Friday, December 21, 2012

Some Things I Just Love...

Gift Ideas for the Foodie
for the foodie - 1. | caramels from mother peach 2. | chai caramel sauce from herbin' spoonful 3. | organic ginger sesame caramel popcorn from 479 popcorn 4. | pear, honey and ginger small batch preserves from quince & apple 5. | cold brewed black coffee from la colombe 6. | sipping chocolate from askinosie 7. | rainbow sprinkle pretzels from fatty sundays & co. | 8. | peppermints from brooklyn hard candy
Even better, for someone special you can order a subscription from Black Box Desserts. Most of the delectable items above are available in an assortment of dessert boxes. As a lucky recipient of one myself, I can say without a doubt that it will be received with joy.
Gift Ideas for the Her
for her - 1. | monogrammed french linen towels from frog goes to market 2. | plant hanger from makr 3. | french linen striped apron from alder & co. 4. | thermo-pot from black + blum 5. | 2013 wildflower calendar from linea carta 6. | recipe notes bookmark pad from knock knock 7. | dead sea bath salts from herbivore botanicals 8. | porcelain merry pot from alluvial 9. | "marshall" strawberry plant from marshall strawberry

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Maple Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries & Pecans

Maple Oatmeal Cookies with Cranberries & Pecans
It's that time of year again. The time of year when I start planning what cookies I'll be including in this year's packages. Like I did last year, I plan on simplifying the process because my life has become much too full for the days of arduously decorating hundreds of cookies, one by one.
Because baking is where my mind is at these days, when I was asked to review a new cookbook by Kathleen King, the founder of Tate's Bake Shop, it felt like kismet. I'm a big fan of Tate's chocolate chip cookies {I even made them here} and as selective as I am about acquiring new cookbooks, I'll always make an exception for a baking book I can get years of use from. Baking for Friends is that kind of book.
Baking with Friends
While this book doesn't have a photo for every recipe and I tend to prefer cookbooks that do, it has just enough to keep me interested in reading further {yes, I read cookbooks}. It's actually funny because of all the recipes in the book that had a photo accompanying them, I chose to share one here that didn't. For me, that's just further proof that all I'll need is an occasion to bake something to make the next one...or maybe I won't, as her cookbook even has a section full of healthy desserts.
Something I really love about this collection of recipes is that there's certainly more than enough to please everyone. If you'd love simple and classic recipes for birthday cakes, breakfast baked goods, brownies, or holiday pies this cookbook has you covered. Yet for the creative foodie in the kitchen, she's also assembled plenty of desserts with an unusual spin on them, containing ingredients that intrigue me, and make me want to haul out the Kitchenaid. Adding candy canes to chocolate chip cookies, bacon to scones, cardamom to cake, or chocolate to butter ball cookies.
And if you're by chance one of those strange people that don't like impossibly thin and crispy chocolate chip cookies, like Tate's, you'll be happy to know that the book also features a recipe for "Chubby" Tate's.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving

It's just about time for bed after a lovely and relaxing holiday meal with family. As per tradition, we spent the day at my brother-in-law's house where everyone comes with a dish, or two, or three to contribute to the feast. Everything was especially delicious this year, yet even so, I didn't go overboard. I sampled a little of everything and didn't have to loosen my belt a notch like I usually do (which is a factor in my ability to write this post...normally, I'd be doing this right now). Most importantly, today was a day to remember how much I have to be thankful for.
I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Cranberry Hazelnut Bread

Cranberry Hazelnut Bread
I've waited an entire year to make this recipe. It wasn't by choice either, or because I just never got around to it, or because I think cranberries should only be enjoyed in November. The problem was, cranberries are very difficult to find at any time of year other than this one. Not finding fresh cranberries at the market in August is something I would expect. But even frozen? Maybe it's just me, or where I live, but frozen cranberries are not something grocers stock around here off season (and by off-season, I mean anytime other than the Holidays). So when I finally saw fresh cranberries at the market, I grabbed some. Then I went to the freezer department and - lo and behold, they were there too! I grabbed a couple bags, and now I'm primed to bake with cranberries whenever the impulse strikes.
The thing is, cranberries are great all Winter long. Moreover, this Cranberry Hazelnut Bread is great all Winter long. I sampled this particular version at a family dinner about a year ago, and was surprised by how much I liked it. I couldn't place what it was I liked so much about it, until it occurred to me that it was the hazelnuts!
While pecans, or walnuts seem to be the more popular choice in most cranberry bread recipes, hazelnuts are by far the winner in my book. Even better if you leave them on the coarser side of "coarsely chopped".
Roasted Hazelnuts + Cranberries
I don't bake with hazelnuts much. For one, they're pricey, and two, they're a pain to peel. But with this recipe there's no need to be too particular about getting every inch of skin off. I used the method I usually use, which is to roast them and then rub the skins off with a dish towel. I would estimate that I managed to get about two thirds of the skins off this way.
If you'd like, you can try dampening the dish towel slightly. I've heard that does a good job as well. Or if you're really seeking perfection, you can try this method I found here, from Alice Medrich via an episode of Julia Child's cooking show.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy
Hurricane Sandy has had such a powerful impact on so many people all over the world. In the days since the storm touched down on the Jersey Shore, it's become more and more evident that the aftermath has been life changing for most, and deadly for far too many. I live in coastal Connecticut, and we were braced for the worst. Many waterfront communities were under emergency evacuation orders, and between the full moon tides, an anticipated slow moving storm, and the rainfall expected during it, we were in for a rough time.
Many of the photos in this post were taken at 9:30am last Monday, or 2 1/2 hours before the first high tide of the day. As you can see, flooding was already wreaking havoc on many homes and businesses. But as bad as it seemed at this time, and as heartbreaking as it was to see the path of devastation left behind after the storm had come and gone, our community was spared when compared to others.
Raymond Street
Many coastal areas here in Connecticut, some just blocks from my front door, had their homes flooded and their belongings destroyed, and millions lost power for what seemed like an eternity in 40 weather, yet much of what was forecasted to happen here didn't. The second high tide, expected at midnight, was predicted to occur while Hurricane Sandy's storm surge peaked, and that would have been disastrous. But thankfully, the storm moved through this area faster than predicted and we were spared the second blow that would have surely devastated thousands more.
However, there is really no way to compare or diminish people's suffering. The fact is millions are suffering in towns all over New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut. Like many out there who are counting their blessings, I wanted to know how to help.
Shorefront Park
There are many grassroots efforts happening right this very minute, on the ground in the areas worst hit by the storm. I have gathered a list of those I've discovered and I'm sharing them below (I will update this post if I come across more, so feel free to comment here, or contact me if you know of others I should add). In the unlikely event that there's anyone out there who doubts the level of devastation in the wake of Sandy, I'm also sharing links to some emotionally powerful stories and images I've come across in the past seven days. For those who have asked, my family escaped relatively unscathed and we are very grateful. As a former resident of both Brooklyn, NY and Jersey City, NJ, when I see the devastation there I am filled with both shock and sadness. My thoughts are with all of the families, right here in South Norwalk and beyond, who have lost loved ones, homes, treasured memories, and to anyone who's lives have been changed forever by this disaster.

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween

Carving Pumpkins
I'm starting to think Mother Nature has a vendetta for trick or treating because this is the second year in a row we've been hit with a mother of a storm in October. But after a fair amount of sulking, my kids have realized that we have it really good right now compared to many folks, and we've got nothing to complain about.
We walked to our neighbors houses tonight collecting candy (not many because of the situation here), and stayed up late carving pumpkins since there's no school this week. I have much to share here, but my Internet has been out. I hope to catch up soon!
Hope all of you are safe after the storm, and that you and your little ones had a great Halloween!
Little Guy

Friday, October 26, 2012

Happy Weekend //

We are expecting to receive the {possibly intense} remnants of Hurricane Sandy early next week. Even though I'm usually not one to fall prey to all the hype, a phone call from our Mayor warning us to prepare for the worst has added a few more to-do's to the weekend. Storms can be fun, as long as no one gets hurt, and we don't lose electricity for too long. Another thing to look forward to - it will mean there's something else filling the airwaves besides the latest election poll results.
I'm just keeping my fingers crossed that the storm won't be bad as Hurricane Irene, or spoil our Halloween again. We'll be hoping for the best and going about our Halloween pumpkin carving and decorating as planned. It will be a busy weekend! Hoping yours is a bit more relaxed and you can spend some time cooking up something ghoulish...
{1.} spooky fried mozzarella eyeballs | foodie crush {2.} baked pumpkin oatmeal | the faux martha {3.} petite pumpkin spice donuts | blue-eyed bakers {4.} chai concentrate | a dash of faith {5.} roasted butternut squash & red onion with tahini sauce | the flour sack {6.} roasted acorn squash & black bean tandoori enchiladas | good things grow {7.} butternut squash & pancetta orecchiette | spoon fork bacon {8.} fresh apple cake | a cup of mascarpone {9.} meringue bones | bite delite {10.} pumpkin whoopie pies | chasing delicious {11.} voodoo doll cookies | sprinkle bakes via etsy blog {12.} how to carve a pumpkin | food52 featuring maniac pumpkin carvers

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Butterflies & Dahlias

My yard has always been something I've dedicated a lot of time to. I take great pride in my gardens - I love having my boys grow their own vegetables, keeping herbs close at hand for cooking, and planting an assortment of flowering perennials, so I always have something in bloom. However, not unlike everything else in my life, I've been so busy my yard has been neglected. I had so many weeds to deal with, they were beginning to outnumber the desirable plants!
Painted Lady
This, combined with the fact that I had my Mother coming to stay with us, motivated me to finally dedicate a weekend to tackling the yard. It was no easy task, and it's still not completely done, but I got enough accomplished that it feels good to step outside and admire the yard.
Sunset Dahlia
In Connecticut, we've had a very wet and unseasonably warm Autumn so far. Because of this, many of my plants are still colorful. The bugs, especially the bees and butterflies are enjoying this Indian Summer we've been having as well. Towards the end of the day last Sunday, I grabbed my camera to capture the show Mother Nature was putting on outside - most abundant of which were the Painted Lady butterflies and Dahlias.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Savory Roasted Tomato & Manchego Clafoutis

Roasted Tomato & Manchego Clafoutis
This month's issue of Whole Living magazine has the most exquisitely delicious looking spread of healthy breakfast recipes - all of which are gluten-free and written by Aran Goyoaga, of Cannelle et Vanille. I have a feeling I will end up making every one of them at some point, but I started with this recipe, which had me instantly intrigued by the list of ingredients alone.
I am not very well-acquainted with French cooking, but I did know that a traditional Clafoutis {pronounced klafuti} was a cake-like dessert made with fresh cherries. This savory, and eggier version was new to me, but reminded me of one of my favorite egg based casseroles - a strata.
Cherry Tomatoes
I also have a few cherry tomato plants that have managed to remain alive and producing fruit, even as we enter October {I didn't have quite enough for this recipe, but I supplemented with some store bought grape tomatoes I had hanging around}. I was eager to use them as the main ingredient in something special, and this was the requisite recipe.
Instead of making mine as one larger casserole, I loosely halved the recipe and divided it among a pair of 4-inch skillets. This produced two main-course sized portions, but could have easily been stretched to four if being served alongside other brunch fare.
Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Hot Lobster Rolls

North Beach Chatham Ma
In Part One of this post, chronicling our vacation adventures on Cape Cod this past August, I sang this popular destination's praises. Truth be told, there were a couple of things about it that took some getting used to. The main one, which snowballed into creating a few of the others, was the sheer magnitude of people there. The bumper to bumper traffic on the only highway leading to and from the Cape {especially on the popular rental house 'switch days'}, the busy supermarkets with throngs of shoppers daily, and possibly the most challenging to transcend, the slew of beachgoers snatching up every square inch of sand possible. However, with a place as gorgeous as the Cape, can anyone question why?
It didn't take us long to figure out how things worked, so we planned our days around these obstacles. Whether it meant shopping for more than one day's worth of food at a time, or learning different routes to get where we wanted to be - we managed to make the best of it.
When it came to the beach crowds, most of our mornings were greeted with cloudy skies. This turned out to be an unexpected benefit, as it caused many tourists to venture out in directions other than the beach. For us, the overcast weather brought with it an easy parking space, the possibility of better waves, and a guaranteed wedge of sand to call our own. In nearly all cases, the sun eventually made it's appearance while we sat back and enjoyed the afternoons.
Beachcomber Taxi
That was, until we had a break in our luck on our last day of vacation. On this day in particular, it happened to be glorious out. Made even better with the company of some friends of ours, who were staying with us for a few days. Of course, the usual plan was in order - get lunches, bevvies, and the beach gear gathered up, then head to the beach. What we didn't anticipate was that because of the picture perfect weather, every public beach within a reasonable distance of us would be at capacity. We were locked out, down in the dumps, and @*%! out of luck, until my brilliant friend suggested we try an alternate plan.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Cape

It's an understatement when I tell you I took a couple hundred photos while on vacation this August. A more accurate number would be in the thousands. But even so, the amount of time it's taken me to get this post up is ridiculous. As we marked the first day of Autumn yesterday, I'm sharing with you Summer Vacation...divided into two parts because yes, it's that big - and it includes a recipe!
If you've read my blog for any amount of time now you'll know that I commonly share pics from our adventures. Having this digital photo album of sorts has become more and more of a blessing to me as the years have gone by. This trip in particular was special on many levels, but most importantly, it was the first vacation we've ever taken alone as a family.
While we've traveled quite a bit together, the purpose of most vacations we take is to visit family. Namely, my family...who happen to be scattered across the country in places like Oregon and Wyoming. We also go away with friends for long weekends. We go on big family reunion type vacations with my parents and siblings. But we've never been away, just us...until now.
To tell you the truth, I was actually a bit nervous about the idea. I'm so used to being around big groups of people when we go away, would it be boring alone? But it was the exact opposite. We really had so much fun, and no vacation has ever felt more like a vacation than this one.
We rented a house in Orleans, Ma. Not far from the ocean, which sits on the Town Cove. We had water views and the most magnificent sunsets daily. The house, which I had only seen in photographs, greatly exceeded my expectations. We live near the water ourselves, so I happen to love the beach house look. Our rental was a beach oasis, with mermaids, seashells, and turquoise blue everywhere. It felt like I was living in the pages of Coastal Living magazine, and I loved every minute of it.
The homeowner loves to cook too, which scored even more points with me because cooking there was a pleasure. All the comforts of my home kitchen, from a sharp chef's knife to stainless pots and pans. Needless to say, we didn't eat out once in the week we were there. I cooked every night, but loved it! It's so rare we can all sit down every night for dinner these days, so it was a treat for us.
The following are some shots of the house, our days at Nauset Beach hanging out with seals and keeping a keen eye out for Great Whites {Eek!}, and a day trip to Provincetown for a whale watching trip. I wouldn't have remembered all this if not for a trip log posted online, but we saw 7 Humpback Whales, some Minke Whales, a few Harbor Seals, and a large pod of Risso's dolphins {apparently a rare sighting off the Cape}. It was gorgeous.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Odwalla Smoothies for Kids with Weelicious

Both of my boys love fruit smoothies. In fact, as I've mentioned here several times in the past, it's one of their preferred after-school snacks. Sometimes we make our own, but there are also times when it's nice to have something conveniently packaged for on-the-go purposes…especially since most afternoons I don't see much else but the inside of my car. For those instances, we love Odwalla smoothies, who's products also helped convert my kids into fans of drinking green vegetables!
I was super excited to learn that Odwalla had released lunch box sized fruit smoothies for kids, so when Blogher asked me to share this episode of Weelicious Lunch Crunch, sponsored by Odwalla Fruit Smoothies For Kids with you, I was happy to do so. Enjoy!

Friday, August 31, 2012

Bozo Pic of the Week...

Oh did 3rd and 5th grade sneak up on me so quickly? The fact that this is my older son's last year in elementary school is crazy to me. I know it's cliche, but does seem like kindergarten registration was just yesterday.
My new reality is that getting that classic "First Day of School" shot isn't what it used to be. There's no more picking out a new outfit for them, or posing them on the front porch steps for the yearly photo. I'm lucky I got at least one shot before I was given the "Mom! I'm fine, you can leave now" look.
Back to School is always bittersweet for me. The Summer months are full of fun adventures, but selfishly, I'm also very happy that I have my alone time back.
Did your kids start school this week too? If so, hope they had a fantastic first day!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Some Things I Just Love...

If there's one thing I have a hard time resisting it's office supplies - the cuter, cooler, or more well-designed, the better. My boys can vouch for that fact after a recent trip to Staples, when I made them behave for practically an hour straight while I poked around the Martha Stewart collection. I now have lots of practical organizational tools awaiting my sweet little Bozos return to school...which is when I'll finally have some time to put them to use.
Needless to say, doing a Back to School edition of STIJL is fun, fun! My boys could care less about my fancy new desk accessories, or calendars, but they sure do love some Back to School supply shopping.
top:  a.| poketo pens  b.| geometry notebooks  c.| squirrel tape holder  d.| refillable mini eraser  e.| patchwork washi tape  f.| colored pencils  g.| bright yellow pushpins  h.| storage bin lap desk
bottom:  a.| animal bookmarks  b.| wean green tempered glass containers  c.| wonder, by r.j. palacio  d.| star pencil case  e.| colorful paper clips  f.| alphabet lunch bag  g.| a pen that fits inside a notebook h.| insulated container

Friday, August 24, 2012

Blackberry Smash

I go through a Summer cocktail phase every year, and each time it's something different. A few years back it was making homemade Margaritas. After that, I finally put my over-grown garden mint patch {which likes to dominate everything else around it, and is really more like a weed!} to good use and started making mojitos. Then I went through a non-traditional Margarita phase...making them with fruits other than the standard lime. This year - it's the Blackberry Smash.
Whiskey Smash cocktails have been around for ages, but are having a modern day moment in the spotlight with the addition of everything from strawberries and balsamic vinegar to sage and honey. The bourbon or rye whiskey used in the traditional version is also being substituted with vodka, fruity liqueurs, or even a splash of champagne, or sparkling wine. While looking around at all the possible combinations, I picked up a few ideas here and there, pulling what appealed to me most from many different recipes, and made this version.
This cocktail is very adaptable, so if there's something you'd like to try in place of blackberries, try it. Any berry would work well here - you could also add in some lemon slices as well. I opted to top the drink off with some bubbly water because I prefer it carbonated versus straight up booze on ice...that way I can also have more than one!
I've tried making these with and without simple syrup, and while it's certainly optional, I preferred them with a bit of syrup added in. I don't like them super sweet either, but just enough to cut some of the tartness from the limes and berries does the trick.
It's hard to believe that my boys start another school year in just a few short days, or that vacations I anticipated for months with excitement came and went in a breath. Once again, Summer flies by...but before it comes to a complete close, and berries are being swapped out for pumpkins and apples, I highly recommend you go make a batch!
Also try these Summer Beverages - Watermelon Margaritas | Hibiscus Cooler | Fresh Orange Margaritas | Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Blackberry Smash

{printable recipe}
Yields: 2 servings
This version of the old-fashioned Smash cocktail contains blackberries, vodka, and St. Germain {a French liqueur made from Elderberry flowers}. The addition of limes and fresh mint make it a perfect Summer evening cocktail, that tastes somewhat similar to a Mojito, but with a fruity punch.

1 lime, cut into 8 wedges
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
14 fresh blackberries
a splash of simple syrup, or to taste
1/3 cup vodka
1/4 cup St. Germain liqueur
bubbly water {seltzer or soda water}

special equipment: 2 highball-type glasses, and a muddler {you can substitute the back of a wooden spoon}

Add half of the lime wedges, mint leaves, and blackberries to each glass. Use a muddler {or the back of a wooden spoon} to coarsely crush the fruit and mint.

Pour a splash of simple syrup into each glass, and give it a stir. Divide the vodka and St. Germain liqueur between the two glasses, then fill each to the rim with ice. Top each glass off with bubbly water and serve!

Notes: The quantities given for the fruit and mint are rough guidelines. There's no need to actually measure out the mint leaves, or count the limes or berries. After you make a few of these delicious cocktails you'll know what the perfect quantity for you is. If you like more of a citrus punch, add more limes. Not so much? Add less. The simple syrup should be added to taste as well. If the blackberries you use are particularly sweet, you might just skip the sweetener all together. The elderflower liqueur adds sweetness to the drink as well.

Super Simple Syrup

{printable recipe}
Yields: about 1 1/2 cups
Adapted from Bon Appétit, August 2012
This technique for making simple syrup couldn't be any simpler. While making sugar syrup over the stove top isn't necessarily rocket science, boiling the syrup is just one more additional step, and requires turning on your stove...which is something I try to avoid in August heat. This method yields the same results as boiling, yet it's so much faster and requires no heat!

3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup water

Add the sugar and water to a jar with a screw cap lid. Shake for 1-2 minutes, or until the liquid becomes syrupy and all the sugar has dissolved.

Notes: The syrup will keep, refrigerated, for up to 6 months. Ball mason jars, with plastic screw cap lids work perfectly!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vietnamese Iced Coffee

Many years ago, while I was living in Brooklyn, I had a ritual of treating myself to an iced coffee on my day off laundromat day. Back then, there were no Starbucks in my neighborhood of Fort Greene. In fact, there wasn't an early morning coffee shop option of any sort. The only two places within a five block radius of my apartment that sold a decent cup of coffee, were the Brooklyn Moon Cafe, and what I considered an unlikely spot for a cup of coffee, a Cambodian restaurant.
Brooklyn Moon was a southern soul food/coffee shop/poetry lounge spot, and couldn't have been more different than a Cambodian restaurant. Yet, ironically, they both sold the most deliciously sweet and creamy iced coffee.
After years of drinking the tasty coffee drinks, I was thrilled when I discovered their secret ingredient - sweetened condensed milk. But in addition to the thick, sweet milk, what makes this iced coffee different than most is the use of a particularly strong, and flavorful coffee...which really is essential in balancing out the sweetness.
I tried making my own at home several times, but somehow mine just didn't taste as good as I had remembered from my Brooklyn days. In recent years, if I really needed a sweet jolt of nostalgia, I could visit a Thai restaurant nearby and order a glass, but I would have preferred to make it myself whenever the urge stuck. As a result, once I happened upon this recipe, I immediately set forth gathering up what I needed to make a cup - including a special Vietnamese single-serving coffee filter {a Phin} and some suitable coffee {Café du Monde with Chicory}, and made what would be the first of many glasses of my favorite iced coffee at home.
As simple as this technique is, I felt it worthy of a post dedicated to it. The flavor transports me back to the 90's and reminds me of a place that still exists, but barely as I once knew it. Cambodian Cuisine is long gone, but Brooklyn Moon is still kickin' it - if you're in Fort Greene go visit Michael and tell him I sent you in for an iced coffee...I hope he's still making them like he used to. 

Vietnamese Iced Coffee {Café sua dá}

{printable recipe}
Adapted from a recipe by Diane Cu & Todd Porter via LA Times and a recipe by Cora Lambert via Food & Wine magazine
Yields: 1 serving
This strongly flavored, yet sweet iced coffee is my favorite on a hot afternoon. Don't be intimidated by the obscure supplies on the list. If you live in a area where finding them might be difficult, they are readily and inexpensively available online. It's worth the purchase to have the supplies on hand for the next time you make a cup, because there will be a next time!

1 1/2 tablespoons Café Du Monde with Chicory coffee
2 tablespoons sweetened condensed milk

special equipment: {optional} a Vietnamese single-cup coffee brewer (Phin)

Bring a kettle of water to a boil.

Add the ground coffee to the metal base of the filter, tap gently on the counter to settle the coffee, and screw on the metal screen.

Choose a drinking glass with a wide enough rim for the metal coffee filter to sit atop. Add the sweetened condensed milk to the glass, and place the filter on top.

Pour just enough hot water into the filter to moisten the grounds, and allow them to "bloom" for 15 seconds. Fill the filter with hot water.

When the hot water has finished passing through the filter, remove it from the glass, and stir the coffee with the condensed milk to blend. Add ice, stir again to chill the coffee, and drink!

Notes | Substitutions
✻  Adjust the amount of ground coffee to suit your taste, but remember that the strength of the coffee needs to balance the sweetness of the condensed milk. You can adjust the strength in a couple of ways - first, the tighter you screw the metal screen onto the filter, the slower the water will pass through, hence the stronger the coffee will be. Looser, for less strength, tighter for more. You can also play with the quantity of ground coffee you use. I've tried everything from 1 to 2 1/2 tablespoons, and settled on 1 1/2 being the perfect amount for my taste.
✻  Personally, I love Café du Monde with Chicory coffee. I can also find it easily where I live, but you can substitute any strong brew, such as espresso, or French roast coffee. Try using Trung Nguyen Vietnamese coffee for an authentic brew.
✻  You can find both coffees, along with the Vietnamese coffee filter on Amazon. However, a strong pot of brewed coffee, using a traditional coffee maker, or a French press, will work well too. Simply make a pot of coffee the way you normally would, only stronger.
✻  No coffeemaker? Or can't stand the thought of turning the kettle on in August? Want to make a big batch? Then, cold brew! Stir a 1/2 pound ground coffee and 4 1/2 cups water together in a pitcher. Let rest on the counter for 24 hours. Strain through a coffee filter lined colander; use right away, or refrigerate for up to a week.

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Block Island 2012

These photos are from a recent trip we took to Block Island for a little weekend getaway. Our friends, who vacation there every Summer, were gracious enough to invite us again this year and each time we visit I fall more in love with the place. 
If you've been, then you know how beautiful it is. If not, its unlike any vacation town I've visited in the Northeast. For me, what sets it apart is how far away from it all I feel there. There are no strip malls, bars lining the beaches, or row after row of beach homes crowding every square inch of available space. Instead, it's sparse - many homes are tucked away, accessible only by traveling down a long, unpaved driveway. Those that are close to the main roads have what seems like acres of bright green land surrounding them. Each one a little treasured slice of paradise.
Most of the land is preserved and therefore cannot be built upon. This promises an abundance of wildlife and paired with a wet island climate, rolling hills of lush green foliage, which makes it feel more like the countryside of Ireland than New England.
I did my best to capture how green the island is, but we had a few overcast days on our trip, and it didn't help that my camera's been on the fritz for several weeks now, so I was using my iPhone camera a majority of the time. On the most gorgeous day I shot a few rolls of film with my new La Sardina camera, but I won't have those for a while considering it's incredibly difficult to find a place that processes film anymore - at least in a timely fashion. However, over the years I've accumulated a few posts about our visits to Block Island - if you're interested in seeing more, you can find them here, here, and here.
Better yet, I highly recommend you check it out in person for yourself - the little 7 mile long island is perfect for day trips too. Just be warned, you may not want to come home, and if it wasn't for an upcoming vacation to Cape Cod we have planned I may not have! {I promise - I'll try my best to get a recipe post up at some point in between and I hope to make some of my favorite beach vacation dinners on the Cape!}
I'm always interested in hearing about other possible Summer vacation destinations - do you have any favorites you'd like to share? Did you take a vacation yet this year, or will you? Or was your Summer made up of "stay-cations" like mine was last year?

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Old-Fashioned Potato Salad

This potato salad is the epitome of what a potato salad should be. It's that classic, all-American, slightly Miracle-Whip mayonnaise tasting potato salad. Yet, oh so much better! It's got a subtle tang, richness from smashed egg yolks, a slight bite and texture from chopped red onions and sweet pickles. And what's completely crazy about it all is that I don't like sweet pickles, and frankly, I don't like Miracle-Whip's flavor either {sorry Miracle-Whip lovers out there}. But for some reason this recipe has the right balance of everything and I loved it so much I could probably polish off the whole bowl.
Thing is - there actually isn't any Mircale-Whip in this potato salad, but I reference it because to me using that brand of mayonnaise yields a sweeter than I prefer dressing. I'm a Hellmann's {Best Foods} girl all the way. So when I took a look at the ingredient list for this salad and saw it included a bit of sugar in the dressing and sweet pickles to boot, I figured I probably wouldn't be crazy about it.
But the photo that accompanied the recipe in a recent issue of Bon Appetit sold me on making it anyway. If you click over and look at that photo I think you'll have to agree. Uh-huh. Told you. 
I love this recipe so much that I've made it three times this Summer already. It's received rave reviews and many requests for seconds each time. I especially love that it doesn't involve any hard to find, exotic ingredients, and it doesn't require hours of preparation. I'm also assuming it would taste great days after it's made, but I can't say for sure because we've never had enough leftover to test it.
The first time I tried the recipe I tweaked it a bit based on what I had available at the time, and I'll share those changes with you in case you find yourself in a similar situation...or simply want to try a variation.
I had a couple bags of those itty bitty, multicolor potatoes - red-skinned, yellow, and purple potatoes to be exact. The photo above doesn't show the purple ones because I added them in at the end for fear they would dye the whole salad purple! But they didn't. So I could have added them in with the rest. In the finished salad you can see a few flecks of the purple ones in was pretty cool having purple potato salad.
Because the potatoes were so little I didn't follow the recipe instructions, which called for peeling the potatoes before boiling them. That would have been a nightmare! Instead I boiled them with the skins on, then cooled them enough so I could handle them, and rubbed off the skins, which fell off easily after boiling. I would say you could use either method, but for someone like myself who happens to hate peeling potatoes, the rubbing method worked well for me.
What makes the dressing for this potato salad so darn good is the addition of sweet pickle juice. The recipe also instructs to garnish the finished salad with slices of sweet pickle. But since I don't particularly care for sweet pickles, I was light-handed with them the first time around. However, after deciding that they were quite alright in this recipe I added in some chopped pickles for the subsequent versions - which was quite delicious. Any way you decide to make this I'm certain you won't be disappointed, and either will your guests!
A few other Summer Sides I love - Dilled Potato & Pickled Cucumber Salad | Citrus Rice Salad | Macaroni Salad | Roasted Corn & Edamame Succotash 

Thursday, July 12, 2012

A Lost Gem: Grandma Betty's Meatballs

Diving into the world of how to best make Italian Meatballs is a dangerous move. Is there any other food subject that might illicit more disagreement? I don't think so. Except maybe in the area of how to make Barbecue.
But this isn't my first time taking this step. You see, this post was originally written in August 2008, but like many of my posts those first few months {ahem, maybe years}, it was a sad excuse of a food blog post in every sense imaginable. Quite frankly, it's downright embarrassing.
I don't have the time to update every sorry post I've ever written, and really I don't want to. They serve as a reminder of how much I've learned since beginning this blog. But, if there's one recipe in my entire arsenal that deserves the most love and attention I can give it, it's my grandmother's meatball recipe.
So - there may be a time when a post here or there gets a facelift, and when the said facelift is significant enough for me to bring it to your attention, I will. Beginning with Grandma Betty's Meatballs. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Happy Weekend //

Most of you are probably in the midst of your holiday festivities - or, maybe some you might have a vacation this week...or just a few extra days off? While I was searching around the Internet for some Independence Day picnic inspiration I came across so many outrageously delicious looking and creative recipes I couldn't help but share them with you. If it's too late to use them in your menu plan for the holiday, you'll surely have more than one occasion to try them at some point this Summer! At least, I know I will...
{1.} rainier cherry mojito | cookie + kate {2.} summer cherry sours & cherry citrus-ade | chasing delicious {3.} soba noodle & herb tofu salad | green kitchen stories {4.} homemade barbecue sauce | delicious shots {5.} lobster rolls | dinner: a love story {6.} tiny cherry & blueberry star pies in jars | brooklyn supper via the family kitchen {7.} lemon meringue pie | licking the plate via design sponge {8.} fudgesicles | rikki synder {9.} cherry pie | whisk kid {10.} strawberry basil ice cream pie with waffle cone crust | butter me up, brooklyn

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Some Things I Just Love...

In honor of Independence Day I'm sharing some of my favorite Red, White and Blue finds. I've discovered that I'm very fond of anything involving stars, stripes and/or polka dots while preparing this post, as keeping the list to a manageable size was difficult for me. We had some fireworks in our neighborhood tonight that we could see right from our windows...and these weren't your average street fireworks either. It was pretty amazing. Tomorrow we will see the real deal, up close, at a local park and I've been busy preparing some picnic foods - some that I'm looking forward to sharing here. Hope you have something fun planned and have a lovely holiday! Happy 4th of July!
a. | dixie dot dress b. | vintage fold out fan c. | flag favors d. | 4th of july paper badges e. | nautical hair ties  f. | enamel pie set g. | jfk rope bracelet h. | whipstitch seersucker napkin i. | picnic basket 

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Garden Flowers

For the past few weeks I've been trying to play catch-up on some projects that were in desperate need of attention. This past school year my boys had schedules busier than ever, and because of that I haven't had time to take care of as many things as I used to. One area in particular is our garden.
However - school and spring sports are now behind us...and the days of alarm clocks, driving from sport to sport, and letting my yard be overtaken by weeds are temporarily over {woo-hoo!}. At the end of a recent long and very arduous day working in the yard, I collected some blooms from a few of my favorite flowers.
When I brought them inside, instead of doing what I usually do...which is snip off the ends and arrange them the best I know how in a tall vase, I decided to try arranging them in a short square one. You know - the kind you might get an arrangement from a floral shop in?
In the past, I haven't had much luck with getting flowers to look anything like the ones from a shop. But I remembered reading an article on the website, Goop, that gave specific instructions on how to arrange flowers based on the kind of vase you'd like to use.
I gave it a try and it came out beautifully. The directions are fairly simple, and I honestly wasn't that far off using the methods I had previously attempted. A few tweaks, and suddenly I was arranging flowers like a pro. If your garden is currently overflowing with blossoms, I suggest you give it a try!
For this arrangement, I used a combination of blue and white Hydrangea, magenta Astilbe, and Buddleja {butterfly bush} blooms. I also made an arrangement with some yellow Yarrow mixed in - which I especially love. In the photos above, I used scalloped edge frames inspired by some I found on the website, Pugly Pixel - which I can't say enough nice things about. I'm obsessed!
Some other posts about the Garden - 2010's Garden | Ladybugs | Growing Container Potatoes | Peonies