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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bloomingdale's friends and family time! (this week's non-food post)

There's isn't a Bloomingdales in my neck of the woods, but I sure love to lust over their clothes/shoes/accessories online (and look at all the pretty pictures, sigh).

I usually pull the trigger on a lust item whenever their friends & family deal rolls around (20% off through April 3rd, use code SPRINGFF online).  This time I bought:

Still lusting over:

P.S.  If you live near a Bloomingdales and want me to forward you the email with the 20% off bar-code for in store use, let me know!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Whole wheat shells with asparagus, peas, feta, and mint

There's a double standard in my household.

Whenever Ed even thinks I'm creatively substituting in a recipe - he gets a little fear in his eyes.  Sure - there have been some minor disasters in the past (I fully admit cod isn't a substitute for halibut, broth and stock are not interchangeable, and my "garam masala" blend isn't as good as a professional blend), but on the whole my creative cooking has turned out perfectly fine.  There really is no need to fear.

On the flip side, Ed substitutes with impunity.  Zucchini is substituted for eggplant, whole wheat flour is substituted for white flour, lobster is substituted for crab.  For some reason, he just thinks he does it better than me.

To make it even worse, if Ed isn't able to ferret out an ingredient for me or he knows there's a similar ingredient languishing in our pantry - it then becomes okay for me to make a creative substitution.  For example, the dish pictured above (whole-wheat shells with asparagus, peas, and mint) called for baby peas.  Ed insisted the freezer-burned lump of peas we currently had was an acceptable substitute.  Sigh.

Anyhoo (pointless rant finished) - the dish still turned out fabulously and tasted oh so fresh (asparagus is in season!!  woohoo!) and healthy.  I'm usually not a fan of whole wheat pasta, but I think it added a nice chewiness to the dish.  Just make sure you don't overcook the pasta.

P.S.  Thanks for sending me the recipe Mo!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sun-Dried Tomato and Arugula Pizza

As many of you are aware, Ed has been on a quest to find/make the perfect pizza dough.

Until last night, he had been met with varying degrees of failure - but I am happy to report that he has finally succeeded!

The crust on the pizza pictured above (Sun-Dried Tomato and Arugula Pizza) was thin, light, flavorful, and wonderfully crispy.

Of course, as in all great quests there was a casualty.

Ed cut his thumb drying a wine glass, but still managed to make our pizzas before we headed to the ER.  4 hours later, he had 6 stitches.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Malaysian Tamarind Shrimp

One of the best things about this recipe, for Malaysian Tamarind Shrimp, is that you can make the sweet/tart/spicy sauce in advance, which can cut your weeknight meal prep time down to a few easy minutes.

Another great thing about this dish - it tastes divine.

Note:  Find tamarind pods at your local Asian, Mexican, or Indian market. 

(I'm guest blogging at for the next month - check it out!)

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Braided Top Bun

photo: Jamie Beck for A Cup of Jo

Want to try out a chic braided top bun?  Check out this tutorial on A Cup of Jo

photo: Jamie Beck for A Cup of Jo

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Banana Bread

While my photo may not make this recipe for Banana Nut Bread look very appetizing (I should have taken a different angle, or sliced then shot - I know) it is, in truth, the tastiest and easiest banana bread I have ever made.

It also proves that not everything that comes in the mail is junk.

(Thanks for the postcard/renewal notice/recipe card Food & Wine.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Organizing the pantry

After (so pretty!)

Organizing my closet (post here) put me on a little kick, so this past weekend I decided to pick up an Oxo Good Grips Food Storage Kit (I had a 20% off coupon) and get to work on the pantry.

I was able to put a pretty big dent in our pasta and dry goods with the 10 pieces in the set, but I definitely need to buy more.  I have a feeling I'm going to have a new obsession. 

note: I made sure to label each item

Before (embarrassing)

Monday, March 21, 2011

Calina's kitchen: poured fondant icing

A minor kitchen accident (not shown: the floor, myself, the cat)

Things I learned while making white chocolate poured fondant (recipe & instructions here):

Weigh instead of measure (my second batch was way too thick because I measured the powdered sugar)

If your fondant is too thick, add water by the tablespoon-full to thin (my third batch was way to watery because I tossed in approx. an 1/8 c of water)

If your fondant is too thin, add a little powdered sugar and say a prayer to the patron saint of baking

Use a double boiler or a glass bowl over boiling water to keep the frosting at a workable consistency

Use a potholder, the glass bowl or pot is HOT (I have a burn to prove it)

Use a firm cake recipe (I used this one) and refrigerate to firm up the cake further, otherwise you'll have crumbs in your frosting

Make sure the cubes of cake are perfectly square, otherwise they won't frost evenly

Spoon the frosting over the cakes...spooning along the edges will cover the sides

A finger dipped in a little water and rubbed over imperfections can be a saving grace

Note:  white chocolate burns easily! (as I can attest from the disaster that was my first batch)

cakes waiting for a coating (I filled w/homemade jam)
finished product

I was a little discouraged by the whole experience, which spanned two days after I gave up in disgust on Saturday, and until this morning I was determined to just buy cupcakes for my bff's baby shower instead of making these stupid little cakes (which will need to be decorated even further for her party).

But then, I brought my sad little fondant covered cakes to a party this afternoon - and people LOVED them.

Sigh - maybe the 4th time will be the charm?

Friday, March 18, 2011


How I hope my practice cake turns out...pic via SeattleMet

This weekend, I'm going to practice making fondant.

I've been feeling a little worried about the whole thing, but I'm determined to make a baby-block cake for Lis' baby shower - which means I need to delve into the dark and scary world of fondant making.

My sister, Christie, laughed at my fears and told me the bakers on TLC make it look really easy.  I'm convinced it's a result of great lighting, multiple takes, and possibly CGI.

I'll let you know how this all turns out.

Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Stick Straight: Phytodefrisant Botanical Hair Relaxing Balm

I have heavy, thick, very straight hair and never in my wildest imagination did I think I'd ever need or want to use a straightening balm.

Of course, thanks to a free sample of the Phyto relaxing balm (pictured above), this has changed.

Rub a dime size portion through wet hair (tips to top), comb through, then blow dry - and your hair will be sleek, shiny, and straight.  No tedious brushing or gadgets required.

If you're feeling a bit adventurous finish off with a straightening iron, and your hair will be stick straight (even when you wake up the next morning).

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Sake-Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Scallions

When I read the article accompanying this recipe, for Sake-Steamed Chicken with Ginger and Scallions, I literally guffawed. 

The writer, Melissa Clark, wrote:

While it didn’t have the golden brown bits and crispy skin of a roasted or grilled chicken, it made up for the lack of caramelizing with breast meat as soft as custard and drumsticks that almost melted in the mouth. 

Breast meat soft as custard?! Ssssurrreeeee....

Umm...but now I know she wasn't exaggerating.  Ed whipped up this dish on Saturday, and the chicken actually was as soft as custard.  Who woulda' thought?

(side note: the chicken was also utterly delicious and flavorful)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Baby Shower (food) Inspiration

I'm hosting a baby shower for my bff, Lis, in April...and I've been getting inspiration for the food items from

A few lovely looking contenders:

mini fritatas via

baby block cake via

macaroons via

The hard part in all this planning/prepping is going to be reigning in my enthusiasm.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Baked Pasta with Spinach, Lemon, and Cheese

You should only make this dish (Baked Pasta w/Spinach, Lemon, and Cheese) when you have a lot of patience and time (which I, unfortunately, have little of), since it takes about an hour and a half+ to make.

On a positive note, the recipe yields six servings, so if you whip it up on a Monday you'll have lunch the rest of the week (yipee!).

Note: Add red pepper flakes to the onion mixture, another clove of garlic, and a bit more salt to take this dish's flavor up a notch.  If you're feeling adventurous, you may even want to experiment with a sharper cheese.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A crafty item anyone can make (mum flower pin)

photo via Kendi Everyday

Step-by-step instructions can be found at Kendi Everyday (here).

Note: there's only two steps, so don't be afraid

Thursday, March 10, 2011

The perfect shave (for men)...

...just add shaving cream.

(Inspired by my husband's shaving kit, which I have not so subtly molded over the years.  He probably thinks its magic, since products just appear in it.)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

If I had a million $$...

...I'd treat myself to a DVF (Diane von Furstenberg) shopping spree.  I really love her Spring looks.

Some of my favorites:

Gyls top in Peach w/Gisi pants in Brick Red

Georginne cuff pants in cornflower blue w/Issie top in Brick Red

Issie top in Atlantic Blue

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Spinach-Arugula Frittata

Eggs are one of my favorite things to eat - for breakfast, lunch, or dinner (especially if they come from my co-worker Mike's farm).

The scrumptious Spinach-Arugula Frittata pictured above makes a fantastic weeknight dinner since it has few ingredients and minimal chopping, which means you can whip it up in 30 minutes or less (woo-hoo!).

And - no need to fret over calories or flavor.  Egg whites keep the frittata nice and light, and peppers give it just the right a kick.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The best thing since sliced bread...

The SimpleHuman Sensor Pump for soap or hand sanitizer.  I filled mine with dish soap.  Now all I have to do is wave the dish sponge/brush underneath the dispenser - and voila!!

(note: I bought mine at Bed Bath & Beyond and used one of the 20% off coupons they're always sending out in the mail)

Sunday, March 6, 2011


Last month when I went on my shopping diet, I promised myself I'd organize/purge items in my closet.

Well - this past Saturday I finally mustered up enough motivation to do it.

Note:  On a whole my closet is in pretty good shape since I donate clothes regularly & can be a bit obsessive about matching hangers (but not in a Mommie Dearest sorta' way).

The "After" Pic

I organized clothes by type then color.  My billion striped t-shirts even got to be in their own, nicely folded pile.

I lifted a shelf near my shoe rack a few inches, and bought another row of clear plastic storage containers for my out of season shoes.

My Biggest Victory

Turning this pile....

 Into this...

I ended up purging two BIG bags of clothing from my closet, which included a couple blouses I felt emotionally attached to but unfortunately could no longer zip up.

There were also some Spring additions....

Yes - I purchased yet another striped t-shirt.


Friday, March 4, 2011

Weekend Activity: Shootin' & Drinkin'

 Zombie targets at the gun range

Last Sunday my friend Leigh, her husband Mike, Ed, and I went shootin' and drinkin' (it was a Living Social deal that included 2+ hrs at a gun range, a whiskey tasting, and dinner).

I think Ed was secretly hoping I'd get a taste for the gun range, and shooting could be our new hobby.

I can tell you - that's not going to happen.  Shooting is a wee bit too stressful for me.

If you'd like to read more about our adventure, check out my friend Leigh's blog here.

You can also see more pics (including me shooting an AK47) here.

Mike, Leigh, and I shooting handguns

Thursday, March 3, 2011

My New Roots

 Wild Mushrooms on Toast - pic from My New Roots

My New Roots is my new blog obsession.  

Healthy/vegetarian food never looked so delicious.

"Cheesecake" - pic from My New Roots

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mad for plaid

Sigh - light cotton plaid shirts in Spring colors are perfect for a bike ride/ I long for a warm/sunny day!