Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Peacock Print

 Dress: F21
Crazy Tall Heels: Nine West
Clutch: H&M
Ring: Gift from Marie Bores (She makes beautiful jewelry!)
I love love Restaurant Week here in DC!  The best places in town all have special, prix fixed menus for lunch and dinner that are a fraction of their usual cost, and most restaurants actually extend their specials for an extra week (or two!).  We were lucky enough to grab a reservation for Sunday night at Oyamel, a completely delicious upscale Mexican restaurant run by Jose Andres.

According to the website, dress is "upscale casual," which I took to mean, "Find a crazy print and tone it down a bit with a neutral." This dress is super, super fun, with the cowl neck and amazing print. I like how the black clutch and heels help ground the colors and keep it wearable. A great outfit to close out an eventful week!

Monday, August 30, 2010

Grandma's Orange Yogurt

 When it comes time for a trip to North Carolina to visit Grandma and Paul, my heart skips a beat and my stomach automatically gets larger.  We always eat very well, from Smithfield's barbecue pork sandwiches to Grandma's zucchini quiche to Paul's crab cakes.  I also love watching Grandma in the kitchen; she's so at ease, using her hands to mix if necessary and not getting too fussy about her recipes.  It doesn't hurt that her kitchen is the cutest I've laid eyes on, with red accents and lots of black and white.
As of late, my favorite thing Grandma in North Carolina has made is her orange yogurt.  Now, the recipe itself is from Ina Garten, so we'll give some credit where it's due.  However, without Grandma, I never would have made this; it's not my typical carb- or chocolate-laden treat, so how could I possibly enjoy it?  Thankfully, there are people around me who know me better than myself, and force delicious food on me when necessary.
This yogurt recipe is easy, and perfectly refreshing.  The tang of the yogurt is replaced with a subtle sweetness from honey, a rich aroma from the vanilla, and the orange takes citrus to a whole new level.  It's almost akin to an orange creamsicle, with the added interest of dried fruit and walnuts.  It's great as a light snack, as a meal with some fruit and toast, or even part of a dessert tray, along with dark chocolate on the side.

Grandma's Orange Yogurt (from Ina Garten)
2 pints plain yogurt
1/4 c. dried cranberries (can use raisins instead)
1/4 c. chopped walnuts (can substitute almonds or pecans)
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 c. honey
Zest of 1 orange
1/2 c. to 1 c. orange juice

1. Line a sieve with 2 paper towels and suspend over a bowl. Pour yogurt into sieve and drain between 3-8 hours.
2. Place thickened yogurt into medium bowl and add cranberries, nuts, vanilla, honey and orange zest. Thin with juice to desired consistency. Top with additional nuts, orange slices or zest and serve!

Friday, August 27, 2010

The Perfect Birthday Outfit!

Tank top: F21
Skirt: F21
Pin: Gap
Ballet flats: Gap
Clutch: Birthday gift from Haley!
I love birthdays!  For that day, whatever you say, goes.  You get to eat cake for breakfast, ice cream for lunch and donuts for dinner.
Well let's not go crazy here.  John Paul did make a delicious breakfast in bed, I got a great haircut, and a dinner of my choice from my man.  I got to be lazy, read my book for as long as I wanted, and wore crazy prints just because.  The top is navy, which pairs color-wise with the purples and magenta of the skirt, and the pin brings the floral into the stripes.  I really love the way this all came together, and everyone at the salon said it worked!  Shout-out to Haley for gifting this clutch; it's in a superfun color, and the size keeps me from carting around the kitchen sink.  I absolutely love it, and it was the perfect accent for this birthday outfit!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Chocolate+Guinness Cake

Oh my good gracious.
I love having an excuse to bake a cake, and my birthday yesterday was certainly an excellent one.  After scanning through a number of websites, my beloved Smitten Kitchen pointed me in the direction of one chocolate cake.  With Guinness.  And a coffee ganache.
What kind of girl would I be if I said no?
This cake is absolutely superb: moist, rich, and enough to serve about 12-15 people.  Don't worry, John Paul and I did share, albeit a bit grumpily.  The ganache could not be easier to make, and the cake is easy to pull together.  If you're looking for a great cake that is sure to please the chocoholic inside of you, give this one a shot.  And if you're in need of an excuse, I hear that Thursdays only come around once a week and are worth celebrating.

Chocolate+Guinness Cake (from Smitten Kitchen)
1 c. stout (such as Guinness)
1 c. (2 sticks) unsalted butter
3/4 c. unsweetened cocoa powder
2 c. all purpose flour
2 c. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
3/4 tsp. salt
2 large eggs
2/3 c. sour cream
6 oz. good semisweet chocolate chips
6 Tbsp. heavy cream
3/4 tsp. instant coffee granules

1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease the heck out of a bundt pan.
2. Bring stout and butter to a simmer in a large, heavy saucepan over medium. Add cocoa powder and whisk until mixture is smooth. Cool slightly.
3. Whisk flour, sugar, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl. Using electric mixer, beat eggs and sour cream in another large bowl to blend.
4. Add stout mixture to egg mixture and beat to combine. Slowly, add flour mixture and beat briefly on slow speed. Using rubber spatula, fold batter until totally combined.
5. Pour batter into prepared pan and back about 45 minutes, until cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean. Transfer to rack and let cool completely in pan; invert and drizzle ganache over.
6. Melt chocolate chips, cream and coffee in top of a double boiler over simmering water until smooth and warm, stirring occasionally. Drizzle over top of the cooled cake.


Wednesday, August 25, 2010


23 was a pretty great year, and gave me ample opportunities to explore myself and grow more into the person I want to be.  I experienced my first big snow storm (look at that smile above; for a Florida girl, making snow angels is a blissful thing!), graduated from my Masters program, and traveled further south than Key West.  I'm really looking forward to 24, though, and figuring out my first grown-up job, moving into an apartment with amazing views of Georgetown, and traversing the terrain of being a twentysomething!
Currently, I'm working through a 770 page tome on military-created vampires (so looking forward to sharing it with you!), so will leave you with a list of some great books I read while 23.  There's so much wonderful literature out there!
The Help, by Kathryn Stockett
Chick lit without all the cheesy romance, this book narrates the lives of three women in Jackson, Mississippi in the 1960s as they combat racism in their own ways.
Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins
This book about a teenage girl's struggle to stay alive during a competition of life and death will keep you on the edge of your seat until the very end.  Part one in a trilogy.
Graceling, by Kristin Cashore
A young adult novel about a girl with unnatural powers who goes on the run with the prince of her kingdom.  It's fantasy with a foot in reality and a strong heroine who isn't afraid to speak her mind.
The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak
A heartbreaking account a one family who hides a Jew during the Holocaust in Germany.  Keep a box of tissues handy.
Animal Farm, by George Orwell
I know, I know, pretty much everyone has read this political satire about a farm taken over by animals who aim for equality, but end up with something much more akin to communism gone wrong.  If you're one of the few who haven't, it's definitely worth your time.
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, by Rebecca Skloot
The true story of a black woman whose cancer cells became a medical phenomenon, although her family did not find out about it until 50 years later.  A fascinating account of racial inequities in the medical field.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Wild Wild Vest

Shawl vest: Gap
Belt: J. Crew
Skirt: Urban Outfitters
Wedges: Nine West
I can already tell that this vest is going to be a staple this fall.  It's 100% recycled cotton, looks great belted with leggings, skirts and jeans, and can be worn open to add a wee bit of coverage to a tank top.  This was great for a summer workday; took off the vest for the walk home, and traded the wedges for flats.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Turkey Meatloaf

 This is the easiest meal to throw together, and satisfies the whole comfort food urge without all the guilt.  (For that, just add cheddar biscuits.)  The turkey is leaner than beef, and there's tons of spinach for added zinc, fiber, Vitamin C, and tons of other important nutritious stuff.  Put everything in a bowl, into a loaf pan, and bake; it couldn't be easier!  For any day-after helpings, heat up and put on toast with ketchup.  Yum yum!

Turkey Meatloaf (from Real Simple)
1 1/2 lb. ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1/2 bag spinach, thick stems removed and leaves chopped (about 4 c.)
1/2 c. whole-wheat bread crumbs
2 Tbsp. dijon mustard
1 large egg white
Salt and pepper

1. Heat oven to 400.  In a bowl, combine ingredients.  Season with 1/2 tsp. each of salt and pepper.
2. Transfer mixture to a loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, until cooked through.  Serve with cheddar biscuits and steamed green beans, if desired.


Thursday, August 19, 2010

Raspberry Crisp

Although I don't feel there is every any reason needed for a delectable dessert, I made this fruit crisp last night as a congratulations to myself.  You see, after nearly a year of hunting and interviewing and generally driving everyone around me nuts talking about it, I found a grown-up job.  As of next Friday, I'll be the office manager for the Catholic University Honors program, and am so excited about it!  To top the day off, I whipped up this celebratory raspberry crisp.
This is such a great summer dessert, full of seasonal berries and a crunchy topping.  The recipe I used called for sugar to sweeten the berry mixture, but, because the fruit is already so tasty, I would probably leave that out next time.  Go a la mode with vanilla ice cream, throw some homemade whipped cream on top, or just eat this straight out of the baking dish with a spoon.  Celebrate your own occasion however you see fit!

Celebratory Raspberry Crisp (adapted from Pioneer Woman)
2 1/2 c. raspberries
1 heaping Tbsp. corn starch
1/2 c. sugar (or leave out)
1 tsp. vanilla
1 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/3 c. oats
1/4 c. pecans
Dash of salt
3/4 sticks unsalted butter

1. Preheat oven to 350.
2. Combine rinsed raspberries, corn starch, 1/2 c. sugar and vanilla in a medium bowl. Set aside.
3. In food processor, add flour, 1/4 c. sugar, brown sugar, oats, pecans, salt and butter. Pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs.
4. Pour berry mixture into deep pie dish. Sprinkle topping mixture on top and toss into the oven for 25-30 minutes, until topping is golden brown.
5. Allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

American Music

 How is this for an enticing lead-in for a novel: a physical therapist is charged with massaging a wounded war veteran, and every time she touches him, both glimpse images from several interwoven stories from the past.  American Music, by Jane Mendelsohn, is a lyrical and succinct story of cymbals and symbols. 
Milo, a war veteran who suffered a spinal cord injury while overseas, is in a veteran's hospital; Honor is the phsyical therapist who visits him frequently to ease his pain.  During their meetings, both are subject to stories from the past, although it is not clear at first how they are all connected.  There's the couple from the Depression, Joe and Pearl, who are married but unable to conceive; Vivian, Pearl's cousin, offers an out for Joe's frustration.  Anna, Iris and Alex are a small family in the 1960s who can't connect to each other, and a mysterious photographer who has all of her prints stolen from her apartment.  Parvin and Hyacinth are forbidden lovers in Turkey in the seventeenth century.  Music, especially jazz and swing, is sprinkled throughout all of these stories to impart the importance of rhythm in anyone's life: Joe is a traveling saxophonist, Honor listens to the Rolling Stones and Billie Holiday in her kitchen, Parvin is the inspiration for a beautiful set of cymbals. 
While the novel sounds as though it could be hokey or confusing, the idea of seeing these stories is presented in a realistic way that is simple to follow.  Mendelsohn writes with a deliberately slow pace, making it perfect to read over a lazy weekend.  Her writing is poetic, and includes lines like, "His hands held her face in his, and she felt like a bird's egg: small and safe and about to be born."  There is no great moral to this story, except perhaps the importance of forgiving the past, but with rhapsodic narrative like this, there doesn't need to be.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Almond-Garlic Pasta

When it's warm outside, I generally find myself looking for pasta salad recipes that can eaten chilled for a couple of days.  Not only does it cut down on the amount of cooking to do, as leftovers are a given, but they're incredibly refreshing.
This particular recipe is stellar.  The delicate almonds add a slight crunch and nuttiness to the garlic and sweet peas, and mint infuses the dish with a subtle lightness.  If you want to add more veggies for a fuller vitamin intake, I think blanched asparagus and green beans would be perfect! 

Almond-Garlic Pasta (adapted from Epicurious)
3/4 c. blanched almonds
3 cloves garlic, smashed
3/4 c. water
1 lb. whole wheat rotini or other tubular pasta
2 Tbsp. olive oil
3 Tbsp. unsalted butter, divided
1 bag frozen peas
1/2 c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus extra for serving
1 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/3 c. fresh mint leaves, torn
1/3 c. roasted, chopped almonds

1. Purée blanched almonds and garlic with water and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a food processor until smooth.
2. Cook pasta according to package until al dente. Reserve 3 c. cooking water and drain.
3. Meanwhile, heat oil and 1 Tbsp. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until foam subsides. Add almond puree and simmer, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 3ish minutes. Add 2 1/2 c. reserved cooking water, pinch of salt, and 1/2 tsp. pepper, whisking occasionally, until thickened, 3-4 minutes. Whisk in remaining butter until melted, then add pasta and peas and cook 2-3 minutes. Add cheese and lemon juice, stirring until well combined. Remove from heat and stir in half mint, then salt and pepper to taste.
4. Serve pasta in bowls topped with chopped almonds, remaining mint, and additional cheese.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Garden Fresh

Dress: F21
Sandals: Michael Antonio
Belt: GAP
Bangle: Ten Thousand Villages
Oversize Clutch: Vintage
How adorable is this dress?  So adorable I wear it almost weekly.  The pleats at the collar add a bit of polish to the short tent style, and it pairs great with heels or flats.  The belt is actually for the hips, not waist, so I tied it in a little knot and it stayed put!  Purple and green is one of my favorite color combinations; this dress ties it all together beautifully.  John Paul and I made a trip to the farmer's market, so the floral seemed like an appropriate print, and the short length let me stay relatively cool in the summer heat. 

Friday, August 13, 2010

LOTS of pictures

I'm warning you now: there are a lot of pictures in this post.  There has to be.
Frequently, I make mention to loving my family a whole, whole bunch and missing them down in sunny south Florida.  I thought I'd be able to make it down to see them this month, but temp work has been a bit all over the place, and it just hasn't been feasible.  So instead...
Haley and my Daddy Man took it upon themselves to surprise me up here!
On Sunday afternoon, I answered a knock at the door to find my beloved family (John Paul included) waiting there, with big smiles on their faces and flowers in hand.  Between the three of us, there were 700 pictures to document this momentous occasion; here are 10 of them.
I was utterly shocked; Daddy Man hasn't been to visit me in DC, and it was surreal and wonderful seeing him on my doorstep.  How great is that smile?  He knew he'd done a good thing coming up.
We went up to the rooftop to capture all four of us.  What good secret keepers these three are!
Here we all are sitting in Albert Einstein's lap late on Monday night.

Before going to a Something Corporate show on Tuesday night, we stuffed our faces with Ben's Chili Bowl deliciousness.  This place has been in business since 1958!
There was a lot of Metro-ing involved.  It offers a great place for posing, though!
As a sidenote, when John Paul was courting me, Haley visited and he said he'd never seen my smile as bright as when I was around her.  She's just the best sister a girl could ask for.
No trip to visit is complete without some Baked and Wired goodies.  Some iced coffee, lemonade and cupcakes, and we were all set!
The Washington Monument is much wider than our six arms put together... 
...but only double our height! 
Daddy Man has a burgeoning fan club with adoring members.
 And we licked some ice.
All in all, they pulled off an excellent surprise, and it was the best gift I could have received!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Spinach and Garbanzos

While John Paul and I were trying to think of the best way to describe the taste of this dish, we came up with the following: complex, earthy, slightly sweet, hint of spicy, smoky.  It's a dish that will make you forget there's no meat in it, because the tomato-y paste that coats the garbanzos is thick and a little tangy, and the spinach adds just the right bit of freshness.  It's a different take on a tapa, and John Paul said the tastes really remind him of south Spain and Morocco (it should be pointed out that he's never been to Morocco).  It's pretty filling, so there is certainly no need to top it with a poached or fried egg, but I am of the party that believes that a bit of egg yolk makes every dish a little better.  It serves three people very comfortably, especially if another small dish is added, but in the event of leftovers, just reheat in the microwaves the day after.

Spinach and Garbanzos (from Smitten Kitchen)
1/2 lb. dried chickpeas, cooked until soft and tender OR 2 15-oz cans of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
6 Tbsp. olive oil
1 lb. spinach, washed
2 slices from sandwich loaf bread, crusts removed and cut into small cubes
1/2 c. tomato sauce
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp. cumin
Pinch of red pepper flakes
1 1/2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Lemon juice, to taste
1. Place a large frying pan over medium heat enough olive oil to coat the bottom. When it is hot, add the spinach with a pinch of salt (in batches, if necessary) and stir well. Remove when the leaves are just tender, drain in a colander and set aside.
2. Heat 2 Tbsp. olive oil in same pan over medium heat. Fry the bread for about 5 minutes or until golden brown all over, then the remaining tablespoon of oil and the garlic, cumin and pepper. Cook for 1 minute more or until the garlic is nutty brown.
3. Transfer to a food processor, blender or mortar and pestle along with the vinegar, and mash to a thick paste. Return the mixture to the pan and add the drained chickpeas and tomato sauce. Stir until the chickpeas have absorbed the flavors and are hot. Season with salt and pepper.
4. If the consistency is a little thick, add some water. Add the spinach and cook until it is hot.  Serve topped with lemon a squeeze of lemon juice and paprika.