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Thursday, July 28, 2011

Bone Marrow

Do you remember that time when we went to Italy for two weeks? too....that was nice...


When we were in Tuscany the first vineyard that we visited was one of the best Brunello producers in Montalcino - Biondi Santi. When we were there we were very fortunate to meet Mr. Franco Biondi Santi. Not only did we get a chance to meet him but when he found out that we were newlyweds (through a very broken Italian conversation) he gifts us with a bottle of 1983 Brunello.  Score one for playing the newlyweds card!

We decided to pop open this vintage over the weekend with some friends. What would go best with this excellent wine? Steak you say? Alrighty then, steak it is!

Before we moved on to the main course though, our friends made some amazing appetizers. 

Tucker trying to get his hands on some proscuitto wrapped cheese stuffed dates!
Sean ordered steaks from our FAVORITE butcher in London...a website. Yes, we order our meat from the internet. No we are not ashamed. Because the meat that we get from East London Steak Co is some of the best meat that we have had...EVER. Tony Beef (the guy from ELSC who delivers your order - at 5AM!) deserves his own post, I could go on for years about how much we love this place. But I won't. I have something more exciting to tell you about.

When Sean ordered steaks he decided to be bone marrow as well. Bone marrow? Bone Marrow?! 

The first time I ever really read, or heard about people eating bone marrow was when I read Anthony Bourdains book, Kitchen Confidential, last year. He sited roasted bone marrow (specifically from St. JOHN Bar and Restaurant in London) as what he would have as his last meal. Once you get past the part of what bone marrow actually is (I won't go into the deets, if you want a science lesson check it out here) you might actually like it.

Scratch that.

First - don't actually think about what you're eating. It's not going to help you at all.
Second - you aren't going to like it, you're going to LOVE it.

All you have to do to enjoy this beauty? Roast in the oven and toast up some bread. Serve with truffle salt if you want to jazz it up a little, and voila. 

Sure, the texture is a little weird...but really only if you eat it with a spoon (which I did not...although...) 

Just trust me - you need to try it. Talk to you butcher next time you pay him (or her) a visit. 

Good wine, good food, good company.

Sounds like a pretty good Saturday night if you ask me.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Salted Butter Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

(I know thats a mouth full, my apologies. I promise it'll be worth it!)

Things I like:

Reading books (paper and electronic - the kindle's where its at!) - it's good to sometimes

Dance parties in my living room

Coffee - hot, cold you name it I drink it

Laughing so hard your stomach hurts

Traveling the world...and finding hidden spots in my neighborhood

Keeping up with the Kardashians (there's a lot of them, this hobby takes time!)


Ice Cream

Oh see where this is going.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Project 52 - week 28 and 29, and other random thoughts

This is a bit of a hodge-podge post today, stay with me! I have a few things on my mind and you get to hear all about them! Grab a cup of tea and settle in...

Random Thought #1: Screw New York
A friend of mine sent me a link to an article from a blog I had never heard of, Thought Catalog. And now I have a new obsession. The blog is a collection of posts on what appears to be random subjects from a big group of contributors. You never know what you're going to find, and it is constantly updated so there's always something interesting to read about.  The link my friend originally sent to me is called Screw New York. At first I didn't know what to think, why would I want to read a negative article about my first love, New York City?! But I decided to go for it. And then, every emotion and thought that I have ever had with my love/hate struggle with NYC was right in front of my face, in black and white, laid out so clearly for the world to see.

If you have ever lived in NYC, either currently or in the past, you need to read this article. Do it!

And while you're there - check out this video on Google+

Random Thought #2: Pinterest
It's really starting to be a problem. If you have ever wanted one online space to keep any visual inspiration you have for food/clothes/style/beauty/travel/books/DIY - ANYTHING, you need to join Pinterest ASAP. Actually, I take that back. DON'T. Run for your life. Otherwise Pinterest will suck you in and you will spend hours with your eyes glued to your computer not blinking or moving or barely even breathing. 

The first time I heard about Pinterest I heard about it four times in one week. I thought that was a bit odd and anything that I heard about multiple times in one week is bound to be awesome (except for Twilight, I'm sorry I still can't bring myself to be interested). Anyway, I went online, signed up and had a look what this new fangled site was all about. In the most basic sense it is an online space where you can create boards to house things that interest you. But really, it is so much more. You can repin other peoples inspirations, you can add a bookmark on your tool bar that allows you to pin nearly anything you want from the internet, AND you can download and app for your iPhone/iPad for mobile pinning. Basically I love this site more than facebook and twitter combined.

And because I can't post anything on my blog without a picture included, on to Project 52. I have to admit, while I still LOVE this project, I have been slacking mah-jor. I find my self using photos that I have randomly taken during the week to fit the theme of the week. At least that means that I'm consistently using my camera, what it also means is that I'm not actually challenging myself to think outside the box and take pictures of that weeks theme on purpose. So, thats my renewed challenge to myself. 

Project 52 - Week 28 Sweet Release

These Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispie Treats fit the theme perfectly!

Project 52 - Week 29 Get in Close

Taken at the Louvre last weekend while I was in Paris. Any closer and we'd be right in that guys mouth!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Vanilla Scented Granola

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I have been wanting to make homemade granola for about the last forever. The reason it took me so long to actually make a batch? Self control (or my lack there of).  I can't have a box of granola in the house for longer than 24 consecutive hours, no matter how hard I try. When I was studying abroad in Italy I became addicted to this amazing granola that had hazelnuts and milk chocolate chunks in it.  I ate so much of it that I actually think that's why I started gaining weight (it certainly couldn't have been the pasta or gelato or red wine!)

Even though that was seven years ago *cringe* I still have a hard time stopping at one bowl.

To be fair, it usually starts out innocently enough...

"I'm going to buy granola and start having a healthy, filling breakfast!" I say to myself,

"I will pair it with yogurt or milk and add fruit too! Look at me, being all healthy and whatnot!"

And then somewhere between pouring the milk over the granola and taking that first crunchy bite the room goes fuzzy and dark and the next thing I know I am waking up to an empty granola box and crushed milk carton by my side. And I'm pretty sure thats not healthy (the eating-a-whole-box-of-granola thing, not the passing out thing).

Yet no matter how hard I try to distance myself from granola it always finds a way to sneak back into my thoughts. I finally decided that the only way I could get it off my brain would be to make a batch myself. I even reasoned to myself that if I made it myself I could at least control the ingredients and what it was made of (no yuckies!). Suddenly, the possibilities seemed endless - oh the granola I could make! 

I could add almonds, hazelnuts or pecans!

I could add raisins or craisins or dried apricots or, hey why not, a little dried mango or pineapple!

I could add dark chocolate or milk chocolate - as little (err...) as I wanted!

But for my first time around, I decided to stick to the basics. I found a great recipe to use as a base for all future granola creations. It has vanilla and sliced almonds, and just a hint of cinnamon. Its perfect on its own, but the best part about it is how adaptable it is. You could fix it up any way that you liked, whatever your little heart desires! 

This, my friends, is dangerous.

Vanilla Scented Granola
adapted from Bon Appetit via

4 cups old-fashioned oats
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/3 cup honey (or agave nectar)
2 tbsp sugar
4 tsp vanilla extract (go on, use the good stuff!)

- Preheat the oven to 300*F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper or grease with nonstick cooking spray

- Combine the oats, almonds, brown sugar, salt and cinnamon in a large bowl.  In a small pot heat together the vegetable oil, honey and sugar.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Remove from heat and add vanilla. Pour over the dry mixture and stir with a wooden spoon to evenly coat.

- Spread granola out on the cookie sheet and bake until golden brown. I baked mine for 30 minutes total, stirring after each 10 minute interval. After 30 minutes I turned off the oven, patted the granola down tight into the pan and put back in the oven for another 5-10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool completely.

Once cool, break up the granola into chunks, immediately shove a handful of it into your mouth and then store in an airtight container. 


After my granola was done cooling I added chopped dried pears and small pieces of dark chocolate (72%). These additions are super yummy in this granola as they add another layer of flavors and texture but don't over power the delicate vanilla taste of the granola! What do you like to add in your granola? Tell me in the comments section!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

A weekend in Paris...

(From the top: Lobster, mango and grapefruit salad; fresh raspberries and creme fraiche; Ferris wheel by the Louvre; Ferris wheel; inside Notre Dame (next three photos); Promenade Maurice Careme; inside Sainte Chapelle; marble sculpture at the Louvre; iron sculpture at the Louvre; wine at Willies Wine Bar; radishes and cherrys at les Halles market; menu of the day; Rue de Poitou; graffiti; falafel from L'As du Fallafel; bistro; Chocolate/White Chocolate/Caramel with sea salt glace; glace shop

Friday, July 15, 2011

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispie Treat

A couple of years ago I started to realize that my sweet tooth (or should I say, mouth full of sweet teeth) was not a by-product of summers spent working in a candy shop (as one would think), but something I had inherited from one of my grandmother, my Nanny.The first clue was a gift she gave me when I moved away. She had created a small little recipe box for me with some of her favorite recipes. Some were hand written on index cards with her long, loopy hand writing with little notes declaring the extra delicious ones. Others were magazine and newspaper clippings taped on the same size index cards so they all fit neatly into a small box. 

The first time I went through the box I noted the usual division of recipes - Soup, Salad, Bread...but what I noticed even more were the crazy number of tabs labeled for sweets (and this is in order, I'm reading right from the box) - Candy, Cakes, Cookies, Desserts, Frosting and Pies. I always knew Nanny had a sweet tooth, but right in front of me was the proof that it was a molar of a sweet tooth.

The second clue was a discussion about Christmas Cookies that we had over the phone one cold, winter evening (at least, it was evening here in London). I was telling her all about the Christmas cookies and candy that I was making for the holidays, and she was telling me all of the thing that she was making. We were sharing recipes and ideas, our favorites to make and which ones caused us trouble. And after that conversation was over I started thinking about how I have the same conversations with my mom around the holidays. She is notorious for making six, eight sometimes ten different types of cookies for the holidays and the she splits them all up in to tins and platters to give away to neighbors and friends. I've started my own tradition of that over the last couple of years, though I can only handle three or four types of cookies at one time.

It may seem a little silly now, or even a bit thick, that it took me so long to realize where my sweet tooth came from. I guess I never really sat down to think about it, it's just the way it was in our family.  When I was in the US in June my mother-in-law gifted me with a giant, American sized pack of jumbo Jet-puffed marshmallows (after reading about my craving for them here). The second I laid eyes on that beautiful gigantic bag of marshmallows I knew I needed to make rice krispie treats. But not just any rice krispie treat...I needed to kick it up a notch.

The reason I bring up my Nanny is because this dessert reminds me of something she would make. She makes all of the traditional baked goods - chocolate chip cookies with a little sprinkling of sugar on top, banana bread and candy like nut rolls and fudge. But she also likes to make things that combine several pre-made ingredients, a little Semi-Homemade before Sandra Lee was famous for it. For example - one of her favorite side dishes to make for dinner is a Jello and whipped cream "salad" made with pieces of fruit (pineapple, cherries, etc) and usually the odd mini marshmallow or two. Another one of her greatest hits is icebox cake - layers of graham crackers and vanilla pudding topped with a thick layer of sweet chocolate frosting (a fan favorite for sure). And you know what - these "semi-homemade" dishes are just as delicious as the "fully-homemade" ones.

And now, I'm going to introduce this little gem of a semi-homemade dish to my already swelling dessert recipes. I originally found it when searching the internet for Rice Krispie treat recipes, but I changed it so much that I consider it mine. I basically used the recipe as a guideline, and then threw it out the window. These bars are rich and decadent and at the same time miraculously light. The thick layers of chocolate and peanut butter create a nice balance with the light and airy Rice Krispie treat.

Peanut Butter Cup Rice Krispie Treats

Rice Krispie Treats
2 tbsp butter
10 oz marshmallows
6-7 cups rice krispie/ puffed rice cereal

Peanut Butter Filling
1/2 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup smooth peanut butter
1 cup powdered sugar

Chocolate Topping
1/4 cup butter, room temperature
1 cup chocolate (milk, dark or a mixture)

- Lightly grease a 9x13 pan and set aside.

- In a large, microwave safe bowl heat the butter and marshmallows until the butter is melted and the marshmallows puff up and are soft. Stir to combine. Fold in the rice cereal with a spatula or wooden spoon until the mixture is just combined, making sure to get all the cereal incorporated in.

- Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and press into an even layer. Allow to cool and set at room temperature.

- For the peanut butter layer, combine the peanut butter, butter and confectioners sugar and stir together with a spoon. Heat the mixture in the microwave in short 20 second bursts until the consistency is somewhere between frosting and melted chocolate. You are going to spread the filling on the rice krispie treats, so it should be easy to spread. Top the rice krispie treats with peanut butter filling.

- For the chocolate topping, melt the chocolate and butter in a small bowl in the microwave. Stir until smooth. Pour over the peanut butter layer and spread the chocolate to create and even layer over the entire surface. Leave to cool and set over night.

- Makes 24 large bars or cut in half if you find them too sweet (and they are sweet!)

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

The One: Yellow Cupcakes and Chocolate Buttercream

After my disastrous attempt at making red velvet cupcakes last weekend my craving for cupcakes was still around. I needed to get back on that horse and try, try again! I am fully aware that there is a red velvet curse on me, so I decided to go back to the basics and try a simple yellow cake and chocolate frosting combo. I have been forever looking for a yellow cake and chocolate buttercream recipe that is "the one". The recipes needed to be easy and straightforward, nothing too fussy or complicated. They needed to be reliable and trustworthy, something I could depend on each and every time I made them. I needed some stability to my ever-rotating recipe list, and I think I have finally found them. These are just that - simple and delicious, but not boring or flat. 

Betty Crocker eat your heart out.

I did a little searchin' around my favorite blogs to find these recipes, and in the end I had a little mix and match from Smitten Kitchen and Joy the Baker

The yellow cake recipe from Smitten Kitchen is rich and delicious - the perfect vanilla cake. It is light but solid and has a perfect crumb. It would be wonderful with any number of fillings and frostings. And really, to me at least, that is the definition of a go-to cake. Easily adaptable for any type of occasion and perfectly wonderful all on its own.

The chocolate frosting from Joy the Baker is hands-down one of the best chocolate frostings I have ever had. Its not too sugary and the chocolate is not too rich. It is pretty thick but tastes light on your tongue. The real kicker here is the addition of Ovaltine - stay with me, I promise it's worth it - yes, Ovaltine.  The malted chocolate adds another layer to this frosting, a little something extra that you can't quite put your finger on.

"the one" Yellow Cake
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen. Makes two 9" cakes or 24 cupcakes. This cake is a great base for endless combinations of fillings and frostings. So easy to make your own, go on and experiment!

4 cups + 2 tblsp all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups sugar
2 tsp vanilla (go on, use the good stuff!)
4 large eggs, room temperature
2 cups buttermilk, well shaken

- Preheat the oven to 350*F. Grease cake pans or line muffin tin with liners. Sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt into a bowl.  In a separate large bowl beat together the butter and sugar with an electric beater until light and fluffy. Add vanilla then add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the bowl as needed.

- Turn the electric mixer to slow and beat in buttermilk until just combined. If the mixture looks curdled thats ok, I promise it will get better.  Add in the flour mixture in three parts, mixing just to combine after each addition.

- To make cakes: spread the batter into your greased pans and tap against the counter a couple of times to get rid of any air bubbles. Bake in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden brown and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the center of the cake.

- To make cupcakes: Fill the cupcake liners until two-thirds full and bake for 20 minutes, rotating the pan half way through the cooking time to ensure even baking. A toothpick should come out clean when inserted to the middle of the cupcakes. Cool in the pan for 2-3 minutes and then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely.

- Cool cakes/cupcakes thoroughly before frosting.

"the one" Chocolate Buttercream
Adapted from Joy the Baker. This recipe makes enough frosting for a 9" layer cake or 24 cupcakes (see above recipe - do it!!)

1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/4 cup powdered sugar, sifted (go on, take the extra step, it makes the frosting super light and smooth)
1 tsp vanilla extract (go on, use the good stuff!)
2 tblsp milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Ovaltine

- Cream together the butter, cocoa powder and salt. It might taken them a few minutes to come together and then the mixture will be thick. Add the powdered sugar and turn the mixer on low. While the powdered sugar is being mixed in add the milk and vanilla extract, scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Once all of the sugar is incorporated turn the mixer up to medium and beat the frosting to make it light and fluffy.

- In a separate bowl mix together the heavy cream and Ovaltine. Slowly pour the mixture into the frosting until you reach your desired consistency. You might night need all of the mix, although I did.

- Try not to eat all of the frosting before frosting your cake/cupcakes. It will take will power but I know you can do it. Also, try not to make this at night as I did - otherwise you will stay awake all night from a sugar rush and resisting the urge to get out of bed and eat more frosting.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Weekend Wrap-up

It's been a busy, busy weekend. Last week was a rough one. Work has been really busy and stressful, and Friday couldn't come fast enough. 

Crazy work = stressed out Tracy = needs quality fun time with friends with lots of food and drinks. 

Friday night we went up to Hampstead to the Kenwood House to see The Gypsy Kings. They were playing as part of the English Heritage Picnic Concerts. We got tickets for the lawn seats which let us put down a few blankets, bring our own food and drinks and rock out to Bamboleo.  We had some cheese and crackers to snack on and I brought some cupcakes (more on those later) and the Strawberry Vodka that I made last week. 

First of all - you need to make this strawberry vodka ASAP. Go buy some strawberries and a bottle of vodka. Put them together in a jar and put it in a closet for a week, shaking it once a day. And thats it - youre done. It will change your life. It's tasty enough to drink on its own on the rocks. But add a little lemonade and sparkling water and you have the BEST summer cocktail. Just be careful - these things are dangerous and go down way too easy!

On Saturday we went to a surprise 30th birthday party. Seriously, surprise birthday parties are the bomb. And yes I just said that. It's totally true though. What a wicked cool way to show someone that you love them - get all of their favorite friends and family in a room to celebrate  how awesome they are. Do it for someone you love, they will totally love you more than they do now.

By the end of the night I was eating birthday cake with my hands - it was definitely a good party.