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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Great Potato Salad Recipe

I just wanted to share a great recipe I recently tried: Creamy Potato Salad with Lemon and Fresh Herbs from Epicurious. I needed to throw something together to accompany some fried pork cutlets (traditional Czech řízky) I was making, and this po-po salad sounded promising. Tons of fresh herbs and some lemon zest? A recipe for success, me thinks.

It was simple to make and tasted great...this recipe is definitely being added to my cookbook of go-to dishes. It would be especially fitting for a summer BBQ or picnic, so give it a shot if you're ever looking to try out a new potato salad.

Note: I omitted the celery and the basil and it was still fantastic. Easy peasy.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Simple Solution: Moss!

I am currently in the process of trying to grow an Amaryllis. So far I'm 0-for-2 in this category, so I'm very excited to report that this time, there is an actual flower stem growing, instead of just leaves! Crossing my fingers for a beautiful bloom sometime soon!

But, that's not really what this post is about. All I really wanted to do is give sheet moss a shout out for being awesome...that's right, sheet moss. Bear with me if you're like *yawn, I already know this*, because I did not realize that I could just go to Home Depot and pick up a bag of moss for a couple bucks and use it to beautify a potted houseplant.

This is how it looked before, with the potting soil all scantily clad. Not cute.
I actually went to Home Depot with the intention of picking up some of those little white stones to cover the potting soil...but then I saw the moss and thought it would look better, earthier.
Apparently I'm not the only one who's impressed with the more polished look. :)

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


I'll admit that when I saw that the macaron had become the new hot trend in baking (I even heard it referred to as "the next cupcake"), I was rather bummed. Not because I don't care for them...oh, no no no no no, couldn't be further from the truth...but because I myself had only just discovered them during our girl trip to Paris in 2009, and I had filed the experience under that wonderful category in my brain labeled "one of a kind fantastic experience only had while discovering a new place, never to be experienced again, unless I make it back there...but, *sigh*, we'll always have Paris..."

So, as I said, I was a little bummed when I saw every blogger and etsy seller and their grandmothers and their dogs making them like they were chocolate chip cookies.

But then I thought, what the hell...if you can't beat 'em, join 'em.

So here you go...Raspberry Macarons and Vanilla Maple Macarons:

The raspberry macarons are filled with a raspberry mascarpone cream, while the vanilla maple macarons are filled with maple cream. Delicious!

Some time ago, I had come across a very detailed step-by-step guide to making macarons on a fantastic food blog called Food Nouveau and saved the link. Thank God that blogger is infatuated enough with the delicate little treats to write such an exhaustive instructional post...because they are a little tricky. I was most worried about deflating the egg whites (which was not a problem) and under/over cooking them, which turned out to be a legitimate concern. (I had to lower my oven temp to 260F after the first set of cookies suffered cracked tops.)

But as you can see, they did come out rather nicely, and I'm really happy about adding macarons to my repertoire, trendy or not. (And I'm even happier about getting to eat them!;)

Saturday, January 22, 2011

2011 Garden Planning

One peek at the mountain of snow outside and this post might seem a little premature. But spring will be here before we know it (seriously, how is it already the end of January???) and I'm already starting to think about this year's veggie garden.

I've been flipping through the seed catalog from Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds and I just can't get over all of the amazing varieties of vegetables. So far I've picked out a couple types of tomato seeds to order.

The "Egg Yolk" tomato...
...reportedly a great producer, with a rich fruity flavor.

The Black Cherry Tomato...
...with that super flavor unique to "black" tomatoes.

And the Pineapple Tomato...
...which grows up to 2 lbs in size and tastes awesome! (I had one of these last summer, and I couldn't believe how juicy and fruity it was.)

I've also checked out a couple books on intensive gardening since last year, and discovered that my plan to "improve" my garden by making better rows is actually counterproductive. From what I've gathered so far, this book is the bible of intensive gardening:
Essentially, it proposes that designing a garden in rows is not only a poor use of space, but also requires more weeding and more water. Basically, it's inefficient. The logic is pretty compelling (as are the supporting stats), so I think we're going to try and split the garden up into quadrants this year and also follow the suggestion to use more vertical space by planting more climbing plants (such as vine green beans and indeterminate tomatoes).

I definitely need to look into it more, but that's where we're leaning right now.

And just for some fun, take a look at these awesome/funky varieties of veggies I found in the seed catalog:
*Shamrock Squash*

*Plum Lemon Tomato*

*Ananas Noir Tomato*

*Japanese White Egg Eggplant*
*Cannibal Tomato EGGPLANT*
Aren't they cool?

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Laid Back Ladies' Night: Fancy Pants Pizzas

When my girlfriends and I scheduled a Ladies' Night for the weekend after NYE, I knew right away that a nice laid back evening at home would be just what we needed to recover from the rush of the holidays. And since I was hosting, I thought Build Your Own Pizzas, preceded by hot chocolate and vanilla steamers, and followed by chocolate fondue with fruit would be just. what. we. needed. I dare say I was right on the money.

We ended up making a Roasted Butternut Squash and Ricotta pizza...
a pizza featuring roasted garlic, fresh spinach, and roasted cherry tomatoes, topped with mozzarella...
and a Fig & Prosciutto pizza (from Todd English's Figs restaurant) that I have tried to reproduce about 3 times now, and *finally* hit the nail on the head.
The key is the balsamic fig jam, for which I had tried to substitute store-bought fig spread in the past. This time I decided to make it myself and it was spot on...I combined butter, chopped dried figs, balsamic vinegar, water, salt, black pepper, sugar, and dried rosemary in a saucepan and cooked it down for about 1 hour. Spread that on your dough, add prosciutto and shaved Parmesan.* Top with chopped scallions before serving, and you have got one tasty fancy pants pizza!

*Todd English's version also features Gorgonzola. Mine didn't, because...well...I forgot. But it was a fortuitous mistake, since not everyone in my world loves the stinky bleus. :)

P.S.-It's so much fun cooking with girlfriends! In the last couple of months, I have also teamed up with my girls to braid 15 loaves of Vánočka, create a glorious NYE smörgåsbord, and make delicious homemade tamales (documented by LB *here*). Good times.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

China Cabinet

With the majority of the downstairs renovation complete (although there are some lingering touch ups that we're stalling on), it's a fine time to turn my attention to fun stuff like the china cabinet.

The china cabinet is a built-in number in the dining room, and just like everything else, it needed to be refreshed. Here is the oldest picture I could find, taken during our first tour of the house. Take a moment to appreciate the wallpaper and carpet. ;)
And here it is now:
We had the plasterers do a quick skim coat on the interior walls, and then we painted, painted, and painted some more.
Based on tip found in This Old House magazine, we boiled the door hardware to remove the bazillion layers of goopy paint that had accumulated over the decades. (Totally worked.)
Since we didn't really care for the original glass drawer pulls, we bought these antique bronze reproductions online. They are so much more substantial and I think they add a lot of visual interest.
Steven used serial layers of copper and oil-rubbed bronze spray paints and some steel wool to refinish the old door hardware to match the new drawer pulls.
We wanted to use an accent color inside the china cabinet that would both make it *pop* and create a flattering background for the items on display inside, particularly my grandmother's china, which she just recently handed down to me. (Thanks, Babi!) We settled on a dusty plum tone called "Victorian" and it really highlights the elegant silver and gray of the china.
So now I'm just puttering around with this project...slowly unpacking the various treasures that we've acquired over the past few years and arranging them in their final destination. It feels SO GOOD to be putting stuff where it belongs, and it's a lot of fun to envision how I might use all these lovelies in the future.

P.S.-Happy New Year!