Sunday, April 29, 2012

Thought for Sunday

courtesy of

Friday, April 27, 2012

The Weekly Nightcap - June Martini

i found myself wandering the isles of the liquor store the other day. it was pretty much an aimless meandering. i knew i needed more gin (tangueray rangpur is my favorite - i love the lime flavor) but i was also looking for something new, something different.

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after a thorough glance, it's safe to say, there are quite a few things out there in the world of alcohol i have not tried yet. so rest assured, there will be no shortage of weekly nightcaps here at good clean fun. however, i felt like i was in a drink rut. i usually have sauvignon blanc on the weeknights and my weekend cocktails of late seem to include either lemonade or st. germain. i needed something new, something inspired.

enter June. dun duh duh dah!!

this liquor falls in the same category of st. germain. in that indescribable flavor category. the bottle says:
"ESPRIT de June is a rare liqueur crafted with ephemeral flowers from uhni-blanc, merlot, and cabernet-sauvignon ESPRIT de June provides a unique sensory explosion of berries, yellow fruits, white flowers, and flower nectar."

or right, that clears things up. um, huh?

here's how i describe it:

i kept it simple for my first June drink - a martini. have you met me? i like the martini? exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C, exhibit D, etc. etc.

so here is the purest of June drinks - the June Martini. expect to see more of this in the future - i'll be getting creative up in here . . . what, what?

wait, what? sorry, carry on. here's the recipe . . .

The June Martini
makes 2 drinks

4 oz vodka (i like smirnoff)
3 oz June Liqueur

combine all ingredients in a shaker. shake the heck out of it. strain into 2 martini glasses. add ice if desired (as you can see, i desired ice:)

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Thursday Latelies - Sparkles

can't see the video? click here.

- case-mate gold glitter cell case ($40 at or only $16 on amazon Gold Glitter or Hot Pink)
- i can't get enough of these marich english toffee caramels! i found them at Fresh Market but you can get them on amazon.
- sparkly soul headbands - i got 2 thin ones - violet and gold
- tervis tumblers - i have the 16oz size. how cute is this mustache one?!

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Appetite Adventure - The Orgeon Grille, Hunt Valley

i have come to realize so much more goes in to how you feel about a restaurant than the atmosphere or even the food. your dining experience has so many outside factors - preconceived notions, assumptions about a place, who you eat with, even the weather and the kind of day you have and the conversation while dining can effect your experience. of course the food is super important but two people can go to the same restaurant, order the exact same thing and still walk away with two very different experiences.

perhaps outside factors affected my most recent dining experience because i wasn't super impressed with the Oregon Grille. don't get me wrong, i want to like the Oregon Grille. in fact, i want to love it. baltimore magazine rates it #10 out of the top 45 - they consider it to be one of the best of the bests. plus, it's a mere 10 minutes from our house and has a great outdoor patio and dining al fresco is one of my little joys in life. this visit was my third to the Oregon Grille and i left feeling the same way i have the other two times - eh.

it may have to do with my expectations being too high. it must be hard being in the top ten because people expect greatness. as the last restaurant in maryland requiring a jacket for men after 5pm, there is a formal air about the place. perhaps that formalness further increases my expectations. while it's not usually my style (i'm more of a laid back girl), i can certainly appreciate a place to get dressed up for - a place for special occasions, a special place for celebrations.

i have eaten in the main dining room, the bar, and the patio. this particular visit was spent on the patio, on a gorgeous night, with my favorite person on the planet - my husband - yet somehow that still couldn't elevate the oregon grille to the top of my list. sure, the food was good, but it wasn't amazing. it isn't as good as the price or the hype in my humble, honest opinion.

i started with my favorite - a glass of prosecco and ordered an appetizer on special, the fried green tomatoes. they were served topped with tomato sauce and shaved parmesan. they were good but not great. E ordered the crab and avocado wontons. again, they were good as was his standard gin and tonic. for dinner i had the caesar salad (which unfortunately came with several overly wilted pieces of lettuce) and E had the tenderloin sliders with sweet potato fries. the sliders were good as was the flavor of the caesar dressing but neither of us were impressed. again, it was good, but not great, not exceptional. we even ordered a dessert to give them another chance. we ordered the seasonal special - strawberry rhubarb crisp a la mode. the flavor was okay but they were too skimpy on the ice cream in my opinion and i couldn't really taste the rhubarb.

there were other factors that contributed to our less than excellent feeling. our table was not cleared of leaves and debris when we sat down. of course its perfectly understandable seeing as we were outside and it was a little breezy, but at least we could have received clean napkins. the patio was practically empty (only 2 other tables of folks) yet we rarely saw our waiter. he wasn't around to notice that E needed more water even after he finished drinking mine. neither of us were offered another cocktail after we finished our first and our meals came out so soon after our appetizers that neither of us were even halfway through them. while details like this don't make or break an experience, with such a formal feel and high prices, i expect excellent service regardless of whether we are in the dining room with wearing a jacket or on the more casual patio.

i hate giving a place an average review (perhaps i'm not cut out for the restaurant review business). i'm certainly not saying it's bad. all-in-all, the oregon grille is good but i can't give it an excellent rating. i wish i could. perhaps it deserves a place in the top 45, but it certainly doesn't earn a place in my top 10.

pssst . . . word on the street is the owner of the Oregon Grille has purchased and is currently renovating a historic restaurant/landmark in the area - The Valley Inn. i am very curious to see what they do with the place as it was my grandparents favorite spot. it was a bit of a hotspot back in the day and i have many fond memories of the place. it was hard to see it go downhill so rapidly in the past decade. i am hoping they are able to keep the historic value of the place without making it another Oregon Grill. as i said, i am very interested to see what they do with the place. i'll be checking it out when it re-opens.

have you been to the Orgeon Grille? what did you think? i'd love to hear your reviews? am i being unfair?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Lemon Cream Tart

i enjoyed no less than three desserts on easter sunday. i have this rule about calories not counting on holidays, birthdays, special occasions, and any other day i deem fit. usually i consider splurges to be desserts and boy did i splurge that day.

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it is hard to choose a favorite between dos leches coconut cake, lemon cream tart, and pineapple angel food cake. they were all delicious, but this lemon cream tart was super easy to make. i had lofty thoughts of making a hybrid graham cracker ginger snap crust (which i still may do by the way) but i cut corners and used a store bought shortbread crust which was just delicious. the buttery crust paired perfectly with the creamy and tart filling. a plain graham cracker crust would be just as good in my opinion.

this tart is a mixture of homemade lemon curd (don't be scared - it's really easy) and whipped cream. it's heavenly - creamy and smooth and tart all at the same time.

p.s. it's also excellent for breakfast, not that i did that or anything.

Lemon Cream Tart

1 shortbread or graham cracker crust
1 whole egg
3 egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
4 tbs butter, cut into cubes
1 cup heavy whipping cream

whisk together eggs and sugar in a medium sauce pan. whisk in zest and juice and place over medium heat. whisk constantly over medium heat until mixture thickens (it should coat the back of a wooden spoon) - roughly 7-10 minutes. remove from heat a whisk in butter, one cube at a time until completely melted. push mixture through a fine mesh strainer and cover with plastic wrap touching curd. refrigerate at least one hour. 

once curd is chilled, whip heavy cream in bowl of very clean and dry electric mixer on medium speed and increase speed to high until thick, fluffy and peaks form. gently fold whipped cream into chilled lemon curd. pour onto crust and refrigerate two hours until ready to serve. keep covered and refrigerated until it's all gone.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Computer Vacation


you may (or may not) have noticed i have taken a little break from blogging - two weeks to be exact.

in the past weeks, i have "quit" blogging no less than 27 times. i have gone back and forth between stopping all together and ramping things up more. i have seen "signs" in favor of quitting and in favor of pressing on. the thing is, it never felt right to say "i'm done."

i think perhaps i just needed to step back and take a deep breath. perhaps i am having a midlife (or hopefully 1/3 life) crisis of sorts. i have felt like i am wandering about with no real direction. so i took a vacation. not in the typical sense, but basically, i took a vacation from the computer.

i have spent time outside in the sunshine with my hands in the dirt. i have spent time curled up on the couch in my snuggly robe with hot tea. i have been completely unproductive, caught up on my dvr while drinking too much wine. i have spent extra time at night talking and snuggling with E. i have hung pictures that have been leaning against a wall for weeks. i have neglected my google reader, had coffee with friends, made dinner without taking photos of the food, spent time outside with my dogs, and exercised like crazy.

it felt good. i feel great but i also feel like i want to take a picture of the dinner i made and share it. i don't really know who i am sharing it with. i know i have a small, very loyal following but other than my close friends and family, i don't know who my readers are. i used to follow the stats and watch every little peak and dip in visitors. i used to wonder why i rarely get comments and try to figure out which recipes get the most hits and views.

here's the thing - i love cooking and baking. i am loving fixing up our old house. i love taking photographs and something in me wants to share those things. so that's just what i'll do.

i will continue trying new recipes, creating new meals, eating at baltimore's best restaurants, taking photos, and i will continue to blog when i have something to blog about. i hope you all are okay with that.

it's good to be back.

Friday, April 13, 2012

The Weekly Nightcap - The Laurs 75

a couple of weeks ago i told you about my love of st. germain elderflower liquor. it also happens to be one my longest and dearest friend's favorites too. when we ate at Linwoods, she had the L75 martini featuring st. germain and we both loved it. (i may or may not have had a couple of sips of hers and loved it so much i ordered my own.)

i promised i would re-created to martini for her and i have made good on my promise Laurs. so here is my birthday gift to you sweetie - my spin on the L75, now known as the Laurs 75.

happy, happy birthday Laurs - cheers!

The Laurs 75
serves 2

4 oz st. germain
3 oz vodka
1 oz freshly squeezed lemon juice
lemon rind for garnish

in a shaker filled with ice, combine st. germain, vodka, and lemon juice. shake well and strain into two martini glasses. top with cold prosecco and lemon rind.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Weekend in Pictures

my weekend according to pictures. as you can see, i spent most of it either baking or eating.

i'll be back as soon as i get some recipes together to share with you - happy monday!

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Almond Macaroon Nests

i am in charge of dessert this easter. while i am up to my elbows in lemons, flour, egg whites, sugar, and butter, i bring you these adorable cookies i made last weekend. seriously, how cute are these little birds nests for easter? they are great for spring in general.

i used nutella in some nests and triple chocolate fudge sauce in others and they both turned out beautifully.

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of course you could omit the nest making step and simple use this recipe for almond macaroons.

note: when i make macaroons, i pulse the coconut in the food processor a couple times before adding it. i think they hold together better when the coconut is a little finer.

Almond Macaroon Nests
very slightly adapted from two peas and their pod
makes 24 cookies

2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
1 large egg white
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 2/3 cups sweetened coconut
nutella or fudge sauce
easter candy eggs

preheat oven to 320 degrees F.

in a large bowl stir together milk, egg white, extracts, and salt until combined. mix in coconut.

scoop golfball size amounts of dough onto parchment lined cookie sheets. form into balls and use your thumb to make an imprint in the center so it looks like a nest. bake for 16-18 minutes until lightly golden brown. remove from oven and let cool slightly on sheet before transferring to a cooling rack to cool completely.

pipe nutella or chocolate of your preference into cooled hollowed out nests and top with easter candy eggs.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Weekly Nightcap - The Giada

i am taking a break from the lemonade and st. germain (one of which seems to be in every cocktail i make lately) to tell you a little story . . .

my bff and i met giada delaurentiis last weekend at wegmans in hunt valley. it was a lot of time waiting and about 30 seconds of talking to her but i'm still glad we did it. we were actually spoiled because i was able to get VIP tickets from wegmans thus enabling us to bypass the line and taste some of her recipes from her new cookbook - weeknights with giada.

Laurs and i were lucky enough to be 4th in line and i asked her what her favorite cocktail is. she hesitated a bit and said, "you mean my current favorite?" she said she was really into tequila at the moment and loved to have some tequila poured over orange slices, muddled together with ice.

of course i had to try said concoction.

if you like tequila, you will like this drink. it's strong and it's one to sip - slowly, but it was surprisingly refreshing and crisp tasting. of course i had to come up with a name. i hope giada won't mind me naming it after her.

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so here's to you giada - may you survive your no doubt exhausting trek around the country signing books and meeting fans. as a personal chef, i have always enjoyed your shows, your recipes, your overall zest for life and obvious love of good food - cheers!

The Giada
makes 1 cocktail

1 1/2 ounces tequila
1/2 orange, sliced into rounds and halved

add orange slices and 2-3 cubes of ice to a glass. muddle orange slices and ice with a muddler or the back of a spoon. fill glass 3/4 full with ice and pour tequila over ice into glass. stir and enjoy!

side note - i ended up squeezing the juice of the rest of the orange into the drink because dang is it strong!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Thursday Latelies - April 5th

- st. germain elderflower liquor (you can most likely find it at your local liquor store)

- patricia wexler M.D. instant de-puff eye gel, found at bath and body works

- macadamia oil shampoo, found at target

- paint color is martha stewart washed denim (i used home depots behr paint plus primer and color matched it to the washed denim) the color in the video is not really the true color. it's closer to this color:

- earrings! some of my recent finds:

| anthropologie | francescas (similar) | forever 21 (similar) | banana republic |

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