Thursday, December 31, 2009

ringing it in right

If I don't get a chance to write before the clock strikes 12, check out the screen shot above. This hasn't happened since we've lived here... Waaaaahooooo!

Happy New Year, everybody! How are you celebrating 2010? (I'm going to sit at Pisticci and drink free wine -- Ian has to work.)

Thursday, December 24, 2009

ready or not

In the words of my favorite Christmas Eve meditation, "the waiting is finally over." Our apartment is (mostly) clean, the tree is lit, the stockings are stuffed, the candles are flickering, Trans-Siberian Orchestra is playing, and our refrigerator Advent "calendar" is up-to-date...

...and our tummies will soon be savoring the holiday as well: the almonds are roasting, the black bean soup is simmering, the Mad Elf is growling, and the gingerbread dough is chilling.

Wherever you are and whatever you're doing, I wish you a merry, merry Christmas. We miss you dearly, but don't worry -- we'll be back soon!

So what are you doing, anyway? And are you ready?

Monday, December 21, 2009

hunkering down

This weekend, we received an early Christmas present: Ian's parents came to visit. Our four days together were quite relaxing with activities sprinkled in, including a skate around Rockefeller Center's rink just as the snow started to pile up on Saturday (shown above). This is the first time we've seen a good accumulation of snow here in the city, and it was -- and still is -- gorgeous. It was so nice to be able to share that with them. (Am hoping to upload more photos for our album and your visual enjoyment soon.)

Poor Ian was sick the whole time John and Kay were here and was such a trooper! (Having his parents here was a big comfort, though, I'm sure.) As soon as they left for the airport, I started to feel awful too. I'm cooped up here at home and have been ordered to stay home another day. So...any movie suggestions?

I just really, really hope we're both tip-top for Christmas. Four days to go! What are you doing for the holidays? We're aiming for something similar to last year's celebration.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

a jolly-good fellow

Ian celebrated his birthday on Thursday. He isn't big on birthdays, but I went to Pisticci to surprise him with a treat anyway. I secretly baked yellow cupcakes (his favorite) the night before and frosted them with homemade chocolate frosting before leaving for the restaurant. His coworkers are such a great group. And since most of them have connections to the Manhattan School of Music, their rendition of "Happy Birthday" was one of the most amazing ones I've heard (in at least six-part harmony!).

The frosting was tastes a million times better than the stuff you get in a tub at the supermarket. And it's quite simple. Try this:

chocolate frosting
modified from the America's Test Kitchens Family Baking Book recipe
(makes enough to cover 24 cupcakes or a 9" x 13" sheet cake)

8 oz. chocolate, finely chopped (I used 3 oz. unsweetened and 5 oz. bittersweet)
3/4 cup heavy cream
3 Tbl. light corn syrup
1/8 tsp. salt
1 cup powdered sugar
1 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
1 1/2 sticks butter, softened and cut into chunks

1. In a small saucepan, bring the cream, corn syrup, and salt to a boil, whisking often. Once boiling, remove from heat.
2. Whisk the chocolate into the cream mixture and stir until smooth.
3. Add the sugar and vanilla and beat with an electric mixer on medium speed for about 30 seconds. With the beaters still running, gradually add the butter until the mixture looks like pudding, about 2 minutes.
4. Transfer to a small bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and put in the freezer. Stir the mixture every 10 minutes until the mixture reaches a smooth, thick, spreadable consistency; about 30 minutes.
5. Frost away.

Notes: I had just a dozen cupcakes, so I put the remaining frosting back in the freezer. So far, so good. We used some of it last night as the flavoring for hot chocolate. It was absolutely delicious. So give that a go too.

Do you have a go-to birthday dessert recipe? What is it?