Wednesday, December 19, 2012

All I Want For Christmas

Since I already have my two front teeth, I have some other items on my Christmas wish list this year.

First, a Chemex coffee pot. They're beautiful and functional.
This umbrella would make even the rainiest day a little brighter. Merde.
Aren't these chevron blankets lovely? I want the cozy orange one.
I'm a little obsessed with this cheese knife set by Laguiole. Perfect for a wine and cheese party with friends or for a special evening with your special someone.
 This necklace? Oh my goodness.
 I swooned when I saw these recipe cards.  Rifle Paper Co's wares are so pretty and girly.
 Finally, this luxuriously soft cashmere scarf. Be still my heart. 
Speaking of Christmas, we head home to Texas in the morning! The best present of all is spending the holidays with my sweet husband and our families. And eating as much TexMex as we can physically manage.

Sunday, December 16, 2012


Just a quick update on things up here in the Northeast. Christmas is right around the corner, our shopping is almost done, and I can hardly believe it, but we head home to Texas on Wednesday. I can't wait!

1) Things are pretty frosty around here in the mornings (and in the afternoon too for that matter).
2) Friday night we attended our first Christmas party of the season, a White Elephant gift exchange hosted by fellow Texans Kevin and Andrea. The party was complete with festive decor, twinkly lights, wintry sangria, lots gift stealing (it's all in good fun, right?), and even some lotto ticket scratching (Kevin was $15 richer at the end of the evening).
3) My husband looks adorable in a Santa hat. And yes, I'm rocking a snowman mock turtleneck.
4) We took an airplane adventure on Saturday afternoon, this time to the booming metropolis of Keene, NH.
5) The Keene Airport actually has an Indian restaurant attached to it. This is anything but your usual airport fare.
6) The Lamb Vindaloo was wonderfully spicy, and the garlic naan was loaded with a ridiculous amount of garlic (probably not the best for a first date, but it's pretty great when you've got a guy hooked for the long haul).
7) I'm really enjoying this English Breakfast Tea from our trip to London this past summer
8) I worked from home all day Sunday to prepare for a big meeting coming up this week. That wasn't so fun, but my husband got us Five Guys cheeseburgers for dinner, so that helped.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Cranberry Orange Cake with Vanilla Crumb

I bought a little basket of fresh cranberries at the Medford Winter Farmers Market last week, not quite sure what I would do with them. They were just so shiny and vibrant that I couldn't pass them up. Alas, they sat languishing in the fridge all weekend until, finally, inspiration struck.

I pulled out one of my favorite cookbooks, Rustic Fruit Desserts, and flipped through a couple cranberry recipes. One in particular was calling my name -- the Cranberry Buckle. Now, buckles are basically cakes with fresh fruit studding the batter and a crumb topping. This one involves one of my favorite power couples in the baked goods world -- cranberry and orange zest. I tweaked the recipe a bit to avoid a grocery store run, and then brought it to work for our annual Holiday Treat Week (after snagging the first piece for myself of course). It's a wonderful balance of sweet and tart and would be perfect addition for Christmas parties, dinner with the family, or a brunch with friends.
Vanilla Crumb 

1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup + 2 Tb white sugar
1/8 tsp fine sea salt
1/4 cup cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 in cubes
1/2 Tb vanilla extract

Combine flour, sugar, salt, and butter in the bowl of a stand mixer. Combine on low speed, until the texture resembles coarse crumbs. Drizzle the vanilla over the mixture and mix briefly until incorporated. (This can also be done by pulsing the ingredients in a food processor)

Cranberry Orange Cake

1 Tb unsalted butter, to butter baking dish
1 cup Vanilla Crumb (recipe above)
1 3/4 cup flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter
3/4 cup sugar
zest of 1 orange
2 eggs
3/4 Tb vanilla extract
1/2 cup nonfat greek yogurt
2 cups cranberries, fresh or frozen

Preheat oven to 350. Butter a 9-in square baking pan

Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together in a bowl. Using a stand mixer with the paddle attachment (or a hand mixer), cream the butter, sugar, and orange zest on medium-high speed for 3-5 minutes until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. 

Stir in the flour mixture in three additions, alternating with the yogurt in two additions, beginning and ending with the flour mixture. Scrape down the sides of the bowl occasionally. 

Fold in 1 1/4 cup of the cranberries, and then spread the batter into the prepared pan. Distribute the remaining 3/4 cup of cranberries over the cake, and sprinkle the crumb topping over the cranberries.

Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until lightly golden and firm on top.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Catching Up With Friends

There's nothing to fix what ails you like spending a weekend with friends. Granted, an obscene amount of food, cocktails, movies, homebrewed beer, and a rousing game of Jenga don't hurt either. After many busy months, we got to spend a weekend with our  friends Kurt and Nina. They came piling in the house with enough bags of food and games to last us a good month, and that was in addition to what we had in work in our own little kitchen.

For starters, we tried our hand at homemade pretzels. Surprisingly, the whole process was easier than I expected (with the help of my talented husband and a stand mixer), and I had so much fun rolling them out and twisting them.
Once they were done, I made a jalapeno cheese dipping sauce, and the large pile of pretzels quickly dwindled away to a few stragglers. Pretzels and cheese sauce are always a good idea.
Kurt and Nina also brought their world famous Reuben Dip (if it isn't world famous, it should be), and we spent the afternoon snacking, sipping on Hemingway Daiquiris (make one immediately), and letting the boys enjoy a cigar out on the back porch.
Meanwhile, a couple beautiful racks of ribs were hanging out in the smoker. When dinner time rolled around, they were finally ready.  Speaking like the Texan girl I am, you really haven't lived until you have smelled the aroma of spice-rubbed meat fresh off of a smoker full of mesquite. 
As you can see, we've successfully gotten our New England friends hooked on glorious smoked meat.
We sidled up to the table, next to our little Christmas tree, and enjoyed a fabulous meal of ribs, loaded mashed potatoes, and horseradish peas.
Once we couldn't eat another bite, we watched Men In Black 3 (which is surprisingly good -- funny, entertaining, and even sweet) and we played some very competitive rounds of Jenga (hats off to Nina, our crowned champion, with 5 consecutive losses -- undefeated at being defeated). We then managed to find room for a bowl of my great-grandmother's peach cobbler and vanilla ice cream.
Sunday morning, we started the day with coffee, mimosas, and an oh-so-easy-to-whip-up green chile breakfast casserole with hash browns  Kurt and Nina eventually headed back north to New Hampshire, and we spent the remainder of the day relaxing around the house. That evening we enjoyed our annual Christmas tradition of watching Love Actually (the movie that we watched on our first date, five years ago yesterday) while snuggling on the couch. Am I the only one that gets tears in their eyes roughly every 10 minutes during that movie? I love it. 

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Medford Winter Farmers Market

Exciting things are going on in Medford, y'all! This past Thursday evening, we checked out the first ever Medford Winter Farmer's Market. Previously, the market would close up in October not to be seen again until June, requiring us to drive over to the Somerville Winter Farmers Market, with it's painful lack of parking,  if we wanted fresh, local foods in the winter months. But no more!
The market is a cozy little affair in the Medford Square Hyatt Place Hotel parking garage. I know it sounds weird, but it works well enough. It's out of the wind and cold, and there's plenty of room to wander around admiring the different wares. It's less expansive than Somerville's (which is admittedly pretty awesome despite the lack of parking), but the ease of access is worth its weight in gold. There were vendors selling local cheeses,wine,  grass-fed meats, fresh eggs, local honey, baked goods, produce, and even handmade pastas and raviolis! 

We came away with quite a haul: a couple boxes of ravioli, some spinach, acorn squash (to be roasted with some Vermont Maple Cream we have stashed in the fridge), cranberries, honey, and some eggs. I'm so excited to have something like this in town finally!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Dersh's Texas Peach Cobbler

I received another surprise in the mail this week. A jar of homemade canned peaches from my sweet friend Laura, a fellow Texan who now lives in the LA area. It was like receiving a little jar of summer, a little sunshine in the midst of our dreary, cold winter.
She also tucked in the box a printed recipe for Peach Cobbler, scanned from the Homesick Texan cookbook. A woman after my own heart. I can't wait to give it a try this weekend. And while I shouldn't share the Homesick Texan's recipe with you, I can share a recipe that is even more special to me: my great-grandmother Dersh's cobbler. It's as easy as pie (or cobbler? to whip up and oh so good.

4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced
1 cup water
1 1/2 cup sugar, divided (plus a little extra for sprinkling on top of the cobbler)
1 cup flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup (4 Tb) butter (plus a little extra for dotting the top of the cobbler)
1/2 cup milk

Preheat your oven to 375F.

Let the peaches, 1 cup of sugar, and water come to boil in a pan. Remove from the heat and let stand while you put together the dough.

Cut the butter into the dry ingredients (including the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar). Add milk. Mix and pour into the bottom of a buttered baking dish. (I recommend using a deep baking dish to avoid a bubbling over nightmare. I use a 2.5 qt round baking dish).

Pour/dip your hot peaches and juice over the dough. Sprinkle with a little more sugar, and dot with butter.

Bake for about 45 minutes or until some of the dough rises to the top, browns a little, and the juice is bubbly.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

A Wintry Weekend

Happy weekend! Man, did I need a couple days off. It's been a crazy week at work with yet another crazy week coming up. We kicked things off with a quiet Friday evening at home. I tried a new recipe, a Smoky Minestrone Soup, that really hit the spot.
After dinner, we mixed ourselves a cocktail and watched The Five Year Engagement. I had heard mixed reviews, but I have to admit, I liked it. A little quirky, a little more serious in spots than I expected, but overall sweet and very funny. How perfect is their (spoiler alert!) wedding at the end of the movie?!
(photo still from The Five Year Engagement)

Saturday, my husband gently shook me awake, telling me it was snowing outside. For the first time this year, I was excited about the snow.  I jumped out of bed (ok, I slowly dragged myself out of bed), we poured ourselves big mugs of coffee, plugged in the Christmas tree lights, and admired the view.  It was lovely and magical, swirling outside the window and dusting our neighborhood.
After a quiet afternoon,  it was time to venture outside the house. We bundled up and headed into town to meet friends for dinner. We had a great time talking and catching up with Brent, Liz, and Peter, and most exciting of all, we got to meet Liz and Peter's adorable little newborn, Henry.

We kicked off Sunday morning with a favorite West Medford treat -- bacon, egg, and cheese bagel sandwiches from Magnificent Muffin and Bagel Shoppe. It's a tiny little shop, full of locals who seem to have known each other for years. The walls are lined with photos of neighborhood children, and the glass-front counter is full of the largest muffins you'll ever see. My favorite are the cranberry orange muffins, but I can rarely pass up an opportunity to get one of their bagel sandwiches.
The plan for this afternoon is to make a big batch of tortilla soup from Homesick Texan's cookbook (one of my absolute favorite blogs and cookbooks) to share with two friends who have recently welcomed sweet little babies into their families, and this evening I'm making a peach cobbler just for us, made from homemade canned peaches sent to us by a friend living in California. Some things are just too good to share!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Holiday Goodies

We received a surprise in the mail this week, a Christmas present from some very sweet friends! We opened the box to find it chock full of beautiful and festive sweets. The mitten cookies are the cutest, the brownies are vanishing quickly, and the Molasses Clove cookies are my absolute favorite. Turns out, these delights are from the Dancing Deer Baking Company, right here in Boston. Who knew? Such a cute gift idea.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Christmastime Is Here

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas around here! The day after Thanksgiving, I hauled our little apartment-sized tree and our big box of decorations up from the basement.  We put on our Pandora Christmas music station, and we were ready to get to work.
We pulled the tree from the box, assembled it, and carefully fluffed the branches . We have one of those pre-lit trees which allows you to completely skip over that maddening light detangling step. It's a little lazy, but good grief is it easy. Next comes the strands of little red wooden balls which remind me of the dried cranberry garlands that we wrapped around my grandparents' tree when I was a little girl. Finally, out come the ornaments.
We start with the metallic, glittery glass balls to ensure that they are spread evenly around the tree. Next come the snowflakes. First the lace and then the sparkly variety. Then it's time to hang the odds and ends over the remainder of the tree. We have yet to acquire a tree topper (I swear I can never find one suited for a small tree -- they're all gigantic), so this year I used a little cross-stitched snowman ornament that I made a couple years ago. With that, the tree is finished!
In our entryway, I hung a garland around our faux-fireplace mantle, topped it with candles, and then hung our collection of Texas Capitol ornaments, one for each year since they began selling them. If only there was a real fire crackling in a real fireplace, it would be perfect! 

With that, our little home is ready for the Christmas season. May this time be filled with love, laughter, family, and friends for all of you.

"Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows." James 1:17

Monday, November 26, 2012


It's back to the real world today after the holiday weekend. I hope that everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving!  Our Turkey Day was full of food, friends, fun, some abysmal football, and then a little bit more food. Since we'll be making the long trek to Texas for Christmas, we stayed put for Thanksgiving, as we have for the past couple years. We were lucky enough to spend the day with the most lovely and gracious hosts, the Ranges.

Our main contribution to the feast was a smoked turkey, which meant that Thursday began really early for us. My husband may look a little sleepy in the photo below, but smoked meat is always worth a little sleep deprivation.
After getting the smoker fired up and rubbing the turkey down with an herby mix of sage, rosemary, thyme, garlic, salt, and pepper, we placed the bird on the smoker. And then we waited. About 6 hours later, it was a sight to behold (and to smell). The wood smoke combined with rosemary was enough to make your mouth water.
As meat smoking is really my husband's territory, I busied myself in the kitchen to prepare the cornbread dressing and homemade cranberry sauce. I used our family cornbread recipe studded with finely diced celery and onion and jazzed up with a bit of poultry seasoning to make the dressing. As it bakes, the familiar smell is enough to transport me back to my mom's kitchen, evoking warm memories of holidays with the family. 

I used fresh Cape Cod cranberries, Texas oranges, and a mix of brown and white sugar for this cranberry sauce -- just sweet enough to balance the delicious tartness of the cranberries. I've always been firmly entrenched in the canned cranberry sauce camp, but this recipe was good enough for me to make room for both on my plate.
Once we pulled the turkey off the smoker using these bad boys (if the man in your life likes to smoke or grill, you might want to invest in these. Hilarious and useful.), we loaded up the car and headed over the river and through MIT campus to get to Brad and Ashleigh's. This is their fantastic view of the Boston skyline. I'm very jealous.
After hugs were given all around and arms were emptied of food, we watched some of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and a little football while putting the finishing touches on dinner.  Finally, the turkey was carved (with each of us sneaking little morsels of meat straight from the bone), the gravy was thickened, the wine was poured, and dinner was served!
We had quite a spread, especially for four people, and we made a very respectable dent in it. The menu featured a spinach salad with walnuts, cranberries, and feta (a little green to balance an entire plate of varying shades of brown), sweet potato casserole, mashed potatoes, cornbread dressing, green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, crescent rolls, and turkey and gravy. It was amazing! 
Eventually, we pushed back our chairs and rolled ourselves over to the couch to watch the Cowboys lose. Luckily, Ashleigh made the most beautiful apple pie and homemade whipped cream served with vanilla ice cream to drown our football sorrows. 

All in all, it was a wonderful day with friends who made us feel like we were right at home. We have so much to be thankful for!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Craft Cocktails

It used to be that when I found myself needing to order a cocktail, the only thing that I knew that I liked was a Gin & Tonic. So I ordered Gin & Tonics. Usually, I  avoided mixed drinks all together. However, over the past couple years, we've been branching out and learning more about craft cocktails, thanks to a trip to this place that we kept hearing about that was known for great drinks and a killer cheeseburger (Eastern Standard). We were hooked at the first sip.

As a birthday present for my husband, I bought tickets to a craft cocktail class at The Boston Shaker in Somerville's Davis Square. I got to tag along, because after all, what kind of wife would make her husband go all by himself? It was the selfless thing to do.

We started the evening with dinner and margaritas (research prior to the class, of course) at The Painted Burro. The margaritas were strong, the chips and salsa were plentiful, and the food was very good.
Over at The Boston Shaker, there were bar carts full of mixing equipment awaiting us. The owner of the shop teaches the class, and he's absolutely fantastic. He's very knowledgeable, friendly, and a good teacher. He walked us through the basics, such as which cocktails are shaken and which are stirred, and he demonstrated the basic techniques for measuring and mixing. 
Then it was time to get our hands dirty!  We began with ice and water to familiarize ourselves with the techniques. Then we moved on to the good stuff. First we used the shakers to make a Hemingway Daquiri with rum, lime juice, grapefruit juice, maraschino, and just a splash of cane sugar simple syrup. Next we made a traditional martini with gin, dry vermouth, and orange bitters to try a stirred drink (not shaken, much to James Bond's disappointment, I'm sure). The best part? Trying the drinks!
Afterwards, we received a 10% discount off anything in the shop, so we picked up some nice ice cube trays, some Peychaud's Bitters (for Sazeracs), and a stirring spoon. Included in the price of the class was a Boston Shaker, a julep strainer (for stirred drinks), and a hawthorne strainer (for shaken drinks) for each of us. I would highly recommend this class to anyone. We had the best time!
Now, if you don't really care to make your own cocktails but wouldn't mind drinking some, here are some of our favorite places (so far) to get a good cocktail:

1. Drink - By far the best spot for craft cocktails in Boston with ridiculously knowledgeable (and talented) staff. There's no drink menu, so just let them know what you like and your bartender will take it from there.

2. Eastern Standard - Nice setting (reminiscent of a French bistro) with good food and very good drinks. Some favorites to get here are off-menu cocktails, the Pegu Club, The Martinez or The Hanky Panky. Their Green Fly is also delicious.

3. The Hawthorne - Located in the Hotel Commonwealth, this spot is fantastic. It's like hanging out in a rich friend's stylish living room. A rich friend who is able to expertly mix craft cocktails. Their bar snacks are also delicious.

4. Trina's - Off the beaten path, great food (they serve everything from corn dogs to duck breast), and delicious, creative cocktails. My favorite is the Natale a Padua.
5. Spoke Wine Bar - This tiny spot may be first and foremost a wine bar, but their short list of cocktails is well curated and perfectly executed.  

6. Saloon - Cool speakeasy style bar in Davis Square. My favorite here is the Pimm's Up. 
Update 6/22/13: This place has an extensive bourbon/whiskey list, and the cocktails on their menu are very good. However, based on our experiences, I wouldn't venture too far off the menu, as their staff doesn't seem to have the depth of knowledge about classic cocktails that other establishments do (e.g. Drink, Eastern Standard).

7. Highland Kitchen - For brunch cocktails, I love this little place. Don't miss out on the Hemingway Daiquiri!

8. Craigie on Main - We've had some fantastic cocktails here, and I would love to try more. I enjoyed the Civilian on our last visit while my husband really loved the Improved Whiskey Cocktail.

9. Dutch Kills - Another speakeasy-style spot located in Queens rather than Boston. It's outstanding and definitely worth the train ride to New York.  

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

A Whole Lotta Chicken

As I mentioned earlier, I roasted a chicken this weekend using Pioneer Woman's Lemon Rosemary Chicken recipe. It was a fairly gigantic bird for just the two of us, so we had quite a bit of meat leftover, which is fantastic.  With just a couple hours of effort on Sunday (most of which was spent on the couch waiting for the chicken to roast anyway), it has made planning dinner and lunches for the week a breeze.  If you find yourself with a whole chicken on your hands, here are a few of my favorite ways to keep from wasting all of those leftovers

1. For the first evening, do the obvious "Meat and Three" plate (or Meat and Two in this case). Roast your chicken, carve a serving for each of you, and serve it alongside a few vegetables. We opted for steamed green beans and mashed potatoes.
2. We bring a sandwich to work for lunch most days, and a real roasted chicken sandwich is a very welcome change to processed lunch meats. I've been using whole wheat bread, thinly sliced chicken, arugula, provolone, and Miracle Whip (Yeah, I use Miracle Whip sometimes. I make no apologies for my East Texas upbringing).

3. For dinner another night, dice it up and toss it with a green salad, using whatever you can find in your fridge or pantry. I used arugula, carrot, grated parmesan, sunflower seeds, and balsamic vinaigrette.  I served it with some mini pitas and roasted red pepper hummus.
4. Make a batch of chicken salad for another lunch option. I think these two sound fabulous: Italian  Chicken Salad or Wild Rice Chicken Salad
(photo from The Kitchn)
5. Cook up a big pot of chicken noodle soup, using the "extra-easy chicken noodle soup" instructions in the "Additional Notes" at the bottom of this recipe. Already cooked chicken takes this from a fairly quick recipe to a very quick recipe.