Monday, December 23, 2013

One Outfit Three Ways

Our weekends usually fill up pretty fast, so social engagements inevitably fall to weeknights.  With an unpredictable work schedule, I never know if I'll get off in time to go home and change.  As a solution, I've started to look for work pieces that I can easily dress up or down with just some quick styling.  When I was brainstorming for this post, I pulled out this exact outfit, but all in black.  While it was a safe option, it is no revelation that black goes with everything and it left me feeling completely uninspired.  I was staring at my closet in despair when I realized that I could just recreate the look with monochromatic pieces and suddenly it was much more interesting to me.  I happened to have everything in this plum wine color but this could work in virtually any color.  

This post is a great example of how simple styling can completely change the look of an outfit.  Whether it be a casual dinner or a work-related social event, I can be ready with just a quick change in the car.

I was so fortunate to have the opportunity to work with the lovely Vero of Vero Suh Photography.  We had planned a double date with the hubbies and managed to squeeze in some pictures beforehand.  Having my creative and incredibly talented friend behind the lens made taking outfit pictures a really fun experience, instead of the usual awkward posing and feelings of self-consciousness.  Mr. J was also appreciative to be relieved of photographer duties!

Daytime Work

Peplum sweater: Ann Taylor (old). Silk cherry-print blouse: Equipment (old). Wool tapered slacks: J. Crew 'Minnie'.  
Trench coat: Burberry 'Buckingham'. Necklace: J. Crew (old). Leopard print flats: Madewell.
Leopard print heels: J. Crew (borrowed from Vero).

Weeknight Casual

Cargo jacket with leather sleeves: Zara (old) (similar here). Leopard-print scarf: from Rimo (old). 
Over the knee boots: Stuart Weitzman '5050'.

Weeknight Formal

White blazer: Zara (old). Pearl necklace: gift. Jeweled drop earrings: Banana Republic (old). 
Purse: Chanel Medium Classic Flap Bag in Black Caviar. 
Nude pumps: Christian Louboutin. Bracelets: Hermes and J. Crew.

All photography thanks to Vero Suh

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Peppermint Ice Cream

I love seasonal food items.  There's nothing like a frozen lemonade in July or a pumpkin spice latte in October.   As for December, I love me some peppermint infused foods, and peppermint ice cream is no exception.  I'm not quite sure why it's not a year-round commodity since it's quite tasty! I brought a batch to a girls' night in with my co-residents.  This particular recipe calls for a custard base made with egg yolks cooked slowly over the stove.  The custard makes the ice cream super creamy.  Really you could take the same ice cream recipe base and create your own "add-ins."  Next time I'll be adding some chocolate shavings!   

Peppermint Ice Cream
From by way of David Leibowitz
* Requires ice cream maker 

2 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
8 large egg yolks
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2-3 teaspoons peppermint extract
1/2 cup crushed candy canes or hard peppermint candy

Pour the cream into a large metal bowl, and place this bowl in a larger bowl of ice.  Set a mesh sieve on top.  Place the milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan and heat on medium so the sugar is dissolved.   In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Whisking constantly, slowly pour the warm milk into the egg yolks.  Then scrape the warmed egg yolk mixture back into the saucepan.  Using a wooden or heatproof spatula, stir constantly until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula.  Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pan so that the egg yolk does not cook.  Once thickened, pour the custard through the strainer.  Stir the mixture until cool, and then chill in the refrigerator thoroughly (usually a couple hours, but can be overnight).  

Once the ice cream mixture is thoroughly chilled, add the peppermint extract a 1/2 teaspoon at a time until the desired amount of peppermintiness is achieved.  Then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.  Fold in the peppermint candy once the ice cream is formed and soft.  Scrape into an airtight container and freeze for at least a couple hours.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fall Brights

Even though it already feels like winter in most parts of the country, fall officially ends later this week.  Fall was one of my favorite seasons when living in the northeast.  I miss the changing leaves and our seasonal trips to the apple picking orchards.  While the leaves sadly don't change color much in LA, the weather cooled down enough to break out my riding boots.  As the temperature drops, I typically default to darker colors like gray, navy, and black.  On this particularly crisp fall day, I made a conscious effort to add some cheery bright colors in autumn hues. 

Sweater: J.Crew.  Brown corduroy pants: Madewell.  Orange linen scarf: Love Quotes Knotted Tassel Scarf.  Neon trim handbag: Theyskens Theory 'Anen Mini Flap Bag'.  Riding boots: Frye 'Melissa' Button Back Zip Boots in Grey (actually more of a dark brown).  Bracelets: From various travels.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Roses and Petals

Mr. J's company had their second annual holiday party this past week.  He started this company almost two years ago with just two of his buddies.  Last year, they had their holiday party at a local bar over wings and beer.  Since the company has grown (and grown up), the holiday party needed a more professional venue as well, and planning this new and improved party became my responsibility.  Let me just say, coordinating everyone's schedules and finding a suitable venue was no easy task.  In the end, the event was a hit and I am so proud of Mr. J and his company's success!

For the party, I wanted to wear something festive but I didn't want to go out and buy something new.  I'm happy to say that every piece of this outfit is recycled from my own closet.  It's fun to rediscover some old treasures and find new pairings.  It's almost as much fun as buying new things…almost.  

Black wool coat: custom. Rose-print tunic: Rachel by Rachel Roy (old). Petal bow skirt: Robert Rodriguez (old). 
Black pointy-toed pumps: Zara (old) (similar here). Black tufted clutch: Target (old).

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Between the end of Daylight Savings Time and Mr. J and my work schedules, it is usually pitch black by the time the both of us are home, leading to the paucity of posts on the blog lately.  In addition to the lack of lighting, the temperatures around here have been downright cold this past week, meaning all outdoor outfit pics would just be me in a big puffy coat.  I know the chill we're experiencing here in California is nothing compared to what's going on in the rest of the country.  And yes I grew up in Michigan, and yes I went to college in Boston, but I've gotten weak people…weak I tell ya.

With the drop in temperatures, I was craving some comfort food.  So I decided to whip up a batch of chicken tortilla soup.  In college, my good friend Raudel used to make a big vat of this during the arctic winters in Boston and all it took was a bowl of this hearty soup to warm me up.  I searched online for some recipes and combined bits and pieces to end up with the one below.  It is probably not very authentic but Mr. J and I thoroughly enjoyed it.  I made my own chicken broth and used the chicken meat in the soup but you could easily use store-bought chicken broth and some shredded cooked chicken breast as well.

Carolyn's Chicken Tortilla Soup

For the chicken broth:
1 small whole chicken, cleaned and trimmed
1 thumb ginger
1 onion
2 carrots
3 stalks of celery
1 bay leaf
1 tsp of ground thyme
Salt and pepper to taste

For the tortilla soup:
6 cups of chicken broth
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small can of diced green chilies
2 cans of diced tomatoes
3 corn tortillas, torn into small pieces
3/4 cup chopped cilantro
As much shredded chicken as you would like

Sour cream
Cotijo cheese, grated
Chopped cilantro
1 lime, cut into wedges
Crushed tortilla chips

Chicken broth:
Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil.  Throw in a thumb of ginger and the whole chicken.  Let water come to a boil again.  Remove chicken and discard the water.

Place flash-boiled chicken, onion, carrots, celery, bay leaf, and thyme back into the pot.  Immerse in cold water, cover, and allow to come to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer for 1 hour.  Using tongs, remove chicken.  Separate the meat from the bones and skin.  Set meat aside to be used later in tortilla soup or in other dishes.  Return bones and skin back to the pot and simmer for 2 more hours.  Skim off the fat, strain, and voila!  You now have homemade chicken broth.  You can store in the fridge for up to 3 days or freeze for later.

Tortilla soup:
Heat up vegetable oil in a small saucepan.  Saute onions until yellow and translucent.  Add in garlic and chilies.  Place mixture into blender or food processor along with the diced tomatoes.  Puree until smooth.  Return to a large pot and add the chicken broth, corn tortillas, shredded chicken and cilantro.  Bring to a boil and then turn low to simmer until the soup thickens.

When ready to serve, place avocado slices into the bottom of your soup bowl.  Spoon in tortilla soup.  Top with sour cream, chopped cilantro, cotijo, and lime juice.  For some crunch, add crushed tortilla chips.  Stay warm everyone!

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