follows. 

For the mayo, basic recipe from The Art of Simple Food by Alice Waters:
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp water
1 cup mild olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice 
Pinch of salt

Caper Parsley Flavoring:
1 tbsp capers
¼ cup flat leaf parsley leaves
½ tsp grated garlic (you can use more, I just don’t love an intense garlic flavor)
Additional lemon juice to taste
Flaky sea salt and pepper to taste

Whisk together egg yolk and water in a small bowl. Add the oil in tiny drips, whisking constantly. You have to add it very, very slowly in order to create the emulsion. It is annoying, but go drop by drop at first.  After a minute or two, you will see everything start to thicken up and an emulsion form. Once that happens, you can add the oil a little faster, in a slow stream.  Keep whisking constantly; the process will take about 5 minutes. (Not actually that long, but it feels long!)

Once your mayo’s done, you can add the flavors. Chop together your parsley and capers. Add to mayo along with garlic. Taste, and add salt, pepper, and additional lemon juice as desired. Can be made ahead. Flavors will intensify as it sits; mayo will last about a week in fridge.

Experiment with this- try adding different herbs, spices, etc. You can create chipotle mayos, smoky mayos, arugula mayos- have fun!


Ash Wednesday

This year for Lent, I’m giving up the what-ifs. 
I used to give up chocolate, year after year. I’d miss it at first, forget about it, eat it on Easter, and move on.  It was not exactly the most spiritual experience.
Then one year, Jenn’s priest uncle gave me a copy of a Lenten reflection book: short stories taken from the news or pop culture, paired with a Bible quote and a few questions for reflection. For Lent that year, I went through each daily reflection and actually wrote down my answers. 
It was the first time I really got something out of Lent.  I became more aware of where I needed to improve, and aware of how God factored into the little things of everyday life I usually kept separate from Him. By Easter it felt like there was something to celebrate, something in how God’s presence and lessons make us better.
Since then I try to avoid aimless giving up of things and work on something more productive. Some years are better than others. 
This year, I’m tackling my worry and how it relates to a lack of trust in God.  I’m giving up my what-ifs:
What if I get a stomach virus? What if I go blind? What if I pass out at the gym? What if I screw up at work? What if I offended my friend? What if that person doesn’t really like me? What if something happens to my husband/mother/family/friend/etc? What if my car doesn’t start? What if this restaurant gives me food poisoning? What if I have kids and something bad happens to them? What if I never have kids? What if I get cancer? What if I’m stuck working in New York the rest of my life? What if I’m not and I have to start over again at another job? What if I slip and fall in the snow? What if the car crashes, or the plane crashes or…you get it. 
What if….I just stopped living this way?
What if I remembered that events go according to God’s plans, whether or not I like it, whether or not I understand it? 
What if I realized that worrying and trying to look for proof or answers to things was just a false security system, and not real peace? 
Real peace would be trusting God more, right? And they say God’s hands are the safest place to be, so why is this so hard for me? 
Worrying can sometimes be okay- worrying before a meeting forces me to work hard to get my facts straight before presenting. Worrying about buying a house forces us to budget and save. It’s got a place, for sure, but personally I’m bogged down in a lot of regular unproductive worry. 
So that’s what I’m giving up, the what-ifs, the looking for answers, trying to predict the future. I’m giving up trying to worry about every little thing. When I feel a what-if pop into my head, I will remind myself that it is God’s decision, and force myself to let it go.
I’m hoping by the end of Lent my God-reminder thought replacement will work, that at the very least the default setting of my brain will be a little more trusting, and not always so ready  to jump to the worst conclusion. 
We will see! Anyone else giving things up? Anyone doing something normal like cheese or shopping?


Workout Wear: Melon and Teal

My latest shopping addiction is workout gear. I'm making a list of some new things to get, and loving this crazy color combo of melon and teal with gray: 

Capris, Gap, $55  //  Tank, Old Navy, $15 //  Half-zip, Athleta, $74  //  Headphones, X-1 Audio  //  Sneakers, Nike, $55  //  Waterbottle, Nathan, $20


Shrimp and Israeli Couscous Salad with Basil Oil

I am one of those people who look at a picture or title in a cookbook, and then decide what the recipe is without actually reading it. I am the polar opposite of my mother, who will line up every last teaspoon of ingredients in little bowls before proceeding. The only time I ever really follow a recipe is with baking. 

I really shouldn’t do this, since I could be missing out on great recipes, but a lot of times I invent something pretty damn good. 

This is one of those recipes. I was flipping through a Mario Batali cookbook when I came upon a recipe for shrimp with white beans and mint oil.  I wanted to make it for dinner, but inspection of my pantry revealed I was missing some key ingredients, namely, the white beans and mint, as well as some rosemary called for in the recipe.  

So I subbed couscous, and oregano, and basil, and came up with this, a quick and easy weeknight dinner. (Seriously. I know it has three parts and that basil oil sounds like a project, but this whole thing comes together in about 20 minutes). 

Shrimp and Israeli Couscous Salad with Basil Oil
12 jumbo shrimp
1 ½ cups Israeli couscous
1 ¾ cups chicken stock
4 cups arugula
Zest of one lemon
¼ cup kalamata olives, chopped

For the vinaigrette:
Juice of one lemon
1/3 cup olive oil
1 tsp Dijon mustard
¼ tsp dried oregano
Splash red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat your broiler to high.  

Whisk together all vinaigrette ingredients and set aside. Adjust according to your taste, I like mine a bit on the tangy side, but if you don’t, just use more oil and less lemon. 

Combine couscous and chicken stock and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, and simmer 8-10 minutes until done. 

While couscous cooks, combine arugula, lemon zest, and olives in a serving bowl and line a baking sheet with foil. Arrange shrimp on it, drizzle with olive oil and salt. Broil for a minute or two on each side, until pink. 

When couscous is done, pile in the center of serving bowl. Drizzle couscous and arugula mix with lemon vinaigrette, then top with the broiled shrimp. Drizzle shrimp with basil oil, recipe follows.

Serve immediately.

To serve as a cold salad, refrigerate and cool everything separately so that arugula doesn’t wilt, and combine before serving.  

Basil Oil, from Epicurious:
½ cup basil leaves
¾ cup olive oil
Flaky sea salt

Bring a small pot of water to a boil. While it boils, fill a bowl with ice water. 

When boiling, drop your basil leaves in for 30 seconds or so, just until they turn bright green. Lift them out and drop immediately into ice water to stop the cooking, then drain and arrange on paper towels to dry. 

In a blender or food processor, combine basil and oil and puree. Remove to a small bowl, add sea salt to taste, and set aside. Will last 3 days in fridge. 

You can adapt this method for most leafy herbs- parsley, mint, tarragon, etc.