Inspired by a dish that I had at Italianissimo the other night, this simple, hearty pasta is perfect for a cozy night in.
What you need:
1 large chicken breast, grilled and shredded
1/2 box dried (or 1 whole box fresh) pasta
1/2 cup diced fresh mozzarella
2 large handfuls spinach, wilted in a little olive oil (just saute for a minute or two over low heat)
1 small onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1/2 cup white wine
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp sugar
Salt & pepper to taste
What you do:
1. In a large pan, saute onion and garlic in a little olive oil until onion is translucent (about 8-10 minutes). Add the wine and let cook down until the smell of alcohol is gone.
2. Add the tomatoes to the pan and let simmer about 20 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package directions. I used perciatelli because that’s what I had laying around, but for this dish I actually recommend smaller, thicker pasta; it’ll hold onto the sauce and chicken better.
4. Stir the balsamic vinegar and sugar into your sauce, and add salt and pepper to taste.
5. Drain pasta and return to pot. Add the sauce, spinach, and half of the mozzarella and toss for a few seconds, until coated.
6. Serve sprinkled with the rest of the fresh mozzarella cubes.
So in my personal opinion, the three best pizza places in the world are Grimaldi’s, Pepe’s (in New Haven), and John’s Pizzeria (pictured above), our Saturday lunch pick. Over our olive, pepperoni & onion pizza, Kendrick and I had a bit of a debate over which is the best best…and couldn’t decide.
In my opinion, Grimaldi’s is far and away the best-tasting…but you have to deal with the hour-long wait. John’s has the best location (Bleecker Street) with the most potential for post-brunch wanderings…but the pizza, while delicious, isn’t quiiiite as spectacular. And Pepe’s is…well, it’s in New Haven. But that usually means we’re mid road-trip (and I love road trips).
Like The Rusty Knot, John’s encourages (allows?) patrons to carve their names into the tables and chairs. Happily, someone had already taken care of this little chore for Kendrick.
After John’s, we walked North through the Meatpacking District (where I discovered a perfect - and completely unaffordable - summer purse from Kotur), and then turned East to make our way through Union Square.
In the Greenmarket, I picked up a bunch of watermelon radishes, which are basically larger and sweeter radishes with a gorgeous hot-pink center and pale-green “rind”. They’re excellent for adding flavor and crunch to salads, but I like eating them as a healthier (and, I think, even more delicious) alternative to popcorn, with butter and salt. (The Windfall Farms stall, by the way, is where I bought the edible borage flowers that I featured in a video that I made ages ago on the best fall produce.)
Another purchase from Union Square: a bunch of dried lavender ($5) from Lavender By The Bay, which also sells lavender plants, lavender sachets, and lavender honey. They have a beautiful U-Pick Lavender farm (I saw pictures)…but it’s unfortunately inaccessible without a car, or I’d already have a day trip planned.
Saturday night, we ate frickles (fried pickles; up there in my favorite things on the planet) with Morgan and Tyler at Brother Jimmy’s, and discovered the wonder that is 16 Handles (sort of a DIY Pinkberry with bazillions of different frozen yogurt flavors and toppings).
Sunday was Project Day: after a quick stop into Naruto for some fortifying brunch ramen, I headed down to the Home Depot on 59th and 3rd to pick up a can of chalkboard paint.
Black chalkboard paint and spray, incidentally, are easy to find, but the colored stuff (I was in search of dark green) seems to sell out all over the place (although if you’re more patient than me, you can order it online here). At Home Depot, though, you can buy tintable paint and customize it in any of the shades pictured above (I went for Schoolhouse Green) in just 5 minutes.
I spent the rest of Sunday coating myself from head-to-foot in green spatters, and getting very excited to show you my new favorite thing (coming up soon!).
Click here to learn how to make DIY chalkboard paint wineglasses (a fantastic - and fantastically inexpensive - hostess gift!).
My favorite thing about our apartment is all the random little details, like the 1950s-style energy meter in our water closet that someone painted teal blue, the light fixture built into our bedroom ceiling with slightly creepy, high-relief cupids on it, and the non-working doorbell set into the wall of our kitchen, nowhere near any of our doors.
Lately, though, I’m bored. Like, reallllly bored. I have eaten pizza aplenty, and I’m in search of some brunch inspiration.
Which leads me to Brunch Critic, a site founded by my good friend Andrea (she’s pictured above with Morgan and me at another great brunch spot, Dos Caminos). You can filter by neighborhood and mood, ask the community for recommendations, and even scroll through an extensive library of mouthwatering brunch photos to discover where you can go to eat that exact dish.
Some of Brunch Critic’s top Brunch Picks:
Notable Bloody Mary: Cafeteria, Rye House
Notable Pancakes: 44 & X (woot!), The Smith
Unlimited Drinks: Aspen Social Club, Patois
Click here for more Brunch Critic faves, including categories like “Indoor Seating That Feels Like You’re Outdoor” and “If You’re Still In The Same Clothes From Last Night.”
My place in LA was nearby the bowling alley adjacent to Jerry’s Deli (in the Valley), and I actually went fairly frequently. I never got particularly good at bowling, but I was passable. Or at least not embarrassingly bad.
Turns out that not bowling for four years is hell on your game.
Last night, Kendrick and I went to an event being held at the new Bowlmor in Times Square in celebration of Miz Mooz’s 2011 Collection. It is a very, very cool spot - instead of one big room full of lanes, they’ve divided up the space into various themed lounges based on different time periods (like Prohibition) and NYC locations (like Central Park).
I did not like the entrance to the Coney Island Room.
But that dude aside, I love the new Bowlmor…and I’m thinking it may actually be the perfect place for my upcoming Big Birthday. We’ll see.
Oh, and the shoes! Remember my favorite boots? They happen to be by Miz Mooz. And last night I spotted an updated version of them…
That is a screenshot of Lucy, victoriously snatching her brand-new Skinneez toy (a long, floppy thing with a squeaker at each end and no stuffing for them to pull out, yay) from Virgil, who is following in hot pursuit. Good girl, Luce! (Winning a battle is a rare event for her.)
I’ve actually never seen both dogs freak out this completely over the same toy. We bought them their first Skinneez - a raccoon, I think - a couple of weeks ago, and it’s been madness ever since, so yesterday I went back to the store to get them another. But of course both of them just want whichever one the other has. No sharing whatsoever.
And while this may look like a medieval torture device, it is actually the second absolute must-have that I picked up for them recently: a JW Pet Company Dematting Rake. Virgil has incredibly thick hair that is almost impossible to keep from matting, even with daily brushing…and we’ve been at a bit of a loss, because, as we all know, the kid does not enjoy being shaved. So far, none of the brushes I’ve tried have been able to do the trick, but this dematting rake is a mini miracle: you move it upwards from the skin (blades pointing away from the dog) and it gently and painlessly cuts through the tangles.
I love it when I have a fully-stocked refrigerator (sadly rare) and nothing planned for dinner (much less rare): I get all inspired to poke around and come up with some fun new combinations. Last night, I was still craving Sunday’s Pear & Cream Cheese Turnovers, so I thought I’d find a savory way to use my leftover pears and remaining squares of puff pastry. Other things that I found in my refrigerator, fortunately, included chicken, mushrooms, spinach, goat cheese, a small onion, and a lemon.
A defrosted sheet of puff pastry cut into quarters (you’ll only need two of those quarters if you’re cooking for two, but obviously just double all the other ingredients if you’d like to use the whole sheet and make dinner for four…or have leftovers)
1 small pear, peeled and thinly sliced
A small handful of baby spinach leaves
1/4 cup diced mushrooms
1/2 a small onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp goat cheese
About 1/4 cup flour
Salt & pepper
What you do:
1. First, grill your chicken breast (I used my George Forman) with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper (maybe also a little lemon juice and garlic powder). Once the chicken is cooked, shred it and put it into a medium-sized bowl.
2. Add the pear, spinach leaves, diced mushrooms, and lemon juice to the bowl. Season with a little salt & pepper, and toss everything together.
3. On a lightly floured surface, roll out each of your puff pastry squares until they’re around 7 or 8 inches square. Cut off any irregular edges to make a nice, even square (reserve the pieces you cut off in case you need to do a little patch job later on).
4. Spread 1 tbsp of goat cheese onto one side of each pastry square, and then top with half of the chicken/pear mixture.
5. In a small bowl, beat 1 egg with 1 tsp of water. Brush the edges of the pastry square with egg, and fold it in half so that the sides meet to form a triangle. You may need to fiddle around a bit with the amount or position of the filling so that it doesn’t spill out or break the skin of the pastry.
6. Press the edges of the pastry together with the tines of a fork. (If you need to patch up any spots, just use some of the dough you cut off earlier and brush a little egg over the spot.)
7. Brush a little more egg over the top of the pastry and set on a greased baking sheet. Bake at 400F for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
I have to say, you guys, that I have a really big problem with the fact that Animal Planet airs their annual Puppy Bowl at the same time as the Super Bowl. I get why Animal Planet does this; Animal Planet executives wanted to create an adorable, popular, and, most importantly, profitable…
[CONTEST CLOSED. WINNER WILL BE ANNOUNCED SATURDAY, 1/29.]
I discovered the Nest Fragrances Wild Oats & Bourbon candle at last summer’s Laura Slatkin event, and ever since I’ve been obsessed. It’s cozy, exotic, and infused with notes of ginger and bourbon, and is just perfect for the winter months - I want my entire apartment to smell exactly like this from October through March.
Anyway, I love this candle so much that I want you to have it. Fortunately, Nest Fragrances has very generously offered to do a Ramshackle Glam giveaway! To enter to win the Wild Oats & Bourbon candle, just comment below telling me your favorite wintry scent.
(Oh, and click here for tips on how to scent different parts of your home!)
Contest open to US & Canada residents only. Contest closes Friday, Jan 28, at 5PM EST. Winner will be chosen at random.
Reader Ashley sent me this adorable photo of the hanging Mason jar vases she incorporated into her wedding decor. Like I said yesterday, these are such a sweet, casual decor idea…and you won’t believe how simple they are to DIY (although you can buy ready-made versions and kits on Etsy if you prefer).
Really all you do is tie wire around the rim, and then attach a second wire to serve as a handle using some needle-nose pliers, but if you’d like a step-by-step tutorial with images, click here!
You can also try making more elaborate versions like the vases pictured below left, which are wrapped in burlap and lace and used as aisle markers. I love the idea of filling blue Mason jars with flowers in a contrasting color, like orange, or of using them to suspend a single gorgeous bloom in water (below right).
Click here for more great ways to use Mason jars in your wedding (or any event, really).
I Never Thought I'd Have Such A Strong Reaction To A Dish Soap
You know how sometimes at the grocery store or wherever, they’ll give you a miniature sample of some random detergent or cleaning product, and you sort of give a half smile and dump it in your purse and promptly forget about it until bag-cleaning-out day rolls around?
Well, a few weeks ago when I stopped into the RealSimple pop-up store in Rockefeller Center, they handed me a little gift bag full of tons of these miniature samples on my way out. And I appreciated it, but really, what things like that end up being for me are less Fun Gift and more Guilt Trip, because I feel bad tossing things…but I also don’t want samples that I’ll never use cluttering up my drawers. But as it happened, that very evening I ran out of dish soap, so rather than ducking out to the store I just called the little sample of Mrs. Meyer’s Basil Liquid Dish Soap that came in the gift bag into action.
And you know what?
I mean, I know it doesn’t make a ton of sense to call a dish soap “awesome”, but we’re talking on a relative scale here, and man, does it ever suds up perfectly and smell good. So good that the evening’s dishwashing session became…well, if not exactly fun, something closer to it. And when Kendrick very sweetly picked up some (non-Mrs. Meyers) dish soap on his way home the next day…I was actually disappointed. Because I really, really wanted some more of that basil stuff.
I had a case of the sads all day yesterday. No reason…just one of those down days. In an effort to try to change my mood, or at least forget that I was even IN a mood, I decided to bake. Baking has a calming effect on me.
Since I know how much you love Mason jars, I thought you’d be the perfect person to talk to. I just got engaged and we are planning on getting married next summer. We want a very DIY wedding with as little cost as possible.
My idea was to somehow incorporate Mason jars for the decorations at the ceremony or reception. Can you think of any unique ways to use them as decoration for a wedding? We are having a small garden wedding if that helps any. I love doing crafts so I think I could handle just about any idea as long as it wasn’t too expensive.
A. Hey there Jessy!
Now, some ideas to get you started:
1. The most obvious way to incorporate Mason jars into your wedding decor is to use them as part of your tablescape, filling them with candles and/or flowers. For a personal twist, try adding seasonal/regional additions, like seashells (if you’re having a beach wedding), stones (if you’re in a rural setting), or even things like cranberries and nuts. Fill them 1/3 of the way up with whatever suits your decor (even a little sand or coarse table salt works nicely) and add either real votives or LED votives (I used half and half for my wedding to minimize smoke and heat, since it was a pretty small room with low ceilings).
To add interest to the table, consider interspersing vintage glass vessels of different heights filled with the flowers of your choice around your Mason jar candleholders (you can also flip this and use the Mason jars for flowers, as pictured above center, and the assorted vessels for candles). And incidentally, a great money-saver is to ask your bridesmaids to donate their bouquets to the table decor upon entering the reception - just make sure to tell your florist or caterer to leave an empty vase waiting at each table.
2. Hanging Mason jar lanterns, like the ones pictured above left (via Etc Etc) make gorgeous, rustic lighting options. You can buy them here ($18 for a set of 6), but they’re so easy to DIY: just wrap a length of wire around the lip (tightly, so the jar won’t slip out), and then affix another piece of wire to the first piece to serve as a handle. I’d fill these with LED lights, just because, hey, you never know: one might come tumbling down, and a fire on your wedding day might dampen the mood a bit. As an alternative to the look, try securing them with twine and filling them with flowers to create hanging vases.
3. You can also wrap Mason jars in twine to create unique vases for the tables (these would also make adorable favors if you’re having a small wedding; just place a flower in each one and tie a label with each guest’s name and seating assignment to the neck).
4. Another great favor idea incorporating Mason jars: DIY body scrubs or recipes-in-a-jar. This is fairly labor-intensive, so it’s probably better for a smaller wedding.
5. Of course, Mason jars make fun drinking vessels. How about setting a big metal bucket with ice and sealed mason jars filled with lemonade or my guava sangria by the entrance, and then letting each of your guests select a jar to sip from during the ceremony? Or, as in the picture above right, you can set out empty Mason jars with a sign encouraging your guests to use them as their personal drinking glass throughout the wedding (I’d have a few extras on hand, as people tend to lose things like this a couple of cocktails in). If you add labels with names to each jar, they can pull triple-duty as seating cards and favors.
Be sure to let me know what you end up doing! And for more wedding money-savers, click here!
This is my second “acting” job (in quotes because I don’t know that a Frosted Flakes commercial - or what I’m doing in it - necessarily counts as “acting”), from when I was 13 or so. My first job was a commercial for Honeycomb Cereal, but all I had to do in that one was sort of wave around something called “Honeybucks” while a fan blew on me to make my hair all poofy. In this one, I got to speak. Cool.
I remember being really psyched because I was only in 8th grade, and yet I got to say that I was in high school, which meant that I must look like I was in high school. Which was exciting. There was a bit of a kerfuffle on-set because the other girl had said she was 18 during the audition, but when she filled out her tax forms it turned out that she was actually in her 20s, which meant that of course I a) thought she was the awesomest thing ever and b) was totally intimidated by her. (It all turned out fine in the end.)
If you’re about my age, you might remember this commercial - it was on a lot. So I got teased. A lot. “Hey there, Frosted Flake!” (Good one.)
4 cups semisweet chocolate chips (I also used a cup of white chocolate chips)
What you do:
1. In a large bowl, mix together butter, peanut butter, vanilla, and sugar. The dough will look extremely dry. (This step requires a bit of muscle, and would be greatly facilitated by the presence of a stand mixer.)
2. Line a baking sheet with wax paper. Press and roll the dough into 1” balls and set on wax paper.
3. Put a toothpick into each ball and put everything into the freezer for 30 minutes so the balls firm up.
4. Melt the chocolate in the microwave (microwave it in 30-second intervals, stirring between each interval until smooth) and dip each ball, leaving a little of the dough showing at the top.
5. Let cool several minutes, and then dip halfway in melted white chocolate. Allow chocolate to set, and then store in the refrigerator in an airtight container in a single layer.
I know the toothpicks are supposed to be just for dipping purposes, but I like the idea of Buckeye Pops even better than Buckeyes, and think they would make great desserts at a cocktail party or wedding (try color-coding the toothpicks to your decor or finding little decorative ones with tinsel attached for a kitschy-but-cute look).