22 February 2013

Friday Favorites

I've had one of those weeks.  It started off crawling at a snail's pace, but then all of a sudden, it's Friday!  I'm exhausted and I've had waaaaay too much caffeine in the past 24 hours, which means I can't focus long enough to make this a proper Friday Favorites post.  Today I am in need of this

followed by this

finished up with this
ditto for trying to find the original source. Pinterest has rendered Google Image a total waste of time. If you know the source, please let me know so that I can properly credit.

With a weekend jampacked with family visits and another busy workweek in sight, I may need to double down on the cupcakes and champers.  What are your plans this weekend?

21 February 2013

On My Bookshelf

just finished

just started

on deck

I really enjoyed The Emperor of All Maladies, Quiverfull, and South of Broad.  I was SO surprised at how much I enjoyed South of Broad, because I am not a Pat Conroy fan. Don't get me wrong; there were still multiple point in the book when I wanted to shout, "TOO MANY WORDS!", but overall it was a page turner.  

The Emperor of All Maladies was a difficult read.  It's filled with a lot of data, a lot of names, and a lot of scientific research.  All of it is fascinating and I learned a great deal, but it took me awhile to digest what I had read.  That said, I feel like I have a much better understanding of cancer, its history, and its future.  Really interesting stuff.  

Quiverfull was, in a word, frightening.  I enjoyed it and it was incredibly eye-opening, but it also made me sad.  It's a book that truly makes you think about religion and forces you to examine the negative aspects of it. 

Game Change is the book that the HBO movie was based on, but the book covers a lot more than the epic disaster/SNL miracle that was Sarah Palin.  It also focuses on the relationship between the Obama and Clinton campaigns.  For a political junkie like me, this book should be a quick read.  I can't get enough of stuff like this.

Wolf Hall and The Space Between Us have both been in my Amazon shopping cart for years.  I'm ready to finally bite the bullet and read them.  

Have any of you read any of these books?  I'd be curious to hear your thoughts!  Have you read anything good lately that I should add to my ever-expanding on deck list?

20 February 2013

Eau de Tar-jay

While shopping in Middleburg this weekend, I finally smelled the classic fragrance Fracas by Robert Piquet {Martha Stewart's signature scent}.  I absolutely loved it and started nosing around {pun intended} for the best place to purchase it online.  I was shocked, SHOCKED I tell you, to discover that you can order it from Target!  Did you know that Target carries high-end fragrances through their website? This was news to me.  Not only that, but it's a steal! At Target, a 3.4 oz bottle of Fracas eau de parfum is $84.99. The same bottle of Fracas eau de parfum is $135 at Neiman's!  

How is this possible? They carry Burberry, Chloe, YSL {including my hard-to-find high school scent, Babydoll}, Narciso Rodriguez, and a host of other designer fragrances {including Hermes}.  Is there something I'm missing?  Have you ordered fragrance through them?  I would assume they're the real deal since you're going through a national retailer, but it seems a smidge to good to be true!

18 February 2013

Menu Monday

Fully Loaded Baked Potato Soup {adapted from Tasty Kitchen}
I found it. The perfect potato soup recipe.  It's a bit indulgent, but  not so much so that I feel guilt with every bite.  I'm hoping to make this one more time before Soup Sundays come to an end with the arrival of spring. Enjoy!

1 ½ lbs redskin potatoes
3 slices bacon, diced
2 Tblsp butter
¼ whole onion, chopped
¼ tsp garlic powder
2 Tblsp + 2 tsp all-purpose flour
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup 2% milk
½-1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp freshly ground pepper
1 ½ cups shredded cheddar cheese
2 scallions, sliced
½ cup low-fat sour cream

Preparation Instructions
Bake potatoes at 350 degrees for 45 minutes.  Allow potatoes to cool, then dice into 1-inch chunks with skin on.

In a large stock pot brown the diced bacon over medium heat. Once it’s crispy, remove bacon from the pan and drain off most of the grease.

Add the butter to the brown bits at the bottom of the stock pot. Add onion, 1/4 tsp kosher salt, 1/4 tsp pepper and continue to cook over medium heat until onion is caramelized. Add garlic powder and flour. Stir flour until absorbed by the butter and cooked, about 1-2 minutes.

While stirring, slowly add chicken stock to the flour mixture to prevent lumps. Bring to a simmer then turn heat to low. Add the diced potatoes and milk. Add remaining salt and pepper. Cover pot and continue to cook over low heat.

Add 1/2 of the crumbled bacon, 1 cup of cheddar cheese, 1 of the scallions and sour cream into the pot of soup. Stir well and continue to cook over low heat until heated through and cheese is melted.
Serve soup topped with remaining bacon, cheedar cheese, and scallions.

Leftover Pulled Pork Sandwiches
I used leftovers from the Slow Cooker Green Chile Pork Tacos recipe {hence the random corn kernels} to make these.  I just heated the pork up with some apple cider vinegar, red pepper flakes, paprika, and smokehouse rub, then put it on sandwich buns with some bottled BBQ sauce and store-bought coleslaw.  It took maybe 10 minutes to make and dirtied all of one dish. Weeknight dining at its finest!

My first attempt at homemade pizza dough turned out pretty well.  I'm glad I picked a low-maintenance, hands-off recipe for my first try.  My only complaint is that she claims you can get 3 pizzas out of a batch, where I found it to be more like 2.  I loved this pizza, but it's just not functional for a work night. Caramelized onions are delicious, but I don't have that kind of time.  We didn't eat until almost 9!  Would be a great weekend meal though.

 Belated Valentine's Dinner: Crab Mac and Cheese and Herb-Crusted Rib-Eye {Ina Garten and Giada deLaurentiis}
We celebrated Valentine's Day on Saturday night with a decadent homemade meal.  Overall everything was delicious, but a few notes: I used crab instead of lobster for our mac-and-cheese.  I'm not a fan of Gruyere in mac-and-cheese, so I substituted another melty Swiss cheese, Jarlsberg.  Great texture, but it added zero flavor.  Next time I would use all extra-sharp cheddar.  The crab is so flavorful that it needs a bold cheese to stand along side it.  Also, I halved the mac-and-cheese recipe and we still had 2 full servings leftover.  I didn't make the vinaigrette to go with the steak.  I found it was just a smidge too salty.  I cooked it for 4 minutes on one side and 3 on the other, and found that it was a bit overcooked for my rare - medium-rare tastes.  I would've been better off cooking for 3 minutes on each side.  

Homemade Marshmallows {Martha Stewart and Alton Brown}
We had s'mores for dessert with the homemade marshmallows I made.  I used Martha Stewart's recipe, but referenced Alton Brown's more specific instructions {thanks to McV for the advice!}.  These were SO easy to make and really delicious!  It made a ton and I don't really have a sweet tooth, so I sent the majority of these to work with M to give to his assistants and players. I've been assured they were a big hit.  One more thing to check off my 101 in 1,001!

Bon appétit! 

15 February 2013

Friday Favorites

Did you watch Westminster? I try to watch every year, since I am a major dog person.  We always root for the sporting and hound groups {I grew up with bird dogs and now own 2 coonhounds}, but I have to say, Swagger, the Old English Sheepdog stole my heart last night. What a cutie!  And all of those Purina commercials left me a blubbering mess.  As one of the commentators said, the real Best in Show is the dog curled up next to you on the couch.

 I'm making two things this weekend from scratch that I never have before: pizza dough and marshmallows.  I'll be using this recipe for the pizza dough and this recipe for the marshmallows. I'm a little nervous, but excited for the results.  Any tips or tricks for me?

I am getting super antsy for spring to get here and one thing I always look forward to is magnolia blooms. It's theeeee most heavenly fragrance.  Until then, I'm dying to get my hands on one of these Magnolia + Rosewood candles from Sydney Hale Company. They got a nod from Garden and Gun AND they donate 10% of their profits to animal rescue. Sign me up!

How sweet are these prints from The First Snow?  They'd be a great wedding gift, but I also think they would look darling in a nursery.

Now through Sunday you get an extra 30% off EVERYTHING at J.Crew Factory with code XOFACTORY, which means this darling silk tee is just $45!

Happy weekend!

14 February 2013

Happy Valentine's Day!

I've always secretly loved Valentine's Day, but it seems like it's uncool to admit that.  Like you're supposed to rant about what a made-up holiday it is, a commercial conspiracy theory between the card and candy companies out to get men to open their wallets.  And while there is definitely that side to the holiday {I'm not interested in the cheesy stuffed animals and cheap chocolates and leopard underwear staring me down at CVS}, I love the girlish bliss of it all.  An excuse to wear pink and eat sweets and buy pretty paper.

I think what I like most about it is how low-pressure it is and how it really can be whatever you make of it.  On Christmas and birthdays I always feel the need to go all out with gifts and decorating, but Valentine's Day, for us anyways, is low-budget and low-key.  Just making a little extra effort to show you care.

My two favorite Valentine's memories are actually from my single days.  My last year of college, my bestie and I organized a potluck dinner for all of our single girlfriends.  We ate like queens {goat cheese stuffed chicken, mac and cheese, cupcakes, chocolate-covered strawberries...mmmmmm}, drank Champagne, watched 'First Wives Club', and just enjoyed each other's company.  Then there was my first Valentine's Day all alone in my first apartment.  I splurged on a nice bottle of red wine and a feast from KFC {don't hate} and watched chick flicks on my teeny tiny sofa. 

If you've been in the closet about your feelings for Valentine's Day, today's the day to come out into the light.  Wear pink. Eat chocolates. Send cute cards. 

Happy Valentine's Day, sweet readers!

13 February 2013

Madge Strikes Again

Target has come out with some new versions of my beloved Madge flats and boy, are they adorable or what?! The woven leather ones remind me of Bottega Veneta bags and huarache sandals all in one.  They're quite nice looking in person.  And those stripes?! Be still my heart.  So perfect and preppy.

And it appears Madge has a chic and understated older sister, Macha, being introduced this spring. I seriously could not get over how expensive these look.  I'm having a hard time not buying a pair in every color, but the mint was especially lovely.  

12 February 2013

Menu Tuesday

Quinoa Tacos {Budget Bytes}
Genius here was sure that we had quinoa at home and of course when I went to fix dinner, I realized that we didn't.  I used bulgur wheat instead and they turned out great! Honestly, because of all the spices and the beans, you'd never miss the meat.  A great vegan meal that doesn't feel vegan.  

Chicken Yakisoba {Budget Bytes}
Meh.  I didn't love this, but I didn't hate it either. Honestly, it was best as cold leftovers for lunch the next day.  The quest for the perfect make-your-own-take-out meal continues...

M's Birthday Dinner! The Best Lasagna Ever {Pioneer Woman}
Despite my love-hate relationship with The Pioneer Woman {used to love her, now I find her insufferably annoying}, she still has some seriously tasty recipes.  I first made her lasagna for M right after we got engaged.  I was so, so nervous because my mother-in-law is Italian and makes the most incredible homemade lasagna.  I was so afraid M would think this didn't live up.  But it did! I think it's the sausage that makes it so delicious.  Be warned: this is extremely heavy and rich and makes a TON of lasagna.  Served with Texas Toast garlic bread and a Caesar salad, this meal made the birthday boy very happy.

 Chocolate Cheesecake {my recipe}
So this isn't really my recipe per se.  It's more like I combined 5 different chocolate cheesecake recipes and came up with this.  And it. is. AWESOME.

For the crust:
9oz package of chocolate wafer cookies
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon cocoa powder

For the filling:
8 ounces semi-sweet chocolate
3 ounces unsweetened chocolate
2 teaspoons instant coffee granules dissolved in ¼ cup warm water
3 8 ounce packages cream cheese, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1/2 cup sour cream, at room temperature

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

To make the crust:
Place the chocolate wafer cookies, softened butter, cocoa powder and cinnamon in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and pulse until combined. Pour into a lightly greased 9-inch springform pan. With your hands, press the crumbs into the bottom of the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Meanwhile, chop the chocolate and place it in a heat-proof bowl set over a pan of simmering water. Add the instant coffee mixture and stir until just melted. Set aside until cooled to room temperature.

To make the filling:
Cream the cream cheese, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment on medium-high speed until light and fluffy. Reduce the speed of the mixer to medium-low and add the eggs, 1 at a time, mixing just until the yolk breaks. Scrape down the bowl and beater, as necessary. With the mixer on low, add the sour cream, and the cooled chocolate mixture. Mix until just blended and pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for 1 hour. Turn the oven off and allow the cake to sit in the oven with the door opened wide for 1 1/2 hours. Take the cake out of the oven and allow it to sit at room temperature, until completely cooled.

I don’t do a full-on water bath, but I did place a brownie pan of hot water on the bottom rack of the oven. 

I wrapped the springform pan in a double-layer of aluminum foil.

I baked my crust at 350, but I actually baked the cheesecake at 275 for an hour, then 250 for an hour, then let it cool in the oven with the door open for an hour.  I’ve used this method for other cheesecakes, but this time it made mine a little dry.  I would stick with the 350 for an hour and then cool in the oven, gradually opening the door wider and wider of the course of the hour and a half.

It is SO SO SO important with cheesecake that all of your ingredients be at room temperature. I let everything sit out overnight except for the sour cream, which I took out as soon as I started making the crust.

Do NOT overbeat once you’ve added the eggs. You want to add as little air as possible at that stage.

09 February 2013

Happy Birthday!

Wishing my wonderful, cheesecake-loving husband a very happy birthday today!  I can't wait to celebrate with a decadent homemade dinner and a weekend spent at home together.  M, I am so lucky to have you as my husband and my best friend.  Thanks for being you.

08 February 2013

(Purple) Friday Favorites

{Last Super Bowl post, I promise!}
In Baltimore, every Friday during football season is Purple Friday.  In honor of our World Champion Ravens, indulge me in one last Purple Friday until September, k?

Celebratory Tervis tumblers. You know we will be adding these to our extensive Tervis collection.

J.Crew silk blouse, since my office doesn't do casual Fridays.

I would kill to have a yard full of lush purple hydrangeas!

06 February 2013

Menu Wednesday

Oops! A little late posting this week.  Monday was a bit of a daze after celebrating the Ravens Super Bowl victory.  I'm happy to report that there were LOTS of good eats last week. Enjoy!

Meatless Monday
This should be pretty self-explanatory, oui? Box of pasta + favorite supermarket sauce = Lazy Girls' Meatless Monday FTW.

As underwhelmed as I was by the original picadillo recipe, these peppers were fantastic. Definitely one of the best stuffed pepper recipes I've ever made.  I followed her instructions to make them in the oven. With my commute, unless a crockpot recipe allows for something to cook for 10+ hours, it's not happening. And these would've fallen apart in that amount of time.  M cooked the rice before I got home, so literally all I had to do when I got home was mix the picadillo and the rice, stuff the peppers, and put it in the oven. We're talking 5 minute prep, tops.

Sometimes you just need a creamy, comforting casserole, amiright? The day we had this was a particularly blustery one, so this meal totally hit the spot.  M cooked the rice for this when he made the rice for the peppers, so instead of steaming the broccoli and onions with the rice, I cooked steam-in-the-bag broccoli in the microwave on its own and just added the green onions raw to the mixture.  I baked the whole mixture at 350 for 10 minutes, then added the cheese to the top and broiled for 5 minutes.  A few things I will do differently next time:  First, I had trouble getting the milk/flour mixture to thicken properly.  I would use my favorite homemade cream of chicken soup recipe instead.  Also, I love sour cream and I wouldn't remove it entirely, but I felt like the flavor was a little too pronounced in this.  I would cut it back to maybe only 4oz next time.  

Broiled Tilapia Parmesan {allrecipes.com}
I made lots of changes to this recipe based on the reviews.  I adjusted the serving size to 3 from 8.  I found that I needed about double the topping recipe called for.  I also added some panko crumbs to the topping mixture.  And I seasoned the fish with Old Bay before I started cooking it.  This was a nice change of pace from my usual fish recipes.  It wasn't nearly as rich as I was afraid it would be and 3 tilapia filets were plenty for the 2 of us.  

Proscuitto, Brie, and Apple Paninis
I just kind of made these up out of things we had in the fridge. I used a loaf of rosemary olive oil bread, smear some softened butter and honey on the insides of both pieces of bread, and piled on proscuitto, brie, and sliced apples. We don't have a panini press, so I just cooked these in a cast-iron skillet using our bacon press

I mentioned these in my Meal Planning post and then had a craving for them.  They really are stupidly easy to make {although pulling pork is a tremendous pain in the ass}.  In addition to the cilantro/onion/tomato topping, we added some shredded sharp cheddar and some Mexican-style corn.  I used some of the leftovers with some BBQ sauce and cheese to make quesadillas on Monday night and they were AMAZING.  The rest of the leftovers are stashed in the freezer for one of those inevitable "I don't want to cook" nights.

Bon appétit! 

05 February 2013

Valentine's Cards

1 // 2 // 3 // 4 // 5 // 6

I love any excuse to order gorgeous paper products.  Here's a round-up of my favorite Valentine's Day cards on Etsy.  M will be receiving one of these.  Which one is your favorite?

As a bonus, Allison from Fuzzy Grapefruit {the artist behind the adorable Food Loves series in pictures 4 + 5} is offering free shipping to Belle on Heels readers through the end of February with code 'BELLESHIPPING'!