Wowza...The Chicago Bridal Market

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Ok, so maybe I just said my official farewell last week, but I'm so excited to pop back in and share some dress yumminess!

Mrs. Powderpuff shared her favorites from the Chicago Bridal Market this past Sunday...from the sheer amount of dresses that drooled over, it was fun seeing what dresses she picked out as favorites compared to what I wanted to share! There literally was a dress there to fit every style, from blingy and modern to lacey and romantic. Thank you, Kate and Catherine from Project Wedding for letting us spend the day with you!

So, let's get going. We'll start with the pretty and end with the OMG WOW.

This gorgeous dress was probably one of the standouts from the Watters & Watters show. It's simple yet detailed with small tiers coming down the dress at an angle. I love seeing dresses that have no beading or lace, but still give you some wonderful detail.

I simply loved everything by Liz Fields. Her style is very fun yet sophisticated and she's really thinking about functionality as well. Mrs. Powderpuff posted about a bridal gown by Liz Fields that went from long to short...but never fear, bridesmaids, there's one for you as well!

This fabulous dress can be formal for the ceremony...

...and fun 'n' sassy for the reception! Genius.

Liz Fields also did this amazing petal gown. This is 100% the dress that I would buy if I was shopping again. It pulls in that fabulous vintage feel, but compared to other dresses I saw at the show of a similar style, it's not so huge that you can't make your way around the dance floor in it! Swoon.

When we saw the new line Alyne by Rivini, I loved how crisp, clean and fun everything felt.

This dress covered in petals is so fun!

Again, I love it when designers can pull in detail in unique ways.

And, of course, I needed to include this dress - it so reminds me of my wedding dress with the tiers cascading down it! Of course, the top of my dress wasn't as ooh la la as this, but I'd be willing to take this dress for a spin!

Steven Birnbaum was another wonderful designer that I'm so excited to have discovered! A lot of his pieces felt very 60s mod (well, to me, anyway...I'm no fashion expert, but I did see that episode of America's Next Top Model where Twiggy told the girls about Mod style!).

Not only did this dress have a great detailed fabric, but the shape of the dress is really unique.

And, finally, the showstopper of the day for me! While the beautiful Liz Fields dress I showed above is what I would have loved for my own wedding, this to me is almost the fantasy version of that dress. Are you saying "OMG wow!" yet? If not, then don't worry...I'm saying it enough for both of us!

It so much fun escaping back into the dress world for a few hours. While I loved my own dress very, very's still exciting to think about what might have been.

Oh, and ladies...if you want pockets, never fear - designers are listening! Dress after dress came down the runway sporting fabulous pockets.

Yumellini Tortellini

Sunday, March 21, 2010

I have a new obsession...and it would be homemade pasta. I tell you, obsessed. All week, I couldn't stop thinking about homemade tortellini. So, while Steve was off shooting a wedding last night, I slaved away in the kitchen for 3 hours fulfilling my need for tortellini.

I found a basic recipe on Barefoot Kitchen Witch for a cheese-filled tortellini, and a simple tomato sauce recipe on Use Real Butter. Recipes are at the end, but first I'll walk you through the process.

It was the same start as other pasta recipes - the well of flour that you crack and beat eggs inside of. Remember my struggle with this when I made the spinach noodles? Ugh, this was even messier! Egg eww'd and goo'd all over the place, but somehow I managed to keep it contained.

For the first time since I've been making pasta, the dough didn't come together. The recipe called for 4 jumbo eggs are 5 large eggs. I only had extra large eggs, so I only used 4. I ended up with just flour crumbs everywhere. Gah. So I threw it in the KitchenAid with the dough hook, added another egg, and it finally came together. I kneaded it by hand to finish, and ended up with something cohesive, finally. It's not prettiest, but it got the job done.

After the dough sat for around 30 minutes, I started rolling out my strips with my KitchenAid pasta roller. My round cutter was around 1.5-2 inches in diameter. If you have a metal one - use it. The plastic cutters don't cut through as well. I would cut out circles for 1 or 2 strips, make the tortellini, and then do more. This helped break up the process since I was doing this alone.

After cutting out your circles, put some of your filling in the center. This is a mixture of part skim ricotta, parmesan, and mozzarella. It will be very easy to tell after doing one or two if you have too much filling - it will ooze out once you fold it!

Using your finger, get the bottom half of the circle a little wet, fold the top of the circle over and pinch it closed.

Fold the half-circle in half and wet the two ends a little bit so they'll stick, and pinch the ends together. Make sure everything is closed tight so it won't ooze out later!

Line a baking sheet with a clean towel and start lining up your finished tortellini. They do dry out as they sit there, but that's fine.

I can't help sharing another close up, they just look so cute!

Put the finished tortellini in a pot of boiling water. As they start to bubble up to the top, take them out of the water with a slotted spoon. I put all of mine (about 50-60) in the water at once, so a handful of them stuck to the bottom of the pot. It might be easier, depending on how many you make, to boil half at a time. I ended up throwing out a lot of dough, because I couldn't handle making any more - I was hungry! But what I made gave us two hefty servings.

As I scooped them out, I put them in a bowl until they were all done.

Earlier on, I made up my sauce and had it waiting, so as I boiled the tortellini, I could just re-heat the sauce and add it to the hot tortellini.

I started with 1 pound of tomatoes. The recipe called for 2 I just halved the recipe because this is all I had.

The tomatoes needed to be peeled. Usually I boiled water and add them in, but this recipe suggested you boil the water and pour it over the tomatoes. Genius! I could use the tea kettle instead of a pot. I love peeling tomatoes! See how the skin was raising away from the flesh?

After peeling, seeding, and chopping the tomatoes, I added them to the olive oil and garlic that I had cooked up, and let it simmer. Toward the end, I added the tomato juice that I had saved from the tomatoes, and then reduce it down.

Once all of the tortellini had been cooked, I added the sauce (what little there was - it definitely didn't make enough!) and added some freshly grated parm. Manga!

Yes, 3 hours later, I ate. And it was de.lic.ious. Amazing. I can't wait to make these again, but I would try out a meat filling (although the cheese mixture was great), have Steve been in charge of the sauce, and get an extra set of hands so that the actually production of the tortellini goes faster.

Are you ambitious enough to make your own tortellini?!

To Make the Tortellini

For the pasta
4 jumbo eggs (or 5 large)
3 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

For the filling
1 1/2 cups ricotta (I used part skim)
4 ounces mozzarella
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan

Mound the flour on your work surface and make a well in the center. Put your eggs in the well and whisk the eggs together with a fork. As you do this, begin to incorporate flour into the eggs, working around the edges of the well, keeping the walls intact so you don't have a flood of egg on your counter.

You'll get to a point where using the fork is pointless, so squeeze the dough off that fork, toss it in the sink and dust your hands with flour. And start kneading. It will take a while for the whole rough mass to come together into something actually workable. You've got to knead it for a long time - about half an hour by hand or use a dough hook in the KitchenAid.

When the dough has been kneaded the right amount, you will know. The surface will be smooth and soft, and as you are kneading, you'll notice that when you do that pulling part, stretching the surface of the dough, the surface won't crack any more. The dough will seem to breathe. You can poke it and the indentation will push back when you've taken your finger or knuckle away.
At this point, wrap the dough tightly in plastic wrap and let it rest at room temp.

Mix all of the ingredients together for the filling, add salt and pepper to taste. You could also add fresh or dried herbs, some nutmeg, red pepper flakes, etc.

Unwrap the ball of dough, and cut it into quarters. Keep one of them out and wrap up the other three. This is a very dry dough - it won't stick to your work surface, for instance, so you do not need to dust that with flour.

Cut the dough into quarters and roll very thin, either by hand or with a pasta roller. I went down to Level 4 on my pasta roller, which got it quite thin - I think just about right. Use a round cutter between 1 3/4 - 2 inches to cut out your circles.

As you cut the circles out, stack them up and cover them with a drinking glass or bowl or something to prevent them from drying out. You can also sprinkle a TINY bit of flour on each side of the dough before you start cutting, and smooth it over the dough surface with your hand, just to prevent the circles from sticking together.

Okay, now you can either go through each quarter piece of dough and cut ALL the circles out first, or you can do it in batches, which is what I chose to do. Either way is fine.

So you take some circles - a few at a time, because the dough will dry out - and set them down on your work surface, and place a small bit of your filling in the center. As long as you seal the edges well, the tortellini won't burst open while cooking.

To form the tortellini, after you put a teeny tiny bit of filling in the center, dip the tip of your finger in some water and very lightly moisten the dough all around the edge of the circle. Then you want to fold the circle in half and press along the edges to seal the filling inside. Then, holding the half moon of dough with the rounded side toward you, bring the points together and overlap them, pressing together to seal them.

Place the finished tortellini on a dry dish towel or other clean cloth, and leave them at room temp. They'll start to dry out, but that's just fine at this point.

Put a large pot of water on the stove and while it's heating up, make a sauce, if you're making one (or do it beforehand, like I did). When the water came to a full boil gently added about half the tortellini. They sink to the bottom and then as they cook through they gently float to the top.

To Make the Tomato Sauce

2 lbs ripe tomatoes
3-4 tbsps olive oil
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
pinch sugar
salt to taste
pepper to taste

Place the tomatoes in a large bowl and pour boiling water into the bowl until the tomatoes are covered. Let stand for 5-10 minutes or until you see the skins splitting on most of the tomatoes. Drain the tomatoes and peel the skins off. Discard the skins.

Place a sieve over a bowl. Slice each tomato in half along the equator and shake or scoop the seeds out into the sieve. Strain the juice from the seeds and pulp. Discard the seeds and pulp, reserve the juice. Dice the tomatoes.

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant. Add the tomatoes and simmer until the tomato flesh begins to break down (about 20 minutes). Add the reserved juice and let simmer down to a sauce consistency. Season with a pinch of sugar, salt, and pepper to taste. Toss the sauce with the hot tortellini and top with grated Parmesan and chopped flat-leaf parsley or fresh basil, which is what I did.

Football & Lemon Frosting

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Our awesome neighbors are always great about hosting things at their place, so all we have to do is walk downstairs. So, we make sure and bring baked goods with us as a gesture of thanks.

For this year's super bowl, I needed to find something to bring. I haven't been baking much, so I'm out of the loop and always short on ideas. I went to my old standby Baking Bites and hunted out a recipe that wouldn't require me to buy any ingredients...I have to say, it can be really difficult to find recipes that don't require something special on hand (heavy cream, buttermilk, etc).

When I came across this Gingerbread Layer Cake with Meyer Lemon Frosting, I figured I would go for it. For once we actually had lemons on hand (not Meyer lemons, mind you, but I just substituted in the regular kind).

So, I baked up the cakes. It was a simple recipe that didn't even require me to get out the mixer, extra fantastic.

I whipped up (literally) the lemon frosting. It was a meringue and SO MUCH FUN to make. After whipping the eggs whites and boiling the sugar, water and cream of tartar, it was time for the fun stuff. Adding the hot syrup into the whipped egg whites was awesome - it just ballooned up. Yay! I probably got far too much enjoyment out of this, but it felt like a science experiment.

Anyway, back to the cake - I frosted my layers all nice and pretty.

And then I finally used the black cake stand that I bought for my wedding but have never used. I also learned that I sucks taking pictures of it because of the reflection. And I kind of suck at taking pictures. Sorry husband is obviously the photographer in the family, not me!

So during the super bowl after we had eaten a ton of deliciously fatty food (I had my first chicken wing ever....spicy and good!). Anyway, we cut into the cake. It looks yummy and fluffy with lemony frosting.

However, it wasn't all too fantastic, sadly. The cake was rather dense. The flavors were fine, but not to die for. The lemon frosting added a nice contrast - I would definitely make it again to go on another cake.

So, sadly, all of that hype and the cake was a bit of a let down. It was better after we had let it chill in the fridge for a bit, but still. Sigh.

I do have to say that if you head on over to Baking Bites to check out the recipe, the frosting was awesome...make it and enjoy all of the wonderfulness of it poofing up in the mixer. Yah, I said it - poofing.

Tired Toes

Monday, March 8, 2010

I had such a fabulous, fabulous weekend in Vegas meeting so many lovely Weddingbee bloggers! I still feel so monumentally lucky to be part of this group of fun, stylish, and talented ladies.

I can't wait to share more about the trip, but I think my feet say in a nutshell what a great time I had...they're bruised, blistered and subsequently bandaged from having too much fun!