Archive for the ‘life’ Category

Look, I know I’m a few days late on the Valentine’s Day blog posts.

Every other blogger seems to get it together a week ahead of time so that their blog readers have all sorts of recipes and ideas for the upcoming holiday.

The fact is that Nate and I can only eat so much dessert and I only have so much time…and I want the Valentine’s Day dessert I make for him to be eaten on Valentines day, and not a week ahead of time. If I posted this a week ago then I’d have to bake up something new for Valentine’s day.

But you know what’s great? These can be made any day of the year.

There doesn’t have to be a special holiday to share some chocolate goodness, or to tell someone you love them.

Nate showed me he loved me by walking all the way across the city to Trader Joes to pick me up some sea salt for the top of these bars 🙂

These are EXTREMELY rich…only for true chocolate lovers. I thought the hot chocolate from the other day was rich, but these were even too much for me. Luckily, Nate was a fan.

From my ♥ to your stomach 🙂

Dark Chocolate-Cherry Ganache Bars

From The NYTimes

You can print this recipe from the original link

Makes 18 bars

150 grams all-purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
90 grams confectioners’ sugar (about 3/4 cup)
26 grams unsweetened cocoa powder (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
12 tablespoons cold unsalted butter
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
52 grams cherry jam (about 2 tablespoons)
340 grams bittersweet chocolate, at least 62 percent, chopped (12 ounces)
2/3 cup heavy cream
3 tablespoons kirsch, rum, brandy or other spirit
1/2 teaspoon fleur de sel, for sprinkling.

In a food processor, pulse together the flour, sugar, cocoa powder and fine sea salt. Pulse in the butter and vanilla until the mixture just comes together into a smooth mass. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with parchment or wax paper. Press the dough into the pan. Prick all over with a fork. Chill for at least 20 minutes and up to 3 days.

 Heat the oven to 325 degrees. Bake the shortbread until firm to the touch and just beginning to pull away from the sides, 35 to 40 minutes.

Cool in the pan for 20 minutes on a wire rack. Brush jam over shortbread’s surface and let cool thoroughly.

Place chocolate in a heatproof bowl.

In a saucepan, bring the cream to a simmer. Pour over the chocolate and whisk until smooth. Whisk in the kirsch. Spread over shortbread. Sprinkle fleur de sel on. Cool to room temperature; cover and chill until firm. Slice and serve.

*Note: I chilled these overnight and I think it was too long. Only chill for an hour or if chilling overnight, let it come to almost room temp before serving. I found the shortbread part to be too dry and crumbly when straight from the fridge.

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Non-food post- Doggy painting #2!

One of my lovely blog readers saw one of my very first posts in which I showed a painting I made for Nate’s mom of one of her dogs (I should thank Kelly for that since it was all because she linked to a recipe  from that post!). Anyway, this woman liked it so much that she wrote to me asked if I could make one for her too!

I was/am so so flattered and honored to be commissioned to make a painting for someone. I was a little nervous since the ones I’ve made have usually been for gifts, and I felt like this one had to be even better.

Luckily, she got the painting in the mail the other day and was thrilled with the result 🙂 So I present to you “Hannah:”

I told my customer to take some pics once it’s hanging on the wall so I’ll update the post with those soon.

If you know anyone looking to have a painting of their pet done, please sent them my way!

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As I mentioned in my recent post, Nate needs carbs to fuel his long Sunday runs during his marathon training. Since I was kind of sick of making pasta, and you’re probably sick of seeing pasta recipes, I chose another tasty carbohydrate: rice.

I realized that I had leftover arborio rice, from when I made rissoto a while back, that was just dying to be cooked up. I wanted something different. It seems that all risotto recipes have mushrooms in them, but finally I stumbled across a Tomato, Oregano, and Feta Risotto that sounded amazing.

It called for Greek flavors and ended up being one of the most delicious meals I think I’ve ever made. The lemon zest made it really fresh tasting (luckily I didn’t have any zester accidents this time) and I loved the tomato base. It’s a completley vegetarian meal.

The only change I made to the recipe below was substituting Vermouth for the ouzo, since I didn’t have any. As with all risottos, it took over an hour to make and involved constant attention and stirring, but it was absolutely worth it!

Tomato, Oregano, and Feta Risotto

From The NY Times Diner’s Journal

Print this recipe!

serves 4-6

Time 1 hour and 15 minutes

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 to 5 cups vegetable broth
1 cup Carnarolli or Arborio rice
1/3 cup ouzo (or vermouth)
1 1/3 cups grated ripe tomato (see Note *)
2/3 cup creamy feta, such as Dodoni or Cephalonia, or a French feta
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
Finely grated zest of a lemon
Freshly ground black pepper

In a large, deep skillet over medium-low heat, heat olive oil until shimmering. Add onion and a little salt and stir until soft, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and stir until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Place broth in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer.

Raise heat to medium, and add rice to skillet. Stir until well-coated with olive oil and starting to soften slightly, 2-3 minutes. Add 1 cup of the simmering broth. Keep stirring gently until the rice absorbs all the broth. Add ouzo and stir until absorbed.

Add grated tomato and stir gently until the mixture is dense. Add remaining broth, 1 cup at a time, stirring until each addition is absorbed, until the rice is creamy but al dente, 25 to 30 minutes.

Add feta and stir until melted and risotto is creamy and thick. Stir in oregano and lemon zest, and season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and serve immediately.

*Note: To grate a tomato, halve crosswise and grate the cut side with a coarse grater over a strainer set over a bowl. Grate as close to the skin as possible, but discard the skin.

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For Christmas, Nate surprised me with a quick long-weekend trip to San Francisco over MLK weekend. He considers SF his “hometown” because he was born there- never mind that his parents moved to the east coast when he was 3 months old.

If you try to tell him that he’s from Delaware, he will vehemently deny it. I used to ask him why it was so important for him to be “from” San Francisco, but now that I’ve been there I can see why he’s so adamant about it being his birth place. It’s a beautiful city with equal parts beach, mountains, forests, suburbs, city. It has a little bit of everything.

view of SF from the Rock.

On Saturday we went to Alcatraz. The audio tour was beyond cool. If you haven’t been, you must go! We also visited the ferry building with its amazing food, the gorgeous Palace of Fine Arts, the Wharf where dozens of sea lions come to sunbathe, and the picturesque Land’s End walking path with views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Sunday morning we ventured out to Muir Woods, hoping to get there before the crowds. I think it could be one of the prettiest, most serene places I’ve ever been. There’s something about a damp, shady forest that I find so relaxing…not to mention how amazingly fresh it smells!

I don’t know about you, but my sense of smell is my strongest sense and I find myself smelling everything. It’s a little weird, actually, the way I smell any new thing I encounter. For some reason I feel the need to assess a smell even if I know it’s going to be a bad one. Maybe I’m part dog.

Though nothing will even come close to the smell of that cool damp forest, odors emanating from the kitchen come a close second 😉 While this soup isn’t the most fragrant thing I’ve ever cooked, it smells pretty darn delicious on a cold winter’s day, warming the room (and your belly!) right up.

It’s a very light soup, lighter than I’d imagined. I served it with some Cheddar Dill biscuits (recipe on Friday), but perhaps it would be best as a first course or a very light meal with some crusty bread.

Winter Vegetable Soup with Lentils

Slightly Adapted from Real Simple

Print this recipe!

serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
4 leeks (white and light green parts), cut into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
1 28-ounce can whole tomatoes, drained
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 bunch kale, thick stems removed and leaves cut into 1/2-inch-wide strips
1/2 cup brown lentils
1 tablespoon fresh thyme
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp hot sauce (such as Tabasco) or more to taste
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup grated Parmesan (1 ounce; optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat.

Add the leeks and cook, stirring occasionally, until they begin to soften, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook, breaking them up with a spoon, for 5 minutes.

Add 6 cups water and bring to a boil. Stir in the sweet potatoes, kale, lentils, thyme, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, and Ÿ teaspoon pepper.

Simmer until the lentils are tender, 25 to 30 minutes.

Serve with crusty bread, biscuits, or as an appetizer.

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Ok, ok, I know I just posted a pasta recipe, but I promise this one is way different. Maybe as opposite as can be.

The other pasta was creamy but this one is buttery.

The other pasta had ham but this one is vegetarian!

The other one had a little escarole but this one is chock full of tasty mushrooms.

I used some crazy long spiral noodles for the other one, but this one uses rotini. Yum.

See, I told you, they’re completely different.

I’m always trying to stay semi-healthy around here. I’m also always looking for recipes that I can make and get on the table at a reasonable hour after I get home from work. This recipe fits the bill on both accounts!

And because I’m sure you all just got finished gorging yourselves on holiday foods, and have all made your new years resolutions, I’m hoping this recipe will be much appreciated.

The flour in the recipe is what thickens it, and there is enough butter to give it a richness without adding tons of calories.

Also, just to continue with the wedding updates that some of you enjoy…Nate and I had engagement pictures taken back in November and the photographer Jodi Miller did an AMAZING job. If you guys wanna check them out, head on over to her blog! After seeing how great these turned out, I am SO excited to see the shots she gets of the wedding 🙂

Pasta with No-Cream Mushroom Sauce

From TheKitchn

You can print this recipe from the original link

Makes enough sauce for almost one 1-lb box pasta, depending on how saucy you like it

1 1/2 ounce package wild mushrooms
1 cup chicken, vegetable or beef broth, boiling
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons butter, divided
3 8-ounce packages of white button or portobello mushrooms, washed and chopped
4 large shallots, minced
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped sage
3 tablespoons flour
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

1 lb pasta, cooked according to package directions

Crumble the dried mushrooms into a glass bowl or measuring cup and pour the boiling broth over them. Let steep for at least 20 minutes. Drain and reserve the drained liquid. Mix the drained liquid with the white wine.

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chopped button or portobello mushrooms and let sit, without stirring, for about four minutes or until they have thoroughly browned on one side. Stir and let them cook on the other side – again, without stirring – for about four minutes. Add the shallots, garlic, sage and steeped wild mushrooms. Turn the heat to low, and cook until they are all fragrant and soft.

Add the second tablespoon of butter and, when melted, add the flour. Stir rapidly, letting the flour thicken with the butter into a paste. Have a whisk ready! Slowly pour in the mushroom broth and white wine, whisking rapidly. Cook over medium-low heat, whisking, until the mixture thickens. It should thicken to the consistency of a thick gravy.

Add the chopped parsley, stirring until wilted. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve immediately over pasta with plenty of fresh Parmesan.

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I don’t think she’s going to forgive me for this…

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Please forgive me for possibly not posting as regularly as usual in these next few weeks. As soon as I get the basics worked out for my wedding, I will definitely be right back on schedule.

In the meantime, since some of you asked, I figured I’d share a bit more about the proposal since it’s easier than cooking dinner, taking photos, editing photos, coming up with something to write, etc 🙂

Nate and I had planned to take a hike in upstate NY at this park called Poet’s Walk.  I can’t remember how we first heard about it, but after seeing the photos, we knew we had to go.

I was really the one who was planning the whole thing. A month or so ago, we were supposed to go but then Hurricane Irene prevented us, so it got postponed.

We decided to push the hike to last Saturday. Then last Friday, Nate IMed me at work and told me that he had to go into work on Saturday for about an hour and we’d have to move the trip to Sunday. I wasn’t too upset since it didn’t really matter which day we were going to go…this park is only about 1 hr 45 min away.

So Nate went into work (or so I thought!) on Saturday and I spent the day doing little things around the apartment. Sunday morning we got up early for brunch with my friends before grabbing my car and heading upstate.

The drive along the way was beautiful and Nate even said he wouldn’t mind living up there, eventually. It’s close enough to the city but still has lots of trees.

We arrived at the park at around 11:30ish I think and Nate and I got out of the car. Within 1 minute, I was already bitten by 2 mosquitoes. You have to know that mosquitoes LOVE me and I’m extremely sensitive to their bites so I try to avoid being outdoors anytime after dusk in the summer. I guess all the rain we’ve been having left a lot of standing water around, so there were tons of bugs.

I was already worried about getting bitten, and then some woman with her dog came running out the entrance and warned us that there were swarms of mosquitoes. At this point I was seriously worried. We drove all the way up there so I didn’t want to just get back in the car and drive home, but I was scared of what could happen if i got a lot of bites (just to give you an idea, last year after sitting outside at dinner and getting about 6 bites on my feet within a few minutes , they swelled and itched so badly I had to go to the E.R. ).

So I told Nate that we would speed through this trail while I furiously swung my arms in the hopes that mosquitoes wouldn’t land on me. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.

We got started down the trail and I was several yards ahead of Nate. The trail wove around and into the forest and we passed this beautiful wooden bridge…but I wouldn’t stop to admire it lest I get bit!

I approached a stone bridge a few minutes further and saw Nate trailing behind. As I began to speed over it, I heard Nate call out, “Wait, wait.” So in a huff I replied, “Well if you want to take pics you better hurry up cuz I don’t wanna get bit!” It was at this point that Nate caught up to me while I was standing in the middle of the bridge and he promptly got down on one knee.

I honestly thought Nate was joking. I thought he might propose but I didn’t think it would be for several months, and I definitely didn’t think it would be on this trip since it was rescheduled so many times. I also know that Nate likes to purposefully push my buttons, so I thought he was just stalling so I would be forced to slow down and enjoy the walk rather than rushing through it.

I asked Nate, “Are you serious??”

And then he pulled a box out of his pocket.

I have no idea what went through my head at that moment. I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that he was proposing. It was just so unexpected…and I honestly didn’t believe he had planned all this behind my back! I’m a hard one to trick since I ask so many questions:)

But then he opened the box and I saw the most beautiful ring ever, and I knew it was for real. I got teary-eyed (I so didn’t expect that!) and I just kept saying “oh my god, oh my god…” Nate asked me if I would marry him and after finally snapping out of it I said yes.

The ring didn’t exactly fit on my finger so I wore it on my pinky for the rest of the hike. Every 5 feet we walked I kept saying to Nate “I can’t believe we’re engaged!” It was so surreal. Even now it hasn’t really sunk in. But as of Sunday, the ring has been resized and I’m actually wearing it so it’s starting to feel more real.

I just keep looking down at my hand, seeing the ring, and smiling. I can’t believe I’m engaged!!!

I love you, Nate 🙂

(Unfortunately, we forgot to take a pic of the actual proposal spot! But we’re going to go back when the weather gets cooler and take a pic)


There are a couple of funny parts to this story. First of all, Nate told me later that he didn’t actually have to go into work on Saturday. The ring was supposed to be ready Friday, but they ended up not being able to finish til Saturday, so Nate actually went to pick up the ring!

The other funny thing is that on Saturday night I was reading a New York magazine and came across an ad for Little King jewelers. Because it said they specialized in antique style rings (exactly what I wanted), I said to Nate, “hey Nate, this store here says they specialize in antique style rings…make sure you write that down.” Little did I know that Nate had already picked out a ring from that very place and it was sitting in his desk drawer at that moment! He picked out a gorgeous ring that was more perfect than I could have even picked out for myself 🙂

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