Thursday, March 17, 2011

We're buying a HOUSE!

After what feels like YEARS of looking at literally EVERY house for sale in Pasadena, we have found THE ONE.

From the first second I stepped foot in this house, I just knew we had found our home.

After a couple rounds of negotiations, we settled on a price and heard the great news on Saturday - WE GOT THE HOUSE!

We aren't moving quite yet - the seller's have 3 young girls, and want to finish out the school year before moving out of state. So at this point, the plan is to close escrow in May, rent the house back to the seller's for a month, and move in somewhere around the first of July.

Yesterday we conducted our home inspection, and aside from a few minor plumbing issues which we will need to get cleaned up, the house passed with flying colors!

I snapped a couple pictures of the house while we were over there, but I felt a little weird about taking pictures of someone else's "stuff" so I mainly stuck to the exterior.

The house is bordered by Cal Tech, Pasadena City College and the Huntington Gardens. It is in such a beautiful neighborhood!

The house was originally built in 1931, but when the current owners moved in they
did an extensive remodel, adding on a front bedroom and bathroom, completely gutting the kitchen and renovating all the bathrooms and bedrooms.

We were SO fortunate the owner was there yesterday and showed us her photo albums of when THEY moved into the house (pre-renovation) and walked us through all the pictures from the renovation. We could barely believe it was the same house.

And we feel SO lucky to be buying from them. Their painstakingly beautiful renovations and preservation of the house is completely to our benefit, and we are SO thankful for all the hard work that they put in.

Now, if only July would hurry up and GET HERE. We can't WAIT to move into this gorgeous house.

(And now for my disclaimer: I am PETRIFIED that something will come up in the Escrow period and prevent us from closing on our house. So please please, think a few positive thoughts for us. Escrow should close in May....)

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Pasadena Cooking Club

As much as I loved my first cooking club, schlepping warm food 45-60 minutes across town just wasn't working out for me anymore. By the time I'd get there, everything would be cold, and sometimes, reheating just doesn't cut it, you know? (I felt like I was bringing leftovers every time!)

So, around the beginning of the year, I decided - why not get a similar group together on this side of town? At first, I was a little bit afraid that I didn't know enough people, but to my great surprise, after only 2 months we have ~15 members! (No, all 15 don't come to dinner every time...that would be INSANITY. Although, we'd probably have enough food...!)

Last month's theme was "favorites". Everyone brought a favorite dish, and it was delicious!

I didn't do such a great job collecting the recipes, but I did take pictures:

The starters: Roasted garlic soup, and Seared Scallop Salad. YUM!

And 2 of the main courses (Zuni Cafe Roast Chicken and Bread Salad):

Also on last month's menu:
Pretzel Rolls (similar recipe)
Caramelized Onion & Prosciutto Pizza

This time around, our theme was "bottleluck". Everyone brought a dish which included some type of alcohol in the ingredients. YUM!

I did a MUCH better job collecting the recipes, but, alas no pictures. (Click for links to recipes.)

Sparkling Meyer Lemon Cocktail
Beet & Avocado Salad with Champagne Vinagrette
Jalapeno Cheese Beer Bread
Penne a la Vodka
Meyer Lemon Chicken Piccata
Ginger Chicken & Yams
Chocolate Bourbon Truffle Tart (A few chef's notes on the tart...)
For the crust:
- I used an 11'' tart pan and increased the recipe by 1.5x.
- It helps if the butter is super cold and cut into small cubes.
- I only needed to bake it for 15 minutes; the crust would have been burnt by 20.
- If you don't have a tart pan, you can use a pie pan instead.
For the caramel:
- I cut the pecans to 1/2 cup since 1 cup seemed too pecan pie-like.
- I added a vanilla bean to enhance the flavour.
- Since I don't have a candy thermometer, I used the cold water method to check if it was at the soft-ball stage
For the chocolate:
- I substituted half-and-half and added a bit of sea salt.
- I cut the bourbon by half because I thought it would taste too boozy with the full amount.
- I whisked up the leftover heavy whipping cream and added approximately 1 tbsp bourbon per 1 cup of whipped cream.

Baked Brie with Grand Marnier

1 (8 ounce) round Brie cheese
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup chopped pecans
1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
Cut slits about 1/4-inch deep in a crossing pattern across the top and along the sides of the Brie wheel.
Place the brie in a baking dish.
Bake the Brie in the preheated oven until softened, about 5 minutes.
While the Brie bakes, stir the brown sugar, pecans, and alcohol in a small bowl; pour onto the top of the Brie and return to the oven another 10 minutes.
Serve immediately with crackers, grapes, or green apple slices.

Chocolate Mousse
(From: J. Rosso & S. Lukins. 1989. The New Basics Cookbook)

1 ½ pounds Ghirardelli semisweet chocolate morsels
½ cup brewed espresso
½ cup Grand Marnier
4 egg yolks
1 cup heavy whipping cream, cold
¼ cup sugar
8 egg whites
Pinch of salt
½ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)
1 cup (additional) heavy whipping cream (optional)

1. Melt the chocolate in a heavy saucepan over very low heat, stirring constantly. Add the espresso, then stir in the Grand Marnier. Let the mixture cool to room temperature.
2. Add the egg yolks, one at a time, beating thoroughly after each addition.
3. Whip 1 cup of the cream until thickened. Gradually add the sugar, beating until the cream is stiff.
4. Beat the egg whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold the egg whites into the whipped cream.
5. Stir about one third of the cream mixture thoroughly into the chocolate mixture. Then scrape the remaining over the chocolate base, and gently fold them together. Pour the mousse into individual dessert cups or a serving bowl and refrigerate until set, 2 hours.(Optional) At serving time, whip the remaining 1 cup cream until thickened. Add the vanilla and whip to soft peaks. Top each portion with a dollop of whipped cream.

Here's to getting it right next month: recipes AND pictures! Until April...

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Wedding! A (really long) photo essay.

Once upon a time, there was a boy who loved a girl...

One day he asked her a very important question, and...

...they decided to get married!

She primped,

and she prepped,

with all her best friends.

And then she put on

the most beautiful dress!

They had to sneak a quick peek

all by themselves

before joining their families

and all their best friends.

The ceremony was short

and sweet

and sealed with a kiss,

before they walked down the aisle together - wedded bliss!

A quick round of toasts

and much needed drinks!

A walk through the vineyard in the fading light

before heading inside to start off the night!

The guests took their seats,

and settled in for some toasts,

while the photographers discovered the photo booth!

While the bride was busy dancing with Dad,

what was Mom up to? (Being bad!)


The bride and the groom danced to the most wonderful song.

Ever wondered how many people can fit in a photo booth? Now you know...

Here go Albert and Elizabeth - taking a bite out of married life!

Thanks to EVERYONE who was part of this perfect day. We love you all.