Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Tenderloin Steak

In the "meat" class I took from culinary instructor Helen Rennie, we were taught to cook steak and roasts using a method suggested in Cook's Illustrated in which the meat temperature is raised in the oven (to a desired doneness) and then it is seared on the stovetop. This is the reverse of the order that most people use to cook meat.

So, I heavily seasoned two lovely, thick pieces of tenderloin (although they could have used even more salt and pepper!), popped them into the oven with a probe thermometer, and pulled them out when the internal temperature reached about 100 degrees. I was going for a medium doneness (although I ended up with medium rare, which was fine). In a really hot pan, I seared the steaks on all sides, creating a beautiful, tasty crust. While the meat rested, I made a little pan sauce. It was really nice to feel comfortable buying a pricier cut of meat, knowing that I had the skills to prepare it properly. Success!

Help Me, 33!

On the wonderful menu at 33 Restaurant is a simple, addictive Truffle Macaroni and Cheese that I thought I could recreate now that I own some white truffle oil. I failed. I'm not sure I even came close, but I am reaching out to my friend who works there for any ingredient information that she can send my way. (It didn't help that I made this with whole wheat elbows!)

Sunday Dinner - Sweet and Sour Brisket

I was on the hunt for brisket for several weeks when, at last, it was available at our local Shaws. I was truly excited, and I used it to make Ellie Krieger's Sweet and Sour Brisket - a braise in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, brown sugar, golden raisins, and balsamic vinegar. Both the meat and the sauce were wonderful, and only improved the next day.

Chicken Tikka Masala

I chose this recipe from a number of chicken tikka masala recipies available on the web because the ingredients sounded the most chicken-tikka-masala-like. The results were oh so close, but I feel like there's something the Indian restaurateurs are keeping from us home chef types - something was definitely missing, and I have no idea what it was.

We went out for Indian food this past weekend (to India Palace in Somerville!), where I examined my chicken tikka masala in ways that must have appeared mysterious to our server. Their sauce was thicker, and tangier, and more orange in color. Not helpful!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Our Wedding - finally!

John and I were married in November 2006. I started this blog around that same time, and it has taken me over a year to document the design-fest that took place between our engagement and "the big day." At last, I am posting the work, all of which I designed and made (or, in some cases, art directed, if you will) for our harvest-themed wedding. Yet another big round of thanks for the hands-on artistry of my family and friends!

Before the wedding
Our wedding invitation was created with chiyogami Japanese paper and wonderful materials from The Paper Source. The first page of the invitation was hand screen-printed with a gocco printer. The second page contained a perforated reply postcard, which, when removed, left our guests with the invitation, information, and directions still nicely bundled together. Click on the image to see additional, rotating pages:

A close-up of the gold gocco ink used to print the first page of the invitation:

I gave myself a break from desiging the rehearsal invites (phew!) and bought these cute pre-printed blank cards. At each placesetting in the Chinese restaurant was a to-go container filled with M&Ms (for Murphy, of course!):

For dessert at the restaurant, I had custom fortune cookies made. They were dipped in different types of chocolate and covered with sprinkles, and contained amazing fortunes such as, "You will attend a wedding tomorrow."

At the church
The wedding ceremony program - click to see inside spreads:

Bundles of paper flowers hung on each pew:

Nothing compared to the real flowers I held, however, which were the creation of our friend, Joanne:

At the party
Guests entered the country club to find a (fake) pumpkin into which I carved our new initials. I had also created a pile of leaves from fall-colored papers, and added glitter to some oversized pinecones for extra festivity:

The welcome table, with table seating chart, guest book, and multi-tier cake-shaped card box:

Our guestbook was designed to look like a large version of the wedding invitation:

The fantastically autumnal carrot cake (made by our friend, Jeff):

Joanne also created our beautiful bundled wheat centerpieces:

The wheat sat upon squares of jewel-toned velvet cloth that were assembled and hand-debossed by my mom, creating a decorative leaf pattern (she made a quilt out of the combined squares!) - this photo really doesn't do the arrangement much justice, unfortunately:

Each guest received a personalized miniature accordion book as a wedding favor:

No two books were the same, as I chose a variety of jewel-toned and autumnal paper and ribbon to create the books. Here are some scraps from the bookbinding project:

My dad built the table number stands, which he painted gold.

The table number cards had a multi-color jewel-tone beaded border adhered with super sticky tape:

A coloring book for kid guests was placed in each child goodie bag (along with crayons, finger monsters, and animated flip books) - click to see a spread (illustrations adapted from iStockPhoto):

A menu card was placed at each table:

Cocktail napkins were gocco printed, and emphasized our love of music lyrics:

And, with cocktails sometimes comes the need for a ride home. I wanted our guests to know that there were alternatives to getting behind the wheel, and these table-tents were placed throughout the reception hall after dinner:

I rubber-stamped boxes of matchsticks in a November-y pattern so our guests might light up their celebratory cigars:

So many of the desserts we provided were generously made by our guests, themselves. I wanted to be sure to acknowledge their delicious contributions:

Also on the dessert table, I placed a bunch of self-addressed, stamped envelopes containing a blank CD. Most of our guests took digital photos throughout the day, and they were able to easily share their shots with us after the wedding:

The dessert table also had a basket full of miniature tabasco sauces, commemorating the Mexican restaurant where John and I met — so cute!

Maple Mustard Pork Chops and Sweet, Sweet Potato

I have had this pork chop recipe on my to-cook list for too long, and something has gone wrong each time I go to actually make it. With two pork chops thawed in the fridge and the threat of staying late at work...well, I made sure I got home in time for dinner this time.

People love the idea of Rachael Ray's 30-minute meals. This was one of them, and with my modifications, it was, indeed a 30 minute ordeal. Recently, I have started to take notice of how many pots and pans she uses to cook these meals. The pork alone would have used three pots - that's not OK. I used two. Next time, I'll use one.

I will mix the maple-mustard-cumin-allspice-cider glaze and set it aside, sear the pork chops on both sides in a sautee pan, dump the sauce into the pan (coating the chops), and put the pan into the oven. The sauce will thicken in the oven. Voila!

The sweet potatoes were roasted with olive oil, honey, cinammon and S&P. Really good - and good the next day!

A Quickie Invite

My friend Kelly's mother's 50th birthday party was this past weekend, and for the invitation I created a quick layout for her. She printed and mailed them herself - it worked out perfectly!

Paul's Promotional Postcard

A former client of my friend (and fellow designer) Althea, Paul Foley is a local photographer. I took on his recent project for a promotional postcard, through which I used ModernPostcard.com for the first time. He was a pleasure to work with, and we'll soon be working together on a promotional HTML email!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Baby Shower Invites - For a Girl!

With the exception of two couples, all of the friends and family I grew up with have had baby boys. Statistically, things are way off - of the 17 children I have known to be born in the past 10 years, 15 of them are boys!

So, I'm very excited to be welcoming (soon!) a baby girl into the family, and I was delighted to create the invitations for Baby Madison's shower a couple weeks ago. The design was inspired by the purple bedding and black furniture chosen for the nursery, and the mom-to-be suggested the honey-jar favors.

The nursery bedding pattern:

The invitation:

A close-up of the ribbon-fastener that also served as the butterfly's antennae:

A cute little honey favor:

It's Aliiiiiive!

Our lovely friends sent us a package with two Amaryllis bulbs for our 1st wedding anniversary on November 11th.

My first thought was - uh-oh. I just can't seem to keep anything alive. I have a small "un-killable" ivy plant at my office desk that I have watched drastically decline in health since I removed it from its happy place at the greenhouse:

Still, I planted the little bulbs and watered them (maybe twice?), the leaves grew tall, and a couple of days ago, it happened:

Maybe I don't have a black thumb, afterall?

ADDENDUM (2/26):
As my work plant continues to decline in health, my coworkers increasingly try to come to its rescue. My boss, however, cut to the chase and got me a cute little desk plant/kinetic sculpture that will live on (and flap it's little leaves) as long as the sun continues to shine on its little solar panel: