Friday, August 29, 2014

Alone Time Playlist

Here is a fun playlist to get your weekend started. Whether you are sitting in traffic on your way home from work or starting to plan dinner with little kids running around, turn up the music and find a way to get your mind away from the craziness. Enjoy some alone time....because you deserve it!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Peach Crostata


My husband brought a large crate of peaches home with him yesterday and I knew I wanted to try a Crostata from one my new cookbooks. I have started to research not only recipes by my favorite cooks, but also discover which cookbooks they prefer. I think it's so interesting to find out what inspires others and as a result influences the type of cook they become. For instance, I love to prepare foods from Ina Garten's recipe index, but I was reading her crostata recipe the other day and she was giving credit to another chef. She explained that the recipe was actually from a couple who were dear friends of hers. They own a restaurant in Providence, RI called Al Forno. I purchased their restaurant cookbook, Cucina Simpatico, and now I would say it has started an obsession with collecting cookbooks. Hopefully one day I will have a culinary library like Ina's:)

It was fun to have friends stop by last night and enjoy this dessert. I couldn't resist serving it with vanilla ice cream. If you are someone that really enjoys a flaky crust, this is the perfect treat for you, while using up the last of the summer's produce stand peaches. Making a pie from scratch intimidates me for some reason, but this recipe was not too complex. Coming from someone who doesn't bake often, it's really quite simple if you have a food processor. After making two circular rounds of dough, as the recipe calls for, I decided to put one in the freezer. It's going to be such a nice surprise to pull out a crostata crust in late October and create the same dessert with Honey Crisp apples! Yuma yuma(as my son would say)!




Peach Crostata

adapted from Ina Garten's Barefoot Contessa at Home and Cucina Simpatico


Ingredients
For the pastry (makes 2 crostatas)

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated or superfine sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) cold unsalted butter, diced
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) ice water

For the filling (makes 1 crostata):

1 1/2 pounds of peaches
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup all-purpose flour, divided
1 tablespoon plus 1/4 cup granulated sugar, divided
1/4 teaspoon grated orange zest
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced


Directions:

For the pastry:

Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and toss quickly (and carefully!) with your fingers to coat each cube of butter with the flour. Pulse 12 to 15 times, or until the butter is the size of peas. With the motor running, add the ice water all at once through the feed tube. Keep hitting the pulse button to combine, but stop the machine just before the dough comes together. Turn the dough out onto a well-floured board, roll it into a ball, cut in half, and form into 2 flat disks. Wrap the disks in plastic and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. If you only need 1 disk of dough The other disk of dough can be frozen.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Roll the pastry into an 11-inch circle on a lightly floured surface. Transfer it to the baking sheet.

For the filling:

Cut the peaches and plums in wedges and place them in a bowl with the blueberries. Toss them with 1 tablespoon of the flour, 1 tablespoon of the sugar, the orange zest, and the orange juice. Place the mixed fruit on the dough circle, leaving a 1 1/2-inch border.

Combine the 1/4 cup flour, the 1/4 cup sugar, and the salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add the butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub it with your fingers until it starts to hold together. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit. Gently fold the border of the pastry over the fruit, pleating it to make an edge.
Bake the crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, until the crust is golden and the fruit is tender. Let the crostata cool for 5 minutes, then use 2 large spatulas to transfer it to a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.



XOXO

AJ




Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Summer 2014 Playlist

Thought I would share some of my favorite new tracks after coming off a beautiful Fourth of July weekend at the beach. I'm currently in love with Disclosure and am constantly listening to "Disclosure Radio" on Pandora. It's the perfect station to have playing as I relax, unwind and cook dinner. I think music can really aid in creating a memorable meal for loved ones. 

Similar to going through reading ruts, I also find it hard to take the time to search for new artists and songs that put me in just the right mood. Years ago, I would pride myself in staying in the loop and discovering the indie talent before others....It was a passion that I miss. Nowadays, my toddler comes first and I am often turning on the pop station just to have some background music. Times sure have changed for the better, but music will always have my heart:)


Thursday, June 19, 2014

Alice in Wonderland Bridal Shower

To be honest, my little sister's wedding was already four weeks ago, but I wanted to go back and highlight some of the events leading up to her big day on the blog. This is a look at her bridal shower in Easton, MD, which was inspired by the classic, Alice in Wonderland. 




Quirky, directional signs were nailed to the mailbox and trees along the way...



Invitation- from Etsy


Vintage apothecary vases held lillies and "drink me" signs





Decor: Potted hydrangeas, playing cards and vintage keys

Lunch Menu: Cheese Straws, Orange Curd and Strawberries, Turkey Tea Sandwiches, Basil Dip, and Crab Salad on Cucumbers


Dessert Menu: Mad Hatter Cake from Kake Korner, Macaroons, and Lemon Bars


Rosé champagne was offered with berries


and tea was served, of course:) 


A handmade garland from burlap, lace, and tulle was hung across a french door(inspiration)





Hats and props were used throughout the day for a virtual photo booth. Pictures were then added to a book and signed by each guest.



Everyone left with a small bag labeled with the initial "H". Inside was a pastel colored pot filled with tea, as well as a piece of chalk to personalize the outside. 



The weather was perfect; the bride looked stunning and it was such an important time to get to know both sides of the family and my sister's best friends. I wanted a whimsical, magical day for her because this bride to be(at the time) deserved the very best. Words can't express what I feel for my sister. 

AJ

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Rincon, Puerto Rico

For my thirtieth birthday, we booked a trip to Rincon, Puerto Rico. This was a place my husband, Brian, had been before for his bachelor party and I had never experienced. It was everything we'd hoped it would be and more. As the first long trip away from our son, we had mixed feelings, but knew our little 18 month would be safe with the grandparents. Here is a look at how we spent our days relaxing, eating, drinking and spending quality time together, taking advantage of this moment before we make the decision to have more kids.


We stayed in a condo on Sandy Beach. On the second day we had our cab driver take us to the local grocery store, Edwards, to stock up on a few breakfast, lunch and dinner options. Honestly we went a little overboard and had SO much leftover in the end. Cooking dinner in one night to save a little cash was definitely worth the time(even though I was lazy at the time and protested it!). Frozen daiquiris were also whipped up and it was nice to bring a few Medella beers down to the beach as we soaked up the rays. 


Nowadays I'm not a big "tanner". I did however use a Tan Towel before the trip, which I would highly recommend. Most of the vacation I applied 30 SPF, wore my straw hat, and spent only a few hours on the beach at a time. Plus the sun is so hot, you have to cool off in the water every couple of minutes. 


One of our favorite spots was Tamboo, a bar literally three properties down from our condo. Great food, ambiance, and mojitos. I loved sitting there with a drink in hand as I watched all the families walk down the beach. It was spring break for many local San Juan children, so many families chose to take an easy vacation in Rincon. The surfers climbed in and out of the water and I began to think about my time in Bethany and how I missed it. You feel so safe in Rincon. I could definitely picture us bringing Landon back and/or renting a place with our extended family.




There was another beach called Pools, which was located about a half a mile down from our condo. It was nice to visit for a more secluded feel. Similar to Mexico, there were several stray dogs walking around waiting to be loved:(


Tiny iguanas are everywhere and this massive one, along with other farm animals including wandering cows and roosters.







Everyone told us that a nice day trip would be to take a 5 minute cab ride to Steps beach. We took their advice one day and enjoyed the fresh coconut water, snorkeling and empanadas. I had this notion I was gonna walk everywhere, especially to Steps. My husband laughed(as he had been to all of these hot spots in Rincon before). He told me I was crazy and it would take us a hour to get there. I was happy in the end that I didn't throw too much of a fit and we made our way around in a cab:)


Probably one of the most disappointing parts of the trip was bringing along a novel that I could have sworn would set the mood. After reading Eat Pray Love I knew that The Signature of All Things by: Elizabeth Gilbert would be a hit as well…not so much. I should have gone with my gut and brought along The Book Thief or the new Sue Monk Kid book on my kindle. Rats. 



We ate breakfast almost every morning at a quaint bed and breakfast, Casa Isllena, which overlooked Sandy Beach. One morning we even took an hour and 40 min yoga class on the beach next-door. Casa Isllena had the friendliest waitresses and owner and we returned frequently for the yummy Bloody Marys. One morning we met a retired women who traveled back and forth from Washington state. She was a horse lover and simple enough rode her horse to breakfast.




A great vacation was exactly what we needed. Good food, conversation and most of all time spent together.
PR, we will meet again…

AJ

Sunday, June 23, 2013

time flies...when you're almost one


Friends of mine who had their babies around the same time as I did, are now starting to prepare for their little one's first birthday. Panic! Is it true?! Is Landon really 8 1/2 months old already? I can't believe he is crawling and starting to talk to himself as he plays. To any new mom out there, enjoy every second of the experience because it's over before you know it! I promise you will find yourself looking back at photos, glad you took them because now all you have are the memories to cherish.

As many know with their first child, so much of motherhood is trial and error. I constantly am returning toys and narrowing down foods to his favorites.You begin to figure out that all the teething toys need to be ready to go in the freezer and that two spoons are important to have at each feeding. Two reasons being, in case one goes flying in the air or because once the spoon has touched the mouth it's really unsanitary to put back in the same jar. It begins to get busier and all chores must be done at nap time. I thought it would be fun to share some of the milestones that my son has recently met and at the same time compile a list of some of my baby must haves at this point. Preparing for ten, eleven and twelve months, I know that the majority of the blogs I read are kid related. I'm also closely researching the eating, sleeping and diapering accessories that most new moms say they can't live without. I have found these resources so helpful at times. With that being said, here is my take on it.

At 8 1/2 months my handsome young man is...

sitting up without two pillows on either side of his back(although there is the occasional thump when he throws his body backwards and I swoop in to the rescue!)

doing some sort of army crawl:)

rolling over left and right, especially in crib.

babbling a bit(no momma or dada yet).

starting to empty and fill with a bucket of toys.

holding on to a sippy cup and sometimes tipping it up for a drink without assistance.

jumping and squealing with delight.

pulling up to a standing position and slamming hands down to make music.

eating three meals a day of fruits and veggies(our doctor has us starting protein at 9 months).

teething up a storm which leads to drooling and fussing.

taking a few steps when an adult holds his hand.

splashing around in our small portable pool and reaching for the faucet during bath time.

loving anything shiny.

holding small books and giggling when tickled.

reaching for the dog and trying to pull his hair.

and...

continuing to love his stroller rides!

P.S

He also LOVES this finger puppet book and is completely intrigued by bubbles.

AJ

Saturday, March 9, 2013

creamy potato leek soup



I find that this time of year is tough to discover new recipes that embody and celebrate the season's fresh produce, due to the fact that we are inbetween. In a way it's warming up too much for soup, but it's still early to find most spring vegetables at the market. This week, I decided to combine both ideas and make a creamy/hearty winter soup filled with potatoes and spring leeks. I made the decision based on the predicted snow storm that was supposed to hit and shake up the DC area. As many snowfalls this year, we ended up with a wet slushy mess that soon turned into rain. After 24 hours of precipitation, the 50 degree weather dried up any white remains and I knew before it started that this was potentially my last chance to get in any rich comfort food that I would miss over the summer. 

I've always been a fan of baked potato soup. It actually reminds me of my engagement in New Hampshire when we prepared the dish for family after skiing all day at Attitash Mountain. Nothing is better than heavy cream, potatoes and bacon topped with cheddar cheese and chives. For this soup, leeks are used instead of regular yellow or spanish onions. I learned that leeks are a member of the onion family, but have a sweeter and more subtle flavor. I really enjoyed them in this soup and I actually used them again in Ina Garten's Spring Green Risotto last night. Everything I read and watch on the food network reminds the cook to always wash leeks thoroughly, due to the build up of sand and dirt in between the leaves. The best part about this soup is you do not have to use a blender or food processor! 

The recipe originally comes from a website called Friends and Farms that I discovered earlier in the week. My father in law told me about this after receiving an email at work, which described the concept of using food baskets to deliver fresh farm products to your home. The idea is to bring the farm "closer to you" and if you go to the site, they also update recipes using meat, poultry, vegetables etc. that are in season. I originally was going to use Barefoot Contessa's recipe, but I decided that I didn't want to make the extra trip to a specialty store for creme fraiche. I'm so glad I tried the Friends and Farms soup, because it satisfied my tastebuds to the fullest and I now am content to move on to more spring food choices. 

If it's not going to snow, we might as well bring on the warm weather! I'm so ready to play in the sun with my sweet boy:) 


Creamy Potato Leek Soup
via Friends and Farms


8 potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces
3 leeks, sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
Sal t and Pepper to taste


Directions
  1. In a large saucepan or stockpot, bring potatoes and chicken broth to a boil.
  2. Cook until potatoes are tender.
  3. Place bacon in a large, deep skillet. Cook over medium high heat until evenly brown. Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of grease and set aside
  4. Sauté the leeks and garlic in the frying pan with the reserved bacon grease 8 to 10 minutes.
  5. When the potatoes are tender, stir in the fried leeks and garlic, heavy cream and bacon. Stir to blend and remove from heat. Serve hot.

AJ

Thursday, February 7, 2013

shrimp scampi


I really should do the Julie and Julia thing and try to tackle all of Barefoot Contessa's cookbooks because I love watching her show so much and her dishes go over so well. Or maybe this is too ambitious of me and already over done? I do know that my husband loved this entree last night and it wasn't too complex. I pretty much cooked according to the recipe but served the shrimp over thin spaghetti instead of linguine. I also cooked the pasta last and warmed up the sauce a little bit right before serving. I paired this with an arugula salad, Craisins and shaved parmesan cheese. 

It was easy to whip this up after making chicken piccata earlier this week because I had most ingredients on hand except for the shrimp. I would say that is the only expensive part of the meal. Looking forward to trying this again this summer when we make a trip back to the beach. It would be a refreshing meal to offer any company!

Shrimp Scampi
slightly adapted from Ina Garten 

Ingredients

Vegetable oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt plus 1 1/2 teaspoons
3/4 pound angel hair pasta or thin spaghetti
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 1/2 tablespoons good olive oil
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 cloves)
1 pound large shrimp (about 16 shrimp), peeled and deveined
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
1/2 lemon, zest grated
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (2 lemons)
1/4 lemon, thinly sliced in half-rounds
1/8 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

Directions

In a large (12-inch), heavy-bottomed pan, melt the butter and olive oil over medium-low heat. Add the garlic. Saute for 1 minute. Be careful, the garlic burns easily! Add the shrimp, 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt, and the pepper and saute until the shrimp have just turned pink, about 5 minutes, stirring often. Remove from the heat, add the parsley, lemon zest, lemon juice, lemon slices, and red pepper flakes. Toss to combine.

Drizzle some oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add 1 tablespoon of salt and the angel hair and cook according to package directions. When the pasta is done, drain the cooked angel hair and then put it back in the pot. Immediately add the shrimp and sauce, toss well, and serve.

AJ