Thursday, March 31, 2011

Asparagus Tart

Never go to the food store hungry. We know it's tempting, especially when you're hungry and there's not much in the pantry and you've got to cook dinner. Don't do it! Or you'll be like Eric last night, who went to the food store for hamburger meat, buns, cheese and a red onion (we had burgers) and returned with all that, plus a bag of chips and a can of frosting and some beer. 3 hours later we both had stomach aches, half the chips were gone and there was a slightly depleted frosting can. See what happens when you go to the store hungry? We suggest eating a cookie first, to take the edge off. Or have some Asparagus Tart. Whats asparagus tart you ask? It's pretty awesome is what it is. A flaky pastry topped with cheese and caramelized onions and pancetta and asparagus. Yum. This is a perfect party snack or first course (or you can be like us and eat it as a main course)! The asparagus actually makes this a pretty refreshing dish, perfect for when the weather goes from 50* and dumping down rain on the weekend to 80* and sunny by Thursday without prior notice, which is exactly what happened here. Last week, we were buried under enough rain to pull the whole state out of a drought and now it's like summer, complete with Eric's glow in the dark legs seen peeking out from a pair of shorts. Don't look, you might go blind!



Monday, March 28, 2011

Grandma's Classic Pot Roast

For some reason, pot roast doesn't conjure up images of succulent braised meat bursting with flavor as it falls apart on your fork. Not sure why that is, as that has definitely not been our experience. Maybe it has something to do with how simple and basic a pot roast is. Usually the foods that get the most attention are complex and a great challenge to prepare (soufflĂ© for example). A well made pot roast on the other hand is a prime example of winter time comfort food. The best part is the gravy this makes, there's nothing like a good beef gravy with some mashed potatoes and, well beef. Now since we know that Spring is officially here what are we doing making comfort food? You'd never know spring is here based on the weather we've been having. It has rained for pretty much the last 10 days. Buckets upon buckets upon buckets. Which is good, we've needed it but we've hit that point where enough is enough! We're getting all set to enjoy our backyard and all we've got is rain. At least it's good for the new lawn in the backyard, it's hard to over-water new sod under normal conditions but this rain is pushing it. Actually Eric is more concerned about the dog wrecking the new lawn than he is about the rain. She loves the lawn. Loves it in ways that just aren't healthy for the poor poor grass. That darn pooch is just too smart, she's managed to defeat two different fences Eric has put up around the grass. After first stretching some plastic fencing around some posts he put up at the edge of the lawn, she found that she could just take a running start and bowl right through the fence. It was pretty funny for a minute, until she started running around and pulling up chunks of lawn. Eric was not pleased, so yesterday he pulled out his stock of 2x4s and other wooden planks and set out to really get a solid, dog proof indestructible fence up. Extra layers of fencing, reinforced posts and cross pieces and wrought iron barricades. A whole afternoon of no dog on the lawn, Eric couldn't have been happier. Charisse woke him up this morning and pointed out the bedroom window: there was the dog, in the middle of the lawn, happy as could be. 

Friday, March 25, 2011

Early Spring Salad With Roasted Garlic Lemonette

Spring is here! Eric was all prepared to talk about how spring will be here really soon and we're doing an Early Spring Salad to celebrate when Charisse pointed out that spring came last weekend. Swing and a miss. At least we got that sorted out before the post. The early spring part apparently has to do with the ingredients we used, spring onions and radishes are among the first crops up for harvest in the new year and they are tasty. Oh yeah, and more lemons in here too from the great lemon harvest of 2011. So what are we doing with Spring officially here, grass growing in the backyard and living in California? Staying inside and working on the stuff around the internets because it's been raining for the last week. Raining hard. The kind of rain that makes you never want to leave the house because you can go from dry under an umbrella, plastic rain coat, parka and sweater (yes, when its 50* and raining thats how you dress around here) to instantly wetter than when you've been in the shower for 20 minutes. So Eric when and gave the blog another face-lift, adding lots of features we've been talking about adding for a while and trying to clean up the general look and feel. 

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Home and Garden: Cheap Finds

We actually get asked a lot about where we get most of our patterned plates and napkins and other awesome kitchen decor for the blog. Truth is that you don't need to spend a bundle to have a variety of items for photography set ups. So today we're going to let you in on our little secret... you ready? This is it... Thrift Stores! Yup, thats right, Goodwill, Savers, garage sales you name it. About once every couple months or so Charisse will sift through our local second hand stores to score a ton of swag for not a lot of money. If you know what you are looking for and have a little knowledge about how to spiff up a used item then you are pretty much guaranteed discover a hidden treasure or two (or five or ten). Actually, not all of our finds are blog related, our favorite over-sized chair and ottoman, our antique dining room set and our trusty kitchen chop block were found at the thrift store, moving sale and craigslist respectively and we didn't pay over $50.00 for any of it! Here's the biggest cooking prize at any thrift store; cast iron cookware! We have talked about how much we adore our growing collection of cast iron skillets but seriously it is Charisse's favorite item in the kitchen hands down and she always seems to run across a skillet here or pot there for around $5.00. Cast iron takes work and effort to maintain and some knowledge of cooking to use properly and most people who buy one don't want to be bothered learning to use it properly, so it gets tossed under all the non-stick cookware and eventually donated. Score for us! Stopping by "Savers" last Friday Charisse came home with a really guilty look... she'd hit the jack pot and found a beautiful 10 inch antique skillet, a 8 inch deep skillet and a Ă†bleskiver skillet, which is used to make Danish pancake puffs. She also scored a small Graniteware stock pot with lid that was practically new. The guilty look? Charisse brought home about our bajillionth cast iron pot so Eric has to wait until next month to buy his bajillionth camera accessory. A promise of something yummy took care of that situation. Now cookware is awesome, but for the blogger or budding food photographer out there, second hand stores are the BEST place to stock up on textiles, plates, silverware, glasses, and any other staging object for food photography. In the same trip Charisse bought 8 pieces of fabric ranging in price from $.99-$2.00. It's fun to find unique patterns and colors that will really pop in pictures and compliment the food. Furthermore, many items are at these places because they are just that, one item. Who needs 1 patterned plate? 1 funky napkin? We do! So next time your driving by your local thrift store, stop in and do a little digging and see what treasures you can find! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Champagne Cupcakelettes

"What should we do for dinner?" was the question Charisse asked the other day. "Cupcakes" came the answer. Yup, cupcakes is what Eric came home with a hankering for and letting up on that dream was not on his agenda. As Charisse had a one sided discussion about dinner, Eric sat and surreptitiously dreamed of different kinds of cupcakes. Red velvet, rich chocolate, cream cheese frosting whipped cream frosting, frosting, Mmmmmmm. After almost 20 minutes of "how about a nice homemade salad or some bread pudding?" being answered with "Hmm, no, I don't think those flavors would make a good cupcake" Charisse gave up and threw her recipe book at him and said "Fine! We can have cupcakes for DESSERT!" Eric earned that lump for sure, but the result was one serious cupcake, Champagne Cupcakelettes! Thats right, mini cupcakes with Champagne. These were cause for some serious celebration, so much so we ended up needing another bottle to finish the icing. Okay, so we were actually celebrating the instillation of grass in the backyard, but these little jems are totally worth a celebration in their own right. 


So last week it was 65* and sunny all weekend here in the Bay Area, we put some serious time into the backyard, built a fence for the garden and generally got the backyard moving, Eric also ordered some grass, to be delivered the following Saturday morning. Dan agreed to come over again and help put it in (he helped with the front yard too, he's building up some serious credit for when he finally buys a house) and things were good. By Saturday morning we were in the middle of the biggest storm of the season, hail, ice, gail force winds and a tornado warning (and actual tornado in some parts of the bay). Eric has not the best timing but they got it done, ended up covered in mud and now our backyard has a yard instead of a mud patch reminiscent of a battlefield. Now to only keep the dog off of her newfound playground for two weeks...




Friday, March 18, 2011

Not Corned Beef and Cabbage Mini Meatball Soup

We set out to create a great St. Patties day post the other day, started poking around, looking for recipes and getting all excited about it (Eric starts playing bagpipe music at his desk starting in early March) but we realized the same the we realize pretty much every year, neither of us are huge fans of Irish food. Irish whiskey? Yes. Irish Beer? Yes. Yes. Fake Irish accents? Yes. Yes. Yes. Irish food? Ehhh not so much. (Charisse says "except stew. I like stew. Put that in there.").  Charisse found the recipe and really wanted to try it out. Eric wanted to drink Guinness and pretend to be Irish. Not surprisingly we did both. It's actually a really tasty soup using Charisse's homemade chicken stock for a base. We made of course, far too much. Even giving it away we ended up freezing a ton of it for a later date. We always make way too much soup for some odd reason, but having too much soup is rarely a problem to complain about. Tomorrow Dan is coming over and we're installing grass in the backyard, which should be a huge improvement over the existing patch of dirt and remnants of the great grass disaster of '09. Grass seed + exposed sprinkler wires + new puppy = disaster. Actually quite a number of things + new puppy equals disaster, though we'll have to get to that another day since the dog just took off with our soup spoon. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Jen's Now Famous Almost BBQ Shrimp

Not long ago we raided our friend Jen's recipe book for one that drives both husbands crazy during the non pumpkin season and last weekend decided that one good dish deserves another. Now this one wasn't nearly as famous as the pumpkin pie bars were but when you've got a hankering for shrimp, butter and a big delicious mess this is the one to turn to. If you can think of something better than a buttery shrimpy mess to top off a wildly busy and productive weekend we'd like to know about it! Why was our weekend wild, busy and productive you ask? We're glad that you did! If you remember waaaay back when we started, we go super excited about finally putting grass in the front yard (and no longer looking like the biggest hillbillies on the block). Well now we're only a few days away from being that excited about the back yard! We finally dug in (literally) and executed our plans for the yard. Grass, garden, garden fence, new BBQ, place to put outside stuff. Super excited. Also tired and sore, but excited none the less. We were actually completely wiped out on Sunday from Saturday when it came to chow down with Dan and Jen and our friends Brooke and Scott. Saturday Dan came over and we spent the day building our garden fence, then ran to Charisse's grandmother's 85th birthday party, then hustled off to Eric's hockey game which started at 11pm.

This is him playing on the left, and a tip for all the parents and spouses of hockey players: garage. Outdoor storage. Attic. All are good places to store hockey gear. Living room. Bedroom. Kitchen. All lousy places to store hockey gear because that hockey smell is considered by scientists to be among the worst smells every made by human beings. Eric got re-educated about this once, when after a late game he left his bag infront of the heater in the living room, intending to put it away in the morning. Que morning, wake up, turn on heater, turn on coffee, wash face, gag over awful smell permeating the house. Yuck. Anyways, Saturday was a long busy day and we did more work on Sunday (with slightly less limberness). On Monday it was very, very hard to wake up, but the thought of leftover buttery shrimp for lunch was a big motivator.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Crisis in Japan

Our hearts and prayers are going out to everyone in Japan right now.

Please take a moment to help in any way possible through reputable organizations. We recommend the International Red Cross / Red Crescent Societies. They have a good record of response and pushing as much of the donations they receive directly into crisis situations as possible.

If you are looking for someone, Google's Crisis Response Project is a good place to start.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Lemon Marmalade Bread Pudding

We are so boned, but in a good way. Kinda. See this year for Lent we gave up watching TV (except the last episode of the Bachelor and Sharks games) But other than that, the TV stays dark. It's a big change for us, we usually turn on the Tube and watch GMA over coffee and light chitchat (Eric doesn't really wake up until around 10:30-11, so deep conversations are usually pretty one sided). This morning we ended up just sitting there in silence, staring at each other until Eric quipped "This is going to be a long 40 days". "40 DAYS! I thought Lent lasted like a week!" came the response. Charisse apparently did not pay much attention in Catholic School. Eric thinks this will help us strengthen our relationship and get more stuff done around the house. Charisse isn't so sure, she likes to wind down to reruns of Friends or Bones after a long day. Only time will tell, time and maybe some well timed bread pudding. Hopefully you haven't given up bread, lemons or yummy food for lent (if you "celebrate" it, but why they call it "celebrating" lent we'll never know)! Actually there are two recipes today, lemon marmalade and lemon marmalade bread pudding. Remember to make the marmalade before you try and make the bread pudding! Oh yeah! Like we promised yesterday that we would, we've officially launched our SmugMug hosting! From here on out all of our pictures will be available as prints, tee-shirts, aprons and other goodies! Yippee! 

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Lemon Pull Apart Bread

As of Sunday night, we were officially wiped out. We're back in full project mode, working on the house, the blog and life in general. For starters, all of our tabs can take comments too! We've also launched our "Home and Garden" tab, where we'll keep you updated on our projects around the house and how our garden is doing. We're also getting ready to launch our new photo platform on Smugmug.com. Right now we are hosting all our images on our Flickr account, which was great when we were new and scrambling to get viewers but we've outgrown what Flickr has to offer, so now we're switching platforms. We plan on rolling out our first Smugmug hosted post later this week, so keep your eyes peeled! Hmm... what else have we been up to, oh yeah! The Backyard! That one teensey little task thats taken us 2 years to get around to even thinking about starting! So for everyone who missed it, heres the low down on our house: Charisse's grandfather, Irv owned the house for the last 60 years before us but one of the conditions was we move in with the house "as is". So we've bit by bit been remodeling and bringing the house up to speed. The last of the great projects is the backyard, which we've been fighting a loosing battle to keep it from going back to nature (not that Koda would mind, she loves to romp through the weeds!). Well this past weekend we mustered up the strength and energy and decided to dive in and get it finished! 2 years ago Eric built some planter boxes for the garden and almost finished them (hammer met thumb, work stopped and never quite got started again). The boxes got finished, filled with dirt and Charisse bought some plants and seeds. We prepped for grass and Eric and our friend Dan demolished some brick to make way for a brand new BBQ. We're now officially excited to have our backyard coming together. So excited, we almost forgot to cook something! Well, we didn't forget, but we were super busy, so we kinda cheated a little bit, and used a refrigerated dough for this bread. Don't worry, it's still pretty amazing, its like a cinnamon roll, but with lemon. Charisse's grandmother came by and ended up eating two big slices, both of which she prefaced with "Oh I couldn't, I'm not hungry". Just goes to show, nobody can resist the lemon bread! 

Friday, March 4, 2011

AND THE WINNER IS...

LIZZY! From That Skinny Chick Can Bake! Lizzy has won the $25.00 Williams Sonoma Gift Card! Lizzy contact us right away so we can send you your card!

(Small Print): We aren't sponsored by Williams Sonoma or anything, we sponsored the prize ourselves. We also used a random number generator to pick the winner. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Meyer Lemon Curd

If you remember back a ways, Charisse's mom Monica's lemon tree went a little crazy and we ended up with a bunch of lemons. Charisse's Grandmother's Meyer tree has so far produced a TON of lemons, and thats just the ones we've taken. We ended up with around 200 lemons last weekend and that was our second trip over there, the Butera family has just gone completely bananas! We mean lemons! We've got so many lemons we are literally scrambling to use them before they go bad. Lemon drop martinis, martinis with a lemon twist. Lemonade. Frozen Lemonade. We used quite a bit for the lemon curd we are featuring here, and still have a bag leftover. Eric thinks that the funniest part of this whole thing is that Charisse's dad Pat hate lemon, lemons and anything lemon flavored yet he is constantly surrounded by them. Sometimes Eric is easily amused. We've been working on our backyard for a while now, we got through periods of work, ignore, work, ignore. Mostly because the task is just so huge, but we've got our garden rolling. We're going to open a new tab for garden related posts, and we'll include before and after pictures. Eric built 4 planter boxes about 2 years ago and got them about 85% complete, then hammered his thumb instead of the nail. The project kinda stalled after that, until a few weeks ago, when Charisse decided that he should finish the darn boxes so she can have her garden or she'd find a new husband that will. We're pretty sure she was joking, but keep an eye open for our new garden posts! 







Tuesday, March 1, 2011

1st Anniversary Giveaway (and Mac & Cheese)

We're one year old today! Thats right, we launched exactly one year ago with a short introduction post, no pictures and a link to Eric's personal blog, which he kept up for exactly 3 weeks. Not a very auspicious start, but it was a start none the less. Now, well, we've come a long way. How far exactly? Williams Sonoma and Mac and Cheese far! To celebrate our 1st Blogiversary (get it? a Portmanteau of "blog" and "anniversary". We think we're so funny) we're giving away a $25.00 giftcard to Williams-Sonoma! Yup, free stuff for one lucky follower! Here's the rules: 

  • Follow our blog (facebook / Google / Feedburner (email) or ATOM (RSS))
  • Leave a comment telling us why you love your favorite kitchen gadget (and what it is!)
We'll review the comments this week and announce a winner on Friday! Make sure you leave some way for us to reach you! 

Now, to celebrate our blogiversary we thought about making a cake but decided that a homemade mac and cheese was more our style. This is actually a unique recipe for one important reason, it is the only mac and cheese that Charisse likes. She hates mac and cheese, right up there with raw celery and pop-quizzes. Once, when we lived in San Francisco Eric (who LOVES mac and cheese) tried his hand at a home made one, which was fantastic and she still didn't like it. So when she landed on a mac and cheese recipe that she actually liked, the skies opened up, angels sang, the cats and the dog began to dance together and hold intellectual conversations with the fish. Okay, maybe we're exaggerating just a little, the cats and the dog don't quite get along yet but you get the point. What really makes this is the bees knees is the toasted bread on top, it adds a crunch and texture you don't find in that certain neon orange kind from the box.