Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Homemade Pasta

I've always wanted to make homemade pasta.  Let me rephrase that: I've always wanted to make homemade everything.  However, I always thought you had to have a fancy KitchenAid attachment to make pasta.  I have no idea why I thought this, since people have been making pasta since, oh I don't know, like forever, and KitchenAid's have only been around since the 1930's.  So, recently, I decided to give it a try.  Sans KitchenAid pasta attachment.  Now, I'll be honest, I can be pretty crafty in the kitchen (wow, I'm so modest).  But I am a complete disaster with a rolling pin.  We just don't get along.  So, I'm not sure what I was thinking when I thought it would be a good idea to make homemade fettucini, but I went full steam ahead anyway.

What I'm showing you here is my third pasta attempt.  On my first attempt, what was supposed to be a serving for four turned out to be a serving for one.  My pasta was way too thick, both in the rolling aspect and in the slicing.  Did that stop me from eating every single noodle? Of course not, don't be ridiculous.  They were more like dumplings than noodles and they were awesome.  My second attempt was amazing.  The dough was super thin, I did a great job slicing, and they just looked great.  And tasted great, which is much more important in my opinion.  On my third attempt I think I got a little cocky and my noodles were a bit thick.  So slice your noodles thinner than I sliced mine here.  Or don't.  It's just food.  They still tasted awesome.

Here's what I've learned about making homemade pasta.  One: it's actually pretty simple and straightforward.  Two: It's best with barely any sauce.  Just go with something simple like some roasted vegetables, a little olive oil, and a bit of parmesan cheese.  Three: it may not be worth the effort.  I know that doesn't really sound like me, but when my noodles are cut correctly, I can't really tell much difference between homemade pasta and store-bought pasta.  I think this is a method best left for things like making your own ravioli.  Or somehow flavoring the pasta (Plenty has a saffron pasta I've been wanting to try).  But other than that?  I just cant decide.  Homemade tortillas? Worth the effort, no question.  Homemade pasta.........I just don't know.

But I keep making it, so I guess on some level I think it must be worth my time.  And sometimes there isn't any pasta in the pantry and you just need some pasta.

So here is how you do it.

Plop a cup of flour onto your workspace.  Create a little crater in it, sprinkle with a little salt and crack two eggs into the hole, like so:
 Take a fork and begin to incorporate the flour into the eggs by pulling from the sides of the hole.  This may get a bit messy.  The eggs do not want to stay in their little basket once you start mixing them, but it's ok.  Just get it all good and mixed up.
Now knead your dough for 5 minutes.  You will probably have to add a bit of flour to your countertop.  The dough is pretty sticky.
Roll your dough out as thin as you can get it.  Tip: start rolling from the center and roll towards you.  Turn the dough and repeat.  Try to roll it into a semi-square shape.  As I said, I am terrible at rolling dough, so mine is never square.  Don't sweat it.  
 You can use gravity to help you stretch the dough.  Just hold it up and let it hang for a few seconds.  Just be sure not to tear it.
 Place your dough on a clean towel and let about 1/3 of it drape over the side of a table.  Let that sit for ten minutes.  Move the dough so that a different area hangs off the edge of the table.  Allow to sit for ten more minutes and then rotate again.  Let sit ten more minutes (dough should sit for a total of thirty minutes).  Now you're pasta is dry enough to cut.  
 You can cut your pasta into any shape that you want.  I just really like fettuccine.  Fold top third of dough down and bottom third of dough up.  With a very sharp knife, cut super thin strips.  As I mentioned before, mine are a bit thick here.  But they will still taste great, so don't worry if they are a little chunky.

Prepare your pasta toppings and get some salty water boiling.  Fresh pasta takes about 15 seconds to cook, so you need to have everything prepared before you boil it.  Make sure you use a big pot to cook pasta, it needs some room to move around.  Throw pasta into boiling water and give it a stir.  It should float to the top of the water in less than thirty seconds.

Drain pasta immediately.  Toss with a little olive oil.  Add sauce/topping.  That's it.

Who knew you could make homemade pasta so easily?  And without the KitchenAid pasta attachment!?  You rock.  Now go brag to your friends about how cool you are.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Hump Day Artist: Sergey Nielsen

This week's Hump Day Artist is Sergey Svaitchenko aka Sergey Nielsen.  I happened upon his work while doing some research (read: surfing the web out of boredom) last week.  I fell in love with these intimate, beautiful paintings.  I'm a sucker for art that straddles the line between graceful and a complete mess.  I feel like if just one brushstroke were missing from these paintings, the whole thing would fall apart.  Nielsen knows a thing or two about restraint.  Also, I love seeing artists who admire fashion as much as I do.

Here's the thing: can't find much information about this artist.  Every site I found was in Danish, or  just had images of his work.  There isn't even a wikipedia article on him!  Now I'm intrigued.  Time for some real research on this guy (read: surfing the web with a purpose).  If you like Nielsen's work, check out Elizabeth Peyton, Chantal Joffe (click here for my Hump Day Artist article on her), and Karen Kilimnik.

For more of Sergey Nielsen's work check out closeupandprivate.com (this also includes some of his photographs, which are also pretty great).

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

My Favorite Men's Fashion Blogs

Still feeling a little under the weather.  Which means.........no baking, no cooking, no cute outfits.  So today, I thought I would share some of my favorite men's fashion blogs.  Now, to be honest, I don't look at a ton of men's fashion blogs.  But I do look at a lot of blogs, and I've come across a few for men that inspire my own fashion choices, so I know they will inspire some of my guy readers out there.

The first blog is ScoutSixteen, run by Justin Livingston.  He always look absolutely perfect.  Perfect hair, perfect accessories, perfect fit.  Every time.  This guys hair is way better than mine.  And his shoes.  It's kind of shaming me at the moment.

Then there is the obvious choice, The Sartorialist.  This was the first fashion blog that I ever followed.  I remember when I discovered it; I just sat there for hours and hours looking through page after page, completely transfixed.  I couldn't stop.  Scott Schuman (the photographer and author) has such a great eye for street style.  There is also a lot of women's fashion on his blog, but he is a bit partial to men's fashion.  This is a good blog for fashion blog newbies; because it is perfection and you may never read another blog again (except for mine, of course).

Then there is the unexpected choice: Classy Girls Wear Pearls.  This blog is about a young lady named Sarah Vickers and her ridiculously fabulous life and friends.  They boat, they eat lobster, they drink cocktails, and they dress really really well.  Especially the guys.  I mean.......they look awesome.  This is prep to the max.  It's like Vampire Weekend on Crack.  And I love it!

Any one have any great men's fashion blogs?  I'd love to check them out!

Monday, September 16, 2013

TV Style: Cute Hair and Glasses

I watch a lot of tv.  An embarrassing amount.  When I'm at home alone, I always have Netflix playing, even if I'm not watching it.  I just like the noise.  However, when I got food poisoning this weekend (gross I know), my tv intake went through the roof.  And I've had a realization: I love tv leading lady style.  It's always so cute and different from what you see in magazines; it's much more approachable and more real-life.  I'm especially loving the cute hair and glasses look.  I officially need a new pair of glasses.  Yes, the nerdy glasses thing may be a bit overplayed, but I don't care.  Some things are just cute.

Liz Lemon owns the cute hair and nerdy glasses look, but Jess and Mindy do it pretty well.  Check out rayban.com for some cute glasses options.  And check out 30Rock, Mindy Project, and New Girl for cute hair ideas (and lots of laughs).  Love Mindy's easy straight hair (see bottom picture).  Maybe it's time to invest in a straightening iron.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Sassy Date Night

I wore this recently for a date (not date night) with Olie.  I never wear heels, so I felt really cute, but my feet really hurt.

BTDub, I dyed these jeans red.  They were an old pair of white jeans that had gotten a bit dingy, so I decided to give them some life.  I'm obsessed with dying lately.  But more on that later.

Shirt: Zara, Jeans: Wal-Mart, Shoes: Payless, Assorted Jewels

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Mint, Lemon, Cucumber Water

Is it lame to write a post about water?  Maybe so, but I've recently had a water revelation.  I've always thought flavored water was a bit pointless; every time I've had cucumber water I couldn't taste anything but water.  Why would I take the time to chop up all of this cucumber if I can't even taste the cucumber (or mint, or lemon, or whatever)?  I always thought it was more of a garnish.  And garnishes are lame; ain't nobody got time for that!

Recently, however, my boss brought some flavored water to work and I couldn't stop drinking it.  Her trick?  She shaves some of the skin off of the cucumber and puts that in the water.  The skin adds a more intense, almost peppery flavor.  I'm hooked.

So here is what you do: chop up some mint, some lemon and some cucumber.  Be sure to shave some of the skin off of the cucumber.  Add all of this to a pitcher and top with water.  That's it.  Just keep refilling as you drink the water.  The flavors last for a long time.  This is really great for these late summer days.  Super refreshing.  And so much more than just a garnish.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Orange You Glad It's Still Summer

Sometimes, all you need is a great dress and a ton of jewelry.  It may be football season, but I'm still loving long dresses and sunglasses.  I'm holding onto summer until the bitter end.

Dress: So old that the store where I got it doesn't exist anymore, Sunglasses: Urban Outfitters, Shoes: Bucco via HauteLook, Necklace: Zara, Earrings: Fab, Other Assorted Jewels

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Lemon and Olive Oil Cake

Ok, so maybe you are a super sophisticated person and you have not only heard of olive oil cake, but you have also eaten it a million times and it's totally old news to you.  I am obviously not sophisticated, because I had never heard of an olive oil cake until a few years ago and I had never eaten one until yesterday, when I decided to make one for myself and see what all the fuss was about.  I had no idea what to expect; I just chose a recipe at random and went for it (actually, it wasn't totally random, I chose the one that I already had all of the ingredients for.  I'm super thrifty like that).

Fun fact about me: I'm not much of a dessert person.  Gasp!  I know, right?  I love to bake, but I'm not that into sweets.  I mean, don't get me wrong, I'll eat sweets, I'll eat pretty much anything.  But I don't crave sweets, and, unlike my husband, I have a lot of control over myself when it comes to eating them.  To me, dessert means good bread covered in cheese, or a salty soft pretzel.  That's my kind of dessert.

So, back to the olive oil cake.  I made this cake expecting to eat one slice, decide whether it was good or not, and then watch my husband devour the rest of it.  This is usually how it goes around here.  But this cake.............Oh man.  This cake is the cake.  Perfect consistency.  Perfect amount of sweetness.  The top flakes in the most awesome way imagineable.  This is a Meredith cake.  I think I ate three slices yesterday.  And then I thought about it all day today at work.

This is also a great dessert for this time of year.  It's so light, it won't weigh you down in this heat.  Cuz despite what you may think, it is still summer.  It's not pumpkin pie time yet, no matter what the stores may say.  (Why is pumpkin everything already happening?  Let me have my summer, big corporations!  I'm still not over lemon everything!)

My verdict on olive oil cakes?  New favorite cake.  It's easy to make, it's delicious, and it's unexpected.  I have a feeling my friends/family are going to get tired of this one.

Lemon and Olive Oil Cake (from Epicurious)

3/4 cup olive oil (I used extra virgin)
1 large lemon
1 cup all purpose flour
5 large eggs, separated, reserving 1 white for another use
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar

Zest lemon into your flour.  Mix zest into the flour (this prevents it from drying out).  Juice your lemon.  Strain and set aside.
Beat your yolks and 1/2 cup sugar in a stand mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  Reduce your speed to medium and add  your olive oil and 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon juice.  Beat until just combined.  With a spoon, mix in flour until just combined (don't use your stand mixer).

Beat your egg whites (remember, we are only using 4) and salt in a separate bowl with clean beaters on medium-high speed until foamy.  Then add 1/4 cup sugar slowly.  Continue to beat until your whites hold soft peaks, about 3 minutes.

Gently fold 1/3 of your whites into your flour/yolk mixture.  Then add the remaining yolks.  Combine gently, but thoroughly.

Transfer batter to a 9" round cake pan greased with olive oil.  Sprinkle the top with remaining sugar.  Rap the pan on the counter a few times to release any air bubbles.  Cook in a preheated 350 degree oven for about 45 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.

And that's it!  Perfect Lemon and Olive Oil Cake.  This recipe really is very simple, don't get discouraged by separating the eggs and the  beating-the-egg-white-thing.  You got this!  Now go impress your friends with how awesome you are!

I'm thinking this cake needs a yummy topping to make it extra special.  Any suggestions?

Monday, September 2, 2013

Into the Wild

 Sorry for the lack of posts lately; life has been a bit hectic this past week.  I hope everyone is having a great Labor Day; I know I'm enjoying the first day off I've had in a while.  Going to spend the day online shopping, Netfix watching, and cooking for one.  I'm thinking pancakes.

Anyway, I wore this little number last night for a date night with Olie.  (on a side note, why is it called date night when you are married?  It sounds so depressing; like you have to schedule time together.  I'm going to start calling it a date)

Anyway, I wanted to look cute for my date with Olie, and sassy shorts and a cute blouse fit the bill.  I even gave myself a fresh manicure (red nails = extra sass).  I very rarely wear shorts, but I'm trying to wear my summer clothes as much as possible.  For the first time in my life, I'm not ready for summer to end.

Sorry for the rambly post.  Have a great holiday!  Love you all!

Shirt: Forever 21, Shorts: Urban Outfitters, Shoes: Urban Outfitters, Assorted Jewels