Browsing articles from "September, 2011"
Sep 30, 2011

Food + Music for Our 1-Year Anniversary

On September 25, 2010, Jared and I tied the knot right here in Richmond and it was absolutely perfect. The sun was shining, the drinks were flowing and people were dancing! Our wedding couldn’t have been any better. It seems really crazy to be writing this post thinking that a year already flew by. A lot of good things have happened since our marriage namely purchasing our first home together and, of course for me, starting Pretty Tasty Things. We’re just thankful that things have been going great since we got married. So, for our anniversary, we wanted to make it special for us so we celebrated in several different ways that brought back memories of our wedding and honeymoon.

The first stop was Charlottesville, VA. We ate dinner at the downtown outdoor mall, which was absolutely the cutest place in Virginia. We didn’t want to spend so much money, so we tried The Hook, a popular diner in Charlottesville. The food was pretty decent, but I probably wouldn’t go back. We didn’t go to Charlottesville to just eat. The real reason was to see Ray LaMontagne perform at the nTelos Wireless Pavilion. Our first dance was to his song, “You are the best thing.” What great timing!

It was only a day trip so we loaded up on coffee before the show started. I didn’t want to fall asleep on the road driving back to Richmond!

Jared is such a Southern boy. He ordered country fried steak smothered with gravy. He had a side of mashed potatoes and corn, which was left uneatened. The steak was good, but the sides were pretty bad. You could tell the mashed potatoes sat on the burner for a while and the corn was straight out of the can.

On the other hand, my all-lump crab cake sandwich, was alright. It wasn’t anything to go crazy over, but it had a good amount of crab meat, which is what I like. I was a little disappointed with the bun. I think bread is just as important as the filling and it fell a little short.

We arrived at the show around 7pm. Jared was a little tired, but I was super pumped to see Ray! We found a spot on the lawn with our lawn chairs and watched from afar Brandi Carlile, who performed beforehand, and my man, Ray LaMontagne. Ray didn’t sing our song, but listening to his sweet sweet voice was worth the trip and money.

We returned back to Richmond later that night, and on our actual anniversary day, we had brunch at Kuba Kuba in Richmond, VA (the Fan). We went to Spain for our honeymoon and granted it’s not anywhere close to Cuba or being Cuban, they both love their café con leches as much as Jared and I do. Every day in Spain, Jared and I started each morning with a cup of café con leche. Since then, we’ve been addicted. We even make it at home, here’s the recipe for it! 

It was crowded as hell at Kuba Kuba, as always. So we sat at the bar and watched these two men cook seamlessly in their small space. It was damn impressive.

We both ordered the California Huevos, which is two perfectly cooked over medium-eggs over red beans and Kuban bread topped with Monterey Jack cheese, lime sour cream and enchilado sauce. It was outstanding. We finished our coffee, devoured our meal and left with happy stomachs.

Our last stop was Emilio’s Restaurante in Richmond, VA (the West End) for dinner. So, Jared surprised me with first stopping at Emilio’s in the Fan. Not gonna lie, the atmosphere wasn’t too great in the Fan. It was more like a hangout spot, a dive bar than something intimate and romantic. So, we drove a little west to their second location in Short Pump. It just felt cleaner and more appropriate for the occasion. We sat and immediately ordered a pitcher of sangria. Thankfully for us, it was sangria Sunday, which meant a pitcher was only $12!

The endless pitcher of sangria filled each of our glasses four times!! The sangria was not as sweet as the ones we drank in Spain, but they certainly hit the spot.

We ordered off the tapas portion of the menu since we ate that way in Spain. The food definitely reminded me us of our trip. The flavors and style were pretty close to being authentic. Our first tapa was the Gambas al Ajillo, gulf shrimp in a special garlic sauce. The shrimp were a little small, wished they were slightly bigger, but the garlic sauce was out of this world. We later dipped our bread in it…oh my gosh. I couldn’t stop eating the sauce. This is definitely one dish I’ll recreate in Pretty Tasty Things.

We also order the Empanada con chorizo. It was stuffed with Monchego cheese and chorizo served with a paprika aioli. We weren’t a huge fan of this one, the stuffing was too cheesy for my liking. We then ate a Pan a la Mediterranea, which was flat bread topped with marinated artichokes, mixed Spanish olives, roasted red peppers, garlic and melted Monchego cheese. It was like a little pizza! Pretty good!

Last, but not least, the mussels in a spicy marinara sauce. OMG. This specific dish definitely took me back to Spain. The first bite was exactly like the mussels I had in Spain. They were as good. The sauce was spicy and flavorful. I would go back and get this over and over again. We ate every last one of those mussels. It was my favorite.

This pretty much wraps up our weekend in food and music. Thanks so much for reading about our food experiences and if you live in Richmond, I would totally recommend Kuba Kuba and Emilio’s for some good eats. Can I just say that Spanish cuisine has got to be one of my favorites!

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Sep 27, 2011

Recipe for: Chicken, Beans & Tomato Spaghetti

FROM THE KITCHEN OF: Isabel Canfield
TOTAL TIME: about 1 hr
enough for 3-4 people

When Jared and I experienced the wrath of Hurricane Irene, we were out of power for EIGHT days. During those eight days, we spent way too much money eating out that week. Yes, we did grill at home once or twice and saved some money that way, but our routine was so out of wack! The house was a mess, our fridge smelled really funky, our mattress was in our living room, crap was literally everywhere. Fortunately, my sister, who lives nearby, got her power back sooner than we did. So, we were trucked back and forth and cooked some meals at her place.

This particular meal came about on the 6th day in. We didn’t have much food at my sister’s house so we rummaged through her pantry and saw a few things that were ours when we had lived there. We defrosted some chicken and came up with this one-skillet meal that surprisingly turned out absolutely delicious. It’s amazing sometimes what you can come up with using every day, inexpensive items. This meal was hearty, yet delicate in taste with the beans and pasta, a perfect comfort meal for the Fall season approaching.

4-5 chicken thighs, skin on
1 can whole tomatoes, largely diced
1 heaping tablespoon tomato paste
1 can white beans, drained
thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes + basil seasonings
salt + pepper
1 cup water
1/2 box spaghetti pasta

1. Season chicken. Place the raw chicken on a plastic cutting board. Sprinkle both sides with basil, red pepper flakes, thyme, oregano, salt and pepper. Press the seasonings firm against the chicken skin.

2. Pan fry the chicken thighs. Heat a large, deep skillet on medium to low temperature. Drizzle a touch of olive oil. Once the pan is hot, gently place the seasoned chicken skin side down. Cook each side for about 10-15 minutes each, turning them occasionally to prevent burning. After 25-30 minutes, remove most of the fat that has rendered in the pan leaving some behind.

3. Add beans, tomato and pasta. At this point, add the white beans, tomatoes and tomato paste to skillet. Stir to combine letting it simmer for 5 minutes. Next, add the pasta to the tomato and chicken mixture. Break the spaghetti into thirds and nestle the pasta into the mixture.

4. Add water and simmer. After adding the pasta, pour a ½ cup of water. Gently press the pasta down so the pasta is slightly covered with the water. After 10 minutes, check on the pasta and stir. Add another ½ cup of water to the mixture and continue cooking for another 10 minutes until the noodles are al dente. *If you notice the spaghetti is a little dry, add a little more water to help.

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Sep 26, 2011

A Redesigned Breakfast Nook!

Hi, Pretty Tasty Things readers! I’m super excited to show you what I did with my time off from work. If you didn’t know, I took a week off because I needed a break, plus I wanted to do a few things around the house. So, my vacation was technically a “staycation” since I did not go anywhere special and more work than relaxation since I didn’t lay on my butt all week. The biggest accomplishment I am completely thrilled about is redesigning our kitchen/breakfast nook. It took about about 4 days to complete it from start to finish, 2 days painting and 2 days re-finishing the bistro table. It probably shouldn’t have taken me that long for the table, but I was new to it! After all is said and done, I couldn’t be happier with the end result.

As a friendly reminder, here is the BEFORE of our kitchen. The paint on the walls were a yellow-greenish color. They weren’t horrible, but they were bothering me so bad. The pot holder in the breakfast nook hung very too low. The wood on the bistro table didn’t compliment anything, plus I had no seats for the bistro table. The space wasn’t decorated at all.

So here is the AFTER! Beautiful, isn’t it?! The walls are now a “turtle dove” something more calming and refreshing for the kitchen, which is a very light and pale seafoam green. The table top is newly sanded and stained with a dark walnut. The barstools were purchased from World Market. The pot holder was brought up higher. The breakfast nook was simply decorated to our taste. LOVE IT!

The first thing I wanted to do when redesigning my breakfast nook is to re-stain the bistro table I purchased through Craigslist for a mere $40. Mind you this was my first attempt to re-finish furniture and I’m proud to say it turned out great. I had some help from Young House Love. They made their own 13-foot counter! But here were my steps when refinishing wood:

1. Sanding the varnish is first and foremost. Most furniture you purchase comes with pre-stained wood. There are two ways to remove it. One, you can use chemicals to remove the finish. Since I’m not that familiar with doing so that way, I decided to do it the second way — manually with my inexpensive Black and Decker sander equipped with an 80-grit sandpaper. It’s important to use a low number grit paper in order to remove all the varnish or else the stain won’t set in. Test a small area to make sure you’ve sanded enough. If so, use a 220-grit sandpaper to smooth the top over. Afterwards, remove all the dust with a damp paper towel. Let dry.

2. Pre-condition the wood. I purchased a can of “pre-stain” conditioner by Minwax. This supposedly helps create an even stain and prevents blotchiness. Using a bristle brush, just apply an even layer. Let it dry completely. *Read the directions though for thorough instructions.

3. Staining the wood. Once the wood has dried, use a bristle brush to stain the wood. Let the stain sit for a minute and remove any excess stain with a cloth towel or T-shirt. I used Minwax Dark Walnut stain and needed only one coat. I didn’t want it too dark. Let it dry completely overnight.

4. Polyurethane the wood. Last step is to create a seal and finish of the stain. Apply a layer of the polyurethane with a bristle brush. You can apply a second later if you want. I choose not to since I didn’t want it too shiny. Be sure to let it dry completely in a non-damp location, preferably not in a basement. It won’t dry! Trust me.

Look at this beauty. Took about a day and a half to finish it completely, but it was well-worth the trouble. This table would have cost well over $200, but it set me back only $80 with materials and table.

I added my cute salt + pepper paper bird shakers from Anthropologie given to us as a wedding gift from Gretchen. Perfect for the table!

I painted the entire kitchen myself! I taped off all the trim and painted the walls as if I was truly professionally. I decided to go with Behr’s Turtle Dove paint color in a semi-gloss. Yes, you can say it’s a little light, but it’s absolutely perfect for us. It actually makes the kitchen feel larger. The dark wood and the metal details compliments the wall paint so well. I’m in love with it!

As a temporary fix, we left the pot hanger there. We plan on moving it over the stove, but we just don’t know how to move it and ensure it won’t fall! So, we just moved the hooks higher up so that the rack is closer to the ceiling creating more headroom. It works for the time being.

Our nook came with a ledge, so I decorated the space with things I already had laying around in boxes. I printed out some of my favorite photos that we’ve taken for Pretty Tasty Things and placed them in 99 cent photo frames from IKEA. The chalkboards were actually from our wedding. I had made a menu board for the bar and kept it in storage since the wedding. We took it apart and use it in our nook. Not only was it nostalgic for us, it brought a vintage aspect to the décor. I also had placed two white vases I found at a thrift store a while back and vintage wooden letterpresses from our wedding.

Lastly, as you recall, I did a blog post requesting for help on choosing the right pair of barstools. As you can guess, we decided to go with the rustic, backless barstools from World Market. I don’t think they sell them anymore, so I’m glad we bought them when we did. They’re absolutely beautiful. The stools definitely reflect the style of the breakfast nook and are, no joke, pretty comfy. Plus, they’re the perfect height!

Thanks for visiting our redesigned breakfast nook! I hope this brings you some inspiration if you’re thinking about re-finishing a piece of furniture or wanting to redo your kitchen with some inexpensive touches. It took some time, but it was well worth it. I just love my new kitchen!!

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Sep 21, 2011

Recipe for: Raspberry Champagne Mojito

FROM THE KITCHEN OF: Isabel Canfield
TOTAL TIME: 2-3 minutes to make 2 drinks
2 drinks at a time

Anyone that knows Jared and I, know that we both love to drink. Maybe more so me than him :) For being a petite person, I can definitely drink my fair share. Jared usually sticks with his beers, which I normally do too, but every now and again I do like a girly drink. This drink in particular, I think, is very girly. A good friend of ours, Rachel, sent me this link for a Raspberry Champagne Mojito. What’s not to love about this recipe? So, she came over and brought the rum, while I had all the other ingredients. The only thing we didn’t included was the raspberry liquor, which the original recipe called for. We just didn’t think it was worth the money so we omitted it. Either way, this drink was super strong and very refreshing. The raspberries and lemon were a classic pairing. The rum and champagne in this drink was a deadly combination. After drinking a few of these pretty pink drinks, the liquor definitely snuck up on me, so be aware!

1/2 lemon, cut into four pieces
3 teaspoons sugar
6-8 mint leaves
6 raspberries
3 ounces white rum

1. Combine lemon, sugar and mint. In a cocktail shaker, add the lemon, sugar and mint. Muddle the ingredients until the sugar is dissolved and the lemon has released its juices.

I recently purchased my muddler at Sur La Table for $14.99. If you don’t have one, I did use the back end of my ice cream scooper. Worked like a charm until the metal finish started peeling off…yikes.

2. Add raspberries. Add the raspberries to the mix and crush them gently.

3. Add vodka and ice. Afterwards, add the vodka and a handful or two of ice. Cover the cocktail shaker with the lid and shake it like a polaroid picture until everything is nicely combined and cold.

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Sep 20, 2011

Recipe for: Coconut Macaroons dipped in Chocolate

FROM THE KITCHEN OF: Isabel Canfield
TOTAL TIME: 10 minutes to prep, 13-15 minutes to bake
about 24-30 macaroons

Not everyone is a fan of coconut. Myself included. But for some reason, I just love coconut macaroons. I don’t eat them often, but when I do, they’re completely delicious and satisfying. I must love them because they’re not too sweet and the coconut flavor is balanced and not over-the-top. Making macaroons are probably one of the easiest cookies you can possibly make. This is the first time for me and I think this recipe, which a friend gave to me, couldn’t be any easier. With just five simple ingredients, you, too, can make a macaroon with a crispy exterior and a super moist and chewy interior.

5 cups of sweet coconut flakes
2/3 cup flour
1 can of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 bag of chocolate morsels (your flavor)

1. Combine ingredients. In a large bowl mix together the coconut and flour. Then stir in the condensed milk and vanilla, making sure all the flour and coconut flakes are moist.

2. Scoop macaroons and bake. Preheat oven to 350°. Using a small cookie scoop or a spoon, drop ping pong size balls of the coconut mixture onto a non-stick cookie sheet. You can line the sheet with parchment paper to be extra cautious. Watch closely them bake closely because they can go from toasty brown to black in a hurry. Bake for 13-15 minutes.

3. Melt chocolate. While the macaroons are baking, set up a double boiler to melt the chocolate. Place a heat-safe bowl over a saucepan of simmering water. The heat and steam from the water will melt the chocolate without burning. Stir until all the morsels have melted leaving a smooth texture.

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