Thursday, October 29, 2009

Dwindling Excitement

I've heard of brides going through this, but I never expected it to happen to me.

I've got the blues. I'm having a hard time getting excited about the planning like I thought I would. It was fun those first two months, when I was trying to imagine what it would look like. But once I figured out that part, and the execution has fallen on my shoulders, I'm seized with the urge to either put the wedding off or elope. Not good, huh?

We're only a little less than a year away, but I'm already convinced the time in my hourglass is draining faster than I realize. I know it's not, but that's how it feels. The only thing more daunting than my to-do list is my budget.

Did you guys feel this way when you planned your nuptials? Don't get me wrong; I know it's going to be amazing and I AM excited. I just have a case of the mean reds coming on and I can't seem to remember to:
  • Find a caterer
  • Find a DJ
  • Order my dress
  • Find a florist
  • Confirm with officiant
  • Meet with rental company

I think I need to get moving on this soon. Any advice on how to tackle this stuff?

Wicked Wino Wednesday

Excuses for lack of posting: Went out of town for the weekend, then Sean went out of town, I covered some meetings and I went to this ...

Our Wino Wednesday Halloween Party! We went as (l to r): A Roman Goddess of wine, a very sexy Little Red Riding Hood, A witch, the Roman God of Wine Dionysius, the wife of the Giants' back-up QB David Carr, Kim Zolciak from Real Housewives of Atlanta (that's ME!), a Geisha and a masseuse.
I went as Kim from Real Housewives and I was, indeed, Tardy For the Party. Lauren made a lovely geisha, don't you think?

Israel played the wolf to Erica's Red Riding Hood.

Ashleigh made for a blushing bride.

But you know what you're here for -- wine reviews! This week was all about spooky, scary wines.

  • Spellbound: A smooth red with a hint of spice. Most of the reds we tried last night were almost a little sweet to start and oaky.
  • Mad Housewife: One of my favorites. A merlot with hints of vanilla; very smooth and tasty.
  • Sinner's Punch: A red blend of mostly Syrah. This was probably one of everyone's favorites. Blends are very easy to enjoy, I've found, and tend to take the best notes of different grapes.
  • Rex Goliath Shiraz: We all agreed a 47-pound rooster is indeed frightening. I liked this one, but I know some didn't love it. Very fruity wine; the web site says it has notes of plum and raspberries.
  • Phantom by Bogle: Bogle Vineyards' Phantom is another red blend. It had lovely aromas and a very red color, fitting for the season.
  • Valley of the Moon: I brought this Zinfandel, which unfortunately, was not mine or anyone else's favorite. It wasn't bad, however; it had a rich ruby color and a spicy, longlasting finish.
  • Devil's Rock Pinot Noir: Couldn't actually find a link for this and unfortunately, I don't remember it that well! Oopsie.
  • The Big Red Monster: Another blend, this time of Syrah, Zinfandel and Petite Sirah, from California. Smelled super good, fruity and fun. Very smooth, but can't taste the alcohol whatsoever.
  • Fratelli Bellini white wine: This is a table wine that comes in a big, fish-shaped bottle. Since giant fish are my biggest fear, it's probably no surprise this wasn't my fave!
  • Ghost Pines Chardonnay: A Chardonnay I actually liked, even though I almost never do. The site says it has notes of lemon cream, apple and citrus.
  • Casillero del Diablo Chardonnay: This is a Chilean wine, fruity and acidic. Not my fave, but I can't be trusted when it comes to chards.

A little too late, but nonethless exciting, we're heading out to the Biergarden for some Oktoberfest action. Beer-tasting time, ya'll! If you're interested in joining in, e-mail me at newlydomesticated(at)

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Lemon Chicken Scalloppini

I've had the last remnants of a box of white wine in my fridge for...too long. I knew the wine wouldn't be good enough to drink, but I thought I could try my hand at cooking with wine.

I found this recipe for Lemon Chicken Scalloppini through Foodgawker (an excellent way to sort through the cooking blogosphere!). I had lemon, I had chicken, I had wine. Sounded like I was in business.

I did not, however, have capers, so I can't accurately attest to the deliciousness of this dish. But my version, sans capers, was moist and wonderfully flavored, both subtle and zesty.

I sliced a chicken breast in half to get thinner slices, then pounded it with a mallet and flour'd it up, seasoned with salt and pepper.

Then I fried the chicken in butter and olive oil (seriously my butter consumption is through the roof!) until both sides were browned.

Then I added 1/4 cup of white wine and a cup of chicken broth and let that simmer until the sauce reduce by half. Finally, I added lemon pieces and let those simmer, as well.

Garnished with parsley and then sat down to eat.

Cooking with alcohol, I've found, is very fun from a chemistry perspective. It's like all the best experiments you ever did, where you would add one ingredient to another and suddenly there was hissing and crackling and steam and a surge of bubbles and an incredibly satisfying hiss. I love that!

P.S. This was great weeknight cooking; fast and easy and delicious.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Bacon Mac and Cheese

Some people get cravings for very bad things and they ignore them. They say, "It's not worth the extra calories" or "That's so bad for me" or "I already ate too much today."

When I get a craving, I never say things like that. This is why I will never be skinny, but also why I will always be a little less crabby.

Monday, that craving was the mac and jack from Eatery NYC, a splendidly bad-for-you dish I had last month. And with a bajillion strips of bacon sitting in my fridge, there was no way I was ignoring that craving.

I started out by making homemade bread crumbs (after MONTHS of saying I would do it) and grating blocks of pepper jack and Cabot Extra Sharp cheddar cheese.

While I boiled some water for the elbow macaroni, I fried up some bacon. After two days of bacon in a row, my house has a very....interesting scent.

While my macaroni was boiling, I started the sauce in another pot. I used this Martha Stewart recipe as a base, but I cut the recipe down to size.

I started the sauce by melting 2 tablespoons of butter.

I then whisked in flour, a dash of cayenne and 2 cups of whole milk (omigod I'm going to die from the fat!), before adding most of the shredded cheese (the remainder went with some bread crumbs and salt).

Once the cheese sauce seemed good to go, I added the pasta and tossed it with the sauce.

I only had mini pans, so I had to divide the mixture among them. I ate one and a half for my dinner and saved one for later.

I put a topping of bread crumbs, cheese, bacon crumbles and the magic ingredient — crispy onions (I bought these pre-made).

Finished result! Doesn't it look luscious and splendid? It was! And it was great accompaniment for my cheesy jam, "Gossip Girl."

Needless to say, I think I need to go do 4,000 sit-ups.

Monday, October 19, 2009

The Ugliest Pumpkin Pancakes

I decided that even though Sean and I aren't huge breakfast fans, we'd embrace the season and have pumpkin pancakes from scratch for dinner.

Things you need to know: I have never made pancakes before now. I'm not even sure what the consistency was supposed to be like or anything.

Before you continue, here's what you should know:
a) I got so tired and confused from saying "Pumpkin pancakes" that I started calling them "pumpcakes," which is how they will be referred to henceforth.
b) I found a million different recipes and some looked much easier than others, so I can't vouch for this one being the best. But it was good. We used a modified version of the Martha Stewart recipe, adding in wheat germ, as well.
c) We only have one skillet, which is a problem. It took us forever to make this meal because first of all, Sean read me the wrong measurements and I had to start over at one point and also, we had to make all the pancakes THEN the bacon.

Pancakes, I learn, start pretty much the same as regular cake: flour, sugar, baking powder. Add nutmeg, ginger, pumpkin spice, cinnamon and a pinch of cloves. Whisk all that mess together.

In another bowl, pour a cup of milk, six tablespoons of pumpkin puree, melted butter and an egg and mix that together.

It will look like this creamsicle-like concoction.

Fold the wet in with the dry. I'm not positive this went as well as it could have. The batter got very thick and airy and I'm not sure that's what should have happened. You tell me!

See? That's like...bread batter.

I melted some butter in the pan and then plopped an ice cream scoop full of batter on the pan for my practice pancake. And oh my, was it hideous. That is so horrific; being the picky eating child I was, I know I would have refused that pancake.
But the taste? That was perfect. Very subtle pumpkin spice and insanely fluffy.
And from there, they pretty much got worse. But still very fluffy!

Seriously? Why can't I handle making simply pretty pancakes? These aren't even circles!

We paired them with apple cider (mmmmmmmmmmmmm).

And delicioso Smithfield hickory bacon. Seriously, I forgot how splendid bacon is when it's not burned to oblivion.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Caramel Apple Cookies

I think to say I "made" these cookies wouldn't be entirely true. The mix came from a box; the directions said: Combine mix with butter and water. 

But I did use my intuition to get that mix into cookie form, which I'm proud of since I haven't really made cookies before.

Ingredients ready to go.

So, when it said "combine," I thought I was supposed to use my electric hand mixer. But, friends, you know what happens when you put a hand mixer in mostly dry ingredients? Powder flies up into your face! Oops.

Once I'd gotten over the shock and wiped the apple-flavored powder from my cheeks, I realized the best tool might be my own hands. I squished the butter and powder together and added some more water at my discretion. NOTE: the cookies came out very this because of the extra water?

I finished the dough off with a hearty whirl of the mixer, then used a tablespoon to get the dough into cookie form.

It made like....9 cookies. Cookie fail! I seem to have this problem a lot — vanishing dough or batter. I never seem to have as much as the box suggests I should have. What's that about?

The mix came from World Market and has little dried apple bits already in it, which bake up very nicely. See on that picture on the box, where the icing looks like caramel goodness?

This is what it really looked like. It looked as thought I slathered the cookie with glue. Not a good look. I'm having my frosting on the side, thankyouverymuch.

The cookies are delicious, though; I highly recommend this mix if you happen to be in the neighborhood of a World Market.

I've had a week of cooking ups and downs; I'll write more about that later. Let's just say I haven't made anything to get enthused about.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

When Bridezillas Attack: The venue

Folks. I'm officially in bridezilla mode. Send warm wishes Sean's way, because bless his heart, has he got a whiner talking his ear off.

So, when I imagined my wedding, here is what I pictured: ceremony under the trees, reception in a magical garden with white lights, a dance floor with cafe lights and people dancing under the stars. Not too hard, right? Right?

The perfect place exists, but was out of my price range. When we saw the Mariners Museum, it seemed like the right place for both. But then I slowly started going crazy.

I couldn't fathom how to have the ceremony AND the reception, back-to-back, in the same location. How would the event staff be able to set up for the reception? How could the caterers do their job without disrupting the ceremony? What would the guests do while event staff move stuff around?

And what about standing under the trees? What happened to that part?

Friday was my pre-one-year anniversary (yes, crazy I know), so in honor of that, I made a decision once and for all. Here's the plan:

The reception will still take place at the Mariners Museum, but only the reception so we can make full use of the space. The plan is for the dance floor to go in the grass there, with the DJ table on that little bit of patio.

Hopefully the bar setup will go over here, near the fountain.

This picture is from around the hour the reception will begin. Gorgeous, no?

And the reception will be just outside, in a little grove of trees next to the Peninsula Fine Arts Center. Is it crazy to have multiple outdoor venues? Yes. But will I sleep better at night now? Hopefully yes.

The rows of chairs (with aisle in the middle) will go here, bordered by the trees.

Yes, I am crazy. Let's all pray we don't have to put the rain plan into effect!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Cleaning Neuroses

Here's the thing: I am inherently messy. I have piles of dirty clothes on my side of the room. I have a still-packed suitcase lying in the corner. I have various and sundry receipts, clothing tags, Target bags hiding around the house. Point is: I am in no position to nag about messiness.
And yet, it's as though my DNA dictates I nag. What is that about? Do you guys do the same thing. I'm not saying it's a woman thing; I totally picked this one up from my dad. My dad -- God love him -- had a catchphrase when I was growing up: "I hate to nag, but..."
He used that line probably most often when I didn't use a coaster. That man practically followed me around the house with coasters. It took a very long time for that message to sink in, but when it did, it stuck. I NEVER EVER forget to use a coaster these days and when I go to someone's home and they say not to worry about it, I can't help but immediately start to worry about it.
Sean, however, is not a coaster user. And it drives me insane. Insane to the point of snapping last night and screeching, "OMIGOD USE A COASTER RIGHT NOW!" The worst part? My coffee table isn't even made of wood, so there's no harm in not using a coaster. But I feel like this is important training for when we do have a coffee table made of wood.
What about you guys? What do you nag about? What nagging have you adopted from your parents that you swore never to bug out about? Please discuss.
P.S. The coasters above are my actual coasters and they are available here.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Friday, October 9, 2009

Sheet Love

Every year, around fall, I go a little crazy thinking about what I want for my birthday. This year, I have to also think of what I want to register for when the time comes and OMIGOD, it will take all my willpower not to register for 40 sets of sheets. I love sheets, especially patterned sheets. 

I thought I'd share some of my faves I came across, starting with the wish list topper: John Robshaw sheets.
Maya sheet set, $348 at John Robshaw.

Printed Percale Sheets, $29 to $119, at West Elm

Tamara sheets, $35 to $139 from Crate and Barrel.

Lehtimaja sheets, $35 to $139 from Crate and Barrel.

Classic Stripe sheets, $28 to $179 from Pottery Barn.

Embroidered Scallop sheets, $25-$99 from PB Teen.