Monday, May 30, 2011

Another Domestic Saturday

This past Saturday, another baking fire was lit and off I went trying some new recipes for Scott's family birthday barbecue. I planned to bring the S'more Pie but after talking to Scott, decided to try something new. It was a bit too rich for him so my plan was to try two new fruit desserts-no chocolate.

The first: Nectarine and Marscapone Gingersnap Tart
This was painfully simple and got great reviews-even from the birthday boy who can be very anti-dessert. It was my first (but definitely not last) time making a gingersnap crust-a nice change from your generic graham. The spiciness paired nicely with the tart mix of cheese.

I forgot to take a before we cut the tart shot. C'est la vie-it was enjoyed.
There is a good picture of it on the author's recipe site.

The second: Strawberry Summer Pie
Houston, we have an oops. I had made the tart in the pan that I would have preferred to make this cake in and didn't want to use a pie plate or cake round because I wanted to bring it in a cute dish. Image is everything right? I thought I had a brilliant idea to put it in a bundt pan but as I was putting it in the oven, my error glared me in the face. You FLIP bundt cakes-and this cake is meant to be beautiful on the top. Not an end of the word baking fiasco, I would just have an upsidown upsidown (I think?) strawberry cake. But then I couldn't get it out of the pan so it came out it chunks and pieced it together to take to the party. I don't think anyone noticed but it did lack in appearance ratings. Still, tasty cake, super easy. Only modification I made was to use buttermilk instead of regular milk.

Same story as above.

I use the weekends as my time to prepare a more glamorous dinner for Scott and I because he's fabulous, I'm fabulous and we should always be fabulous. (That's be being Ina. Currently we don't have Broadway directors coming over for dinner-just us, and I find us to be fabulous. It's good for the self-esteem.) This Saturday, I decided to try a few Giada recipes I'd seen her make for a DeLaurentiis family dinner: Vegetable Chow Mein and Orange and Pineapple Beef.

The recipe was certainly not hard, but about an hour of prep time. The good news is you can make the beef and put it in the oven and during that time, prepare the sauce and chow mein-so it's a good use of time, albeit too long for a weeknight dinner. It turned out well, I may even try it with chicken next time because the sauce really made the beef stand out. The chow mein was quasi-improvised as Fresh & Easy didn't have chow mein noodles-but Vietnamese noodles, which I think were a find stand in.

Winner winner Chinese dinner!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

His Best Friend's Wedding

I joked that it felt a little like Old School-the married best man whispering to his best friend while his wife looks on in the audience (though in this vision, sans babies.)

Scott's best friend Harrison married his long time girlfriend on Sunday and a lovely wedding it was.

Here comes the bride


Officially married.
Good looking Best Man.

The reception was lovely-good food, good drink, and a great reason to celebrate.

Good friends.

The next bride!

We tore up the dance floor and both Scott and I were zombies the next day at work. Mark of a good wedding methinks. Cheers Erin and Harrison!

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Not Your Mother's Mums*

For those of us who have yet to move onto our own plantations with sprawling flower fields and pastures, we are limited to the smaller window boxes and potted groupings of flowers for our home flora.

Herbs, daisies, and begonias do well in most climates with a fair amount of sun and regular watering, but as young professionals on the go, something low maintenance with a big punch is required. The solution – succulents.

This indoor/outdoor plant thrives on extreme heat and little water, is most often ignored by house cats and dogs, and provides lasting color on porches, tables, and patios.

Small, individual varieties are available at major hardware stores, such as Lowe's and Home Depot – at my local store they will even pot yours for free, which is great when you are in a pinch for a housewarming gift. Conversely, planting at home could not be easier with just a pot, cactus blend potting mix, and your succulent.

City arboretums and farmers’ markets are likely to have indigenous species as well, and often have annual or semi-annual plant sales where you can score gorgeous blooms.

Succulents make lovely centerpieces and for some, a major landscape overhaul. For most, they offer a modern aesthetic alternative to your garden gerberas.

*Sample post for

Selecting the Outdoor Table*

Living in Southern California affords us nearly year-round alfresco dining. However, with the rest of the country in mind, now is the time that people are stringing strands of paper lanterns across gardens and power washing their patios.

Replacing patio furniture can be a huge expense, especially while on slim budget. Garage sales and Craig's List are often the answer for those of us without a secret hedge fund, like myself, who scoured the usual sites to no avail as sums passing $1,500 for a new ensemble appeared the norm.

After weeks of searching, I did find a six piece set that needed a face-lift, but would be well within my scope of talents – i.e., trigger finger friendly spray paint and elbow grease. I purchased the four chairs, umbrella (sans base), and coffee table from a woman in Huntington Beach for $125, who originally paid over $800 for the Martha Stewart set at Kmart.

The set was an interesting grey/beige yellow combo – in theory a great combination. Those tones on a patio set, not so much.

After a good scrub, a layer of primer, and three coats of Rust-Oleum Metallic Bronze spray paint, we've got ourselves a new-to-us patio set.

The cushions that came with my original purchase were a paisley-floral pattern, matching the umbrella, but rather sun-bleached. Once again after scouring the Internet and all home improvement stores in a 15 mile radius for a solid color that would go with the umbrella’s color scheme on a deep-seated cushion, I came up empty handed. Naturally, I assumed this product that fit my specifications would be out there – and it was, at a premium.

This story does have a happy ending – on a routine trip for fillets at Costco I passed their legendary line of random products at the entrance and stumbled upon 20" aqua pillows, in a two-pack, for $15 each. Sold, to the brunette for $30, and the old seat cushions were left in the dust.

With a little elbow grease, a lot of research, and a little luck when you are least expecting it, even the most insipid patio furniture can be turned into your backyard’s most appealing feature.

Time to fire up the barbie.

*Sample post for

Sunday, May 15, 2011

A Domestic Kind of Saturday

The past few weekends have been pretty busy with commitments and to-do lists, so this was the first weekend I could indulge in one of my favorite hobbies-trying new recipes. Saturday, this meant baking.

Both recipes are from Smitten Kitchen: S'mores Pie and Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti.

Chocolate Hazelnut Biscotti
Besides hazelnuts being pretty unavailable at each store I went to, this recipe was ridiculously easy.

Sliced, before heading back into the oven for the second baking.

Sunday morning biscotti!

S'mores Pie
Another pretty simple recipe, with the downsides being the time standing with the three steps. I opted to make everything, though you could easily make shortcuts and buy a graham cracker crust or buy Marshmallow Fluff in lieu of making your own.

The marshmallow making portion was the most difficult. In the recipe, it says the approximate time for whipping the gelatin and corn syrup is 5 minutes. I'm pretty sure Big Red just paid for himself being on for about 25 minutes.

I can't say the mixture tripled in size either. While it was mixing at high speed, I put some mini marshmallows I had on hand atop the pie, and then spread my own marshmallow mixture above them.

With cooling, baking, and chilling time, this recipe took close to 3 hours-and I took shortcuts. I did not let the pie cool coming out of the oven before putting the marshmallows on (another lesson in reading directions thoroughly-though it was a happy coincidence since I put the mini marshmallows on top of that layer, so they melted a bit.) The pie is supposed to chill for 3 hours after adding the topping and we went to a movie for 2. Who can really wait that long anyhow. After it comes out, the final step is broiling the pie so the top browns-truly making it a S'more Pie.

Mmm, the inside.

Slice of the pie. Scott even enjoyed. He likes pie, but does not like s'mores. It was a dicey decision to attempt this pie for this household.

Capping off my day of baking, we feasted on lime halibut with mango salsa (not pictured-sometimes you forget about your early prep still in the fridge), twice baked potatoes, and stuffed mushrooms.

After seeing Bridesmaids (I'll give it a B), we came home to enjoy the remaining wine and of course, the s'more pie, in the backyard over a roaring fire naturally, and a little poetry courtesy of Walt Whitman.

It was a great Saturday.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Happy House-aversary

May 8, 2010 we closed escrow and moved into our first home, which ended up being not just one, but two-which I lovingly refer to as "the twins."

Closing day!

What a year it has been. I never dreamed we'd become homeowners and landlords at the same time-but we've managed both with the help of insight from family, friends, and of course, the all knowing search engine that is Google. I thought I paid our first mortgage payment twice; a great set of renters serendipitously found us and stayed the entire year; I mowed the lawn for the first time; Scott (my own Wayne Szylinski) is in the planning stages for engineering a temperature-timed sprinkler system; he has completed countless projects that I have started and given up at finishing; and though no official housewarming party has been had, we've hosted the annual Haselton Cousin Christmas Party, a recent Mother's Day weekend, and countless dinners for our parents (which will never begin to repay them for their help in educating us to arrive at the point in our lives where we could afford to purchase, making curtains, helping us move and pulling up carpet and nails the day we moved in.)

I've mentioned before there are countless projects that need tackling and I'm sure they'll get done in the next few years-though this is not our forever house we plan to live in, we do plan to hang onto it as long as we are alive and kicking-and this house is already 86 years young. It's got a few creaks, cracks, and dings, but then again so do we. It's our perfect house we've made our home.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Mother's Day Part II

While Scott enjoyed all that Vegas had to offer for a friend's bachelor party, I entertained not once, not twice, but three evenings this weekend in honor of all that is mom. My mom, my pseudo moms, my mother-in-law, it was a rotating cast of moms at casa de Haselton.

Since Scott was in Vegas all weekend I offered to host his family for a dinner on Sunday night so that he could roll in from his trip straight to the previously prepared table from the night before. So smart. Some people called me crazy for three parties three nights in a row-I call it strategic. I was worn out, but Sunday was far less work than Saturday since I only had to prep food and barbecue.

For this affair, I served:
  • Tequila-lime chicken kabobs with mushrooms, bell peppers, and red onions
  • Giada's red tomato and potato salad (though it was really cold here yesterday so to add some warmth to the meal beyond the bbq, I made a bread crumb topping and added Parmesan and mozzarella and baked it. Turned out well, if you are interested in also attempting.)
  • Roasted asparagus with a Dijon-lemon marinade (courtesy of my sister-in-law, Traci) These were super tasty.
  • For dessert, we had leftover Nutella cupcakes from the night before from Caitlin, so they took center stage, though I'd originally planned on a lemon cake.
At most Haselton events, this guy was the hired entertainment:

But we were there to not only coo over him, but toast the moms:

Oliver likes to be in thick of things as well. He and Mason got along peachy.

To keep things simple, I used the same motif from Saturday's soiree and just changed the meal. Makes things really easy and I knew Sandy would love it. She's a sucker for twinkle lights like myself. It was the perfect ending to a great Mother's Day weekend.

Such a doll.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Happy Mother's Day!

Last night, my girlfriends and I held a mother's day dinner in honor of our moms. I think it's safe to say this might become a tradition-a great time was had by all.

Motif: Shabby-chic farm style dinner with vintage embroidered linens. (Thanks Cristal!)

You can see we attached pictures with our moms to the lattice in the background.

Backyards are always better with lights! This is proof I manned the BBQ.
Lessons with Scott paid off.

Kiss the cook!

Shannon-a great grill master herself. And maker of the best ever bacon-wrapped dates.


The moms-before they toasted us! Clever ladies, beat us the daughters to the punch.

End of the night group shot, though Katie, Paula, and Shannon had left.

I'm often interested in the menus for parties-here's the breakdown:

  • Filet mignon (with Scott's secret marinade)
  • Chicken with tequila lime marinade
  • Twice-baked potatoes
  • Cesar salad
  • Nutella cupcakes
  • Coffee cupcakes
And several bottles of wine-of course.

This was a super fun evening. We've all been friends from as early as elementary school and were all on dance team together during various years in high school and the friendships have remained. Cheers to moms-both biological, stand ins, in-laws, and soon-t0-be as well!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Foodie First-Timer: Artichokes

I've loved artichokes since the day they were introduced to me at our family friends' John and Shannon's home, when I was about 12. It was important date because Shannon took the opportunity to tell me one eyebrow was significantly shorter than the other thanks to my overzealous plucking. She told it like it was, and after a painfully long month or so, I had quasi-even eyebrows again. I say quasi because I think they are still more fraternal than identical.

Anyway, back to artichokes. It was my first experience eating these vegetables-leaves, heart, and copious amounts of butter and there was no turning back. I requested my mom make these for my next birthday, though I was the only one to enjoy them-not many other 13 year olds know what to make of the spiky vegetable.

Artichokes (the non-canned variety, specifically) and I experienced a period of absence until recently-last week specifically. I had not ventured into cooking them on my own and really admired their place in the kitchen more as a decorative center piece than meal accompaniment. My favorite magazine Real Simple, had a great spread dissecting the 'choke:

I purchased two artichokes at the farmer's market and then stopped by my favorite store in the world to get a steamer basket which I'm sure will prove itself useful in the long run.

The article suggested rubbing lemon wedges directly on the artichoke and including them in the steamer basket as well. Made for an enhanced flavor when done.

In an effort to not be a total cow, I opted for one of the recipes suggested in the magazine for the dipping sauce-a Dijon vinaigrette. Overall, pretty tasty.