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Monthly Archives: January 2013

Perfect Valentine’s Day Dinner

As I explained in my Valentine’s post last year, I am a big believer in staying in on the big V-day. It’s the perfect time of year to cozy up on the couch with your lover, your cat, your roommates, your SATC dvd’s, whomever–and relax. And, surprise surprise, I suggest relaxing with some pig-meat and booze: Pan-seared pork tenderloin in a cranberry, rosemary, and citrus scented red wine reduction. CLASSY!

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But really, this dish is divine–intensely flavorful without being too rich, decadent but not overly expensive, deceptively simple and easy to make, and just so darn pretty!

You’ll need:

1. Pork tenderloin, around 1 lb

2. 1/2 yellow onion, chopped

3.  2 cloves garlic, minced

4. 1 cup dried unsweetened cranberries

5. 2 cups good red wine (whatever you have on hand and like to drink)

6. 3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary (tip: use kitchen scissors to quickly and finely cut)

7. 1 tbsp orange zest (I used a clementine, because that’s what I had on hand)

8. 1/4 cup brown sugar

Olive oil, salt and pepper

Steps:

1. Preheat oven to 375 degree. Heat a couple glugs of olive oil in large pan until shimmering but not smoking.

2. Pat dry the tenderloin, and generously salt and pepper. Drop into the very hot pan, searing on each side for about 1 minute. Transfer to foil lined baking pan. Tent with foil and roast in oven for 15 minutes. Meanwhile…

3. In the same pan you seared the tenderloin, cook the chopped onion and garlic until beginning to brown.

4. Add the wine, brown sugar, cranberries, rosemary and orange zest, scraping the bottom of the pan to get the stuck bits of meat and onions up. Continue to simmer until the meat comes out of the oven.

5. Remove the tenderloin from the oven and let rest for 2-3 minutes. Add the tenderloin and its juices to the pan with the wine, and baste the meat while continuing to cook for another 2-3 minutes.

6. Serve meat with generous heaping of cranberry chutney and sauce.

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Do you have plans for February 14th?

xox

 

One Bowl Chocolate Chip Cookies

My all-time favorite chocolate chip cookie recipe takes 36 hours to make and uses uber-expensive Valrhona chocolate chunks and fleur de sel. This is NOT that recipe.

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Don’t get me wrong–these cookies are delicious. They have a caramel note to them and are the perfect balance of crispy outside/chewy center. But what makes the cookies especially appealing is the fact that from start to eating they take just 30 minutes, and you only have one bowl to clean up. What is sweeter than that?

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Confession: I didn’t actually use chocolate chips in these cookies. I chopped up a bag of Reese’s peanut butter bells my Mom sent us for Christmas. I am not joking when I say Nate nearly cried with joy when he bit into these babies, plump with the ideal peanut-butter:chocolate ratio of the Reese’s. You can use chocolate chips, though, or chocolate chunks, or white chocolate chips and dried cherries, maybe chop up some toffee–you get where I’m going with this. However, if you have a leftover bag of Reese’s peanut butter bells from Christmas, I highly suggest trying them.

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You’ll need:

-3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into chunks
-2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
-1/2 cup granulated sugar
-1 large egg (set out to raise temperature while prepping, and/or warm between your hands for a few)
-2 teaspoons vanilla extract
-1/2 teaspoon salt
-1/4 teaspoon baking soda
-1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
-1 ½ to 2 cups add-ins, like chocolate chips
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How to:
1. Preheat to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment.
2. In a large microwave-safe bowl with the microwave on 50 percent power, melt the butter just until smooth but NOT clear or runny–you want the consistency and color of banana pudding. Stop and stir every 30 seconds or so. (See pic above. My butter took 4 minutes to melt.)

3. Thoroughly stir the brown and granulated sugars into the butter, mashing out any lumps with the back of the spoon and stirring until well blended.
4. Thoroughly stir in the egg, vanilla, salt, and baking soda until the mixture is well blended and smooth.
5. Stir in the flour just until evenly incorporated.
6. Lightly fold in the chocolate chips or other add-ins.
7. Drop by rounded tablespoon full onto cookie sheet. Bake 10 to 13 minutes. Let stand until they firm up just slightly, about 2 minutes, before shoving your face.
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Soak the bowl in the sink, throw the measuring cups in the dishwasher, and sit down with a glass of wine–your clean up is done!
xox
C

Recent Reads

I never expected to mourn the loss of my two hour daily commute, but ohhhhhh, how I miss it! Denmark is annoyingly efficient, so now I never spend more than 15 minutes on a train. My monthly reading has decreased dramatically!  In the past 5 months I’ve read only 5.5 books, which is about half of what I was reading in nyc. So it’s especially depressing that I found many of the books below disappointing…Anyway, here are the reviews–ratings are out of 5 stars.

1. Gone Girl, Gillian Flynn

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This page-turner got a lot of good reviews when it first came out, but in my opinion it is pretty overrated. The book goes back and forth between a man’s experience after his wife suddenly goes missing on their anniversary, and his missing wife’s diary entries throughout their decade-long relationship. The story is clever and the mystery is compelling, but in the end I really disliked all of the characters and felt so unsatisfied by the ending. 3 stars.

2. The Age of Miracles, Karen Thompson

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I loved this read! The story follows a precocious young teenager as she copes with impending global disaster–the earth’s rotation begins to slow, with catastrophic results. I loved thinking about how this kind of event would actually impact our earth and our lives–I admit I spent lots of time researching predictions about this very topic! Despite the extraordinary circumstances of the story, in the end it’s a common tale of growing up–and all the disappointment and excitement life brings. 4 stars.

3. Broken Harbor, Tana French

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This is yet another gritty crime drama without a happy ending from French. I wish I could get into mysteries, but I always find them bogged down by cliches. The one that drives this story is a divorced middle-aged cynical detective takes an overly optimistic young rookie under his wing, and leads to both men questioning their principles and beliefs. Throw in a couple of totally unbelievable twists, sad family baggage, and funny Irish-English words, and that’s pretty much Broken Harbor. 2 stars.

4. Vaclav & Lena, Haley Tanner

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This book totally charmed me! The story follows two Russian immigrant kids who meet in an ESL class in nyc. Their friendship appears to be circumstantial, as they have little in common–Vaclav is older than Lena but far more innocent, bordering on naive; he is a dreamer, and Lena a pragmatist. When Lena suddenly disappears from young Vaclav’s life, he is left broken-hearted. They each continue to haunt the other’s memory for the next decade, when the finally reconnect and share their very different stories of growing up. 4 stars.

5. In One Person, John Irving

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John Irving sticks to his usual exploration of gender and sexuality in this quirky read. Supported (or obstructed) by a cast of colorful characters, the protagonist, Billy, narrates his life-long journey towards not just self-acceptance, but the much more difficult task of embracing others as they are. The intimate community (parents, teachers, students) that surrounds him in a Vermont boarding school are all walking with their own ghosts from the past, and Billy learns that there are some spirits you just can’t (or shouldn’t) exorcise. This novel is entertaining to the last page. 4 stars.

5.5. Flight Behavior, Barbara Kingsolver

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I’m only half way through this, but it is everything you’d expect from Kingsolver: dreamlike, poignant, utterly absorbing, and  relevant. She is without a doubt in my top 7 favorite authors of all time. I can’t wait to find out what happens to her expertly developed characters, but I also don’t want the story to end! Flight Behavior is definitely the best of this bunch! Set in a small rural town filled with bible-quoting farmers, the raven-haired protagonist goes through a metamorphosis of her own when a strange phenomenon bring millions of butterflies to the woods on her husband’s family’s property. Soon hoards of people are showing up to see the butterflies, followed by reporters and scientists. Climate change is the impetus to Kingsolver’s beautiful exploration of the danger, necessity, and wonder inherent in all transformations. 5 stars!

Have you read any good books lately?

xo

C

Face Favorites + Everyday Makeup Routine

We are officially entering the doldrums of winter, a time when your face needs a little extra TLC. I’ve turned to these two Ah-mazing products:

1. Nivea Active Purifying Mask:

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This is without a doubt the gentlest exfoliant I’ve ever used. This bright blue mask sat on my face for over 30 minutes, and while it did set a bit, it never dried or cracked the way some mud-type masks do. When I rinsed this with lukewarm water, I was amazed to see my skin looking like a freakin’ face commercial! Usually any type of “purifying” or “deep cleaning” masks leaves my super-sensitive skin red and angry, but not this one. My skin felt seriously clean and soft after using this. I will definitely repurchase and add this to my weekly routine! HIGHLY recommended!

2. L’oreal Paris Revitalift Total Repair 10 Night Cream

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The beauty biz has been buzzing about this product for some time, having won several awards for its effectiveness in a series of independent tests in the spring of last year. I finally picked this up at the beginning of December, and started using a tiny amount every-other night (under Josie Maran’s Argan oil). I have finally worked up to using it every night, and WOW is it amazing. My face feels plump in the morning, and no, not just from the nutella-stuffed french toast thank you very much. This stuff is seriously hydrating, but also is chock-full of gentle exfoliants so you wake up to glowing skin. Love.

3. (From left to right) L’oreal Paris Color Riche Les Ombres Eyeshadow Quad in Beige Trench; Maybelline New York Expert Wear Blush in Sweet Cinnamon (one of my all time favorite cheek colors); Revlon Eyelash Curler; Rimmel Lonon Wake Me Up Concealer in Ivory; Make Up Forever Full Cover Waterproof Extreme Camouflage Cream in 1; L’oreal Paris Mega Volume Collagen 24 hr Mascara; Maybelline Eyebrow Pencil in Light Blonde; Prestige Eyeliner Pencil in Black; M.Cosmetics Powder Brush

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I’ve updated my make-up routine, editing out foundation. I go through phases (typically in the middle of winter and again in the middle of summer) when foundation just doesn’t work for me. I’m too pale to color-match and I get paranoid about flaking, so I just stick to concealer. The Rimmel concealer goes on under my eyes, on my chin, and on my cheeks–everywhere I need to even out my skin tone. The heavy duty Makeup For Ever concealer is only used on serious spots–the broken capillaries I have scattered around my face, the sides of my nose that are rudolph-red from constant nose blowing, and on any blemishes that pop up.

The black liner is only used on my water-line on my upper lid, and dotted throughout my lower lashes in lieu of mascara. The blush is one of the prettiest colors ever–a deep burnt rose, bordering on tawny, with microscopic gold flecks, it is the perfect way to get sun-kissed color in the dead of winter. I apply it with the fluffy brush above to bring a healthy wash of color to my cheecks and temples.

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Have you updated your routine this winter?

xo

C

Roasted Red Pepper Soup

This soup here? Right here?

It’s the answers to all of a winter’s night’s biggest questions. What’s for dinner? This soup. How can I clear my sinuses? This soup. What will warm me up without breaking the bank or making me itch/sweat/ugly? This soup.

Smoky and spicy, this hearty soup is filled with rice and topped with pepitos. If I could find black beans in Denmark, I certainly would have added those as well. And a dollop of sour cream would also complement this perfectly. But, alas, I used what I had on hand, which was pretty basic.

Giving the peppers a little rub down…Nate was jealous.

Ingredients:

-6 cups stock (I used vegetable, but chicken would work and beef would be best)

-6 large red peppers (I used 14 of the super skinny kind)

-2 medium onions, chopped

-2 cloves garlic, minced

-1 cup chopped carrots (I used about 8 baby carrots)

-1 heaping tsp cumin

-1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes

-1 tbsp chopped fresh rosemary (1 tsp dried)

-2 tbsp chopped fresh basil (2 tsp dried)

-1/4 cup whole milk or heavy cream

-olive oil

-salt and pepper to taste

-1 to 2 cups cooked rice (I used brown)

-handful of pepitos as garnish

This recipe is based off of The Joy of Cooking’s Roasted Red Pepper Soup, but I added the southwestern flair because I am one-quarter Mexican*.

How to:

1. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds. Lay on baking sheet cut side down. Brush with olive oil and broil until skin is blistered, 5-10 minutes.

2. In large stock pot, saute onion, carrot, and garlic until golden but NOT brown, approximately 10 minutes.

3. Once peppers have cooled enough to handle, peel the skins off and discard. (I stupidly ignored the Joy of Cooking’s suggestion to place hot peppers in a bowl and cover with plastic wrap for 15 minutes. De-skinning was a bitch, but in the end the little bits I couldn’t remove were blended into oblivion, so there’s no real need to obsess…)

4. Add the peppers, spices, and stock to the stockpot and bring to a boil. Partially cover and reduce to simmer for 20-30 minutes.

5. Remove from heat and add the milk or cream. Blend in batches or use an immersion blender to blend until smooth.

6. Add cooked rice, stir.

7. Add salt and pepper to taste.

8. Serve and garnish with pepitos, black beans, or sour cream.

*The other three-quarters are mash-up of Italian, Southern BBQ, and County Fair fried-dough deliciousness.

Before…

After.

Thanks, Nate, for growing fresh herbs for me!

Enjoy!

Currently Loving…

…pairing black + brown. It always comes across both casual but expensive, like riding horses or weekending in the Berkshires. Check out how I’m bringing this color combo into my life, completely manure-free:

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1. JC Penny fair isle sweater 2. JC Penny sweater dress 3. Longchamp bag 4. The chicest rain boots of all time, purchased in Spain for 20 euros!  5. Aldo wallet/ Kiss nail stickers

Do you wear black and brown together?

xo

 

Happy New Year!

It’s 2013–YIPEE!!!!!!

In the last 3 years, I have welcomed the New Year in NYC, Ann Arbor, and Copenhagen. All have their merits, but I have to say that Copenhagen’s celebration is literally surreal. As soon as night fell (at around 3:00 pm….really), we started hearing the thunderclaps of fireworks. Like, real fireworks. Like, the kind of fireworks you have to cross over to Ohio to buy, but are totally legal and sold to 12-year-olds here. The entire sky pulsed with light as thousands (tens of thousands?) of people set off fireworks. Nate and I were stunned to see at least half of the people drunkenly stumbling around and watching the city-wide sky show were wearing protective goggles! It really was THAT intense! The pictures do not, of course, capture the sight or sound of an entire city beneath a sparkling and singing sky, but here are a few pics anyway:

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The excitement continued this morning, via nutella-and-banana stuffed french toast, bacon, and mimosas:

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Easy, delicious, and healthy! Right? Because of the bananas? Don’t tell me I already broke my resolution to lose the 10 pounds I gained since moving to Denmark….

You know what? Look at this, and tell me it’s not WORTH IT!

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I really didn’t do anything special to make this, but here are a few general tips to ensure delicious french toast, stuffed or plain, every time:

1. Use slightly stale bread. If you are like me, and use two pieces of bread and then forget about the whole loaf for an entire week, this should be no problem. If you are normal and not wasteful, simply leave a few pieces out the night before.

2. Beat 6 eggs and add at least 1/2 cup of milk. I know this seems like a lot of liquid, but that’s what makes this toast French, and not plain ol’ American.

3. Always add a splash of vanilla and tons of cinnamon to the egg mixture. Feel free to add nutmeg, ginger, and/or whatever other spice tickles your tongue.

4. If stuffing, make sure to use a binding element on the edges–nutella is ideal, but regular butter works well, too.

5. For goodness sakes, let the bread hang out in the egg mixture for a while! Give it a proper bath, at least one minute long per side.

6. I like to let my soaked bread babies drip over a piece of tin foil (for easy clean up) on a wire cookie rack while the butter heats up nicely.

7. Lots of butter (at least 2 tbsp) + medium heat = perfectly browned french toast. It requires patience, but do NOT put toast in the pan until the butter is bubbling and gorgeous. And never, NEVER! use high heat. It will turn your french toast into soggy-egg-tasting-sad-sacks-of-grossness.

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As a pre-french toast treat, I made peppermint-mocha-lattes.

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It was pretty much the perfect way to welcome 2013!

I hope you have the best year ever! Or, at the very least, I hope you laugh more than you cry, eat some really great food with some even greater people, and don’t have any of your embarrassing pictures/videos hacked and leaked on the internet.

Love,

Caitlin