Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Light the Lights

There are almost as many common spellings for Hanukkah as there are days to celebrate it.  That can be a little tricky, but nonetheless the holiday is a fun and easy one to celebrate.  Unlike other Jewish holidays there are no food rules or restrictions of any kind - so far, so good - and when you add in some latkes (potato pancakes) and sufganyot (jelly donuts) this 8-day celebration is an oil filled party.

The centerpiece of the Hanukkah celebration is a Chanukiah, a nine candled holder, most commonly referred to as a Menorah.  They are often works of art and there is a style to match every home, and budget (I promise)!

When we got married we registered for a menorah that would be functional/cool enough to have out all year round.  I love the work from Michael Aram, and I couldn't resist this menorah when I saw it.

Michael Aram Olive Branch Menorah

For an even more natural look, how cool is this from West Elm?  The Manzanita trend isn't lost on me - it was a huge trend in wedding/event floral centerpieces and I love the natural element and sculptural design of this untraditional menorah.
Manzanita Candelabra at West Elm
If your style is more modern than this menorah is perfect.  It is nine separate pieces so you can change the shape and pattern.  This is like grown up Legos, but for Hanukkah.
Nine Piece Menorah by Marit Meisler at Unica
If your home is one filled with kids, and Hanukkah means lots of presents than maybe you like a menorah that is filled with color and whimsy.  This menorah, inspired by the story of Noah's Ark is almost as much fun as opening the presents every night.
Painted Noah's Ark Menorah at the Jewish Museum

And if tradition is your thing, and like you a menorah that is elegant and a classic piece of art, look no further than the cut crystal by Waterford.  The simplicity is stunning, and I can only imagine how when lit with nine candles it would shine to the delight of family and friends.
Waterford Crystal Judaica Menorah

If Hanukkah is your holiday, I hope it is filled with light and love - and if it's not I hope you'll find a friend to share a latke or donut with over the next week.  Hanukkah recipes are coming soon!

Monday, November 29, 2010

Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday

Cyber Monday is a rather recent invention, but a brilliant one no less.  It is a shopping holiday on the Monday after Thanksgiving (today), that gives everyone at work (us) a chance to continue the weekend revelry with deep, deep discounts online.

Having worked in online retail for some really terrific online sites, I can tell you the lure of the computer on this Monday is real.  After eating too much, traveling, and all of the other joys of the season people are slow to jump back into Excel spreadsheets, and are happy to find that soon to be favorite cashmere sweater on sale for 40%.

Here are some of my favorite sales around the Internet - the bonus to Cyber Monday, no parking, no lines, no shlepping.  (Today we are both benefiting from my being oversubscribed to online retailers)

Have fun shopping at:

Bluefly: take an extra 10 - 20% off of everything, saving as much 70% off of the original retail price!

Gap/Banana Republic/Old Navy/Athleta: take 15% off your purchases and get free shipping on any order!

PiperLime: Take 20% off of everything at PiperLime - this is the perfect excuse to pick up that otherwise frivelous clutch, or the too wild for everyday yellow pumps.  You love them anyone, you'll love them that much more at 20% off.

National Jean Company/Shop the Shoebox: This online retailer carries nearly every brand under the sun, and very happily it is all nearly 20% off.  Take advantage of the savings and the free shipping on orders over $75.

If  you're looking to go luxe, the big names are also playing the Cyber Monday game.

Saks Fifth Avenue: Take up to 40% off the designer collections at Saks Fifth Avenue, and get a jump start on this sale before it starts in stores on December 1.

Donna Karan: The new Donna Karan New York site is beautifully edited and feels like a true reflection of the designers high and low brands (Donna Karan New York, and DKNY).  The exciting news is that the entire site is 20% off.  Seriously, do not wait.

Ralph Lauren: If you read the blog, you know that Ralph is a favorite of mine.  Forever favorite.  If you also love Ralph, you'll love taking saving an additional 25% off.  Thanks, RL.

Enjoy all of these sales, and many more - and don't forget to check the gift guides for the perfect present for you or someone you love!

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Blessings

This morning I made baklava and mini pecan pies. My sister made honey glazed corn bread with a recipe borrowed from a friend.  My mom made three pumpkin pies, pecan pie, cranberry scones, and a turkey (just for leftovers). 

In the other room my husband and father are discussing business and books and music, and life.

Pretty soon we'll all make an apple pie that we could probably all make in our sleep.

In a few hours we will go to my great Aunt J's house and I'll see my cousins, aunts, grandparents and celebrate all of the things we are thankful for.  But, truly we are really most thankful for each other.

This year has been a year of triumph and successes, trying and tears, new discoveries, beginnings and the continuation of the journey we call life.  That life is made more tolerable, more sweet, more enjoyable and that much more valuable when surrounded by people you love, and the people who love you.

I wish you the most peaceful of Thanksgivings, and hope you'll have a moment to consider and celebrate all of the ways you are thankful. 

Thank you for reading and allowing me to share my journey with you.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Holiday Shopping: Gifts for the Mister on Your List

Shopping for boys, guys and men - whatever you prefer - is sometimes the most difficult shopping challenge of all.  The men I am closest to, my husband and my dad, are the type that if they want or need something they just go and get it.  So for them, I am thinking up gifts that appeal to their interests and needs and go just a little bit beyond expectations.

Here are my top picks for Mark, and tips for gifts for the Mister on your list:

Like I said, when giving gifts to Mark I like to think of the things he or I enjoy and do a little extra.  
  • I love a massage, and over the last few years this has become something that we enjoy doing together.  If your guy is new to the world of massages a "dude-friendly" spa like DC's Grooming Lounge is a great place to start.  
  • Here is an easy solution if you find your guy is still living in sweats - swap out that Hanes for cashmere.  This cashmere sweater from J. Crew fits like a sweatshirt and feels like a million bucks.  
  • My guy is a natural born adventure seeker, and so a great gift is something that appeals to that wilder side: check out the many options by city from Xperience Days, or buy gear for his favorite sport, new sneakers, new goggles, or a new board.  An even better gift is to get out there and take on the world together. 
  • Mark has a penchant for the finer things in life, and because of his appreciation it is always worth it to go the extra step.  He already has custom shirts for a more exacting fit, but I am excited to see a local custom shirt option from Hugh & Crye - again this is a gift that most men won't know they'll love until they try on a shirt that actually fits them. 
  • Don't forget winter is long and cold, you'll probably spend some time on the couch, make it a movie night with the ultimate guy's collection of films: James Bond for my guy, maybe Dirty Harry, the Godfather, Lord of the Rings. 
Happy gift giving to you, and yours!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Nut Squares

This is an adaptation of a recipe my mom has been making for as long as I can remember.  Here is how the adaptation occurred.  I was waiting on my mom for the recipe, and knowing I would need butter I left a stick (1/2 cup) out on the counter to soften.

On the phone with my mom she is reading off the recipe at which time I realize I do not have the necessary two sticks of softened butter, and I was short on brown sugar...  So, this is what happened...

Mom:  The recipe has 1 cup of butter
Carly: One cup... (sigh) I don't have a cup of butter,  I'll use pumpkin
Mom:  No, Carly, you can just follow the recipe
Carly: Mom, I think it will be fine.  I have some pumpkin lying around - it'll be great.

Pumpkin Chocolate Nut Squares
2 Cups of all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
1/4 tsp of nutmeg

1 stick of butter (unsalted)
1 cup of pumpkin
1/2 cup of brown sugar
1 egg
1 1/2 tsp of vanilla

12 oz. of semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 tbsp butter
3 tbsp light corn syrup

With my mom on the phone and my neck cradling the phone, in one bowl mix the butter, brown sugar and pumpkin.  If you want to follow the rules, "cream" the brown sugar and butter first so that it is fully incorporated and then add the pumpkin, then the egg and the vanilla.  For the purposes of full disclosure this is not what I did, but again, really, no stress it all works out.

To this mixture add the flour and the cinnamon and nutmeg.  The dough is going to be pretty sturdy and after working it with a large spoon, you'll find it it most effective to get in there and mix it up with your hands.

Back to mom...
Carly: What is this supposed to look like?  
Mom: Like cookie dough.
Carly:  But, not really like cookie dough, right?  Not like chocolate chip cookie dough (remember we didn't use all of that butter).
Mom:  Put the mixer down and do it with your hands - you'll get it right.

She was right!  Okay, so with this dough, press it into a buttered 13 x 9 baking dish (brownie pan/lasagna pan).  This goes into the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

While this is baking head over to the stove top with a small saucepan and a bag of chocolate chips.  Remove 3-5 chocolate chips for taste testing.  Delicious.

On a low heat begin to stir the chocolate chips, and add the butter.  If you have a silicone spatula, use it.  It is easy to use and nothing sticks to it.  When the butter and the chocolate are incorporated, add the corn syrup a tablespoon at a time.  The corn syrup gives it a glossy finish.

After the cookie bottom is out of the oven, let it cool for 10 minutes and then with that silicone spatula scoop and spread the chocolate mixture.  Here's the thing, because you spread the dough with your fingers it might have been uneven, and you might see finger indentations.  And then, because you spread the chocolate with a funny spatula it might also be a little wavy/weird.  Not to worry.

Open the can of nuts you have lying around, or maybe the can that you made a special trip to a grocery store for and spread them all across the chocolate. The bumps and weird waves are completely covered with salty deliciousness.  Because, sometime you feel like a nut, and chocolate, and pumpkin, and cookies!!!

My mom says to refrigerate them over night, so you probably should.  I didn't - sorry mom.

Via text at 10:59 pm
Mom: How did they turn out?
Carly: Pretty good.  Not as good as yours, but I liked it.  
Mom: Good, I am sure they will be well received.  Leave them in the fridge.
Carly: Can they be covered on the counter overnight?
Mom: It says to refrigerate, but if its cold it should be ok
Carly: The pan was still warm so I was afraid to put it in the fridge.

Next day...
Carly: The bars are getting rave reviews, as the best ever

Refrigerate or not, cut them into cute little squares and share with friends.  I am loving this for Thanksgiving, it's a great way to use pumpkin in something that is not a pie - but just as fun, and way easier to make.  

Thanks mom!  Oh, and enjoy!  And this Thanksgiving make sure you take a minute to thank someone that's always helping you out!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Holiday Shopping: Gifts for the Littlest Ones on Your List

I have two nephews and a niece, and another nephew on the way, and I consider myself a pretty cool aunt to some very cool kids.  My niece and nephews never stop surprising me with how curious, smart, and funny they are - and they are just being themselves!

For Christmas, and anytime we give them a present, I want to give them something that totally stokes that creativity and continues to excite them after the Christmas cookie sugar wears off.

Here are my top picks for kids this year:

To be fair my first gift (a trip to Disney World) is not easy to do, and definitely a big, BIG, Oprah-sized gift, but I have been loving "the surprise the kids" Disney commercials so much this fall, I had to include it (a Mickey Mouse shaped pizza - come on)!  Other favorites include a collection of books; I go with Dr. Seuss because it is classic, but maybe you fancy Little Golden Books, Goosebumps, Harry Potter or Nancy Drew, no matter who the page-turner is about books are a great gift.  Another gift that falls in the sentimental category is the American Girl Doll collection (my sister and I shared a Samantha, who has since been discontinued... 

In the category of getting your brain growing I love, love, love these gifts this season: the Make Your Own Monster - this is awesome, I just can't get over how cool this is, expensive ($249) but way cool, also the Food Face plates which I have seen in person and totally encourage playing with your food.

Also, when shopping for the littlest kids on your list, please try and remember the kids for whom no one is shopping for.  There are many organizations through which you can adopt a kid (The Angel Tree) or a family for the holidays (a personal favorite of mine is Touch a Heart in South Florida).  For the smallest kids, even the smallest gift can brighten their day!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Happy Birthday to Me, Almost

Twenty-three is old. It's almost 25, which is like almost mid-20s.
Jessica Simpson, American Singer (1980 - )
Thanks Jess...

In a week I will be 26.  I have always put pressure on 26, because it's my birthday that will match my birth date (26 on the 26th).  It is completely arbitrary and I am not quite sure where I came up with it, but never the less, I feel pretty good about turning 26.  This has been quite the busy year.

In polling the Internet I came across many lists of "What to Do Before You're 25/30", and while there were some items on that list that will probably never happen there are a lot that have.

At 25 I, celebrated love and marriage with all of the women in my life, spent a weekend of slumber parties with my best girlfriends, ate late night pancakes at the IHOP - which sounds like as much of a bad idea as it was, planned the best party of my life, paid for said party, danced with my dad, danced a choreographed dance with my husband, gotten a massage and facial, been pampered with my mom and sister, gone to Mexico, scuba dived, ate real tacos in Mexico, tried tequila straight, bought a TV - finding the right TV is surprisingly hard, gone to the movies, got snowed in, played in the blizzard,  planned a trip, had a Passover Seder, went to Yellowstone National Park, climbed serious mountains, ate buffalo meat, saw a bison - this close, bought a house, packed up our entire condo, moved, cried, made a home back in DC, celebrated the 4th of July from the top of the town, went to India, got sick in India, rode an elephant, tested my strength, mentally and emotionally, started a blog...

25 has been a great year, and I know that 26 will only be that much better, with even more to celebrate and that much more to be thankful for.

Counting down...

Happy Birthday, DC Ladies!

Once a month I share a recipe and a blogpost with the DC Ladies.  Shortly after I created this blog, I found the DC Ladies via Twitter (@DCLadies) and am so happy to be apart of this terrific community of women who share their expertise on every topic under the sun!

This year will bring:
1. The DC Ladies Book Club, this will be headed up by Lindsay one of the Young DC Ladies. Each month we will pick a book and then at the end of the month have a “review” amongst our DC Ladies.

2. The DC Ladies Tweet Ups! Four times a year we will be getting together to meet face to face and network.

3. The DC Ladies Teams; we have had many ladies who have shared their wonderful stories with us about walks and runs they have done so we are going to be forming a “team” to support wonderful causes near and dear to The DC Ladies hearts.

4. Our Virtual Magazine-this is our big one! We are so excited about becoming a full fledged online magazine.

Happy Birthday Ladies!  Cheers to your continued success and growth!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Google, or Why I love the Internet

Yesterday was the unveiling of Boutiques.com.  Let me just say, "wow".  It is the newest product offering from Google and it seems that the potential is huge.  

I am Googler; my email, my pictures, the blog they are through Google.  I am sure somewhere in Palo Alto someone could pull up my Google file if one were to exist and know what I love, what I talk about and now what I want to wear.

In a deliberate collision between nerds and fashion mavens, Google has created a new e-commerce site that significantly improves how fashion is presented and sold online. The site, Boutiques.com, which went live on Wednesday morning, may also change how people shop for clothes.
Boutiques.com has so many capabilities and components that even Google engineers have a hard time qualifying it. It is a collection of hundreds of virtual boutiques merchandised — or, in the new parlance, “curated” — by designers, retailers, bloggers, celebrities and regular folks. You can shop in the style of, say, the actresses Carey Mulligan or Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen — among the celebrities who signed up — or you can build your own boutique and amass followers who can comment on your taste...

Visually Similar Suggestions for Your Recommended Products
I worked in online shopping and I love online shopping, which I sometimes cheekily refer to as Windows shopping (yes, I am a PC).   The new Boutiques.com seems to have the potential to overtake my favorite shopping site, ShopStyle.com with it's in depth Google algorithms that are potentially able to find the perfect cobalt suede pumps.  Now, if I get emails or ads for an Elvis album I'll know Google goofed.

Find me and follow my style as Google continues to evolve it's algorithms to get my online wardrobe to match my real life wishful wardrobe.

Happy Shopping - let me know what you find!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Holiday Shopping: Gifts for the Do Gooder

Often giving is better than receiving.  The gifts we give, because of their thoughtfulness, can delight the recipient for years to come and the joy that they feel is a gift in and of itself.  Gift giving is magnified even greater when the gifts we give keep giving.

This year many charities and non-profit organizations are teaming up with your favorite brands and retailers to offer gift items that allow a good portion of sales to directly benefit the cause.

Here are some of my favorite gifts that give twice:

 These gifts are as varied as the charities they support, but they all have one thing in common, when they come from the heart they might be the best gift you've ever given.

If these aren't the right gift for you, consider making a donation on the behalf of someone.  These are some easy sites to check out: kiva.org, donorschoose.org, charitygiftcertificates.org and justgive.org.

Make all of your gifts count!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

A Baby in the 80's

Growing up I probably watched way too many TV shows and movies that were too mature for my age.  I watched soap operas with my mom, I watched movies with my dad, and prime time soaps with my little sister.  

Twenty or so years later I am all grown up and some of my favorite stars from the 80's are still on TV.  I look dramatically different, some of them for reasons unknown I am sure, not as much.  But at least they are keeping me feeling young at heart.

John Stamos as Uncle Jesse
John Stamos as Dr. Carl in Glee

Tim Daly in Wings
Tim Daly in Private Practice

Jennifer Grey in Dirty Dancing
Jennifer Grey in Dancing with the Stars
Well, now you know what I have been watching on TV lately, blame it on the DVR.  I am pulling bigtime for Jennifer Grey on Dancing with the Stars, but otherwise how fun is it to see your childhood stars on TV again?  Now if only I could find "A Different World" reunion special...

What are you watching on TV?

Monday, November 15, 2010

Holiday Shopping: Gifts for Your Favorite Foodie

The Holiday countdown is 40 days and 16 days until Christmas and Hanukkah respectively - what are you waiting for?  Often on the blog I share recipes, and I do so because cooking and baking for me is fun, it's an adventure, it's therapeutic, and this Holiday season it is something to celebrate.

When you treat your guests to something extra it is noticed, and when you treat the cook to something special it makes any meal that much more of an experience, memorable and a gift worth giving. 

For someone whose  passion is cooking or baking, often what they make is a gift, this holidays season give them things to make the experience of cooking, serving and dining a delight.  

This is what I love: the ceramic farmers' market baskets; Food Rules by Michael Pollan - his books are a must read for anyone who enjoy cooking and eating food;  the twist on the classic cognac glasses, they are like dreidels for adults; the matching mother-daughter "Carly" aprons - seriously that is the name; the tasting plate is a delight, where are the dips?; the baker's set of spices is a must have for the baker building a collection; and the Italian bakewear is a great counter-to oven-to table!  

I would love to give or receive any of these gifts.  Happy Gift Giving!

Friday, November 12, 2010

It's a Man's World...

I have an affinity for menswear for women.  I think a perfectly fitting pair of trousers - and I mean perfectly - is better than a skirt any day.  Blame it on the overflow of denim in my wardrobe or my past life in the world of denim retail, but the dearth of skirts in my wardrobe is not an accident.

The high point of men's fashion is probably the tuxedo.  Let me tell you about tuxedos... When they are not rented, but rather tailored to perfection, and they are worn with a sense of confidence and swagger they are not "Penguin Suits" instead they are amazing. 

To the woman he dares to wear a tuxedo, I say bravo. 

It's a surprise.  It is daring, and tough, and sexy.  

Well, well, well... What do we have here?  
Gap Tuxedo Perfect Trouser
Do not be surprised GAP if I am trying these on this weekend. And if they are perfectly fitting, do not be surprised if these become an answer to the question, "What to wear?"

Have a wonderful weekend, make it sparkle.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

It Only Happens Twice a Year

That's right, Nordstrom is having there semi-annual sale, we have talked about this phenomenon before, but time has gone by so quickly I didn't realize we were back to sale time.  So, really it turns out that my night-time iPhone searches has paid off for both of us. 

Last time I pointed out all of the things I wanted, which looking back may have been selfish... Although, it did made sense because it's my blog, and I don't really know what you, as a reader, need at Nordstrom.  This time I will point out the best bets, deals, and a few favorites.  Besides, it's almost the holidays you can treat yourself early!

Let's venture into the shoe department: of all of the premium department stores (Nordstrom, Bloomingdale's, Saks 5th Avenue, Neiman Marcus) I consistently think that Nordstrom has the best shoe department.  (No, they don't have shoes with red soles, but honestly not many people can afford shoes with red soles.)

The Hunter boots are a great investment and one you'll appreciate in fall and spring, and something I typically cannot justify paying retail for.  The Puma sneakers I own, and they're great - seriously, easy wear.  The Via Spiga Boots are so classic that if you can keep them in good shape you can wear them forever, and the Stuart Weitzman style are a good deal on a hot boot, so that's always hard to turn down.  The Pelle Moda and Charles David are good steals and good pair to pick up because you never know when you'll need a statement shoe and it's good to have options on hand.

Now that your feet are fashionably dressed, here are some shopping tips from me to you, with love: 

  • Make an investment in color:
It's called the Jackie, I featured it for the Madonna: Dress Like an Icon post, and it is awesome.  The satin sheath is going to be a shape that will always be in style; D&G has an impeccable fit for dresses that fall into the category of look at me and the color is gorgeous.  Please, do it for both of us.

  • Save on trends:
This tyle skirt has been on every Kardashian in the country, and it makes sense: it is designed to highlight curves whether they exist or not.  This is not a classic skirt and you will not always love it, and unless your job is to be a Kardashian impersonator you cannot wear it to work.  You will not pay retail for the Sculptors Draped Skirt by Elizabeth & James.
  • Convince yourself to own something sequined; if sequins aren't too much for the First Lady of the United States it is not too much for you. 
  • Do not pay retail for an evening clutch, if it's not out of this world the price tag shouldn't be either. 
  • Do not EVER pay retail for costume jewelry, it's silly and there is no reason to put an investment is something that even you won't appreciate in a few years.
  • Do not hesitate.  If you have been eyeing that tweeded Milly Jacket and couldn't justify before and you still long for it, now is the time; if you think you'd like to finally try out skinny jeans I beg of you, please go for it.  Sales are great to try a trend, a new color or shape, stay true to your personal style and save.
I would love to know what will you try out - on sale?

P.s.Did you know that the Nordstrom Rack is also online?  Score one for savvy shoppers!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Holiday Shopping: Gifts For Your Favorite Couple

Christmas is 45 days away and Hanukkah is just 20 days away - that lunar candle can really mess up your planning! What does this mean?  It means it's time to shop!  Have you made your list?  I am making mine.  Holiday season gift giving is always tricky; it should be special, it should be memorable, and it should be sustainable (by which I mean you should not go into debt buying your gifts).  Over the next few weeks I will share my top picks for all kinds of people, in all kinds of price ranges!

Today we'll start with gifts for the favorite couple in your life.  Truly, I would love any of these gifts, even the funny ones! 

For gifts for a couple I try to look for items that both people can enjoy; great items like the wine-of-the-month club, champagne glasses to toast to their happiness, personalized wall art, and even the Smitten Mittens which I think are just beyond funny.

A personal favorite of mine is the gift of breakfast in bed, the Zabar's basket is an extra special treat, but the idea behind nearly all of these gifts is that they are to treat both people, and they go a little above and beyond so that the couple in mind can enjoy each other most of all!

Happy Gift Giving!

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

A Moment of Summer

As it gets colder here in DC, and as I count down the days until we go to Florida, I realize how long it has been since I've been home - almost ten months.  I have seen my parents and family in that time, but it's not the same as being home.  

Home, now that I don't live there, is about my mom and dad.  Today is my mom's birthday - (Happy Birthday, Mom) and since you haven't met my mom too many times here on TDB, I figured I would play catch up.

My mom is hard working; a friend to her friends, to her kids, to her kids' friends; she believes in the fourth quarter, in good company and in her daughters; she is a back scratcher, a hugger, a phone call away; she is a crier (she is where I get my "on like a faucet" emotions from); she is a do-er, and she just does; she goes above and beyond (can you imagine your mom getting on an airplane at 6am with frozen matzo ball soup and a cooked turkey and flying to your dorm to make a Passover dinner for you and your friends, none of whom celebrate Passover?); she is unintentionally funny; she is fiercely protective; she will climb mountains for the causes she believes in; she a baker, not because she knows people love cookies, but because she knows people love when other people think of them; she is a cheerleader; she is still a beach babe (seriously, not a Sunday goes by when you won't find my mom at her temple, the shady spot between the palms); she is generous of her time, energy, and spirit; she is a mom to everyone who meets her; she is my best friend; she is a moment of summer all throughout the year.

Happy Birthday, Mom - and many more!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Baked Eggplant Parmigiana

Eggplant Parmigiana is an all time favorite comfort food of mine, and a great vegetarian substitute for chicken parmigian and more filling than a similarly stacked lasagna.  The only downfall is that traditionally the eggplant has to be fried in oil before it is layered with delicious sauce and cheese.  Not so fast, it can also be baked which is healthier, takes up less "active" cooking time and doesn't leave your kitchen smelling like a fry house.

Eggplant Parmigiana Ingredients
1 Medium Italian Eggplant
2 Eggs
1/2 cup of All Purpose/Whole Wheat flour
1/3 cup of Italian style bread crumbs
1/3 cup of Panko bread crumbs
1/2 cup of Skim Milk Ricotta Cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmigiana
Salt and pepper to taste
Parsley/Italian seasoning

Set the oven to 350 degrees
Serves 6, or 4 very hungry eaters!

I cut the eggplant into coins about 1/4 of an inch thick and give them a light sprinkle of kosher salt.  Eggplant is full of water and the light sprinkle of salt helps them to release a bit of the moisture and and brings out the flavor.

At your work station set up a small bowl with two eggs, beaten, and a shallow dish with with the mixture of bread crumbs, grated cheese and few cracked of fresh ground pepper. 

Dip each coin of eggplant into the egg and then into the bread crumbs coating each slice on both sides.

With all of the prepared eggplant slice on a parchment covered baking sheet; bake in the 350 degree oven for 30 minutes.  After baking the eggplant will be softened, the edges browned and the bread crumbs crisp and golden.

While the eggplant is baking in a small bowl mix the ricotta cheese, some pepper, parsley, and Italian seasoning.  Now here is where the fun happens.  Grab a baking dish and your favorite sauce - if it came out of a jar, it's no big deal, I'm not telling anyone.  Spoon a thin layer of sauce on the base of the dish, add your first layer eggplant coins, another layer of sauce, and thin layer of ricotta cheese.  Repeat until you run out of eggplant.

On the top layer of eggplant add another layer of sauce, one more round of ricotta and some grated parmigiana. 

Look at those layers!  Where is the fork?

If you are preparing this on a Sunday for a Monday night dinner you can wrap this is tin-foil and keep in the refrigerator for a day.  If you're looking for a more instant satisfaction this can bake in the oven at 350 for 15 - 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted on the top and the sauce is looking a little bubbly.

When you're ready to serve I like to portion out the stacks and serve with a fresh salad.  As they say in Italy, Buon Appetito!

Friday, November 5, 2010

Don't Forget the Center

When entertaining for the holidays, or really any time of the year, your table is never fully dressed without a centerpiece.  The Fall and Winter seasons provide plenty of inspiration for table decor that is special but also simple. 

I first turn to the master of all "good things", Ms. Martha Stewart, for inspiration:

For a simple everyday table setting how sweet is table with a collection of small sized baskets with seasonal fruits?  Let the fruit double as part of your dessert and you have a two for one special.
via Martha Stewart
 In a continuation of the fruit theme, I love the stately nature of the pillar candles and baskets filled with plump berries and grapes.  The colors sing fall while not being generic or too obviously themed.
via Martha Stewart
 For a crafty decor idea there is nothing easier than this for the mantle: take candle holders/vases that you already own and wrap with pretty paper and secure with a double stick tape.  An illuminated candle inside gives this idea an ever brighter glow.
via Martha Stewart
 I love, love, love this centerpiece.  It is a true centerpiece and worthy of a special dinner or even a fall wedding.  A bundle of wheat twisted and tied with a beautiful silk ribbon compliments the warmth and heart of the season.
via Martha Stewart

Here are some more great centerpiece ideas that I could not resist:
From pottery barn, this is a simple hurricane candle holder wrapped with dried maze and tied with twine.  It probably take no more than minutes to assemble but makes a very pretty visual impact.
Via Pottery Barn

Or you can always order a vibrant, beautiful bouquet of flowers for your table and for around your home:
via FTD
via 1800Flowers
Whatever you do keep it easy, make it reflect you and your home, and make it special with a little extra sparkle.

Happy Friday and have a beautiful weekend!