Monday, May 30, 2011

Sleeping on the job.

They don't make garden gnomes the way they used to.

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Sunday, May 29, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

Because you are special and this is an exciting dance week, I have TWO videos for you this Sunday. Two! One's free!

SYTYCD -- my favorite show -- just started again. Yay! The first round of auditions were in Georgia, and this dancer, Melanie Moore, was unfreakingbelievable. Here's the full video of the gorgeous piece she excerpted for her audition.



I had the pleasure of seeing Complexions Contemporary Ballet last week at the Cutler Majestic Theater. They premiered their piece "Rise," set to the music of U2. But the best dance moments came in "Mercy," their tribute to Patrick Swayze.



These dancers are amazing athletes, as well as gorgeous artists.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tickled.

An uber chic and wicked smaht blogger featured little ol' me on her fabulous Weds. interview series.  I'm so flattered.


Go check out Feather Factor's blog and congratulate her for graduating from a certain very prestigious program today.  

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Cake fail

Coconut milk, passion fruit, whipped cream . . . how could that combination be anything other than amazing?


Sigh.  That's what I thought when I set out to make this cake.


But I either overbeat the egg whites or forgot something crucial because the cake turned out super dense, like play dough.  I made some cupcakes as well, and those turned out decent, but the cake (which was for a friend's baby shower) was near inedible.*

Boo.

* Ok, by "near inedible" I mean I still ate it. But I only sort of enjoyed it.

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Sunday, May 22, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

It's almost time for "So You Think You Can Dance," so here's some classic Travis Wall choreography.


An easier to watch but less atmospheric version below.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Honey Braised Short Ribs

I love doing shabbat dinners on Friday night, especially with friends.  But I get home from work so late that I often feel overwhelmed with the idea of cooking a whole dinner from scratch Friday night.  

But then I discovered braised short ribs.

They are legen . . . wait for it . . .


DARY.  Seriously, these ribs are so succulent, tender, and delicious.  And best of all, you can -- indeed, you should -- make them a day or two ahead of when you are going to serve them.  So when company arrives, all you have to do is heat up the ribs, make some sort of starch, toss a salad, and accept the compliments.


Honey Braised Short Ribs (adapted from Tyler Florence's recipe)

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 pounds short ribs (boneless, imo, tastes better, though boned-in allows for a prettier presentation)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup chopped celery
3 carrots, chopped + 1 cup extra carrots, chopped
1 tablespoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon caraway seeds
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 cup honey
1 cup dry red wine
2 cups beef stock

For the short ribs: Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.

In a large casserole heat the oil over medium-high heat. Season the meat with salt and pepper and brown on all sides. Remove the short ribs and set aside. 

Add the onion, celery, the 3 carrots, paprika, caraway, and rosemary to the pan and cook until softened, about 10 minutes. Pour in the honey, red wine, and stock and bring it to a boil. Return the meat to the pan; the liquid should just about cover the meat. Add more broth or wine if necessary.

Place the pot in the oven and put on the lid loosely to allow the steam to escape and the sauce to thicken. Cook until the meat is very tender, about 3 hours. 

Remove the meat to a separate plate.  Strain the braising liquid, removing and disposing of all solids (though you can keep the carrots if you don't mind picking them out).  Add the final cup of chopped carrots.  Cook the liquid (with carrots) over high heat until it is thick and syrupy.  (This should give you carrots that are cooked but not mushy.)

Return meat to pot.  Refrigerate overnight (or until 1 hour before serving).  About an hour before service, take pot out of the refrigerator. Skim the fat -- this should be easy, as the fat will have solidified.  Heat the goodness, covered, over low heat.  Serve with mashed potatoes.  And miso-glazed brussel sprouts.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Dear BHLDN,

I know I was a Weddingbee and have a penchant for crafting.

But I also know that I'm not the only one who thinks it's absurd to charge people $14 for 20 toothpicks topped with slivers of lotka paper (which even the outrageously priced Paper Source sells for $3.50 for a 20 x 30 sheet).

Ribbon tailed pennants

It is even more ridiculous to charge people $32 for 5 tissue poms.  You know, as I know, that all it takes to make these ubiquitous poms is 8 sheets of garden variety tissue paper, which goes for $1.  One dollar!

Paper pom set

And these paper dot garlands?  For the $18 you charge, I can buy a circle punch and enough paper to make you 20 garlands.

Polka dot garland

Don't even get me started on the pinwheels or the kraft paper pennant garland.

Between you and me, though, what I really want to know is the name and contact information of the silly people who WERE willing to shell out $$ for their faux-DIY wedding.  Because I've got quite a number of things I'd like to market to them . . . .

Thanks.  That's all.

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Sunday, May 15, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Buttermilk Cake with Fresh Strawberries

Buttermilk: it's super delicious in certain recipes, but for some reason, it only comes in a way-too-large size.  I needed a small amount of buttermilk for flan imposible and had tons left over, so I googled my way to a raspberry buttermilk cake.  Alas, our last carton of fresh raspberries were consumed along with the flan, so I had to make recourse to what I had left: giant, relatively bland strawberries from Trader Joe's.  Embedded in this cake, though, the berries were perfect: tart, bright, and beautiful.


This cake is fluffy and flavorful on the inside, with a delightful sugary crunch on top.  And it comes together in no time at all.


We had the cake with vanilla ice cream.  It was a perfect end to a tasty barbecue . . . a sweet promise of the summer weather that is to come.



Buttermilk Cake with Fresh Strawberries (adapted from Epicurious)

Ingredients:
1 cup cake flour (AP flour is fine, too)
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 stick unsalted butter, softened
2/3 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar, divided
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg
1/2 cup well-shaken buttermilk
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled and sliced thinly

Directions: 


Preheat oven to 400°F with rack in middle. Butter and flour a 9-inch round cake pan.  I added a circle of parchment on the bottom just to be safe.

Whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Beat butter and 2/3 cup sugar with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in vanilla. Add egg and beat well.

At low speed, mix in flour mixture in 3 batches, alternating with buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour, and mixing until just combined.

Spoon batter into cake pan, smoothing top. Scatter raspberries evenly over top and sprinkle with remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar.

Bake until cake is golden and a wooden pick inserted into center comes out clean, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool to warm, 10 to 15 minutes more. Invert onto a plate.


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So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

Defying gravity with dance.

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Compost Cookies Redux

Of all the baked goods I make, the one recipe that I get asked to make again and again is Momofuku's compost cookies.  It never gets old, because I switch up the ingredients every time I make the recipe.  I also love making people guess the mystery ingredients in each batch (people always guess caramel or toffee, and are always surprised by the savory ingredients).


For a dinner party last weekend, I made extra large compost cookies with dark chocolate and white chocolate chunks, peanut butter cups, and potato chips.  Straight out of the oven, with peanut butter and chocolate melting everywhere, they were heavenly.  And worth a second post.

The mix of salt with sweet, crispy with chewy . . . it's like everything delicious rolled into one bite.  Christina Tosi is a genius, and I can't wait until the Milk Bar cookbook comes out.



Ingredients:

1 cup Butter
1 cup Sugar
3/4 cup Light Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Corn Syrup (like the Amateur Gourmet, I skipped the corn syrup because I didn't have any)
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs
1 3/4 cups AP Flour
2 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Baking Soda
2 tsp Kosher Salt
1 1/2 cups Your favorite baking ingredients! (I used chocolate chunks, white chocolate chunks, mini peanut butter cups)
1 1/2 cups Your favorite snack foods (I used classic Lays Potato Chips this time, but my favorite is Cheddar Goldfish)

Directions:

In a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream butter, sugars and corn syrup on medium high for 2-3 minutes until fluffy and pale yellow in color. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

On a lower speed, add eggs and vanilla to incorporate. Increase mixing speed to medium-high and start a timer for 10 minutes. During this time the sugar granules will fully dissolve, the mixture will become an almost pale white color and your creamed mixture will double in size.

When time is up, on a lower speed, add the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Mix 45-60 sec just until your dough comes together and all remnants of dry ingredients have incorporated. Do not walk away from your mixer during this time or you will risk over mixing the dough. Scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl with a spatula.

On same low speed, add in the hodgepodge of your favorite baking ingredients and mix for 30-45 sec until they evenly mix into the dough. Add in your favorite snack foods last, paddling again on low speed until they are just incorporated.

Using a 6oz ice cream scoop, portion cookie dough onto a parchment lined sheetpan.

Wrap scooped cookie dough tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate for a minimum of 1 hour or up to 1 week.

DO NOT BAKE your cookies from room temperature or they will not hold their shape.

Heat the conventional oven to 400F. (350F in a convection oven)

When the oven reads 400F, arrange your chilled cookie dough balls on a parchment or silpat-lined sheetpan a minimum of 4" apart in any direction.

Bake 9-11 min. While in the oven, the cookies will puff, crackle and spread.

At 9 min the cookies should be browned on the edges and just beginning to brown towards the center. Leave the cookies in the oven for the additional minutes if these colors don't match up and your cookies stills seem pale and doughy on the surface.

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Sunday, May 8, 2011

Diary of a Secret Housewife: Passion Fruit Shortbread Bars

Outside it is a dreary, rainy day in Boston.  Here in my kitchen, though, it's downright tropical.  Sure, it's a balmy 75 degrees because my oven's been on.  But really the island atmosphere comes from these passion fruit shortbread bars, which burst with the taste of summer and sunshine.


I got my hands on some frozen passion fruit puree (Goya brand) the last time I was at the local hispanic grocery, and I've been looking for the perfect recipe to showcase the bright, fragrant flavor of passion fruit ever since. Then I had a lemon bar the other day and got inspired: perhaps I could make a similar dessert with passion fruit?

The results were even better than I expected!  The bars are tart, sweet, aromatic, sticky, and so, so delicious.  And they boldly kick the ass of any pedestrian lemon bar.


Passion Fruit Shortbread Bars

Step 1: Make shortbread crust (adapted from Martha Stewart's Raspberry Crumb Bars)


Preheat the oven to 350.  Butter a 9 x 13 baking pan.  Line with parchment paper, and lightly butter the parchment as well.  Set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together 5.5 ounces ground almonds, 1.5 cups flour, 1/2 cup sugar, and 1/2 tablespoon salt.  Cut in 8 oz. butter with a pastry blender until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.  using your fingers, squeeze the mixture together to create pea-size crumbs with a few larger clumps.

Transfer crumb mixture to prepared baking pan.  Cover with a sheet of parchment paper.  Using the back of a large spoon, press dough evenly into pan, lifting the parchment occasionally to ensure it doesn't stick.  With a wine bottle or small rolling pin, roll along the length of the pan to smooth dough.  Dough should be firmly packed, with no holes or cracks.  Bake, rotating the pan halfway through, until lightly golden all over, 15 to 20 minutes.  Transfer pan to a wire rack to cool.

Step 2: Make passionfruit filling (adapted from use real butter)


Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.  Whisk or beat 6 large eggs until frothy.  Whisk in 2 cups sugar, about 1/4 cup at a time.  Then beat in the 1/4 cup plus 2 tbsps flour and 1.5 tsp. baking powder until well-mixed.  Pour 2/3 cup passion fruit purée and whisk or beat until thoroughly combined.

Pour the filling over the crust in the baking pan and bake for 30-35 minutes until the top of the bars are golden brown and the center is firm.  Cool completely and refrigerate for 3+ hours before slicing.  Serve with a dusting of confectioner's sugar.

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So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

Kate Jablonski's choreography is so full of whimsy. And her dancers . . . amazing. Save these videos for when you need something delightful in your life.


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Friday, May 6, 2011

I'm So Flashy: Canon Speedlight 270EX Review Pt. II

A little while ago, I reviewed the Canon Speedlight 270EX.  I finally got a chance to try it out during flash-required conditions (a dimly lit wedding) this weekend, and I have to say that it's worth every dollar.



If you're like me and are afraid of flash, this small and efficient addition to your kit will help you get over your fears.


And the thing that was kind of amusing is that this (relatively) cheap toy has a bounce feature that not even the pro photographers working the wedding had on their fancy flashes.  When I sheepishly handed over my Canon Rebel T2 to the pro and asked her to do us the favor of taking a family photo, she was totally flummoxed and intrigued by the bounce feature.

I felt -- for a brief moment -- super cool.

And then she gave me back my dinky camera and picked up her grown-up's machine with the big-ass lens that no doubt cost twice the price of my camera, and I came back to reality.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Eight thousand words about this weekend.

Weekend in Toronto.  Adorable children.  Time with family.  Super fun wedding.


A picture is worth a thousand words.  So here's eight thousand.









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Sunday, May 1, 2011

So You Wish You Could Dance Sundays

Adele is my new musical crush and these ladies capture her rawness so dynamically.


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