Sunday, October 30, 2011

pumpkin painting

This weekend, Adam and I made a trip back to Pennsylvania just in time for Halloween. One of my favorite parts of the weekend was painting pumpkins with my niece, Kennadi. As usual, I may have gotten a little carried away with free-handing my pumpkin. However, you've gotta be impressed with this five year old's 360-degree design, including a jack-o-lantern face with arms and legs, a jungle, a dog chasing a black cat, and a spider on a web. Little moments like this shared with my favorite little princess are ones I will cherish forever.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

winter's bold colors

I received an e-mail today from my good friend Piperlime (we've officially moved on from mere acquaintances) titled "Winter's Bold Colors". Wearing bright colors in winter seems a bit unorthodox, but why not do what you can to brighten up the darkest months of the year? While I can guarantee I won't be sporting any electric blue skinny jeans (eek!) any time soon, I did find some items with pleasing pops of color befitting of the season.

Yellow Ascot Swing Coat, Anthropologie, $168
Jorgie Heel by Vince Camuto, Piperlime, $129
Drawing Room Necklace, Anthropologie, $48
No. 2 Pencil Skirt in Double Serge Wool, J.Crew, $120
Double Cloth Townhouse Trench, J.Crew, $350
Cashmere Gloves, J.Crew, $58
Invitation Clutch in Suede, J.Crew, $118
Crepe Tie Neck Blouse, Piperlime, $109

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

chipotle turkey chili with pepper jack corncake toppers

This recipe belongs to an elite group of a few proud recipes that I make over and over again. Adapted from a Rachel Ray recipe, this little bowl of happiness is essentially a chili pot pie with a cheesy cornbread topping. The chili itself is really impressive, especially considering the ease of preparation and small ingredient list. Also, for those of you who actually manage to take care of yourselves, it's actually pretty healthy. Until you just smother it with cheesy cornbread, and when that's gone, add more cheesy cornbread. One important thing to note, is that I made some very important changes to the original. Crucial, actually. So if you want to follow the path to hearty, comfort food greatness and decide to make this chili, note my changes below.


1. Multiply this recipe by 1.5x. Not only is the math easy, but ground turkey is often sold in 3 pound value packs and it will yield enough leftovers or freezable portions to make your efforts worthwhile. Do not, however, alter the corn cake portion. One box is plenty.

2. The recipe calls for 2 cups of chicken stock. Do not use any. I repeat, none. It will turn out entirely too watery. Instead, rely on the beer and the juices from the stewed tomatoes. I mean, really, if choosing between stock and beer... well, you know.

3. Rachel's recipe doesn't specify the can size of kidney beans. When multiplying the recipe by 1.5x, I use two standard small size cans (14-15 oz.) of dark red beans.

4. I usually add an extra chipotle or so, but I also really love chipotle.

5. Turkey is bland. I like to generously season the ground turkey with salt and pepper before cooking.

Phew, I'm done now. But it's worth it!

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

panang chicken curry

I am so bummed that these pictures turned out to be complete crap. When I loaded them on the computer, I was so angry because I really failed this meal. Using the Thai Curry Recipe Maker on the Fine Cooking website, I made my own Panang Chicken Curry that would have knocked your socks off. Adam is still raving about it a week later. You can personalize the meat, type of curry paste, veggies, and flavors to your liking, but I really wouldn't have changed a thing. Fun fact: Panang curry paste is similar to red curry, but with the addition of peanuts (thus making it my favorite). This entree was truly Thai restaurant-worthy, even if the photos look like they were edited on Paint.

My Personalized Panang Chicken Curry

1 13.5- to 14-oz. can coconut milk
1/4 cup Panang curry paste
1 cup lower-salt chicken broth, or homemade chicken or vegetable broth
2 Tbs. light brown sugar or light brown palm sugar; more as needed
1 tsp. fish sauce; more as needed
3 stalks fresh lemongrass, trimmed, bruised, and cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces
3 1/8-inch-thick slices fresh ginger or galangal
1 lb. boneless chicken thighs or legs, cut into 1/4-thick bite-size strips
1 cup diced bell peppers (red)
1 cup sliced carrots (sliced 1/8-inch thick on an angle)
1 cup bite-size green bean pieces
Fresh Italian or Thai basil leaves, more for garnish

Shake the can of coconut milk.  In a 3- to 4-quart saucepan or wok over medium heat, simmer 1/2 cup of the coconut milk, stirring occasionally, until reduced by about half, 3 to 5 minutes. It will get very thick and shiny and may or may not separate; either is fine. 

Add the curry paste, whisk well, and cook, continuing to whisk, for 1 minute. Whisk in the broth, sugar, fish sauce, and remaining coconut milk. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. 

Add the chicken, carrots, green beans, lemongrass pieces, and ginger slices and continue to simmer, adjusting the heat as necessary. After 2 minutes, add the bell peppers and continue to simmer until everything is tender and cooked through, about 3 minutes more. 

Remove the curry from the heat. Transfer to a serving bowl (or serve right out of the pot). Remove the lemongrass pieces and ginger slices. Garnish with the basil.

Monday, October 24, 2011

cork's english market

Have you noticed that most, okay nearly all, of my favorite travel gems revolve around food? After a long train ride from Dublin to Cork, in the south of Ireland, finding a famous English Market with a cafe boasting impossibly fresh ingredients was both exciting and necessary. After browsing through the bustling market displays, Kristen and I split two sandwiches that were both truly incredible. The first was a stuffed baguette with sharp Irish cheddar, and the second a goat cheese and roasted beet panini. I recently recreated the stuffed baguette at home for a quick and tasty lunch that was a nice switch-up from classic cold cuts.

Assembling this sandwich is about as easy as it gets: a baguette, Irish cheddar, tomatoes, lettuce, and mayo. The key is springing for a great cheese and quality fresh ingredients. Had I not tasted it and loved it, I wouldn't have really pictured mayo on this sandwich, but it was really fantastic.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

october in a minute

Somehow this month has absolutely flown by, and I can't figure out where it went. Other than watching unreasonable amounts of football and enjoying the insanely perfect fall weather here in Bmore, my celebration of October has been pretty limited. I managed to throw together a simple centerpiece for $6 at the grocery store, enjoy a Harvest Pumpkin Ale, and paint my nails a unique color inspired my favorite striped centerpiece gourd. Yes, I have a favorite and, yes, I am a nerd.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

mismatched bridesmaids

It's no shocker that my bridesmaid dresses will be green. They really couldn't ever be anything else. However, green isn't the easiest color for everyone to feel great in. Sorry ladies, but it's my wedding (ha!). I haven't even popped the question to all of my bridesmaids yet, but I know who they are, and they are all beautiful. Every friend says that, but seriously, these girls can pull off anything. But can we pull off multiple shades of green? I'm kind of loving this idea. I think it's quirky, pretty, interesting and laid-back--all of the things I want our wedding to be. P.S. yes, that's Rachel Bilson up there, and she designed the dresses for her best friend's wedding.

Monday, October 17, 2011

sweet and spicy pizza

When I'm somehow completely uninspired by my insanely enormous saved recipe list, I've found the best place to turn to is a beloved restaurant's menu. Bagby Pizza is a local Baltimore restaurant that makes amazing specialty pizzas. This weekend, I chose to copy their Sweet and Spicy Pizza, described on the menu as:  spicy tomato sauce, spinach, roasted red peppers, red onion, applewood bacon, Asiago and goat cheeses with balsamic glaze. Umm, yum! By listing every ingredient, they're practically begging for imitations. If you make this pizza, I can guarantee that it will make you really freakin' happy. You can read the easy steps I went through to create this truly impressive copycat meal below.


1 lb. prepared pizza dough (I used Trader Joe's whole wheat)
Sweet and Spicy Pizza Sauce (or any spicy sauce, but this one is really nice)
6 oz. shaved Asiago cheese
4 oz. goat cheese (I found an amazing Honey Chevre at Trader Joe's)
5 slices applewood smoked bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 full roasted red bell pepper, sliced thin
1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar
Handful of baby spinach

Prepare pizza dough and preheat oven according to dough package instructions.
Spread sauce over dough, and sprinkle evenly with Asiago, goat cheese, roasted red pepper strips, and fully cooked bacon.
Bake according to dough instructions. During baking, reduce 1/3 cup Balsamic vinegar until slightly thickened in a saute pan over medium heat. Avoid over-reducing. With 1-2 minutes left in baking time, sprinkle pizza with baby spinach and drizzle with Balsamic reduction.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

black and blue

Top: Urban Outfitters, Skirt: Free People, Shoes: DV by Dolce Vita

Once in a great while (and definitely not often enough), I buy a piece of clothing that becomes an immediate go-to. This slouchy dolman tee from UO is definitely one of those items. It is the perfect mix of casual and dressy, has a punch of color, and always looks effortlessly put-together thrown over black skinny pants, or a black mini. It's also under $50, which never hurts. These pictures are from a night out in Temple Bar, Dublin, and I just tossed it on again last night with a Carrie bun and black skinny jeans. Too easy.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

proper pleats

Dress: Dorothy Perkins, Clutch: River Island, Heels: Russhh by Steve Madden, Necklace: F21

While buying this dress in Dublin, I specifically noted that I had nowhere to wear it... and then I bought it anyway. Typical. Much to my delight, the very first weekend home presented the perfect opportunity. Adam recently moved on from country club life to a new job, and was invited to one last dinner party. Dress code mandated covered shoulders and called for a conservative, ladylike getup. Voila! The new dress fit the bill perfectly.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

moroccan chickpea & tomato stew

After reeling over the Moroccan-spiced soup from Pay as you Please, I decided I had to take a stab at creating a copycat version. It took some serious recipe doctoring, but I succeeded! I started with a recipe for Chickpea Tomato Stew with Moroccan Spices, but quickly realized it just wouldn't cut it without some help. If you're interested, you can read my changes below. The result was seriously awesome: a thick and hearty but healthy soup that was bursting with interesting flavors. The spices were unique, but not overpowering, set against a  naturally creamy tomato backdrop. If you want an inexpensive but satisfying recipe for fall, look no further.

My Alterations:

The amount of liquid the recipe called for was absurd. I drained all of the tomatoes, discarding all of the liquid. I also added only a portion of the chickpea-cooking liquid, rather than all of it. As is, the recipe would make a VERY runny soup.

I upped all of the spices. I added 3 cinnamon sticks, and sprinkled in some ground cinnamon, cumin, coriander, and even a pinch of chili powder, as the stew cooked. Also, who buys cumin seeds? Just use ground cumin.
I made a bold decision to just throw the soup in a blender and see what happened. It worked, amazingly.
The recipe calls for 1.5 POUNDS of spinach. Absurd. I added in a handful at the end, and wished I wouldn't have. I ended up picking it all out later. 

That's all. Finally.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

pay as you please cafe

While on a weekend trip in Killarney, I stumbled across the most unique and awesome cafe I've ever discovered. The premise was simple enough:  pay whatever you think your experience was worth. My first thought was that this meal would definitely fit into my tight lunch budget, but I was wrong. The market-fresh food was some of the best we had during the entire trip, and the service was remarkably friendly and fun. I just had to pay them plenty for their efforts. For me, the portobello and garlic bruschetta stole the show, but close runner-ups were a second bruschetta with goat cheese and olive tapenade, and a Moroccan chickpea soup in a bread bowl. Aren't these photos fantastic? I hope you agree because you'll be seeing them again very soon (hint, hint). Check out a brief video about the spot and its owner, Rob, below.