Image Slider

Mimi's Special Lasagna

Tuesday, August 30, 2011
I'm not sure of the original source of this recipe (Mimi? Mom?) but in our family, it's Mimi's Special Lasagna. It's hearty, yet not overwhelmingly rich.  It's sturdy while still having plenty of filling.  In other words, it's delicious!

I think it will probably take me just as long to type up the recipe as it did to make it.  The recipe can be intimidating, so I usually do it in phases.  Day One: make the 2 sauces & Day Two: assemble and bake or freeze to bake later.  But on Saturday I made it all in one go (didn't know how long we would have power!) and only using 2 pots, 1 bowl and a baking dish, and it really didn't take that long.  So it's doable! Maybe not as a weeknight meal (unless you prep in advance), but I'm happy to realize it doesn't have to be a 2 day process.

Mimi's Special Lasagna

  • 1 lb ground beef (chuck or round)
  • ½ cup chopped onions (hello, chopped frozen onions! what did I do before them!?)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbs olive oil
Sauté above in olive oil until meat is no longer pink. I do this in our Le Creuset French Oven so everything can fit in one pot.

  • 3 lbs canned tomatoes, drained, chopped -- I used whole, peeled tomatoes and crushed them with my hands.  You could probably use canned crushed tomatoes (duh!) or diced to save a little time.  Also reserve the juice in case you need it to thin out the sauce.
  • 2 Tbs chopped parsley -- didn't have it, so I didn't use it.  Added a few shakes of dried Italian seasoning instead.
  • 1½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp basil (if fresh, 2 Tbs)
  • ½ tsp oregano
  • ¼ tsp ground pepper
Cook all above until sauce is quite thick (30-40 minutes). Skim fat. At this point, this may be refrigerated until the next day.

  • ½ cup butter
  • 4 Tbs flour (I always use Wondra for sauces)
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • ⅛ tsp salt
Combine the milk and chicken broth in a microwave safe container and microwave until steamy.  Melt butter in a large skillet, add flour, and cook for 1 minute, stirring with a whisk. Slowly add warm milk and chicken broth and bring to a boil, still stirring with whisk until sauce coats the back of a spoon. Add salt if needed.

  • 1 egg
  • ½ lb ricotta cheese
  • ¼ cup grated parmesan
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp salt
Beat egg in a bowl, add remaining ingredients and stir well with a fork.

  • 1½ cups grated parmesan
  • 4 oz mozzarella
  • ~ butter

  • ½ lb lasagna noodles (traditional or no-boil)
If using traditional lasagna noodles, cook noodles in boiling salted water until al dente.  I use no-boil noodles.  Maybe that helped with the easy prep!  Just remember that no-boil noodles need a little more liquid so the lasagna doesn't dry out.  I used some of the reserved tomato juice.

In the following order, layer in a lightly greased 13x9 inch baking casserole:
  1. A little meat sauce
  2. ½ the noodles
  3. ½ the remaining meat sauce
  4. ½ cup parmesan
  5. ½ cup béchamel
  6. ½ the mozzarella and ricotta
  7. Remaining noodles and meat sauce
  8. 1½ cup béchamel
  9. 1½ cup parmesan
  10. Remaining mozzarella and ricotta, béchamel and parmesan
  11. If you're using no-boil noodles, pour in a little of the reserved tomato juice around the edges.
Dot with butter (oops, I skipped doing this!  Quite unlike me to leave out a step that involves butter, but it was still delicious!). At this point, the dish may be covered and refrigerated. It can also be divided into smaller portions and frozen. From room temperature, bake at 400° uncovered for 30 minutes.

Here's a consolidated list of ingredients:
  • 1 lb. ground beef
  • ½ cup chopped onions
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 lb. canned tomatoes
  • 2 Tbs chopped parsley
  • 1 tsp dried basil or 2 Tbs fresh basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • 4 Tbs flour
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup+ butter
  • ½ lb ricotta cheese
  • 1¾ cups grated parmesan
  • 4 oz mozzarella
  • ½ lb lasagna noodles
  • Olive Oil
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Weekend Recap

Monday, August 29, 2011
Wow!  What a weather week for the east coast?!  First the earthquake and then Hurricane Irene. Thankfully, we were spared any damage during either event, but many weren't so lucky.

As the storm was approaching on Saturday, we decided to have an impromptu Hurricane Dinner Party.

I wanted comfort food, so while everyone else was frantically buying out the soup aisle at the Social Safeway, I was scurrying around for ground beef and ricotta cheese to make my grandmother Mimi's special lasagna (recipe coming tomorrow!).

Thanks to the other hurricane party people, we had a great evening with cheese and crackers to munch on thanks to Heidi (her two go-tos are Amadeus and a goat gouda which were both so tasty!), wine and bourbon thanks to Stacy and Eric and delicious chocolate cake with cinnamon whipped cream made by Adriana -- yum!

Andy made a hurricane themed playlist which was quite entertaining.  It was a fun way to make a mix... pick a theme and go with it!  He searched our iTunes for certain key words and made the playlist using music we already had.  Amazing how many hurricane, storm and rain related songs he came up with!

  • Hurricane - Bob Dylan
  • Like a Hurricane - Neil Young
  • Riders on the Storm - The Doors
  • After the Storm - Mumford & Sons
  • Against the Wind - Bob Seger
  • Who'll Stop the Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • Dust in the Wind - Kansas
  • The Wind - Cat Stevens
  • Fire and Rain - James Taylor
  • Winter Winds - Mumford & Sons
  • Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head - BJ Thomas
  • No Rain - Blind Melon
  • Rain King - Counting Crows
  • Hurricane Eye - Paul Simon
  • Have You Seen the Rain - Creedence Clearwater Revival
  • November Rain - Guns N Roses
  • Fool in the Rain - Led Zepplin
  • Blowin' in the Wind - Bob Dylan
  • Rain - Rusted Root
  • She's My Kind of Rain - Tim McGraw
  • Flashdance (what a feeling) - Irene Cara
  • Blue Eyes Crying in the Rain - Willie Nelson
  • When the Levee Breaks - Led Zeppelin
  • Neighborhood #3 (Power Out) - Arcade Fire
  • It's Raining Men - The Weather Girls

I guess you know you're getting old when your after dinner activities consist of watching the weather.

End of Summer Outfit

Thursday, August 25, 2011
It's getting late in the summer when thoughts of fall start creeping in... sweaters, soft scarves, boots.  But, it's not quite that time yet!  Let's soak up these last few days of summer in style.

Problem with making inspiration boards?  Now I want all of these cute items!!

Sunglasses - Sasha A.J. Morgan at Ruche
Romper - Backcountry Romper at Madewell (on sale!)
Cuff - Suzanna Dai Coral Malé Cuff at Max and Chloe
Wedges - Gasha by Dolce Vita at Lori's Shoes
Scarf - Halogen® 'Optic' Scarf at Nordstrom

Hanging Plates

Wednesday, August 24, 2011
I'm not a big collector of things.  I have a very sentimental and treasured collection of Christmas boxes that my godmother gave me throughout my childhood. I love getting each of them out during the holidays and admiring the little details. But other than that, collections aren't my thing unless you consider my obsession with china patterns a collection.  One day, Andy was saying something about my love for china, and I defended myself by saying "I collect it!"  It seemed to give some legitimacy to my obsession (maybe I should collect jewelry as well!).

I absolutely adore china.  And thankfully, not only is is pretty, but also it has a purpose. The first china pattern that I started collecting was Kate Spade Rutherford Circle and Madison Square.  I asked for it as a college graduation present, and I continue to collect it (getting pretty tricky since some is discontinued).  While I definitely use each of our china patterns, when I saw this vignette by Angie Hranowsky using Rutherford Circle and Madison Square plates, I realized that maybe one day it would be fun to display part of my collection.

Angie Hranowsky - Tremont Blvd
Another pretty display:

Martha Stewart Online // Decorating by Color > Neutral Rooms

One thing I do know is that whenever I do hang plates, I will be using these adhesive plate hangers from Container Store.

They're great!  Not only are they hidden, but also they don't damage your plates.  And I can attest to their strength-- I used these to hold up the pewter chargers that are hanging with my newly decorated book shelves.

Party Chairs

Tuesday, August 23, 2011
I've noticed that there seems to be a theme among some of the table settings that I just adore:

Photo from Design Sponge // Photography: Gabriel Ryan Photographers // Concept & Design: Jesi Haack Design 

Martha Stewart Weddings - 2008 Collectors Edition // Available through Amazon

Concept, Design and Styling: Eddie Ross
Notice the similarity?  Bright, colorful chairs!  How fun would it be to have a set for parties?  If storage is an issue, then you could go the folding chair route:

Society Social // The Fifi // I'm dying over these!!

Sprout Home // Grass Green Bistro Chair

Or you could stock up on some folding chiavari chairs and spray paint them the color of your choice!

Flash Elegance Chiavari Folding Chair in White Finish // at IVG Stores

Storage space not an issue? Then look at these beauties:

Anthropologie // Le Versha Chairs

Classic and perfect // A-16 Bentwood Chair // The Conan Shop

Weekend Recap

Monday, August 22, 2011
The weekend definitely started out on the right foot-- I didn't have to work (probably should have but that's a whole different game)!  We started our Friday night catching up with friends (how are we ever going to move out of the building?!) and gearing up for our big night out.  Andy's friend Dee was in town for a gig.  See, the thing is, Andy and I are usually in bed by 11 (maybe 11:30 on the weekends), and Dee didn't start spinning (um, is that the correct terminology?) until 12:30.  Needless to say, I had 2 cups of coffee at 9:30pm.  Before he went on, we caught up with Dee and Eleanor which was great.  Then there was more catching up to do over brunch on Saturday, followed by dinner on the roof that night.

A perfect, low key Saturday night after our Friday out on the town.

On Sunday, the girls met up for coffee before going to see The Help.  I loved the movie even though there were parts that were quite hard to watch. I laughed, I cried (we all cried!) and laughed some more.  I was deep into the story and the characters so much so that I didn't really take in the surroundings.  While I obviously did notice the familiar places from my childhood (love those grilled cheese sandwiches and cherry limeades from Brent's), I want to see it again and focus a bit more on the details and backgrounds.

Hope everyone had a great weekend!  I can't believe there's only one more weekend in August!  For me, summer is still June, July and August even though technically the last day of summer is September 21.  But fall thoughts have been creeping in.  This weekend Andy did say how he was starting to crave chili, and every time I get dressed, all I want to wear are leggings, scarfs and boots!


Friday, August 19, 2011
Do you have a go to meal?  A meal that you cook when you need dinner but don't feel like doing anything too fancy, or you've just returned back into town and don't want to go to the grocery?  Well for us, that meal is spaghetti carbonara.  It's basically like breakfast-for-dinner's grown up sister-- eggs + bacon + cheese + pasta instead of toast. A meal that we can always pull together without going to the grocery store (yes, I consider bacon a staple).

Spaghetti Carbonara for Two

I don't really have a recipe for this, but more a process of how I make it.  If you want a more formal recipe, check out Tyler Florence's Spaghetti alla Carbonara.

Cook bacon or pancetta and then crumble into little pieces. I do 2 slices of thick cut bacon per serving of pasta.  Boil spaghetti in salted water.  I usually make 3 servings (156g) for the two of us.  While the pasta is cooking, scramble (updated) whisk 2 eggs and add a hefty amount of grated parmesan cheese and freshly ground black pepper.  When the pasta is al dente, drain the pasta and immediately pour the egg mixture over the piping hot pasta.  Add bacon and continuously mix until the sauce has thickened.  It's also smart to reserve a little bit of the starchy pasta water in case you need to thin out your sauce.  Season with salt and additional pepper to taste.  Usually I mix in green peas as well, but we didn't have any this time.  If you find that your sauce isn't thickening, it's sometimes helpful to combine everything over very low heat.

The Next Generation of Snood

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

If you lived in Graham Lees during 2000-2001, you are all too familiar with Snood-- the biggest time drain of our freshman year.
Snood 3.52<br>for older versions of Windows XP
Image from Snood World 

Now let me introduce you to Fruit Ninja. I know, I know, why in the world would you want to spend your time hacking fruit with your sword (even if it is the disco sword)?  

Well, don't knock it until you've tried it.  Even Andy, who doesn't like computer/video games has been sucked in as evidenced by him oh so sweetly showing off his record breaking score (btw, I'd be remiss not to mention that he has since topped that).  

Thanks to Lindsay and Stef for introducing me to this.  I will never get back this time. So join me, and go out and Fruit Ninja!!  And no, I'm not being compensated for mentioning this little game.  Would be nice though!

PS - I hate to mention this (Amelia) but when I googled Snood for an image I saw that you can still download the game and it is now available on the iPhone. 

Commenting Tips

Tuesday, August 16, 2011
I've had a few people email me with a blog comment and say they can't figure out how to comment on the blog. I love comments! They make me happy! So here are some tips that will hopefully make commenting easier:

To comment, you'll need to be on the page for the specific post. To get there, either click on the title of the post or click on the comments link at the bottom of the post.

Then write your comment in the little comment box that's at the end of the post.

From the "Comment As" drop down menu, select "Name/URL". You can select whatever you want, but this option seems to be the easiest. Fill in your name (or whatever your commenting persona is) and then your URL or leave this field blank.

Click "Post Comment" and voila! I'm a happy camper, because I have a new comment.

Back to Life, Back to Reality

Monday, August 15, 2011
Today it's back to reality, but before then I'm going to relive the family vacation to the beach.  Andy and I got there a little late because of our trip to California, but that didn't mean we escaped our cooking duties!

It was grilled beef and chicken kabobs with our new favorite summer salad, couscous and mozzarella cheese bread (recipe to come).

This was the first time I made mozzarella cheese bread for Andy's family, and it was a huge hit.  It's so sinful that it really should only be eaten once a year, but maybe I'll bring it back out for the holidays.

Hap bought a paddle board and was kind enough to let the family try it out.  It was quite entertaining both to watch and to try.

We had a crab feast.  Of course, I preferred the cheddarbrats.

There was family bingo.  I had quite the dud card... ended up eating more of the markers than using them on my card.

And one night, instead of hitting the boardwalk, we went to Motorworld.  Quite entertaining for the 2 year old!

Let me onto that train!!!!!

No TV won this time...

It was a great family vacation... wish I was still sitting on the beach (under the umbrella, of course).

Blogs - My Favorites Part 2

Friday, August 12, 2011

Top Picture // Bottom Picture
I love Bryn's mix of inspiring images and glimpses into her own design projects.  I think she's around my age and I'm impressed by what she's accomplished (and continues to!).

Top Picture // Bottom Picture
Hmmm, what's not to love?  They're down to earth, they love a DIY project, they have an adorable baby and each of them have a great sense of humor. 

Left Picture // Right Picture
I just adore Jenny's fun and refreshing design aesthetic. She does great DIY tutorials and shares lots of tidbits along the way. 

Left Picture // Right Picture
Jordan and her family are currently living in Paris, and I've so enjoyed a peek into their adventures.  When Andy and I were planning our trip to San Francisco, I searched through the archives of Oh Happy Day for suggestions (they lived in SF before Paris) and was not disappointed by a single one of them. 

Left Picture // Top Right Picture // Bottom Right Picture
Mrs. Lilien is the definition of fun!  Her daily posts are always cheerful, spunky, unique and make me want to go put on big earrings, pour a cocktail and gossip by the pool.

Left Picture // Right Picture

I look forward to Liz's little DIY projects and tutorials.  She's got some great ideas and inspires me to work on my sewing skills!

Blogs - My Favorites Part 1

Wednesday, August 10, 2011
I get asked frequently what are my favorite blogs (this usually comes after I gush about how wonderful Google Reader is and question people's sanity who don't use it).  I currently have 176 subscriptions in my reader.  Yep, you read that correctly.  176 subscriptions, but it's not as crazy as it seems... some of those are no longer functioning (as in it moved to a new address and I didn't delete the old... this would drive Andy crazy, he who deletes instead of archives his gmails, or the blogger just stopped blogging... gotta make sure I'm alerted if Pete ever bakes again), one of those is Tallulah and Vidalia (gotta make sure the feed is functioning properly!), a good handful are my friends' and family's twitter feeds and picasa web album pages or blogs (goes without saying that my favorite are those of my family and friends), multiple feeds for house hunting (always the first to know thanks to Redfin!). Then there are the rest-- out of those, these are the ones that I get giddy when I see an unread item in my reader, the ones that I never "mark as read".

I'm dividing this post into two posts... enjoy these today and the rest tomorrow! If you click on the picture, it will take you to the blog.

Left Picture // Right Picture
I can definitely learn a thing or two about accessorizing from Blair!

Left Picture // Right Picture
I love Kendi's outfits especially because I feel like they are combinations that I would and should wear.

Top Picture // Bottom Picture
I've been reading Deb's posts for about as long as I've been reading blogs.  It was definitely her pictures that pulled me in but her recipes have kept me as a loyal reader.  I will be happy when her book is finished and hope she returns to blogging as her priority.

Top Picture // Bottom Picture
Dinner: A Love Story is relatively new to me.  I look forward to their recipes but truly enjoy their writing style and their stories.  You must read the post that's pictured on top above.

Top Picture // Bottom Picture by Marla Carter
I've been reading Erika's blog for as long as I've been reading blogs.  I definitely love the beautiful interiors that she designs, but really I am a loyal reader for her life posts and that precious little girl!

Top Picture // Bottom Picture
Darby is Erika's twin sister, and I "met" her after Erika posted a picture of Darby's precious kids.  Darby doesn't post very frequently (she does have 3 little ones!) but when she does, it definitely gets my immediate attention.

Top Picture // Bottom Picture
Joanna has lots of great tidbits and finds.. can you believe that's a public pool outside of Austin?  She's also has some quick tutorials, and I've enjoyed her Motherhood Monday series even though I'm no where close to being a mom. And then there is her precious baby boy, Toby.