Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Letterpress Happy Hour: Holiday Edition

Tuesday, November 26, 2013
A few weeks ago we attended another Letterpress Happy Hour for the holiday season. Our friend who did our invitations was there, and the cards are pre-made and designed by the interns for that semester. Then, we pick out our own letters to make a saying, and the interns then teach us how to operate our own letterpress machine. While waiting in line for the letterpress machines, we have wine or beer and friends to keep us occupied. 
It has been a whirlwind of a week. I baked two lemon poppy seed breads for our Thanks-for-giving potluck at work. Then, over the weekend, we purchased and put together our new desks from Ikea. We decided that we didn't really want anything in particular for the holidays (both Christmas and Hanukkah) so instead we decided to "buy each other" a desk and chairs. We picked 2 simple birch wood tops with stainless steel legs for a clean look in our small art studio/home office. After we put them together with their complimentary chairs, it gave us an incentive to rid our studio of the things that have cluttered it. We had so many garbage bags full of things we didn't need any more; including old car insurance policies, empty cardboard boxes, and other unnecessary things that cluttered the room. We made huge progress and only have a little bit more to go! 
We went out to dinner at a restaurant called the Rusty Spoon and we shared a delicious appetizer that they called a butcher board. It had eggs like I've never had prepared, chicken hearts on skewers just like my dad makes, and the most delicious soft mortadella with apricot jam on top to mix in and serve on crostini bread. It was a delicious meal that ended with parmesan rosemary fries with our burgers. I love a restaurant that can do interesting ingredients and plates, as well as a simple staple like a burger done right.
Today begins my week off, as yesterday I finished some emails and meetings in the office. My plans are to "make" and order some gifts that I've been meaning to. I will also be baking some meringue cookies that I learned to make from a Jewish client at the hair salon I used to work at. I'm making the cookies for S's lunch potluck at work tomorrow, and they are truly one of the best treats for after a heavy dinner (or lunch) like Thanksgiving. They are light and airy, and just enough sweetness to end a meal. My other favorite dessert is biscotti, which I have become a master at because I've made them so many times. They are sweet and crunchy, and get soft when dipped in an after-dinner coffee, tea, or hot cocoa. Tomorrow, I will be baking a vanilla biscotti, half dipped in melted milk chocolate, and sprinkled with some chopped toasted almonds. Those I will be saving for our Thanksgiving dinner with my grandparents, father, brother, aunts and uncle, and cousins! Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday and I am so looking forward to starting the festivities of spending time in the kitchen with food and family already. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you as well! 
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Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Friendsgiving

Tuesday, November 19, 2013
This past weekend we went home for Friends-giving dinner. I knew from the beginning that it was going to be a great little reunion with friends at my best friend's house. I was looking forward to it all week, knowing that it would be the chance to catch up with so many old friends. 
On Sunday morning, I went through some of my last old boxes with my mom, taking things that I wanted to keep, and donating the rest of my toys and  least favorite books. I walked away with many of my favorite books growing up, including a book of fairy tales with the most magnificent illustrations. There were other favorite books  with watercolor paintings for pictures and one about "My Big Brother Mike" which was always so poignant for me because the story was told by a little sibling with glasses being overshadowed by their big brother, Mike, but at the end of the day, the sibling also looked up to their older brother. 
Not only did I find old things from my childhood, I also found old notebooks that I would share with friends, passed back and forth between classes, drawing doodles of each other, and complaining about teachers or homework. Each note was pages long, like the fastest snail-mail service for our letters. They are the kind of notebooks that take up space, just like all my old journals, but I'll never have the heart to throw them out. 
I set up my mise en place for my grandmother's baked mac and cheese recipe in my mom's kitchen. My mom showed me how certain consistencies were supposed to be, and in the end, said it came out really good this time. For both me and my brother, it's one of our favorite holiday dishes. As I was making it, he watched for a little, knowing what a treat it is.
At my friends house, every one brought a dish, either dinner or dessert, and drinks as well! We set up the entree food on the open kitchen counter, like a double-sided buffet. With my mac and cheese there was a feast of stuffing, ham, roasted vegetables, chicken, four-cheese mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, and even turkey. Every side dish was covered, and even every main meat. It was a great holiday with friends. S and I had to drive home to Central Florida that night, so we couldn't stay late. It was so lovely with everyone that I wished we could have stayed longer. I'm already looking forward to next years. At this rate, with how fast October and November have flown by, I bet next year will sneak up on us just as fast. 
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Thursday, November 14, 2013

My last meal

Thursday, November 14, 2013
This will be my second post this week on a recipe, but trust me, this is so worth it. I've written before about how braising meat for hours is my favorite way to cook. It can turn the toughest pieces of meat into the most tender and delicious meals. This recipe is for braised oxtail, a meal my dad has only started making for us recently as we've gotten more adventurous with our food as we grow older. My dad's grandmother used to make it for him, and it's an extremely easy recipe, starting with French culinary classics of a mirepoix which I learned how to do in cooking class. 
We started at noon, chopping onions, carrots, celery, and a bit of garlic for the base. We heated up some olive oil in my dad's copper pot (it's bigger than mine) and browned each seasoned oxtail first, flipping so each side got some color. We took them out to rest after twenty minutes or so in the pot, and tossed the mirepoix into the pan next. We sauteed them until the vegetables were soft and the onions see-through. Then, we topped with a red wine to scrape off all of the good bits at the bottom. My dad poured the softened mirepoix and wine into a blender and mixed until it was thick and saucy. We returned to oxtail back to the pot, and drenched it with the sauce from the blender to cook for at least six hours. 
My dad typically serves this warm dish with pearl cous cous, which gives such a great texture to the meat that falls off the bone. It's a dish I don't need a knife for, just some crusty bread for dipping any leftover sauce. I had two pieces of oxtail and a healthy serving of cous cous and I was extremely full. It's a kind of fullness that stays with you and keeps you warm in winter; I can imagine eating this dish with it snowing outside. It's so delicious that if I ever had to chose my last meal, this would be it. 
This upcoming weekend is a Friendsgiving (Thanksgiving with friends) and I'm extremely excited to make my mom's baked mac n cheese recipe. Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because of good food, good wine (Beaujolais Nouveau!), and good company. I love spending the day with family, but having a chance to spend the same holiday with friends is twice as great! A few years back, my mom gave me my own cook book for Christmas via Taste Book. You can see the virtual version of mine here. I absolutely love the binder and use it to remember all of my favorite recipes. When my mom gave it to me, she included all of our Thanksgiving and Christmas recipes in it, and I continue to add my favorite family recipes to it. Lately, since I've been cooking and photographing my meals for the blog, I decided to add my new favorite recipes to my Taste Book, including this oxtail recipe! I love this because I can access the recipes in my book, on the app on my iPad, or at a friends house on the computer. It also makes sharing really easy. To this day, it's been one of my favorite gifts (that and my KitchenAid mixer!). 
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

A New Recipe

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

S and I were stumped as to what to cook for dinner on a Saturday night. Normally on weekends I like to cook one new, time-consuming, or just really phenomenal meal since I have all day and weekend to savor it. S said he was in  the mood to cook with burrata, a really soft cheese kind of like mozzarella, but creamier. I found this recipe online and it sounded perfect. 
We didn't have all of the ingredients when we finally decided on what to make on Saturday evening. Instead of our usual getting into the car to go to Whole Foods for the cheese and other ingredients - we decided to ride our bikes there! It was a nice enough night for Florida. The sun was going down so it was no longer warm, and there was a small enough breeze to keep our moving bodies cool. It was surprisingly so rewarding to have to bike to get our food, and bike home to make it. With the cooler months ahead I definitely see us doing that more often.
Instead of using gnocchi, I used multi-colored pasta shells from Whole Foods, and I also substituted arugula which was in my refrigerator for the spinach that the recipe calls for. It was just as delicious and bright as expected. The warm pasta melted the cheese a bit and wilted the arugula while the lemon brightened up the dish to make it delicious enough for seconds. Thrown in there was also some garlic and almonds, which added subtle flavors but complimented the others perfectly.
Yesterday was Veteran's Day and we had a statue unveiling event at the museum. The statue was in honor of the Red Tail Pilots of the Tuskeegee Airmen. It was remarkable to have six of the twelve remaining Red Tails with us at the event yesterday. I have never seen so much appreciation and gratitude in one day. Many of our local veterans attended the event, and we even had the mayor come and speak. My co-worker was in charge of coordinating with a pilot for a surprise fly-over with a real red tail plane. During the speech, the plane flew over three times, and each time, everyone lifted their heads and cheered in honor, the red tail pilots tipping their hats toward the sky. It was such an uplifting day that will linger with me for a while. 
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Friday, November 08, 2013

My second large fundraising event

Friday, November 08, 2013
This past weekend was the museum's large fundraising event called Neanderthal Ball. It takes place in our dinosaur exhibit, our planet and universe exhibit, as well as on our rooftop terrace. Some of our favorite vendors bring in food, drinks, lighting, pipe and drape, and lounge furniture. It makes for a truly gorgeous evening! It did rain on us at the beginning of the event, but just at sunset it was gorgeous enough for us to all take photos together of everyone in our department dressed up and done up.
After setting up for a few hours in comfortable clothes, we all change into nice dresses, heels, do our hair, fix our makeup, and attend the ball. Being that it is a larger event, our entire team, including all four of our interns, work and attend with us. It's a rare chance for us all to be together, working and later, building friendships.
In our dinosaur exhibit, the room was themed fire, and our planet exhibit was appropriately themed ice. In our dinosaur exhibit, American AV covered our light fixtures with red, orange, and yellow films to create a warm glow throughout the room. Lighting, draping, and furniture all come together to create the atmosphere of an event. 
Being that I worked and attended this same event a year ago, as well as work events every week in these exhibit halls, I almost felt like there wasn't much for me to explore within this event. I know every inch of these exhibit halls that I could navigate them in the dark. Half the fun of attending events is seeing new things, exploring the area with friends, and doing something you've never done before. I love this event and how much it means to our museum, so I was able to see it for the first time again through my interns eyes.
This morning I'm writing this by the kitchen window, with such a breeze coming through and some clouds in the sky. The weather teases Florida here and there by giving us a cold front from time to time, but the cool breeze has seemed to stay with us this month and I'm thoroughly enjoying spending my evenings and weekends with the windows open. 
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Tuesday, November 05, 2013

Goodbye October, Hello November

Tuesday, November 05, 2013
October always ends on a good note, with pumpkin carving, roasting pumpkin seeds, and drinking with friends in costume. For Halloween this year, I dressed up as Lydia Deetz in Beetle Juice for work! Our department seemed to be one of the only fun departments that dressed up. It was quiet in the museum considering kids were at school. But, the little kids that did come to our museum dressed up and were so cute! Can it be costume-day at museums everyday for kids? If you can't tell, I am so looking forward to dressing up my own kids some day. 
S carved his pumpkin the night before Halloween so we could enjoy it during an evening at home. As for Halloween, S dressed up as Steve Zee from The Life Aquatic with a red cap and pipe.
My co-workers came downtown with a big group of us, and they dressed up as a 20's flapper, and a pair of the team Red Jaguars from Legends of the Hidden Temple (remember that show?).
At one of the bars we went to, there was a costume contest so we saw some gems. This guy from KISS was head to toe perfect,as well as the Harleyquin we ran into. There was also an ape costume from Planet of the Apes. We joked that he would win the $2,000 prize for best costume, yet he spent $3,000 on his.
One of my other coworkers had his birthday on Halloween and he dressed up as a minion from Despicable Me. He painted himself yellow and I have to say he was among the best minions dressed up that night. Others wore yellow t-shirts, but he was the best.
My boss dressed up as Pippy Longstockings, with amazing hair. The secret was floral wire holding up her braids and it was genius! We saw a Heisenburg/Walter White at a bar and I needed to snap a photo of him.
Our other friends were a glowing Tony Stark/Iron Man and a creepy clown. My friend that was a clown had the best clown shoes I've ever seen!
We were at a bar on the second floor with a balcony, and looking down at the crowds, it was a mad house. We don't normally tend to flock to where the crowds are, so looking down at the immense crowds of people was like a haunted house in itself.
Yesterday, it was a small milestone: six months of being married. It was really just an excuse to go out to eat together at one of our favorite restaurants over the weekend. Also, this past weekend was the museum's large fundraising event called Neanderthal Ball. I worked on this event last year as well and can't wait to share photos of it this year. I have to say, I'm already looking forward to the rest of November.
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