Tuesday, April 30, 2013

A Nautical Twist

Little tip: I just bought this top at Old Navy for $8.50.  They had them in different colors and solids as well.  Perfect for summer, and for my wallet, which has nothing in it.

Striped Top: Old Navy, Skirt: Forever 21, Shoes: Journey's, Assorted Jewels

Monday, April 29, 2013

White, Stripes, and Yellow Chairs

Here is just a little look in my new kitchen.  I'm really digging how big and open it is.  My one complaint is that it is a little dark, which makes taking food photos a little challenging, but I'll figure it out.  I had a few friends over for dinner on Friday and this is what I wore.  I tried to keep it simple since it was mostly guys who were there.  Also, I've just been feeling simpler looks lately.  For dinner I cooked White Bean, Quinoa, and Roasted Red Pepper Burgers (see Friday's post), Russet and Sweet Potatoes with Rosemary (chop them up, add a little olive oil, top with pepper, salt, and rosemary, and then cook them for 45 minutes to an hour) and Chocolate Tacos (recipe coming soon).  I had no leftovers, which is always a good sign.

I've only been in my new house for 2 weeks and I have already entertained about 5 or 6 times.  Any entertaining tips?  I've already learned that some people don't listen when you say byob so you have to have a little extra alcohol around.  I also try to make simple, make-ahead meals so that I'm not slaving away in the kitchen and not enjoying myself.  What are your entertaining secrets?

Striped Sweatshirt: Old Navy (men's), White Jeans: Wal-Mart, Assorted Jewels

Friday, April 26, 2013

Roasted Red Pepper, Quinoa, and White Bean Burgers

There is something about veggie burgers.  You say veggie burgers and some people think, "MMMM, Yummy!" and some people think, "Yuck."  I kind of I rock along in the middle of those two groups.  I like veggie burgers, but if I have a choice between a veggie burger and a hamburger, the hamburger wins, sorry.  However, sometimes I go through phases when all I want are hamburgers.  These phases go on for months and I cannot allow myself to eat nothing but hamburgers or my arteries would explode.  So this recipe is a great alternative.

On a side note, I recently had a school cafeteria hamburger and I thought I would die of happiness.  It was at a Memphis City Schools ArtsFest event and they had a mini cafeteria set up for our lunch.  I paid $2 for the hamburger and a bag of Jalepeno Cheetos and I was in heaven.  I should have gone back for round two.  Is there anything better than a school cafeteria hamburger?  I love the way they put the cheese on the burger and then wrap it in aluminum foil.  The cheese gets all melty and you don't even need any condiments.  Just burger, bun, and cheese.  I wrap my burgers in aluminum foil at home and then throw them in the oven for 5 minutes just to mimic that school cafeteria taste.

What was I talking about? Oh yeah, veggie burgers.  Sad to say, I don't have any super nostalgic memories with veggie burgers.  I mean.....they're veggie burgers.  But this recipe is hands down the best veggie burger you will ever eat.  I say those words a lot, but this time I really really mean it.  This burger kicks ass and takes names doing it. The beans and quinoa make it really hearty and the roasted red peppers add a great flavor.  They are sweet but also have that yummy roasted flavor that gives these burgers a more meaty, almost grilled taste.  Even if you are not a veggie burger fan, you should give this recipe a try.  Trust me.  These are bumpin'.  I'm actually making them tonight for a bunch of Olie's friends.  Normally, I wouldn't serve veggie burgers to five dudes, but this burger is the exception.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, How Sweet It Is.  Great blog.  I also got my scone recipe from her, which is the best scone recipe ever.

Roasted Red Pepper, Quinoa and White Bean Burgers (from How Sweet It Is)

1 (15 ounce) can canellini beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup cooked quinoa
1/2 cup chopped roasted red peppers (if using jarred, try to soak up some of the liquid with a paper towel)
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup Panko bread crumbs
1/4 teaspoon dried basil
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 teaspoon onion powder (I don't keep this around, so I just grated a tiny bit of onion)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
toppings: avocado, tomato, extra roasted red pappers, bacon, etc.

In a small bowl, mix together bread crumbs and spices.

Place beans in a large bowl and mash coarsely with a fork.  Add quinoa, garlic, and roasted red peppers  and mix well.  Add in bread crumb mixture and egg and mix.  Then add flour.  Get this all good and mixed up.

Form into 4 or 5 equally sized balls.  Press into a patty.  Heat a skillet on medium/high heat and add the olive oil.  Cook burgers on the skillet for about five minutes on each side.

Now just add your toppings and bun and you are good to go.  These are pretty filling, so I would keep the side dishes pretty light.  A small salad would be good, or maybe just some fruit.  The burger is the star.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Easy Breezy

Pink Shirt: Forever 21, Yellow Shirt: Forever 21, Scarf: Came with my 10th grade prom dress so I have no idea who made it, Jeans: Citizens of Humanity, Shoes: Urban Outfitters, Assorted Jewels

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Hump Day Artist: Gilbert Stuart

The Athenaeum Portrait, Gilbert Stuart, 1796, revolutionary-war-and-beyond.com
This week, I decided to focus on one painting instead of an artist's entire body of work.  This week's Hump Day Artist is Gilbert Stuart and I wanted to talk about this particular painting, The Athenaeum Portrait from 1796.  I'm sure you are all very familiar with this painting.  Grab your wallet and pull out a one dollar bill and there it is.  But you may not be as familiar with the version that you see here.  This is the most reproduced and recognizable image of our first President, however it is often cropped down to only include the face, leaving out the unfinished background.  A little backstory: Martha Washington commissioned Gilbert Stuart to paint a pair of portraits, one of herself and one of George.  Once Stuart had finished painting their faces, he decided to stall on completing the commission.  He realized he could make more money by keeping these paintings than by selling them.  Getting the President of the United States to sit for a portrait was no easy task, so Stuart could use this painting as a guide for future portraits.  Stuart kept both paintings in his studio, unfinished, and Martha never got her commission (nga.gov).
The unfinished portraits, Gilbert Stuart, 1796, kimmko.typad.com
The first time I saw The Athenaeum Portrait in its entirety was about one year ago in a History of American Art class.  I was viewing slide after slide of Gilbert Stuart's work, most of which I find incredibly boring, when this painting came up on the projector and shook me out of my stupor.  I was stunned by how beautiful this unfinished painting was and was shocked that I had never seen it in its entirety.  This portrait quickly became one of my all-time favorite paintings and has inspired my current work and, I believe, the work of many modern painters, including Larry Rivers, Albert Oehlen, and the more current Provisional Painters.  

Larry Rivers, a Pop Artist, is an obvious choice when looking at The Athaeneum Portrait's influence and legacy.  Take his painting The Greatest Homosexual for example.  Though this painting is an obvious take on Jacque-Louis David's Napolean in his Study, it's unfinished nature points to Gilbert Stuart's portrait.  He sketches and re-sketches the figure, moving it all over the canvas but never erasing the original sketches.  We are left with a visual documentation of the artist's thinking process.  Rivers also makes use of what I'll call "the void": the blank canvas left behind that pulls the painting together while also working to break it apart.  This painting is not alone: many of River's paintings include a historical figure roughly painted on a white ground, a clear nod to Stuart's portrait of George Washington.
The Greatest Homosexual, Larry Rivers, 1964, babylonbaroque.wordpress.com
The Athenaeum Portrait's influence can also be seen in the work of Albert Oehlen, particularly in his more current pieces.  Objects in Oehlen's canvases seem to spring out of no where; there is nothing tying them down, nothing holding them to the surface.  These painted objects are surrounded and intersected by blank canvas.  When viewed in a gallery setting, this "void" becomes even more prominent.  Oehlen's early work, on the other hand, was incredibly busy, erratic, and every inch of the canvas was covered.  His work was connected to the German Junge Wilde movement, which translates to Wild Youth.  These artists were a backlash against the Conceptual and Minimal Art that was so prominent at the time.  As Oehlen's work has progressed, the busy-ness has moved to one or two areas of the painting, giving those areas even more presence.  The style is the same, but the composition is different.  Like The Atheneum Portrait, the contrast between heavily painted areas and bare areas is startling.
Albert Oehlen at Gagosian Gallery, 2012, gagosian.com
The more current group of artists that would seem to be influenced by Gilbert Stuart's painting are the so-called "Provisional Painters." A loose group of artists, their work is almost laughingly bare, unfinished, and quickly painted.  Sometimes, these paintings have little more than one color and a few strokes of paint on them (see Michael Krebber's work below).  Also, these artists often display their work in a kind of replication of the studio space in which they were made.  Josh Smith, for example, often displays his paintings in stacks against the wall, with stools all around them, and drawings and prints all over the floor.  Like Stuart, these artists are reluctant to let their work leave the studio.  While Stuart's reluctance was out of practicality, the Provisional Painters' reluctance is highlighting the process of making the paintings.  For these artists, the actual making of the work is the most important thing.  Painting itself is the subject of their paintings.
Micheal Krebber at Maureen Paley, London, 2013 moussemagazine.it
Josh Smith, Schmerzhoehle, 2005, artlies.org
The Atheneum Portrait may be one of the most famous portraits of all time.  Therefore, its influence is large and can only be touched upon here.  Though left unfinished, the painting is incredibly graceful and poignant.  Gilbert Stuart's acts of necessity have left us with a painting 200 years ahead of its time.  I have no doubt that this painting will continue to influence myself and other contemporary painters for years to come.

For more information on these artists visit:

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

A Casual Wedge

As silly as this sounds, I'm trying to make myself wear heels and wedges more often.  Because I'm 5'10", I feel a little awkward in them.  Like I'm Godzilla and I'm about to destroy Tokyo.  Also, because I never wear them, I don't really know how to walk in them.  I just sort of scamper like a deer so that I get to where I am going as quickly as possible.  But I love the way they look, so I'm just making myself wear them.  Wedges are a great place to start because they are easy to walk in and very comfortable.  Still a bit Godzilla-y.

Hoodie: Gap, Embroidered Top: Charlotte Russe, Jeans: Wal-Mart, Wedges: New York and Company, Assorted Jewels

Monday, April 22, 2013

Sweet Potato Cakes

So, if you haven't noticed, I'm obsessed with the cookbook Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi.  Every recipe I've tried has been absolutely delicious.  These sweet potato cakes are no exception.  This dish is very simple and very versatile.  You can eat these sweet potato cakes either sweet or savory.  We ate them for dinner and then for breakfast the next day; the mixture keeps really well in the fridge.  It also kind of scratches the pancake itch that I get from time to time.  Win, win, win win win win.

Ottolenghi has a yogurt sauce that goes with it, but honestly, I wasn't crazy about it.  Olie ate them with Siracha instead, and he loved it.  At breakfast I put a little honey on them.  They would probably be even better with a little maple syrup on them.  Or some good old ketchup!  So save yourself some time and don't make the yogurt sauce (I'm not going to write it, but I'm sure you could find it with some crafty google-ing, if you are interested).

Sweet Potato Cakes by Yotam Ottolenghi

2 1/4 lbs peeled sweet potatoes, cut into large chunks
2 tsp soy sauce
a little less than 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
3 tbsp chopped green onion
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped red chile
butter for frying

Steam your sweet potatoes until soft, the place in a colander and let drain for at least an hour.

Mix the rest of the ingredients (except butter) and the potatoes together in a large bowl.  Don't overmix. It should be sticky.  If it is runny add a bit of flour.

Melt your butter in a pan.  Use a tablespoon to lift sweet potato mixture.  Press into a disk about 2 inches in diameter and 3/8 of an inch thick (mine were a bit thicker than this, and they were still delicious, so don't worry if yours aren't perfect).

Fry on medium heat for about 6 minutes on each side, or until it is nice and brown.  Place between two paper towels to get a little of the excess butter off.  Serve warm with your choice of condiment.

I fried up some eggs to go with my sweet potato cakes (notice my broken egg in the top picture.  I hate breaking eggs, but they still taste delicious.  Waste not, want not).  For dinner, we ate them with black-eyed-peas and a salad.  Two great meals.

Do you make any cakes like this? Latkes? Zuchinni cakes?  Now that I've made these, I want to give some other variations a try.  Any suggestions?

(Pro tip, via my grandmother who makes the best fried eggs, use butter and cooking spray to fry your eggs.  The butter adds flavor and the cooking spray makes for easy flipping).

(Quick pic of how we ate them at dinner.  This was a very hearty vegetarian meal.)

Friday, April 19, 2013

Chocolate, Banana, and Hazelnut Baked Oatmeal

Sometimes, we do bad things.  Like, eat mac and cheese for breakfast (done that) or buy a pitcher of margaritas (it is a better deal, but not a good idea).  This recipe is a bad thing.

I didn't mean for it to be bad.  I really didn't.  I woke up one morning last week and felt like cooking.  That's how it all started.

I decided to make myself some baked oatmeal.  That's a healthy breakfast, right?  I was going to make it a simple banana flavor.  But as I was making the oatmeal I thought to myself, "hey, I have hazelnuts in my pantry!" So, I added some hazelnuts.  Then I thought, "hey, I also have chocolate chips." So I added some chocolate chips.  Then I thought, "hey, I have Nutella." So I added Nutella.  Then I thought, "hey, I have heavy cream." So I added heavy cream.  A lot of heavy cream.

As you can see, this oatmeal got out of control very quickly.  What started as a healthy breakfast turned into a decadent, moist, almost cake-like loaf of chocolatey awesomeness.  I had good intentions.  I really did.  But it just got away from me.

If you don't make any of my recipes, you need to make this one.  Don't be fooled by its humble appearance:  it is the gooey-est, chocolaty-est, nuttiest, yummiest breakfast I've had in a long time.  This is not your typical baked oatmeal.  This is a splurge.  Perfect for a lazy Saturday morning.  Chocolate for breakfast is only acceptable on the weekends.  Though, I made it on a Tuesday.  Oops.

Oh and did I mention it takes about five minutes to slap it together?  Yeah.  This one is a winner.

Here's how to make it:

Chocolate, Banana, and Hazelnut Baked Oatmeal

1 3/4 cup oats (I used quick oats)
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp baking powder
a pinch of salt
1 big handful chocolate chips
1 big handful hazelnuts
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
3 tbsp melted butter
1 banana, mashed
about 1/4 cup Nutella (the off-brands are just as delicious)

Combine first 6 ingredients (oats through hazelnuts) in a bowl.  In another bowl, combine the next 5 ingredients (heavy cream through banana).  Now add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients.

Pour half of the mixture into a greased loaf pan.  Spoon Nutella over this mixture.  It doesn't have to be even, just glob it in there.  Now add the rest of the oat mixture.  Take a toothpick and swirl through the batter.  This will give you a bit of Nutella in every bite.

Bake on 370 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.  Once the oats have set and the edges are browned you are good to go.

Enjoy!  This heats up really well the next day.  Just cover with aluminum foil and bake until hot, about 20 minutes or so.  Or just eat it all the first day.  It's that good.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Ivy and Lace

Check out my new backyard!  I love all of the ivy growing on the fence.  The yard needs a little work, but I don't mind a bit of mess.

I was so excited to get dressed yesterday.  I've been wearing nasty old clothes that I can paint in pretty much exclusively this past week.  It was nice to put some real clothes on.

Lace Top: Forever 21, Grey Dress (worn under lace top): American Apparel, Jeans: Citizens of Humanity, Boots: Target, Watch: Fossil, Assorted Jewels

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

New House!

Hello Everyone!  Sorry I haven't posted in a few days, I've been super busy because OLIE AND I HAVE OFFICIALLY MOVED INTO OUR FIRST HOUSE!  It's been fun/exhausting.  The place is a mess, everything has to be painted, and I can't find anything.  Most importantly, I can't find the cord that connects my camera to the computer.  I was going to show you some of the projects we have been working on but................that's not happening.  So, I thought I would show you some of the things that are inspiring our new place.

I'm currently painting everything I can get my hands on yellow and this is the reason why.  When I saw these yellow chairs on A Beautiful Mess, I fell in love.  However, yellow paint refuses to cover, so I'm on my third or fourth coat of paint and still am not getting a solid color.  No rest for the weary!

This is a model of Ross Bleckner's studio by artist Joe Fig. (On a side note, if you are an artist and you haven't read Inside the Painter's Studio by Joe Fig, I highly recommend it.  It's a quick read and it's very inspiring).  What I love most about this space is the railing around the walls that the paintings are propped up on.  Olie is currently building something similar for me.  It's awesome.  This will keep me from stacking paintings all over the place.  I really want my new studio to be clean and functional.  Clean being the most important thing.
Olie and I also started our first garden.  We don't know much about gardening, so we bought All New Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew.  That's Mel there showing off his handiwork.  You build these cute little raised beds and grid them off into 16 1' x 1' squares.  Each square is devoted to a different plant.  This way, the garden takes up way less space.  I'm hoping that soon I will be able to post recipes with ingredients straight from our garden.  Though, it is our first garden, so it might be a fiasco.

I'm still in the beginning phases of decorating, but here are a few more images that are inspiring me.

To see all my New House inspiration, check out my New House Pinterest Board.  All images from Pinterest.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Trying Something New: Quail Eggs

I'm always looking for new ingredients to try.  I'm not one of those people who gets intimidated by a weird looking vegetable or a strange combination.  It could be the most delicious thing in the world, right? You don't know unless you try it.  I can't say there are many things I don't like, though, so I'm not taking much of a risk.  However, I recently tried fried chicken livers, and they were one of the grossest things I've ever eaten.  Still......I'm glad I tried them (sort of, they were really nasty).  But you never know, chicken livers could have been my new favorite food.  But they're not.  They're gross.  Save your taste buds, and just trust me on this one.

So as I was walking through my local Vietnamese grocery the other day, I spotted these adorable little eggs.  Now, I love eggs.  I love eggs so much that I'm afraid to get my cholesterol checked at the doctor.  I love eggs almost as much as I love donuts (have I told you how much I love donuts? well, it's bad, I'm crazy about them).  So when I saw these little quail eggs were $1.59 for 10, I picked them up.  I didn't know what I was going to do with them, but they were too adorable not to buy.  And too cheap.

I came home and began scouring the internet for recipes involving quail eggs.  Most of them included meat, and I'm not a big meat eater.  I like it, I just don't eat it that much.   All of the other recipes seemed really complicated, and I wasn't in the mood for something complicated.  Complicated recipes generally aren't worth the time.  Maybe I'm just lazy.  Anyway, I finally found a baked quail eggs recipe, which I altered a little bit for my own preferences.  So here is what I made:

Spicy Baked Quail Eggs with Tomato, Cream, and Cheddar

Here is what it looked like:

Pretty delicious looking right? I only made enough for me, so just multiply the recipe by how many people you are serving.

You will need 6 quail eggs, 1 red chile (chopped pretty fine), 1 Roma tomato (sliced), a little heavy cream, and a little cheddar cheese.

Grab a muffin tin.  Grease two of the individual muffin tins.  Place two slices Roma tomato at the bottom of the muffin tins.  Crack three eggs into each muffin tin.  Be careful, this is the hardest part, the shells just don't want to crack.  Look how tiny the eggs are!

Now add half of the chile to each muffin tin.  Pour about 1 to 2 tablespoons heavy cream in each tin.  Top with a little cheddar cheese, salt, and pepper.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes in a 350 degree oven.  I cooked mine for 15, but I would cook it a little less next time.  My yolks were a little too hard.

Let the eggs cool for about 5 minutes.  Use that time to make some toast.  Slide a knife around the rim of the muffin tins to loosen the eggs.  Remove with a spoon and place on top of your toast.  Top with a little cilantro.  That's it!

So? Quail eggs? What do I think?  Hmmmm......

Well, I probably wouldn't buy them again.  Not that they aren't tasty, they just aren't that different from regular eggs.  They have a slight earthiness to them, but its very mild.  I saw a lot of recipes for Scotch Eggs using quail eggs, and I think that would be pretty tasty.  But, for now, I'll stick with good old chicken eggs.

Have you ever had quail eggs? How did you eat them?

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Not for the Faint of Heart: Black Pepper Tofu

Lately, I've really been digging spicy foods.  Every time I make salsa, I make it a little bit spicier.  With each new dish, I add more and more red pepper flakes.  But this dish......this tops everything.  This is the hottest thing I've ever eaten.

I got this recipe from Plenty, a great vegetarian cookbook.  To be fair the author, Yotam Ottolenghi, did warn that it was hot.  But he did not tell me that tears would be running down my face, my mouth, eyes, and nose would be on fire, and that the heat from the cooking chile peppers would make me cough uncontrollably.  

I'm actually not kidding.  This is SO HOT!  However, as weird as it may sound, it's really delicious.  But this is not for people who don't love spice.  This dish is a test of your endurance.  Your nose will be running.  You will be crying.  You will be sweating.  But you will be stuffing your face all the same.  

Now, if you don't have a death wish, you could cut the peppers to make it a little less spicy.  The second time I made this I used 6 peppers instead of 8, but that didn't make much of a difference.  To get a tamer version, I would cut the recipe to 2 red chile peppers and 2 tablespoons of black pepper.  Instead of 5.  This recipe calls for 5 tablespoons of black pepper.  Have you ever seen 5 tablespoons of black pepper? It's a whole lot more than you think it is.

This dish introduced me to red chiles.  I bought a huge bag for $3.99 at my local Vietnamese grocery and I've been throwing 1 or 2 in every dish I've made since.  They are hot, but very flavorful.  I'm hooked.  Perfect addition to mac and cheese, weirdly enough.   

As I said, this is a recipe from Plenty, by Yotam Ottolenghi, but I've made a few alterations.  His recipe called for a ton of butter, but I didn't really think that was necessary (weird for me to say, butter is normally very necessary).  You will probably need to head to your local Asian grocery to pick up the sauces, because you won't find them at your normal grocery store.  They will also be way cheaper there.  I'm happy to say that because of this cookbook, I now own 4 different types of soy sauce.  I didn't even know there were 4 different types of soy sauce.  There are actually about a billion.

Black Pepper Tofu

1 3/4 lbs firm tofu
vegetable oil for frying
cornstarch to dust the tofu
3 tbsp butter
8 tbsp peanut oil
12 small shallots
8 fresh red chiles
12 garlic cloves
3 tbsp fresh ginger
3 tbsp sweet soy sauce
3 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp sugar
5 tbsp black pepper
green onions for garnish

First you need to chop up your shallots, chiles, garlic, and ginger.  The first time I made this recipe I took the time to chop it all.  The second time I wised up and threw it all in the food processor.  Do that.
Chop your tofu into 1" x 1" squares.  Dust all sides with cornstarch.  Fill a saute pan (or a wok if you have one) with vegetable oil until it's about 1/4 inch deep.  Heat oil on medium/high heat.  Drop one of your tofu squares in the hot oil.  If it sizzles, add all of the squares.  Fry each side of the tofu until golden brown.  Place tofu on a plate and use a paper towel to soak up excess oil.  Remove oil and any burnt pieces from pan or wok.
Place butter and peanut oil in pan and turn the eye on medium heat.  Add vegetables and saute for about 15 minutes.  
Add all of the soy sauces and sugar.  Stir to combine.  Then add black pepper.  
Add the tofu back into the pan and coat with the spicy sauce.  Serve over rice, noodles, cabbage, etc., and garnish with green onions.  
Get ready for some heat!  Like I said, you could definitely cut the spiciness of this dish.  But if you are one of those people who orders the spiciest wings at Buffalo Wild Wings, or who is constantly buying new hot sauces (my friend Russ does this, it's kind of hilarious) this is the dish for  you.