Friday, July 31, 2009

The Hippest Kids on the Block

As someone who loves stylish and beautiful things, it is no wonder that my pets are spoiled rotten. I think animals are just like us in many ways, and when they look good, they feel good. I know mine like to strut after a bath or grooming!

I just took our poodle puppy Gusteau to the vet the other day, and he got so many compliments on his "attire" (leash, collar, harness, and I.D tag). Since I put a lot of thought into the designs I selected for my cat and dog, I figured I'd showcase them here. All collar designs were bought from Up Country (love their stuff!), and both I.D tags were from Animal Stars (pricey, but long lasting, and custom designed to your liking).

Cavalli's (my Bengal cat) look:

Green Floral
The green color here matches her eyes.

I.D Tag:
martini olive dog pet cat tags
I selected the tag on the left, but opted for pink crystals on the bubbles. The green olive matches the green on the collar, and the pink bubbles bring out the pink flowers in it. I thought this tag worked perfectly since Cavalli is a "diva princess". They can also do a red stone in the glass for a cherry if you prefer.

Gusteau's look:

Brown Songbird
I wanted something kind of preppy and urban chic. No wonder, then, that this style is listed in their "urban portfolio". The colors look great against his apricot fur. I also got the harness and leash in the same pattern.

I.D Tag:
diamond 18k gold id tags charms
Some of the other designs we liked didn't quite work for us (either not the shape we wanted, or stone color not available), so we ended up going simple with a fully jeweled tag. We got the bone shaped tag like we wanted, and we chose aquamarine stones, so it matches the color of the blue birds on the collar perfectly. We also chose the bronze metal instead of silver since the collar is brown. The price is high (luckily I got Cavalli's cheap because I worked at a place that sold them), but when you look at the engraving on these next to the cheaper ones, you will see that the quality is so much better. The engraving is deep and clear, and will not rub off anytime soon, and the stones are protected with your choice of light coating or super coating (for larger, rougher dogs). Plus, you have so many design options to create the perfect one for your pet. So chic!

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fun with Chicken!

Like most people, I'm always looking for new ways to make chicken. About a year ago I bought the Food Network All-Stars Cookbook. It features various recipes from some of the top Food Network chefs. I have to admit, I haven't found many of the recipes useful or accessible to us as a busy working couple, but there is one that we have used over and over again. It literally is the easiest thing that I make, and is a really fun alternative to your standard chicken meal. It would also work perfectly for a game-day menu.

Spicy Chinese Five-Spice-Rubbed Chicken

Wings with Creamy

Cilantro Dipping Sauce

Recipe courtesy Dave Lieberman from Food Network Favorites: Recipes from Our All-Star Chefs, Meredith Books, 2005

Prep Time:
20 min
Inactive Prep Time:
hr min
Cook Time:
25 min
40 wings


  • 40 chicken wing pieces or 20 whole chicken wings
  • 2 tablespoons Chinese five-spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon cayenne pepper
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce, recipe follows


Preheat oven to 500 degrees F.

If you have whole chicken wings, cut off wingtips and cut the wings in half at the joint. Discard wingtips or freeze to make stock.

Place the wings in a large bowl. Sprinkle five-spice powder and cayenne on the wings; add generous pinches of salt and about 15 grinds of black pepper. Rub the mixture into all the wings until no more loose rub remains.

Line the wing pieces up on a baking sheet so the side of the wing that has the most skin is facing up. Roast until cooked through, browned and crispy, about 25 minutes. Serve hot with Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce.

Creamy Cilantro Dipping Sauce:

1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves

1/4 cup light sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup yogurt

1/2 lemon, juiced

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Combine ingredients in mixing bowl. Whisk ingredients to incorporate them fully and season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Yield: about 1 cup

My Own Tips:

  • I buy the "party wings" in the supermarket. They are already the correct size and it is so much easier than splitting the wings yourself.
  • The Cilantro dipping sauce is so essential to this dish so at least try it. I'm not a huge fan of cilantro, but I love this sauce, and it goes perfectly with the spice on the wings.
  • If you've never tried Chinese Five Spice, it is a must-try! I had never used it until I started making this recipe and now I am always on the lookout for new ways to use it. It is so unique! It is available right in the regular grocery store.
  • I use this dish often as my main course for dinner with a salad to go with it. There's something so fun and relaxed about eating your dinner with your hands and making a mess (or maybe that's just me!). Food and laughter go together, so my husband and I find no shortage of giggles when eating chicken wings!
  • For a household of two, these recipes always make a little more than we can eat (not to say we don't try!), so I go ahead and season all the wings, and when my baking sheet is filled, I put the rest of the seasoned chicken wings in a Ziploc, and place in the fridge to cook in the next couple days. We always have leftover cilantro sauce too, so we're able to use that with our second batch of wings. All I have to do is throw them in the oven when I'm ready, and dinner is done!

Welcome Home Dinner

Last Friday, my husband came home from being in L.A. for a week on business. What better way to welcome someone home than with a home-cooked meal? I went to my favorite go-to steak recipe (Ina's of course!), and my own strawberry balsamic salad (recipe to come soon). The recipe for her steakhouse steaks is exactly that-steakhouse quality steaks that melt in your mouth. It's quite easy to make and is a hit every time. After we both finished our filet, my husband even joked, "you do have more steaks, right?" Unfortunately I didn't, but there's always next time...

Steakhouse Steaks

2008, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved

Prep Time:
40 min
Inactive Prep Time:
hr min
Cook Time:
1 hr 10 min
2 servings
  • 2 (10-ounce) filet mignon
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon fleur de sel
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely cracked black peppercorns
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature, optional
  • Roquefort Chive Sauce, recipe follows


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a large, well-seasoned cast iron skillet over high heat until very hot, 5 to 7 minutes.

Meanwhile, pat the steaks dry with a paper towel and brush them lightly with vegetable oil. Combine the fleur de sel and cracked pepper on a plate and roll the steaks in the mixture, pressing lightly to evenly coat all sides.

When the skillet is ready, add the steaks and sear them evenly on all sides for about 2 minutes per side, for a total of 10 minutes.

Top each steak with a tablespoon of butter, if using, and place the skillet in the oven. Cook the steaks until they reach 120 degrees F for rare or 125 degrees F for medium-rare on an instant-read thermometer. (To test the steaks, insert the thermometer sideways to be sure you're actually testing the middle of the steak.)

Remove the steaks to a serving platter, cover tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest at room temperature for 10 minutes. Serve hot with Roquefort Chive Sauce on the side.

Roquefort chive sauce:

  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 ounces French Roquefort cheese, crumbled (4 ounces with rind)
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives

Bring the heavy cream to a boil in a small heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook at a low boil, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has become thick and creamy, about 20 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add the cheese, salt, pepper and chives and whisk rapidly until the cheese melts.

Yield: 4 servings

Yum! Image:

My Own Tips:

  • Open the windows before searing the steaks. It gets smoky! I still haven't had any luck figuring out how to alleviate this problem. Many reviewers of this meal have had the same issue.
  • As I've mentioned before, I love Fleur de Sel and I think it really makes a huge difference. It can be hard to find, so if you don't want to order it online like I do, you can find an alternative at the regular supermarket (Safeway for us). It is the La Baleine brand Sel de Mer Gros in the red container. I used this the first time and really liked it.
  • Ina only gives an internal temp. to look for after cooking the steaks in the oven. I like to know the actual time in minutes. We leave ours in the oven for 5-6 minutes tops (most reviewers agreed with that time). We like our meat a little more done than medium-rare. Check your oven temp. though, because on the episode when Ina made this, she checked after 7-8 minutes for medium-rare (her oven is probably better than mine. Just a guess.).
  • Some reviewers thought the steaks came out too salty, so use your best judgment and adjust to your liking. I happen to love salt so I probably use even a little more than she does. Fleur de Sel is very mild and soft so I don't find the amount overpowering at all.
  • Definitely let the steaks rest to re-distribute the juices, and make the Roquefort Chive sauce! It's fantastic and goes so well with the steaks!
With some roses on the table, and a nice bottle of wine, we felt like we were actually eating in a fancy steakhouse!
No matter how many times I have made this, I always feel like a rock star chef afterwards! It's easy enough to make
during the week, but elegant enough for the most special occasion-like a homecoming!

Friday, July 17, 2009

Cooking and Fashion Movies Coming Soon!

I just recently finished reading Julie & Julia by Julie Powell. I absolutely loved it! I truly admired Julie's commitment and courage during the year long project of cooking every recipe in Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I don't know that I'd have the guts to sample some of the foods that Julie cooked, or to even try some of the cooking methods she did, such as cutting up a live lobster. I'm kind of a big baby. But I love that with Julie, there were no excuses, no skipping the hard stuff. Julie was able to create meaning in her life all on her own, and it gives the reader hope that they can do the same: wherever their interest lies.

What's even better is that the movie version is coming out August 7th. I can't wait to see it, and hope that it is as good as the book. I have to say that I love Amy Adams, but I am having a hard time picturing her as Julie. But hey, you never know. She could end up being brilliant in the role.

Julie and Julia: My Year of Cooking Dangerously

I am also thrilled that The September Issue is coming out on August 28th. This will be the world's first sneak peek into the world that is Vogue. I have always loved Vogue magazine. It is the very epitome of glamour and style, and the images in it are some of the greatest works of art you will ever see. In this documentary, we will actually get to see what it is like to be Anna Wintour: the most influential woman in fashion, and editor-in-chief of the magazine.

You may have an idea about Anna Wintour if you saw one of my favorite movies, The Devil Wears Prada. Meryl Streep's character, Miranda Priestly, is based on Wintour. I have a special affinity for the character of Miranda Priestly. My own "teaching persona" is based on her, and it totally changed my teaching for the better. In case you haven't seen the movie, Priestly is feared, respected, and idolized. When she speaks, people listen. If she says jump, well, you get the picture. She is able to do all this without ever raising her voice. I tried it in my classroom-worked like a charm! Anyways, back to the topic at hand. I am intrigued to see the real-life version of Miranda Priestly in action.

I have been interested in fashion since I started out in retail in college. While I love all art in general, to me, fashion is the greatest form of art because it's changeable. If you don't like the look of an outfit, you can change the accessories and get a whole new look. Try changing a painting you don't like in an art gallery!

I am sure this movie will have some stunning images and designer clothes that will make us drool. Can't wait!!

Friday, July 10, 2009

New Barefoot Contessa Season Coming Soon!

Finally! I have to admit I have seen just about every episode of Barefoot Contessa multiple times. But starting July 18th at 1:30 on The Food Network, Ina is back with her new season. Fresh episodes for me! I can't wait to see what she has in store this time around! I'm sure it will include great and easy food, and casual but elegant entertaining ideas. I can't wait!!

From House Beautiful

Monday, July 6, 2009

Finally...perfect Lasagna noodles!!

My husband's favorite food is Lasagna (I don't think it's half bad either!), but I have never really made them because of how involved they can be. Since he loves Lasagna so much, though, I wanted to start trying various recipes to find a good/easy one. Luckily, the first one I tried was the winner. I use Tyler Florence's recipe for The Ultimate Lasagna Bolognese from his book, Dinner At My Place. It is quite delicious, and I especially love the taste of cinnamon and red wine in it. It is quite a production, though, so I wasn't able to escape that, but this one is worth it I must say. Tyler even gives the recipe for homemade pasta dough so you can make your own pasta. I'm sorry, but the rest of the recipe takes long enough, so I don't want to add on even more work. Plus, I don't have the nifty pasta attachment that you can buy for stand mixers. Hell, I don't even have a stand mixer. Plus, I like whole wheat pasta better. So, as you can see, I really don't want to make the pasta from scratch.

The problem is that the noodles never come out quite right. Usually, directions will tell you to cook the noodles according to what's on the box. I've done that and they get overcooked when the whole thing goes in the oven. Then, I've tried cooking them a few minutes less than the directions, but they still don't come out perfectly. I've heard about the no-cook lasagna noodles that just go straight into the oven, but to tell you the truth, I have a hard time trusting some of those cooking shortcuts, so I can't bring myself to try them. I haven't heard great things about them anyway.

Finally, I saw Ina making a lasagna, and she simply filled a large bowl with really hot tap water and left the lasagna noodles in it for about 20 minutes before draining. I figured, why not? Less time and hassle, since you don't have to wait for water to boil and all that. I was a little skeptical, I have to admit. I usually snack on one of the noodles-you know, just to make sure they're good-and this time, you couldn't eat them because they were still pretty hard in the center. Way short of al dente! I guess that's the secret, though. After cooking in the oven for an hour, the noodles were perfectly done. Finally, success! And it's so much easier! Ina comes through again!!