It’s still strawberry season, so why not highlight them with crepes! I made these for breakfast last weekend when my cousins surprised me for my 30th birthday celebration. The crepes were made in advance, because I had already planned on using them with strawberries that Neil was going to get me from the farmer’s market. Well, I “unknowingly” planned quite well for the unexpected house guests. No need to be intimidated by crepes. They are easier than pancakes and use simple, everyday ingredients. Once you have the crepes down, the possibilities for fillings are endless. Make them savory with wild mushrooms and a béchamel sauce, or make a fancy dessert with flambéed bananas and a rum sauce. Or, just eat them plain. They are delicious!! For the crepes pictured, I filled them with melted chocolate, and served with freshly sweetened whipped cream, and strawberries marinated with Grand Marnier liqueur.

See Recipe!


.....30 TODAY, but Forever 21

Yep, finally here..May 28, 2008. But, this last weekend proved that it's just a number, and life only gets better. I had quite the pre-celebration...that is, Neil and my cousins threw me quite a bash. So, here's the breakdown of all the partying:

Friday- Neil took me to Cork! Will definitely do a write up on it soon. It was a lovely, relaxing start to a very eventful weekend.

Saturday- We woke up, and Neil surprised me with fresh peach bellinis. They were delish!! I think it's going to be a summer weekend staple now. We got ready, and went to Georgetown to go dress shopping (my bday gift) and have some brunch at Bonaparte. No luck in finding "the dress", but Bonaparte was fun, and the weather was amazing. Finally, some sun!! And I was very excited about the evening. Neil had planned a dinner outing and refused to tell me where we were going and who was included. The anticipation was killing me, and how could I not be a part of choosing where to eat for my 30th !?!?! So, Neil wanted to leave Georgetown around 2:30. I was confused as to why we were leaving so early, b/c I didn't have to be ready till 7:30, but Neil said that we shoud relax and have some drinks in our backyard. Ok...I didn't think anything of it, and I was eager to start using our backyard after a terrible winter. So, we get home, drive into our garage, and the door in the garage connecting to the house is locked, and Neil didn't have the keys. He knows that I never carry the keys when we go out together! So, he starts freaking out, and says, "let's check the front door..maybe I didn't lock it". We walk to the front door, and it's unlocked! He never leaves the door unlocked! At this point, I'm totally freaking out. He opens the door, and I start walking in. I walk pass the foyer, and as I get to my kitchen, I scream like I just saw death...It was my cousins from NY!!!!!! I was in total shock. Neil had planned this surprise all along. I was so happy and thrilled. They are not only my cousins, but my best friends, and any celebration is nothing without them. So, when I finally came to, all I could think about was "What am I going to feed these fools". Well, Neil already bought tons of fun food and hid it in areas that I normally don't look. In fact, he said he had to re-hide food all week, because I was all over the place. First time that I've had house guests that I didn't have to really cook for. Somehow, I still managed to do some cooking, b/c it's my nature, and I wouldn't have it any other way. So, that afternoon, we relaxed in the back yard with more bellinis, some yummy apps, and got ready to go out for the main event...my bday party.

Saturday Evening- As I mentioned above, I had NO idea where our dinner venue was. We all get ready and go towards DC. We were near Metro Center, and I couldn't figure out where Neil could possibly take me. All the fun restaurants are in the Chinatown area. We keep walking, and I see Co Co Sala...the brand new dessert bar. I knew right away, that was it! What a striking venue...absolutely gorgeous! We had such a blast, and Neil did a great job with the organization of guests. There were about 20 of my closest friends that came out to celebrate. The Co Co Sala review will come in time. You have to check it out!

Saturday Late Night: I don't know where I got the energy, nor can I remember the last time I went out in DC after dinner, but Neil had something in store. He reserved a table at the Lotus lounge. On our way there we decided to go to the newer lounge, Park. Big mistake...it was beyond crowded, impossible to get a drink, and impossible to dance. We left Park and were on our way to Lotus, but saw Tattoo Bar across the street. It's an "upscale" biker bar that plays 80s!! So, that's where we ended up, and we had a total blast. We danced the night away! The music was right up my alley, and they even show all the music videos for the songs they play. Was I celebrating my 30th or 21st??

Saturday LATE LATE Night- You would think that after a night of Co Co Sala and Tattoo Bar, my cousins would be ready for bed. Instead, because we are a "classy" and "mature" bunch, we decided to hit up Taco Bell! Let me tell you, it saved all of us from any hangover! Those of you that are wondering how we got around, don't worry...one of my cousins doesn't drink, and was kind enough to put up with us kids.

Sunday Morning - I woke up totally fine! In fact, I was ready to go all over again...I didn't want the wkd to end. I got up and made pancakes, crepes w/ grand marnier marinated strawberries and fresh whipped cream for the crew. We also had bagels/lox, madeleines, bacon, and chocolate bread that Neil had planned. So, Neil proceeds tells me the itinerary for Sunday...my local cousin in Alexandria would be hosting all of us for a bbq! Yay!! She and her fiance have a beautiful back yard and brand new deck. I could hardly wait. Let the next party begin!!

Sunday Evening: I love bbqs and the weather couldn't be better. So, we (me, Neil, cousins) relaxed until 4 until it was time to go. On the way to the bbq, we stopped over at Grape & Bean in Old Town. It's such a cute wine store, and Neil bought me a salt set. It's a beautiful wooden case with 5 different salts. Now I have to research how to use them. We proceeded to my cousins, and were presented with quite a fancy feast!! Wonderful assortment of appetizers, a super tender roast, macaroni, pastas, and the list goes on. Then, they brought out an mazing birthday cake from Alexandria's Hollin Hall bakery, which I'm now starting to consider one of the best bakeries in our DC/metro area. I can't thank them enough for such an awesome evening! Does the fun ever end??? Not yet...

Sunday Late Night- After all that fun at the bbq, we came home pretty exhausted. Did we actually go to bed? Hell NO!! We had poker night. I rarely play cards, but turns out that I have quite the "poker" face, and I cleared the table on a nice majority of the hands.

Monday Morning: This time, waking up was a little more difficult, but I still didn't want it to end. We planned to take my cousins to lunch to Indigo Landing, or somewhere outdoors, before their trip back to NY. But, I decided to make a light lunch of egg salad sandwiches. It was great to hang out and talk about all the wkd events, poke fun at each other, and just enjoy each other's company. It seems, the older we get, the more we enjoy life and each other. I love it!!! It was already time for my cousins to leave :(

Monday Afternoon: Neil took me shopping again for a dress. I found a gorgeous one at Bloomingdales! Now I have to figure out where to wear it.

Today: I'm working, but leaving early!! Neil's taking me to the wax museum, and then we're gonna walk over to Central for dinner! I still haven't been there yet. Can't wait!!

This has been the most amazing birthday ever!! And I have the most amazing husband. Thank you Neil for everything you do for me. I love you!!


Strawberry Pie

Strawberry season is finally here! So go to your local farmer’s market and buy the best of the bunch. When picking your strawberries, try to choose those with a vibrant red color, as these will be the sweetest. Don’t choose those that are partially white. This simple and delicious strawberry pizza pie is incredibly light, refreshing, and the perfect way to make use of all of those plump, juicy, red strawberries. I started making this pie during my early years of baking, and I still consider it to be one of easiest and delicious dessert recipes I have. I made the one pictured for a barbeque. Blueberries were looking good that day, so I added some for color. Just cut it up in small squares and enjoy!


Grilled Caesar Salad

Last week I posted a recipe for a chicken roulade that I made for out of town guests. As a first course, I served a grilled caesar salad. It seems that the grilled caesar is a growing trend amongst many restaurants. Neil loves the grilled caesar at Mark & Orlando’s and has me replicate it at home quite often. It’s very easy to make, and I love all things that can be made in advance! The dressing, croutons, parmesan tuile can all be done in advance. The only component that needs to be prepared at the last minute is grilling of the lettuce, which only takes a few minutes to do. The bitterness developed by charring the lettuce gives a really nice depth to the flavors of the salad. And, needless to say, the presentation is quite impressive. Making the parmesan tuile is a little tricky at first attempt, so practice a few times to get the hang of it. I hope you try this one!

As seen in pictures below, I grilled my lettuce on a normal stovetop grill. Also, the tuile is made by simply scattering fresh parmesan on a small skillet. Once it bubbles and starts to brown on the bottom you have to quickly remove and shape.


Chicken Roulade

About a month ago, we had some really good friends from Richmond visit our new house for the first time. They were due to arrive on a Friday afternoon. So, what to feed them? Going out to eat wasn’t really an option since they have a 1 year old. I really wanted to cook something nice for them since it was their first time over. But that can be a hard task on Friday evening after work! So, I had to get into food planning mode and figure out what I could prepare in advance. Well, luckily my cooking techniques chef, Patrice Olivon, just recently taught us the technique of making a stuffed chicken roulade, or as Neil likes to call it, “chicken swirls". It worked out perfectly, because the chicken roulade is stuffed, rolled, and frozen in advance. All you have to do the day of is: thaw slightly, bread, and cook. Make a quick sauce, a side of pasta, crusty bread, and you have a fabulous meal. I even chopped up all the ingredients for the mushroom marsala sauce that I served alongside well in advance. I’ve learned that chopping is half the battle when you cook.

The roulade as pictured is stuffed with a spinach paste, prosciutto, and provolone cheese. The other picture has it stuffed with just prosciutto, provolone, and herbs. You can stuff with anything you desire. In class we stuffed it with pesto, proscuitto, sundried tomatoes, cheese and herbs. Try stuffing with goat cheese, or making this with veal instead! You can serve it with any sauce that compliments the stuffing, or no sauce at all. It’s a tasty nibble all on its own.

With this dinner, I also made risotto cakes, grilled caesar salad, and crème brulee. Again, most of the preparation for every component was done well in advance. I’ll post those recipes in the near future. For now, I hope you enjoy this one!

See Recipe!