You may have heard some fuss in the media lately about a little thing called OWN? You know, Oprah’s new 24/7 network devoted to self-discovery?
If you’ve been vacationing in Atlantis and have somehow managed to miss all the coverage, let me summarize it for you:
OPRAH DID SOMETHING.
And I have to say, I agree wholeheartedly with all the excitement: it’s a fact that everything the woman touches turns to gold. She’s just perfection, and I - along with everyone else - adore her.
Which brings me to some exciting news! I’ve been asked to work with OWN and She Speaks as a “Conversation Leader,” which means that I’ll be viewing and writing about the shows in advance of the premieres (cool), as well as chatting about various things over on the OWN/She Speaks boards.
For my introductory post, I was asked to make a video in which I say how I’m going to OWN 2011 and the show that I’m the most excited for (Your OWN Show, of course). Here it is! (I just made it this afternoon, hence the New Year’s Eve-appropriate sparkle earrings :).)
This is the first time I’ve made my Aunt Jo-Anne’s famous (at least in our family) baked beans in a slow-cooker.
Highly. Recommended. Whoa, these are good. And easy. And good.
So good, in fact, that I’ve given them a featured role in our New Year’s Eve dinner (along with pulled pork and a few other sides…and champagne, of course).
The plan this year: Kendrick’s likely getting home too late for us to go downtown, as we’d originally intended, and so we’ve decided to skip the taxis, expense, and general headacheness of Going Out Big in favor of home cooking followed by drinks in the neighborhood. Seriously, this slow-cooker is the BEST: I get to do all the dinner legwork way in advance, and then head out for Happy Hour with some friends while it finishes up on its own.
But back to the baked beans. This time, I added a few little extras to Joanne’s original recipe…and they came out sweet, tangy, and filled with incredibly tender bits of meat.
What you need:
1 package dry beans (I used black-eyed beans)
1 onion (finely chopped)
1 ham hock
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup real maple syrup
1/2 cup ketchup
1-2 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
What you do:
1. Pour the beans into a big bowl and just cover with water. Let them soak overnight.
2. Boil the beans for 10-15 minutes on the stovetop; drain.
3. Place the beans and all other ingredients in the slow cooker and cook on low for hours and hours (mine were in there for 7-8 hours, but I also only boiled the beans for 10 minutes, so perhaps that’s why they took longer). Add a bit more water halfway through if they look a little dry.
4. Remove ham hock and shred meat; return meat to pot. Adjust seasoning, if needed, and serve (here, they’re served alongside German Potato Salad and coleslaw).
If you’re headed to a New Year’s Eve party at someone’s house tonight, here’s a suggestion: in addition to (or instead of) the standard bottle of wine, bring along a cool, inexpensive bar accessory like these Victorian Key bottle openers ($7.99 from World Market).
And just because I was browsing around on the World Market site…these Fleur de Lys glasses ($11.96-$15.96) are gorgeous.
I’m a longtime reader of your blog. I moved to the Upper East Side in November, and since you live in this area as well I was wondering - what are your recommendations for great, reasonably priced sushi up here? My boyfriend and I love sushi, but neither of our budgets exactly lend to trying out every restaurant. I remember reading a number of posts from you about sushi, so I figure you’d be a little more in the know than I am. I’d love to hear your input!
A. Hey Tara!
The best sushi I’ve found in the area is at Gajyumaru. The atmosphere is fairly run-of-the-mill (simple wooden tables, brightish lighting), but the quality of the fish is awesome, and there are lots of unusual options on the menu. For atmosphere + quality, I’d recommend Amber, on 3rd…but be warned: it can get expensive. Wasabi Lobby is my pick for quick + serviceable: the sushi isn’t anything special, but it’s totally fine, and it’s well-priced. And Poke is BYO, which is a plus, but they really rush you out the door when they’re busy, so i’d say only go during off-peak hours.
* * *
Anyway, so last night Francesca and I went to Amber for dinner…and yep, nice atmosphere, not-so-nice prices. And look: we (coincidentally) wore the exact same nailpolish (Sephora by OPI in Dear Diary; a perfect, looks-good-on-everyone pale pink).
Look for artichokes that are heavy for their size, with tightly-packed leaves and no bruises or discolorations. To prepare, first rinse off the artichoke and then cut off all but about 5mm of the stem (I use poultry shears, but a knife will do). Some people trim off the sharp ends of the leaves; I am impatient and hungry, and am willing to put up with a little pain for more immediate gratification.
How I make them:
Opinions on this differ, but I steam artichokes with the base side up (use a vegetable steamer if you have one). Cover, with just enough room for some steam to escape, and steam in approximately 3/4 inch of water on low heat for 40-50 minutes (depending on the size of the artichoke). If the water boils down too low and gets kinda brown, just add a little more. When the base is fork-tender, they’re ready.
How I serve them:
I serve steamed artichokes with Lemon Butter, which you make by reducing the juice of 1 lemon over low heat for a few minutes, and then adding 3/4 stick of butter (it makes several servings) cut into pieces. Allow to melt, and pour directly into little serving dishes like the one you see here, which I bought in Chinatown years ago.
I prepare the melted butter about fifteen minutes before I’m planning on serving it, because I like it to thicken just a little (so more grabs onto the artichoke leaves when you dip them).
Bralettes are lingerie perfection: they’re gorgeous, comfortable, and can be found in a wide range of prices (try Free People for tons of affordable options, and brands like Cosabella and Hanky Panky if you have a little more money to spend). At left is one of my favorites: the OnGossamer Black w/ Champagne Boudoir Blooms Bralette ($38).
Basically, a bralette is a soft bra (no padding or underwire) that often extends partway down the body to form a sort of crop-top. I once wore a sequin one in public (paired with silk harem pants); this isn’t something I necessarily recommend. You can, however, wear many styles as substitute camisoles and let the tops peek out over a button-down shirt (this look works best with bralettes in bright colors, as opposed to nude/white/black, which are traditional lingerie colors and may look…well, like your bra is showing).
Since they don’t usually have a ton of support, I personally prefer bralettes as sleepwear; they can be paired with anything from matching lacy bottoms to boxers or PJs, and if you choose one with more coverage, everything should stay in its place all night long.
Or so it seems, anyway. I’m sick; half the people I know are sick, including Kendrick, who apparently made off with the remainder of the DayQuil this morning. (UPDATE: Kendrick is a note-perfect husband and would never, ever do such a hideous thing to his deathly ill wife. Also, there was none left in the box when he checked. Love, Kendrick.)
I don’t think I’ve had a cold since the one I picked up in London last November, but I remember getting all sorts of great get-better advice from you guys back then and decided to revisit it this morning.
- Hallie recommends adding lots of garlic to chicken soup: check out my post on the benefits of garlic here and my mom’s chicken stew recipe here.
- Elizabeth recommends eating spicy foods to boost immunity and to drain the sinuses. She’s also a garlic advocate…check out her delicious, garlic-heavy orecchiette here.
- Rain Africa soaps: this company, which I just stumbled upon in Rockefeller Center a few weeks ago, is just amazing. More on them later, but for now, suffice it to say that the soaps are extraordinary (and make gorgeous gifts).
- Cor Silver Soap*: I love it. It’s ridiculously expensive ($125 for the large bar), but…I just adore the stuff. And I’m still working my way through a sample size that I picked up in September, so I’d advise snagging one of those (they’re just $15) before committing to the Big Purchase.
- Rose Petals Rosewater: I spritz this on my face, body, and sheets every night just before going to bed. Click here for more rose-type products that I love.
- Proactiv Makeup Removing Towelettes: I keep a package of these in my bedside table for the nights when I’m too exhausted to make it to the sink. They’re non-drying, refreshing, and take absolutely everything off (also great for travel).
- Sprayology Homeopathic Spray*: A sort of silly premise - vitamins! that you spray under your tongue! so they get into your bloodstream faster! I mean, whatever. But I spritz every night anyway, because why not? The tube is right there on my bedside table. And I go to sleep feeling just a little extra-virtuous and healthful.
There are two things that I especially love about this tabletop: the air plants in glass votives, and the twine-wrapped vase. But the thing that I love most of all? This look couldn’t be easier - or more inexpensive - to DIY.
First, the air plants. You can buy them online, and they require minimal care (just mist them about once a month). For a similar look to this one, just set them on the table in votives, antique cream-and-sugars…whatever you have handy, really. I also like the idea of tucking branches and coral around them to add more texture.
For the twine-wrapped vase, all you need is twine and some glue. You can just wrap the center section if your vase is a pretty one (or if you’re short on time), but I like the idea of covering them top-to-bottom - so rustic and pretty. To do this, just start at the base and use glue to affix the twine, working your way slowly up until the whole thing is covered.
For a variation on the look try wrapping just the mouth of a Mason Jar (or any clear glass jar you have handy), and then filling it 1/3 of the way up with cranberries, nuts or coarse sea salt (snow! sorta…). Place a white votive inside, and voila! Adorable centerpiece, perfect for a New Year’s Eve dinner.
(At other times of the year, try switching up the filler in the jar for season-appropriate things like sand, small seashells, or rocks.)
For a light (and yet beautifully festive) holiday cocktail, just pour a little cranberry vodka (or homemade cranberry-orange vodka) over ice, add a few splashes of soda water, and garnish with sugared cranberries (or sugared vodka cranberries…or just regular ones, if you’re short on time) and a sprig of rosemary. Really, all this is is a flavored vodka soda…but don’t you think “Winterberry Cocktail” sounds nicer?
So around noon - a little late to be starting the whole “slow-cooking” process, but hey - I decided to brave the snowdrifts and headed over to Schaller & Weber for some gorgeous short ribs.
One of my favorite things to do is ask the butcher how they recommend I prepare whatever meat it is that I’m buying - it’s such a fun way to discover new recipes. The butcher at Schaller & Weber, however, just advised that I brown the ribs and put them in the slow cooker with whatever other things were “to my delight.”
I thought that was such a nice way to approach a meal.
And so that’s what I did.
Now, the recipe. I’ll do my usual what you need/what you do jazz…but really, what you need is a bunch of things that you think sound delicious (plus some meat), and what you do is put them in a slow cooker. So take it for what it’s worth.
JORDAN’S FORAY INTO SLOW COOKING, DAY 1: SWEET SHORT RIBS
What you need:
About 3lbs short ribs
4 tbsp butter
1/4 cup flour
Salt & pepper
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 can whole tomatoes (with juice)
1 cup beef stock
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
(Optional: 3-4 peeled potatoes cut into large chunks; various frozen veggies.)
(Lucy watched the slow cooker bubble away from beneath a blanket.)
What you do:
1. Pour flour into a Ziploc bag, and shake in a bunch of salt & pepper. Add short ribs and shake it all up until they’re coated.
2. In a large skillet, heat 3 tbsp butter until foaming. Add the floured short ribs to the skillet and brown them on all sides (this will take about 10 minutes).
3. Place the browned short ribs into your slow cooker. In the same skillet, combine the onion, tomatoes (with juice), beef stock, garlic, brown sugar, and molasses. (You can also adjust the taste as you will with things like ketchup, red wine vinegar, chiles, bay leaves - remember to remove them before serving - BBQ sauce, etc.)
4. After your sauce has simmered in the skillet for a few minutes (let it just come to a boil), pour it over the meat in the slow cooker, and set on low for 8-10 hours. Since I only started the process around noon, I let everything cook on high for 2 hours, then turned the setting to low for another 5 1/2 or so. I figured that’d even it all out.
5. 2 hours or so before you anticipate that the meat will be done, throw in a few potatoes (cut into large pieces) and a bag of frozen peas and carrots (or whatever vegetables you prefer).
6. Adjust seasoning (mine needed a ton more salt to suit my tastes) and thicken sauce with a little flour/water mixture.
How about we just stay put right here, where it’s nice and warm?
The best thing about Turkey Tetrazzini is that it’s so improvisational; as long as you have a few basic ingredients (milk, cheese, pasta), you’re good to go. Pretty much everything else (onion, mushrooms, peas, etc) is gravy…lovely to have, but no biggie if you don’t; it’s hard to screw up meat, pasta, and creamy stuff.
Bonus: it’s a perfect way to use up poultry leftovers (chicken works well too), which means hello, day after Thanksgiving/Christmas/New Year’s. I mean, I love turkey, but I sort of cash out on the tryptophan buzz after awhile and require some carb-style additives if I’m going to keep making my way through an entire Tupperware’s worth.
Last night marked the inaugural usage of my brand-new Kevlar gloves (seriously). They were a gift from my in-laws (likely inspired by this incident…or this one…or this one), and they are remarkable. I grated two whole blocks of cheese with no bloodletting whatsoever.
What you need:
1 package egg noodles (or pasta of your choice)
Lotsa butter (a little less than a stick, total)
1 package sliced mushrooms
1 thinly sliced onion
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup flour
1/3 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 cup milk
Pinch of nutmeg
1 package frozen peas
3-4 cups cooked, chopped turkey (or chicken…although that would make it Chicken Tetrazzini)
3/4 cup grated Parmigiana
3/4 cup grated Swiss
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
Salt & pepper
What you do:
1. Preheat the oven to 350F, and butter a casserole dish.
2. Set a large, salted pot of water to boil, and cook the egg noodles according to package directions.
3. In a large skillet, melt 3-4 tbsp of butter until foaming. Add your chopped mushrooms and onion (as well as a bit of salt and pepper), and cook, stirring constantly, about 5 minutes (or until mushrooms are tender and onions are almost translucent). A couple of minutes before the mushrooms and onions are done, add the garlic.
4. Whisk in the flour and white wine, and let the wine cook down for a minute or so.
5. Whisk in the chicken stock, milk, heavy cream, and nutmeg. Add the frozen peas.
6. Turn down the heat and simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the sauce has thickened a bit. Keep seasoning with salt, garlic salt, pepper…whatever you need to make it lovely and flavorful.
7. When the noodles are done, drain them and return them to the pot. Throw in the mushroom sauce, the chopped turkey, and most of the cheese (reserve about 1/4 cup of each type of cheese), and stir it all together. Adjust seasoning if needed, and pour everything into your buttered casserole dish.
8. In a separate bowl, combine the Panko bread crumbs and the rest of the cheese (along with a little more salt and pepper, if you’re a salt fiend like me). Sprinkle the bread crumb/cheese mixture on top of the pasta/mushroom/turkey stuff in the casserole dish.
9. Cut 1-2 tbsp of butter into small pieces and dot over the top of the breadcrumbs.
10. Bake for a half hour or so (or until bubbling and golden brown).
That car that you see stuck in the middle of the street was still being dug out of the snow half an hour later (actually, I just went downstairs…and it’s still being dug out this morning). After we brought the dogs back upstairs (and gave them a nice warm bath) we came back down to walk out to the avenue, but ended up having to abandon our plans because we were completely blinded by the snow once the wind picked up.
As fun as it was, it turns out that making snow angels in the middle of the street at 11PM is not such a great idea…because guess who woke up with a cold this morning? (Hint: not Virgil.)
Thanks to my wonderful in-laws, I am now the proud new owner of a slow cooker. I’ve always wanted one (no dishwasher means I particularly love one-pot meals)…but I’ve never really used one before, sooo…any amazing slow cooker recipes you wouldn’t mind passing my way?
Every Christmas Eve when I was a little girl, I sat on my mom’s lap and we read The Night Before Christmas out loud while my dad took pictures of us and the tree and the cats. Many years, Mom and I did it straight from memory - except for the whole “dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly” part. We could never remember that verse.
One year, right about when I started questioning the whole “Santa” thing, I woke up around 2AM to the sound of bells jingling just outside my bedroom door. I was too excited to even move, and so I just tucked the blankets up around my ears and listened. Eventually I fell back asleep, secure in the knowledge that Santa was real, and that he had been in my house that very night.
And then, in the morning, I found a reindeer bell sitting next to the tree. That’s it, up there. You can tell it came straight from Santa’s sleigh because it’s so very, very old.
But now I’m a grown woman, and so Christmas Eves are about building new traditions with the family I’ve started all on my own. This year, it’s about a picnic dinner on the floor with Engagement Chicken and champagne, and a toast to what has been nothing less than the best year of our lives.