Monday, December 24, 2012

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Santa, Baby

Poor Gracie has been running a fever for a few days now and had to miss her visit with Santa this year.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Good times

An after-school treat with my girls. It's the little things in life, right?

Monday, December 3, 2012

'Tis the season

Christmas decorations 99% complete
Christmas cards 100% sent
Christmas gifts 75% purchased

I'm doing pretty well so far! Why is it that it always ends up catching up to me by the end and I get 100% exhausted?

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Potty Training, Part Deux


Hopefully, this second time doesn't take too long!

Zoolights

Last night, we went to the Smithsonian National Zoo's Zoolights exhibit.  It was cold, but I think the kids had fun running around the zoo with their cousins!








Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Thanksgiving Weekend in Pictures


Bleary-eyed, the kids watch me cook as the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade plays in the background.

Gussied up for Thanksgiving lunch at Oma's (grandma's) house


Sophie really dug the turkey this time!


My mother-in-law's Thanksgiving lunch

Thanksgiving Dinner: Pham-style, a la buffet, DSL cameras are "out, smartphone cameras are "in".  That's me in the polka dots giving the obligatory speech.


I'm serving Sophie a traditional Thanksgiving egg-roll.


The next day, I invite some cousins over to my place for a potluck TRADITIONAL Thanksgiving meal.   I made turkey TWICE this year!  *crying from exhaustion*


My cousins and I playing Taboo after dinner.  We are the epitomy of wholesomeness.




The 4th Generation Phams are being indoctrinated into the picture-taking cult.



Saturday night: Some cousins meet up AGAIN for dinner at Spike Mendelsohn's Good Stuff Eatery.


Grace inhaled a Vietnamese Coffee shake.
 
Last day of Thanksgiving weekend - buying our Christmas tree
 

 Next up....CHRISTMAS!!!






Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Ruth's Chris Sweet Potato Casserole

My absolute favorite thing to eat at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse isn't their steak...it's the sweet potato casserole!  It's the best sweet potato side dish I've ever had!  So, I'm totally making it tomorrow for my family's Thanksgiving potluck.  It tastes like it's complicated, but actually only requires a few basic ingredients--my favorite type of recipe!

Here's an instructional video from a Ruth's Chris chef making this delicious dish:



Ruth's Chris special sweet potato casserole 
Makes 12 servings

Crust
1 cup brown sugar 
1/3 cup flour 
1 cup chopped nuts (pecans preferred) 
1/3 stick butter, melted 
Combine brown sugar, flour, nuts and butter in mixing bowl. Set aside.
Sweet Potato Mixture
3 cups mashed sweet potatoes 
1 cup sugar 
½ teaspoon salt 
1 teaspoon vanilla 
2 eggs, well beaten 
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Coat a medium-size casserole dish with nonstick spray.
Combine sweet potatoes, sugar, salt, vanilla, eggs and butter in a large mixing bowl in the order listed. Beat thoroughly with a hand mixer to increase the fluffiness of the sweet potato mixture.
Pour mixture into the baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes. (At this point, dish can be covered and refrigerated.)
Sprinkle the surface of the sweet potato mixture evenly with the crust mixture and return to oven for 10 minutes. Allow to set at least 30 minutes before serving.
The brown sugar and pecan crust should be slightly browned and crunchy. 

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Alton Brown Turkey Tips




When it comes to the holy day of Thanksgiving, I worship at the altar of Alton Brown.  Sure, Martha knows how to make a pretty table, but Alton has been prolific in his Thanksgiving tutorials, recipes and advice.  Last year, I made turkey using the upside-down roasting method.  It turned out well, but recently Alton was on NPR discussing his Turkey do's and don'ts, that I thought he must know what he's doing!  Here are some highlights I learned:
  • Try brining - Brining adds juiciness and flavor.
  • Don't stuff your turkey - The stuffing should reach a temperature of 165 degrees to prevent salmonella.  Unfortunately, getting the stuffing to this temperature can result in an overcooked turkey.
  • Don't baste your turkey - The function of skin is to be impermeable to most substances, therefore basting won't make your turkey any more moist.  At most, it will flavor your skin and give it a nice color.  Also, repeated opening of the oven door to baste the turkey lowers the oven temperature and prevents proper cooking of the turkey.
Tomorrow, I'll post the Good Eats Roast Turkey recipe that I'm going to try this year!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sunday

Today, we had an amazing brunch at Seasons Restaurant for my sister's birthday. Afterwards, I fell into a food coma and am only stirring now that it's almost nighttime. Of course, the kids have an insane amount of energy and are bouncing off the walls! My sluggish mind is having problems keeping up with them, so I'm trying to placate them with Popsicles. Mom of the Year award, here I come!

Built-In

Darren and I have tons of books (ok, mostly Darren), and my latest decorno fantasy is that I get a wall of built-in bookshelves, floor to ceiling, complete with a ladder...how do I go about getting this?

image via Daily Dream Decor

image via Martha Stewart


image via Remodelista


image via Design*Sponge


image via Willow Decor



Thursday, November 8, 2012

Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Pear and Thyme

My autumnal obsession with pork continues!  I'm going to try this recipe from Williams-Sonoma this weekend.  I love recipes that only require a few staple ingredients that you already have in your pantry!




Glazed Pork Tenderloin with Pear and Thyme

1 pork tenderloin, about 1 lb., trimmed of excess fat
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1 red onion, cut into 1/8-inch wedges
4 Forelle or Bosc pears, cored and each cut into 8 wedges
2 Tbs. honey
1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
Leaves from 12 fresh thyme sprigs

Preheat an oven to 400°F.

Season the pork tenderloin well with salt and pepper. In an ovenproof sauté pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil until shimmering. Sear the pork, turning occasionally, until well browned, 6 to 8 minutes total. Transfer to a plate.

Add the onion and pears to the pan and sauté for 1 minute. Return the pork to the pan and drizzle with the honey and vinegar. Scatter the thyme leaves in the pan. Transfer to the oven and roast until the juices run clear when the pork is pierced with a knife, 15 to 20 minutes.

Transfer the pork to a cutting board, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let rest for 5 minutes. Cut into slices 1/2 inch thick. Divide the pork, pears and onion wedges among 4 individual plates, drizzle with the glaze from the pan and serve immediately. Serves 4.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Cozy

Darren and Sophie went to see a movie tonight, so Grace and I are just spending a cozy night in bed.


Mylene's Photos

Darren's cousin was kind enough to send us some photos of her visit, once she returned to Florida.  She's the blond beauty in the yellow shirt--isn't her smile infectious?  Thank you, Mylene!







Random Obsessions

Hosting our chic guests recently have inspired me to refresh my wardrobe and my home's wardrobe (any excuse to buy home goods, is a good one to me!).  I'm loving gold as an accessory this fall--it's warm, bright, and still neutral enough to blend in with everything.

Matte gold flatware, $74 for a 5-piece setting


Gold leather pouch, $40

And Christina from Sweden was sporting warm grey nail polish...I loved it!  Totally going to try out this griege from Essie:

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Perfect Roast Chicken

There's something about autumn that really puts me in a nesting mode.  I get excited about about trying out recipes for comfort food, making my house cozy for the holidays, and entertaining family and close friends.  For me, roasted meals with pork or poultry and root vegetables are perfect for fall.  

I have some organic whole chickens that have been sitting in my freezer, waiting to be used for a recipe just like this!



Perfect Roast Chicken

Ingredients

  • 1 six-pound roasting chicken
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 medium onions, peeled and sliced crosswise 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 lemon
  • 3 large cloves garlic, peeled
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 1 cup Homemade Chicken Stock, or canned low-sodium chicken broth, skimmed of fat

Directions

  1. Let chicken and 1 tablespoon butter stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Remove and discard the plastic pop-up timer from chicken if there is one. Remove the giblets and excess fat from the chicken cavity. Rinse chicken inside and out under cold running water. Dry chicken thoroughly with paper towels. Tuck the wing tips under the body. Sprinkle the cavity of the chicken liberally with salt and pepper, and set aside.
  2. In the center of a heavy-duty roasting pan, place onion slices in two rows, touching. Place the palm of your hand on top of lemon and, pressing down, roll lemon back and forth several times. This softens the lemon and allows the juice to flow more freely. Pierce entire surface of lemon with a fork. Using the side of a large knife, gently press on garlic cloves to open slightly. Insert garlic cloves, thyme sprigs, and lemon into cavity. Place chicken in pan, on onion slices. Cut about 18 inches of kitchen twine, bring chicken legs forward, cross them, and tie together.
  3. Spread the softened butter over entire surface of chicken, and sprinkle liberally with salt and pepper. Place in the oven, and roast until skin is deep golden brown and crisp and the juices run clear when pierced, about 1 1/2 hours. When chicken seems done, insert an instant-read thermometer into the breast, then the thigh. The breast temperature should read 180 degrees and the thigh 190 degrees.
  4. Remove chicken from oven, and transfer to a cutting board with a well. Let chicken stand 10 to 15 minutes so the juices settle. Meanwhile, pour the pan drippings into a shallow bowl or fat separator, and leave onions in the pan. Leave any brown baked-on bits in the bottom of the roasting pan, and remove and discard any blackened bits. Using a large spoon or fat separator, skim off and discard as much fat as possible. Pour the remaining drippings and the juices that have collected under the resting chicken back into the roasting pan. Place on the stove over medium-high heat to cook, about 1 minute. Add chicken stock, raise heat to high, and, using a wooden spoon, stir up and combine the brown bits with the stock until the liquid is reduced by half, about 4 minutes. Strain the gravy into a small bowl, pressing on onions to extract any liquid. Discard onions, and stir in the remaining tablespoon of cold butter until melted and incorporated. Untie the legs, and remove and discard garlic, thyme, and lemon. Carve, and serve gravy on the side.


image and recipe via Martha Stewart

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween!

image via Martha Stewart

This year, Halloween was overshadowed by the hurricane and all the devastation it created.  The weather is still cold, windy and wet, but we're going to try and make the best of it and go trick or treating tonight anyway.  Happy Halloween, everyone!

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy is predicted to hit our area this afternoon and last 36 grueling hours.  We've been through blizzards and other hurricanes before, but everyone seems to be really worried about this one.  Every time we have really bad weather, I am really bothered by the welfare of homeless people and animals in our area.  I hope everyone makes it through this one OK.  Here's how it's looking right now outside our front door.


Sunday, October 28, 2012

Baltimore

What a full and wonderful day we had in Baltimore today!  Darren's cousin Christina is still in town and we invited her to join us on our day trip.  Our family had an appointment with a photographer in Baltimore to take Christmas portraits and thought that maybe she'd like to see what B-more was about.  The studio was located near Clipper Mill, a former industrial-turned-artists' community on the outskirts of the city.  It was a little gem, with artists' studios and shops and the popular Woodberry Kitchen...which although had great atmosphere, was a overrated in food, in my opinion.  The industrial atmosphere made for some very cool backdrops, however!  Afterwards, we headed down to Inner Harbor and found ourselves to be the only tourists foolish enough to walk around the waterfront on the day before a hurricane was supposed to hit!  It was very cold and windy.  Sophie and Grace still managed to find fun, but Darren and I were ready to collapse by the end!

Darren's cousins from Sweden and Quebec, his mom, and Darren.

Woodberry Kitchen's Americana interior

Love the plaid shirted, blue jeaned uniforms...the staff could easily pass for lumberjacks!

Christina and our kiddos at the bar.

This door framed the shot very well.

I loved the architectural elements strewn throughout.





Domo arigato, Mr. Roboto!