Tuesday, June 30, 2009

The Right Order for Tacos

Sorry for my absence! My future Sister-in-Law was in town, so while we were showing her the best seafood and pizza and burgers, my kitchen was lonely.

And then last night, I got home late and still had to do the groceries, so we decided to have a taco night. As you may remember, tacos are my favorite comfort food.

It's interesting, when living someone, to see how different people handle different things, like how they organize their tacos.

Sean prefers one strip of lettuce rather than shredded, almost like a taco lettuce cup. I thought that was crazy, so he set up TWO separate sets of lettuce in our taco assembly line. Crazy man.

Preparing to set up his tacos. Here's the order, according to Sean: Shell, lettuce cup, onions, meat. He messed up on his first run (as seen below), but got it right later.

My order? Shell, meat, cheddar cheese (which I give time to melt), onions, taco sauce then lettuce.

I'm very particular about sandwiches, too. If the cheese is on the bottom, THE WORLD IS OVER. If the lettuce is on the bottom, THE WORLD IS OVER. And if the bun isn't toasted, THE WORLD IS NOT ENOUGH!

Friday, June 26, 2009

A word on Michael Jackson

Usually I wouldn't post celebrity news on this blog, but I had some thoughts on the passing of Michael Jackson I would like to share.

His erratic behavior, his alleged sexual abuse of children, his debts and mistakes won't be forgotten and can't be ignored. 

But I have always felt that the story of Michael Jackson is the story of an American tragedy. This is a man who was physically and emotionally abused. A man who had no childhood. A man who maybe never grew into manhood, but was suspended in pre-adolescence. He had crippling insecurities and an obsessive hunger to be the first to do anything, the best to do anything. And that is why I think we are all, collectively, taking his untimely death so hard.

I think many of us hoped that one day he would have a breakthrough ... he would seek psychological help, he would offer credible explanations for so many of his odd tendencies, he would magically turn into the charming, afro'd boy in "Don't Stop Till You Get Enough." But that didn't happen. I would have liked to see a comeback, if that were possible.

Every time he released a new single, even up until 2001, I was always surprised at how in tune he seemed with R&B trends and how, if recorded by anyone else, his songs would be tremendous hits. 

I used to watch MTV obsessively as a very young child and some of my earliest memories are of the "Thriller" and the "Billie Jean" videos. I, like every child of the 80s, tried to moonwalk. I tried to hit the high-pitched "Hee-hee" that appeared in all of his songs. 

I have heard many people, especially people younger than me, question why exactly this is such a big deal. And I've given it a lot of thought. As the child of a dancer, I cannot overstate the influence of this one man. He combined the grace of Fred Astaire, the athleticism of Gene Kelly, the sexuality of James Brown and the smoothness of breakdancing. 

My best friend Jamie and I have always had a guilty pleasure affinity for a TV movie called "Jacksons: An American Dream" that came out when we were in 4th grade. We can recite this movie, and though it's cheesy, it has always influenced my thinking about Michael. His life was never easy, and I think that's why I'm sad. 

A different angle

I love how just shooting from a different angle can make a standard picture into a breathtaking one. The flowers seem to be floating, with just a slight edge of the vase visible. 

Picture by James Moes, from this wedding spotted at The Bride's Cafe.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Mini Cherry Cheesecakes

My baking fever continues! I wanted to branch out from cupcakes, and especially challenge myself to make something that didn't come from a mix. So I made ... mini cherry cheesecakes!

Let's take a second to review, friends. Two months ago, I had never made a cupcake by myself. I had barely cooked, period! But look at me now!

So what goes into cheesecake? Cream cheese, obviously. Sugar, duh. Eggs and vanilla extract, of course. And...sour cream. I didn't see that one coming!

One of the most interesting things about learning to cook has been finding out how ingredients work together to reach the end result. When I was blending the cream cheese, and it was sticking to everything but the bowl, I thought I'd already messed up. But lo and behold, add the eggs and you've got cheesecake consistency!

Lookie there! I'm getting somewhere.

I didn't just make cheesecake from (mostly) scratch. I also made crusts out of crushed teddy grahams, sugar and butter. And this crust is particularly delicious, which I attribute 100 percent to the smiles on the Teddy Grahams' faces.

I popped them in the oven at 275 for a little over 20 minutes and then took them out. I was concerned because they didn't have that browned edge that you usually see...was I supposed to bake them even longer? But they were just fine.

I left them on the cooling racks and when I was ready to refrigerate, wrapped the entire muffin tin in plastic wrap.

And this morning, I spooned on the cherry topping (which I did not make...seriously, I have no idea how one would make that).

Guess what? It was delicious. Sweet, but with that bite from the sour cream. The crust was amazing, too ... buttery, chocolatey, crumbly goodness. I'm not sure I've ever been so proud of myself, and it really didn't take much longer than making cake from a mix. You should all try it, seriously.

Cord solutions from Apartment Therapy

Finally! A genius solution for getting all those computer/printer/scanner/charger cords up off the ground: rain gutters!

Unplgged featured this genius idea of mounting rain gutters and tucking all the wires inside. So simple, and cost around $30. 

Easy Taco Pizza

I sat in traffic for an hour before I got home yesterday and then promptly laid down because of my exhaustion. Once I finally sat up, I knew I wanted to make something fast and easy. So I whipped together what I'm calling "Taco Pizza."

Step 1: Boboli crust + salsa

Step 2: Mexican cheese

Step 3: Southwestern chicken strips.

Step 4: Cilantro
Step 5: Heat at 450 for 10 minutes or so.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

In the shade of wisteria

I want to live in this picture. Outdoor dining, under an arbor, covered in wisteria. This home is in Springfield, Mo., where designer Sharon Taylor set up this al fresco dinner party.

Spotted at Coco + Kelley.

Egg Pasta Disasters

I was so proud of my dinner on Saturday that I decided to repeat it for Ashleigh and Amanda. And of course, I didn't have enough time, was completely scrambling to finish and made the mistake of trying something new while cooking the meal. 

First of all, I have been cooking for two for so long that just throwing one extra person in the mix threw off my game. I chopped what I thought was enough spinach — it wasn't. 

When I originally saw the recipe, it called for tagliarelle, an egg pasta. I didn't think anything of it and when I spotted this box of super fancy tagliarelle at the grocery store, I thought it would be so impressive. 

THINGS YOU NEED TO KNOW: I have never cooked or even EATEN egg pasta. I had no idea it would be different from any other type of pasta. So I timed my entire cooking around the cooking time for fettucine.

Well friends, first of all, egg pasta makes the water so murky that I couldn't even see the pasta cook and had no idea when it was done. Which meant that by the time I checked on it, it was done because apparently, egg pasta cooks immediately. So, to impress my friends, I made overcooked, mushy egg pasta. Thank goodness I have polite friends.

Also, my little salad cups came out way too big. It was just one of those cooking nights where I was completely frazzled. By the time we started eating, the pasta was cold, but still tasted good. Also, I learned that I don't really like egg pasta. Tragedies.

The lesson here: never, ever alter a recipe without trying it first. Ever.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Ballerina dress

I want THIS dress for my wedding. Too bad it's old Alexander McQueen that would be impossible to get. Le sigh. 

Tour the Venue! Mariners Museum

It's official — we'll be dancing under the stars in this courtyard at our reception. The checks have gone out, the contracts signed.

Hopefully we'll be sipping drinks or eating cupcakes somewhere around here...

We'll be most likely walking down the aisle (the figurative aisle) in this field nearby. I say "most likely" because I'm insanely indecisive and I keep falling in love with different parts of the park and saying, "Maybe we should pick a different field..." But for now, this is my field.

We'll take portraits by the Lions Bridge, one of my favorite places I've ever been.

And while I was there, I spotted this guy. Maybe we'll see one on the wedding day, too.
The entire bridge and grounds — very lovely.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

A Citrus Summer Meal

Well folks, the unthinkable happened. 

First of all, I've been watching Food Network non-stop (per your suggestions) and find myself thinking about cooking all the time. WHO AM I?

Second of all, I was actually motivated to make myself a good dinner. Usually, I'll make myself a sandwich or a salad, but last night I felt like taking on a challenge.

I decided to make fettucine with a lemon cream sauce, a recipe I spotted in an old issue of the now-defunct Domino Magazine. I zested two lemons and chopped fresh rosemary. 

For my side dish, I made Giada De Laurentis' Spinach salad in a parmesan cup, minus the almonds. 

For the lemon cream pasta sauce, I simmered 2 cups of heavy cream until it was reduced by a third and then added my lemon zest and rosemary. I will note, the rosemary was almost overpowering; next time I will use a little less.

Then I mixed the citrus vinaigrette from Giada's recipe. It was SO good. Like, good enough I'm going to make enough to bottle it next time. AND with the exception of lemons, I had all the ingredients already: olive oil, orange juice, lemon juice, honey, pepper and salt. 

I tossed the fettucine with the cream (which was a little too drippy for my taste, but that's because I made a small portion of fettucine and didn't adjust for that fact) and doused it with parmesan cheese.

Meanwhile, I used the paltry amount of parmesan I had left to make a little cup for my salad. I placed a mound of parmesan on a cookie sheet and baked it until it was golden, then quickly took it out, popped it on top of a muffin pan and used the bottom of a plastic cup to push it down into the muffin shape. 

It was SO good and SO easy and I plan to make this salad any time I have company, so you can expect it if you ever come to visit. 

This was a perfect summer dish — very light, zesty, flavorful but not overpowering. Pasta can feel so heavy in the summer, but this was fresh. Definitely my favorite meal I've made so far.

Herb and Dorothy Trailer

Herb and Dorothy Vogel are famed collectors in New York. Herb worked for the post office, Dorothy was a librarian and they decided in the 1960s to devote Herb's entire salary to purchasing art. Their collection outgrew their apartment several times over; they are regarded as experts of contemporary works.

In other words, they are my idols. If only I could convince Sean we should devote my entire salary to art.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Balloon necklace and blog housekeeping

I have a weakness for balloons. When I was a child, my mother used to rent "The Red Balloon" and I loved it. One of my most vivid memories is visiting Disneyworld for the first time and desperately hoping my mom would buy me one of the Mickey Mouse-head balloons (she didn't psychically realize this, and bought a foil balloon instead!). I would love to recapture my youth with this necklace from Yellow Goat on etsy. 

{found via Design Sponge}

In other blog housekeeping news, I will be starting a new job on Monday. How will this affect the blog? Well, it means the cooking updates may get kind of weird, but tackle a new domestication challenge: cooking for two when the people in question work opposite hours. I will be working 9 to 5 and Sean works 3 to 11:30ish. Never fear, friends, I will still be updating faithfully and hopefully some of you will join me for dinner so I can keep learning!

Butterfly bouquet

A breathtakingly crafty bouquet, spotted at Martha Stewart Weddings. Do yourself a favor, and scroll through the gallery. 

Kansas City BBQ Chicken

As some of you may remember, my friend Laura brought me authentic Kansas City BBQ sauce and I had no idea what to do with it. Many people suggested trying chicken doused with it, so I decided to go for it. 

I found one simple recipe online that said to fry boneless chicken breasts in a stick of butter, which sounded insane to me. I grew up in the opposite of a Paula Deen household — we only used margarine and I especially have always used very little. So I sliced up a little less than a full stick, melted it and hoped I wouldn't die later today. 

The recipe said to fry up the chicken, then pour sauce over it and let it simmer for 20 minutes. 

At first, the chicken was a little tough to cut, which made me very nervous. With the exception of broiled chicken, every time I have made chicken breasts, they have been dry. But this was perfect

I served the chicken with garlic- and onion-seasoned roasted potatoes (out of a bag; I'm no Martha Stewart) and it was a delicious meal. Of course, I was full after 10 minutes, but delicious just the same. 

The BBQ sauce, by the way, was amazing. Tangy, sweet with a spicy bite and because the chicken turned out so well, this was one of my favorite meals. 

Cloud Umbrella

I love literal design. This cloud umbrella is by Joonsoo Kim and is comprised of a mini cumulus that inflates to a larger cumulus, providing shelter from ... well ... the clouds. 

On the designer's site, he explains that happiness is the most important concept when designing for gloomy weather. The umbrella isn't yet manufactured, but hopefully it will be. 

{found via ffffound}

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wino Wednesday: White Varietals

Some ladies in the Hampton Roads area recently decided to meet up every other Wednesday and learn about wine and graciously invited yours truly!

The goal is to find at least one bottle for each variety that we love, and eventually to learn how to pair with food. Last night, we each brought a bottle of white.

Our hostess, Lauren, served up yummy snacks in her elegant silver trays — tres chic.

Since I was bringing a dessert wine — Bug Juice Moscato d'Asti — I brought chocolate chip cupcakes garnished with golden raspberries I found at The Fresh Market.

We tried, left to right: 
We also had:
  • Ironstone Vineyards Symphony: A delicious, very drinkable mix with a really nice finish. This was my favorite!
  • Horton Vidal Blanc: Another Virginia wine, it was dryer than we expected and for some reason, reminded us of bananas. But not in a bad way!
  • Rinaldi Vini Moscato d'Asti Bug Juice: My pick, a very sweet, very sparkly and delicious moscato. I'm a sucker for asti in any case, but this was like drinkable cake. 

If you're in the Hampton Roads area and would be interested in joining in, shoot me an email at newlydomesticated(at)gmail.com.