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Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Kitchen Sink Salad Dressing

I thought I would share this damningly delicious, light salad dressing I just nearly spilled all over myself. It's entirely composed of the random little jars and tubes of things I have laying around the fridge and pantry! I am a salad nicoise's biggest fan, so most of the time, when I make my own salad dressing, it ends up in a form somewhat similar to nicoise dressing. The greatest salad nicoise I ever had the supreme luck to enjoy was at a strange little bistro at the edge of the Bowery in New York, at about ten o'clock at night when we were half-starved from traipsing around the city for the College Music Journal festival. The waiters had tattoos galore, the chef was an old French woman who yelled at them, and Edith Piaf played in the background.

Change around the herbs and proportions to your own taste, or add some sour cream to make more of a caesar-type dressing!

1 clove of garlic, minced
1 tbsp. basil, dried or fresh
1/4 tsp. herbs de Provence
2 tsp. olive oil
juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. anchovy paste
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 tbsp. white wine
1 tbsp. honey

Whisk all ingredients together with a fork and let sit until you want salad. Anchovy paste, when outside its tube, will not keep for very long, so don't let this sit out for more than a few hours. The dressing will be tangy and salty and just a teensy bit spicy...if you want a thicker version, omit the wine and add more honey or mustard to your liking. Enjoy on salad greens with feta cheese and olives, green beans, tuna steak, potatoes, carrots, or all of the above put together. For me, I've got black olives, a bag of whole organic sweet carrots, and half a head of red lettuce with NICOISE written all over it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Learning to Love Brussels Sprouts

I have a secret to divulge to everyone: I enjoy Brussels sprouts with great gusto whenever given the chance. Since these little gems of leafy green fibrous goodness have just started appearing on-the-stalk (crazy! Intimidating!) at farmers’ markets in California, visions of hot, tiny leafy vegetables are dancing in my head. The secret to learning to love this much-maligned wee cabbage of joy is quite simple: bacon and fat. Not necessarily in that order. Of course, bacon and butter would make a piece of cardboard taste like a slice of heaven, but these flavors complement the slight bite and complex leaved texture quite elegantly. The trick is to NOT overcook the sprouts—pull them out of the pan when they are soft enough to fork easily but not gooshy or, God forbid, stinky.
If you are watching the ol’ waistline as I am, try using turkey bacon in your recipes instead of doing without (unless you’re vegetarian/vegan. If you are, my apologies.). Turkey bacon won’t get as satisfying crunchy or greasy as real pork bacon, but I think the chewiness and thicker cut results in a better contrast of textures in my recipe. Use this dish as a side to a chicken- or turkey-central meal, or toss with pasta and grated Parmesan cheese for a satisfying, nutritionally rounded meal. Not to mention that the bright green and deep brown-red of the bacon give you a naturally healthy Christmas palette for the dinner table.

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
5 slices turkey or regular bacon, sliced into small, roughly square pieces
1 clove garlic, crushed and minced
1 lb. Brussels sprouts, cut in quarters lengthwise with outer leaves discarded
½ tablespoon butter (optional, but recommended if you’re using turkey bacon, which doesn’t give you yummy fattening drippings)
low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth to just cover the sprouts in your pan
salt and pepper to taste

1. Heat the olive oil and bacon over medium-high heat in a heavy saucepan or deep-ish skillet until the bacon becomes crispy. Add the garlic just before you think the bacon should be done to your liking and let it become fragrant with the dripping/oil. Drain off some bacon fat if you have any, reserving about a tablespoon.
2. Add in the quartered Brussels sprouts (watch your fingers when you’re quartering smaller sprouts, those things can be DEADLY), butter, and chicken broth to the pan. Bring to a fast simmer over medium-high heat and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts are soft enough to fork but still have a bite or the broth has all evaporated.
3. Add your salt and pepper to taste and serve hot, heaped in a bowl. Garnish with a handful of slivered almonds or hazelnuts if you are so inclined.
Note: if you don't trust me, this recipe from the Food Network Kitchens is very similar.

P.S.: I’ve always wanted to try to make a miniaturized traditional New England boiled dinner, with Brussels sprouts instead of cabbage. Now, where can a girl get her hands on good, tiny corned beef when it isn’t St. Patrick’s Day or thereabouts?

Holiday Separates at Every Price

I don’t know about everyone else, but I am a separates kind of girl when it comes to really any occasion. I’ve tried dresses and they just do not work on my body shape, it’s tragic and awful. Nonetheless, I have accepted and embraced it. The French will tell you, a mix’n’match wardrobe is the best kind of all.
The problem is that the fashion industry has trained us to think “holiday party” demands slinky satin, silk, and velvet dresses that are not only impractical for the weather outside but can turn into a complete disaster when faced with messy foodstuffs and the natural inclination to put on a little winter weight. (I know it’s not just me. It’s pie season, after all, and who doesn’t love pie?) Who can wear four-inch stilettos with pointed heels, a silk sleeveless dress, have perfect hair, and not break several bones and/or be afflicted with severe frostbite?
Well, readers, I have a practical solution. Just wear separates. Especially embellish those separates with sweaters, gloves, hats (everyone else has hat-head, after all), big wool socks, boots, and a coat or two. No angry mob will come after you for wanting to be warm, comfortable, and pretty around the holidays. As an added bonus for those of us who dream they have more of an hourglass rather than the Twiggy revival figure that is so de riguer today, separates flatter your figure everywhere that is deserving of flattery.
It’s entirely possible to throw together a wonderful holiday outfit from what you wear everyday or would buy normally. So, dear readers, I have compiled a sampling of some of my favorite holiday season-appropriate separates for you in a range of prices, depending on your tastes and fullness of wallet. After all, sometimes a girl has to treat herself!


$15.00 Old Navy silk pleated blouse in burgundy and black: pair this type of sleek but structured top with a flowy circle skirt and understated flats for a classically dainty holiday outfit.
$24.50 Old Navy sleeveless top in cream with black ribbon accent: pair with a slim skirt and cardigan with classic jewelry, especially if you're trying to impress or convince new friends (read: possible in-laws?) of your maturity and grace.

$31.99 NYC Love Letters sheer polka-dotted navy blouse with shirred ¾ sleeves and waist: for a slinky, sexy layered 1940s femme fatale-style holiday, try this top with a waffled 3/4-length sleeve shirt for warmth and a muted pencil skirt.
$39.95 (sale!) Deletta silk jersey top with banded puff sleeves and attached bow/tie at neck, in black, yellow, or blue: a little simplicity never hurt anyone.

$84.00 Lifetime Collective “Rodeway” sweater in burgundy with red shoulder accent and pockets at waist: stay warm and cheery with the family this winter! After all, if you're stuck with an insufferable extended family for a couple of days, a little cranberry-colored joy can do a lot to help your mental health.
$95.00 Wonderlust “swirly” long sleeve top with keyhole back, puff sleeves, and cuffs. For a slightly more outlandish look, pair this with a bright yellow or light blue pant or skirt, and shoes in a third color. Is that a little alien cap gun or an angel's bugle in the corner? Who cares when all eyes are on you at that Christmas dinner? Also in grey.

$19.99 Bus Stop pleated wrap skirt in brown with pink or cream bottom color-block. I fell in love with this skirt the moment I saw it--wrap skirts give you the appearance of absolute effortlessness, and the understated color scheme of this one looks just like chocolate and candies. In fact, I just ordered this as a little present for finals--rest assured I will report on how it works out!
$24.99 La Redoute pleated folk skirt with border motif, in “Bordeaux”. This bright jewel tone is perfect for the holidays with looking, as some of our mothers might say, harlot-y. A wider skirt shape accentuates your natural curves and is significantly more comfortable for your expanding waistline during big dinners than a pair of pants...unless you feel okay about wearing drawstring jammies to Grandma's house.
$59.00 Griffin Paris tweed belted skirt with faux leather underskirt and decorated tie at waist. If you want a little punk-rock in your holidays, check out this skirt with its contrasting fabrics and swingy shape. Pair it with brown textured stockings and brown shoes or vice-versa, and get creative with a color-coordinated outfit!
$126.90 (final sale!) Daryl K wool pencil skirt with curved seams at front. I am CAPTIVATED by this skirt. Too bad the little voice in the back of my mind keeps telling me that it is never to be. For the rest of you, if you are blessed with a lovely nipped-in waist and shapely legs, the kind that pencil skirts make smokin' hot, snap up this puppy for a holiday event that demands a little sexy sophistication.
Take a peep at Anthropologie's crazy fourteen-button heftily detailed pants, in grey or black at $158.00 a pop. With piped contrast seams, the grey version looks like an ace in the hole for a particularly important presentation AND celebratory drinks out on the town.
$263.40 Day Birger et Mikkelsen A-line ivory skirt with red and black floral appliqué. Say you're from a primarily Scandinavian family, or just like to think about countries that actually have reindeer and Saint Nick. This skirt looks like a bucketful of an Ikea Christmas to me, with a great A-line shape to flatter any figure and lovely neutral color. Thing is, is it a one-use-only piece in your wardrobe? How else could this beauty be utilized besides during the holidays for a little dress-up?

images from oldnavy.com, busstopshop.com, shopbop.com, anthropolgie.com, net-a-porter.com, plasticlandclothing.com, us.redoute.com, paper-doll.com, and karmaroute.com.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Linky Love: Our Blogrolls

Jeanne's Blogroll:

Karen's Blogroll:

Kati's Blogroll:

Friday, December 01, 2006

About Us: Contributors and Editorial Standards


Jeanne is a former video game tester who went blissfully into the deep end of beauty and fashion to reclaim her feminine side, and hasn't looked back. She prefers tea to coffee, lipstick to lip gloss (but still loves both), and keeping her hair short and easy to maintain. You can often find her carrying too many bags and with a great pair of earrings on, generally in the vicinity of San Francisco; she is known to have a bit of wanderlust for the fashion capitals of the world as well.

Kati has been enamored of Kati Farkas since Farkas was a strawberry blonde, but her lack of 'ie' started a couple of years before she picked up a Gossip Girl novel. She likes her coffee with cream, and her soap operas with a heavy helping of teenage angst. When she's not blogging, she can be found writing novels for Young Adults or attempting to elevate the style level in her hometown from "Pacific Northwest dirty hippie wear" to something slightly less dirty through her love of mini-dresses, colored tights, knee high boots, and headbands.

Karen is an acolyte in the cult of Corporate America, Silicon Valley cabal. She is an avid fan of millinery, feather fascinators, glasses, and other awesome vintage accouterments. She enjoys going to the gym slightly less than regularly, napping, and would probably like indoor rock climbing if she could muster up the courage to try it. Her secret superpowers include making fried eggs on toast and speaking Japanese fluently. She can re-read books many times over and is strangely fascinated by diseases and serial killers. When she's not blogging, she's Yelping.

Editorial Standards:

Updated June 2009

1. All content on The Periodic Elements of Style is written by one of our three contributors, unless noted as a guest post -- we pride ourself on our original content, and do not accept press releases or "suggested topics" for posting on our blog.

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