Ooh, my favorite!


Happy Christmas
December 24, 2012, 1:08 pm
Filed under: Personal

merry christmasTaking a few days off to savor how wonderful life really is. I hope you have a safe and happy Christmas. Kiss!



These are a few…
December 21, 2012, 9:56 am
Filed under: My favorite things

Can you believe the holidays are upon us? I often joke that I’m still stuck somewhere back in August (as I can’t remember anything much between then and now). But here we are in the midst of it all, and in the blink of an eye it will be over. I’m hoping to savor the next few days so that I don’t have to lump all of this into the abyss of autumn.

I hope that you, too, are able to enjoy every moment of your holiday.

Here are my faves from the week. Kiss!

cookiesDetoxMultitasking. The other night while laying in bed I found myself simultaneously planning cookie baking and post-holiday detox. There’s something very wrong with me.

A dose of holiday nostalgia. Why does no one talk about The Snowman during the holidays? Perhaps it’s more of a British thing, but my season’s not complete without it. Watch the whole thing here.

kissing ballsOh, Whole Foods. Whatever happened to a simple mistletoe? Yes I realize I followed something as lovely as Walking in the Air with talk of Christmas balls.

Happy Holidays!



Dead Head
December 20, 2012, 4:51 pm
Filed under: My favorite things, Smile

games

Was anybody else dead tired today? I don’t know what happened but I could barely get out of bed to make it to work today: and by that I mean make it to work, like, right now…at four o’clock. Perhaps it’s the shortness of these days, or the impending apocalypse, but regardless my body is run over and lazy.

Lately in order to help me feel less lazy and lethargic I feel like I’ve accomplished something if I’ve done nothing else other than played one of these puzzle games. I have to say the brain exercise helps, and it’s so nice not to have the telly on. I’ve suddenly realized that even without Cable television I have substituted it with Instant Netflix, and there’s not much on there either!

So, here’s a list of some of my favorite games…in case you’re in need of some brain exercise fun with family during the holiday next week. And a big thanks to Thani and Mari for sharing the first two with me this summer.

Quarto – Create a line of four pieces that share a commom characteristic: tall or short, dark or light, square or round, hollow or solid. The trick here is that you pick the piece your opponent plays. A game of strategy, perception, and reasoning…but so fun. There will be many a face palm when you accidentally hand your opponent the precise piece they need to complete their set.

Pentago – I like to think of it as Connect Four on crack. The object is to place five of your color marbles in a row, but the twist here is that after each play you must rotate one of the four quadrants!

Memory – Again, how much I love these colorful Patrick Hruby cards. And really, it’s pretty alarming how much I can’t remember during the course of this game.



CollaBARations by Askinosie
December 19, 2012, 11:45 am
Filed under: Chocolate

AskinosieCollab

Askinosie is one of my all-time favorite chocolate makers, and their CollaBARation bars have been quite a special treat. Like Askinosie, the collaborators focus on small-batch, artisan, direct sourcing, and all-around goodness. Learn more about each bar here and perhaps pick up a set of all four for the gourmet chocolate lover in your holiday circle.

I’ve declared my love of the Malted Milk + Dark chocolate collab with Jeni’s, but just last week I enjoyed the Vanilla bean and sugar crystals bar from Zingerman’s (one of my favorite stops in Michigan last summer). The bits of vanilla bean on the back of the bar were really interesting.

Order online from Askinosie, $35

[For my Seattle friends try stopping by Sugarpill. She is expecting more Askinosie bars very soon. (And also try their White chocolate + pistachio bar while you’re there.)]



Cookbooking 2012
December 18, 2012, 10:16 am
Filed under: Food, Health, My favorite things

Cookbooking

Heston Blumenthal at home / Japanese Farm Food / Home Made /

Gastropub Classics / Japanese Hot PotsGrow Cook Eat

Have I ever mentioned that my sweetheart, Andrew, is a classically trained chef? Oh, yeah. Aside from the natural and fluid grace he has to his method of cooking, I love that he has helped me fine-tune my appreciation for cookbooks. I find it to be incredibly overwhelming to seek out and find a great cookbook, but with his eye for a well-curated book of recipes we have added some truly wonderful books to our collection this year.

Most of these aren’t just for the skilled cook either; in fact, the only one that I would consider to be advanced would be Heston Blumenthal at Home (an amazing book!). The others are just as special and would make wonderful projects to take into the new year…for me least.

Heston Blumenthal at home – advanced, but straight-forward and exciting recipes

Japanese Farm Food – life, community, and seasonal food on an organic Japanese farm

Home Made – easy and approachable “from-scratch’ recipes with lovely photographs and illustrations

Gastropub Classics – finally a gourmet’s guide to good British fare from the chef of The Fox Dining Room in London

Japanese Hot Pots – gorgeous and simple Japanese one pot dishes (donabe), clean comfort food

Grow Cook Eat – from the garden to the table, an urban gardener’s (new or seasoned) guide to seasonal cooking



Milk Punch
December 17, 2012, 9:52 am
Filed under: Drinks, Entertaining

Milk punch

I’ve never been an egg nog kind of gal but I’ve always felt a little lonely without it during the holidays. There’s something so wonderfully festive about a richly coated glass of boozy, milky goodness. Thankfully this season I happened upon this vintage concoction (but still a southern favorite) and was immediately giddy, I mean with a name like Milk Punch how could you not get excited?

In the most non-alcoholic way possible I must admit we’ve been enjoying this on our weekend mornings while still in our pajamas. There are many a variation out there, and of course heritage recipes are always being rediscovered and reinterpreted, but after playing with proportions I’ve included our favorite here, for two. It’s really easy to size up though, so if you’re thinking holiday get-together I’ve seen recipes where you’ll whisk instead of shake. (In this case you’d get to serve it in a fancy punch bowl too!)

I used organic raw whole milk and half & half, but there are recipes where cream is used. Ultimately you’ll want more than one, there’s no need to make it richer with cream…I’d say start here and go the cream route later if you wish.

Milk punch

 

Milk Punch for Two

–  3 oz. organic whole milk

–  3 0z. organic half & half

–  2 oz. bourbon or brandy

–  1/2 tsp. vanilla extract

–  1 tsp. superfine sugar

–  Ice

–  freshly grated nutmeg (to top only)

Add all of the ingredients (except the nutmeg) with ice in a shaker and shake vigorously until sugar is dissolved and a nice this foam is made. Strain into two small glasses. Grate fresh nutmeg on top of each. Sip and enjoy!



These are a few…
December 14, 2012, 10:41 am
Filed under: My favorite things

Many times when Friday rolls around and the time comes to start thinking about what I’m going to write I realize that I have no recollection of what I actually did all week. This week was especially bad with our intensely thick and gray days…without even a speck of sunlight. I must have gotten lost in the haze because I have nothing of much interest from the actual weekdays. So here’s a list of my faves from last weekend!

Kiss!

Picture 28

We made some yummy Snickerdoodles…

Picture 29

…and we shucked, and shucked, and shucked for some yummy Oysters Rockefeller



Holiday bouquet
December 13, 2012, 1:59 pm
Filed under: Art and Design, Home, Seattle

Holiday arrangement

I have yet to make as much holiday progress at home as I’d like (still stuck between two), but instead of rushing, forcing, stressing I decided to move things along by visiting Andrew’s wonderful friend Nisha at her little flower studio Fleurish on the Hill. If you’ve ever visited the Stumptown Cafe on 12th she does the big and beautiful arrangements that you see when you walk in. I always admire her work, so I was really excited to bring something home for the holidays.

All I knew is that I wanted something holiday-ish and branchy to fit into my giant Lenox vase and in just a few days I had this gorgeousness to set the holiday mood. Oh, how it smells of Christmas! There are so many great things tucked away inside but I am suddenly so fascinated by those eucalyptus pods hanging over the edge.

Holiday arrangement



The Anti Gift Guide
December 12, 2012, 7:22 am
Filed under: Beauty, Bubbly, Chocolate, Clean, Health, My favorite things

Faves

François Pinon Vouvray / François Pralus Barre Infernale / White Coconut Crème tea / Josie Maran cream blush / Aquasana coutertop water filter / BibBon luxury eye mask (here too) / Abbaye de Belloc cheese / Organic cold pressed coconut oil

I’ve really been struggling with the whole Gift Guide thing this year. I started pulling some lists together back in November (as it’s usually one of my favorite projects), but seeing how things have unfolded this season, I can’t help but feel that it’s all gotten to be so painfully contrived. I’m no stranger to extravagant window shopping fantasies and trend alerts (and posts about them) but in this age of blog sponsors and affiliations I feel that so much has become so one note and disingenuous.

At first it made me sad, but then I settled on the best way I could think of to share the most genuine list of goodies that I could…and that was by listing some of my all-time favorite things in one post. Not a gift guide, but a collection of health and happiness in small and meaningful packages. Everything here I own, I use, I love. No wishlists, no trendy gift o’ the season: just my favorites from me to you, and maybe even someone you love.

So in an attempt to not sound too much like a Grinch…

here’s hoping you have a lovely holiday full of gifts and gift-giving that makes you feel happy and healthy.



How to shuck an oyster
December 11, 2012, 9:37 am
Filed under: Entertaining, Food, Seattle

Picture 13

It’s funny that we all think of oysters as a summer staple, but truly they only start to come into their real season when the weather and the water cool down. Makes sense enough, so as hard as it is, I forgo oysters on the half shell during the warmer months and often look forward to the holidays to make up for precious lost time. Since ’tis the season to entertain you might want to consider trying your hand at shucking and serving some fresh local oysters for your guests. Or if the thought of that is too daunting, try practicing for a nice date night at home.

Some quick tips:

–  If you’re going the party route, plan for 2-4 oysters per person (raw or baked). Limit to small gatherings until you’re confident enough to power through big batches.

–  Start with Kusshi or Kumamoto varieties as they are easier to shuck, and are the perfect starter oysters for people who aren’t yet fully adventurous.

–  My neighborhood Taylor Shellfish at Melrose Market has the most wonderful staff. If you head in before the afternoon/evening rush they’re always willing to give you a quick shucking demo.

PNW oysters

Storage

If you buy your oysters the day before you plan to serve them, they will be fine to sit in the refrigerator overnight but there are a few things that you’ll need to do to make them happy during their stay:

1. Line a baking sheet with a wet (filtered water is best) kitchen towel.

2. Arrange the oysters in a single layer.

3. Place another wet towel on top of the oysters and make sure that all are covered.

4. Place in the refrigerator and check to be sure the temperature is no more than 35-degrees.

Note: Each shell should be closed, but if any are open they should close when tapped. If not, discard!

Picture 15

Preparation

–  Kitchen towel

–  Oyster knife

–  Shucking gloves (optional)

1. Fold a kitchen towel into fourths lengthwise. Create a little cradle for the oyster by folding the narrow towel into thirds and then creating a handle for the left hand.

2. Place the oyster cup-side down and use your left hand and the handle of the towel to hold it in place.

Note: If you’re nervous, pick up a pair of shucking gloves.
Picture 16

Shucking

1.  Insert the tip of oyster knife into the hinge at the back of the oyster. There’s an indented notch that’s easily identified above on this Kusshi.

Picture 17

2.  Using pressure (as opposed to force) gently, but firmly guide the tip of the knife to the spot where the knife can fit past the notch and gain more leverage, then twist the knife to pop the hinge.

3.  Gently run the knife along the top of the shell to separate it from the muscle, being careful not to pierce the body or lose too much of the liquor (juice) as you work.

4. With the top shell removed, the body needs to be separated from the bottom. Gently run the knife under the body of the oyster and separate it again.

5.  A true sign of a proper restaurant/chef/shucker: as you’ve separated the body from the bottom cup, flip the body with the knife. Why? Because it looks better.

6.  Check for shell pieces. Smell each oyster before plating. If anything smells off toss it! (Another note of importance: never swallow a bad oyster. Spit it out immediately and grab a piece of lemon to rid the taste in your mouth. Trust me, you’ll know when you’ve got a bad one.)

Note: As you practice popping the hinge you will break a few shells when the knife isn’t quite deep enough. It can be unnerving when you hit that first bit of resistance as it feels like there’s not a spot where the knife can fit, but with practice applying the right amount of pressure you’ll get the hang of things. I, too, am still practicing.

Tip: Use the towel to wipe the knife as it gets dirty or as bits of shell get stuck

Oysters, mignonette, fresh horseradish

Serving & Eating

–  Ask for a bag of shaved ice when you buy your oysters. I much prefer oysters served over ice as opposed to rock salt.

–  Serve naked or with lemon wedges and a basic mignonette: finely minced shallot, red wine vinegar, black pepper.

–  For a special touch: freshly grated horseradish on the side. (My fave!)

Picture 14

Enjoy!




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