Friday Inspiration

July 29, 2011 § 8 Comments

So here I am, in glasses!  Fake glasses to be exact (explanation in a minute). For those of you who have to wear glasses, you probably think I’m insane for purchasing and actually sporting fake ones, and you’re right. But I just couldn’t help myself. I’m totally into them.  I may even take them on my vacation.  That would most definitely make me a crazy person. But am I alone here? Would you wear them just for style?

I realize a picture of me in glasses is not the norm around here, but recently I’ve felt more inclined to go beyond food and share other aspects of my life on this little blog.  What finally inspired me to do it was Ashley, over at Not Without Salt, who dedicates every Friday to posting pictures from her camera that showcase her family and recent happenings in her life.  Full disclosure, it is challenging taking self photographs! I can’t tell you how many pictures I took before I had a few mildly acceptable ones.  If I continue with these types of posts, I’ll have to enlist a helper.  And of course it would be nice to have photos that don’t include my actual camera.

I hope your weekend plans are far more relaxing than mine.  I have a to do list a mile long of things to get done before our trip, and then a six hour solo drive back to DC.  Can it be Monday already?


Cucumber Refreshment

July 28, 2011 § 2 Comments

Friends, have you had a cucumber cocktail?  I am obsessed with them.  While I was out to dinner last week I had one consisting of cucumber vodka, basil simple syrup, and lemon juice.  It was beyond refreshing!  I’m eager to test out my own version at home.  Here are a few flavor combinations I find most inspiring:

1. Cucumber and Ginger: Cucumber infused gin, fresh ginger simple syrup, and a splash of soda

2. Cucumber and Cantaloupe Cooler: Cucumber and cantaloupe infused vodka, lime simple syrup, and a splash of soda

3. Cucumber Mojito: Cucumber infused rum, fresh lime juice, and mint simple syrup

What would you add to your cucumber cocktail?

These days…

July 26, 2011 § Leave a comment

It has been a week. I took on way too much. There may have been several meltdowns.  Consider yourself lucky you weren’t there…. oh my poor mom.

Do you ever do that?  Just take on too much? And then you find yourself deep in this to do list rut and all you want to do is sit around and watch House Hunters and Real Housewives? But here’s the thing.  This time around, I was so sure it wasn’t too much.  I was so sure this past month would be leisurely and relaxed.  I’d be cooking.  I’d get a tan.  I’d do yoga all the time. Turns out, not so much.

Luckily the worst of the craziness is over and our vacation is only days away.  Of course that too is stressing me out! All the prep and packing, and all I can think about is bringing enough underwear and getting my hairdryer to work in Asia. Lame.

I’m going to work on that, not being so lame.  And hopefully in these last few days at home they’ll be some time for cooking and a yoga class or two.  In the end, I get to see this guy so soon!

Beating the Heat

July 20, 2011 § 4 Comments

Growing up, we never had air conditioning in our house.  Because of the way it was designed, the house managed to stay pretty cool, but on back to back super hot days, the temperature would start to rise.  It mostly affected the upstairs, so we always had a slew a fans going at night. Because of that I got pretty used to sleeping in the heat, and also pretty addicted to sleeping with the sound of a fan running in the background.  To this day I sleep with a fan running each and every night.  Even in the dead of winter (at that time though, it’s not blowing on me).  Luckily Brandon enjoys sleeping with a fan too, or else things may have ended a long time ago!

The east coast is getting hit with another heat wave this week, so in preparation, we’re keeping things nice and light with easy dinners that don’t require turning on the oven.  To kick things off I made this simple salad last night that consists of avocado, grapefruit, and an easy lemon vinaigrette.  I feel like the Contessa has been a little absent around here lately, so this recipe is even more timely. Enjoy!

Avocado and Grapefruit Salad adapted from the Barefoot Contessa

Serves 2

1 large ripe avocado

2 grapefruits

juice of a 1/4 of a lemon

1/4 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp sea salt

several grinds fresh black pepper

I like to serve this as an arranged salad, not tossed.  It’s not only easier, but showcases the ingredients best.  Also, this can easily be doubled or tripled to accommodate more guests.

Begin by peeling and slicing the grapefruit into segments.  Next slice each avocado half lengthwise.  Place the avocado on the platter first, creating a thin layer down the middle.  Place the grapefruit segments evenly on both sides. Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing, and pour evenly over the avocado.  Can be served immediately or within the next hour of making.

Tasteful Favors

July 18, 2011 § 1 Comment

Having recently been made a maid of honor, I’ve become much more aware of all things wedding. This past weekend I went to a bridal shower brunch for my dear friend Aliza (held here), and was totally smitten with the favors they gave out. Each guest got a jar of her mother’s homemade strawberry preserves and two delicate heart shaped sugar cookies baked by one of her bridesmaids.  The gifts had a personal yet elegant feel, how all shower gifts should be.

Naturally, it got me thinking about what types of gifts would work well for the shower I’ll be planning. It’s obvious I’d gravitate towards food related favors, but I think what makes them so nice is that it allows you to give guests something meaningful without spending a fortune. Items like decadent homemade granola, individually wrapped fleur de sel caramels, or even something like these homemade crackers would make for perfect gifts.

So tell me, what would you give?  I’m in need of more ideas!

Pizza Weather

July 15, 2011 § 3 Comments

New York had some of the hottest weather yet earlier this week, but then cooled down yesterday to what can only be described as a perfect New York summer day. Cool enough in the morning that you have to throw on an extra layer, perfectly warm and breezy in the afternoon, and then cool enough again in the evening to warrant a warm meal. Fresh ricotta cheese in the fridge offered a perfect excuse to make homemade pizza.

Pizza dough, like any other dough, requires patience and practice. Patience, could I get some more of that? Enough so that I don’t have a melt down when my pizza dough doesn’t stretch just perfectly? Thanks.

If you’re not such a patient person (like me), a glass of wine while crafting your pizza will do the trick. Things turned out just fine, and I even have some new tips to share on making pizza (and avoiding melt downs), in my recipe below.

And now it’s Friday! What is everyone doing this weekend? I have back to back days of celebrations. First a childhood friend’s bridal shower, and then multiple parties for my brother’s birthday. He’s home for the weekend, and I’m so excited to have him here. He is truly the funniest person I know. Aren’t all little brothers?

Hope your weekend is fabulous!

Margherita Pizza

Serves 2 (this can easily be doubled)

For the dough: I follow Smitten Kitchen’s recipe. I really like this recipe as it doesn’t require a mixer. To help it rise, I recommend placing the bowl in a warm sunny spot. If it still doesn’t seem to rise enough, place the bowl in a slightly warmed oven (150 degrees or so) for a few minutes at the end of the first rise. When the dough starts the second rise, place a pizza stone or a flat baking sheet in the oven and crank your oven to as high as it will go. If using a pizza stone, let itheat up for one hour, or if using a baking sheet- 45 minutes. This step is crucial as it ensures the bottom of the crust will cook!

For the pizza:

1/2 large ball fresh mozzarella, thinly sliced

1/2 large ripe tomato, thinly sliced

2 T garlic, minced

1/2 cup ricotta cheese

1/2 grated parm

fresh basil, chopped

s+p to taste

Once the dough has risen, shape it into as close of a circle as you can get. I hate to keep linking to things but Melissa Clark provides an amazing tutorial on stretching out pizza dough, and accepting whatever shape you get- I highly recommend it. I ended up doing smaller individual pizzas, that’s just how my dough worked out.

Take a large overturned baking sheet or pizza stone and coat with flour. Place the stretched out dough on top. Next add your toppings: first spread the ricotta evenly across the dough, then sprinkle on the garlic, next layer the tomatoes and mozarella, and lastly sprinkle the grated parm evenly across the pie. Top with salt and pepper to taste.

When your oven is nice and hot, transfer the pizza to the heated surface in the oven. If you created one pizza, take the sheet it’s on, place it towards the back of the oven, and slide the pizza off on to the heated surface (the flour makes this possible!). If you made individual pizzas, and they’re easy enough to pick up, carefully take the heated surface out of the oven and place the pizzas on top. Return to the oven and bake for 11-13 minutes until the top is blistered and crust is nicely browned. Top with basil right before serving. Eat immediately!

Homemade Ricotta

July 14, 2011 § 1 Comment

I have a severe fear of needles.  Yesterday, I had four shots. It was a day.

Well in truth it ended up not being that bad, and all my angst on the drive to the doctor’s office was really for nothing. But I had no way of knowing that beforehand.  I have no specific memory of getting shots when I was little, yet in my mind, they all involved a huge needle that was jammed halfway into my arm causing intense pain. Clearly my memory does not capture any form of reality. Turns out shots are super tiny and just involve a little prick.  Even after having four you can do things like dance away on the elliptical and then come home and make ricotta cheese from scratch.

Making ricotta was the first item I crossed off my “to cook” summer list.  I wouldn’t say it’s particularly summery but it’s been popping up a lot on blogs lately and I wanted to have my hand at it.  Plus you’re making cheese- way way cool. I followed Deb’s recipe* and found the whole process so soothing.  Perhaps it seemed extra soothing in light of the earlier events in the day, but still, there was a simplicity and calmness to the whole thing that I liked.

If that’s not enough reason to make ricotta at home, then the fact that it requires only four ingredients should (milk, cream, salt, and lemon juice).  Ok, five if you count the cheese cloth.  Living at home means things like cheese cloth are just around. You know how that is?  Moms just have this stuff.  So thanks, mom!

*My ricotta was a bit runnier that I would have liked, likely due to the fact that I messed around with the proportions too much and didn’t use enough cream.  I plan I use my ricotta for homemade pizza, so the texture will be fine, but if you’d like a thicker version, I recommend using at least one cup of cream in the recipe.

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