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Monday, January 31, 2011

Portable Coziness

Here on the eastern seaboard, we're expecting another round of "wintry mix"  and as soon as I hear that phrase, I immediately want to snuggle on the couch and sit in front of a roaring fire.

Image via TheAnimalBlog



Since I live in an apartment, and they frown on the lighting on fire of random things, I guess for now it's just daydreaming... or is it?

I found a few interesting takes on what a fireplace really is, and I have to say... they made me pretty excited! These are all bioethanol burning so you can have them in the house without a separate ventilation system for them.  I imagine they don't put out a ton of heat but they sure do look cozy.

First up, the Ponton Fireplace by Wolf Udo Wagner on Generate.


Its a little hard to get the scale here but I think its about the size of a small camp fire.  Plus, I *love* the glass and clean lines of this little guy.... not to mention its the most affordable of the bunch.

Next up is this one from Aktys that I found on digsdigs.


I love the muted black of this one and from the looks of it, you could hang it up on any wall without it being too intrusive.

Finally, my favorite of the bunch is this one by Swedish designer Fredrik Hylten-Cavallius.  

Practically demands snuggling... 

From the looks of his website, this was his master's thesis project.  I don't see any ordering information but I'd be all over that if I could.  Plus, it's named after Danish architect and mathematician Piet Hein, the best of the Danish architects!  What more could you ask for?  Seriously - i want this!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Coming Clean

I am just going to admit it.

I love clogs.  Whew!  It feels so good to get things like that off your chest.

Since it's friday and it is still flurrying and I'm on my way to happy hour, I'm going to make this short.  (This has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that my entire readership probably hates clogs... nope, not at all)  Not that I care that you all hate clogs... They are totally back in style.  ShopBop even has a whole section devoted to them.  So THERE.

Here's a few pair I love:
These from Shopbop... don't give me lip about them not being clogs... it says clogs right in the description!


And here are some Swedish Hasbeens (yes, they're actually called that... no jokes, please!) from piperlime in black suede.


and finally... some that aren't $400 (I know, you're welcome.) An adorable pair Steven Yak from 6pm, which is an awesome cheap shoe finding site.  Yes, that's a thing.


Ok! So there we have it.  Clogs are cool.

Note: I'm weirdly punchy right now... sorry for the level of sass.  Happy weekend you little scamps!

xo

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Oops!

I just realized my last post had no pictures in it... just words.  And who cares about words, am I right?

So here's a link to a fun slideshow of winter-proof clothing from Refinery 29.



We're going to be dealing with this weather for at least another month so we might as well be cozy doing it!

Snow Food

OK!

I know my last few all posts have been related to snow but I just can't help it, I really really love snow.  I also love all the wintertime activities that come with it.  This often (for us anyway) includes cooking something low and slow for a loooong time while the oven helps warm the apartment a little better.  Eating smushy and warm food, extra points if it's ugly, is perfect for weather like we're having tonight...

I mentioned last night some friends came over, braving ThunderSnow for the promise of pork and turnips... AND they brought us ice cream and beer.  I mean really... what more can you ask for?  Anyway, in return for their bravery and ice cream procurement skills, they were rewarded with said pork and turnip risotto.  Also we had truffled popcorn (pop some popcorn on the stove and toss it with salt and melted truffle butter... and this) and kale chips. The recipe for the pork can be found below and is very very flexible, and the recipe for the turnip risotto, from Mario Batali, can be found here.

We ate, we drank, we played weather roulette* and a good time was had by all :)

Also, as it turns out... I'm bad at making presentable recipes.  

Braised Pork Shoulder

preheat oven to 325*
ingredients:
1 (3ish lb?) pork shoulder
1 onion
2 carrots
3 celery ribs
2 cloves garlic
salt and pepper
3 sprigs thyme, rosemary
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup dijon mustard
2 tbsp tomato paste
1 cup red wine or dark beer
1 can diced/crushed tomatoes
~2 cups beef stock


cut one large pork shoulder into chunks and salt and pepper liberally on all sides
dice 1 onion, 1 carrot
mince 2 cloves garlic
make an herb bundle: thyme, rosemary, 2 bay leaves

brown the pork chunks (that sounds gross) on all sides (get it really good and brown) in a large oven safe dutch oven or something like that
remove from the pan and set aside
add carrots and onions to the pan and begin to caramelize (about 3-5 min) scraping up the porky bits
add garlic and saute 1 more minute
add the mustard and tomato paste and continue to brown
add one cup of red wine (or dark beer) to the pan to deglaze and reduce a few minutes
add the can of tomatoes
return the coated pork to the pot along with the herbs
add beef stock or water (if adding water you will definitely need a bit more salt at the end) so that it comes up about 3/4 the way up the meat
bring the mixture up to a boil then
cover pot with tin foil then put lid on pot
cook for 1.5 hrs, turn meat once, cook for 1.5 more hrs

take pork and herbs out and puree the rest of the sauce with a hand blender (or just spoon over the meat)

*weather roulette is a term I learned from a tiny friend where you "make questionable choices in the evening based on the possibility of not having to deal with work the next day (due to snow)"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Snow Day

I am pretty pumped about the impending 6-10 inches being forecasted even though it could end up being anywhere from 1-20.  I have no faith in our local (or any) meteorologists but as long as I see the white stuff, I don't really care!

Photo from Shawn Bennaman

One bummer that often goes along with snow is having things you like to do (hot vinyasa with my fav teacher in this case) get canceled.  I've found a pretty sweet replacement evening activity though.  We're having some awesome people over for dinner this evening instead.  I'll try to post tonight's dinner recipes tomorrow.  I'm cooking one new recipe and one old faithful.

The new recipe comes from Mario Batali in a recent cookbook purchase.  I have a serious cookbook addiction.  Recent procurements include the aforementioned MB cookbook, Recipes from an Italian Summer, Nourishing Traditions, and Coco.  Coco and Recipes from an Italian Summer (among several others I own) are published by Phaidon.  They make the most beautiful, carefully composed cookbooks I've ever seen.


Photo from Eat Me Daily



I've received both of these cookbooks as a gift from my sister and they are amazing to look at, read and pull ideas from.  I also have one from them called The Silver Spoon that has approximately one million simple, traditional italian recipes.



These books are so wonderful!  I can't wait to get a few more.  Even their little catalog that comes tucked in their new books is beautiful!




Right??

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Big Time

Guys! Charcutepalooza has "gone viral" as they say...

The WaPo just did an awesome write up about it.  Check it out!

Also... There *may* be snow in the forecast for tomorrow.


Happy Birthday Adam!
Fingers crossed for a blizzard!

Monday, January 24, 2011

Keeping it Clean

I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen.  I also spend a lot of my time spilling things.  When you combine those two hobbies, a need for a good apron develops rapidly.  I've been scouring the interwebs for a new apron lately because I think the one I have currently needs to be washed more often than it actually is.  So I'm searching for a backup apron.

Here's a few contenders:
I love half aprons... my lower half seems to be where all my spillage lands anyway.  Here's an awesome (albeit a bit pricey) double sided one from etsy seller Zakkanouveau

a pocket!

And here's one from Double Merrick that proclaims my one true love.  I also love the strap placement on this guy (I found this one on svpply... sadly it's currently sold out)


Anthropologie tends to have a good selection of aprons too, though I find that generally speaking they're either a bit fancy or too long for my tastes.  Here's a cute one that would be great for spring.


Finally, there's this one.  Decently priced and made from easy-to-care-for linen, this half apron looks long enough to catch most of my mishaps and still be somewhat fashionable.



So? What say you? Fancy or meat-tastic?  Whole body or half apron?  Or do you just not care because its a stupid apron that is destined to be spilled all over and I should just pipe down and get back to work? Oh... ok then.  Later...

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Duck Breast + Salt - Food Poisoning = YUM!

Hi all!

Well...  I am happy to report that my first official charcutepalooza attempt was a success!  We were growing nervous because our duck breasts were a bit thinner than it seemed they should be and yet they were taking longer than expected to lose their moisture.  I immediately assumed the worst, that the wine fridge we used did not have enough humidity and the outside had dried and the inside never would.

Anyway! We purchased a Bell & Evans whole duck from a local meat market.  This duck was just waiting to be broken down and turned in to delicious charcuterie!  As I mentioned in an earlier post, we used the extras after cutting away the breasts to make confit legs in our sous vide supreme, about a cup of duck fat, amazing cracklins, and a delicious autumn stock that I've since cooked down to make a duck demi glace (freezer space is at a premium here!)

But onto the the prosciutto.  Having two breasts, I knew we wanted to do one simply with salt and pepper as Ruhlman suggested in Charcuterie and another one with a different flavor.  We decided that for the second one, we'd use the rootbeer cure from the Alinea cookbook since we'd recently started using it on meat and were already in love with it.

So we toasted up a batch of the spices for the rootbeer cure, ground it in our spice grinder and mixed it in with the salt, reserving a spoonful to rub on the duck after its salt soak. The spices included sassafras, star anise, fennel and juniper berries, among others.  I can't think of anything that would smell better than these spices toasting on your stove.


As a side note, I know that cookbook seems a bit scary but it is really a great tool for the home cook because the flavors and foods that are put together are so well thought out and carefully chosen.  You can use parts of a recipe to really elevate your food without even cooking one whole dish.

Rootbeer cure being mixed up!
The duck breasts sit fully covered in salt and cure for 24 hours in the actual refrigerator at which point its time to get prepped for the second refrigerator... the wine fridge.

Right before we wrapped up the duck to go in the wine fridge, I rinsed them off and sprinkled pepper on one and a bit of the rootbeer cure (minus the salt) on the other.



And after a week or so of waiting we broke them out to try.


Guys! you HAVE to try this!  The rootbeer flavor is very mild but goes amazingly well with the gamey sweetness of the cured duck.  It cuts through the fat nicely and leaves a really pleasant flavor.  I think we're gonna dice some and have it with pasta with a creamy sauce, a bit of nutmeg and some caramelized onions.  I thought originally that the rootbeer flavor might be limiting but its definitely the opposite!  Its delicious and carries the flavor of the duck well. We had some for breakfast with fried eggs and some white beans cooked in veal stock.


I'm so pleased that month one of charcutepalooza was a success.  I will definitely make this again in the near future.  We picked up our pork belly and began month two's recipe earlier this week.  I'm really excited about this one too but I'm honestly not sure it will be able to compete with rootbeer flavored duck we made for this month!



Thursday, January 20, 2011

Man Repellant

Holler!

Sorry for the less frequent posting.  I'm trying to catch up with life after the 24hr death plague of 2011 that I had last weekend but I'll post duck prosciutto soon.  Anywhoo!

I stumbled upon this amazing website the other day and I wanted to share.  Often times I will put on an outfit, or try on a pair of shoes or a new hairstyle that I am really excited about and look to the hubs who will tell me it is a. hideous, b. mental patient and/or 3 year old dressing herself esque or c. something he is sure is in fashion but he 'Just Doesn't Get.'  I always kind of enjoy dressing for myself  but its nice to know I'm not alone on this one.

Enter The Man Repeller.
This blog is a hilarious discussion (with pictures!) of clothes that are the peak of fashion but are quite obviously "sartorial birth control."

an old site banner - SO accurate!

I love the site because of the author's humor and her take on the crazy world of high fashion.  I also happen to LOVE the inspiration I get from the quirky outfits she puts together... much to my husband's dismay.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Sick of It!

Hi friends! (both of you)

Sorry for the lack of posting lately... recovering from some sort of nasty stomach flu/food poisoning awfulness. So my charcutepalooza post is going to be delayed a couple of days (obviously).  I'll try to get that post up tomorrow.  I didn't want to cut up my awesome duck breasts and then not be able to taste them!

Anyway, just wanted to post quickly about two things I absolutely love.  What's interesting here is that the first thing I love actually brought the second thing I love into my life!

The first thing is a new company called Birchbox.  This is a makeup sample delivery company started by two amazing Harvard Business School grads from which I was lucky enough to win a year long subscription.  They send a perfectly packaged box of deluxe samples to you once monthly, and then make it exceptionally easy to buy the full sized products directly from their website.

www.birchbox.com

But they don't stop at lipgloss or lotion samples.  They have tutorials and tons of extra information on makeup, beauty, health and general well-being on their website.  They also send special treats each month... little birchbox bonuses.  Which brings me to favorite thing number two!

In this month's birchbox was a little tin of tea: Coconut Chai Black Tea. Sounds delicious right?  It was.

yum.

Especially perfect since we got a nasty storm of "wintry mix" last night.  This tea is amazing.  I took one sip and ordered the larger size from their site, which couldn't have been simpler.

Birchbox always manages to pick the best selection of samples and this month was no exception.  Besides the tea, it included two different skin care samples, a huge AHAVA hand cream sample and some great hair serum.  I am seriously smitten with this company.  I will definitely continue my subscription once my year runs out, and I've already gifted a year long subscription to my sister who is also a sample maniac.   The best part is you can sign up for month to month.  OK, I'm gushing.  go try it!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Lashtastic

Guys!  It's almost time for the first official charcutepalooza post!  I'm so excited.  The duck breasts are just about ready and I can't wait to taste and tell you about them!  Tom can't wait either.  I know this thanks to my friend Kate


I found this pic on a 2007 interview with Tom Colicchio in the New York Restaurant Insider but it's much better thanks to her craftiness.  Plus obviously that's what he's thinking.  So get excited, it's almost duck prosciutto time.


On another note...
I have a weird obsession with eyelashes/mascara.  I would LOVE to have ridiculously long eyelashes that didn't require a lick of mascara. All my cousins have this... its not fair.  Instead, all my eyelash wishes seem to have migrated up an inch to my eyebrows, which require a wax practically every other week.  I even went so far as to get novalash lash extensions before my wedding.  Sounds crazy, looked awesome.  But they were uncomfortable and definitely not worth the discomfort or the price.  I am contemplating a lash growing formula but I'm not especially interested in iris overpigmentation or itchy, red eyes... what's a girl to do.

My go-to mascara is DiorShow Blackout mascara from Sephora.  This mascara, applied right after a quick lash curl is really the best out there, in my opinion.  It's an amazing inky black that applies perfectly every time. But NOW they have gone a step further.


DiorShow 360 Mascara... it spins people! And look at that brush... weird!

I don't know if this is a good thing or not... but it certainly is intriguing.  I plan to pick some up this weekend and will let you know how it goes!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Haiti, One Year Later

I know this blog, to date, is mostly fluff... But I wanted to take a moment and discuss one of the other aspects of my life.

Today marks the one year anniversary of the 2010 Haiti Earthquake.  As you may recall, this earthquake caused the death of over 200,000 individuals and created a population of amputees without the medical infrastructure to support them.  While ever growing, the current estimates are that it will cost Haiti, the poorest country in the western hemisphere, upwards of 14 billion usd to rebuild.  And what are they rebuilding to?  Haitians are a proud people.  They are strong, stoic and desperately want to rebuild their country and restore their rich heritage.  I will not go into details here about the management of this disaster.  I will simply remind you that this is a country that is still suffering, a people still striving towards whole.

Image from IFRC's Flickr Photostream

The American Red Cross has done exceptionally good work in Haiti, and they are still there today, assisting Haitians to piece their lives back together. You can find more information on their efforts, as well as information on donating to this cause here.  I would also urge you to look through their videos and images and remember that for Haiti, this disaster is far from over.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Charcutepalooza

Long before I had a blog to call my own I would read others' and envy their ability to participate in "challenges" that involved regularly cooking certain types of food or from specific cookbooks.  Anyone that knows me knows I like projects... sometimes these projects are seen through to the end and other times they're abandoned early on. I'm excited to say that I've signed up to participate in a challenge that not only has relatively lax rules (do what you can when you can) but if it goes according to plan, it will keep me in cured meat for the whole year!

The project I'm taking part in is called Charcutepalooza and it's being hosted by Mrs. Wheelbarrow and The Yummy Mummy on Mrs. Wheelbarrow's blog.  The challenge is to make something out of Michael Ruhlman's (fabulous) book Charcuterie every month and post about it on the 15th.  The first challenge is Duck Prosciutto and I've already got some curing in the wine fridge.

The best part of this project (so far... since the prosciutto isn't ready to taste) is all the other things you get when you buy a whole duck instead of just the breasts.  Once I broke down the duck for the breasts, I had two legs, thighs, and a carcass.  I know that doesn't sound especially appealing but I generally use every possible part of the meat I buy and this was no different. I confit'd the legs and thighs in my sous vide supreme (an INCREDIBLE tool making sous vide accessible to home cooks that we'll discuss later).  I also trimmed all the fat and skin and slowly rendered the fat.


What resulted from this was about a cup of duck skin cracklins and about a cup of duck fat (ie liquid gold).


Finally, I used the carcass along with some veal bones to make a delicious (albeit unusual) stock.  Phew!

Check back on the 15th for the (hopefully) tasty results!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Winter Weather Weekend!

Happy Friday!

I woke up this morning to the slightest dusting of snow and that feeling that there is more to come.  Sure enough, I looked at the weather report for the weekend and we should get more of my favorite type of precipitation.  Whenever I talk about my love for snow, and winter weather in general, people either look at me like I'm a lunatic or simply shrug and wish for summer.

I'm not sure where this love of all things winter comes from... I'm not good at winter sports, I hate digging my car out and I'm always cold but in spite of all that I'd take winter a million times over a humid, sticky summer.

Plus, everything is beautiful in the snow.  Architectural Digest has an amazing slideshow of ski town digs.  Can't you just imagine sitting in this living room with a cup of coffee watching the flakes tumble gently to the ground?

Photo via www.architecturaldigest.com


So! Fingers crossed for a lovely, relaxing snowy weekend.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Smooth as a Baby's Bottom

Something you should not do at work - google image search for baby's bottom.
Moving on!

I have always felt pretty lucky to have the skin I'm in.  I don't generally fight with blemishes, never had acne, and don't always need to wear foundation or concealer. But lately I have noticed that my skin is looking a little dull (and wrinkly...ugh.)  Probably due to the fact that we're in the throws of winter here in Baltimore and the dry air coming out of our heater is almost constantly flowing.

Whenever my skin starts to feel this way, I immediately turn to Kiehl's.  They always have something that will fix whatever ails my epidermis.  Lately, I've been in LOVE with their Epidermal Re-Texturizing Micro-Dermabrasion.




I know, it's a mouthful... but it's not nearly as scary as it sounds.  It's a sandy white paste that you rub on your clean face for about 30 seconds and you come out of the shower with a fabulous post-facial glow.  I swear I used this the other day and someone told me they liked my new foundation.  First of all, I wasn't wearing foundation but secondly... I've never gotten a compliment on foundation before in my life so my skin must have been pretty impressive looking that day!  Not to mention the fact that their stores are so fun, and their lovely salespeople will let you test just about anything without looking at all irritated.  PLUS when you order something from their website, you get to pick out three free samples!  I'm sold.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Happy Hump Day

One thing I absolutely adore snacking on is deviled eggs.  They are perfect bites of creamy, salty, proteiny goodness and they couldn't be easier to make.  My go-to recipe for these puppies is a weird hybrid of my mom's (amazingly retro) chipped beef cheese ball and the deviled eggs served by Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore.  Woodberry makes their deviled eggs with chipped ham which is, in a word, genius.  My mom makes her cream cheese ball with chipped beef, horseradish, and too much parsley... and it is perfect.

Below is a hybrid of the best deviled eggs I've ever had, and a great, "rustic" (ie ugly but delicious) appetizer from my mom.
As an aside, if you need something fun and cheeky to display your deviled eggs on, I recommend this - from anthropology.



How cute right?

Anyway... on with the deviled eggs!

Here's the deal... this is not a recipe exactly... its more like a method.  I'm not going to tell you how to hardboil a half a dozen eggs.  Thats what the interwebs is for.

Simply hard-boil 6 eggs and halve them, scooping the yolk into a bowl and reserving the whites.  Then take the yolks and add 2-3 tbsp of good mayonnaise (I recommend Hellmann's... the amount you use will depend on how dry your yolks are and how creamy you like them), 1 scant tbsp of prepared horseradish, 1 tbsp parsley, and 1/4lb dried chipped beef (or as an alternative 1/4lb speck ham).

Mix that all together until you reach an agreeable level of smoothness and scoop it all into a gallon ziplock bag. Snip the tip off the ziplock bag and pipe the yolk mixture into the hollowed out eggwhites.  Voila!  Delicious snack in minutes :)

That should get you through to at least friday.



Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Warming Up

I went to my first yoga class of the new year last night.  A teacher I'd been seriously missing was back to teach her Hot Vinyasa class and I feared it would be a disappointment due to my high level of anticipation.  I seriously missed her.  Clearly I was not the only one as practically every square inch of space in the 95 degree room was covered by mats, blocks, towels, water bottles and chattering yoginis.  I was extra excited for this class because it was the inaugural wear of one of my Christmas presents from the hubs! Behold! the Lululemon scoop neck tank!

I know that's a lot of exclamation points for work-out apparel, and when I began practicing yoga, I didn't feel comfortable spending that kind of money on my gear but let me tell you this tank is worth it (especially since it was a gift.)  It has so much support (without smooshing everything down), its exceptionally flattering and doesn't bunch even when you're in the bindiest of binds. What more could you ask for?

Monday, January 3, 2011

Hi!

Hi Friends!  Glad you found this little corner of the internet.
I decided this new year would be a fresh start... No resolutions per se but one of the things I've been meaning to do is find a little space where I can post about the things I love and think you may love as well.  So here's to a 2011 filled with love and health.  Hope yours is starting off fresh too!

Mondays tend to be a challenge for me any time of the year but when your first day back to the grind after a wonderful holiday mini-vacation falls on a Monday, it can be especially challenging.  Luckily, i had some lovely morning light to greet me as I came out of the bedroom bright and early this morning.


Made stumbling towards coffee and scrambled eggs much easier.

The sun was casting the shadow of a (sadly) empty bottle of this:


Perhaps the most anticipated beer of the holiday season.  You know... if you anticipate those sorts of things :)
And was it ever delicious.

Happy 2011 all!