Thursday, March 31, 2011

[HOH Recipe Box]: Weeknight Stir Fry

A Stir-Fry is a great dish for any night of the week - fast, no-fuss, and can be made out of just about anything you have in the fridge. To that end, it's always good for the end of your shopping cycle - when that bell pepper you bought 5 days ago is starting to look just a tiny bit questionable.

Before you start, here are some general Stir-Fry tips:
  • Heat your pan on medium-high before you add the oil
  • Once the oil is added, you want to heat it until just under smoking point. (Since cooking temperatures have never been my personal strong suit, this typically translates to me seeing the oil smoking in the pan and backing it off of the heat for a minute or two so as to avoid burning everything)
  • Add whatever protein you're using to the oil first, and cook it most of the way. Then remove it from the pan and set aside before adding in the more slow-cooking vegetables. This means more flavorful vegetables and no over-cooked shrimpies
  • Add your sauce at the end of the process when you recombine the protein and vegetables otherwise you'll end up with a gloopy, yucky mess.

Suggested Ingredients
*Remember, it can really be anything you like/have on hand. Chicken, beef, pork, mushrooms, carrots, baby corn, water chestnuts... you name it!
  • 1 bag of frozen shrimp (21-25), peeled and deveined. (Side note: frozen shrimp are a great staple item - you can typically find them on sale for about $8-$9 a bag and they make for an easy, quick meal in any form, any night of the week
  • 1 red pepper, julienned
  • 2 celery stalks, large chop
  • 1 small/medium onion
  • 1 package sugar snap peas
  • 1 small head of broccoli, chopped
  • peanut, sesame, or vegetable oil
  • soy sauce
  • rice wine vinegar
  • store-bought marinade of your choice
  • salt, pepper, crushed red pepper flakes - to taste
  • your largest skillet/wok if you've got one

  1. Defrost shrimp in colander. Once they're pliable, peel, devein, and de-tail them. No idea what that means? Watch here.
  2. Set shrimp to marinate in whatever you like (10-15 minutes should do it, but more time is always better). Sweet chili sauce works great, as well as any store-bought marinade you have on hand. I personally like Lawry's marinades - they're inexpensive, pack a lot of flavorful punch, and come in just about any flavor under the sun. Don't forget salt and pepper, and the crushed red pepper flakes are great for a spicy kick if you're so inclined.
  3. While that's getting all nice and cozy in the refrigerator, prep your veggies
  4. Get your pan ready (see instructions above) and add about 2 tbsp of whatever oil you're using
  5. Once nice and hot, add your shrimp and saute for about 1 minute, until mostly pink. Set aside, and try to reserve some of that marinade-goodness to start your vegetables in
  6. Add said vegetables and saute, being careful to saute rapidly so as to prevent burning/sticking.
  7. Add your sauce - be it more marinade, a combination of soy sauce/rice vinegar, whatever you like. You only need about a 1/4 cup so don't over do it (gloopy, yucky mess)
  8. Cover the pan and let everything steam up together in the sauce - probably about 4-5 minutes should be enough
  9. Uncover, add your shrimp back in and give it a stir.
  10. Serve with steamed rice or lo mein noodles, as you please!
Chopsticks Optional!

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

[HOH Mishap]: Dog-gone Pom Poms

I did a little shopping yesterday. You see, my [expert] advice was needed. My mother-in-law needed new curtains. So, I agreed to help her. And in return, I got a few things [woohooo]. And in return, MAYBEL GOT A FEW POM POMS. Yep. That's right.

You see, my dear husband and I have a nightly ritual [oh god, are we really that old and settled?]. After we've eaten dinner and hung out together for a bit, Maybel and I retreat to our little couch so he can HOG the big one [it's really so that I can just fall asleep without disturbing him].

There's just one problem in this ritual of comfort: we only have one throw blanket.

So I, being the darling that I am, decided to use my purchase on something that we will both EQUALLY enjoy. Another blanket [how thoughtful of me, right?]!!

I bought this, from Pier 1 Imports:

It's so soft and I love the pom poms. Well, I loved them. And Maybel loved them too. And they've, since, been removed. It's a sad, sad day.

But, you see, there is a moral of the story. Modify, modify, modify. My husband told me to return it [of course he said this after she had slobbered all over the entire thing], but I was determined to, AT THE VERY LEAST, still have a furry, warm, comfy blanket. So, with a few snips, the blanket is ALL MINE [no longer Maybel's].

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

[HOH Recommends]: Cookbooks

My Collection

When Dena told me she wanted to post about our favorite cookbooks, I immediately sort of panicked. How could I EVER choose? I love each and every one of my 40+ cookbooks equally. While I'm decidedly not a recipe-follower, I frequently read through 5 or 6 of these fabulous tomes before I settle on exactly how I'm going to attempt a new dish. I like to see how Thomas Keller, Ina Garten, Mark Bittman, Donna Hay, and Martha Stewart make their golumpkis before I make mine. All that being said, there is one book that sticks out in my mind as my usual starting point - The Gourmet Cookbook, 2004, edited by the inimitable Ruth Reichl.

This book has everything. Want to make Calvados Applesauce? Bananas Foster Cheesecake? Gefilte Fish? Ruth's covered it all and then some. In addition to a comprehensive, easy-to-navigate index, I particularly value their useful "how-to's" - detailed descriptions on everything from how to devein shrimp to brining your Thanksgiving turkey. If you're new to the world of cookbooks, I can't recommend this one more strenuously - it's timeless, chock full of great recipes, and certainly never disappoints! Get yours here.

And now my turn [says, Dena].

Again, like Victoria, I have a problem with following recipes. So recognizable is this problem, that my baking failures amount to much more than my baking victories. It is for this fact [among many others] that I stick to cooking, rather than baking, whenever possible.

The book. Another all-inclusive [as blatantly described by the title]: How to Cook Everything, by the aforementioned, Mark Bittman.

It was with great generosity that Bittman wrote this book. I mean, it could have been written as a series; there is so much to offer. What I enjoy are the dish variations, the broad spectrum of focus and the simplicity of the recipes [searching for ingredients is sometimes half the battle, right?]. I'd suggest purchasing the revised edition. And to do so, click here. Vegetarian? Go for How to Cook Everything Vegetarian.

Monday, March 28, 2011

[HOH Cocktails]: The Cure for Monday Blues

It's Monday.

For many, this fact brings with it feelings of incomprehensible sorrow - the weekend is oh so far away. What's better to brighten your day than suggestions for super-simple Monday Evening Cocktails?! You know - the kind that don't take too much effort and can be concocted from things you probably already have at your disposal! A light at the end of the proverbial Monday tunnel.

Here are just a few of our favorites:

White Wine Spritzer
Who says they're just for soccer moms? White Wine Spritzers are an easy, refreshing way to perk up that bottle of Pinot Grigio you have hanging out in the fridge from this weekend. Add a few ice cubes and a splash of club soda, garnish with a lime wedge and you're good to go!

Cape Cooler
A twist on the iconic Cape Codder - Vodka, Cranberry Juice, and a splash of Tonic. If you like to experiment with different flavored vodkas we'd have to recommend Stoli Blackberry as the perfect foundation for this fabulous weeknight libation.

The Godfather
A simple, sublime combination of your favorite Scotch Whiskey (Johnny Walker, Glenlivet, etc.) and a splash of Amaretto over ice. Certainly not for the faint of heart, but we think perfect for those really, really tough Mondays.

Pink Gin Fizz
In a tall glass filled with ice, combine 2 oz. Orange Juice, a shot of your favorite Gin, and 4 oz. grapefruit juice. If you like it a little sweeter, you can add a sprinkle of sugar over the top or a tablespoon of simple syrup (but really, who has the time to make simple syrup!?)

We hope you'll enjoy in good health, and do not despair - Friday is only a few short days away!

Friday, March 25, 2011

[HOH Glorious Friday]: Thinking about a Clothes Swap

It's Friday. And do you know what we have on our mind? A clothing swap.

Yeah, I'm thinking what you think I'm thinking. We arrange a day. And I trade YOU for this, and HER for that.

Thoughts? Into it? We're really loving this idea and we're TOTALLY spending the weekend planning our execution.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

[HOH Retail Therapy]: Online Thrifter

It's a cold yucky morning here in Connecticut, complete with (gasp!) an inch or two of snow on the ground. These kinds of mornings are great for drinking coffee and surfing the web (if you live the luxurious life of a student, as I do!). So, this morning, I find myself poking around for a deal here, a steal there, on some of my favorite online retailers - all of which are perfectly suited to the wallet conscious consumer.
Woot! is a great resource if you've got a minute at lunch to check it daily. They feature one seriously deeply discounted product per day until it sells out or the clock strikes midnight, and while the items are typically electronic in nature (today's is a Norelco Electric Razor) you never know what they'll be selling next. They also have sister sites that are totally awesome - kids.woot!, shirt.woot!, and wine.woot! are certainly worth perusing!

Beyond the Rack and Haute Look are two of my favorite resources for serious fashion at steep discounts. If you're searching for that knock-em-dead dress for your friend's upcoming wedding, these two sites are not to be missed! Both feature all the big names - Diane von Furstenburg, BCBG, Calvin Klein, Prada, Jimmy Choo - but also sell wares from more up and coming design houses, so there's always that chance you'll snag a great piece by the next big fashion star!

In the market for accessories? I highly recommend a pit stop at DellaModa, which features handbags, sunglasses, a bit of jewelry, and - most importantly - SHOES! Dena would totally call me a label snob, but there's just something so satisfying about nabbing a pair of YSL leather pumps for under $150!!

As it's name might suggest, Cost Plus World Market is a fantastic resource for completely affordable niceties from all over the world! If you're like me and always looking for totally fabulous (and totally low-cost) decor for your place, this is the place. They sell everything for the home - kitchenware, linens, glassware, outdoor furniture, rugs - you name it, and everything is super budget friendly. More interesting and unique than IKEA, and certainly more affordable than the Pier 1's of the world, it's the perfect spot to find that little something to make your home shine!

Happy Shopping Fair Readers!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

[HOH Events] My Sister's Baby Shower

I am helping to plan my sister's baby shower [with my mother]. It's this weekend. It should shape up to be a pretty spectacular event. 

We've already set the tables. Well, almost. And, we did it this past Sunday. Now, that's planning in advance [not usually one of my strong points]. You know, when you make a task list ahead of time, it really pays off. We had the menu, the decorations [although it took us a little while to agree on this], and the dessert all planned with a few weeks to spare. 

So, what needs to be done for a baby shower [or a bridal shower, for that matter]? Real Simple, one of our FAVORITE magazines, offers a concise list of items to ensure a 'cloud-free shower'; take a look here. They offer advice like, setting a budget, planning the menu six weeks out, looking for extra hands to help, ordering the cake one month out, putting together a thank-you note package for the mom-to-be...and a whole lot more.

Which of these did we follow? Well, we planned the menu ahead of time. We planned who would be hosting: my lovely mother and myself. The week before, we are putting together the 'goody bags' [I'm doing this tonight!]. And so on and so on. 

So what are WE planning? 

Although sent a little late, the invite was pretty cool...

The menu is fun. We're keeping it simple with gourmet pizzas, salads and some sweets, of course. My baking skills will be tried. 

The decor. I'm working on some tissue paper pom poms in pastel colors and we'll be displaying the pizza on Victoria's lovely cake stands. 

I am so excited to see how it all comes together. And I will keep you all posted with some pics. 

Monday, March 21, 2011

[HOH Green Thumb]: Planning your Summer Garden

Spring is springing!! [and it's got us thinking about our gardens].

Vegetables, herbs, flowers - we love it all! If only that love translated into some talent - I certainly won't speak for Dena, but I've got the blackest thumb north of the Mason-Dixon, and need all the help I can get! Since last year was my first real attempt at full-on gardening, I'm looking forward to seeing how one year's experience will help us be more successful. We had amazing English cucumbers, but our pepper population was, disappointingly, less than expected. Do I plant them earlier? Change the orientation of the garden? Move it completely? Sheesh, I have a ton of work to do.

In that vein, I wanted to share a few solid resources I found for all of my garden planning needs:

Better Homes and Gardens: Surprise surprise, this glossy staple is chock full of gardening advice for every manner of home gardener. In addition to just about everything you might want to know, they have a totally sweet 'Plan-A-Garden' application where you can customize everything to your space.

Martha Stewart: Everyone's favorite Goddess of Entertaining of COURSE offers a fabulous selection of home gardening tips for the novice gardener. Her tips on planning a vegetable garden are super comprehensive and not to be missed.

HGTV: This practical resource for every kind of home improvement project doesn't skimp on the gardening tips either! Just loving their variety of 'How-To' snippets on everything from growing your own blackberries to dividing irises - definitely above my head, but a girl can dream.

We are looking forward to keeping you all posted with our garden ventures this summer - what are you planting this year?

Friday, March 18, 2011

glorious friday: ReStore your glory.

It's Friday. At last. Good god, it seemed like this week would never end! Maybe because I drank too much Guinness last night, or maybe because I'm so excited for my weekend plans.

This weekend, I have some major plans. Major housework plans. And to start it off right, I have planned a little visit to ReStore.

Oh, you ask what ReStore is? I'm a bit hesitant to tell my secret, but I suppose you're all worth it [of course you are].

ReStore is a program run by Habitat For Humanity, where building materials are sold at discount prices. The proceeds benefit the local program, helping to build homes in the Southeastern, CT area. So, win, win, right? I think so.

You can even check out the current listings here on Craigslist

To see ReStore locations in your area, click here.

I am hoping the light blue, vintage stove is still in stock from the last time I was there. I may be ready to take the plunge.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Happy St. Patty's Day: In Style

Hello lovely readers,

Happy St. Patrick's Day to those of you who celebrate your Irish-side (whether you're Irish or not, you can certainly still celebrate)!

In lieu of giving you another corned beef or Irish Soda bread recipe, we are here to give you a little green EYE CANDY.

Doesn't this just make you smile?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

[HOH Recipe Box]: The Corrections

Last night I was making pot roast, and as it came time to deglaze, I uncorked some cabernet and went to town, not really thinking at all about what I was doing. All of a sudden, instead of that delicious waft of vino I was expecting, I smelled this horrible, plasticky terribleness! BAD WINE! OMG, what to do... So, it got me thinking about simple kitchen corrections you can make with ingredients you probably have in your pantry - for when your fabulous concoction is - well, just not so fabulous (and you can't bear the thought of starting all over again).

Bad Wine? Add a cup or so of water or chicken stock and let it cook off for a few minutes. Then, cut your losses, add some better wine, and pour yourself a glass to celebrate your perseverance :)

Too Salty? Add a peeled potato! It soaks up the salt and maybe thickens your beautiful dish a little also. If you're out of potatoes (or you think a potato just doesn't make sense with what you're making), try a teaspoon of sugar dissolved in a few table spoons of water. Or, if it's appropriate, you can always add a little milk or cream to settle that salty flavor down a bit.

Too Spicy? Add some honey. A tablespoon should do it, depending on how many habaneros you accidentally added, thinking they were just cute little peppers (this happened to me once when I made chili for a SuperBowl party a couple of years ago, and I've been scarred ever since!)

Too Sweet? Adding salt is the obvious answer here, but I've also found that lemon juice will do the trick pretty well, again depending on what it is you're making. You can also add more wine/chicken stock, or just a bit more of whatever savory ingredients you might be using (mushrooms and tomato paste are two of my go-to moves).

Too Vinegary? Some honey or sugar should do the trick. Just add your corrector in small increments, lest you inadvertently fall into the 'too sweet' category.

The moral of the story is do not be discouraged! You've worked so hard on that beef stew it would be a shame to toss it in the trash simply because of one heavy handed pour of vinegar. With a quick fix like one of the above, promise promise promise your guests will never know the difference!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

[HOH Recipe Box]: Homemade Ravioli

When I was a kid we had a big sunday dinner, no fail, every week. It was generally at what we, Americans [pronounced by my grandmother as MED-I-GAANS], would consider lunchtime; we all sat down to a big, carb-filled, pasta and buttered-bread meal.

As an adult, I've tried to keep this tradition alive, however not always successfully. This past Sunday, though, I made it happen. Early in the day, I resolved to make homemade ravioli and although, around mid-day, my motivation level took a drastic turn for the worse, I pushed through; I made the darn ravioli. And I enjoyed it. It was therapeutic and deliciously rewarding.

I started with the sauce. Here, I've sauteed shallots and garlic. And I added chopped carrots for a little sweetness.

Once I added the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste and a few secret ingredients, I let the sauce simmer.

And on to the ravioli...

A couple of years ago, my grandmother gave me her vintage pasta maker. The box is barely holding together, but man, it has personality and holds all of the glory from its heyday.

She even included a handwritten note that includes a recipe and instructions.

So I followed her recipe.

And I cut my dough into tennis-ball sized pieces. And I ran it through this amazing piece of metal...

(please take note of these awful counters that will soon be replaced!)

And I whipped up the insides, sauteed spinach and LOADS of garlic, mixed with ricotta and a little ground beef for my [VERY] meat-driven husband.

And then, I made the ravioli.

And slowly [but surely], the pile grew.

And later in the day, the sauce had simmered long enough, the ravioli were boiled and we stuffed our faces, like we [rightfully] should.

I have some tips [since there's really no recipe here]:

- Be creative. Stuff those suckers with whatever you feel like feasting on! There are no boundaries.
- Roll the dough thin, but not TOO thin.
- Squeeze together those edges like your life depends on it.
- Boil until they float at the top.
- Bring your appetite!!!
- If at all possible, spread Kate's Butter on the bread with which you eat them.

And lastly, make some spaghetti with your leftover dough!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Another Manolo to Love

"Good Luck"

My personal philosophy has always been that when it comes to art, if you have an immediate, visceral reaction to it, you should buy it. Indeed nearly all of the art in my house has gotten there via 'impulse' purchase, but I'm not ashamed! In fact, I like to credit my lack of self control for the eclectic mix of wall candy we have in our humble abode. There's the Moby Dick canvas I found in Boston for $40, the $3 mirror from Goodwill, the Flatiron print I bought one rainy day in Union Square... the list goes on and on. All equally interesting, and all purchased because 'I just had to'.

"Say Something Funny"

This morning I stumbled upon the fabulous work of Manolo Manero, and had that achingly familiar 'ohmygodihavetohavethisimmediately' moment. I never thought I'd see the day another Manolo would find his way into my heart, but when love happens, it happens. It's easy to see why:

"The Vision is Free"


We are officially obsessed. Check out more of Manolo's work on his site.

Friday, March 11, 2011

glorious friday: beantown roadtrip

Headed to Boston for a quick road trip this weekend. See you back here Monday morning!

Thursday, March 10, 2011

[HOH Etsy Finds]: Vintage Gems

Etsy is a fabulous resource. I think we'd all agree. But sometimes, when you're looking through pages and pages [and PAGES] of items, it's a little exhausting. Personally, I end up shopping at the same few stores, because it's just so much easier.

So, to ease your mind, we're here to provide YOU with our picks for the week. Below are a handful of stores where you will, without fail, hit a home run.

We started with Vintage.

Oh, and here's the other thing...Affordability. duh. These stores are FABULOUS and AFFORDABLE.

Bellalulu Vintage, where you can find interesting knick-knacks, as well as lanterns and lamps like this...

And quirky, but OH-SO-COOL, wire bowl (if that's even what you can call it)...

This next store, although a little less boutique, has a TREMENDOUS amount of incredible finds.

Amy Kristine Vintage

Totally loving this 'ir'/bird sign.

So classic.

And, we've got another. This one, ALL EYEWEAR. LuxEyes is pretty damn awesome. I've been feeling like I might need glasses soon. Maybe I can convince my doctor JUST so I can buy a sweet pair of frames from this store.

My fave? These bausch and lomb beauties.

Up next: TheVintageParlor.

OMG (I freaking hate that phrase, but nothing else could represent my excitement over these BABY SHOES).

I. am. MELTING. and. you. will. TOO.

And the last one of the day. It may not fit into the SUPER affordable category, but it is SUPER shoppable and that always wins major kudos in my book, especially with vintage. The photos are clean and the items really sell themselves.


I love this.

So, that does it for now. Next week, I'm dreaming of handmade jewelry.

See you soon,

your girls from House of Her

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

[HOH Celebrates]: International Women's Day

"International Women's Day is a global day celebrating the economic, political and social achievements of women past, present and future."

I heard through the grapevine that today is International Women's Day! Hurrah! Go women! Naturally, I fired up Google and what do I see? One of those special graphics they do when something (usually obscure but also) important is being celebrated that day. Yay! Here it is:

This makes it official! International Women's Day is a real thing! Yayyy women!

Anyway, obviously this all made me think of the Spice Girls - the originators of Girl Power! Remember them?! Their movie was totally boss - you know it's true. The Spice Girls had a little something for everyone - sexy, smart, fun to be around, fashionable, creative... the list goes on. I'm sure there are some who view them as over-sexed, inappropriately dressed temptresses of song, but having been a few years too old to be an intended target of the 'Spice Girls Marketing Machine', I feel like I can appreciate what they were trying to do - spread the Girl Power spirit! How can that really be a bad thing? So, on this International Women's Day, I salute you - Sporty, Baby, Scary, Posh, and Ginger - thanks for making the world just a little bit better.