House Tour: Smitten With Our Kitchen

Welcome to my favorite room in the house.  Brendan and I spend a lot of time in the kitchen cooking together, so decorating it was our first priority.  It took us awhile to decide on our Ikea shelf and island, that’s not actually an island, but it turned out so beautifully.  We love the red and Tiffany blue color scheme that we have goin’ on in here.  It is such a cool color combo, I had thought about making our wedding colors Tiffany blue with little touches of red.

Above is our rosemary bush.  We have gotten so much use out of it. If you cook, you should definitely invest in a rosemary bush.

Oh, if you are looking for a great cookbook that is easy to use, with lots of pictures and helpful tips, you should check out The America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook 3rd Edition.  Brendan and I have liked everything that we have made in this cookbook; and I’ll bet you would too.

I’ve got a lot of stuff in this corner.. I think I will move some of it to another surface.

Aren’t those succulent window decals sooo cool? Our good friend Tina gave them to us for Christmas.  Tina’s  present-giving skills are uncanny. I have never met someone else with her ability to give such spot-on presents.  About a week before they showed up in the mail, I had been thinking of buying some little succulents to put on our window sills in the kitchen, but was holding off, for fear of killing them.  The part of Jersey that we live in is very lush and pretty, but they don’t have cacti like in the southwest.  When Tina’s un-killable succulents showed up, I was so so happy. Thank you again Tina!!

What’s your favorite room in your home?

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What’s Cookin’?: Meet Mac

Baked mac and cheese was the first dish I ever made for Brendan.  He had previously made me mac, and after I told him several times that mine was better, he finally let me make it for him.

I made him a Katie-mac-and-cheese-convert for life.  This is one of his most frequently requested meals.

 

Set oven temperature for 320. Adjust oven rack to the middle of the oven.

I don’t really have a recipe for this, but I start with about five or six slices of bacon, with a majority of the fat trimmed off. After cutting it into bite size pieces, I add a half teaspoon (or so) of EVOO and cook the bacon until just cooked at medium-high heat.  While this is happening, boil a pot of water, lightly salted for pasta. I usually use campanelle because it looks cool, but really anything will do.

Tear up three or four pieces of  bread for the topping and set aside.

Add half of a chopped onion to pot.  Cook until the onions have softened, stirring all the while.

After the onions have cooked, add three to four cloves of minced garlic.  Stir for about fifteen seconds till fragrant.

At this point you want to turn down the heat to low, and add a tablespoon of butter and EVOO, 1/3 of a cup of flour and maybe a 1/4 of a cup of milk.

Stir stir stir, to make a nice bechamel.

At this point add one 8 oz block of white cheddar, shredded, reserving some for topping, and maybe 2 cups of gouda shredded, reserving some for topping.

Add the cheese, and stir stir stir.

Now it’s time for the seasoning. Add cayenne pepper and nutmeg to taste. I don’t have measurements for this, I just  gradually add the spices until the nutmeg comes through the spicy kick of the cayenne.

Pour drained pasta into cheese mixture, stir gently.

Pour pasta into bake ware. FYI, I adjust the amount of bechamel  and pasta depending on how many we are feeding.

Add bread crumbs and  cheese.

For a small dish like this, I bake it for about 3-5 minutes until it is all melted and wonderful.  Then I turn the broiler on for about 2-3 minutes.. Watch carefully!! I can’t tell you how many times I have ended up burning the mac because I was distracted.

Pull out of the oven and enjoy! I like to have this with a nice crisp salad.. Yum!

I sometimes let it  become more brown so you get a lot of crispy-ness… We were just hungry and took it out before it got really brown.

I hope you like my mac. : )

 

 

Friday! Hurray! Hurray!

Hi!

Guess where we are going tonight!! You guessed it, New York!

Well… More specifically North Jersey this evening to stay with a friend, and then onward to New York tomorrow morning!

I am so so so excited. This is going to be such a wonderful experience shared with our good friends… Friends who, I need not mention, share my love of fabric, fashion, and all things vintage.

Here’s what we are going to do:

1. Vintage home goods shopping… Which I am totally pumped about.

2. Mood Fabric! I cannot wait to get some awesome fabric, and “make it work!”

3. The Met, costume  and instrument sections… Ahhh!!!

4.Shopping, of course.

5. Sunday brunch

And much much more, I’m sure.  Yeah!

What are you doing this weekend? Anything awesome? Or is it a laundry and pjs kind of weekend? I have those a lot… Which makesthisweekend especially thrilling!

 

Valentine’s Day Recap

Let me preface this post by saying that I cooked the entire day.  From about nine o’clock until about six o’clock, I was doing something in the way of dinner prep.

You’ve been warned now.

I loved it. I had such a good time whipping up our Valentine’s Day meal, I would do it again, right now… Okay, well, maybe next week. You get it.

For those of you who don’t know, this was my V-Day menu:

Maine Lobster with Wild Mushrooms and Rosemary Vapor (with a budget-friendly twist)
and
Lemon and White Chocolate Mousse Parfaits with Strawberries

Let’s start with the dessert:

When/if you make this, don’t worry if the strawberries are a little tart.  The mousses are so rich, and sweet, you don’t need to do anything with berries.  I also would use more strawberries next time. I used one carton.  next time I will use one and a half.

One of the best part about this dish is the tangy sweet zing of the lemon mousse. Use  allllll of the lemon zest, and if you have two lemons, use half of that lemon’s peel.

This is my attempt at having a double boiler. My mother has one at home, and I always used it for my chocolate desserts.  If you want to make mousse on a regular basis, you might want to consider investing in one.

So I added my yolk, sugar lemon juice and lemon zest mixture to my quasi double-boiler, and mixed, mixed mixed.

Warning: making mousse is not for impatient people.  You must must MUST keep your water simmering, not boiling.  If you made your water too hot, if will result in scrambled eggs… Albeit, tasty eggs, but not exactly servable eggs… Trust me, I would know. I had to throw out my first attempt.

Anyway, you mix and mix and mix until it is thick, and reaches 160-170 degrees. Oh, a candy, or instant-read thermometer is a must for this dish.

Simmering water

your mousse should look something like this.

Now for the chocolate mousse:

After you have finished your lemon mousse, wash out your double-boiler (this dish count for this dessert, and the main course is staggering, so be prepared), and add your chocolate and whipping cream.

As you can see, I used chocolate chips.. This is not my common practice, but when you’re making this on a budget, you can definitely go with the cheaper chocolate alternative.

Keep the chocolate cream mixture on the double boiler, until it’s just melted, then remove it from the heat. Give it a nice mix, then allow it to reach room temp. You don’t want to over cook your chocolate. It gets grainy and icky, so beware!

After both mousses have reached room temp, fold in whipped cream and put in wine glasses… The only thing I will say about the wine glasses is that their narrow tops make it difficult to artfully layer the mousse and strawberries. When I do this again, I will find some cheap wine glasses with a larger top.

Now, on to the main course. I’ll show you pictures of the dessert at the end of the post. : )

As you can see, this is not a whole lobster.  We are on a budget, and after discussing our needs with the butcher, he told us that two lobster tails would be perfect for dinner for two… And much much more affordable.

Here are my lobster tails, post-boil. It took me about ten minutes for them to cook all the way through.

I used kitchen shears and a fork to pop the lobster meat out of their shells. If you just gently run a fork or knife around the edges of the exoskeleton, you should be able to get it out with little fuss.

After I removed the meat, I let the hot lobster shells soak in cold water. You will need the shells for your lobster stalk.

Roughly chop your lobster meat into nice bite-sized pieces, then cover and refrigerate.

Now that you have cooked the lobster, and cooled the shells, you can chop up your veg for the stalk.

Then you put them into a pot, with oil and the lobster shells.

Cook them for about fifteen minutes until they look like this:

Then add water and boil it.

Obviously I changed pots… the other one was too small. And the dish-count  rises along with my blood pressure.

Boil for forty-five minutes, then pour the stock through a strainer, discarding the veg and shells.

It doesn’t hurt to strain it one more time to make sure that only the liquid remains.

Then put it back, sans veg in the pot and boil it until it reduces to two cups… It will take about an hour… When you get down to the last fifteen minutes or so, check it, and make sure that it does not reduce further than two cups.

While you are waiting, prepare your rosemary leaves for the rosemary vapor. I only used one cup of rosemary leaves, divided them into two little bowls and  poured piping hot water on them right before we sat down to dinner. If I do this dish again, I will roughly chop the rosemary to get even more vapory goodness from them. This may seem like a silly step, but truly, the aroma of the rosemary, changes the flavor of the lobster and mushrooms.

At this point, once the lobster stock has reduced, you can put it in the fridge and go beautify yourself if you want. I did. : )

When you’re ready to eat, sauté your mushrooms (no, mine weren’t wild.. Just what was on sale, and that’s okay) in oil and butter with thyme and garlic (I left my garlic in the dish, and used about eight cloves).

Heat your lobster stock until it’s simmering, then put it in a blender with one cup(!!!) of butter. Blend until it’s frothy and silky.

Add lobster meat to mushrooms. Reheat lobster then remove from heat.

Now is the time to get out your rosemary and pour the boiling water on it. It smelled soooo good.

Ladle on the lobster broth and enjoy. Oh, I almost made a risotto with sun-dried tomatoes.

Yummy, and surprisingly sweet. I think next time I will decrease the amount of water added to the stock, and use a little bit of chicken stock… I realize that that is unholy, but I would have liked the dish to be a touch more savory. All in all, a wonderful dish.

Here’s my dessert:

It was very very good.

Valentine’s Day was lovely. : )

What did you do last night?

A Pizza, a Duvet, an Ikea Entertainment Center

This last weekend was a very productive one. I cleaned the house till it sparkled on Saturday.  Then, we went to Ikea, got my duvet insert and an entertainment center on Sunday. On Sunday night, I worked on my duvet, and made a frenchified potato pizza, Brendan assembled the tv stand.

This pizza was easy to make, however the dough recipe had me waiting for an hour plus.  If I were to do this again (which I probably will) here is what I’d do differently:

– use a different dough.  My old standby is Betty Crocker, no, not the one made with Bisquick, you heathens.

– more garlic.  I added about five cloves of garlic to recipe, and also infused the olive oil with garlic, but I think it would have taken it over the top with a pureed garlic sauce.

– more flavorful potatoes… I used Yukon Golds, but they are too sweet. I’ll have to keep on looking for a different potato.

Oh, I almost forgot, we also bathed and brushed Dexter- his hair and teeth.  He was not amused.

Et Voila! The finished product… Sort of. I am going to change the hardware on it, as well as paint it some neutral color… I haven’t decide what color yet.  Maybe Callie can help me chose…Especially since she will be HERE TONIGHT!

What’s Cookin’?:The Post in Which Brendan Cooks for me

It all started with a nice chunk of pancetta.

You wouldn’t think that a piece of cured and salted pork could inspire such excitement; but at our house it does.

Spaghetti alla Carbonara was the second dish that Brendan ever made for me.  Coming from a family of fairly conservative eaters, I had never heard of carbonara, and when he asked me if I wanted it for dinner, after an internal struggle to seem like I knew what the heck he was talking about, I nodded and smiled and pleased sounds. “I’ll just do a google search later,” I told myself… Of course I didn’t…

I was surprised when he pulled out this little chunk of red  cured meat, marbled with fat. “Does it taste good? Probably,” I said to myself, “Look at all the fat, that has to taste good…”

That first night, as I do every time he makes this, I watched him prepare the meal.

He carefully sliced up the pancetta.  One of the things I like best about Brendan is how intentional he is.  This is a man with a plan. Who says what he means, and is careful with me, and everything that he does.  Slicing up pancetta is no different. Look at it. Doesn’t it look good?

Garlic. Not very romantic, but so delicious.  One of the first things that I brought and left at Brendan’s was a  toothbrush.

The aroma of the pancetta sizzling in a pan, freshly seasoned by garlic is one of my favorites.

Mmmm. Salty, cheesy richness.  This dish is so bad for you, but if you only make it occasionally, it’s not so bad.

I love it when Brendan cooks for me.  It makes me feel cared for, and brings me back to the first time we ever had this together. Sitting side by side, critiquing the meal, talking about what we would do different, then never writing it down.

I love this routine we have. I love us…

ElleBee Photography

ElleBee Photography

ElleBee Photography

ElleBee Photography

Happy Valentine’s Day, everyone. I hope you are with people you love, and take a minute to  not only show some love to somebody (boyfriend, girlfriend, husband, wife…Cat); but to also love yourself.

Wish me luck on my Valentine’s Day meal.

Come Away With Me: Places to Visit in New York

Hi!

I have been thinking about things to do when my aforementioned best friend Stephanie comes in to town and here’s what I have so far:

1.Christie’s: I think it would be so much fun to watch them auction off art and other things. I hear that it is free, and that auctions don’t last more than half an hour.

2. Museum of the Moving Image in Queens: Steph is a huge movie buff, I think it would be great to go to a museum that is all about understanding the history of film, the techniques and the technology behind picture shows. 🙂

3. Chelsea Market: I love food, and this looks like the place to go if you like food. I have yet to find many good suggestions of places to eat.. Help!

I would also like to find some good vintage clothing stores to go look at.. Any suggestions?

And that my friends is all I have for now. I have to go finish making that duvet now.

xoxo,

Katie

What’s Cookin’ Good Lookin’?

I thought it might be fun to have track our culinary  progress every Monday, and to include our dinner plans for the week, along with links to our dishes.

Let our culinary adventure begin!

Lats night we made a Salad of Winter Greens, Walnuts, and Roasted Beets, and Roast Chicken with Herb Butter, Onions and Garlic.

First off: this salad was delicious.

Here are the adjustments we made:

For the beet salad we did not use baby lettuces with frisée- we went to TWO stores looking for it! I guess they don’t have pretty salad in South Jersey. Instead we used spinach because that was what we had on hand.   We also used roasted pine nuts instead of walnuts- again, what we had on hand… We chose to use Boursin cheese with garlic and herbs because it was cheaper by about two dollars- and still very delicious.

YUM

This salad was very very good. The only thing that we did not like was the dressing that was just a tad too bitter. I think next time we will make a nice balsamic dressing for this dish.

Now for the chicken. We looooved the chicken. It was moist and delicious, and makes for spectacular leftovers.

A few adjustments: We made more herb butter, because we ran out, and needed some for the gravy. And next time, we will be flipping the bird over instead of just one side becoming crispy and delicious. Also, next time we make this we will tie the legs together so that it maintains its shape.

look at that crispy skin and roasted onion

we like to pretend like we can plate over here

Here is what we will be making the rest of the week:

Tonight: Sausage and Lentils with Fennel– yummy Frenchy goodness

Tuesday Night: Linguine Avgolemono with Artichoke Hearts and Green Beans, with a nice salad- it’s like a Greek take on Carbonara

Wednesday Night: A Southwestern Christmas Salad and Spicy Balck-Bean Soup– A Vegetarian take on Southwestern eats.

Thursday Night: Pork Chops with Mustard-Cornichon Sauce, with a green salad- another French dish

Friday Night: Tandoori Chicken with Basmati Rice and a green salad- Indian yumminess- because we can’t find an Indian restaurant near us.

Saturday and Sunday dinner are yet to be determined… Maybe we’ll do left overs, or maybe some Mexican and Chinese food. We’ll see.

xoxo,

Katie

Date Night Recap

Hi!

Did you have a good weekend?

Brendan and I had our date on Saturday. Almost everything went wrong, but it was wonderful. I guess part of being in a new city is getting lost half of the time. Even with our GPS, we drove around  searching for this Thai place in Washington Township. Finally we found it, and luckily it was not at all crowded at all (a bad sign?).  The food was okay, but the conversation was good, and sitting next to each other in a new place, knowing that Brendan thought I looked pretty from the way that he looked at me- it was a good feeling.

Oh, here is a picture of Brendan’s  dinner:

The rice is heart-shaped.. Appropriate, non?

After dinner we headed out to a movie theater…Or what we thought was a movie theater… Which actually was a movie theater, just not the right one.  So we got back in the car and drove…And drove…And drove. Finally we got there, and the movie we had wanted to see had almost started and the line to buy tickets was HUGE. Bummer.

We stood in line for about three minutes and decided to get ice cream and  watch a movie at home. We watched this Bollywood movie that had a hindi name, and laughed and practiced our Indian dance moves…Okay, I practiced my dance moves.

It was a wonderful night. Probably one of the best dates we’ve had in a while just because we were together and focusing on each other.

xoxo,

Katie

Come Away With Me: New York

As I mentioned last week my best friend Stephanie is coming to town at the end of next month, and we are planning on going to New York… So here are some of the things that I’m looking forward to.

The Fashion! I love going too elle.com to look at the Street Chic: New York

elle.com

elle.com

elle.com

elle.com

elle.com

There is a kind of quirky chicness about all of these women, that I find absolutely disarming. I’m sure that I will try on everything in my closet and hate it all when we go, but perhaps I’ll get some style inspiration after going.

I know it’s completely cliched, but I am looking forward to seeing The Empire State Building, is that completely lame? I’m not sure.. But I’ll blame An Affair to Remember.



Tres romantique, non? I don’t think I actually want to go up, but I do want to see it.

I really want to find The Dessert Truck, any sort of sweet with bacon creme anglaise is good in my book.

And that is all I have for now. Tune in next Thursday for my New York trip plans.

xoxo,

Katie