Friday, January 29, 2010

an edible wedding dress

Lazy blogging today because I'm having a sick day. I made rice krispy treats again, though they seem rather pathetic compared to a cake in the shape of a wedding gown. Cake by Lukka Sigurdardottir. Story found via Food2.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

two things making me happy

A bit of randomness of a Wednesday (as they say).

This morning, as I sipped my blueberry coffee (yum) I happened upon the mysterious world of... people who really dig typography. Like really. I love printed things too & over the past year or so - which involved planning a wedding (thus sewing the seeds of paper obsession), becoming more crafty & trying to keep my creative spirits up with small pretty projects - I actually started getting into this myself, downloading free fonts & trying to make small things in my life look better - including my words.

So of COURSE I followed a link to an unknown (to me) website to find out what type I am.

In case you're curious, I am Archer Hairline. (Finally!) Which in fact is a rather purdy set of letters, if I do say so myself. (If only it were free to download - you'd be basking in its glory right the flip now!) Am I really predisposed to quiet cries in the bathroom & small exclamations of emotions? Not sure, but I do like the pretty little dots at the end of the elegant letters. And so this leads to the more esoteric discussion of what our choice of typeface - in publishing, advertising, our own designs - says about us. I'm telling you it's downright fascinating, as is the history behind the creation of all these fonts. They're like little time capsules, they are. 

After taking the fun quiz, I fell into one of those I-should-be-getting-to-work-now link holes (you know, you click on this link, then this link, then this one - oops! you're late) & ended up on a blog all about obsessing over fonts -, it exists. I found that fascinating, too.

Take that printed word pledge (over there, on the right) a little bit further & don't just commit to reading the letters, but take a closer look at them, psychoanalyze them a bit & appreciate them for all their culturally insightful, psychological mumbo jumbo glory.

Oh, nearly forgot to mention the second thing making me happy today: it's PLARN. Yes, PLARN. "Yarn" made from recycled plastic bags. Yes, it's all the rage & like a good art deco typeface, it's got me under its spell.

**pics found via +

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

"3 months is a long time" chocolate cupcakes

Last night, the cowboy & I celebrated 3 months of marriage. We had leftover thai green curry waiting for us, so in lieu of an elaborate, romantic meal, I whipped up some simple chocolate cupcakes.

I think we should eat cupcakes (or something just as sweet) on the 25th of every month.

This was also a long, overdue excuse to test drive the KitchenAid. My oh my, isn't it a wonder! Maybe I'm just so used to beating/whipping everything by hand, but it felt a little indulgent to use not a single arm muscle. I turned it on, stepped back & just watched in awe. Neat. (At one point, I found myself losing my senses & using my HANDS to stir the last ingredient in - this will take some getting used to.)

These are the little nuggets unfrosted. Like little chocolate muffins.

Last night we ate a few with some leftover Mexican chocolate frosting slathered on top, but they disappeared too quickly for me to take a picture. Here's how they looked in December.

Simple Chocolate Cupcakes
*loosely adapted from Joy of Baking*

1/2 Cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1 Cup (240 ml) boiling water
1 1/3 Cups (175 grams) all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 Cup or 8 tablespoons of unsalted butter, room temperature (if you can wait for it to warm - I can't)
1/2 Cup white sugar
1/2 Cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
2 generous teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1. Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C or Gas Mark 5) & prepare your baking cups, tray or whatever you plan to bake these in (I tried mine in my new silicone muffin tray - no butter required! - plus, leftover mini cupcake cups).

2. Whisk the boiling water into the cocoa powder until smooth. Set aside to cool.

3. In a separate bowl, sift the flour, baking powder & salt. Set aside.

4. In yet another bowl, cream the butter & sugars by hand or by magic mixer.

5. Add eggs, one at a time & continue beating until smooth.

6. Beat in vanilla - preferably something you bought on honeymoon (adding an extra teaspoon of lovely memories for flavor)

7. In increments, add dry mixture & mix only until incorporated (don't over mix).

8. Add in cooled cocoa mixture & again only stir until incorporated (here's where I lost me marbles & used my own arm to stir!) 

9. Scoop in messy spoonfuls into your prepared muffin tin or cupcake cups.

10. Bake approximately 15 minutes, though I find every oven is different - & mine downright sucks - so really I judge by eye. You want it to rise up a bit, be a little springy to the touch & when a knife or something pointy is inserted down the middle, it comes out clean.

Then, please tell your husband to be patient & let these cool significantly before attempting to take them out of the pan. Because they will be crumbly, though really nice & warm. Mmm. And if you foolishly frost them while still warm, the homemade Mexican frosting will get all ooey & gooey. Double mmmm.

**The frosting was homemade last December & frozen. My brain is too broken to recall the exact recipe but it involved confectioner's/powdered sugar, cream cheese, dark chocolate, cinnamon & a touch of hot chilli powder. I kept adding confectioner's sugar until it was like frosting, but not enough to make it as stiff as store-bought, which I liked. You could say it was my version of this recipe from FoodNetwork's Ingrid Hoffmann.**

Sunday, January 24, 2010

krispy sunday

This is timely. I've been experimenting with my much loved rice krispy treat lately. I haven't posted it yet because I haven't gotten it right yet. The other day I made a very tasty but very crumbly, somewhat healthy krispy treat involving peanut butter, sunflower seeds, walnuts, cranberry & dark chocolate (not enough PB though so they didn't actually turn into bars).

But please look at this. If only I had seen this before we got married...

A rice crispy treat wedding cake. Genius. Found this through Food2. Very creative. 
Can't wait to try the fluffernutter krispy treats I've got on my mind right now.

Friday, January 22, 2010

all roads lead to strata


We're big fans of eggs in this house. Well, maybe it's more accurate to say the husband is a huge egg fan & I go through phases. If I think about them too long, I get freaked out. It's not that I think that the yokes are melted baby chicks (anymore) but as a non-animal-as-food kinda gal, eggs sometimes put me into a philosophical food quandary. More often than that, though, they just strike me as kind of... gross.

BUT! The majority of Saturday mornings, I am all in favor of those enigmatic, nutrient-packed little balls of fun. We're big time into big weekend breakfasting. We used to eat breakfast in bed every weekend, would you believe it, but that was before the kid (dog) came along. Now we sit on the couch & watch Soccer AM.

Long story long, I was quite thrilled to come across a new-to-me way to prepare my eggs, other than scrambled, badly poached or omelettized. As I delve further into slower, more thoughtful homecooking that takes just that bit more effort, I find myself rewarded left & right. Take this Italian breakfast dish, for instance.

A strata, as far as I can tell, is basically made up of many eggs, milk, bread, cheese & some patience while waiting. (Strata meaning layers in Italian & uh geology - though I was getting romantically confused by Fellini's film La Strada, which means The Road - it's close, right?)

Is there a traditional vegetable/meat used by traditionalists? Not sure. The recipe that piqued my interest came courtesy of Smitten Kitchen, involving my favorite leafy green. As usual her drool-worthy photos are probably what convinced me that a dish that requires preparation the night before, then patient waiting through sleep & another 45 minutes in the oven the next morning, would be worth it. (Neil needed some convincing - he cooks fast.) But as I've said, I'm into slow recipes these days, putting in the extra time to get it right, experimenting & spending QT in the kitchen.

So I deviated from the Smitten recipe & that's OK. A simple search online, you'll find enthusiasts everywhere pairing portobello mushrooms & asparagus, tomatoes, snausages, fakin' bacon, broccoli, you get the idea.

As usual, my tendency to deviate from recipes (dear god - 9 eggs?) means I can't transcribe exactly what I did with mine. But really, I think you can judge it mostly by eye & personal preference, also taking into account the size of your baking dish & how many eggs you want to consume today.


In the end we used 5 or 6 eggs. I think I started with 5 then realized I needed just a bit more coverage of the assembled jumble so I whisked up another. Honestly, I can see where they came up with 9 eggs because I could have used more, but like I said, if I made it we would have eaten it. And half a dozen melted baby chickens just seems like too much for one morning.

I sauteed a small onion in butter (how decadent), adding freshly ground pepper, sea salt, thyme, basil & a touch of hot chili pepper. For a little color I added sliced red pointed pepper. Then I tossed several handfuls of spinach into the pan to wilt & removed the pan from the heat.

In a bowl I whisked all those eggs with a couple cups of milk (the real stuff, which I bought especially for this - I'll try soy next time). I probably added more of the spices to the egg mix too. Why not, right?

I tried my best to cube a day old baguette of an Italian-type bread - at least several cups worth. You want a lot of cubes, people.

I buttered my new, fabulous stoneware baking dish (love it) & layered the bread cubes, the vegetable mix & grated cheddar repeatedly until dish was full.

I then poured the egg mixture over it all (adding that extra egg when it looked like the whole pile wouldn't be covered). You should ideally cover all the fillings with the liquids, though I like the way the bread cubes poke out of the top. A nice rustic touch. I've seen recipes that call for half & half and full slices of white bread. That just seems wrong.

Then, to your hungry loved one's dismay, wrap the whole thing in plastic wrap & stick it in the fridge for the night. You can then go back to watching terrible Friday night TV, whilst explaining to said loved one why you just looked like you were making scrambled eggs at night but came back into the living room empty handed.

The next morning, distract your other half with Soccer AM while you bake your fancy egg dish for about 45 or whenever the top of the strata is gloriously golden & a knife stuck in doesn't come out dripping in raw eggs (cause that would mean it's not done). Mine might have taken about an hour but then again my oven sucks.

Next time, I'll try soy milk to make it more heart friendly, a more interesting or sharper cheese, perhaps some different veggies for variety. This one came out lovely & subtle in spice. But we like a kick. A nice bonus was that the small bit of leftovers became denser at room temperature & made for a yummy afternoon snack that could be eaten by hand. An awesome brunch dish that can be made seemingly light years ahead of time. But please don't call it a casserole - it's far too fancy for that.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

lovely & impractical

We've been blogged! (is that what you call it?)

The fabulous Meg of A Practical Wedding has featured our us as one of her wedding graduates. It felt a little intimidating writing my own thoughts for someone else's (highly eloquent & very clever) blog, but it's so amazing reading all these comments from nice people I've never met. Oh, the blog love!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

taking a breath

It's been a rough time recently all over the world, though I don't see much point in blogging here about Haiti, hometown politics or any of the myriad wars & miseries happening at any given hour on any given day. Instead, for now, I'll allow myself a tiny bit of escapism. I paid a modest donation for earthquake relief via (which I hope to repeat in the near future). For now, I'll just sit back & feel a little useless, while meditating in front of these two pieces of eye candy on my desk: 
The scent that comes from my forced hyacinth is delightful  - you can smell it even before you reach my seat. And pictures of angelic pets really gets you through the day, don't they?

Right now, I'm daydreaming about escaping here. We have a road trip in the offing - maybe we will make it to the Catskills & hang out in an Airstream trailer. 

I like the sound of this too. School kids + gardening = bright idea. Is it because of that one suddenly warm day earlier this week that I'm suddenly feeling inappropriately spring-like? I know I have a while to wait yet.

Here's to appreciating all that we have, big & small. Because, if you're reading this, you're probably very lucky indeed. Have a look around & see.

Monday, January 11, 2010

food for thought (or rather, food for talking)

I’ve always loved food. Obsessed, you might say. And I tell ya, I never really could trust somebody who didn’t feel the same. Yes, these people do exist & I have met a few in my time (though I tend to scurry quickly away because they give me the willies). Some people out there just see food as a necessity or, on the more extreme end of sad, a necessary evil. Like gas for an indispensable vehicle, rather than the edible magic that it is. Can you imagine?

Leaving aside tragic people & the creepy feelings they inspire, let’s talk recipes. Maybe it’s just our, um, age or recent nuptials (sounds better) that have pushed hubs & I into being way more domestic than we were a couple years ago. We now live in our own little abode (own, as in no roomies) which we try our best to make homey & cozy without putting holes in the wall. I've been making lackluster items with my hands & trying my best to grow (apparently miniature) vegetables in the cement patch. And we are making our first stab at parenthood, too. All growed up, you see.

So, lucky for me, I married a fella who loves food as much as I do. Our idea of a successful weekend includes adequate couch time with the resident sausage, in between forays into the kitchen for elaborate curries & pot pies, epic breakfasts & baking experiments that go on for weeks. Squeeze in a good flim, plus the requisite play time with the pup (perhaps a light dusting of snow flurries) & I’m in heaven.

It only makes sense then that I find myself talking & therefore blogging about food. And there are so many fantastic foodie blogs out there - perfect for stealing all my time. There’s no greater escapism than finding a new recipe, food story or tasty new blog on a cold Dublin morning, as the paper work piles up & all are sneezing & complaining around you in that cubicle sorta way. I get endless enjoyment from reading about other people’s kitchen shenanigans, taking note of tasty new recipes & especially soaking up art-in-its-own-right food photography.

A particular interest of mine is taking traditional / comfort / much loved dishes that are meat-centric & making them meat-free. Cuz I'se is a meat-free lady. I love Rick Stein even though he's constantly gutting fish & frying poor defenseless shrimps. I also REALLY love the Hairy Bikers & they are so into meat, you could say they are starting to resemble their main ingredient.

I also swing the other way into the wild world of quinoa & spelt & things that in dried form look like rabbit pellets but are packed with nutrients & make a mean addition to chili. And we need more adventurous, humorous, meat-free cooking out there. I'm on it, don't worry.
random food

I’ve had some lip-smackin’ success in the kitchen recently that I’d love to share with the wider world, but I have a problem. Recipes: they ain’t my forte. My cooking is usually a happy accident – I hardly ever pay attention to measurements of herbs & spices. I’ll sprinkle on some cheese until it looks like enough cheese. You know? Only with baking do I pay a little more attention to cups & teaspoons because that just seems like a more delicate art form.

Thus, I admit it. Like Rachael Ray before me (yeah, I said it) I believe an eyeball is the best measuring tool you can have. When’s the last time you measured out a tablespoon of olive oil when sauteĆ©ing something? Really? I don’t.

But I’m going to try to get more specific when I think I have something worthwhile to share, whatever leads me to the world’s best chocolate cookie or causes a disastrous sauce to ruin my day.

Did I mention I got a KitchenAid mixer? Look out Food Network.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

and now i'm a wife

I've started off the new year all revved up for change & new projects (not a bad thing) but perhaps without spending the necessary time on quiet reflection that is so vital. And that's not like me. I'm all about favorites, best of's, to do lists, dream lists, what I learned from my summer vacation style personal essays & the like. But I, like most people, have a lot going on in this little head of mine right now concerning the areas of home & work so maybe it would behoove me to step back & take a moment . Or two. Or twenty.

As previously mentioned, in the mad dash leading up to the Crimble holiday, I had so many things I wanted to rant about online. A lot of which was inspired by my good pal Kristy, who seems to ask the most interesting questions about life & love on her cutely named blog, I'm Gonna Marry You Someday.

And today I read a post of hers that once again really struck a chord with me. I too can remember the butterflies of anticipation in the days & months before my hubbie finally popped the question. I didn't have as many "this is it" moments, per se. The proposal was definitely not out of the blue, but for how long we'd been talking about getting married before that, with more of a when rather than if, I can't really say. Isn't that funny? It was probably only two years ago, but I can't recall when exactly our first hesitant uses of the words "when we get married," said initially with a hint of humor as a means to test the water with each other, gave way to a real & definite plan. Somewhere along the way, the conversation about if & someday, become when & where.  How delightful.

He did end up surprising me though. It wasn't a moonlit walk on the beach or a dinner under a spraying fountain. (Kristy, do I get all my romantic inspiration from you & Mike??) On a relaxed Sunday afternoon at his family's local pub, we visited with his aunts & uncles & grandma, enjoying a few pints of the black stuff - not exactly your prime spot for a proposal.

This isn't a photo from the proposal day but it was taken by lovely Aurora a while back when she was in town with her Sandy. A romantic spot, no?

A little bit of local color

Anyway, he whipped out the ring that he just happened to have in his pocket (no seriously, it was in his pocket to bring it home for a more elaborate & conventionally romantic proposal the following day) & it turned out to be a perfectly imperfect strangely romantic but more importantly happy moment in the presence of family - including one rather delighted granny.

And now I'm a wife.

If I were to pinpoint something I miss, for me it's not so much the anticipation of the proposal, which I kinda knew wouldn't include fireworks or a mariachi band (imagine that?) but more the period of simply being engaged. That anticipation of the Big Day approaching, the waiting stretched out over a year & a half, the budding obsession with wedding websites (which still hasn't totally abated), the endless thoughts about flowers & decoration ideas, menus & dresses, iTunes playlists with a Mexican wedding vibe - I found all of it (even the online budgeting tools, the spreadsheets & the more boring logistics) to be thrillingly fun! I'd go to sleep every night a little obsessed, unable to sleep for the visions of centerpieces & cupcakes dancing in my head. And I know that at times I tipped dangerously into the obsessed-and-losing-sight-of-what's-really-important zone, but for the most part I enjoyed the meticulous planning, the hours of scouring ebay for finds, the fun process of designing my dress.

So yeah, I miss that. (But lucky for me I have two- COUNT 'EM TWO -  best buds planning their own weddings right now. So the fun continues vicariously!)

But I have to say, so far, being a wife is pretty great. Sure, we have yet to add a mortgage, baby or any major couple challenges into the mix yet, but that'll come when it's time. For now, the husband & I are laying low, putting together the first twigs of a nest egg, trying out elaborate recipes & watching movies. And that's pretty great, too.
by the pool
***Honeymoon feet in Mexico***

Friday, January 1, 2010

snowy new year

It's a new year. A new morning. The sun is sparkling on newly fallen snow (you heard me), so instead of diving headfirst into the mini mountain of things I've been meaning to post - the recipes, the gift projects, the happy bits of news from my near & dear - I'll simply start with this.
I've got many small ideas for the new year & I'll get to those... a little later. For now, I'm thankful for the fluffy white stuff outside, such a rare site in wet Dublin. I'm thankful for my first holiday season with a husband & a dog.
I'm thankful for new beginnings, new seasons, new plans... and a sunny, bright & freezing cold day off.
I've got Muppets on the TV, a mug of cinnamon hazelnut coffee in my hand & a living, breathing jelly bean shaped hot water bottle curled up beside me.
Happy New Year all.
P1070117 bw