Monday, February 25, 2013

Oscars Red Carpet & Party Grub

I'll just get right to it - this was the most underwhelming Oscars red carpet in years. No one had a real "moment" either of the really good or really bad variety. What is an Oscars without jaw dropping fashion moments?! Long, kinda boring, but also funny. I don't really have an opinion on Seth McFarlane and I'm not easily offended so I think he did a good job. The opening was hilarious IMO. All movies should have sock puppet versions.

Dresses! I will be including looks from the various parties both viewing and after because they provided so much more good fashion. As always, best first:

Image via Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images North America
 Elizabeth Banks In Alexander McQueen

My best dressed does not come from the ceremony. Escandalo! Elizabeth Banks wore this perfect McQueen dress to Vanity Fair's after party. I couldn't believe how many of the fair-skinned, fair-haired girls - Amanda Seyfried, Amy Adams, etc. - opted for little to no color. This dress would have been incredible on either of those girls! What a missed opportunity. Very well played, Banks.

Image via Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America
Stacy Keibler In Naeem Kahn

Stacy and George Clooney showed up towards the end and I breathed a sigh of relief when I saw her. Consider her the savior of the red carpet because this was the best look on it by a country mile. She looks incredible and her stylist, Brad Goreski should be doing a happy dance all day today. The styling is spot on. I'd like to thank George for extending her contract, because she's a welcome addition to the red carpet!

Image via Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America
Zoe Saldana In Alexis Mabille Couture

Along with Stacy, Zoe Saldana provided one of the only wow moments on the red carpet last night. She is a fashion girl through and through and it always shows in her choices. Alexis Mabille is a very accomplished Parisian couture designer, but his looks aren't worn in America that often. Hopefully this will be a turning point because this dress is special and I want to see more.

Image via Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America
Charlize Theron in Christian Dior Couture

Charlize is a goddess. End of. Yes, it's similar to the Chanel Couture Anne Hathaway wore to the Golden Globes, but Charlize made it her own.Her styling partnership with Leslie Fremar is golden and it should never change.

Image via Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America
Jessica Chastain In Armani Privé

Out of the fair-skinned, fair-haired trio (Seyfried & Adams being the other two), Jessica Chastain was the clear victor. It's barely a color, but it works very well her hair and the dark lip and the fit is a dream. She's beautiful!

Image via Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images North America
Anne Hathaway In Saint Laurent

It's time to talk about Anne. It was my dream to have her wear this Valentino Couture dress. It was made for her and it would have provided an iconic fashion moment because she was a lock to win. When the press release from Valentino that said she would be wearing the designer came out before she hit the carpet I held my breath. And then she showed up in this. That is clearly not a Valentino dress. It's Prada and it's blah. I don't think it's horrible, but I don't think it's memorable or befitting of an Oscar winner either. So what happened to the Valentino?! There's a rumor that Anne and/or Rachel Zoe found out that it was too similar to Amanda Seyfried's Alexander McQueen dress and they scrapped it at the last minute. True? I don't know. But what I do know is that the custom Saint Laurent dress she wore to the Vanity Fair party is so much more interesting than the Prada dress. I love this dress! If she had this CUSTOM dress at her disposal why on Earth did she not wear it to the ceremony? You've let me down, Rachel. Also, someone did wear that Valentino dress. More below.

Image via Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images North America
Kate Beckinsale In Monique Lhuillier

I'm so glad someone wore a tea length to this shindig. I would have been lost without one. I love it. Monique Lhuillier has been making some incredible dresses lately. Her Fall 2013 show, of which this dress is a part of, is one of my favorites of the season and I hope we see much more of it!

Image via Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images North America
Diane Kruger In Giambattista Valli Couture

And now the magic that is Diane. She's perfect and I'm obsessed with her. She doesn't use a stylist which makes her even more perfect in my eyes. This is a stunning little dress and I'm so happy it's on someone as in love with fashion as Diane is. Also, her boyfriend Charlie Conway is hot.

And now the worst:

Image via Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America
Jennifer Aniston In Valentino Couture

There's my dress. Styled incorrectly on the wrong girl. I weep. This is not a Jennifer Aniston dress. It doesn't fit her personality or her style. It  totally overwhelms her and it needs an up do. Jennifer Aniston hasn't worn her hair up since the 7th season of Friends. Fail, fail, fail. I'm so sad.

Image via Jason Merritt/Getty Images North America
Kristen Stewart In Reem Acra

Why is this girl even an actress? She obviously hates attention and being in the spotlight and looks like she'd rather be anywhere but a red carpet. It affects the clothes she wears in my opinion and she'll never be best dressed for me because of it. She did have some sort of injury to her foot or leg last night, but that's still no excuse for looking like you don't care. This dress is okay, but the fit up top is poor and it doesn't help that she has terrible posture. If you want to be a movie star, then act like it. I'm sure she's set for life from Twilight so she'd probably be better off and much happier moving to Washington and selling a newly legalized hallucinogen.

Image via Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images North America
Heidi Klum In Julien Macdonald

I think the window on Heidi Klum's "I'm Hot and Newly Divorced and I Want Everyone To Know It" tour should have closed a few months ago. Yeah she's hot and has an amazing body, but this is just too much. Put them away, girl. I don't hate the dress, but it's not right for her.

I'm all fashioned out now. So I'll talk about food ;) A red carpet on this scale requires a viewing party and a viewing party requires food. I decided on my dessert first and as an homage to my favorite movie of the year, I named it my "Zero Dark Chocolate" cake.

Martha Stewart calls it dark chocolate cake with ganache frosting, but I'm sure she won't mind me renaming it. It's sooooo chocolatey and fudgey and rich and awesome. I highly recommend it for any serious chocolate lover! If you do make this, watch the baking time. The recipe calls for 8 inch pans, but 9 is the standard and all I have. The cakes will require less time in bigger pans and I found 35 minutes to be plenty, if not too much, baking time. My cakes came out a little dry and over done, but the frosting makes up for it!

Next I decided on a snack. I saw this recipe for Buffalo and blue cheese white bean hummus on Pinterest and it was an immediate lock.

Since lots of people have commented on them - the coasters are from Urban Outfitters.

This is YUMMY. I love anything with Buffalo sauce (Gee I wonder why?) and this is no exception. I will be making it often! My friend Julie brought over some crostini with fig jam and brie and I regret that I was too busy shoving them in my face to take a picture because they were awesome!

So that's another Oscars come and gone. I'm not that enthused about the fashion, but the movies I saw were fantastic! I always forget that the movies are what actually matter here. I saw five of the nine nominated movies - Lincoln, Les Mis, Zero Dark Thirty, Silver Linings Playbook, and Argo - and out of them, ZDT was my favorite. It was gripping from start to finish and Jessica Chastain was wonderful. So was Chris Pratt, but that's only because he's my dream man. I mean, did you see how ripped he got for this movie?! Hello. 

Tell me what you thought of this year's ceremony! The fashion, the films, Seth McFarlane, viewing parties - I want to know!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Spotlight: Duro Olowu for JCPenney

After my less than successful experience with the Prabal Gurung for Target collection I'm surprised I'm brave enough for another go around with a designer collaboration! Long story short - UPS thought they lost my shipment only to find it later and deliver it four days late. Upon opening said package I discovered that Target got my order wrong. So I came out of it with one top (which I love!) instead of the three things I wanted. Moving on!

Duro Olowu for JCPenney. Who? What? Maybe it's just me not paying attention, but this one is/was totally under the radar! I saw a tweet about it a few days ago and if not for that I would never have known. The last time I shopped at JCPenney I was probably around 12 years old. I know they've re-branded themselves recently and are really trying to push their clothes, but I still haven't bitten. Duro Olowu changes that. First, the man. Duro Olowu was born in Nigeria and is based in London. He is known for prints and calls Mrs. Obama a fan. That should be enough to pique anyone's curiosity! Here are some lookbook highlights:

Image via Duro Olowu/Refinery 29
Image via Duro Olowu/Refinery 29
Image via Duro Olowu/Refinery 29
Image via Duro Olowu/Refinery 29
Image via Duro Olowu/Refinery 29
Image via Duro Olowu/Refinery 29
Image via Duro Olowu/Refinery 29
Image via Duro Olowu/Refinery 29
Image via Duro Olowu/Refinery 29
I want it all! I'm really, really blown away. Not one to fear colors and/or prints, it will be hard for me to pick just a few things to buy. The collection also includes, jewelry, bags, shoes, and housewares. Yes, those little vases are for sale and not just props! The collection is available from March 1st and prices ranges from $10-$100. I would expect the clothes to be in the same range as a Target collaboration - $30-$70, but I could be wrong.

Are you experiencing designer collabo burn out or are you still willing to brave early morning shopping trips, crashed websites, and shipping issues? I'm still willing to brave it; especially with this collection. I think the quality of the designs is superior and different enough for me to endure potential frustration.

Tell me what you think of Duro Olowu for JCPenney! Also, JCPenney just announced a future partnership with Georgina Chapman of Marchesa for a line of special occasion, prom, and party dresses. JCPenney - who knew?!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Quinoa & Butternut Squash "Mac and Cheese"

So Winter Storm Nemo kicked my ass. Not because I lost power or because I had to shovel a driveway or dig a car out. Because literally, and I mean that in the actual way, upon returning home from a little hour long exploration of my post-blizzard neighborhood I was hit with a winter storm sized cold. It's like my immune system punished me for daring to go outside in a 3 degree F windchill and bask in the glory of walking down a trafficless Beacon Street. I guess I learned my lesson because I haven't been this sick in years. Consolation? I took some lovely shots of my 'hood:

The view from my bedroom window. I would have opened the screen, but there was about 6 inches of snow piled up against it.
Aside from Marathon Monday, this is the only time I've ever seen no cars on Beacon Street!
Amory Street Park. Just to the left were many, many children and families engaged in a sledding free-for-all. I may have joined them had I not been alone and in possession of a sled.
When it became apparent last Thursday morning that we were in for a big one I planned to go to Trader Joe's after work to stock up on storm essentials. I wanted to cook something that would last for a few days since climbing over 6 foot snow banks to get food was not really something I was interested in. Mac and cheese was my first thought, but sitting in the house for three days eating nothing but mac and cheese, while delicious, was not a good idea. I saw this recipe on Pinterest for a quinoa "mac and cheese" and I decided to use that as a jumping off point.

Trader Joe's was experiencing an End of Days situation pre-storm so after a tiny bit of forcefulness and waiting in line for half an hour I made it out with the ingredients and only the ingredients I needed. I would have loved to have questioned the man buying 5 gallons of milk and nothing else, but I really didn't want to know. People go crazy during storms.

Back to the food! In an effort to cut down on the cheese a little bit I decided to add some mashed butternut squash to this dish. It's super creamy and has a similar color so I think it really does trick your brain into thinking that you're eating some outrageously cheesy dish. Here is the rest of the breakdown for my quinoa and butternut squash "mac and cheese":

1 cup cooked quinoa
Veggies - I used about two cups of broccoli and cauliflower
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup water or broth
1 cup grated cheese, any kind you want
2-3 cups butternut squash, cubed
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
3/4 cup Panko breadcrumbs

Pre-heat the oven to 350. Cook the quinoa according to package directions. In a large saucepan, bring the butternut squash, milk, and water to a low boil and cook for about 20 minutes or until the squash is tender enough to mash. At the same time, fill another large saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add the broccoli and cauliflower and cook for 2-3 minutes. If you're using different vegetables, boil or saute them - whatever you like. They will also be baking in the oven so just cook them a little bit.

Drain the veggies and fluff the quinoa with a fork when it's done. When the squash is tender, remove it from the stove and start mashing it with a fork or a potato masher. That is if you didn't bring your potato masher to your sister's three or four Thanksgivings ago and never remembered to bring it home.

Once the squash is mashed, crack open the eggs in a separate bowl and whisk them well. You may want to temper the eggs with a little bit of the hot liquid, but I didn't on this occasion. Sometimes when uncooked eggs are added to hot liquid, they'll scramble. And you don't want that. To temper them, add some of the hot liquid to the eggs, whisking the whole time, until the eggs are up to temperature, but still uncooked. Once your egg situation is squared away, add them to the squash.

Next, add in everything else: quinoa, cooked vegetables, garlic, nutmeg, cayenne, salt and pepper to taste, and obviously the cheese. Mix it well.

Spray a 9 x 9 baking dish with non-stick spray and pour in the quinoa and squash mixture. Sprinkle the panko crumbs evenly on top and pop it in the oven for about 30 minutes or until the top starts to brown.

And that's it! Get yourself a nice big ol' bowl and dish it out. Feel free to add more cheese on top because, duh, cheese.

I think this is a perfect, healthy substitute for mac and cheese. The squash makes it so creamy and the flavors are exactly the same.

And there's just enough cheese to satisfy the greatest of cheese lovers. That would be me. Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to my doctor to beg for a Z-Pack.

If you're in the Northeast US, how did you fare in the blizzard? Any crazy grocery store stories? And do tell if you've taken a traditional recipe and make it a little bit healthier.

Oh and happy Valentine's Day! I hope your day is full of love no matter where it comes from. I'm happy that I can taste a little bit better today so I can have some chocolate! 

Friday, February 8, 2013

Spotlight: Hi There From Karen Walker

Raise your hand if you are on a budget. Raise your hand if you do not have a sugar daddy. Raise your hand if you like designer clothes for a fraction of the price. I understand that this requires three hands, but just go with it. All three of my hands (what?) are raised right now. Designer diffusion lines are just the thing to satisfy the surplus of appendages I've created with this little exercise.

A designer diffusion line occurs when a big name designer creates a line that retails for less and is therefore accessible to a wider range of shoppers. Por ejemplo - Michael Kors has MICHAEL Michael Kors, Tracy Reese has Plenty, and Zac Posen has Z Spoke. Some are more affordable than others, but their price points are still a far cry from ready to wear. I stumbled upon Hi There From Karen Walker kind of by accident. A little about Karen Walker - She's a New Zelander who you may know best from her fab sunglasses. She shows her ready to wear collection in New York bi-annually and it's loaded with feminine, wearable pieces. Here are some highlights from her Spring 2013 show:

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I love that everything is just a little bit quirky, but so wearable at the same time. Back to Hi There. I was shopping the sale rack at Anthropologie shortly after Christmas and I pulled this blouse:

Beautiful, right? It's silky soft, it fits perfectly, and the fact that it was nearly 70% off the original price made it a done deal. I'm happy to say it's my new favorite top! But what was this line, Hi There From Karen Walker? Newbury Street Anthroplogie's personal shopper told me that it's not carried in that store (I'm not sure about other local stores) so I really lucked out. Come to find out that Hi There From Karen Walker is made exclusively for Anthropologie! It may not be on Newbury Street, but it sure is online. Here are my favorite pieces from the Spring collection:

Who doesn't love a bit of chevron?
The Peter Pan collar is such a sweet detail.
Polka dots and chartreuse? I want.
The perfect little white blazer
You can't go wrong with lace in a new color!
There are pineapples. Say no more!
Are you charmed? I like to think my style is pretty versatile, but when it comes down to it these are the pieces I'd like to be wearing day in and day out. Girly, pretty, and flattering. I'm so happy to have found a new go to designer for special pieces.

What do you think? Can you see yourself in Hi There From Karen Walker? What are some of your favorite designer diffusion lines?

Monday, February 4, 2013

February Life Happenings

Clockwise: Cranberry lemon poppy seed muffins (I will blog these soon); cute new loafers from Gap that I bought during fake Spring; a 16 Handles cup of deliciousness; a lovely sunny day in Brookline.

Not much. We're at that point of winter, aren't we? I am off to Buffalo (my home town) over President's Day weekend and I'm looking forward to that. I scored tickets to take my dad to a Sabres v. Bruins hockey game while there. Sorry, Bruins, but I will be behind the Sabres this time. I do like you, though. I'll also be there for my oldest friend's first baby shower. I can't wait to buy the new little guy an adorable outfit he'll only fit into for a few weeks :)


I've read some great books recently. Grace Coddington's memoir Grace is a fascinating look into all aspects of the fashion world. With close to fifty years in the business, she's the current creative director for Vogue, there's nothing she hasn't seen or done. She is charming and funny and blunt and a really special person. Where'd You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple is one of my favorite recent reads. It's laugh out loud funny and makes fun of modern life in a smart way. You'll also learn more about Antarctica and architecture than you ever thought possible. That sounds like a weird combination, but trust me. I highly recommend it. I just started The Night Circus after having it recommended to me by more than one friend.

Relieved About...

Nothing, unfortunately. I have some stressors that aren't really doing me any good, but I'm working hard on fixing them!


Downton Abbey. Need I say more? It's been so good this season! *Spoiler Alert* I tried so hard to stay spoiler free, but since I visit The Daily Mail multiple times a day I knew that was going to be hard. I knew that Sybil died, but I didn't know how it happened. That was excruciating! I think I've watched it three or four times and it's just as bad as the first time. Ugh. Damn you, actors for wanting to leave the show! I also know the other major end of season spoiler, but I don't know how it happens. What I do know is that I'm very mad at Lord Grantham for the time being. 

Working On...

I'm working on making my life better. I don't mean for that to sound dramatic, but the changes I'm working on will make me a lot happier! I just need them to actually happen. I just have to be vague about it for very good reasons.


Ice cream! Even though it's the dead of winter I'd still eat it every day if that wasn't a terrible idea. I went the entire month of January, with a few little exceptions, without eating sweets. I always tend to go a little overboard during the holidays so it was very needed! Good thing my neighborhood is now the proud owner of a 16 Handles franchise.

If you're in a winter climate I hope you're coping! The groundhog did say we'll have an early spring this year so let's hope he's right! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Vegetarian Week #1

When I laid out my cooking goals for 2013 (which you can read all about here), going vegetarian for one week per month was the one that excited me the most. I would get to eat healthier, be a friend to animals and the environment, and cook new things. What's not to like about any of that? I still have no problem with eating meat and I enjoy doing so. For instance, life would not be complete without the incredible pork cheeks I had at Citizen Public House two weekends ago. My mouth is watering right now just thinking about them.

Last Saturday I realized that the month was almost over and that I needed to get a move on with my vegetarian goal for January. As I mentioned in my cooking goals post, the great Martha Stewart and her team at Martha Stewart Living get put out the vegetarian cookbook to end all vegetarian cookbooks; Meatless. My plan was to go to Barnes & Noble and leaf through it. If I thought I would make at least fifteen of the recipes I would buy it. My mind was made up by about page 10. This book is gorgeous! Anything and everything you could ever want to make without meat is in here. And there is a photo for every recipe! Believe it or not, not every cookbook does that. So here is my new bible for one week per month for the next year.

Now on to the meal planning. My breakfasts are almost always vegetarian so that wasn't an issue. My default lunch is usually a salad with chicken or tuna so I knew I had to come up with something else. I was attracted to the grain salads because I've made them before and I definitely like them. These also helped make that decision:

Is there anything Trader Joe's can't do? They could only be better if they were covered in chocolate. I'm kidding. Sort of. Cooking grains like barley and farro can be a pain because they take so long. Enter Trader Joe's 10 minute grains. Time saving, yummy, and convenient. I love you, Joe.

I ended up making Martha's Farro, Chickpea, and Feta Salad for my lunches this week. Here's the recipe:

2 1/2 cups cooked farro (the Trader Joe's bag makes about 3 cups cooked)
1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 cups cooked chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/2 cup grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup chopped fresh mint leaves
1/4 small red onion, finely chopped
Salt to taste

Once the farro is cooked, toss it with the lemon juice while it's still warm. Combine with the chickpeas in a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and olive oil, toss to combine and let it come to room temperature. Stir in the feta, tomatoes, mint, and onion. Season with salt and refrigerate until you're ready to serve. This makes 4 servings and comes with an impressive 17.41 grams of protein per serving.

This is super yummy and you get quite a bit in one serving. The farro and the chickpeas are chewy so they feel substantial. And there's really no way to go wrong with feta cheese. I eat it with a spoon sometimes. That was a secret up until now. I ate this with a whole grain tortilla and it was a perfect lunch! I was just as full and satisfied as I am with a salad containing chicken or tuna.

For dinner I knew I wanted to make a soup. I'm a soup junkie and I already had a lot of the ingredients for Martha's Lentil and Sweet Potato Stew on hand so my mind was made up. This has great Indian flavors so if you're a fan of curry, then you will love this.

2 tablespoons canola oil
1 onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons curry powder
2 cups dried lentils
1 lb sweet potatoes cut in 1/2 inch dice
9 ounces fresh green beans, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
Salt and pepper to taste
Plain yogurt, for serving

In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and bay leaf and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are soft, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and curry powder and cook, stirring, about one minute. Add 7 cups of water and lentils and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover, and cook 10 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and continue to cook, covered until lentils and sweet potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Stir in green beans and tomatoes with juice. Cook until warmed through, 2-4 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Add the cilantro and season with salt and pepper. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt and cilantro leaves.

This is completely delicious! I think that calling it a stew is a little inaccurate, though. It's not thick like a stew as it has a little too much liquid. I think it's possible to leave out up to a cup of water that the recipe calls for if you'd like a more stewy consistency. I think you could easily substitute vegetable broth for the water. This is also very heavy on the curry flavor so if you're not crazy about curry then only go for a teaspoon. I happen to love curry so I added the full amount. I loved finishing this off with yogurt too. It adds a creaminess and a tangyness. Two thumbs up for this one! And for the 19 grams of protein per serving (it makes 6).

I'm pretty happy that my first week of vegetarianism was successful. I was just as full as I am with meat dishes and I definitely didn't miss it. How encouraging! I can't wait to cook my way through Meatless and to finally tackle the dreaded alternative proteins. Next month: tofu!

Do you have any vegetarian recipes you think I should try?