Sunday Dinner | French Potato Salad + BBQ Baby Back Ribs


Sunday, April 6, 2014

I don't ever remember reveling in the arrival of Spring with the same level of enthusiasm that I have this year.  After such a long winter, I think my senses are heighten.  Sun! Fresh air! Open windows!  I can't seem to get enough.  It is still chilly (it's not like we have entered short weather. yet.) but I feel confident we have finally left winter behind us. (though I'm not quite ready to take the coats to the dry cleaners for fear I might jinx it.) Sadly, tomorrow it is back to school for the kiddos.  It has been so wonderful sleeping in, having late and decadent  breakfasts and letting my guys play a little past bedtime.  Heck, I'm ready for summer break.  :)

Tonight we grilled out for the first time this year.  I made a favorite Barefoot Contessa recipe for French Potato Salad to go along with our BBQ baby back ribs.  I only make these recipes in the spring and summer, they signal the arrival of outdoor eating.  Recipes that taste and smell of sunny days.

  ^^ This potato salad was the very first Barefoot recipe I ever made, from her first cookbook.  That means I've been making it for almost 16 years!  I remember feeling fancy the first time I bought champagne vinegar. Haha. ^^

^^ I usually make it with a mix of white and red potatoes, but the red didn't look so great at the store.  The key to making this salad just right is not to overcook the potatoes.  They should be just slightly undercooked when you drain them, then place them in a colander and cover with a clean dish towel to finish the cooking with their steam.  Test them with a fork when they are still in the water, there should be a little resistance, if they fall apart or are completely soft they won't hold up well in the salad.  I almost over cooked them today, so I ran them under cold water to stop the cooking when I drained them and skipped the steaming step.^^

Barefoot Contessa French Potato Salad

1 pound small white boiling potatoes
1 pound small red boiling potatoes
2 tablespoons good dry white wine
2 tablespoons chicken stock
3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 tablespoons good olive oil
1/4 cup minced scallions (white and green parts)
2 tablespoons minced fresh dill
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons julienned fresh basil leaves

Drop the white and red potatoes into a large pot of boiling salted water and cook for 20 to 30 minutes, until they are just cooked through. Drain in a colander and place a towel over the potatoes to allow them to steam for 10 more minutes. As soon as you can handle them, cut in 1/2 (quarters if the potatoes are larger) and place in a medium bowl. Toss gently with the wine and chicken stock. Allow the liquids to soak into the warm potatoes before proceeding.
Combine the vinegar, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and slowly whisk in the olive oil to make an emulsion. Add the vinaigrette to the potatoes. Add the scallions, dill, parsley, basil, 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.

My favorite recipe for baby back ribs is super simple but made in two stages.  First with a dry rub cooked in the oven and second with sauce and finished on the grill.  This way you get the tenderness of cooking in the oven with the charred finish and smokey flavor of cooking of the grill.  I prefer a charcoal grill and the flavor it gives food, but it is far more challenging to control the heat than with a gas grill, so this recipe is perfect for us.  We use our favorite local BBQ sauce, but you could use any that you like.

^^ here is how they look after steaming, covered, in the oven for an hour and 15 min. ^^

^^ and then after covering in sauce and placing on a hot grill for a few minutes ^^

^^ This is Andrew's most requested dinner in the summer. ^^

BBQ Baby Back Ribs
(adapted from Jamie Deen)

2 TBS light brown sugar
1 TBS dry mustard
1 TBS paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp garlic salt
1 tsp kosher salt
2 racks of baby back ribs
Favorite BBQ sauce

Pre-heat oven to 350.
Combine brown sugar through kosher salt in a small bowl to make the dry rub, break up lumps with your fingers.  Remove the silver skin from the underside of the ribs by sliding your fingers under the thin membrane and pulling it off.  Repeat with the second rack.  Rub the ribs on both sides with the dry rub.  Place ribs in a single layer on a large roasting pan and cover tightly with heavy duty foil.  Place the pan in the oven and bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and uncover foil.  Cover generously with your favorite BBQ sauce and place on a medium warm (ours is usually just hot) grill for about 5-8 minutes.  Grilling each side, until nicely charred and perfectly sticky.

A Few of My Favorite Beauty + Bath Products


Friday, April 4, 2014

The boys have been on spring break this week, as usual, we opted for a stay-cation.  We tend to save our airfare dollars for our summer vacations when we can stay somewhere longer than a week, and the thought of a road trip makes me tense up and want to cry.  Living in the Midwest means you have to drive FAR to make it to warm temperatures and ocean waters.  I have lots of admiration for all my friends that make the drive every spring break.  I wish I had the stamina required, but I don't.  There are some benefits of staying home too.  There is no rushing around, bed times go smoothly because we are in our own home,  and we make an effort to get out and enjoy things in our own city.  This week we went to Columbus, Ohio for a couple days (a short car drive I can handle) and it was perfect.  The kids loved staying in a hotel, we ate out at great restaurants (bonus for me), shopped where they had a big Lego store (bonus for the boys), and spent a really fun day at a children's science museum.  It was just enough for all of us to do something a little out of the ordinary.  In our day of shopping, I stocked up on some old and new favorite beauty products and thought I would share them, just in case any of you are looking to switch it up or experiment in that department...

^^ I am a big fan of the Citrus line of Fresh body lotions and shower gels, especially for spring + summer.  I picked up this lip polish while in line at Sephora and I'm addicted.  I've used it daily even though it suggests 2x per week. Your lips feel amazing afterwards! ^^

^^ Speaking of lip care, I've gotten a number of requests to share my lipstick color. (thank you, by the way, even though questions like that always give me a little chuckle.)  I have not been purposefully evasive, I just hadn't had a chance to jot down the colors.  I actually combine 3 different shades to get the one you see here. (Why does Clinique keep discontinuing my favorites??)  I start with Covergirl Outlast Lipcolor in 625 (Sun Kissed), then add just a tiny dab of Covergirl 542 (Brazen Raisin).  I only apply the CG colors once, in the morning, then I use Clinique's Long Last Glosswear in Fireberry throughout the day.  I find the CG gives enough color to last all day but it can be drying on its own and I like a glossy finish.  See?  Not a simple answer. Ha. ^^

^^ Last summer when we had a layover in Michigan, I was killing time at a L'Occitane store and picked up this exfoliator.  I loved it so much, that I've used it weekly ever since and it leaves my skin super soft, refreshed, and dare I say, glowing?  Again, I could use it daily, but I stick with the recommended 2-3x per week.   For years (since age 12) my skincare routine was Dove + Olay, but I'm learning that there really are some incredible products out there that make a noticeable difference in my skin tone and overall appearance.  I fear I'm heading down the path of beauty product junkie, which I always prided myself on avoiding, thinking it was all just hype.  My Nana swore by her Olay and she had beautiful skin, but I think that might have had more to do with her avoiding the sun.  Which I don't.  However, I still like to keep my routine simple, I've just switched things out for what I feel are better suited products for this stage in my life.  I added the accompanying Immortelle Brightening Moisturizer this week and so far it is equally impressive.^^

We took Payton (our dear neighbor + friend) along with us to Columbus.  She is a 12 year old shop-a-holic.  After 6 hours of shopping, I was ready to just plop down with a Starbucks, but she kept me going.  It worked out well, because the boys went back to the hotel and put together new Lego sets,
while we shopped wherever we wanted.  I introduced her to the joys of the Paper Source (why oh why, do we not have one in Cincinnati yet?!?!) and she introduced me to a very cool bath store called Lush.   I have seen their products in department stores, but I had never looked very closely.  I thought it was all just soaps that looked a bit like sidewalk chalk.  While they have soaps, they seem to be known for their "bath bombs."  These giant balls of scented and sparkly goodness you drop in the tub.  Some fizz, some bubble, some just condition.  I might have bought a few too many because I knew Charlie was going to love to experiment and sometimes he's not super excited for bath time.  We've already tried a couple and OH MY GOODNESS do they smell incredible!!!  The whole bathroom smelled heavenly, and while the bath water turned a vibrant lavender color, there was absolutely no residue left when the water was drained.  I couldn't resist picking up a few for Easter baskets too, since they had some spring ones just for that occasion.

^^You swirl around one carrot to make a bubble bath and they are reusable^^
^^They describe these golden eggs as "sweet honey-toffee bath bombs dipped in creamy, moisturizing cocoa butter" Yeah, think I'll save these for me. :) All the Easter products can be ordered online, here.^^

(bathroom image sources can be found my bathroom pinterest board)


Easter "Bunny" Gifts | Easy Applique T-shirts + Vanilla Glazed Sugar Cookies


Monday, March 31, 2014

Inspiration is a wonderful thing.  It's one of life's little gifts, nothing you can plan for, but when you are hit, you are hit.  The inspiration for these gifts for my nephews came last week.   I couldn't stop thinking about the sweet little bunny sugar cookies I spied in the latest issue of Martha Stewart Living Magazine that were used for a woodland themed baby shower.  I loved the way the icing, or glaze rather, looked so simple and delicious, like they would melt in your mouth. Unfortunately, no recipe, just a bakery name was provided.  I was determined to recreate my own version.  Then my second source of inspiration  came when I saw my girlfriend's daughter wearing a cute flower T-shirt and she told me how easy it had been to make on her own.  Done.  Inspiration runneth over.  Now for how I went about it....

For the cookies.  I used my current favorite cardamon sugar recipe and created a vanilla glaze.  Since I wanted to share these cookies with my nephews, I needed to avoid raw egg because one has a food allergy to uncooked eggs.  So, royal icing was out.  I really liked the vanilla buttercream glaze I made on last year's bunny cookies but didn't like the idea of using butter in an icing that was being shipped.  I made an icing a couple years back that had a touch of corn syrup (no idea what I did with that recipe) in it and I liked the finish it gave to the cookies, so I tinkered a bit with flavor and consistency till I had a keeper.  It is so simple and doesn't even require a mixer!  I let them sit out overnight, uncovered, to let the icing completely set up.  It firms up well, not quite as hard a royal icing, but sill very stackable.  This glaze made just enough to cover an entire batch of the above sugar cookie recipe.

Vanilla Sugar Cookie Glaze
1 cup powdered sugar (sift if it is lumpy)
2 TBS milk to start, add more as needed (I used 1% milk)
1/2 tsp vanilla (use clear if you plan to add food color or want a bright white, otherwise regular vanilla is fine. I like the way natural vanilla makes the icing look)
2 tsp light corn syrup

In a small bowl, mix powdered sugar and 2 TBS milk with a spoon.  Slowly add more milk, 1 tsp at a time, till you get a thick glaze consistency.  You want it spreadable so that it covers the cookies easily, but not so runny that it is dripping off.  If you feel you went too far, just add more powered sugar.  Very forgiving recipe! When you get the consistency you like, use a whisk and add in the corn syrup and vanilla.  Spread on cookies and let them set up for 45 minutes before eating. (This is when I piped on the tails! Same icing, just thicker and without vanilla so they would be very white!) I recommend leaving them out overnight to set up completely.

^^How cute do these look rolled up?  I love that the bow is tied around the bunny's neck.  The fabric gift tags are from Michael's, I stamped on the bunny (also from Michael's) in a charcoal colored ink. These would be so sweet in an Easter basket too!^^

After 18 months of age, it gets challenging to find cute boy themed T-shirts for holidays, without all sorts of crazy graphics and text.  Charlie loved these, so I made a third for him.  It will be cute with a long sleeve t shirt underneath and lots of fun to wear to his Easter party at school!  

To make the T shirts:
Supplies needed: T shirts (mine were bought at Wal-Mart), fabric for applique, fusible web lining, applique shape (I found mine off a Google search and then resized it), fabric scissors, pen, iron, sewing machine.

Step 1: Cut out an applique shape.
Step 2: Trace shape onto fusible web sheet.  One side has a peel-off paper, the other doesn't, trace the shape on the side that doesn't.
Step 3: Peel off the removable backing and stick the shape on to the wrong side of your applique fabric.
Step 4: Follow the directions on the packaging for how to iron on the applique.
Step 5: Stitch around the edges.  I purposefully chose a simple stitch in the hopes the edges would fray a little, making the shirt feel a bit more boyish.

^^wrapping paper from Target, kraft boxes and ribbon from Everyday Occasions (my favorite source for ribbon, I love her generous roll sizes!  It is nice to shop from someone who appreciates beautiful gift presentation as much as I do. :))^^

^^gift tags made by me, full tutorial here.  I attached them with Glue Dots to the package.^^

I hope my little nephews in Chicago are as excited to open these Easter boxes as much as I am to send them in the mail.  Who doesn't love a surprise package?! 

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