Friday, June 6, 2014

jesse pinkman and daryl dixon

Friday, June 6, 2014

source: The Daily Mail

I am finding it much more preferable to enjoy my backyard right now than post on the ol' blog, so I decided to share this picture, which makes me unreasonably happy.  

Thursday, June 5, 2014

you need to listen to this: the soundtrack to The Fault in our Stars

Thursday, June 5, 2014

In honor of the movie coming out tomorrow, I thought I might start this first of my "listening recommendations" posts by singing the praises of this A-MAZING soundtrack.  I literally can't get enough, and I won't be seeing the movie for at least a week.  A standout is Birdy, a British musician (of course British-anyone I love is, usually!), who has been prominently featured on The Vampire Diaries and a few other prime tv/movie spots, but the whole thing is really, really great.

I'm including Grouplove's "Let Me In" here, partially because I love it but also because it's a lighter tune on an album that is relatively somber.

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

raspberry buttermilk cake

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Apparently, raspberries are an incredibly invasive plant.  We started with one big plant in our backyard, in a lovely little corner spot of the flower bed, and it's been happy and productive the past two years.  However, in the early days of spring, it began to increase, sprouting up little suckers and winding its way down the bed.  My SH repeatedly asked me to pull up the new sprouts, but I couldn't bear it.  How could I stand to eliminate any little new possibilities for precious, delicate raspberries?  Surely we could leave the new plants alone!  Despite his ardent warnings that a raspberry plant left unchecked could even wind its way into the yard, I opted to take our chances.  

It's hard not to gloat, but I can proudly say this has been our best year every for raspberries.  We've picked a bowlful almost every day since we saw the first beautiful single red berry, hanging like perfect gem from one of the new branches.  I have a bowl in the fridge as I write, just waiting for us to enjoy with breakfast.  

Considering that I've been on a bit of a baking rash lately, I decided that my bounty of raspberries deserved more than just serving as snack food.  I scoured my cookbooks and fave food blogs, and while I came across lots of promising raspberry-centric recipes, it wasn't until I looked through Smitten Kitchen's archive that I found just what I needed: a raspberry buttermilk cake. 

It was the perfect treatment for my raspberries, and had the added bonus of being incredibly easy and quick.  After whipping up a simple cake batter, the raspberries are scattered across the top, sinking into it like they are resting in a creamy, warm bath.  The end product is a light, almost buoyant cake, with the tangy flavor of buttermilk, and just mildly sweet.  I didn't even feel guilty giving a big wedge to A as a snack.  

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

worlds are colliding!

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

A bit of a lazy post today, even more so because I also posted it to my FB page, but it's too good not to immortalize on my blog.  I'm not sure why this song doesn't get more play time over here, as it's a great one-even happens to be my ring tone.  I love how CM seems to be enjoying himself so much-is this something he would have done pre-conscious uncoupling? It's also funny to see his enthusiasm next to Caleb, who is not exactly the most dynamic front man around.  Love it all.

Monday, June 2, 2014

grilled salmon with orzo, feta, and red wine vinaigrette

Monday, June 2, 2014

Let it be known that I am not enamored of cookbooks emblazoned with portraits of their respective authors.  In fact, I have an automatic prejudice against them, the one exception being Jamie Oliver.  There is something endearing and charming about his face, and he's usually laughing or puttering in a garden or something on the covers of his cookbooks, so it's somehow not as offensive as a cheesy pose.  For me, the cover of a cookbook should showcase the FOOD.  Isn't that what it's all about?  I have certainly never purchased a cookbook because the broad, smiling gaze of a cook convinced me of the quality therein.

All of this being said, I've given a pass to Curtis Stone.  I heard about his cookbook on my favorite family food blog, Dinner: A Love Story, and the simple, yet delicious recipe that inspired Jenny's post  (Grilled Shrimp and Asparagus with Lemon-Shallot Vinaigrette, in case you're wondering) caught my attention.  I'm in a stage of life right now where simple is better, where it's infinitely easier if I can stuff healthy items from all the food groups into one bowl, and where I will reject a recipe out of hand if there are more than 8 or 10 steps.  The subtitle of Curtis Stone's first cookbook, What's for Dinner? is Delicious Recipes for a Busy Life, and when I read its blurb on Amazon I decided it was perfect for me, despite the fact that Curtis's Hollywood face cheerfully, glamorously graced its cover.  

Yikes! I'm pretty sure Curtis is rocking a spray tan here, along with his turquoise shirt.

I've made quite a few recipes from the book, and I've been wholly satisfied with all of them, but as this particular dish was made most recently, I thought it was a good place to start.  Of course, it's hard to turn a good piece of salmon into anything that's not utterly delicious, but I particularly loved this treatment, which is a lightly grilled piece of fish atop an orzo salad dressed with a summery vinaigrette.  Feta and toasted pine nuts give the perfect amount of creaminess and texture to the salad, which would make a wonderful lunch on its own.  Considering that my little guy would prefer to dine on salmon each and every meal, it was an excellent dinner choice.

Grilled Salmon with Orzo, Feta, and Red Wine Vinaigrette, adapted from What's for Dinner? by Curtis Stone

1 1/2 cups orzo
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces fresh baby spinach (about 3 cups not packed)
1 1/2 cups grape tomatoes, cut in half
1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted (Side note: this did take a bit of extra time, but was definitely worth it)
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves
1 cup crumbled feta cheese (4 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives, for garnish (I skipped the chives because I didn't want to buy them for just one dish)

Four 5-ounce skinless salmon fillets
Olive oil, for coating the fish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Prepare an outdoor grill for medium-high cooking over direct heat.
2. Meanwhile, make the orzo salad.  Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the orzo and cook, stirring often, for about 8 minutes, or until just tender.  Drain the orzo in a sieve and set aside.
3. In a medium bowl, whisk the vinegar, shallots, and garlic together.  Gradually whisk in the olive oil.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.   (I used a small Mason jar for the dressing instead of a bowl-I used a small whisk for the ingredients and then shook it up as well to emulsify).
4. In a large bowl, toss the warm orzo, spinach, tomatoes, pine nuts, and basil with the vinaigrette.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Set aside at room temperature.
5. To cook the salmon: Coat the salmon with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Oil the cooking grate.  Place the salmon the grill with the top right corner of each fillet facing the 2'o-clock position and cook for 4 minutes without removing the salmon (This will help give the salmon a good sear of nice grill marks and help it release from the grate).  Using a thin metal spatula, starting at the corner of each fillet nearest you, flip the fillets over.  Grill for about 2 minutes, or until the fish is opaque with a slightly rosy center when flaked in the thicket part with the tip of a small knife.  Remove from the grill.  (These are very precise instructions, but the angle did make lovely grill marks)
6. Mound the salad in the center of a large serving platter or our dinner plates.  Sprinkle with the feta cheese.  Top with the salmon, sprinkle with the chives, and serve.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

you need to read this: special topics in calamity physics AND night film

Sunday, June 1, 2014

There is no doubt that you have seen many mentions of Lainey Gossip here, the gossip blog penned by Elaine Lui.  I affectionately refer to Lui as "my Lainey" in casual conversation, and it's my first web stop every day.  I check the site multiple times a day and thoroughly enjoy every minute of my perusing.  Now, before you inevitably cast judgment on the idea of "celebrity gossip", which does bear a certain negative connotation, I must tell you that Lainey Lui is no Perez Hilton.  She is nothing akin to a reporter for Us Weekly or even People.  She is a legitimate entertainment reporter for a Canadian news show, and began her career in nonprofit fundraising, working for the Covenant House.  Celebrity gossip for Lainey was at first a hobby, but her wit and savvy have purveyed it into a real job.  She writes both scathing commentary and witty, intelligent analyses of the behavior of television and film stars as well as their work.  She loathes the Kardashians (who are never mentioned on the blog), eschews reality television, and has two great weaknesses: Gwyneth Paltrow and Prince Harry.

In addition to being equal parts insightful and entertaining when it comes to celebs, Lainey is also a big reader.  She loves everything related to Harry Potter (all books, the author herself, all stars of the films, particularly the big three) and was early on the Hunger Games bandwagon, but her taste is certainly more nuanced and interesting than simply YA or fantasy fiction.  There is a tab on the main blog devoted to articles about her book recommendations and news of film adaptations, which I  never gave much attention until Lainey happened to mention Divergent in one of her daily posts. Granted, Divergent falls squarely in the Young Adult category, but it was reading Lainey's original thoughts on it that sent me to her other book recommendations, and I have been more than pleased with everything I have found.

Special Topics in Calamity Physics is Marisha Pessl's first book.  Though I read it after finishing STCP, I can say with confidence that it was unquestionably influenced by Donna Tartt's The Secret History.  I might have enjoyed it more, however.  Both are stories of a group of young students who play at being highly intellectual but are rather a mess when it comes right down to it.  Each novel focuses on a scandal involving one of the more enigmatic characters, the background and unfolding of which make up the story.

I have discovered that no matter how much I might have to say about a book or film, I have a hard time actually writing deep and meaningful thoughts or analyses about them.  I blame the huge block of brain space that is taken over by my precious toddler :)  Thus, I've included a few gems from the text itself, just to give you a glimpse of Pessl's talents.

--I was aware too how strange adults were, how their lives were vaster than they wanted anyone to realize, that they actually stretched on and on like deserts, dry and desolate, with an unpredictable, shifting sea of dunes.
--Dad said it was imperative to avoid people's fervent confidences and confessions. "Tell the person you must leave the room," he instructed, "that you ate something, that you're ill, that your father has scarlet fever, that you feel the end of the world is imminent and you must rush to the grocery store to stock up on bottled water and gas masks. Or simply fake a seizure. Anything, sweet, anything at all to rid yourself of that intimacy they plan to lay on you like a slab of cement."

Night Film is quite a bit different from Special Topics. For one, it's darker, scarier, and an entirely new kind of novel than I've read in some time.  It is centered around the disappearance of a young woman that happens to be the daughter of a reclusive, world-renowned director of horror films.  I can't even begin to provide a plot summary that would sufficiently explain the book, but I will tell you that the thrills aren't cheap and that the story, which is massive and chock-full of eccentric and fascinating characters, is meticulously crafted and organized.

description of Nora Halliday, sidekick to Scott McGrath, Night Film's protagonist:

On one side of her were two giant Duane Reade shopping bags, on the other a brown paper Whole Foods bag and a large grey leather purse, unzipped and sagging open like a gutted reef shark, inside of which you could see all it had ingested that morning: Vogue, a green sweater still attached to knitting needles, a sneaker, a pair of white Apple earphones wrapped around not an iPod but a Discman.  It might as well have been a gramophone.

She didn't notice us walking toward her because her eyes were closed and she was whispering to herself-apparently trying to memorize the block of highlighted text from the play in her hands.  On the table in front of her was a plate of half-finished French toast floating like a houseboat on the Mississippi in a pool of syrup.  

Neither of these books are prize-winning material or examples of fine literature, but both are thoroughly enjoyable, riveting, well-written, and worthy of your time.  Lainey's taste in books is as excellent as in gossip.