Brilliant: Stump de Noel

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

I had a little chuckle two years ago when Food + Wine magazine featured a "stump de Noël" (a cheeky twist on the classic Bûche de Noël). The stump cake had been made for a feature by the folks behind the Brooklyn bakery Baked. So, when I saw a Stump de Noël Bundt Cake Pan in the Williams-Sonoma I knew exactly where they'd found the inspiration for the cake mold. Upon closer inspection, I saw that Williams-Sonoma is also offering a cake mix from Baked to make their version of the cake. I was pleased to see that they'd given a nod to original creators of the stump de Noël.

I am planning to make my own classic Bûche de Noël this year, and I even swore to myself that I'd attempt the meringue mushrooms -- I'll let you know how it goes!

UPDATE (Dec. 2012): With the holidays around the corner, this post has popped up again as a popular post. Unfortunately, the pan is no longer available. A representative from Nordicware tells me the Stump De Noel pan was an exclusive with William Sonoma, which is now discontinued. It looks like there are a few used ones floating around on e-commerce sites, if you're still looking for one. Or you could follow the directions to make the original (more complicated) version by Baked.

Sweet Potato, Quinoa, Pepper and Chickpea Salad

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Another quinoa recipe? I know, but sometimes I'll decide to make a dish because I have a leftover ingredient on-hand to use up. Last night the challenge was a sweet potato that we'd peeled, but not cooked. I cracked open Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian and found a nice recipe for Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad, which made use of a bunch of things I already had in the pantry and fridge, including some quinoa leftover from the acorn squash recipe. I followed his recipe closely and added some red pepper flakes, for a bit of kick.

Today, for lunch, I reheated the salad and added chickpeas and crumbled feta to make it a full meal on it's own -- this was a perfect lunch: Filling, flavorful and healthy. It would be a good lunch to bring to work, since it would be good at room temperature. If you want to serve it as a lighter side, stick to Bittman's original formula and leave off the chickpeas and feta.

Sweet Potato and Quinoa Salad
Adapted from How To Cook Everything Vegetarian
approximately 4 servings
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 large sweet potato
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
1/4 cup minced red onion
Freshly ground black pepper
1/8 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoons balsamic, sherry, or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes (optional)
1 15 oz. can chickpeas (optional)
1/4 crumbled feta cheese (optional)

1. Cook the quinoa according to package instructions (1 cup dried quinoa will yield approximately 3 cups cooked). Drain in a strainer and rinse. Meanwhile, peel the sweet potato and dice it into 1/2-inch or smaller pieces. Cook it in boiling salted water to cover until tender, about 15 minutes; drain well.
2. Toss together the potato, quinoa, bell pepper, onion, red pepper flakes and chickpeas; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Whisk the oil and vinegar together and toss the salad with the mixture. Taste and adjust the seasoning, garnish with the parsley and crumbled feta and serve.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

I made this Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios recipe from Whole Living on Monday night. We ate it as a main dish, so I ended up making half the stuffing recipe and filling only two acorn squash halves with it, instead of the four it should have filled. All in all it's a simple, tasty and healthy recipe that I would make again. One note: Don't be shy about salting and peppering the squash halves before they go in the oven -- they can use a very liberal seasoning.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Quinoa and Pistachios
From Whole Living
Serves 2

- 1 acorn squash, halved and seeds removed
- 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1/2 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1/4 cup feta, crumbled
- 1/4 cup roasted, salted, pistachios, chopped
- 1 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- pinch red pepper flakes

1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush squash with 2 teaspoons olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast cut-side down on two baking sheets until tender and caramelized, 15 to 20 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, bring quinoa and 1 cups water to a boil in a small pot. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, until tender and water is absorbed, about 15 minutes. Let cool, then fluff with a fork. In a large bowl combine quinoa, parsley, feta, pistachios, remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, and vinegar. Season with salt and red pepper flakes to taste. Divide filling among squash.

Photo: Whole Living

Spotted: Walker Zanger Ashbury Mosaic Tile

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

While flipping through a recent issue of Better Homes & Gardens (yes, I'm a subscriber), I spotted the unique tiles in the kitchen above designed by Milk and Honey Home. Unfortunately, the magazine didn't give any information about the tile, but a quick email to Milk and Honey Home revealed that the tile is Vibe Mosaics Ashbury by Walker Zanger ($19/square foot; 877-611-0199; A little googling turned up some additional images of this awesome tile. Don't you just love it? Thank you to Julie at Milk and Honey Home for sharing the sourcing information!

The New York City Marathon

Monday, November 07, 2011

I ran the ING New York City Marathon for the second time yesterday -- and it was amazing. Finishing 26.2 miles was more exciting and much harder than I remembered it to be. Luckily, Sunday was the perfect day for a race with clear, blue skies and temperatures in the low- to mid-50s. Plus, the nice weather meant that the crowds were robust along most of the course.

I'd trained by myself (without a team or a coach), and usually I would head out for my run without a real sense of how fast I was running: I was just getting in the miles at my own speed. A few weeks ago, I'd planned to run the Staten Island Half Marathon as a testing ground for my marathon pace, but shin pains made me decide to skip the race and go easy on my ailing legs. So, when I lined up at the start yesterday, I didn't really have a sense of how fast I would run.

In 2009 I'd finished my first marathon in 4:00:56, and in the back of my mind, I knew I wanted to break four hours, but I honestly didn't think I was ready to do it. However, when it came time to race, I gave it my all and found myself with a finishing time of 3:56:59. It was a lot of work, but I am thrilled to have broken the four-hour barrier -- even it might have been an easier afternoon if I'd kept the pace a little slower. I owe, many thanks to my husband for all his patience with my endless training and to all my friends who came out and cheered for me: Thank you!

Two Sources for Affordable Framing

Many of my framed prints and photos reside in Ikea's affordable frames, but sometimes and IKEA frame won't fit the piece you wish to mount. So, I wanted to share two sources I have recently discovered for affordable framing: 

I recently purchased an odd-sized print for my sister. When it came time to find a frame, I realized that there weren't any off-shelf options that would fit the print, so I went to a framing shop here in New York to get a quote on framing the piece. When I was told it would cost $160+ to get a simple, birch frame, I quickly decided to do a little more research. I ended up ordering a frame from, which cost just about $40. While it has plexi instead of regular glass, the frame was otherwise not all the different from the model that would have cost me four times as much as the mail order version. It would still be cost-effective to have ordered the frame and get a piece of glass cut to fit it. I should note, you can't see or feel the frame you'll be ordering, so you can't be super-picky.

Another option for your photographs is Plywerk, a company that mounts photographs onto eco-friendly bamboo panels. I've seen a Plywerk-mounted photo up-close, and I am super-impressed with the quality of the product. At about $35 for an 8x10 print, this is a pretty affordable way to frame photos, and I think it would be a great option for artists mounting a gallery show. Above and below are two shots of the Plywerk panels, to show you what they look like.

My New Desk

Friday, November 04, 2011

When Weston moved in, I began renting office space, so we wouldn't be too cramped for space at home. However, after a year of renting (in three different locations), I decided that I'd rather save the money and work from home again, especially since he's rarely here during the week. After two months of using the dining table as my "desk," we decided to look for a piece of furniture that could act as my workspace.

I found this little oak secretary on Craigslist for $200. We had to drive up to Greenwich, CT to get it, but it was well-worth the trip. I'm thrilled to have a workspace that I can close up when company comes over, and it's nice to have a "real" piece of furniture, not just something from IKEA. I'm still using a dining chair as a desk chair, but that's fine by me.

Oh, and the amazing painting over my desk? It was the best wedding gift we received. It is a painting by my grandfather, which my parents generously gave to us as our gift from them (after I not-so-subtly asked for one). Every time I look at it, I am thrilled to have it in my home. Thank you again for the amazing gift Mom and Dad!

Makeover for Working Mother

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

A lot of the work I do for magazines takes place in studios. We'll set up a scene, shoot it and then break it down. Occasionally, I get a chance to work in real people's homes for makeover stories. While these stories are inevitably more complicated (and often more stressful) than the make believe world of the studio, they are ultimately more rewarding -- at the end, you've made someone very happy.

A few months back I worked on a project with Working Mother magazine and Target to makeover the bedroom of a little girl in New Jersey, who is the daughter of -- you guessed it: A working mother. The little girl wanted a pink bedroom, and boy, did we give it to her! Seeing little Olivia's face when she saw her new room really made this one of my favorite projects so far this year.

BHLDN Dresses

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

My bridesmaids were my sister and Weston's brother's wife. I told them that they could wear whatever they wanted, as long as it wasn't white or black (we told Weston's brothers they could wear whatever kind of suit they liked, as well). My sister purchased the Beribboned Dress from BHLDN, the new special occasion and wedding dress site from Anthropologie, and my sister-in-law decided she wanted to coordinate with her -- they both looked great!

While I didn't wear the dress myself, I queried the gals and here's what they said:

  • My sister loved the details (pockets, bows on the shoulder, the pouf in the skirt). She also noted that the fabric was beautiful, but it did wrinkle easily. 
  • My sister-in-law said the dress was large in the top, so she had to have it altered. Like my sis, she loved the twirly skirt; however, she said she's not sure she'll keep the bows.

Both ladies said they enjoyed the shopping (and returning) experience with BHLDN, and they both claim they'll wear the dress again, and since I'll be seeing them for years to come, I'll be able to see if it's true. All in all, I think all three of us would recommend BHLDN's Beribboned Dress as a bridesmaid dress.

UPDATE: I'm selling a size 8 version of this dress on eBay. Click here for the listing. If you buy it now, I will waive the shipping fees for any reader of this blog.

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