Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Wine of the Week: The Purple Pig & The Velvet Devil

I enjoyed a glass of both of these last night with my Winesday partner in crime and I must say, they are both excellent sips! If you recall, both Velvet Devil Merlot and The Purple Pig (Lagranja) Tempranillo were featured on my second official Winesday post, Winesday, Volume 2.

The Purple Pig can be purchased at Trader Joe's $3.99. This wine is a steal because it just tastes SO GOOD. The Velvet Devil can be purchased at Target for somewhere around $14.99. I was honored to drink from this bottle as it wasn't supposed to be opened until baby Jack's 18th birthday. Thanks for sharing, Soph!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Sprinklings from the South

On Monday, I hopped on a plane and landed in North Carolina. I'm hanging out in Charlotte this week! Lucky for me, I'll be enjoying delicious food, Southern sunshine, and sweet time with family and friends.

A few other things to share (kitchen and non kitchen related:

1. I am obsessed with brussels sprouts. We eat them every which way in our house and cannot seem to get enough. On Sunday, we pan roasted them with shallots and finished it off with lemon zest and toasted pistachios. Delicious.

2. Homemade pizza is our Friday night staple. We usually stick to roasted mushrooms, arugula, prosciutto, and mozzarella, but we have been mixing it up the last couple of weeks. Fresh tomatoes, kalamata olives, artichokes, capers, garlic, and mozzarella is the true winner right now. This is a copycat of the Papparazzi Pizza from Wolfman Pizza in Charlotte. Mmmmm.

3. Revlon Lip Butters might be the best little gems to make it into my makeup collection lately. Lollipop and Peach Parfait are positively my favorite right now. The colors are vibrant like lipstick, but go on smooth and buttery, with a little bit of shine. Love them.

4. I picked up these Say Yes to Cucumbers On-The-Go Facial Towelettes from Target this weekend to pack with me on my trip. I am loving the way they remove my makeup before I wash my face at night! They leave my skin with a calming, cool feeling and no makeup residue. I almost always wear black eyeliner and I always wear black mascara so getting all of the excess eye makeup off each night is key. These are doing the trick while I'm travelling and I like them so much, I may add them to my routine.

5. My family was jealous that Mark got to enjoy an Italian inspired meal on Valentine's Day. I'm re-creating most of the meal tomorrow night for them- Nutella Gelato and all! I'm confident that the Fettucine with Porcini Mushrooms will get positive reviews. When I asked my family if they wanted the pasta as a side or as a main course, my dad responded something to the extent of "a good bowl should always be enjoyed by itself". You now know where I get my passion for the palate.

6. The basket of Valentine's cookies that my mom left on my nightstand are beyond adorable! I'm going to convince her to write a post on these or at least give me some details so that I can share them with all of you. The packaging she designed is just to die for and these don't just have to be limited to February 14.

Until Winesday...

Friday, February 24, 2012

Home Office Details

As many of you know, I started a new job in Social Media in the fall and I have been (mostly) working from home since October. When I accepted the position, I had a little office space set up in one of our extra bedrooms, but it was nothing with personality or anything that really kept me motivated or gave me the desire to be productive for that matter. The unorganized space needed to go and the room that was being used more for storage purposes than an office required some tlc. Working with what I had, I quickly transformed the room to a workable home office in about a week. After rearranging some pieces, adding framed wedding photos on the wall, crisp white curtains, and a few fun projects, I created a fresh, feminine home office that is a happy "Nina space" to work in.

Welcome to my little room.

My desk belonged to my mom when she was young and I am in love with it! It's hard to tell in pictures but it's an antique green. When I moved it into my Charlotte apartment, we switched the knobs out with some new glass ones from Restoration Hardware.

I painted the canvases hanging on the wall above the desk and I'm so happy with the way that they turned out. I originally wanted to create a gallery wall but in a whim, I changed my mind and painted these little babies. The pewter/gold accent paint I used for the quatrefoil and monogram adds a touch of girly glam that I adore. The template I used for the quatrefoil pattern can be found here. (Thanks to Meredith and Jennifer for inspiring me) The damask stencil used on the middle canvas was purchased at Hobby Lobby and I hand painted my monogram.

Any excuse to hang wedding photos is fine with me. I picked two of my favorites taken downtown Charlotte highlighting pops of pink from my shoes and Mark's socks. They are hanging on the right side of the window I smile every time I look at these.

Flowers are about as feminine as you can get when decorating and I really wanted to incorporate this great photo of my wedding bouquet with our rings nestled in a rose. This is a floating shelf on the left side of the window.

A reading corner sometimes ends up being where I work if I want to kick my feet up. This is where I often blog. I've had this Pier One wicker chair and ottoman set for years. It might get repainted in the near future but it works for now.

On the wall opposite from my desk, I have a white shelving unit with 9 cubes and a few pull-out canvas drawers holding things like stationery, office supplies, and other essential trinkets. I also have a few of my favorite books styled and sitting out.

Above the shelving unit is this mirror I picked up at Home Goods several years ago for $20. Mirrors seem to open up a room and I love the texture and design of this mirror's frame.

This mirror is also where I inadvertently started putting on my mascara and lipstick. I do all of my makeup in my bathroom but for some reason, I wander into my office for the finishing touches. I think it's the lighting and being able to shove my face right in front of the mirror! Sophie sent me some treats about a month ago and these sterling silver footed dishes were in my package of happies. I finally found the perfect use for them. Welcome to my lipstick station!

And since I believe in saving the best for last, meet my ruffled lamp! It very well might be my favorite piece in the room! Believe me when I say that this lampshade is covered in coffee filters! It's a genius idea, really. I found this tutorial and became obsessed with having one of these in my home. My little office was the perfect spot. I re-covered an old lampshade and spray painted the base with light ivory Krylon spray paint.

Thank you for stopping by! Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Cuban Paninis

We take our Friday night meal seriously around here and we rarely deviate from our set plans but sometimes, you have to break out of your shell. Earlier in the week, I made Skinny Slow Cooked Pernil (Puerto Rican Pork) and it was ridiculously good. Since I knew we would have tons of leftovers, I was able to plan another meal using the leftover pulled pork. We skipped our usual Friday night homemade pizza party and swapped it for Cuban Paninis with oven baked fries. Paninis are always a win and these fries took the meal to another level.

It was like a Diners, Drive Ins, and Dives featured Meal.

Only better.

Cuban Paninis

Good, crusty ciabatta rolls
Pulled pork
Black forest ham, thinly sliced
Bread and butter pickles
Provolone cheese
Olive oil, for brushing

Preheat panini press and brush lightly with olive oil.

Cut rolls in half horizontally. Spread a very light layer of mustard on the bottom half of the roll. Pile high with ham, pork, pickles, and provolone. Brush the top of the half of the ciabatta roll with oliv oil and sandwich in the goods. Grill in panini press, pressing down to flatten the sandwich. Grill for 8-10 minutes, or until you have nice grill marks and the cheese has melted.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Wine of the Week: Ergo Tempranillo

I have never sipped on a Tempranillo until this week. Upon pouring myself a glass of this rare sip, I fell in love quickly. Tempranillo is Sophie's weekend wine of choice!

After some reading, I learned that Tempranillos are full-bodied, Spanish wines with hints of berries, vanilla, plum, leather, and spice. Another bottle of Ergo needs to take residence in my wine closet to have on hand for a night of tapas!

I purchased Ergo Tempranillo at my local grocery store for $9.99.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Pan Fried Risotto Cakes

If I could make risotto its own food group, I would. The arborio rice, slowly cooked and loved into life, even if served as a side dish, always takes center stage. Although I find risotto practically perfect in every way, it never quite tastes the same the next day. Unfortunately, I often find myself with a large container of leftover risotto that never gets eaten (GASP). Fortunately, I have discovered the single best way to turn your leftover risotto into a little bite of crispy, creamy heaven. Leftover risotto loses its creaminess, but the sticky texture of this day-old dish makes for a surprising treat. Give your leftover risotto new life by making it into pan fried cakes!

These make an easy pairing with grilled chicken, steak, or fish for any weeknight meal and could easily be turned into a small bite appetizer for your next dinner with friends. I used leftover lemon risotto and served the crispy cakes with grilled salmon and a spinach salad.

Pan Fried Risotto Cakes

Leftover risotto, chilled
Fresh mozzarella, cubed (if desired)
Olive oil

Heat oil in a medium skillet on medium heat.

Divide risotto into equal servings. Using your hands, form risotto into cakes around a cube of fresh mozzarella.

Cook the cakes for 10-15 minutes on each side, until nice and crispy. Serve hot.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Nutella Gelato

Our Valentine's Day was as dreamy as can be. Mark spoiled me with Valentines love and treats and I made an extra special dinner for the two of us. I would
When creating a special menu, I always go back to my 2007 Italian vacation and remember some of the most fantastic meals enjoyed al fresco, sitting in sweet cafes on the streets of Venice, Cinque Terre, Florence, and Rome.

We started with homemade fettucine in a porcini mushroom cream sauce, then moved to juicy grilled ribeyes plated with mixed baby greens tossed in balsamic. And since every good Italian meal should end with gelato, and every proper Valentine's day should include chocolate, I made my very first batch of Nutella gelato.

I scooped up my homemade frozen Italian treat and served it alongside Emily & Nick's Chocolate Hazelnut Lava Cakes for Two. A match made in chocolate hazelnut heaven.

I have found my happy place on a dessert plate.

Nutella Gelato
recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis

2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar, plus 1/4 cup
4 egg yolks
1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1/2 cup Nutella

In a saucepan, combine milk, cream, and 1/2 cup cugar over medium heat. Cook until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, in the bowl of an electric mixer, whip egg yolks with the remaining sugar until the yolks have become thick and pale yellow, about 4 minutes. Pour 1/2 cup of the warm milk and cream mixture into the egg mixture and stir. Slowly add this mixture back into the sauce pan. Cook over very low heat, stirring constantly, until the mixture becomes thick enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon. Stir in the vanilla and Nutella until it dissolves.

Chill mixture completely before pouring into an ice cream maker.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Wine of the Week: Lulu B. Pinot Noir

This week's wine basically jumped into my grocery cart while shopping for the week. I think it goes without saying that this French cafe inspired label is just darling. So is the little note from Lulu on the back of the bottle!

"Pairs well with...chit chat". Lulu sounds like an instant friend! She also has her own label of Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Malbec so I will be on the lookout for those as well.

I found Lulu B. Pinot Noir at my grocery store on sale for $6.99

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Sugar Cookies

Happy Valentine's Day!

It's not too late to whip up something sweet for the sweeties in your life. And since February is celebrated as the month of love, I think it's even appropriate to treat your lovies to these decorated sugar cookies all month long.

My mom, sisters, and I have followed this sugar cookie recipe for years. Some recipes just shouldn't be altered, and this is one of them. Making them reminds me of being at home with my family and spending the entire day in the kitchen. And wearing pajamas.

Chocolate may have a spot on my personal food pyramid, but sometimes a sweet, buttery sugar cookie is the most perfect dessert.

Sugar Cookies
recipe from Betty Crocker

1.5 cups powdered sugar
1 cup butter, room temperature
1 tsp. vanilla
1 tsp. almond extract
1 egg
2.5 cups flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. cream of tartar
Granulated sugar or colored sugar

Mix powdered sugar, butter, vanilla, almond extract, and egg in a large bowl. Stir in remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease cookie sheet.

Divide dough in half. Roll each half to roughly 1/4 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. Cut into desired shapes. If you are not going to frost them, sprinkle with granulated or colored sugar. Place on cookie sheet. Do not overcrowd the sheet. For these hearts, I only cooked 6-7 cookies at a time.

Bake for 7-8 minutes or until edges are golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Royal Icing
recipe from Joy of Baking
2 egg whites
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
2 tsp. lemon juice (optional)

Beat egg whites and lemon juice in electric mixer until combined. Slowly add the powdered sugar and beat until for about 5-7 minutes. Add vanilla or almond flavoring if desired. If the icing needs to be thinned out, you can add water. If it needs to be thickened, add more powdered sugar. When you lift the head of your electric mixer, the ribbon of the icing that drips back into the bowl should remain for a few seconds before disappearing. Use icing immediately or cover in an airtight container until ready for frosting.

To frost, color icing with food coloring and apply using a pastry bag with a fine tip or a ziploc bag with a tiny snip off the end.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Chic Couples Dinner Party: Part 2

The Chic Couples Dinner Party Menu continues today! You can't go wrong with a juicy piece of red meat and risotto is just one of those feel good foods. Chocolate is a must for dessert and homemade vanilla bean ice cream with Amaretto whipped cream takes it OVER THE TOP. Our Blackberry Champagne Jelly Shots are a glammed up, festive version of the typical jello shots found at house parties in college on Saturday nights!

Main Course:
Steakhouse Filet
Lemon Parsley Risotto

Sweet Endings:
Molten Chocolate Cakes
Vanilla Bean Ice Cream
Amaretto Whipped Cream
Blackberry Champagne Jelly Shots

Steakhouse Filet
recipe from Ina Garten (Barefoot Contessa)

4 (10 oz.) filets
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Cracked pepper
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Heat a cast iron skillet over high heat, until very hot. (I used my Le Creuset grill pan)

Pat the steaks dry and brush them with olive oil. Make a mixture of kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper and place on a plate. Roll the stakes in the mixture and coat on all sides.

When the skillet is hot and ready, sear the steaks for about 2 minutes on each side, 8-10 minutes total. Top each fillet with a tablespoon of butter and place skillet or grill pan directly into the 400 degree oven. Cook until a meat thermometer reaches 120 degrees for rare- medium rare and 125 degrees for medium. Make sure you are testing the center of the steaks when taking the temperature.

Cover filets tightly and allow to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Lemon Parsley Risotto

1 cup Arborio rice
3 shallots, minced
Olive oil- 1.5 swirls of the pan
4 cups low sodium chicken stock, plus more
Juice of 1-2 lemons
2 Tbsp. lemon zest
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1/4 cup grated Romano cheese
Fresh parsley, chopped

Mince the shallots and saute them in a shallow sauce pan or French oven, until they are fragrant and tender. Add the rice, stirring constantly, for 1-2 minutes, or until the rice starts to brown. Add the first cup of chicken stock. The rice will slowly absorb the stock. Continue to add stock until the risotto is a creamy consistency. The slower the liquid is added, the slower the starches in the rice are released, making for a creamier risotto. When the risotto is done cooking, add lemon juice and zest. Finish by mixing in grated Romano cheese and butter, then garnish with fresh parsley.

Molten Chocolate Cakes
Recipe from Emeril Lagasse

8 Tbsp. unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 Tbsp. flour
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 Tbsp. cold, heavy cream
2 Tbsp. confectioner's sugar
2 large eggs, lus 2 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
1 pinch salt
Sweetened cocoa, to garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Butter and flour four 6 oz. ramekins or baking dishes, tapping out the extra flour, then set on a baking sheet.

In a double boiler, melt the butter, chocolate, cream, and powdered sugar, stirring until smooth. Remove from heat.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, sugar, vanilla, and salt until thick ribbons form, about 3 minutes. Sift flour into the egg mixture and fold together.

Carefully fold the chocolate into the egg mixture. Divide among the ramekins and bake until the sides of the cake are set and the tops are puffed, but still soft, about 10-12 minutes.

Remove from the oven, let sit for 2-3 minutes, then unmold onto dessert plates. Serve with vanilla bean ice cream, whipped cream, and fresh berries.

Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

1 cup heavy whipping cream
1 pint milk
1 & 1/4 cups sugar
1 vanilla bean, split
2 egg yolks

Combine the cream, milk, and 1 cup of the sugar in a medium, heavy bottom saucepan. Scrape the seeds of the vanilla bean into the cream mix and add in the bean itself. Bring to a light boil over medium high heat, watching carefully so the mixture doesn't boil over. Remove from the heat.Beat the yolks in a mixing bowl and slowly whisk in 1 cup of the hot cream mixture. Gradually add the egg mixture back into the pot of cream. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the mixture coats the back of a spoon or reaches 170 degrees F, about 6- 8 minutes. Remove from the heat and place in a container. Cover and place in the refrigerator to cool for about 2 to 3 hours.

Once custard is fully cooled, place into the frozen body of your electric ice cream maker and let churn 20-25 minutes, or according to the manufacturer's instructions.

NOTE: This is the ice cream base I use for all of my vanilla based homemade ice creams. Chocolate Banana Nut Chunk and Peaches and Cream are two of our favorites!

Amaretto Whipped Cream

1 cup cold, heavy whipping cream
1 Tbsp. powdered sugar
1 Tbsp. Amaretto, or other nut liquer

Whip the cream to soft peaks using the whisk attachment of a stand mixer or electric hand mixer. Add powdered sugar and liquer and whip to combine.

Blackberry Champagne Jelly Shots

1 package blackberry jello
1 cup boiling water
1 cup chilled champagne
Fresh blackberries

Add jello to boiling water and stir until powder is dissolved. Cool to room temperature. Slowly add the champagne and stir in. Place one blackberries into ice cube trays, one in each spot. Pour champagne mixture over the blackberries and refrigerate until set.

To serve, run a knife around the perimeter of each jelly shot. Place in a bowl and serve.

Preparation tips and a love note:

1. Ice cream can always be made in advance.

2. Do not make the whipped cream until just before serving. This is a good thing to do while the molten cakes cook.

3. If you are planning a cozy night in this Valentine's Day, filet, lemon risotto and chocolate molten cakes would make for a wonderful meal for you and your love!

There are few things that I love more than entertaining loved ones. I was raised in a home that warmly welcomed in others and everyday was a reason to celebrate. Now that I have my own home, I absolutely love doing the same. Which is why I also enjoy sharing my recipes and memories with all of you. Cheers!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Chic Couples Dinner Party: Part 1

New Year's Eve 2011 was truly magical. Our dear friends, Meghan and Scott packed up their bags and flew from Washington, D.C. to Chicago to spend the holiday weekend with us. Meg and I had been dreaming up the weekend for MONTHS and it couldn't have been better. It should not be a surprise that the food was the highlight of this weekend visit, our New Year's Eve eats taking center stage. We enjoyed our daily g-chat sessions as we centered them around creating our NYE menu and by the time the McConnell's touched down in the Windy City, we knew exactly what we had to look forward to.

This menu is perfect for a chic couples night in. It's fun to get dressed up and go out, but I truly believe this is even better. Don't let prep time scare you, we all had the BEST time in the kitchen getting everything ready for our fancy night in. We turned up Michael Buble, put on our aprons, and went to town. The result was a beautifully delicious night with friends and plenty of glitter and twinkle lights to keep it festive. We put on our holiday best and enjoyed one of the best nights ever!

I'll be sharing our menu in two parts: Sips and Small Bite Starters today, then the Main Course and Desserts tomorrow.

To Sip:
Winter White Sangria with Pomegranate and Lime

Small Bite Starters:
Crostini with Shaved Parmesan and Honey
Bloody Mary Soup Shooters with Shrimp
Caprese Bites

Winter White Sangria with Pomegranate and Lime
recipe adapted from I'll Have What She's Having

1 bottle white wine
36 oz. 7-Up or Sprite
Splash of Triple Sec
Seeds (arils) from one pomegranate
Two limes, sliced

Pour white wine, triple sec and limes into a large pitcher or punch bowl and let everything marry together for about 30 minutes. The pomegranate seeds will float. When you are ready to serve, add the 7-Up for fresh bubbles.

Crostini with Shaved Parmesan and Honey

Good crusty baguette, sliced thin diagonally
Good parmesan, shaved
Herbs de Provence
Olive oil for brushing
Sea salt

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Brush baguette slices with olive oil and sprinkle with sea salt and Herbs de Provence. Arrange on a baking sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes. While the crostini is baking, prepare your shaved parmesan. This can be done easily with a pairing knife or a vegetable peeler. When the crostini has cooled, top with shaved parmesan and drizzle of honey.

Bloody Mary Soup Shooters with Shrimp
recipe from Epicurious

Peeled and deveined cooked medium-sized shrimp
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice, divided
Green olives
28 oz. can no salt added San Marzano tomatoes in juice
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup low salt chicken stock or broth
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. vodka (we tripled this)
1 Tbsp. prepared horseradish
1/2 tsp. celery salt

Toss shrimp with 1 Tbsp. lemon juice in a large bowl. Thread one shrimp and olives on a toothpick. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Place tomatoes with juice, green onions, 1/2 cup stock, Worcestershire sauce, vodka, horseradish, celery salt, and remaining lemon juice in blender. If mixture is too thick, add more vodka by the teaspoonfuls. You could substitute this with more stock. Season Bloody Mary mixture with salt and pepper to taste and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Pour soup into shot glasses or small glasses, and garnish with shrimp and olives.

Caprese Bites

Grape tomatoes
Basil leaves
Fresh mozzarella, cubed
Olive oil for drizzling

Arrange tomatoes, basil, and mozzarella on toothpicks. It looks extra pretty if you weave the basil leaf around the tomato and mozzarella. Drizzle lightly with olive oil.

Preparation tips-
Almost everything on the starter menu can be prepped ahead of time! Here's how you can get a head start so you are not slaving away in the kitchen the day of your dinner party.

1. Cut your limes and peel your pomegranate to get all of the seeds (arils) out. Refrigerate and they will be ready to go when you are ready to mix up your sangria.

2. Crostini can be made a day ahead of time. Just store in a ziploc bag.

3. Bloody Mary Soup can also be made ahead of time, in fact, it should be. The flavor gets better over time. Blend and store in a covered container in your refrigerator for one or even two days ahead of time.

4. Cook and chill your shrimp so it's ready to go!

5. Caprese bites couldn't be easier to assemble but you can take a few minutes off the prep time if you cube your mozzarella the night before.

The rest of our dreamy New Year's Even menu is coming tomorrow!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Wine of the Week: Francis Ford Coppola Bianco

I'm tickled that so many of you enjoy wine as much as I do! Last week's list of affordable weeknight wines was a huge hit and I received comments and several e-mails either thanking me for the list or sharing more sips to try. With that being said, I do believe that a wine of the week needs to take up residence on my little slice of the internet. I'll start by posting my weekly sips but if any of you have weeknight wine finds to share, send them my way!

Wine of the Week: Francis Ford Coppola Bianco

I prefer red wines over whites but I needed some white wine for Monday's dinner recipe. I picked up this "Bianco" by Francis Ford Coppola Winery. These wines were a 2 for $12 special at The Fresh Market a few months ago, so I knew it had to be good. This Pinot Grigio was on sale at my grocery for $6.99.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Bacon, Leek, and Tomato Brisket with Polenta

This gem of a recipe was delivered to me from Sophie, by way of Rachel Ray. The deliciousness cooked all day in the crock pot making for a yummy smell throughout the house. I use my crock pot a ton in the winter- there is something so gratifying about knowing that your dinner is simmering all day long.

All this meat makes for the ideal man meal but I am not ashamed to proclaim my love for me as I enjoyed it just as much as Mark did! It's all sorts of comforting. I served this dish with polenta to soak up all of the slow cooked bacon and brisket flavored goodness. Best of all? It tastes even better on the second day.

Bacon, Leek, and Tomato Brisket
recipe from Rachel Ray

1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
1/2 pound thick cut smoky bacon, chopped
Salt & ground black pepper
1 3-pound beef brisket
2 large leeks, thinly sliced
2 pints grape tomatoes
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef stock
2 Tbsp. fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbsp. tomato paste
2 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 Tbsp. honey

Place a large skillet (I used my French oven) over medium heat with olive oil. Add bacon and cook until golden brown. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Do not remove the bacon fat.

Return the skillet to medium hear. Season both sides of the brisket with salt and pepper and sear all sides of the brisket, about 3-4 minutes per side.

While the meat is searing, combine bacon, leeks, tomatoes, beef broth, thyme, tomato paste, Worcestershire sauce, and honey to your crock pot. Season with very little salt and pepper and stir. Add the seared meat and cover. Cook on high for 7 hours or on low for 9-10 hours, until the meat is tender.

Serve in shallow bowls atop a scoop of polenta (recipe below).

Basic Polenta (serves 4)
3 cups water
1 tsp. salt
1 cup yellow cornmeal
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

Bring 3 cups of water and salt to a boil in a heavy sauce pan. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal. Reduce heat to low and cook until the mixture thickens, whisking often, about 12-15 minutes. When the cornmeal is cooked, remove from burner and add butter and stir until melted.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Football Covered Strawberries

These festive football bites of berries and chocolate are now going to be a staple for my game day spread. Chocolate covered strawberries are always a giant hit and football flair was a winning combination for the Super Bowl festivities we attended yesterday. My large white platter was wiped clean before halftime.

Football Covered Strawberries
Melting chocolate

Make sure your Strawberries are washed, dried, and at room temperature. Melt chocolate in a double boiler. Dip the strawberries in the dark chocolate, and place on a sheet of parchment paper to harden. When the chocolate is dry, melt the white chocolate. Pour into a ziploc bag and cut a tiny tip in one corner. Carefully pipe on the white chocolate accents.

Thanks to Missy from Pink Pistachio for her beyond genius idea. (if her blog is not already on your daily list, it should be!)

Sunday, February 5, 2012

Oven Fried Pickles

Just in time for the Super Bowl...

These bite sized pieces of salty, pickly, double crunchy heaven do not need a fluffy intro. Just make them. As in, today.

Then devour them.

P.S. A little ranch seasoning + sour cream for dipping is a total game changer.

Oven Fried Pickles
1 jar whole dill pickles
3 eggs
2 Tbsp. half & half
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. hot sauce
1 tsp. garlic powder
1 tsp. Emeril's Essence (or other cajun seasoning)
1 tsp. pepper
1.5 cups panko breadcrumbs

Slice pickles into thick rounds.

In a medium bowl, whisk together eggs, flour, and half & half. Add Worcestershire sauce, hot sauce, garlic powder, essence and pepper.

Pour panko into a shallow dish and set up a dipping station. Dip the pickle rounds into the egg mixture, then dredge in the panko.

Place pickles on a lined broiler pan. Broil on high for 3-4 minutes on each side.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Friday Happies

Word has it that the Groundhog saw his shadow but if six more weeks of winter consist of the winter weather that we've had so far this year, I'll welcome it with open arms. The sun has been shining, Jack Frost seems to be hiding, and aside from a small dusting a few weeks ago, there isn't a snowflake in sight! I toodled around town today in my gold glitter TOMS today and all I needed (I'll admit, more because it's cute and not because it's warm) was a pashmina. I'll be happy if this weather is a sign that I can retire my boots and heavy coats until next winter.

I made a darling Winter wreath last year for our front door. I had my heart set on making something for Valentine's Day but I ran out of time. Luckily, I had some pink grosgrain ribbon and red tulle in my craft room. With 5 minutes and a new bow, I was able to remix last year's wreath with a little pop of pink & red for Valentine's day.

Speaking of love, last week's pink roses were starting to droop- but I wasn't ready to part with them yet! I cut them, placed them in stemless wine glasses filled with water, and placed them on a glass cake stand under a gold charger. Now we have a pretty little arrangement on our table.

After months of hearing nothing but rave reviews about the Clarisonic Mia 2, I finally purchased one myself. I have been using this little thing for almost a month now and it has exceeded my expectations and beyond. My skin has never felt so clean and smooth. I struggled with my skin as a teenager and now that I'm 26, I finally have a regimen and products that work for me and I'm happy with my complexion. My Mia 2 is now like buttercream frosting on the cupcake! A splurge it was, but it was worth every penny! I. AM. OBSESSED.

How cute is this flower? It's made from a coffee filter! I have no clue yet what to do with these but now that I know how to make them, I have some ideas brewing. I will be sure to post my end result!

It's Friday, which means it's pizza night at the Moore house! My homemade dough is rising and is almost ready for topping and baking. If you haven't tried this recipe yet, you really need to make it happen. I promise it's worth the love you put into it! Tonight we're making our usual favorite Roasted Mushroom with Arugula and Prosciutto. Our second pizza is going to be topped with Roasted Red Pepper Pistachio Pesto, goat cheese and mozzarella. I can't wait to devour these beauties (don't worry, we save leftovers for weekend lunch!)

Happy Super Bowl Weekend!