Thursday, December 30, 2010

A New Sunrise

Two years ago this morning Mark and I got into a  white Jeep Wrangler and set out to drive to the top of Maui's most majestic mountain, Mt. Haleakala.  At 10,000 feet it seems to kiss the sun good morning and goodnight and is a must do for anyone traveling to Maui.  When we were there it was so cold and sleeting, so we stayed bundled in the car. 

And, then we got engaged.  In a space that seems as wide open as the universe, it was a magical place to begin a life together that offers as many opportunities as the universe.

This video shares a bit of that Aloha spirit and the beauty of Hawaii.

In Maui it is not uncommon for people to skip the wild celebrations of New Year's Eve and instead head to bed early in an effort to beat the sunrise on top of Mt. Haleakala.  

It is powerful concept to start the year off on top of the world.

I hope you have an amazing view today, too!

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Paris in the Springtime

This Spring I want to go here:

Paris in the Springtime

Wear clothes like this, from Talbots - I kid you not!

Talbots Spring 2011
Talbots Spring 2011

And walk on cobblestones in shoes like these: 
Marc by Marc Jacobs Bow Front Sandal at Piperlime

It's going to be a fabulous 2011!

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just a Thought... on Magazines

This is a thought I have held true for a very long time, men's magazines are better than women's magazines.  There, I said it.  And, yes, I am the kind of girl that subscribes, buys and browses magazines.  If I am waiting, even in a short grocery line, I am reading a magazine.

True story: When I was 17 years old I purchased a wedding magazine at my local grocery store (Publix) and the cashier congratulated me and asked if I was getting married.  I love magazines, but I didn't buy another wedding magazine until I was securely engaged (7 years later).

Anyway, I prefer men's magazines over women's magazines for actual entertainment for many reasons.  Primarily because when men's magazines are being funny, they are actually funny, a little cynical, sharp, witty.  Of course there are the gross out jokes, the obviously shots, but the good men's magazines actually make me laugh, or at least make me think.  When a magazine for women is being funny the humor stems from "this one time I got my period when I was wearing a white pencil skirt... my boyfriend walked in on me when I was bleaching my lip."  That is not funny.  It is maybe embarrassing, it is awkward, sure, but more than that it tends to put down and degrades the events that fall into the category of "it could happen to you, at any time, you poor girl"  Haha, and when you do spill coffee on a silk blouse while catching the elevator and snagging a stocking on the way into a job interview, we'll be laughing, you know with cute cartoon illustrations.

The other reason I enjoy men's magazines is because no matter who they interview, man or woman, they speak to the reader the way it seems they (as a magazine) would want to be spoken to.  There seems to be a sense of partnership, camraderie between reader and writer, and like any good relationship it is mutually beneficial (the magazine stays in business, the reader learns something/confirms something/feels better about themselves).

This morning I read an article in women' magazine written about the author's struggle with dieting.  She yo-yo'd, she skipped crepes in France, banished butters and creams, and then would devour a box of Oreos, she went raw, she starved, and then after realizing that diet and exercise go together like peas and carrots (obviously, without a cheese sauce) she finally accepted that she was no longer a size 4.  This would never be in a men's magazine.  

After reading the article I thought about all the ways that women, friends, colleagues, friends of friends, and myself have at one point struggled with body image, diet, exercise and being motivated to do the right things in order to feel right, never mind striving to look "right", which today tends to mean a photo-shopped version of someone else.  Sidenote: you are rarely going to see an image in a retail venue, or magazine that hasn't been photo-shopped.  I have been on the other side of the computer, and if the fabric doesn't wrinkle the image isn't real.

I find that magazines for women are designed to be aspirational, but tend to be so far out of reach that they become unattainable instead of inspiring.  The desire to live like a celebrity, look like a model, entertain like Martha, well none of it is possible for one person alone, they all have teams of people.  You don't know about the teams of people when you read the article.  

When women are interviewed in women's magazines they talk about how they're adjusting to marriage, their favorite snacks for a tour to keep their figure and their favorite red carpet dresses.

In a men's magazine they give a soundbite like this:
"A guy can come in and have a big beer belly and he doesn't have to be anything but himself, whereas women have to wear the heels. We're probably missing out on a lot of wonderful talent." - Carrie Underwood, (Right on Carrie!)

That difference might be something to think about, you know, the next time you're lingering at the checkout counter.

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites

This originally was featured on the DC Ladies Blog but the recipe was too easy and too good to not share!

Earlier I posted savory bleu cheese and pecan cookies, which were awesome and easy and fun to eat for breakfast, if that's your thing (which, evidently it is mine). Anyway, those cookies were the round 2 to this even easier, and also quite charming, appetizer.  Because the whole thing takes about 8 minutes to prepare and assemble this might be perfect for when you have surprise company or perhaps need reinforcements at a cocktail party.

Candied Pecans and Bleu Cheese Bites
French baguette
Candied Pecans, recipe here
Bleu Cheese crumbles

Your freshly made, or store bought pecans get a good chop and are set aside.

Cut a French baguette into thin slices and toast lightly.  (This isn't really necessary, but generally speaking there are few things better than warm bread).  With the back of a spoon “spread” the crumbled bleu cheese on top of the baguette slices. 

Sprinkle on top of the bleu cheese and the chopped candied pecans and a light drizzle of honey.

Each bite is like a divine sampling of a cheese platter at the most divine wine bar, and easy to do and made with ingredients that are probably in your pantry!

Happy Holidays – wishing you delicious entertaining!

Monday, December 27, 2010

Sparkle on New Year's Eve

Over the last few days I assembled some favorite looks for New Years Eve, and when I put them all together I realized they all had something in common, a lot of sparkle!  Now, if there is anytime that you can or should sparkle it is probably New Years Eve.  

I tend to have mixed feelings about New Years Eve, there is a lot of pressure to have a great night, go to a great place and wear a great outfit.  Well, I can't help you with your plans, there is OpenTable for that, and for the company, well you're on your own, but at least for the outfit I can be of assistance.

Look 1: If you're invited to a fancy party, cocktail or black tie, I am all for ditching the black dress and going with some color.  The dress is a classic fit, so in a way it pares down the boldness of the teal, and I personally love the playfulness of the clutch.

Look 2: This look says to me, "I will not the weather win!" As in, it is so cold, but it is New Years Eve and I am going out and looking good.  Party on sister.  You know my affinity for maxi skirts, and sparkle, and this look has it all.

Look 3: A year ago friends of mine hosted a part with the dress theme of "business sexual", this outfit is that.  I love the Lolli pants from J.Crew which are just as happy swilling champagne as they would be at work in the Spring.

Look 4: Okay, I give.  This is a fantasy outfit.  However, it is attainable.  Our good friends at Rent the Runway have Herve Leger and all of your favorite out of reach brands at much more attainable rental pricing.

Wherever you go, and whoever you're with, I hope you look and feel fabulous!

Saturday, December 25, 2010

'Tis the Season

In the last 24 hours I have made Cuban beans for a taste of home, tres leches to delight in new traditions, pannetone French toast and Santa pancakes to continue our old new traditions and tiramisu cake on special request.

However, sweeter than that us hearing little kids ask to go to bed, to speed up Santa's arrival and then see their joy in the morning.

And the sweetest if all is spending a cold, snowy day with the ones you love.

Merry Christmas, or Happy Saturday, to you and yours!

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Bleu Cheese and Candied Pecan Savory Cookies

I love cheese, like looooove it.  I love going to a restaurant and getting to order a cheese plate: with beautiful wedges of fragrant cheese, breads, honeys and perhaps some nuts.  The idea of this arrangement of flavors always seems so sophisticated but perhaps a little intimidating to try at home.

I tested this out last night (in two different way), and success!  These Savory Cookies are perfect for when you entertain, as an a pre-meal snack, or as a gift to a hostess packaged in a cute bag.

1/2 Cup of Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 Stick of Butter (4 Tbsp), softened
1/3 Cup of Candied Pecans, grounded
1/4 Cup of Crumbled Bleu Cheese

Candied Pecans
1 1/4 cup of Pecans
1/2 tbsp of butter, unsalted
1 tbsp of brown sugar
1/2 tsp of cinnamon

In a non stick pan melt butter, add the pecans and sugar and cinnamon and stir with a silicon spatula over low-medium for 5-7 minutes until the pecans are covered with small flecks of caramel goodness.  Set aside to cool

In a food processor grind up the pecans to a small grind, but now a fine powder.  Set aside.

In a medium size bowl blend the softened butter and then add the bleu cheese, ground pecans and flour.  Side note, you could definitely use regular all-purpose flour, but I opted for whole wheat for its nuttier flavor and texture, and the potential for it to be a little more nutritious.

The dough will be crumbly, and look like a bunch of little tan colored peas.  Sprinkle a little extra flour on your work surface and begin to form the dough into a log.  This is completely visually unappealing.  I'm sorry - please, don't let it dissuade you from making this recipe...

Cut the dough into 1/3" slices and lay out on a non-stick cookie sheet or silpat and bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. (See those flecks of cheese?  They are going to bubble and melt into amazing deliciousness!)

Let these cool for about 10  minutes after baking and serve with your favorite wine and either a drizzle of honey on top or a small dollop of your favorite pear or apricot preserves (that helps add back the sweetness found on your favorite cheese plates).

 These are great, and they keep nicely, and well, if we're being honest I ate two for breakfast so they're all around perfect snack to bake and share.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Looks like Christmas

It now officially looks like Christmas in my house.  There is a small tree and mini lights somewhat haphazardly wrapped around and their are small glass ornaments, and sparkly snowflakes and finally a "Giving Peace" and "Giving Hope" from the Pottery Barn collection.  The mantel even has cute, little stockings, sewed with care.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Tomato Soup & Grilled Cheese... Winter Perfection

You know what you're supposed to do when it looks like this where you live?  

I'll tell you.  You're supposed to make soup.  A big bowl of soup, filled with vegetables and not much else.  If you're looking for extra warmth then of course you'll need a grilled cheese sandwich to go with it.

Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich
1 Yellow Onion
2 Cloves of Garlic
4 Stalks of Celery
3 Medium Carrots
1/2 - 1 Red Pepper
1 - 12 oz. Can on Diced Tomatoes
3 cups of Low Sodium Chicken Stock
1/2 tbsp of unsalted butter
1 tbsp Olive Oil
Basil to taste
Salt and Pepper to taste
A splash of milk, totally optional
Grated Parmesean Cheese, also optional but, really good
Makes soup for 4 people, or 2-3 very hungry, cold people

Set up your soup pot over low to medium heat with 2 swirls of olive oil.  Then add the diced onion and thinkly sliced carrots and celery into the pot.  Sprinkle a little bit of salt and stir the veggies gently and let that simmer for a few minutes.  Then add diced garlic.  Seriously, at this point you could just stand there and absorb the aroma - there are few smells I enjoy more than cooking garlic.

After the garlic, onions, celery and carrots get to know each other add thinly sliced red pepper.  I only had half of a pepper, maybe if I had a whole one I would have used a whole one.  The pepper adds a richer, sweet flavor and a beautiful deep red to the veggies. 

At this point I added a touch of butter and gave the veggies another good stir and let them continue to do their thing.  After 8-10 minutes of the veggies cooking the onion should be thoroughly translucent and the carrots softened.

Add the three cups of chicken stock and the can of tomatoes and give it another stir with one final sprinkle of salt.  Turn the heat up to bring it to a boil.  Once the soon-to-be soup is boiling place the top on and reduce the heat to low for 15 minutes.

While the soup is getting soupy it is time to make a grilled cheese sandwich.  Here is the thing, I know that grilled cheese sandwiches can be make with tomatoes, bacon, fancy, cheeses, beautiful challah (my personal favorite), and sweet and savory jams, but, when I have a grilled cheese with soup I always go with an old faithful, American Cheese.  Yes, wrapped in plastic and not really cheese at all, it is the perfect melty goodness perfect for soup dipping.

Grilled Cheese Ingredients - silly, I know
2 slices of Multi-grain bread
Some butter, not a lot, really
1 1/2 slices of American Cheese per sandwich
Double as needed

Lightly butter both sides of the bread.  Very lightly.  Place cheese in between slices.  Put bread together and then put on a pan, or even better for a more authentic panini experience, grill it on a press or the George Foreman grill you still have from college.  Cook the sandwich on both sides (of a pan) until browned and the cheese is melted, or on the grill press for 3 - 4 minutes.

I like a smoother soup, and I like being able to use the random kitchen tools we have so out came the immersion blender.  You can also use a food processor.  The quick blend - 3 - 5 pulses takes the soup from a chunky minestrone style soup to the more classic tomato soup.

Be fancy, serve it cute.  This is a fairly healthy meal that will leave you feeling full, comforted from the cold and great to share.  Extra points to Mark for his great food styling and photography!

Monday, December 20, 2010

It's Not About Politics, It's About Food

Map Highlighting the Access of Food in DC
I live in DC.  I love it here.  In the 7 years that I have lived in the DC Metro Area I have lived in Northwest DC, near American University and Arlington, and now more recently a neighborhood in Ward 5. 

In my old neighborhood I lived 3 blocks from Harris Teeter, a few hundred feet from 3 convenience stores and 1.5 miles from a Whole Foods.  The part of Arlington I lived in has a "walkability" score of 97/100, and where I currently live has a walkability score of 77/100.  77 is still good, but not as good, and the access to food is considerably different.  There are several micro markets, two small groceries, Timor Market and Windows Market and a Harris Teeter and Whole Foods about 1.5 miles away that are reachable by crossing major roads along the way.  

However, the highlight of this neighborhood is the Farmer's Market.  I walk with friends to the market on the corner of Rhode Island and 1st Street.  We meet our neighbors there, and are delighted with the overwhelming number of puppies and babies that we normally don't see on the busy Monday - Friday schedules.  But more than the puppies and babies, I get to see fresh baked bread, a diverse variety of cheese that would make the most selective wine bar jealous, and fruits and vegetables that literally make your eyes grow wide.  The Bloomingdale Farmer's Market, every Sunday  is the only consistent source of fresh and plentiful produce in the "neighborhood".  

It cannot be underestimated the value that fresh fruit and vegetables provide to people of all ages.  In my experience the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market, helmed by Robin Shuster, makes the extra effort to highlight sales, and provide recipes and ideas for using all of the different options that show up week to week.  

I have shopped at other Farmer's Markets before, and of course some people are turned off because they are deemed too expensive.  The vendors that appear every Sunday in Bloomingdale are the same as at the Dupont Market, but luckily the prices are not.  The vegetables that I buy from some vendors total out to be considerably less expensive than the same items I would buy at Trader Joe's or any other supermarket. 

So, what's the big deal?  Why all the talk about the Farmer's Market?  Tonight there is a meeting to discuss continuing the Bloomingdale's Farmers' Market.  There is concern about the lack of parking and too much noise.  My concern is about lack of the most succulent and juicy peaches in July, ripened tomatoes in Augusts and apples in September.

If you want to support the Farmer's Market please join the community Dec 20th at 7pm to discuss the future of the Bloomingdale Farmers` Market as well as parking issues related to local churches and the Big Bear Cafe.

The meeting will be at 7pm at the Metropolitan Wesley AME Zion Church at 1st and North Capitol, NW, and the meeting is open for all to attend. 

Speech, now done.

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Princess Shops Off the Rack

There is probably no more famous engaged couple than Prince William and Kate Middleton.  The soon to be marrieds will have a royal wedding on April 29, 2011.  She's beautiful, he's a prince it's a perfect match... 
I am sure as there wedding date nears we'll talk more about weddings and Cinderella, and the pomp and circumstance, but there is one thing to note about Kate, she really doesn't seem to be a Cinderella.  Kate seems to have a really well put together, modern, sophisticated and yet approachable style.  

How approachable could the future Princess be?  Her engagement photo dress was from last season and from Reiss.  Last season... and from a store with online shopping?  That's definitely more exciting than a "Kate and Will Forever" T-shirt.
Copyright 2010 Mario Testino / Reuters
Reiss will be re-releasing the dress that Kate wore, but in the meantime, let us see what else we like!

First, no one does coats better than the Brits.  Seriously, no one!  I love the sophistication, and the demure aesthetic of this Bally Coat.  It's one part lady + one part sophisticated spy.
Bally Coat by Rei

This coat might be a little too Cruella DeVil for some, but I love it.  I love the fur detail, (hangs head in shame) and the slim and structured fit.  Minus the fur, it is quite similar to a coat Mark got for me at Zara last year, which is still fabulous.

Zetta Coat by Reiss
Maybe a dress for the honeymoon?  This dress is sort of the outlier from my favorites, but worth including because it is perfect for resort wear and travel, or everyday is you live in warmer climates.  It is also the Pantone color of the year, honeysuckle...  Delightful!
Aphrodite Draped Dress
Happy Shopping Kate!

Christmas at the Movies

Growing up it was not uncommon to be at the movie theater on or around Christmas.  It is also not uncommon to find between my birthday (on Thanksgiving) and Christmas a LOT of Christmas themed movies.  Some of my favorites are A Charlie Brown Christmas, the Family Stone, Love, Actually, and A Mom for Christmas.  Adding to the seasonal line up, every TV Show does a Christmas special... last week's Brothers & Sisters was especially over the top.

A few weeks ago I got into the Christmas spirit on Tuesday night with Glee.  I know this is not newsworthy, or even that relevant anymore, but the episode was just... PERFECT.  

Modeled after the Grinch Who Stole Christmas this episode just filled me with GLEE.  Also, anyone think that Artie is perhaps McKinley High School's Tiny Tim?

Watch, enjoy, maybe cry a few tears! 

Merry (Early) Christmas!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Crafty for Christmas

This weekend I am going to endeavor into the world of Christmas crafts.  I have never had a Christmas tree, or hung stockings on a mantle, but as I told a colleague this week, when you have a real house and like decorating, it is hard to not get into the Christmas spirit.

I have spent weeks searching the Internet and have found many sources for pure decorating delight.  I find myself trending towards a vintage aesthetic, and really loving the soft, muted shades of silvers and golds that give the decor a little extra glamour.

Back in September I spotted this ornament in my regular Pottery Barn catalog.  Let me be real here, few companies, in my opinion, do holidays or "just perfect" seasonal decor better than Pottery Barn... Okay, so with that out of the way, I spotted this ornament in my regular Pottery Barn catalog in September, and then I was in love. 

Pottery Barn Ornament
It was a part of the Family Giving tree collection, and I was just captivated.  I love the sparkle, clearly, but more than that, I love the message of giving hope, peace and love, plus it reminded me of one of my all-time favorite books, The Giving Tree.

Pottery Barn Family Giving Collection Tree
 This is Pottery Barn's perfectly designed tree.  That is fake snow, but knowing the magic of Pottery Barn's catalog styling I am sure if they wanted to use real snow when they shot this catalog in May they could have done it -- quick call to Santa, of course.

I am also loving this mantle collection.  While Pottery Barn sells everything you see here, this would be really easy to achieve a) for a lot less, or b) with items you already own.  The aesthetic is simple: glass, candles and shiny... 
Pottery Barn Vintage Silver Mantle Collection

If you want more directional, categorized and yes, last minute decor shopping, check out ZGallerie - they have it perfectly broken down by color groups so you can design with guidance.  For a more modern twist of the shiny, happy holiday decor, Crate and Barrel is filled with pieces that are as perfect in December as they are in June.

I'll be sure to share with you my successes with holiday decorating after the weekend!

How would you decorate for the holidays?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Stuff the Stockings

We have already found the perfect gifts for presumably everyone on your list - seriously, did I forget anyone?  Now it's time to find the little items that fill a stocking and give the recipient glee.

Stocking gifts really should be on the smaller side in both size and price, but that doesn't mean they can't bring a whole lot of happy.

This is a big time favorite in our house.  If you live near a Trader Joe's they also sell it, I am not sure of the price but probably less than the $9.99 at World Market and definitely less than the $26.50 at Williams Sonoma.  Shop smart!
Peppermint Bark Tin at World Market
He might be working on spreadsheets and going 9-5, but let this stocking stuffer of drumstick pencil tease his inner rock and roll star.
Drumstick Pencils at Paper Source

This is a sweet gift for the little girls on your list.  Maybe you have a neice (or four!) who would love a sweet treat.
Naughty Nice Lip Gloss at Paper Source
Treat your holiday host, or the hostess you know with the mostest with a charming gift like these cheese knives, appropriately themed with an "Eat, Drink and Be Merry" engraving.

Eat, Drink and be Merry Cheese Spreaders by Williams & Sonoma

Homemade treats are often the least expensive thing you can make, and certainly filled with the most love.  Great tips, recipes and of course jealousy inducing images are all available with our dear friend, Martha Stewart.
Chewy Molasses Cookies by Martha Stewart

Will you have stocking this year?  It is actually a craft that I am going to try and make this weekend - it seems like the right thing to do now that we have a fireplace!  Good luck shopping - and have fun!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Getting Ready for Christmas Morning

Christmas is probably the one day a year when company is almost always around: they are there to eat dinner on Christmas Eve, there to open presents in the morning, and hello, someone even sneaks in in the middle of the night to steal cookies.  Which means the opportunity for picture taking, and frankly looking cute, if not at least presentable always exists.

After a large meal, and any last minute gift wrapping on Christmas Eve the idea of being cute a few hours later when little kids come running to your room squealing with Christmas glee can be a bit daunting.  However, I think I have solved the problem.

We spend Christmas at my brother and sister in laws' home, with their three kids.  So while I normally come down stairs in a cardigan and leggings, or a Juicy tracksuit (yes, it's true, just like Gabrielle Solis [Desperate Housewives fans, anyone?]), I'd like to add some holiday spirit to my early morning attire.

Row 1:  I love this set; its playful and even a bit sexy.  This sleepwear collection might be better saved for a Christmas for deux, and happily all of these items are completely wearable and appropriate all year round.  I have loved this robe for a while, as I think it would look just as pretty on a hook as it would on.

Row 2: This set, to me, is like an idyllic Christmas morning.  The long-john inspired p.j.s, the bow detailed socks and the extra ruffly robe are all about having fun and being young, and that is totally Christmas.

Row 3: I love this set, because it feels a little bit extra special to me.  I could totally see these pieces being featured on an episode of Oprah's favorite things (hey, O!).  The sparkle loungewear from Juicy Couture adds a little holiday shine as an alternative to sweats and a t-shirt, and the long robe is divine.

Some people say that there is nothing more luxurious than treating yourself to really nice pajamas, so maybe in all of your Christmas shopping, you pick something up for yourself too.  After all, you deserve it.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Run, Carly, Run

Almost two weeks ago I signed up for the lottery for the annual Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.  I have previously signed up for this event, and was not previously selected.  The longest race I have ever run is 3.2 miles.  I am challenging myself to run more than 3 times that long.

When I signed up the first time I, and didn't get in, I told Mark that when I ran the ten miles I would treat myself to a pair of these...

Brian Atwood Maniac Pump

For now the goal is just to train and run the race.  I'll worry about what my reward is when I cross the finish line.  But, in the interim between now and then I'll keep you posted on the training, the ups and downs and what, besides shoes, is motivating me.  If you have any tips I'd love to hear from you!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Baked Donuts, a Delight for the Holiday Season

There are two "traditional" Hanukkah foods: latkes (fried potato pancakes) and sufganyot, (donuts, fried dough balls).  This doesn't really add up to the healthiest food choices.  For our Hanukkah party last weekend I knew I couldn't skimp out on traditionally made latkes, but donuts...  that I could tweak.  

I scoured the Internet for baked donuts, with ingredients that I had on hand and I lucked out with a recipe from Piece of Cake.  This rules out any recipe that calls for buttermilk powder, shortening, etc.  Which means, you probably have these ingredients too, and because they are baked and not fried you might want to enjoy this less guilty treat after Hanukkah, or Christmas morning.

Baked Donuts Ingredients
For the dough:
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 tbsps of unsalted butter
1/3 white sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

So here is the thing, this recipe can look pretty intimidating.  It has yeast, it has a specific measurement for milk, yikes.  But here is the truth.  I made this recipe without a rolling pin, while preparing and serving a Hanukkah meal for 8 and with three adorable kids running around, in other words - these pictures, not so hot - but the donuts, out of this world.

Pour the yeast in the base of your Kitchenaid Mixer, or a large bowl, and then add 3 tbsps of the warm milk.  I used a thermometer to get this just right, and its important - in this case baking is more like delicious chemistry, than playtime.


While the warm milk and the yeast are dancing and expanding and doing their magic, you are melting some butter and combining it with the rest of the milk and the sugar.  Allow the yeast and milk to get to know each other for about five minutes, no less but, more is okay.  Then add the butter/sugar/milk combination to the mixer.

Now, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and nutmeg and slowly pour the dry ingredients into the mixer all while mixing with the paddle on a low speed (I used 2).  Add one egg and let that continue to incorporate.  When the flour is fully mixed in, should take 3 minutes or so, remove the paddle mixer and attach the dough hook.

Let that hook do its work for a few minutes and pull the dough from the bowl and put some of your own muscle into it.  Sprinkle some flour on your workspace and knead the dough into a soft, smooth ball.  Place the ball into an oiled bowl and wrap the bowl with plastic and tuck it away into a warm space for at least an hour.

I did this at 11am, when family arrived at noon.  After about an hour roll the dough out to about 1/2" thick and cut your donuts.  You do NOT need fancy tools.  I used a juice glass for the big rounds and a shot glass for the holes.  Once the donuts are all cut, cover with a clean kitchen towel and tuck the pan away for another 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes your donuts are soft, puffy and are ready to bake place them in a 375 degree oven for 8 - 10 minutes.  They should have a very soft golden glow, mine were very soft gold, but that just added to their super soft chewiness.

While the donuts are baking, melt three tablespoons of butter.  When fully baked dip each donut (top and bottom) into the butter mixture and then into the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Yes, your fingers will get messy, and yes you will have used a lot of utensils and bowls, but you know what will also happen?  The twelve awesome donuts that you made will disappear, and your niece will return again and again to the table seeking out one more bite.  I think they even beat Dunkin'.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Brussel Sprout Magic

Dear Dad,

I wish you weren't so turned off by brussels sprouts, they're really pretty good.  In fact, they are better than pretty good, they're really good.  All those years of turning your nose up at them at Thanksgiving when Cousin Karen would bring them seems silly now.   In fact, I like them sauteed with bacon or even served up with Greek yogurt at DC favorite Zaytinya. 

But, dad, they are also good simply roasted.  Here, let me show you.

Love, Carly

True story friends, up until a few years ago I had never tried a brussels sprout.  If you were like me, or my sister up until this past weekend, it is time for a change.  I love this as an easy, low maintenance side dish that requires no effort after prep time.  We served it with out Hanukkah party, but its a mainstay throughout winter when they are in season.

Roasted (Parmigiana - or not) Brussels Sprouts
A bag of brussels sprouts (the quantity depends on how many you're feeding
A drizzle of olive oil
A sprinkle of salt and pepper
A shaving of parmigiana, optional
 First things first, rinse off all of those little mini lettuce heads.  TO be fair, they just look like heads of lettuce, the flavor is far more rich and intense.  Now its time to prune the sprout, or head, or whatever, it's time to peel leaves off of the green ball in your hand...

You might notice that there are some weird/yucky/unappetizing black blemishes or dots on the outside leaves.  Fear not!  You are just going to rub back the leaf and then rip it off.  Each sprout will shrink in size a bit, but it's okay.  It will be pretty again soon.

Ta Da!

Then you're going to cut the brussels sprouts into thirds.  Insider secret, if after peeling off ugly leaves there is a bit of a white "stem" you can cut that off too.

With all of your sprouts laid out on a piece of parchment paper on a cookie sheet, give them a gentle drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper.  Bake in oven at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Check after 30, I like mine a little browner, if you're wanting gold then 30 minutes should be just right.

Here is some extra flavor magic: sprinkle on fresh grated parmigiana, or some truffle salt, or perhaps both.  Delicious!