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February 29, 2012

Jack Rogers & Jackie O. | Spring Wish List

It is snowing today in Massachusetts as I write this.  No bother, it is March 1st tomorrow - Spring is basically here! 

My post-baby body is on its way back to normal, but as you mothers out there know... it is not really back.  The scale might say it is, but trust me, it is not.  Not yet - I do have faith that my stomach will be flat sans flab some day and that my bottom will return to where it once was and my chest will no longer push my shirt buttons to the max.  Some day.  Like in another month or two.  Right?  For now, I'm moving on to brighter things - shoes.  Spring/Summer shoes.  I may not be able to have my exact same figure back right away, but that is not going to stop me from feeling great until I do.  Enter, a fresh pair of Jack Rogers.

I have had several pairs of these (Jack Rogers Navajo sandals) over the years.  All in the same color - platinum.  I love them.  I get sooo many compliments on them every time I wear them.  They are special.  They are simple.  They are casual and dressy.  You can wear them with cropped pants, skirts, dresses, shorts or a swimsuit.  The color is perfect - in between silver and gold.  They go with everything. I love them. 

Guess who else loved them?  Jackie O.  She made them famous in the 60's.    

As I was cleaning out my closet, I noticed that my pair from the last two years have really taken a beating.  So, I will down-grade them to my "pool/beach" sandals, and order a new pair for nicer wear.  They are about $100 and totally worth it.  Trust me, you will get your money out of them, tenfold. 

Get them here at

Lemon Mousse Meringue Tart | Spring Desserts

 Back in January, you might recall that I made a creamy, fresh lemon mousse.  I couldn't get it out of my mind!   I needed another reason to make it again so I recreated it in the form of a tart complete with graham cracker crust and swiss meringue.

It is tart, sweet, tangy, and... now it is beautiful enough to serve for a special occasion.

If you have never tried piping with an icing bag, this is a great one to start on.  Don't be scared!  It is so simple - the big tip will make any attempt look good.  If you are not into it, you can top it with whipped cream instead!

Lemon Mousse Meringue Tart
with a graham cracker crust

1 recipe of Lemon Mousse
8 graham crackers
4 tablespoons of butter
1 recipe of Swiss Meringue (recipe below)

Prepare the crust by breaking the graham crackers into crumbs by hand or in a food processor.  Melt butter and stir into graham crumbles with a fork.  Pack the mixture into a tart pan packing it all the way up the sides.  Bake at 350 degrees for 8 minutes.  Let it cool completely.

Prepare the lemon mousse as the crust cools.  Pour it into the crust.  Chill while you prepare the meringue.  It is best to do this shortly before serving, as meringue does not do great in the refrigerator.

Pipe on the meringue using a large starburst tip & pastry bag.  

Swiss Meringue

4 egg whites
1 cup of sugar
1 pinch of cream of tarter

In the top bowl of a double boiler (glass bowl sitting on a sauce pan with simmering water), whisk together egg whites, sugar and cream of tarter.  Cook mixture in the double boiler over medium low heat for 3-5 minutes, or until sugar has dissolved.  If you rub the mixture between your fingers, you should be able to tell if the sugar has dissolved.

Transfer the mixture to your kitchen aid fitted with the whisk attachment.  Whisk on high for 7-10 minutes.  The mixture will cool and froth into a thick meringue as it whips.

February 28, 2012

Baked Rigatoni with Beef Ragu, Ricotta & Fresh Mozzarella

When we're having people over for dinner, I like to have everything done in advance.  I often adapt one of our favorite recipes so it can be made completely ahead of time and served straight from the oven, like baked pasta.  I've written before about how great baked pastas are for entertaining - they are easy and everyone loves pasta.

Here, I've adapted our favorite Beef, Tomato & Wine Ragu (normally served with homemade Pappardelle pasta) to a baked pasta with store-bought Rigatoni topped with Ricotta & Mozzarella cheese.  I especially like how rustic and casual this is - everyone will feel right at home when they see this comforting looking dish on the table.

It is a very low maintenance recipe - the sauce slow cooks in the oven all day, then add the cooked pasta and top withe cheeses.  From there you can put it into the refrigerator to reheat later, or put it straight into the oven and hold it there until you're ready to serve it. 

Baked Rigatoni 
with Beef Ragu, Ricotta & Fresh Mozzarella

Prepared Beef Ragu Recipe (without the Pappardelle)
1 pound of Large Rigatoni
8 ounces of Ricotta Cheese
8 ounces of Fresh Mozzarella
Fresh Thyme or Basil

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until it is Al Dente - or still firm, as the pasta will continue cooking in the sauce.   I usually cook it 2-3 minutes short of the cooking time for the best result.  Strain the pasta and put it directly into the oven-safe crock with the ragu.  Stir in and combine it with the sauce.  With a large spoon, dollop the ricotta on top of the pasta, then follow with slices of mozzarella.  Garnish with fresh thyme or basil.  If serving immediately, put it back into a 250 degree oven, uncovered for 10-20 minutes until the cheese has melted.  If you are serving later, refrigerate it, then put it into a 300 degree oven for 30 minutes to completely reheat.




February 27, 2012

February 25, 2012

Handmade Gifts | Emma's Handmade Baby Gifts

When we were little my sister and I would try to get my Mom's homemade bread to look and taste like white sandwich bread, and my Dad's plump and juicy burgers to look like the ones we got in a happy meal.  Funny how in those days store-bought seemed better than homemade. 

Today, some of my favorite things are handmade.  Emma recieved so many beautiful handmade gifts that we will love forever. 

Here is a little gallery of some of the gifts our family and friends made just for her...

Above : My grandma made and embroidered this quilt for Emma.  One of the squares has a little girl playing with her doggy - love it. 

Left : The "Knit Wits" from our Church brought this knitted hat by for Emma.  It is so cozy!

My Mom made this quilt for Emma complete with a silky trim - one of my favorite things when I was little. 

This sweater was not made personally by my friend, but she had it handmade by someone - that counts right?  Either way, it is such a sweet little sweater.

You might remember these booties from Emma's Baptism outfit, but they were worth showing again.  I still can't believe someone made them!

Her Baptismal dress itself was made by hand by my great Aunt.  It was originally made for my Dad's baptism 50+ years ago.

February 23, 2012

Lemon Body Cream | Spring Essentials

First it was vanilla beans, now it is lemon.  I've been on a major lemon kick.  It all started with the creamy lemon mousse...

Now I'm on to creamy lemon body butter!  I think I'll be stuffing my own Easter basket with some of this! 

Buy it here at C.O.Bigelow.  $19.50  *Use the code BIG20 for 20% off!

Shrimp in a Chorizo, White Wine & Tomato Broth with Crusty Garlic Bread

When we were in Kansas City a couple of weeks ago, we went to dinner with friends (one of our first nights out without Emma) at a new spot on the Plaza - Gram & Dun.  I had one of the best meals I've had in a while.  Yes, it could very well have been the company - old friends - or the fact that I could have an entire glass of wine.  All of that considered, the Mussels in a white wine, chorizo and tomato broth was the cherry on top.

I think I've mentioned my dining strategy before - I hardly ever order an entree for my meal.  Mike and I typically start with a shared light appetizer followed by a large salad (in this case we had a grilled romaine salad - also great).  Then, for my entree I usually order another starter - it is usually seafood or fish of some sort of seafood.  If there are mussels on the menu, then I almost always order them.  Nothin' better than mopping up a great wine broth with a piece of crusty bread.

As I often love to do, I recreated this recipe for us this week.  Mike is not a huge fan of mussels, though.  Maybe that's why I order them any chance I get?  Instead, I substituted shrimp.  It was amazing.  Almost better, dare I say.

The star of the show was definitely the chorizo and garlic.  And the crusty baguette I toasted then rubbed with raw garlic.  Always a hit. 

I highly recommend you try this tonight.  It is fairly simple, quick and all made in one pan - and gives you an excuse to crack open a bottle of wine on a Thursday night. 

Shrimp in a Chorizo, White Wine, Garlic & Tomato Broth
served with crusty garlic french bread

1 pound of shrimp, peeled
1 pound of chorizo sausage
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 shallot, sliced

6 cloves of garlic, sliced

2 cups of white wine
1-2 cups of chicken broth

1 can of whole tomatoes

fresh thyme
baguette, sliced

1 clove of garlic, whole

Remove the sausage from its casing and break it up into small/medium pieces.  Cook it in a saute pan on a medium/high heat, rendering some of the fat.  Add the shallot and cook until soft.  Add the olive oil, shrimp and garlic.  Cook for 2-3 minutes until the shrimp are pink and garlic begins to sizzle.  With a slotted spoon, remove the sausage, shrimp, shallots and garlic and set it aside, leaving the fat and flavor bits on the bottom of the pan.  Pour in white wine and stir - scraping the bottom of the pan to incorporate all of the flavor from the sausage into the wine.  Add the tomatoes by squeezing them in one at a time.  Continue to break them into bite size pieces with the spoon.  Add the juice from the can of tomatoes.  Add a couple of sprigs of thyme.  At this point you can add the chicken broth in to thin the wine sauce to your liking.  Cook for 3-5 minutes. 

Slice the baguette, place the slices under the broiler for 1-2 minutes just until it starts to brown.  Remove it from the oven.  Rub a raw clove of garlic on the crusty side of bread.  

Add the sausage ans shrimp back into the wine broth.  Serve in big bowls with bread.

 All of my ingredients - ignore the bibb lettuce in the back.  That was for a salad that was never made.

Chorizo, Shallots and Garlic in the pan.  Shrimp is next. 

Sorry for the blurry photo - haven't quite mastered dealing with the steam element in my photography.  Tips?


Everything has been taken out of the pan and the white wine has been added for deglazing.  Scrape up the bits with a flat wooden spoon.

All done!  

February 21, 2012

Spring Organizing Projects : Martha Stewart Labels & Home Office at Staples

Watch out unruly USB cords, uncivil stationery, and unsatisfactory files - I've just returned from Staples.  I've been bitten by the organizing bug. 

It all started in the grocery store aisle.  Spotted : Martha's newest 'Organizing' special edition.  I bought the one of these 3 years ago when we were moving into our first home (as you might remember me referencing when I was organizing my workshop/utility room last Summer).  All of the MS Editors' favorite home organizing 'good things' in one edition.

I already had planned to redo our guest bedroom desk into a functioning office for me, now I was really inspired.  ***Follow me today (1PM EST) on twitter (#JennyOrganizesWithMartha) as I turn this into a well stocked and organized home office!
Inside the front cover there is a spread featuring the new Martha Stewart line of Home Office products at Staples (partnership with Avery). 

As I looked at it I thought I should head over to Staples for a little R&D.

I didn't plan to buy anything - I have a philosophy when it comes to home projects.  I do the hard part first before I allow my self to go spend.

It is easy to get excited about a project while shopping before doing the actual work of cleaning out, throwing away, demoing (in the case of most home reno projects).

Often times I will get all worked up about a new project, immediately go to the store spend a bunch of money, then I would never get around to getting it done. 

Now, I try to make myself wait until the work is done before I reward myself with a shopping trip to gather supplies.     

Emma loved it so much.  She wouldn't let me leave the store without buying something...


Just a little something... right?

Fortunately I made myself come home and immediately address the problem areas : my guest bedroom desk area (soon-to-be home office), closet, entry way/mud room.  Here are the before photos...

This is the porch area right before you come in the kitchen.  It works well for what it is, but not really lovely to look at.  We really stocked up on boots this year in preparation for the Boston snow...

Not a disaster, but not pretty or nice to look at.  And, yes, even another pair of winter boots.

Guest room desk - clean and tidy, but not functional for me.

I'm going to be tackling this project this afternoon!  ***Follow me today (1PM EST) on twitter (#JennyOrganizesWithMartha) as I turn this into a well stocked and organized home office!
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