Archive for June 2013

Kitchen Challenge: Make a Souffle

Sunday, June 30, 2013 6:31 PM

I'm a pretty good home cook, and I try to push myself to do new things. I got it in my head that I should tackle a souffle, which is sort of a dreaded dish. I found, however, that it was easier than its reputation led me to believe. 

I think the reason souffles are supposed to be difficult is timing. If you're going to make one for a holiday gathering or a dinner party, you need to finish it at just the right time so you can serve it before it falls. But I made this sweet potato souffle for just J and myself, so there was no pressure to the presentation. And the souffle never rose all that high to begin with, in part because the sweet potato puree weighed down the batter/mixture/whatever and also because, lacking a proper souffle dish, I used a wide, shallow baking pan.

Here's the recipe, taken from Deborah Madison's "Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone."

Butter and grated Parmesan for the dish
1 1/4 cups milk or cream
Aromatics: 1 bay leaf, several thyme sprigs, 2 thin onion slices (I used shallot because we were out of onion)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp flour
Salt and freshly milled pepper
Pinch cayenne
4 egg yolks
1 cup grated Fontina or Gruyère
1-2 cups pureed sweet potato or winter squash
6 egg whites
Fried sage leaves (optional)

When pureeing my baked sweet potatoes, I added a little milk to make them smoother.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Butter a baking dish and dust it with grated parmesan. This got nice and brown in the oven and may have been the tastiest part.

Heat the milk gently until it boils, then remove it from the heat and add the aromatics to steep for 15 minutes. We only had dried thyme leaves rather than intact sprigs of thyme, so I wrapped them up in cheesecloth to make them easy to remove. If your aromatics are loose, strain the milk after it's finished steeping.

Melt the 3 Tbsp butter, stir in the flour and then whisk in the milk until smooth. Keep stirring for a minute or two until it thickens.

Remove from heat and mix in the egg yolks one at a time. Add the salt, pepper, cayenne, sweet potato puree and cheese, and mix well.

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt until stiff peaks form.

Stir one-quarter of the egg whites into the base, then fold the rest in gently. It's OK if there are a few lumps remaining; you don't want to stir all the air out.

Pour/scoop/spread the mixture into your baking dish. I forgot to take a picture until I'd put this in the oven, so you also get to see the inside of my oven.

While the souffle is baking, fry some sage leaves in butter.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden-brown and just a little wobbly in the center. Crumble the sage leaves and sprinkle them on top.

I don't care so much about how food looks, only how it tastes, but I apologize if this looks less than appetizing. I can tell you that it was really delicious. I'd never eaten a souffle before, and I was a little worried about the texture because I generally don't like spongy things, but this was like a lighter version of quiche. It also reheated much better than I expected, given the involvement of eggs and cheese. Just reheat gently, and don't expect the top or the burned butter-and-Parmesan to be as crusty. Bon Appetite!

Thrift Finds for June

Saturday, June 29, 2013 2:00 PM

More scarves. I picked up two more this month, for a total of six this year.

Black and gray scarf, Goodwill Topsham, $3
 This neutral, pashmina-style scarf probably won't get worn again until the fall.

Target purple peeptoe pumps, Goodwill Topsham, $2
I almost didn't buy these shoes, but I was swayed by the fact that they were half off. I wore them twice this month without yet pairing them with the dress for which they're almost an exact match.

Liberty of London (?) paisley scarf, Goodwill Topsham, $1
This is my six or seventh scarf that includes a shade of navy, none of which quite matches any other. But with so many blues in my wardrobe, it's easy to create a mix of three or more so that exact matching isn't necessary.

LOFT embroidered dress, Goodwill Augusta, $5
I was a little hesitant even to try this on, as it's not my size for LOFT. It fits nicely in the waist, though, and I'm taking it to a tailor to have the bodice taken in. Then it'll be breezy yet crisp and professional on its own, and also perfect for layering.

I also thrifted a pair of Old Navy dark-wash, straight-leg jeans for $3 at the Goodwill in Falmouth, but I forgot to photograph them. In a bit of irony, I'm wearing them now as I travel in North Carolina. You'll see them at some point, I'm sure.

10 Ways to Wear a Black Sleeveless Blouse

Friday, June 28, 2013 11:50 PM

This is a record number of pictures from our old apartment and from before I started blogging (as you can see, I hadn't really figured out posing or the importance of makeup). I guess that's because this blouse was part of the 30x30 I did two years ago, and then it doesn't get much wear outside of June, July and August here in Maine (and it's really not event appropriate for much of June, like today, when it was 62 degrees and raining buckets).

The ways I've worn this blouse have occasionally skewed too casual for work, but for those really hot days, it's nice to have something that drapes nicely, with a little gathering in the front to dress it up, and covers just enough of the shoulders and décolletage to be work-appropriate. I've worn this top mostly with neutrals, but I think it's time to branch out into more colored bottoms, like my teal and yellow pencil skirts.

pic name pic name
pic name pic name
pic name pic name
pic name pic name
pic name pic name

I bought this top at a Marshall's in Atlanta in 2006. The brand is Susan Lawrence, which I've never heard of before or since.

Reader Replacement

Thursday, June 27, 2013 11:30 PM

Have you chosen your Google Reader replacement? Bloglovin' seems really popular among style bloggers, but I've never tried it. I saw a lot of praise elsewhere on the web for Feedly, so I've been using that. It was a really easy transition, and there are some features I like better than Google Reader, like being able to scroll past a post without "reading" it, so that I can come back to it later. And the interface is certainly much more attractive.

pic name pic name

Navy dress, J. Crew (thrifted)
Plaid silk scarf, Pendleton (thrifted)
Red snakeskin belt, thrifted
Red pumps, Franco Sarto Uri (gift)

Our Furbaby

Wednesday, June 26, 2013 11:24 PM

We're experiencing some real adjustments and a learning curve after acquiring a cat last week. I've made a few trips to a pet store to buy things as we realize we need them, like toys and a placemat for his food and water. We're sweeping and vacuuming the floors much more aggressively to contain tracking of litter. And while Bucky (new nickname) was really good about sleepy time last week, this week he's started taken up incessantly starting at 5 a.m., right when we're trying to squeeze in our couple of hours of sleep. And we're realizing that our first instincts — to make sure he has food in his bowl, or to pet him to try to calm him down — have just rewarded him for waking us. So now we're trying to devise new routines and figure out how to be good cat-parents.

pic name pic name

Striped shirt, Gap (thrifted)
Black necklace, thrifted
Jacquard jeans, LOFT (eBay)
Black patent belt, Thrifted
Black wedges, Bandolino (thrifted)

True Summer

Tuesday, June 25, 2013 11:30 PM

It's hot here. For work, that means sleeveless blouses and ankle ventilation. At home, I am so grateful to have air conditioning.

pic name pic name

Blouse, New York & Co.
Art Deco necklace, thrifted
Studded belt, thrifted
Teal pants, Target
Mary Janes, MIA 2 (eBay)

After The Festival

Monday, June 24, 2013 11:30 PM

J and I splashed out this weekend to go to The Festival, a huge beer festival that was in Portland on Friday and Saturday. There were about 65 breweries there, each with several beers (and a few ciders and meads), and they gave us 48 drink tickets each good for a 2-ounce pour. I only got through 19 of them in four hours, but nearly everything I tried was really terrific. J's a teetotaler, so I worried he would be bored, but he actually had a great time helping me track down witbiers and keep a list of everything I was trying.

pic name pic name

Red shirtdress, H&M (thrifted)
Bow necklace, Forever 21
Sash, from a Macy's blouse
Pumps, Calvin Klein Dolly (eBay)

A Liberty Scarf?

Sunday, June 23, 2013 2:06 PM

I grabbed this paisley scarf at a thrift store right at closing time a couple of weeks ago, without paying much attention to the details. I thought it was just a pretty but cheap scarf, given the machine-stitched edges, the feel of the fabric and the fact that the staff had priced it at 99 cents. But on Thursday when I wore this outfit, I noticed a very subtle Liberty of London logo in the border. I'm not sure if it's authentic, but I really don't know how to tell.

I tied the two scarves using this Liberty of London tutorial and hid the knot under my hair.

pic name pic name

Paisley scarf, Liberty of London (thrifted)
Other scarf, Lanvin (thrifted)
Blue blouse, New York & Co.
Gray pants, Banana Republic Martin
Pumps, Nine West (consignment)

Nostalgia T

Friday, June 21, 2013 11:30 PM

I usually don't like to advertise via logos on clothing, but when I saw this T-shirt at Target several years ago I couldn't resist buying it. After all, I was living in Atlanta at the time, surrounded by institutions that had been built with money contributed directly by Coca-Cola or indirectly by its executives. And since I haven't been back to Atlanta in five years, it's nice to have the T-shirt to take me back to that time in my life.

pic name pic name

Coca-Cola T-shirt, Target
Necklace, White House Black Market (eBay)
Black pencil skirt, The Limited (thrifted)
Black low wedges, Madden Girl

Hello, Kitty

Wednesday, June 19, 2013 11:02 PM

As promised, pictures of the cat, because tonight he's sleepy and slow enough to photograph.

pic name pic name

Purple blouse, Van Heusen (thrifted)
Black and brown necklace, thrifted
Black leather belt, thrifted
Glen plaid pants, Target (thrifted)
Black flats, Ecco

A New Housemate

Tuesday, June 18, 2013 11:41 PM

J and I have a new housemate! Last week my brother moved from Florida to live with my parents in New Hampshire. I'm really excited to have him nearby, and I think the change of pace will be good for him because he's been kind of aimless the last couple of years. But the place they're living for the next couple of months won't allow cats, so David's cat has come to live with us! Our family always had cats when we were growing up, but I haven't had a pet since moving out. The cat (David gave him a name I don't like, so I've just been calling him "Cat") hid under furniture for about 48 hours before finally emerging tonight. But he's too active exploring for me to get pictures, so that'll have to wait for another post.

pic name pic name

Striped T-shirt, H&M (thrifted)
Black necklace, thrifted
Black elastic belt, thrifted
Red midi skirt, vintage (thrifted)
Mary Janes, MIA 2 Leonore (eBay)