Thursday, December 20, 2012

on peppermint bark.

traditions. we all have them. they have been passed down from generation to generation, maybe your family created then, perhaps you started them on your own. making peppermint bark falls into the latter category for me. my mom loves peppermint bark, so one year i decided to try and make it myself. can't be too hard, i thought. and guess what! i was right. three little ingredients are all it takes.
start with a pound of dark chocolate. you can also use milk chocolate, but i prefer the dark variety. melt the chocolate in a double broiler, then pour the whole thing onto a cookies sheet lined with wax or parchment paper. (you could also melt the chocolate in a microwave but it takes longer and your chocolate can start cooking, like turning back into a solid of sorts but not a hard piece of chocolate. i don't know how to describe it, but trust that it happens. i did it one year.) smooth the chocolate out with a spatula you would use to frost a cake, then throw into the refrigerator to harden. i usually keep mine in there overnight.
the next step is crushing up a box of candy canes. getting the wrappers off the candy canes really takes the piss out of me, if you'll allow me to be british for a second and say that. so my advice is - buy thin candy canes, and snap the top, rounded part of the candy cane off. this allows the wrapper to easily slide off the two parts of the candy cane you now hold in your hands. put the candy canes into a plastic bag and crush, which i usually do with a rolling pin. if you have any holiday frustrations, i find this part of the recipe to be quite enjoyable. post office not deliver your package? crush a candy cane. boyfriend acting like a good for nothing type of brother? crush a candy cane. no one coming to your holiday party? crush a candy cane. pants getting too tight after all the holiday season eating? crush a candy cane.
really, it cures all sorts of ills.
while you're busy pulverizing the candy canes, melt the white chocolate in the double broiler. i usually use a little less then a pound and i make sure to buy baker's white chocolate. white chocolate chips usually aren't a good substitute here simply because they're not as pure of a form of white chocolate, but if you're in a pinch you'll get by just fine. and you know those sayings about a watched pot doesn't boil and all that stuff? it should a watched pot of white chocolate doesn't melt. melting white chocolate is damn annoying. it's nearly impossible to do in a microwave (again, trust me on that one). it melts unevenly. it's thicker than the silky melted dark or milk chocolate. so i say unto you - don't get frustrated. just let it melt for about ten to twenty minutes and that should be melty enough to go onto the last step. but before that step, pour all of the crushed candy canes into the melted chocolate, reserving a tablespoon or two.
now, instead of pouring all the melted white chocolate out at once, do it piecemeal. pour a little out onto the dark chocolate, smooth it out with your spatula, and quickly move on. the heat of the white chocolate will start melting the dark chocolate, so you want to smooth it out as best you can before it starts mixing together. in the picture below you can see some parts (near the edges) where this happened a bit. remember - this is homemade peppermint bark. you aren't packing this up and stamping ghirardelli on it. it can have a few kinks and quirks and swirls. it's what makes it so nice ;)
when it's all smoothed out, sprinkle the reserved tablespoons of candy cane pieces over the peppermint bark and pop it back in the fridge, letting it harden over night. the next day i usually flip it out of the pan, lay it down on a towel with the wax paper still covering the back, and use a rolling pin or, yes, a hammer to break it up. (brian calls it a kitchen hammer. it's just your plain old hammer. used in a kitchen). 
and there it is - peppermint bark! all without turning on your oven. there are many things i like about this recipe, but the most is that you can do it over a course of a few days. melt the dark chocolate on a sunday. crush candy canes on a tuesday. melt the white chocolate and complete the process on a wednesday. it's just nice to not have to do it all at once. and for those people who you really feel like you don't know what to get so you just end up getting them a gift card, pairing it with a little bag of homemade peppermint bark makes it seem more personal and thoughtful. it can also make a great hostess gift. basically - having homemade peppermint bark around the house during the holidays can be quite a resourceful tool. and delicious.
brian recently told me he was about to buy some peppermint bark but stopped himself, remembering that we make our own peppermint bark at christmas. because slowly but surely a new tradition has been set. i couldn't be happier, and the peppermint bark couldn't be more delicious.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

on my boyfriend's jeans.

when i first saw the boyfriend jeans trend i was like - nope, not for me! while my style tends to be all over the place, it's always more feminine than not. big, baggy, ripped jeans were not me.
and then i saw them paired with heels. and i totally changed my tune.
(do you guys have any idea how good boyfriend jeans are at showing off a pair of killer heels? like, super duper good).
and the nice thing about wanting something generic like boyfriend jeans, or a pair of red heels, is that many places sell them at many different price points. and when i had finally found a pair that matched the style and price i wanted, i picked up a fashion magazine that showcased an even better pair from...american eagle. god knows how long it's been since i've shopped at american eagle.
i love american eagle.
why? because i used to work there.
yes, american eagle was one of my first jobs and i loved it dearly and i was devastated when my parents made me quit so i could focus on college applications my senior year of high school. the worst. but before i left american eagle i was promoted to a "jeans expert", which means i memorized every cut and color and design of a jean and could tell you everything you needed to know if you just held up a pair to me.
i like to call myself the jean whisperer.
i guess i'm telling you all this to preface the fact that yes, i got the american eagle pair, and yes i love them to death, and yes i may be a bit biased due to my old ties to american eagle.
all the pairs below range in price, but the american eagle ones are the cheapest right now - on sale plus the company is offering an extra 40% off + free shipping for the holidays (seriously it's like i still work for them. the shameless promotion is too much on my part). so if you're on the fence about boyfriend jeans, you could pick up the most perfect pair for around $20 at american eagle and take that plunge. like i did.
additionally, i think a slouchy pair of jeans goes best with a more structured shoe - the pointy silver heels and flats, a pair of wedges or the out of this world red jimmy choos that look like an architect designed them (i could stare at those shoes all day. but i digress). and yes, that's right, i said flats. i even put in a pair of flats for all you flat-lovers (which is literally all of you). enjoy!
2. {jeans/flats}
3. {jeans/heels}
4. {jeans/heels}
and finally, here's how i wore it!

Monday, December 17, 2012

on a weekend in a picture.

brian and i headed down to philadelphia on saturday night to visit with friends and go to a little christmas party. while we've visited philly a couple of times this year for weddings, we thought it would be nice to be there when we and our friends didn't have so many obligations. when we could spend real time catching up, laughing - just being together. i have friends from elementary school, college and grad school living there, and brian's former college roommate also lives in philly - it's like friendship mecca for the two of us. and it was so, so good to see everyone, to catch up on their lives, to give them a hug. and last, but certainly not least, let's not forget chandler. chandler the cat, whom my roommate and i brought home from the pound in october of our sophomore year and is just the sweetest and weirdest thing on this planet. in the midst of all the fun, we even got him to smile for the camera.
we'll be back in philly for yet another wedding in january, but i'm glad we took time this weekend to head down there, as i was reminded of how lucky i am to have so many lasting friendships from so many different parts of my life. philadelphia - we love you.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

on an easier holiday dinner.

sometimes during the holidays we overextend ourselves. and by sometimes i mean all the time. we buy too much, we eat too much, we go out too much. and it's hard to say no - giving to others and sharing delicious food and drink with friends and family we love is hard to say no to (especially since it only comes once a year!) but the worst can be when you promise too much - you'll host this, you'll bake that - and before you know it you're stressing about cleaning and buying ingredients and picking your dress up from the dry cleaners and didn't you promise that you'd go to the gym since you ate that piece of pie? that's where recipes like this one come in. maple-bourbon brined turkey legs - easier to handle than a whole turkey and still festive. in addition to the turkey, maple, and bourbon, you'll need:
whole-grain mustard
black peppercorns
red chili flakes
dried thyme
granulated garlic
bay leaf
the reviews of the brine seemed to indicate it was salty, so i went by the old rule when making my brine - one gallon of water for every cup of salt. (there are also differences between using table salt and kosher salt because they have different masses, i.e. a cup of table salt weighs more than a cup of kosher salt. i would use kosher salt. if you use table salt, i would use less than a cup.) the rest of the recipe i followed exactly - throw all ingredients, except the legs, into a pot together and simmer until the salt is dissolved. let the brine cool until pouring it into a bag/bucket/bowl that contains the legs. let the legs sit in the brine for 24 hours in the refrigerator before roasting at 350 farenheit in your oven for 90 minutes.
and there you have it - a much easier, less stressful ad juicier holiday dinner. no dry meat on those bones! and let's be real, eating turkey legs is a lot of fun. while i realize that makes it sound like i rarely get out, whatever. it's true. 
enjoy your (hopefully stress-free) holidays!

Monday, December 10, 2012

on my weekend in pictures.

you know, you can't do everything together. you can try, sure. but that jig only lasts so long. you don't have to have the same exact interests with your significant other. and for us, brian loves to go to concerts of random bands named the who's it's and the what's it's, while i really, really love chinese food, thai food, korean food, japanese food. any place east of the east coast, which brian has no interest in. and while we try to humor one another now and then, support each other's interests, bob our head along to music we don't know and slurp down some noodles whose name we don't know how to pronounce, we also have these things called friends. that's right, friends! friends who share our interests and who don't have to be left to the wayside simply because you found a person who will do all those things with you AND make out with you (depends on how much garlic is in those noodles). and so saturday night brian went out with a friends to a concert to hear some random band, and i went with tina to check out a chinese restaurant around the corner (also, tina speaks chinese, so it's nice to show her off. hearing her speak chinese with others is always, like, the best).
it can be easy when you're in relationship to start to do every single little thing together. and it's always good to support one another's interests. but you know, sometimes, you can go your own way for a night, reconnect with friends, and eat some damn good chinese food while you're at. there's always a meatball dinner on sunday night waiting to bring you back together.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

on a sunday morning frittata.

when brian's parents came to visit him this year, i made a frittata and it was awful. the potatoes were burned to a crisp, i cooked it too long - and everyone said no no no, this tastes great. please, everyone. do not insult my intelligence. we all know it stinks. and i, of course, should have known better. i should have turned to my old trusty food and wine for the recipe. a recipe that would have people go back for seconds. which is just what brian and i did on sunday morning.
can't be beat.
the recipe calls for gruyere, which i nixed for obvious reasons if you're a reader of this old blog of mine. i used a combo of mozzarella and parmesan and it was delicious, so whatever cheese you may have an affinity for, feel free to substitute it here.
i halved the recipe, using six eggs, two potatoes and four slices of prosciutto. peel and dice the potatoes before sauteing in hot olive oil until golden brown, which on my stove was about ten minutes. while that's happening, combine all the other ingredients in a bowl. it's always frustrating to try and cut prosciutto or thin bacon, so i used scissors this time. i laid the slices of prosciutto on top of one another, cut the stack into long strips, then cut each stack of strips into multiple squares before separating the pieces. i picked up on the scissors idea when i was recently at molly's and saw her do the same with bacon - it pays to watch your friends cook, ya know? (and it's so obvious, i'm a little embarrassed i hadn't thought of it before).
when the potatoes are near done, throw in the scallions and sauté for a minute. then pour in the egg mixture, stirring the potatoes as you pour so they're evenly distributed and covered by the mixture. the sides of the frittata will quickly set, so move a bit fast on that step. let the frittata cook for about three minutes then with a spatula (the kind you spread frosting with), lift the fritatta up a bit to let the uncooked eggs slide under/distribute over the top of the frittata so they're not just sitting in the middle. this step is also important as it ensures the edge of the frittata are not stuck to the pan.
throw into the oven and let it bake for about ten minutes. remove the frittata, turn on your broiler, then broil the frittata so the top browns a bit. this took about two minutes in my oven.
and there you have a wonderful and delicious breakfast. it's really easy and not time consuming at all, which is just how i like my breakfast to be on a sunday morning.

Monday, December 3, 2012

on my weekend in pictures.

this weekend was a very brooklyn-y and christmas-y weekend (as if those are words). we started it early on thursday by going out and getting my favorite pizza in nyc at motorino (their crust will change your life). during sandy they stayed open by filling the restaurant with candles and serving pizza from their wood-burning oven, so it was nice to go and support them back. that theme continued into saturday morning when we went to red hook after a morning run across the brooklyn bridge. my favorite restaurant in the neighborhood, fort defiance, was back open, truly a feat after having lost their entire kitchen. their breakfast continues to knock my socks off, and being low on supplies they served me sugar for my coffee in a shot glass. how can you just not love it there? after all that deliciousness we set out to accomplish our one goal for the weekend - getting brian his first nyc christmas tree. complete with the one ornament he owns. he's quite proud of his tree and his apartment smells like perfection (of course). all we have to do is get me my tree from my local deli, in true new york style. sunday finished out the weekend with a homemade frittata, which i'll post here sometime this week.
it was another wonderful and delicious weekend, made better by the fact that christmas season is in full swing here in nyc - i couldn't be happier.
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