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swoon: we found spring’s prettiest blush for your table at kate spade saturday

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If you follow fashion trends at all, you know that blush pink is the color to wear this spring. Feminine yet earthy, it’s one of those tones that makes everyone look like they’re keeping a secret. In home decorating, the trend continues, which means pastels aren’t just for Easter. We spotted this lovely earthenware over at Kate Spade Saturday and thought it’s the perfect way to update your tabletop in the new hue. With clean lines and sturdy curves they’re a pink that even your male guests won’t mind clutching. Mix and match with other tones, such as celadon or grey and you’ll have a spread that’s worthy of magazine cover of its own. Glazed mugs, plates, and bowls start at $10 a piece at Saturday.com.

real life test kitchen: mandarin olive oil cake

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This winter I’ve been eating clementines like they are potato chips. I always have a bowl at my desk and even toss them in my bag when I’m on the go. This recipe for Mandarin Olive Oil Cake from Real Simple brings my new mini-orange obsession to a whole new delicious level. I’ve made it using clementines and I’ve made it using mandarins. Both are equally yummy. I also poke holes in the cake before I pour on the icing, which I make a little more runny than the magazine called for. That way the sweetness becomes almost like filling, and makes the cake super moist.
Here’s my take:

Mandarin (or Clementine!) Olive Oil Cake

What You Need:

1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for the pan
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and leveled, plus more for the pan
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp plus a pinch fine salt
3/4 cup whole milk (I used 1% and it was fine)
2 tbls unsalted butter, melted
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbl finely grated mandarin zest, plus 6 tbls mandarin juice (from about 6 mandarins*)
1 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 cup confectioners’ sugar (RS called for one and half but I like mine thin)

How To Make:

1. Heat oven to 350° F. Brush an 8½-by-4½-inch loaf pan with oil and dust with flour, tapping out the excess.

2. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and ½ teaspoon salt in a medium bowl; set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, milk, butter, vanilla, mandarin zest, and 4 tablespoons of the mandarin juice; set aside.

3. Beat the granulated sugar and eggs in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high until light and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes.

4. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture and the milk mixture alternately, beginning and ending with the flour mixture and mixing well between additions. (The batter will be thin.)

5. Transfer the batter to the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 50 to 60 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan for 30 minutes; transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.

6. Combine the confectioners’ sugar, the remaining mandarin juice, and the remaining pinch of salt in a small bowl; whisk until smooth. (The glaze will be thick.) Poke holes in the cake with kebab skewer. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake. Let set before serving.

we’re ready for a spring party with oh joy for target collection

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We don’t need to wait for warm weather to have a tropical party at house, but Oh Joy‘s new collection of celebration goodies at Target has us dreaming about flower filled bashes bathed in sunlight. With bright pops of color, festive garlands and easy-to-mix and match patterns, the decorating and entertaining goods make hosting a chic and festive gathering a breeze. On our must have list: pretty 3-d wall decals that you’ll want to leave up all the time, and this minty green domed cake stand.

get ready: how to have a crazy fun oscar night party

Tonight is Oscar night! If you are having people over to watch the fun unfold, consider our method. The key is to get your guest to play for money and make them leave their cell phones at the door! This post was originally published in 2011.

There are few things I look forward to more than the Academy Awards. I’ve been celebrating them for years in both high and low ways. I’ve rented hotel suites and made customized cocktails (I recall a “Babe” martini with a pink grapefruit rind tail). I’ve been to viewing parties where no one paid attention, and I’ve been to viewing parties hosted by Elton John. Yes, I’ve even been to the Academy Awards themselves, albeit in the nose-bleeds, the last year they were held at the gorgeous Dorthy Chandler Pavilion. My current mode for Oscar night is what I like to call “cozy red carpet.” Comfort food, good friends, and fuzzy slippers. Best of all, I have discovered the secret tool needed to having a truly fun Oscar night party: a DVR. Here’s how it works:

Forget the ballots, go for live betting. Rather than have all your invitees fill out ballots before the show begins, engage in live betting throughout the night. We give out ballots for reference only, so people can keep their own score on what’s been unveiled and what’s to come.

Record the show and start watching it late. Nothing brings down an Oscar party more than too many commercial breaks. Record the Oscars but don’t watch them live — at least not a first. Don’t worry, you’ll catch up as the night goes on. This way you can dive right in and fast forward through the dull parts.

No cell phones allowed. Because you’re not watching the show exactly live, don’t let cheaters check twitter or text messages that may be revealing the winners before you’ve seen them. Make reasonable exceptions for moms worried about babysitters.

Pause the show right before the envelopes are opened. This is the fun part. Just as Natalie Portman is fumbling to get that envelope for best actor open, hit pause. At that moment, instruct everyone to write down who they think is going to win that award only. Hit play.

Reward everyone who got it right. We like to give out little toys as tokens. Your guests can take them home, so everyone is a winner.

Winner takes all! At the end of the night, the person with the most tokens, wins the pool! (We got zoo animals and gnomes from orientaltrading.com.)

The day after the awards last year, everyone was grumbling about how long the show was, and how dull it was — that is, everyone but us. We all had a such a blast placing live bets throughout the night that the three plus hours fly by.

Of course the other important component to a good academy awards night is the menu. My menu for Sunday is still being debated, but right now I’m eying spiced popcorn, mini quiches, bite-sized pulled pork sandwiches, some kind of chocolate pots. I also am on the hunt for the perfect cocktail to make by the pitcher.

What about you? Are you planning anything special for Oscar night this Sunday?

real life test kitchen: spicy bean stew with winter greens

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My Sunday routine usually consists of cooking a big pot of something we can enjoy that night, and use its leftovers for lunch most of the week. It has to be something yummy, that reheats easily. And, considering the freezing temps we’ve been facing nearly every day this past month, it better be something warming. This Bon Appetit recipe for Spicy Beans and Wilted Greens stew totally does the trick. The two things that make this baby taste really delicious: anchovies (my newly discovered secret ingredient) and Parmesan rind. I found the BA version a bit heavy on the greens, and on the second time I a made this opted to leave out the arugula completely. I didn’t miss it one bit.

Here’s my take on Spicy White Bean Stew with Winter Greens

WHAT YOU NEED:
¼ cup olive oil
4 anchovy fillets
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
1 sprig rosemary
1 or 2 pieces of Parmesan rind (about three inches big) plus shaved Parmesan for serving
1 pound dried white cannellini beans soaked overnight, drained
1 bunch of kale, ibs and stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped
1 bunch flat-leaf spinach, trimmed, coarsely chopped

HOW TO MAKE
1. Heat oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Cook anchovies, chiles, and garlic, stirring occasionally, until garlic is soft and anchovies are dissolved, about 4 minutes. Add onion, celery, and rosemary; season with salt and pepper. Increase heat to medium-high and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is starting to brown, about 10 minutes.
2. Add Parmesan rind, beans, and 10 cups water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed, until beans are beginning to fall apart, 2.5 to 3 hours.
3. By now you should be able to crush the beans with a wooden spoon to give the stew a creamy consistency. Mix in kale, spinach, and half of arugula; season with salt and pepper. Cook until greens are wilted, 5–8 minutes.
4. Serve with additional Parmesan for sprinkling.