Sunday, January 31, 2010

Sunday Best v.11

This week was celebrity doppelganger week on Facebook. I got Natalie Wood, which is ridiculous, but I'll take it. She was one of my faves; if you've never seen it, rent "Splendor in the Grass" post-haste.
  • Check out these adorable alphabet rings I saw on Cup of Jo this week.
  • In case you missed it, a breathtaking performance of "Hallelujah" by Justin Timberlake and former MMC castmate (all grown up!!) Matt Morris.
  • And while we're at it, a classic MMC clip, featuring JT, Ryan Gosling and JC Chasez (of NSYNC).
  • I want this hipster memory game, also seen on Cup of Jo.
  • How stylish is this laptop cover disguised as a book?
  • In memory of JD Salinger, walk in the shoes of Holden Caulfield.
  • The captions are hilarious at Unhappy Hipsters, a blog tracking shots of dreary looking hipsters staring out the windows of their amazing Swedish homes.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

I'm Still Here

Forgive me. I'm not taking an intentional break from blogging. I just seem to have taken a break from living.

My week so far: 2 night meetings, 2 morning meetings, a caterer interview. That means there's been no cooking on my part.

We've had some "bull in a china shop" moments this week. Sean managed to break one of my antique plates and my cilantro and parsley plants seem doomed after someone decided to open the window because he thought it was warm enough. I love that someone, but I sure was gritting my teeth over that one.

Hoping to do some cooking tonight and get back into the swing of things. I've been doing a lot of deep wedding pondering this week, which means changes may be afoot.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

A gorgeous engagement ring

I'm currently on the hunt for the perfect wedding band, but in the process I came across this diamond beauty at Catbird.

If any of you ladies are looking for a unique engagement ring to bookmark on your boyfriend's computer (or e-mail him...or conspicuously leave on your desktop), this costs approximately $2,000, depending on stone choice and the price of diamonds.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Sunday Best v.10

I don't know about you, but I'm getting really excited about the Winter Olympics. I looooove figure skating to no end, and I especially love Peggy Fleming's commentary. This shot is from her cover of Sports Illustrated in the late '60s. So adorable!

Sunday Best:

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Today I like ... Razzle Dazzle

Are you guys familiar with Hollycraft jewelry?

It was a company focused on making ludicrously fabulous costume jewelry in the '40s and '50s. I'm in love with the idea of wearing vintage rhinestone jewelry for my wedding and Hollycraft would be my fantasy, if these sets didn't run about $450 a piece. Still, you should check out the collection here.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

My brown sugar was really giving me sass the other day.

I had decided to make Martha Stewart's chewy chocolate chip cookies with white and semisweet chocolate chips.

But lo and behold, my brown sugar was a brick. Seriously, I could break windows with that brown sugar. I could build homes with that sugar. It was ridiculous.

I googled all the tricks for softening brown sugar and found this one to work (sort of; the sugar still clumped like crazy):
1. Place sugar (still in bag) in the microwave alongside a cup of water.
2. Heat for 3 minutes.
Sugar should be softer after that.

The sugar hardens because of lost moisture; anyone have a storage tip for brown sugar to avoid this?

Anyways, I added the sugar to a stick of butter and granulated sugar. Then I beat it until it got "fluffy." I put fluffy in quote marks because if anything, the clumpy brown sugar just got clumpier until it looked like I was making a breakfast cereal. But whatever; you know me, I just steamroll ahead.

Added the vanilla and eggs, then beat it into oblivion.

Oooh pretty.

I slowly added the flour/baking soda mixture.

Which eventually turns the batter into this thick mass.

I folded the white and chocolate chips into the batter, dropped it in clumps on my cookie sheets and voila:


About these cookies: They were good, they tasted like cookies, they looked like cookies. But they were way cakier than they should have been; I'm figuring this has something to do with the butter temperature (it got very soft while I was wrestling with the brown sugar brick) and maybe the brown sugar?

I'm starting to realize I might have to actually learn what different ingredients do to achieve different consistencies. LOL. I'm sure you all just read that and said, "ABOUT TIME!"

Have a great weekend you guys! I think I'm going to try pizza again.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Homemade Pizza

I did it, you guys. I tried to make something with yeast.

Yeast is one of the most intimidating ingredients in cooking. If you're like me and generally sucked at chemistry, it's frightening beyond belief. I don't possess any real understanding of how any of this stuff works, but I knew the yeast part had to be perfect.

Where was this yeast going? Into my very first attempt (one of many future attempts, I'm sure) at making my own pizza dough! I decided to use a recipe from Deb of Smitten Kitchen.

First I combined flour, yeast and salt. Easy enough. Although, I have to admit, I had no idea yeast would look like little seeds when I opened the packet.

Then I was supposed to add lukewarm water. People, that seems easy enough, but in hindsight, I believe my water was still too cold. I understand that can affect the yeast...or something.

I then added olive oil and attempted to stir the big mess into a ball and what you see above is what I got. Hmm. Not quite what I pictured.

On a floured surface, I rolled the dough into a ball, but it still wasn't as smooth as Deb's. Any clues, you guys?

I put the ball of dough into an oiled bowl and covered it with saran wrap and left it alone for two hours. See how my ball of dough is all wrinkly, like play-doh, rather than smooth? Seriously, what is that?

Needless to say, it grew an eensy bit in two hours but didn't rise as much as it should have. I figured I'd plow ahead anyway.

I dumped the ball of dough back onto the counter, covered it with saran wrap and let it sit 20 more minutes. After all that, I went ahead and pushed the bubbles out with the palms of my hands and rolled the dough.

I have to say, the consistency is awesome to feel. It gives, which is so strange and new after baking so many cookies and cakes. I like how pliant it felt, and how easily it stretched.

I rolled it into this sort of oblong shape and then placed it on a piece of parchment paper sprinkled with cornmeal. Now, I don't have a pizza stone (but I'd gladly accept one as a gift!), so I had to make do with the pizza pan we already have.

Deb has several recommendations in the entry I linked about making pizza without a stone, if you are like me and don't possess one.

I cheated and used pre-made sauce.

I decided to keep my first pizza simple and just made a basic pepperoni. I will definitely admit I might have overspiced it; I shook a LOT of Italian seasoning onto that bad boy.

Here's where things get really dicey. Deb suggested broiling pizza to get that lovely blistered cheese effect. One of my guests (we were hosting a movie night) showed up right around then and I immediately got kind of flustered and rushed around a little too much.

I popped the pizza under the broiler (way too close, I realized soon after) and came back to find the top was perfectly cooked but the crust hadn't cooked at all. It was a pretty devastating moment.

I then set my oven to 550 (the highest temp I'm comfortable with) and popped the pizza back in. The crust cooked this time, but not before the top TOTALLY burnt.

So yeah. Kind of a mess.

But you know what's so great about pizza? It's still good burnt. The crust was really flavorful and almost had a focaccia quality; it wasn't perfect but it still had a homemade taste you just can't get from frozen or delivery pizza.

I'm definitely trying this again and soon. Deb has a variation on the recipe that subs white wine for water and adds honey; I think that sounds like the makings of an amazing white pizza.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010


Some people are just naturals at being domesticated.

My friend Nicole was like that. She comes from this big Italian family and she loves to cook and make sure everyone is happy and stuffed. She can whip together a homemade tiramisu, paint her own porch, replace her own doors and mow her own lawn.

I stayed with her briefly before I moved in with Sean and during that time, her kitchen table was covered with germinating seeds. By the time she planted her little soil squares, she'd have more herbs than I would know what to do with. Her house had plants in literally every room, spilling over bookshelves and cupboards. It was awesome.

I am pretty much the opposite. I have tried to grow a plant twice in my life: sunflowers in 2nd grade (planted in a spot that got literally no sunlight) and lima beans for a 3rd grade class project. So imagine my thrill when I opened one of my gifts from my stepmother: a Chia herb garden!!

Cue the theme song.


The herb garden came with six spice packets...

And these incredible (and poorly photographed) Chia-trademarked soil sponges. Seriously, they are amazing. The kit also included 3 terra cotta planters and plastic plant markers.

The instruction were:
1. Wet soil sponge. Squeeze it. Put it in planter.
2. Sprinkle seeds on top.
3. Water it again.

For the germination period (which was all of 4 days), I put sandwich baggies over the pots to mimic a greenhouse effect. And then, suddenly out of nowhere, this happened:

OMG. I have plants!

Basil and Cilantro. Parsley is not pictured.

I am SO excited. Now the only trick is getting these poor plants enough light, since we are majorly sunlight deprived.

I feel totally energized by this experience, but I feel like I'm fooled by the ease of Chia. I'd like to have some flowers or houseplants on the porch or inside. Do you guys have any suggestions of easy beginner plants that are good for apartments?

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Skillet Steak Fajitas

I'm finally back to cooking, you guys! I basically exclusively baked my way through December and January, and when I cooked, I cooked boring pasta that I've already blogged about.

But yesterday, I felt like it was time to branch out from my staples of chicken breasts and tacos. I told Sean we were having FAJITAS (sorry, that is the most fun word to say) and he needed to pick up some skirt steak.

Since his preferred grocery store is the worst store in the world, they didn't have and didn't expect to have any skirt steak. I said, "How about flank steak then?" They did have a flank steak, but it cost $20. After some hemming and hawing, Sean convinced the butcher to cut the steak in half (way to go, boo!).

But that was just the first challenge in FAJITAS night...

Right off the bat, I had no idea how to cook the steak. Every recipe I found called for grilled steak and since we don't have a grill, I was a little stumped on what to do next. Also, many of the recipes suggested steak should be marinated overnight; that wasn't going to happen.

Finally, I found this recipe that called for steak marinated for a half-hour and cooked in the skillet. Now we're talking!

But it also called for orange juice. We had orange juice crammed in the back of the fridge with a date that, let's just say, is long passed. So I made a substitution: grapefruit juice.

The recipe calls for a litany of spices (which I love): garlic powder, chili powder, paprika, cumin, coriander and cilantro. Mix the spices with the juice for the marinade, then add the steak, cut into thin strips.

It looks like brains, but smells delicious. Let marinade sit for a half-hour.

Meanwhile, chop green pepper, red pepper and onions. We did this while listening to "Let It Be." "I Dig a Pony" is my jam, ya'll.

Saute the peppers and onions in a tablespoon of canola oil on medium heat. Do this until you feel ready to stop, then set the peppers and onions aside, tented with aluminum foil to stay hot.

Add another tablespoon of canola oil and turn the heat up to high, then add the steak strips. It will smell delicious, make an incredibly satisfying sizzling sound, get very juicy and very smoky.

Finally, plop the ingredients in the center of a tortilla (Sean bought super huge ones for some strange reason) and garnish as you wish (I wish cheese and sour cream; Sean wishes no extra garnish).

The steak was deliciously flavorful, but cumin is the strongest flavor here. I was really impressed with the steak, which I thought had to be grilled to be good. Plus, I love sizzle. Seriously; it might be one of the most satisfying sounds ever. I would even daresay the steak was more flavorful than fajitas at, say, Chili's and it was really easy in the grand scheme of things.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Golden Globes Fashion

I'm sure everyone's dying to hear the fashion opinions of a blogger who usually writes about cooking fails, but bear with me: Awards shows are my crack.

In a previous life, my goal was to become an entertainment reporter and in preparation, I read Entertainment Weekly like it was the Bible from 1994 to 2009 (I only stopped getting it because someone -- cough, sean -- didn't renew my gift subscription). I've watched the Golden Globes and the Oscars every year since at least 3rd grade, so I have a freakish institutional memory for awards shows. Also, I have a weakness for movie stars, montages, acceptance speeches and lifetime achievement awards.

All of that combined means, you can expect some awards show blather from me. But enough of that babble, onto my fashion picks!

Best Dressed

Emily Blunt, in Dolce & Gabbana, looked ethereal and delicate and pretty. The dress looked like a tutu reinterpreted as a gown and I sighed when I saw it.

I love, love, love how sparkly Anna Paquin's Alexander McQueen gown is, but her teeth always drive me insane, as does her Southern accent on True Blood.

I was so happy to see Maggie Gyllenhaal in a dress (by Roland Mouret) that not only fit, but brightened up her face and made her look elegant. She has a tendency to look dumpy, but not last night.

Penelope Cruz's Armani Prive gown seemed to capture her perfectly: the black lace is a nod to her Spanish heritage and the hair and shape recalled Rita Hayworth in Gilda. Perfect.

My girl crush Marion Cotillard looked gorgeous in a green Christian Dior dress. I loved that color; very subtle, very sexy.

Sandra Bullock looked radiant in this subtly sexy gown by Bottega Venetta. I also love that she thanked her make-up artists!

On the Fence

I just wasn't sure about Drew Barrymore's Atelier Versace gown. I liked the color, I liked the sparkle, and I can even stand the ruffle on the shoulder. But the one on the It looked like a sparkly growth.

I dislike Chloe Sevigny on principle, so it's hard for me to support anything she wears. But this Valentino dress had beautiful movement; I just wasn't sure about the ruffles coming from the top on both sides. She looks like a manta ray.

Most Improved

Tina Fey looked adorable in this 50s-style Zac Posen dress and I loved her shoes, too. She almost always wears some boring black sheath, so it was great to see her try a different shape, a pattern and something fun.

Sean exclaimed "She looks great!" with genuine surprise when Christina Aguilera appeared in this delicate-yet-futuristic Versace gown. She looks so classy and grown-up; in recent years, she had kind of devolved into caricature of herself.

Worst Dressed

Jennifer Westfeldt, designer unknown. This dress looked like it was cobbled together by someone hoping to hit all the trends in one dress: it's black! It has a dinner plate-sized ruffle/rosette! It has lace! It's a lot of look with not a lot of focus.

I can appreciate different and avant-garde, but I don't see any merit to Julianne Moore's Balenciaga dress. It looks dumpy and the color does nothing for her.

Glee's Jayma Mays is so cute and is from my region (SWVA represent!), but I just couldn't love this Badgley Mischka dress, which looks like the top of a bridesmaid's dress combined with a spiderweb.

Jennifer Aniston: C'MON. Does she look hot? Yes. Is this a beautiful dress? Yes. But she wears black to EVERY EVENT EVER. She's a gorgeous girl with a smoking body and doesn't look her age even remotely. Black makes her look like she's in mourning.

I want to be very clear: I LOVE Christina Hendricks. I think she's the definition of a knockout and I like the shape of the Christian Siriano dress. It's very Marilyn Monroe. But the color and something about the ruffles remind me more of 80s prom dresses or something out of Madonna's early 90s videos. It seemed almost costume. I just wasn't feeling the color at all.

So there you have it. Agree? Disagree? I'd love to hear your thoughts! Take it to the comments, ya'll.