Sunday, May 31, 2009
How amazing is this idea? Various assorted knobs forming a collage — so easy! Could be a great way to spice up some standard IKEA or Target furniture.
This seems to be the work of Italian designer Alessandra Baldereschi, as shown at the Salon Internazionale Del Mobile, found via The Selby.
Friday, May 29, 2009
I accessorized with flowers from Trader Joe's, a portrait of my mother in college and a set of porcelain bird shakers.
I tried to give all the food items a dance spin on the menu. This was southwestern "High-kick" pasta salad. We also had "In the Limelight" pepper chicken.
Pink grapefruit soda was rechristened "Ballet Slipper Soda." I also made key lime martinis (and of course, the first one was horrible. My ultimate hostess blunder: I didn't try the first one because I thought it would be impolite to make my drink first. So of course, it was way too tart and strong and by the time I made mine, I had perfected it. Oops).
And, the piece de resistance — chocolate chili tango cupcakes by Amanda. They were AMAZING and paired quite well with my store-bought lemon pirouettes (get it? PIROUETTES!). I served them on my antique store loot: silver dessert plates!
I dug out my beloved "A." That awesome vase was from a home decor store called Space in Staunton. The inside of it is bubble gum pink and the top is cracked like a dinosaur egg.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Speaking of Anthropologie, how perfect is this tabletop terrarium? My mom made terrariums when I was growing up and it's one of those ludicrously easy projects that I keep putting off and putting off. She even gave me her '70s-era instruction book but I didn't like the sketchy pictures; I wanted step-by-step details.
And at Village Thrift on Warwick Avenue, a stack of '60s-era National Geographics. Get 'em while they're...collecting dust.
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
So I mixed the spices together with olive oil to form a spice paste, which I then rubbed into the meat. Speaking of things that would have horrified me just two months ago:
I then placed lemon wedges around the chicken breasts and baked the chicken at 450 degrees for 30 minutes. My apartment smelled amazing and the chicken made a very satisfying sizzle. The only bad part? My lemon pieces literally melted away, so they weren't available for garnishing.
Sunday, May 24, 2009
I was searching for examples of great gray suits (for men) and stumbled onto Valet, which is an amazing style web site for men. Not only does it celebrate the classic, stylish male but the web site itself is subtle and elegant. Seriously, this is a handsome web site.
I love a well-dressed man. Not a metro man or a trendy man, per se; I like the old-fashioned run-with-the-bulls-then-come-home-and-dress-in-my-best-linen-suit man. Sigh. They just don't make them like they used to.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Amanda: I really got into baking last summer. I made a batch or two of cupcakes with Kate of Domestic Empress in summer 2007, and I guess that piqued my interest in the whole cupcake world. But… I stuck to the box mixes for about a year after that and only made cupcakes for parties and actual events.
My cupcake “A-Ha moment” came in summer 2008. I was taking a course taught by a professor who encouraged, really demanded, that we bring some sort of snack to each class meeting. For some insane reason, I ended up making three batches of cupcakes in a period of six days. I think those cupcakes all involved box mixes in some way, but they went over really well. That’s when I became addicted. Since that then-uncharacteristic burst, I’ve made cupcakes, or some other really ambitious baked good, about once a week.
ND: How do you come up with new cupcake ideas? What is the creative cooking process?
A: I get most of my cupcake ideas and recipes from the blogs I read. Cookbooks also provide really great jumping points. Following recipes to the letter is fun, but I like messing with them too. I mean, what cupcake won’t taste better with a bit of white chocolate ganache between the cake and icing?
Usually I start with a theme or an occasion and then try to choose flavors and decorations from there. The Hokie Hi-Hat cupcakes are a perfect example of this: a friend decided on his PhD program so I started with one of his favorite cakes and went from there. Other times I start with a flavor that I just want to bake. Like right now, I really want to bake a chai cupcake that I found on my cupcake calendar. Sadly, I’ve been moving that recipe back for months because it just doesn’t really fit. One day…
Slicing up onions for orange chicken with vegetables.
ND: Biggest cooking blunder?
A: A few weeks ago I dropped an entire batch of lemon cake batter on the floor. It was so disappointing that I lost all words. I knew I should be crying or cursing or something, but I just couldn’t believe that it actually happened. I stared at it, took a bunch of pictures and then started all over again.
Flavor-wise, I completely failed on the dry run for Christmas party egg nog cupcakes. I didn’t have rum in the house, so I used bourbon. And I ended up eating four of the six cupcakes that weekend since I was just making them to test the recipe before the party. Something about the combination of bourbon and overwhelming sweetness has completely turned me off and I don’t know that I’ll ever be able to drink bourbon again. However … the rum version was a big hit at the party.
When it comes to the savory, I usually slightly mess up each thing I cook. I’m the girl who burns rice to the pan and forgets about the chicken in the oven. Cooking isn’t as exact as baking, so I think there are more opportunities for me to totally fail. I take advantage of those opportunities more often than I’d like.
ND: Biggest cooking triumph?
A: Hmm… that’s tough. I’d probably say that the dishes I made for Daring Bakers challenges have been my biggest triumphs. Each month, the Daring Bakers send out a challenge recipe for the members to make, bake, and blog. I joined the DBs in February, so I’ve only completed two challenges so far (lasagna & cheesecake). The lasagna was okay and my taste-testers loved it; I, on the other hand, did not. The cheesecake was so ridiculously good, though, that I would have to say that was my biggest kitchen triumph. I was really scared going into the challenge, but I was really impressed with the results. I made a chocolate, espresso, heath cheesecake after the flavors in Gifford’s Maine Deer Tracks ice cream. I might still be in love with that cheesecake.
Amanda's homemade pasta, laid out to dry.
ND: Favorite cookbook or recipe you'd like to share?
A: I highly recommend "Cupcakes by the Cake Mix Doctor" by Anne Byrn. Each recipe starts with a box mix and results in amazing cupcakes. No one has to know. If you want to try out some of Byrn’s recipes before you invest in the book, I have a tag dedicated to the Cake Mix Doctor on my blog.
ND: What is something you want to try, but intimidates you?
A: Oh… I would love be able to make pastries, the fancy, light, airy pastries that the pros are so good at. I’ve always just assumed that I would fail miserably and end up with wet, flat, nasty dough, so I’ve never tried. Each time the Daring Bakers put up a challenge I get equal parts nervous and excited that it will be some fancy shmancy pastry. Hopefully next month!
Friday, May 22, 2009
The recipe called for cooked ham, but since deli ham was what I had on hand, deli ham is what went in the dish. I don't think we suffered for it.
Obviously you cook the fettucine. Duh. But in the meantime, you set some asparagus in a tablespoon of hot olive oil and cook until tender, then add the tomatoes and ham. Stir the mixture until heated throughout. Easy enough, right?
This was a very light, very summery pasta dish. I ended up adding a little more olive oil, but if you can manage to twirl the fettucine AND stab a little of everything, you'll get a forkful of flavor. I am not quite that talented with the fork-twirling, but I'm sure most of you are masters.
As some or most of you know, I am by trade a journalist and so my curiosity never dies. That said, I wanted to introduce my interview series with other people about their experiences in that most noble endeavor: cooking.
Amanda's Hokie Hi-Hat cupcakes: meringue dipped in candy melts to create "the DQ effect."
Newly Domesticated: Why does baking appeal to you?
Amanda: I love baking because it allows me to check out of my busy, complicated grad school life and focus on manageable steps that I know (or hope) I can handle. Baking and blogging about it makes me feel good at something. Cupcakes are the perfect baked good because I can be creative with flavors and decorations without a huge amount of risk; since I’m still following basic recipes, I’m not as on-my-own as I am when cooking.
ND: What are your earliest memories of cooking?
A: Cooking was always my sister’s thing. She had the Easy Bake Oven and the dreams of culinary school, and I didn’t really want to be involved in the kitchen. I remember one particular time in middle school when my aunt was trying to teach me how to make a pie. I was adamant about not being a pie making person, and I think — again — I just shoved my sister in the direction of the kitchen and got away with it. I used to think I just wasn’t a good cook, but I realized that wasn’t really true in college when I started cooking for myself.
ND: Are you self-taught or were you educated?
A: I was all ready to say self-taught, but I think it’s more accurate to say that I’m blog-educated. My mom taught me some of the basics about cake and icing, but since I didn’t really start baking until I lived alone, I’ve learned the most from food bloggers. I have a tab on my iGoogle homepage for cupcakes and one for cooking, and I check them about half a dozen times a day. It’s a little bit out of control, but I just can’t get enough! Some of my favorites are How to Eat a Cupcake, Pioneer Woman and Cupcake Project.
Outside of my foodie blogs, I have quite a growing collection of cookbooks. Over the past year, I’ve started reading them like novels. Old cookbooks are the best. Even if I don’t make any of the recipes, I really enjoy reading the ingredients and instructions. I laughed at myself the other night when I realized I was reading a cookbook in bed before going to sleep. So, even though I’ve not taken a course on baking or cooking, I guess I’ve been getting an education from a number of sources.
ND: What do you like best about cupcakes?
A: I love the size and portability of cupcakes. Since I take most of my baking projects to other people, they have to be easily moved, stored, and eaten. I used to just drop them off in the English Dept. with a post-it note advertising their flavor(s), and that would be impossible with a messy cake that had to be cut and plated and blah, blah, blah.
Cupcakes are also really forgiving. In each batch, I have between 12 and 30-some chances to make a really cute cupcake. I can make 15 really awkwardly decorated cupcakes, photograph the 3 successful cupcakes and no one has to know that I practiced on most of them.
And let’s be honest, things are just cuter when they’re small.
And people are less likely to refuse a cupcake because they are “being good.” It still happens, but not nearly as often as when I bring other sweets. Okay… I’ll stop listing the cupcake pros now.
Oh and another thing. All you need to do to make the cake is the cooked pudding and the cake mix. Don't add eggs or oil or anything else."
Betsy's Hot Fudge Cake
- 4 oz. chocolate cooked pudding
- Chocolate cake mix
- 6 oz or 3/4 cup milk chocolate chips
- 1 stick butter
- 2 cups confectionary sugar
- 1 12 oz. can of evaporated milk
- 1 tsp of vanilla
4oz choc. Cooked pudding
Cook until thick; cool 5 minutes.
Stir in 1 box chocolate cake mix (don't use mixer)
Bake 30 minutes at 350*F.
6oz or ¾ cup milk chocolate chips
1 stick butter (melt)
add 2 cups confectionary sugar
add 1 12 oz can evaporated milk
Cook on medium 18 to 20 minutes in microwave
Stir in 1 teaspoon vanilla
Hot Caramel Cake
Vanilla pudding, yellow cake mix, butterscotch chips
Thursday, May 21, 2009
- Pretty Pastel Tulip Liners, $4.75 for 75
- Red bicycle topper, $3
- Little Boy Blue cupcake liners, $20 for 375