Friday, December 30, 2011

The Wedge Salad

everything old is new again. case in point, the wedge salad is back en vogue. seriously, the wedge is back baby. it has popped up on virtually every menu not just the steak houses (where it appears, it never went out of style).

of course, i had to jump on the bandwagon because the wedge is a chef's dream. it's super easy yet has a fabulous presentation. when i say easy, i mean easy. step 1: wash head of iceberg. step 2: cut into quarters. step 3: drizzle with dressing and toppings. step 4: eat.

yes, it is slightly more effort than that considering i cooked my own bacon to crumble, i had to chop the tomatoes and make the dressing. but even including those things the prep time was minimal.

some like ranch (like my wonderful husband) but i am firmly in the blue cheese dressing camp. since iceberg lettuce has virtually no flavor, i like the tangy bite of gorgonzola. so, because i am writing this blog and therefore utterly and absolutely in charge, i am drizzling blue cheese all over my wedge.

The Wedge
serves 4

1 head of iceberg lettuce
4 strips of bacon, cooked (i give details of my bacon method here)
4 campari tomatoes

wash lettuce and remove core being careful to keep head intact. cut into 4 quarters and pat to dry. place on plate and drizzle with buttermilk blue cheese dressing (see below). crumble one piece of bacon over each quarter. chop tomatoes and sprinkle one tomato over head quarter.

Buttermilk Blue Cheese Dressing
(adapted from Epicurious)

1/2 cup olive oil mayo
1 cup plain greek yogurt
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
1 cup coarsely crumbled blue cheese (i like gorgonzola or buttermilk bleu)
1/3 cup buttermilk (or more to desired consistency)

whisk all ingredients together in container with lid. refrigerate and let flavors meld for at least 2 hours.

Our New Kitchen

i have had a couple requests to show what the new kitchen looks like in our new (to us but actually old) home. our new kitchen is much more spacious than our old one. we have more counter space and more cabinet space. we think even people who are earning an interior decorating degree from an online college would love our new kitchen. you can find these online classes here.

to refresh your memory, here are photos of our old kitchen:

i loved that kitchen. we remodeled it ourselves. it was the first kitchen i chose for us. dad and i did all the demolition, and E and i picked out the new cabinets, appliances, counters, drawer pulls, and fun features (like a pull-out trash/recycling drawer and large drawers instead of cabinets under the counters). being a personal chef, i spend a lot of time in the kitchen. so a good kitchen is important to me.

there are several things i love about our new kitchen - the size, lots of counter space, the layout, lots of cabinet space, the big window over the sink, and the wet bar area.

we even have some bonus cabinets to the right of the fridge.

however, there are several things i would like to change (new fridge, induction cook top, new counters, double sink, new overhead lighting, the list goes on). we are doing things a little at a time here and other things are more pressing on our to-do list (hello, heat and new roof) but i did make two small changes that i think made a huge difference.

we had the walls painted. the original color was a kind of bright periwinkle. it wasn't bad but it wasn't our cup if tea.

before (day before move in):

i saw this color and fell in love with it. it reminds E and i of the ocean - the turquoise blue waters of the caribbean. it's bright, it's cheery, and it's a "me" color. it makes me happy.


the second thing i changed were the knobs and pulls. i love that the cabinets are white(ish) but wasn't in love with the brass/gold pulls. i switched them for a brushed silver pull that i think gives the kitchen a bit of a more modern sleek look. it wasn't a quick job (there were 54 knobs and pulls to replace!) but it's finally finished and i love it.



that's a little hard to see. here's a close-up before:

and after:

one thing at a time i tell myself . . . one thing at a time . . .

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Thursday Latelies - Happy New Year!

- some helpful crochet videos
- clarins liquid bronze self-tanner
- dry brush similar to mine
- purple sequin yarn in amethyst
- super-soft gap scarf (it's 30% off right now)

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Change is Coming

first heat and now a new roof is going on - progress is finally happening at our house and i couldn't be happier.

Triple Lemon Cupcakes

i woke up the other day and decided to make cupcakes. lord only knows why. so i asked E what kind of cupcakes he wanted and he suggested lemon. but come on, i couldn't just make lemon cupcakes, i had to make triple lemon cupcakes.

that's right, triple lemon cupcakes. lemon cupcakes with lemon curd* filling and lemon cream cheese icing to be exact. these little cupcakes pack a lemon punch. in fact, they may just be the perfect balance of sweet and tart.

lord have mercy.

put down the phone, step away from the computer, turn off the tv and head to the kitchen. i highly recommend making these and taking them to a new years eve party. these cupcakes will guarantee you will get an invite next year.

*of course you could make lemon curd from scratch but i cheated (gasp!) and used lemon curd from a jar. don't judge. if you want to be all fancy-schmancy and martha stewart-esque i suggest ina garten's lemon curd recipe. i've made it before. it's fabulous! come on, i woke up wanting to make cupcakes, not lemon curd. plus, i just happened to have a jar in my pantry begging to be used.

Triple Lemon Cupcakes
makes 12 cupcakes

1 1/8 cup cake flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup buttermilk
1 large egg white
2/3 cup sugar
zest of 1 lemon
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure lemon extract  

5 oz lemon curd

8 oz package cream cheese, softened
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 lbs confectioners’ sugar, sifted
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp lemon extract
1 tbs lemon juice, freshly squeezed

to make cupcakes, preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

in bowl of a mixer, combine lemon zest and sugar. mix together with a spoon, pressing to ensure zest flavor is released into the sugar. add butter and beat on medium speed until light and fluffy. add both extracts.

in a medium bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. whisk together buttermilk and egg in another bowl. add 1/3 of flour mixture to the butter and sugar and beat until combined. add 1/2 of buttermilk mixture, followed by 1/3 of flour mixture, remaining buttermilk, and remaining flour beating between each addition. beat mixture on medium for 1 minute to make sure everything is incorporated.

divine batter among a paper-lined cupcake tin. the batter should make 11-12 cupcakes. bake for 18-20 minutes until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean. turn tin 180 degrees halfway through baking time.

remove from oven and let cool completely.
 when cool, cut a small cone out of each cupcake.
  spoon a teaspoon of lemon curd into each hole.
 cut bottom of cone off of removed cupcake piece,
and place the flat top back onto filled cupcake.
gently press so cupcake top is flat.

in bowl of electric mixer, cream together cream cheese and butter until smooth. slowly add sugar and beat until well combined. add extracts and lemon juice and beat on medium-high for 1 minute. frosting will be light and fluffy. spoon into pastry bag or into large ziploc bag and pipe onto cupcakes.

store in airtight container. i like to keep mine in the fridge as i think they are better chilled but they are also tasty at room temperature.

My Stomach is Growling . . .

i am making this tomorrow night.

i just thought you should know.

it's nowhere near st. patty's day, but honestly, bangers and mash popped into my mind the other day and i have been thinking about it ever since.

if you haven't made this yet. do it. before the new years diet starts. seriously. do it. you'll understand.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

After Christmas Salad

i hope you all had a wonderful christmas weekend! it was good to relax and take a break from blogging, but it's also good to be back.

i don't know about you, but after a couple weeks for cookies, carbs, parties, and libations i am ready for a couple of vegetables. thus, the after christmas salad was born.

i basically just used what i had laying around the house - crisp romaine, juicy pears, crunchy walnuts, and creamy gorgonzola cheese. a quick homemade balsamic vinaigrette later and the greens are suitable for consumption.

toss togther, eat, repeat. i have a feeling that will be three important steps to get me back to normal this week.

After Christmas Salad (also known as Pear and Gorgonzola Salad)
serves 2

1 heart of romaine
1 ripe pear
1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola
1/4 cup toasted walnuts

wash and chop romaine - i like to chop mine into very small bite-sized pieces, almost shredded.  toss lettuce with balsamic vinaigrette. divide romaine onto two plates. wash and cut pear into bite-sized pieces. top each salad with half the chopped pear and sprinkle each salad with half the gorgonzola and half the walnuts.

Balsamic Vinaigrette

1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1 tbs dijon mustard
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/4 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tsp honey

combine all ingredients in container with tight fitting lid (a mason jar works beautifully).  shake vigorously. keep remainder in fridge. will last about a month if refrigerated.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Merry Christmas!

 and the grinch, with his grinch-feet ice cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling, how could it be so? it came without ribbons. it came without tags. it came without packages, boxes or bags. and he puzzled and puzzled 'till his puzzler was sore. then the grinch thought of something he hadn't before. what if christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store? what if christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more?
-how the grinch stole christmas

here's hoping christmas means something a little bit more to you this year 
have a very merry christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2011

12 Dates of Christmas - Date 10

on the tenth date of christmas, E gave to me, a night of polish vodka and christmas caroling

this was actually our second year of christmas caroling in baltimore. it is sponsored by the polish home club and includes walking the streets of fells point, singing christmas caroling, partaking in vodka shots given out in plastic cups from local businesses, and some polish catholic church blessings.

the night ends with warming up upstairs at the polish home. it's usually a crazy time including hot dogs, buckets of beer, a polish band, and lots of polka.

if a night like that doesn't put you in the christmas spirit, nothing will.

Friday, December 23, 2011

12 Dates of Christmas - Date 9

on the ninth date of christmas, E gave to me, noodles and korean kimchee

E took me to his favorite korean place near his office for a lunch date. i have heard about this place many a time - literally called korean restaurant. it looks like a hole in the wall but inside, korean women are cooking up a storm. i have wanted to eat there for a while but they are only open on weekdays so we haven't been able to make it work but yesterday, we did.

i felt like i was being let in on a secret. this food was excellent.

we started out with a plate of kimchee, spicy cucumbers, and a third yummy but unidentifiable dish (carrots and something?). we both ordered beef ramen (E's favorite) and each came with 5 yaki mandu and a dipping sauce - both excellent!

the beef ramen was pretty good too - very hot - but it lacked a bit of flavor. i added some soy sauce and the remainder of the yaki mandu dipping sauce and it was pretty good. let's just say i managed to do some serious damage to this enormous bowl.

when E went up to pay, he was handed 2 whoopie pies and candy canes.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Thursday Latelies - Christmas Week!

- find out more about birchbox here - 1 month, 3 month, or year subscriptions make great gifts for your girlfriends, mom's or the hard-to-shop for woman on your list!
- benefit the pore professional primer
- bath and body works candles found here (i love winter cabin and vanilla bean noel) they are 2 for $20 right now - regularly $19.50 each
- check out pinterest!
- amazon has americolors gel food color (click amazon link below - p.s. if you can't see the link, you'll have to click out of your reader)

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Spaghetti Squash with Italian Meatballs

i mentioned meatballs in my thursday video last week. i know, it sounds weird, but i really was thankful for meatballs last week. here's the rub. i made a huge batch of meatballs last week. i used 3 lbs of meat (ground turkey, bison, and pork) and made over 50 meatballs. the fabulous thing about them is their versatility! i have already made them two different ways and have a third incarnation rolling around in my head.

i will post the sweet and sour meatballs recipe as well as the asian-syle i am still concocting, but perhaps the most classic way is italian style. you can certainly make these with the basic meatball recipe i have below, but i like to take 1/3 of the basic mix and add a couple things to it. just some various cheeses and garlic but i think the extras give them the added boost they need.

i used E's favorite jarred pasta sauce - classico's four cheese (when three different cheeses just won't cut it) and some spaghetti squash instead of the traditional spaghetti. i thought it was excellent but i haven't yet met a squash i haven't liked. i did make leftovers with regular spaghetti and it was just as good. (cooking spaghetti squash is super easy, just slice in half horizontally, spoon out seeds, and roast cut side down at 375 degrees for 45 minutes until tender. let cool and flake into "noodles" with a fork)

do yourself a favor a make this big batch of meatballs, they freeze beautifully and you will have some all ready to go when you need them. they make great weeknight meals and if you make them small, they are the perfect size for quick appetizers too - just add a toothpick!

Classic Meatballs

1 lb lean ground bison or beef
1 lb ground turkey
1 lb ground pork
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1 cup breadcrumbs
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground pepper
2 large eggs, beaten to blend

optional italian additions:
1/8 cup grated parmesan cheese
2 large garlic cloves, minced
1/8 cup favorite tomato sauce
1/8 cup shredded italian cheese (i used a mix of provolone, asiago, mozzarella, and parmesan)

preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

in a large bowl, mix everything together with your hands until well mixed but not over-worked. remove 1/3 of mixture and add italian additions if desired. of course, you can make the whole batch italian by adding 3x the amount of additions.

form meatballs a little smallet than golf ball size and place an inch apart on a foil lined, greased, baking sheet. bake for 15-20 minutes. remove from oven and let cool completely before freezing or storing in fridge. if using immediately, drop meatballs into sauce and let simmer for 10 minutes.
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