Friday, December 21, 2012

Haley's Life in Photos

 It was a little chilly the other morning, so I had mocha coffee with a homemade peppermint marshmallow (from the Farmer's Market) first thing at work.  Nothing like a sugar overdose to get your day going!

I got my nails done for the holiday season!  This glittery nail polish is called "La Rosa Romantica", and it is like a disco ball that I can take with me!  I am just wild over it.  Also, the nail place that we went to  gives you a glass of wine when you get a manicure or pedicure; just what I needed after a long day at work!

 I've been trying to work more on my yoga, and this particular pose is called "Side Crane Pose" (I think).  The problem is, however, that Layla likes to get involved and try to knock me off balance...that sneaky pup.

I helped my friend Noelle make Christmas bags, because she was complaining about wrapping all of her gifts.  How cute is the fabric she chose!?

And I finally finished ALL of my shopping and wrapping of presents!  The sewing machine that I got for Christmas last year (thanks, Mommi!) is worth its weight in gold!

I'm rocking a pompadour at work today.  I figure if it actually IS the end of the world today, at least I'll go out in style!

High of 57 today, and "abundant sunshine"; the perfect kind of weather!  I'm very lucky to have a window at my desk, and this is what I get to see while I'm working!

Wishing all of you lovely, amazing readers a happy, healthy, and exciting holiday season!  We cannot wait to be back with more fun after the first of the year! 

Abbi's Week in Photos

We went to Zoo Lights over the weekend; if you're in DC, you should hit it up!  We had fun, and it was packed on a Saturday night.  Most of the zoo buildings are open, so you can see things like...

...a porcupine eating a banana.  It's pretty cute.

 Crepes crepes crepes.  I'm a pro now.

Mia got some yogurt leftovers- happy camper!

This was the first year JP gave the okay to mail personalized Christmas cards!  Some of you should keep your eye on the mail...

TLP is closing up shop until the first full week of January.  All this crafting and cooking is exhausting us!  Sending you the very best wishes for a wonderful, restful, fun Christmas and New Year's Eve!  xo

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Chicken Piccata

Is there any recipe that involves pounding meat really thin, breading it, and baking or frying it, that is NOT completely delicious?  This recipe from Ina Garten is no exception; the sauce is tart and rich and buttery, and the chicken is fairly easy to get together.  The sauce is definitely the best part, though, and could be used over steamed veggies, fish, or just plain grilled chicken!

First, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.  Place chicken breasts between parchment paper and SMASH them out flat!  I don't have a tenderizer, so I use my metal ice cream scoop and it works just as well.  Heat up some coconut oil in a pan.  While that's getting good and hot, dip each chicken breast into flour (seasoned with salt and pepper), then egg, then breadcrumbs.

Fry the chicken for about 2 minutes on each side, and then bake them in the oven while you make the delicious, delicious sauce:

Wipe out the pan with a paper towel, then add 1 tablespoon of butter, the juice of two lemons, the lemon halves, and 1/2 cup of chicken broth.  The recipe calls for 1/2 cup of wine here, but I was completely out of wine (tragedy!), and substituted chicken broth.  Season with salt and pepper, and boil until the sauce is reduced by about half.  

Once the sauce is reduced, remove the lemon halves, and remove from heat.  Add in two tablespoons of butter, and swirl it around until it melts.  I served the chicken with whole wheat fettuccine, and a side of steamed green beans, with the sauce all over everything!  Try making this and NOT putting the sauce all over everything--I dare you!

Oh, and if you accidentally spill coconut oil all down the front of your cabinet and onto the floor, don't worry about it.  Layla will take care of it for you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake

Sometimes it's just a good thing for us to be challenged in the kitchen.  To walk into the hearth of the home, and feel undaunted with a crazy new recipe.  I think it's good for the soul, and certainly excellent for our self-esteem, to be able to impress with something we've made with our own two hands.  
Thus, the decision was made to spend most of Sunday making a 17-layer hazelnut crepe cake.  I wanted to show my wonderful DC cousin that her recent birthday did not go unnoticed, and that she is worthy of a wonderfully decadent dessert.  I also wanted to face my fears of creating crepes and pastry cream from a handful of ingredients.  I'd say both were accomplished. 

Chocolate Hazelnut Crepe Cake (from Smitten Kitchen, 2012)
9 Tbps. unsalted butter (for both crepes and pastry cream)
2 1/3 c. whole milk
6 large eggs
1 1/2 c. flour
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar

Hazelnut pastry cream:
1 c. hazelnuts
1 c. confectioner's sugar
2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
3 1/3 c. whole milk
7 Tbsp. sugar
5 egg yolks
5 Tbsp. cornstarch
butter leftover from crepes

Chocolate ganache: 
6 oz. chocolate chips
1/4 c. + 2 Tbsp. heavy cream
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract

Make Crepes:
1. In a small saucepan, brown all butter according to these instructions.  Let cool to lukewarm.
2. In a blender, combine milk, eggs, flour, salt, sugar, and 6 Tbsp. browned butter.  Cover finished mixture and refrigerate for one hour or up to 2 days. 
3. When you're ready to actually cook the crepes, preheat a medium non-stick skillet or crepe pan over medium-high heat.  My pan is super non-stick, so I could skip the buttery, but you may want to brush  your own with melted butter to ensure nothing clings to the surface.  
4. Pour 1/4 c. batter into skillet and quickly swirl it around until it evenly coats the bottom and cook, undisturbed, until the bottom is golden and top is set (1-2 minutes).  Carefully flip and cook on other side for 5-10 additional seconds to set.  It may take you a couple to get the hang of it, but the batter makes a TON of crepes, so no need to fear.  You can do this!  There are a few good videos on YouTube to walk you through the process if you want to visualize it; I'd start with this one, and the pouring/flipping starts at the 1:40ish mark.
5. Transfer finished crepes to a plate and just stack; they won't stick together.  I found that the batter actually made close to 25 crepes, but you'll only need 16 or 17 for this recipe, as the pastry cream only makes so much. 

Toast/Skin Hazelnuts:
1. Preheat oven to 350 and spread hazelnuts on a baking sheet.  Toast for 10 minutes, rolling around halfway through.  Remove from oven and let cool. 
2. Rub nuts between your palms to remove skins, and discard. 

Make Hazelnut Pastry Cream:
1. In a food processor, grind nuts, confectioner's sugar, extract, and salt into damp-looking crumbs that combine in small clumps.  Do not over mix, or you'll make a hazelnut butter!
2. In a saucepan, combine the hazelnut paste, milk, and sugar over medium-high heat and bring to a simmer, stirring a bit so it doesn't scorch.  In a medium bowl, whisk together yolks and cornstarch until smooth.  Stream in small spoonfuls of the hot milk into the yolk bowl slowly, until you find that the bowl is hot.  
3. Now, reverse.  Slowly stir in yolk mixture to milk saucepan, whisking constantly, until the two are combined.  Continue whisking while you bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 2 minutes; it should thicken upon boiling, to a loose pudding consistency.  Remove from heat and stir in remaining 3 Tbsp. browned butter.  
4. Transfer to a bowl, press plastic wrap on top of cream, and refrigerate until set, probably about two hours. 

Assemble Cake:
1. Lay first crepe on plate and spread with 1/4 c. pastry cream.  Repeat with remaining crepes until you're out of pastry cream.  Chill in the fridge until you're ready for the ganache.

1. Melt all ingredients in a double boiler until smooth, but thick.  Remove cake from fridge, pour ganache on top and gently push some off the sides, so it's there are a few drips on the edges.  Set cake in fridge until the chocolate is set.

Finally....slice and eat!  

Tuesday, December 18, 2012


Here is a clever little how-to: a hair turban from a hand towel!  I learned this trick from a hair stylist back when my hair was half-way down my back, and I was so impressed that she was able to get all of my hair up in a little towel like this!  This is better for wet hair because it keeps it from being broken or damaged by twisting it up with a big towel.   

First, take a hand towel, and fold it corner to corner.  You will want it to look just like this picture: imagine it lying flat out, and fold it from the top left corner to the bottom right. 

Flip your hair over, and then lay the long edge of the towel against your neck.  

This is where you wrap the towel around your forehead.  Fold the left side snugly against your hairline.

While still holding the left side tight, fold the right side over it.  Tuck the corner of the right side into the pocket made by the fold on the left side of your head.  You can see my left hand opening the little pocket in this picture.

Flip back the two little flaps, and wrap your hair into a little bun on top of your head.  Stand up straight and keep the bun piled up on top there.

Now you'll fold those two little flaps over the bun.  Start with the left side, and fold it over, then tuck it between the towel on the right and your hair. 

Fold the right flap a little into itself, to make a thin little flap. 

Take this little flap, and tuck it into the pocket on the left side of your head. 

Now your head is all snuggly and warm, wrapped up tight!  Sometimes, I wrap my hair up when I'm taking a shower and don't want to wash my hair, rather than using a shower cap. 

It takes a little while to get the hang of this, but practice, practice, practice!  It's worth it!

Monday, December 17, 2012

Seating Arrangements

(I have a killer cake recipe- it involves 17 layers- coming up for you on Wednesday, but just couldn't get it together quickly enough for a Monday morning post!  A little switching up of the schedule, just for the holidays.)

As you may recall, I was very excited to read this debut novel from Maggie Shipstead; just look at that adorable cover!  It's received pretty decent reviews- maybe a 77% positive rating for most of the articles I read about it.  Perhaps I am just not in the right state of mind to enjoy this summer wisp of a novel, but consider this a case of overhype and just plain unlikable characters.  
The narrator jumps around to a few different characters, though mainly rests squarely on Winn, an upper-class banker marrying off his older, pregnant daughter in a destination wedding in New England.    Throughout the three-day affair, he lusts after one of the bridesmaids, considers why he hasbeen languishing on the waitlist for an exclusive 'club' on the wedding island, makes sure his younger daughter knows he disapproves of her life choices, and gives the world's worst wedding toast.  He's also hellbent on belittling his imagined nemesis by doing everything from threatening to sue his club to sawing off the weather vane on his newly-built mansion. 
We also get peeks into the thought process of Dominique, a bridesmaid who happens to be an outsider to this lifestyle; Biddy, Winn's tolerant and patient wife; Livia, the younger daughter who is getting over her own social embarrassment; and Agatha, the temptress bridesmaid.  A few of these characters are more relatable than Winn, though, honestly, not by much. 
My biggest issue with the book, other than the fact that I was hoping for so much more, is that there seems to be no point within its pages.  The plot is easy enough to follow (get a lot of WASPs together on an island with whale shorts and liquor, add a wedding and a father-of-the-bridezilla), but the ending is practically non-existent and there is virtually no character arc to Winn.  The guy who dominates the book just goes further and further into his warped idea of what life should be like, without coming to any actual conclusions about his lifestyle and ideals.  
One reviewer said it perfectly with this quote, "The whitest book I read all year, and I read The Marriage Plot."  I couldn't have said it better.  This book has no dark meat, nothing to really sink your teeth into or add flavor.  Pass.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Haley's Life in Pictures

This is what I wore for our office Christmas party last Friday.  The dress has a fun swingy skirt, with fuschia lining in the top and a keyhole opening in the back.  Everyone should get ready to see a lot of this dress, because it's going to be my holiday dress!

I made us stockings!  Matt requested the pom pom accent for his stocking, and mine has a red and gold trim.  I'd do a tutorial for you, but it's a miracle that they turned out this nicely because I just winged it (wung it?).  I have no idea how that happened...
I've been practicing my handwriting; in this sample, I was listing all of the character names from The Office.  Why am I practicing, you ask?  Because when I tried to mail something to "Hopkins Street", the guy at UPS thought it said "Dolphin Street".  Better safe than sorry.

Downton Abbey, Season 3 premieres on January 6th!  Poor Matt suffered through a 2-hour special on PBS about the show, and it got me all fired up!  Are there any shows that you are looking forward to?
This girl was so hungry after her walk, she did not have time for us to take off her jacket before dinner.  That's a Martha Stewart jacket, and she loves it!  

Matt and I ate ourselves into food comas at the Melting Pot on Wednesday night.  We had Bourbon Wildberry Brambles to start, then fiesta cheese fondue, and ended with s'mores chocolate fondue!  Thursday night's dinner was much more healthy and sensible.

Abbi's Week in Photos

 JP took me on a surprise date night last Friday!  As you can see, we ate very green, healthy stuff.

 Mia and her duck- an inseparable bond.

 A beautiful hot, spiced apple cider over Saturday brunch.  Simple and delicious.

Monday was a long day, so we had some dessert at Serendipity in Georgetown.  It's a pretty lengthy menu.

 We went with the frrrrozen hot chocolate with Oreos.  Neither of us really anticipated the size, but have no fear, we were able to choke it down.

 This is my aging Palm Beach socialite outfit: J.Crew sweater and pants, Urban Outfitters heels, Gap button-down.

Lest you think I ate only pizza and ice cream, here is photographic proof that I ate greens.  Moderation is key.