Friday, December 23, 2011

Merry Christmas To All, And To All A Good Night

{see jane}

Merry Christmas to my wonderful friends and family! And, thank you for making this such a blessed and memorable year!

Jeff and I will be away for a few days to celebrate the holidays at the farm... It will be our first Merry, Married, Christmas!

I will see you all back in 2012... Happy New Year!

Skinny Dessert... Pretty, Fluffy, Sweetness

Well, it's time to say good-bye to this year's Holiday bake-a-thon and start enjoying all the sweet, delicious goodness we've made over the past week! But, don't worry, I have one last recipe to share... And, I saved the best for last: Homemade Vanilla Bean Marshmallows Covered in Milk Chocolate.

Actually, to be honest, I've never really been a fan of marshmallows. S'mores, marshmallow cream, anything Rocky Road... I just don't love it.

And then came the day I tried homemade marshmallows. Until you've had the real thing, you just don't know how good they are... And, you'll never eat a store-bought marshmallow again!

They're so easy to make too... Why has my hot chocolate been missing this for so long?

I used the Vanilla Bean Marshmallows recipe from Martha Stewart, it's foolproof. Then, for a little extra, I added Milk Chocolate and Toppings to make these treats perfectly festive for Christmas.

And, each little sweet is less than 100 calories... That's my kind of dessert!

Vanilla Bean Marshmallows
Nonstick cooking spray
3 (1/4-ounce) packages unflavored gelatin
1/2 cup cold water
2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract, plus 1 vanilla bean, scraped
Confectioners' sugar, sifted, for coating

Lightly spray a 9-by-9-inch baking pan with cooking spray. Line pan with plastic wrap, leaving a 2-inch overhang on all sides; set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, sprinkle gelatin over 1/2 cup cold water; let stand for 10 minutes. In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, corn syrup, and 1/4 cup water. Place saucepan over medium-high heat and bring to a boil; boil rapidly for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and, with the mixer on high, slowly pour the boiling syrup down the side of the mixer bowl into gelatin mixture. Add salt and continue mixing for 12 minutes.

Add vanilla extract and vanilla bean seeds; mix until well combined. Spray a rubber spatula or your hands with cooking spray. Spread gelatin mixture evenly into pan using prepared spatula or your hands. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray and place, spray side down, on top of marshmallows. Let stand for 2 hours.

Carefully remove marshmallows from pan. Remove all plastic wrap and discard. Cut marshmallows into 2-inch squares using a sprayed sharp knife. Place confectioners' sugar in a large bowl. Working in batches, add marshmallows to bowl and toss to coat.

Now, for the yummy toppings: Milk chocolate, pistachios, crushed graham crackers and flaked coconut.

Place a heat-proof bowl over a small pot of boiling water. Add one bag of Milk Chocolate chips and heat until melted. Dip each marshmallow into the melted chocolate and set aside on parchment paper to dry. Add toppings of choice while the chocolate is still soft on the marshmallows.

These are so pretty when placed together on a plate... Enjoy!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Could Have Been the Whiskey, Might Have Been The Gin

I was sitting at the table last night, putting the finishing touches on the latest bottles of my Holiday infused spirits... Enter Jeff. He saw what I was writing on the labels, and then broke out in song, "Could have been the whiskey, might have been the gin"... (The song continued, but you get the point)!

Apparently, this line is from the song "Wasn't That A Party", which I had never heard. You should listen if you haven't before, it's quite funny. Long story short, I couldn't think of a better title for this post!

You may remember, but this past Saturday I made Cranberry, Orange, Vanilla Bean infused vodka for a hostess gift and it couldn't have turned out better! So, for a few additional last minute presents, I tried some different flavors... Again, they're great! 

The first I made for my Sister-In-Law... Cucumber, Mint Infused Gin. We're on a St. Germain kick, so the cucumber and mint will pair nicely with elderflower cocktails.

And, the second, is Whiskey with Lemon and Ginger. While this isn't my drink of choice, Jeff said it turned out awesome! That's assurance his brother will like it! 

Not to say I perfected my infusing techniques on my first attempt, but this time, I made up my own recipes. Cheers!

Cucumber, Mint Infused Gin
1 English Cucumber, peeled and sliced
Small handful fresh mint leaves
1 (750ml) bottle dry gin (I used Tanqueray)
1/2 lime, peeled and sliced (optional)

Peel and slice the cucumber. Place the cucumber in a large air-tight mason jar. Add the fresh mint leaves. Pour the bottle of gin over the cucumber and mint. Seal the jar tightly. Store the jar in a dark place at room temperature for 3 days. Shake at least once each day. Before serving, strain the gin. Store in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator or freezer. 

Whiskey with Lemon and Ginger
1/2 cup peeled and sliced ginger root
1 Meyer lemon, peeled and sliced
1 Bottle Crown Royal Whiskey

Peel and slice the ginger root and the lemon. Add both to a large air-tight mason jar. Pour the whiskey over the ginger root and lemon. Seal the jar tightly. Store the jar in a dark place at room temperature for 3 days. Shake at least once each day. Before serving, strain the whiskey. Store in an air-tight jar in the refrigerator or freezer. 

Now sing a little song... Haha! 

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Finding the Perfect Scent...

{this is glamorous}

Navigating the fragrance counter can be quite intimidating... Especially this time of year! And, with almost 600 perfumes for Women, where do you start?

For those of you that don't know my background, the quick answer is: I work with renowned perfumers to create fragrances for celebrities and designers. I know, it sounds pretty cool (and it is)! I've worked for Elizabeth Arden for five years on the product development side of fragrance licensing. And, in that time, I've developed seven fragrances, mostly for Britney Spears, Kate Spade New York and Taylor Swift. All of which I HIGHLY recommend.

My sense of smell certainly has intensified... And, has truly made me a perfume critic!

Therefore, without further ado, I'll give my two cents for how to choose the perfect perfume.

First of all, there are two types of consumers: One is looking to wear a brand and the other is looking to wear a scent. You must determine which one you are before even going to the store.

If you're the former, you're ultimately going to be satisfied because you're not choosing your fragrance primarily based on smell. Some people just want to wear Chanel No. 5 because it's Chanel.

However, if you're looking to wear a scent, you're in for a lot more fun!

Perfume has many intricate details. And, it's best to start with learning the major fragrance families: Citrus, Florals, Orientals, Chypres and Woody. This might not mean a lot at the moment, but it will come with practice.

The Citrus family has very linear notes: Lemon, Bergamot and Orange, for example. These fragrances don't change much with wear... What you smell when you spray, is what you smell hours later. They are very light, clean and refreshing.

{Eau De Marveilles by Hermes}

If this describes your style, I would suggest: Eau des Marveilles by Hermes, Chanel Eau Fraiche, Clinique Happy, Jo Malone Grapefruit and D&G Light Blue.

Most Womens fragrances on the market today are Florals. However, they don't all smell the same, and they can have sub-classifications based on the other ingredients in the composition.

If you like the soft, yet rich, smell of Jasmine, Tubersoe and Gardinia, you're a white floral kind of girl. I promise you'll like: Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle, Marc Jacobs Daisy, Twirl by Kate Spade, Michael Kors, Elie Saab, Chanel No. 5 and Bvlgari Jasmine Noir.

{Carnal Flower by Frederic Malle}

And, if you like spicier florals, like rose, I would suggest Chloe, Marc Jacobs Lola and Bulgari Rose.

The Orientals are sweet, spicy, bold and intense... If that describes you, give the following a try: Opium, Flowerbomb by Viktor and Rolf, La Prairie, Angel, Fantasy Britney Spears and Wonderstruck by Taylor Swift.

{Flowerbomb by Viktor and Rolf}

Wonderstruck by Taylor Swift just launched, so test it out and think of me!

{Wonderstruck by Taylor Swift}

The Chypres and Woody families are quite small in the women's category. There are some great Chypres though! Actually, my favorite fragrance is a Chypre, Chanel Coco Mademoiselle. A few other fantastic scents include: Stella McCartney, Narciso Rodriguez and Chanel Chance.

{Coco Mademoiselle by Chanel}

I'm not a big fan of woody fragrances for women, so I'm not going to recommend any.

I hope my perfume tutorial was informative... If you have any other questions or want additional recommendations, send me a note!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Chocolate Espresso Cookies... Yes, Please!

Well, I'm still baking away...

My sister-in-law, Trish, and I, have somewhat been appointed, or we kind of volunteered, to make Christmas Day dinner! Therefore, I'm doing a lot of the baking and preparations this week, so we're not crazed ladies in the kitchen this weekend!

My second batch of cookies is for the sophisticated chocolate lover: Chocolate Espresso Cookies from David Rocco. These are so simple, but taste like they took hours to make.

Chocolate Espresso Cookies
4 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 large egg
4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, melted and cooled
1/2 cup flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
4 teaspoons instant espresso coffee granules
1 teaspoon baking powder
Pinch salt
1 tablespoon milk
Icing sugar (confectioners sugar)

In a bowl, cream the butter and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in egg and mix in the cooled chocolate.

In another bowl, sift the flour, cocoa powder, instant espresso coffee granules, baking powder, and salt together and with mixer on low add to the creamed butter mixture; then beat in the milk until combined. Cook's Note: Will make a very sticky dough.

Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap and chill in the freezer until firm, for about 45 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll in the icing sugar 2 times, letting them sit in the icing sugar in between coatings and completely covered so no dough shows.

Place on parchment-lined cookie sheets 2-inches apart as the cookies will spread.

Bake until the cookies have spread and cracked, about 12 to 15 minutes. Let cool on a cookie sheet.


{Soul Cycle Tribeca, NYC}

Hello, Lovelies!

We've been doing a fantastic job at making our Tuesdays a little bit healthier during the holidays... And, I think this should continue into 2012, don't you?

So, tonight I'm posting my "healthy tip" a bit early (in anticipation for tomorrow), so you have it well before your workout!

As you all know, I LOVE SPINNING! But, still cringe at the amount of money I've spent on Equinox and Soul Cycle classes... I honestly can't even begin to imagine, how scary?

While the classes are amazing, things occasionsly pop-up and you can't get there in time, or you feel like having a good workout on your own. And, sometimes I find I have the best rides when I'm all by myself, which is exactly what I did today... I burned 550 CALORIES IN 45 MINUTES!

Here's how I did it... I promise, all you need is some cute spin style and motivation!

{1. James Perse Tank; 2. iPhone; 3. Smart Water; 4. Nike Pro Compression Shorts; 5. Sidi Cycling Shoes}

I also recommend using a heart rate monitor, so you can measure your exertion. If you don't have one, no problem, just use your best judgement for how hard you're working.

This spinning session is 45 minutes long... Grab the playlist below and get ready to burn over 500 calories!

"Set Fire to the Rain" Adele (4:03).
"Good Life" One Republic (4:13).
"We Found Love" Rihanna (3:35).
"For the First Time" The Script (4:12).
"Her Diamonds" Rob Thomas (4:39).
"Walking on a Dream" Empire of the Sun (3:18).
"Pumped Up Kicks" Foster the People (3:39).
"Marry the Night" Lady Gaga (4:24).
"DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love" Usher & Pitbull (3:47).
"Super Bass" Nicki Minaj (3:19).
"Raise Your Glass" P!NK (3:23).
"I'm Yours" Jason Mraz (4:03).

Spin Workout
"Set Fire to the Rain" Adele (4.03)... Flat ride, 60% resistance, increase cadence as song progresses, legs are moving quite fast.

"Good Life" One Republic (4:13)... Seated climb, 70% resistance, keep a smooth cadence that syncs with the beat of the song.
"We Found Love" Rihanna (3:35)... Standing jog, 70% resistance, try not to bounce, legs are moving quite fast.

"For the First Time" The Script (4:12)... Steep seated climb, 80% resistance, legs are moving SLOW, you're feeling the burn and you want to stop... Keep going!

"Her Diamonds" Rob Thomas (4:39)... Stand 'er up! Steep standing climb, 80% resistance, you're still feeling the burn, but only for a few more minutes!

"Walking on a Dream" Empire of the Sun (3:18)... All resistance OFF, recover for the entire song, drink water!

"Pumped Up Kicks" Foster the People (3:59)... Seated run, 60% resistance, you feel as if you're going slightly faster than what's comfortable... Should be breathing hard by the end of the song.

"Marry the Night" Lady Gaga (4:24)... HARDEST song of the class! 75% resistance standing jog to start, SEATED SPRINT DURING REFRAIN... Continue with 75% resistance during verses... SEATED SPRINT DURING REFRAINS...Run it, only 4 minutes!

"DJ Got Us Fallin' In Love" Usher and Pitbull (3:47)... Back off the resistance to 50%, but keep running! Your legs are moving FAST!

"Super Bass" Nicki Minaj (3:19)... Stand up, 90% resistance for the climb! You're legs are moving the SLOWEST they have all class and are hurting! Almost done!

"Raise Your Glass" P!NK (3:23)... Back it off, this is a seated sprint at 60% resistance! Last song of the class... RUN, RUN, RUN it out!

"I'm Your's" Jason Mraz (4:03)... Cool Down! Back off all resistance, let your legs just relax. Try and slowly recover throughout the entire song.

And, we're DONE... 500 calories burned, guarenteed!

Let me know how you did :)

Monday, December 19, 2011

Magic Bars

Today officially marks the start of my holiday baking for Chiristmas Eve and Day. And, to be honest, it's actually the first batch of holiday cookies I've made this year! While I have several recipes on my list, this morning I had to make the Magic Bars from Milk and Cookies Bakery in NYC.

{Milk and Cookies Bakery, NYC}

The combination of chocolate, butterscotch and toasted coconut is divine! Enjoy!

Milk and Cookies Bakery Magic Bars
3 cups (15 ounces) graham cracker crumbs
2 cups (1 pound) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
One can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 1/2 cups (1 pound) semisweet chocolate chips
2 1/2 cups (1 pound) butterscotch chips
2 cups (8 ounces) sweetened coconut flakes

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the graham cracker crumbs in a mixing bowl. Set aside. Place the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat. Cook for about 4 minutes, or just until the butter has completely melted. Immediately pour the melted butter over the graham cracker crumbs and stir until well combined.

Press the graham cracker mixture into the bottom of a 17-1/4-by-11-1/2-by-1-inch jelly-roll pan, taking care to form an even layer.

Pour the condensed milk over the graham cracker crust, smoothing it out with a spatula.

Spread the chocolate chips in an even layer over the condensed milk, then spread an even layer of butterscotch chips over the chocolate. Sprinkle coconut evenly over the top.

Place in the oven and bake for about 12 minutes, or until the chocolate and butterscotch chips have melted and the coconut is lightly browned.

Remove from the oven and place the pan on a wire rack to cool.

When cool, use a serrated knife to cut into small bars or 2-inch squares. Store in layers separated by waxed paper, airtight, at room temperature for up to a week.

Sunday, December 18, 2011

For the Hostess...

Last night we had a Christmas party and I brought the cutest hostess gift as a "thank you": Cranberry, Orange, Vanilla Bean infused vodka. It was so easy and turned out fantastic! I think I'll be making a few more bottles this week to give as gifts!

Cranberry, Orange, Vanilla Bean Infused Vodka

  • 1 pound fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split
  • 2 oranges, peels cut into 2-inch strips
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle good-quality vodka

Place cranberries, sugar and vanilla in a medium saucepan. 

Place pan over medium heat and stir. Simmer cranberry mixture until the berries burst, about 5 to 6 minutes. Place orange peels in a large glass container with an airtight lid, or large mason jars with lids. Pour vodka over the orange peels.

Allow the cranberry mixture to cool. Pour the cooled mixture into the glass container. Cover tightly and set aside for 3 days to one week. Strain out the cranberries and orange peels and pour mixture into a clean bottle, using a funnel. Store vodka in the refrigerator. And, make sure you put a small label on the back indicating this delicious treat is from you!

Here's a great Cranberry Cosmopolitan recipe to pair with your infused vodka... Courtesy of Martha Stewart.

1 1/2 ounces Cranberry, Orange, Vanilla Bean Vodka
1 1/2 ounces cranberry juice
1/2 ounce freshly squeezed lime juice
1/2 ounce orange-flavored liqueur, such as Cointreau
Ice cubes
Orange peel, for garnish
Cranberries, for garnish

In a cocktail shaker, combine vodka, cranberry juice, lime juice, orange liqueur, and ice; shake until well combined. Strain into a chilled martini glass. Twist orange peel over cocktail and add to glass. Garnish with skewered cranberries; serve immediately.

{Martha Stewart}

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ella Makes... Sparkly Ankle Booties

{Andrea Linett, Barney's Co-op Glitter Back Boots}

I saw these adorable brown glitter back booties at Barney's Co-op in New York and LOVED them at first sight! They would be perfect to wear with skinny jeans (and during the Calgary Stampede)! However, when I saw the price, $595, they were hard to justify... Even with glitter! But, I could attempt to make them, which is exactly what I did!

I found these cute ankle boots at Old Navy... I haven't been into this store in years, but saw them in the window and couldn't resist... They're perfect for this project! 

The only other supplies needed: Clear drying craft glue, glitter, masking tape and a paint sponge or brush. I used Martha Stewart glitter in Bronze and it worked great.

Step 1: Place masking tape tightly around the area you want to be glittered. This will ensure you have clean lines when the glitter dries. Be very precise with the taping. 

Step 2: Mix the glue with a large amount of glitter. You want lots of glitter on your boots! Paint the glitter glue inside the taped area. Then, pour glitter over the glue and shake off any excess.

Step 3: After you have shaken off the excess glitter, the boots should look very sparkly. Allow the glitter glue to dry for one hour and then peel off the tape. The glue will still be wet, but you'll be able to clean up any uneven lines by removing the tape. Spray your boots with a fair amount of hair spray to set the glitter and let them dry overnight. 

Et Voila! The prettiest sparkly boots to make everyday a little more festive! 

Friday, December 16, 2011

Winter Wonderland

Feeling festive on this Winter Wonderland eve... Merry, Merry!

{this is glamorous}

{Gray Likes Weddings}


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Go Bananas...

{Flour Bakery}

There are always a lot of bananas at our house for smoothie making... But this week, I either bought too many or we didn't eat enough fruits and veggies? 

Over-ripe bananas aren't a bad thing though... They make the most delicious treat to have with morning coffee!

This afternoon, I tried a new recipe for banana bread, and I have to say it turned out great! Accolades go to Flour Bakery in Boston!

1 2/3 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup oil
3 1/2 bananas, very ripe, mashed
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (make sure you toast the walnuts!)

Set oven to 350 degrees F. Line the bottom of a loaf pan with parchment paper.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a whisk until light and fluffy, about 10 minutes. Drizzle in oil. 

Add mashed bananas, creme fraiche, and vanilla. Fold in dry ingredients and nuts. Pour into a lined loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes to 1 hour. Enjoy! 

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Dinner Tonight:: Penne alla Vecchia Bettola

Jeff and I have a few holiday parties this weekend, so as hostess gifts, I've decided to bring homemade infused spirits. I will share the recipes later... Since the yummy flavors take a few days to develop!

You're wondering how that relates to dinner tonight? Well, the Grey Goose was open, our pantry was full of canned tomatoes, and I was craving pasta... Therefore, the perfect combination for Vodka Sauce!

This SO, SO, SO good recipe is from Joseph Realmuto of Nick and Toni's Restaurant in New York City. You will never eat sauce-in-a-jar again!

Penne Alla Vecchia Bettola
  • 1/4 cup good olive oil
  • 1 medium Spanish onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, diced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 (28-ounce) cans peeled plum tomatoes
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 pound penne pasta (I used 1 pound and there was still extra sauce)
  • 4 tablespoons fresh oregano
  • 3/4 to 1 cup heavy cream
  • Grated Parmesan cheese

  • Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Heat the olive oil in a large oven proof saute pan over medium heat, add the onions and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until translucent. 

  • Add the red pepper flakes and dried oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the vodka and continue cooking until the mixture is reduced by half.

  • Meanwhile, drain the tomatoes through a sieve and crush them into the pan with your hands. Add 2 teaspoons salt and a pinch of black pepper. Cover the pan with a tight fitting lid and place it in the oven for 1 1/2 hours. Remove the pan from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes.

  • Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta al dente. Drain and set aside.

  • Place the tomato mixture in a blender and puree in batches until the sauce is a smooth consistency. Return to the pan. Reheat the sauce, add 2 tablespoons fresh oregano and enough heavy cream to make the sauce a creamy consistency. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and simmer for 10 minutes. Toss the pasta into the sauce and cook for 2 minutes more. Stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan.

  • Serve with an additional sprinkle of Parmesan and a sprinkle of fresh oregano on each plate.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Eat Your Brussels Sprouts

Twas the week before Christmas... And for us, Tune-up Tuesday!

Today, Equinox Fitness in NYC, tells us why we should be noshing our brussels sprouts this time of year. The once maligned, often-overlooked veggie packs a serious superfood punch!

{Equinox Fitness NYC}

Many of us have had a volatile relationship with these green powerhouses that resemble tiny heads of cabbage. (Raise your hand if the nutrient dynamos were right up there with lima beans on the list of foods you sometimes fed to the dog under the table.) Fortunately, Brussels sprouts are finally becoming the most popular kids in class — popping up on upscale restaurant menus and gracing the pages of bestselling cookbooks.

In season now, Brussels sprouts are packed with vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin C, a known antioxidant and disease fighter. In fact, a cup contains about as much vitamin C as one orange, which is more than your RDA requirement. Another benefit of Brussels sprouts is their cancer-fighting chemicals known as glucosinolates. Enzymes in our cells use these glucosinolates to fight free radicals that wreak havoc on our bodies. These chemicals also help protect your stomach’s mucosal lining against unwanted intruders, such as the bacteria that causes ulcers.

And if being an excellent source of vitamin A, C, K, folate and a slew of minerals wasn't enough, Brussels sprouts are a great way to get in some dietary fiber. Which means that these little nuggets can also help keep you fuller longer and help keep digestion on track.

So let go of those childhood notions, stop wincing and give them a second chance. If you’re still not convinced, then let your taste buds decide with this wintry side-dish of delicious caramelized sprouts with pistachios and orange zest.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Pistachios
(Serves 4)

2 c. trimmed and halved Brussels Sprouts
½ c. pistachios
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 clove garlic (finely chopped)
½ tsp. zested orange peel
Lemon (to taste)

Heat oven to 400°. Spread Brussels sprouts (cut-side down), pistachios, oil, orange peel and garlic on a large baking sheet. Roast until golden and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Finish with fresh squeezed lemon on top.

Article written by Keri Glassman, founder and president of Nutritious Life in New York City.

Hair Help

It happens every week... The alarm rings loudly on Monday morning, you press snooze and wonder where the weekend went. It's a definite 'Case of the Mondays'...

Here's a quick and easy way to have chic, sophisticated hair... Even on a Monday!

The French Chignon

{this is glamorous}

{shoes and interiors to match}

The word chignon {shee-nyawn} comes from the French phrase “chignon du cou,” which means nape of the neck and refers to a large, smooth twist, roll, or knot of hair, worn by women at the nape of the neck or the back of the head. It's an effortless style. Classic, but always sexy.

Tools: Hair elastic and bobby pins
Products: Prep hair with a thickening hair spray; finger dry hair with a blowdryer.
  1. Dry spray hair with a thickening spray to give it some texture.
  2. Tilt head backwards, combing hair with fingers (use a brush for a more sleek bun) into a high pony tail and secure with an elastic.
  3. Wrap pony tail around elastic and secure the loose ends first with a bobby pin by grabbing some of the hair from the bun pushing down and then in.
  4. Secure the rest of the bun with the bobby pins using the same motion.
  5. Finish with hair spray... Et Voila!

    {this is glamorous}

Monday, December 12, 2011

Family Dinner

You know those recipes you want to try, but really are only going to make for company? Well, tonight, Jeff's parents joined us for dinner at our house. And, since it snowed almost all day, a feast of winter comfort food was definitely on the menu... Somewhat gourmet comfort food, I guess!

The inspiration for my menu came yesterday when I decided to say, "Merry Christmas" to me. I was at Williams-Sonoma and couldn't resist the urge to splurge on a new Le Creuset pot. Here's the newest addition to my collection...

When I got home, I couldn't think of a better recipe to test out my new purchase than Filet of Beef Bourguignon! And, guests were coming tomorrow night, PERFECT!

Since Beef Bourguinon is a fairly heavy main course, I decided to pair it with a sweeter salad to start: Roasted Pears with Blue Cheese and Arugula.

I love this salad because it can be prepared ahead of time and it looks beautiful on the plate. I completed most of the salad before I started the main couse. To begin, you'll need:

3 ripe but firm Anjou pears
Freshly squeezed lemon juice (3 lemons)
3 ounces coarsely crumbled sharp blue cheese such as Stilton
¼ cup dried cranberries
¼ cup walnut halves, toasted and chopped
½ cup apple cider
3 tablespoons port
1/3 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
¼ cup good olive oil
6 ounces baby arugula
Kosher Salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Peel the pears and slice them lengthwise into halves. With a small sharp paring knife and a melon baller, remove the core and seeds from each pear, leaving a round well for the filling. Trim a small slice away from the rounded sides of each pear half so that they will sit in the baking dish without wobbling. Toss the pears with lemon juice to prevent them from turning brown. Arrange them, core side up, in a baking dish large enough to hold the pears snugly.

Gently toss the crumbled blue cheese, dried cranberries, and walnuts together in a small bowl. Divide the mixture among the pears, mounding it on top of the indentation. 

In the same small bowl, combine the apple cider, port, and brown sugar, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Pour the mixture over and around the pears. Bake the pears, basting occasionally with the cider mixture, for 30 minutes, or until tender. Set aside until warm or at room temperature.

Just before serving, whisk together the olive oil, ¼ cup of lemon juice, and ¼ cup of the basting liquid in a large bowl. Divide the arugula among 6 plates and top each with a pear half. Drizzle each pear with some of the basting liquid, sprinkle with salt, and serve warm.


After the salad, I started on the Filet of Beef Bourguignon. For this recipe, you'll need:

1 (3-pound) filet of beef, trimmed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, for seasoning plus 1 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 to 4 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 pound bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups good dry red wine
2 cups beef stock
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/2 pound pearl onions, peeled
8 to 10 carrots, cut diagonally into 1-inch-thick slices
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 pound mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick (domestic or wild)

With a sharp knife, cut the filet crosswise into 1-inch-thick slices. Salt and pepper the filets on both sides. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan on medium-high heat, saute the slices of beef in batches with 2 to 3 tablespoons oil until browned on the outside and very rare inside, about 2 to 3 minutes on each side. Remove the fillets from the pan and set aside on a platter.

In the same pan, saute the bacon on medium-low heat for 5 minutes, until browned and crisp. Remove the bacon and set it aside. Drain all the fat, except 2 tablespoons, from the pan. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Deglaze the pan with the red wine and cook on high heat for 1 minute, scraping the bottom of the pan. Add the beef stock, tomato paste, thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil and cook uncovered on medium-high heat for 10 minutes. Strain the sauce and return it to the pan. Add the onions and carrots and simmer uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes, until the sauce is reduced and the vegetables are cooked.

With a fork mash 2 tablespoons butter and the flour into a paste and whisk it gently into the sauce. Simmer for 2 minutes to thicken.

Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms separately in 1 tablespoon butter and 1 tablespoon oil for about 10 minutes, until browned and tender.

Add the filet of beef slices, the mushrooms, and the bacon to the pan with the vegetables and sauce. Cover and reheat gently for 5 to 10 minutes. Do not overcook. Season, to taste, and serve immediately.

And, the verdict... Absolutely declicious! The wine pairing for the meal was Chateau St. Jean Cinq Cepages (2000)... Simply divine and highly recommended!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Dare I Say? Disappointed in Ina.

Caramel is my absolute favorite flavor, especially this time of year!

This morning, I drank one of these: Grande Caramel Macchiato.

And as I write this post, I'm burning this: Laudree Salted Caramel Candle.

And during the middle of my day, I attempted to make these: Barefoot Contessa Fleur de Sel Caramels.

I tried this recipe last year for the first time, but blamed my fail on the lack of using a candy thermometer. And today, with my Williams-Sonoma candy thermometer in hand, I was ready again. And, once again, my Fleur De Sel Caramels didn't look quite like that, but more like this...

Dear Ina,
How come every recipe I make of yours works PERFECTLY, except this one? The one for my favorite candy in the world! I've tried twice and have failed. Please let me know what I'm doing wrong because all I want is a Fleur De Sel Caramel!


P.S. Needless to say, it's no candy, but it sure will be good on ice cream!