Secret Ingredient Crepes

Secret Ingredient Crepes - Jackietara blog

Since the holidays just aren’t complete without copious amounts of cooking, baking, and [inevitably] eating, I decided to use some of my treasured time at home to make a Dolan family traditional dish: French crepes.  I grew up with my Grandmama frequently making crepes for me and my sister on mornings we spent with her.  Natalie and I were crazy for them, and often had competitions on who could eat more, and more quickly.  I think my record was 8 crepes as fast as Grandmama could crank them out.

Since Grandmama is no longer around, I enjoy making crepes in her memory.  Although it will never be the same experience as sitting on the kitchen counter and handing her eggs to crack in the mixing bowl, I’m happy that a little piece of her lives on each time I create this dish.

Recently I have been adding a “secret ingredient” of orange zest to give the crepes an additional citrus element.  If you haven’t tried it before, I highly suggest it!  You won’t be disappointed…

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup milk
2 eggs
2 tsp melted butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp vanilla
orange zest to taste

In a large mixing bowl, whisk together the flour and the eggs.  Gradually add in the milk and water, stirring to combine. Add the salt, vanilla, orange zest, and butter; beat until smooth.  Heat a lightly oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat [I suggest using a little bit of vegetable oil].  Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe. Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.  Cook the crepe for about 2 minutes, until small bubbles appear in the batter [the bottom will be light brown].  Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side. Serve warm and with your favorite fillings.  My all-time favorite is just sugar, but maple syrup, Nutella, and assorted jams are delicious too!

Secret Ingredient Crepes - Jackietara blog Secret Ingredient Crepes - Jackietara blog Secret Ingredient Crepes - Jackietara blog Secret Ingredient Crepes - Jackietara blog
Secret Ingredient Crepes - Jackietara blog
Secret Ingredient Crepes - Jackietara blog
Secret Ingredient Crepes - Jackietara blog
Secret Ingredient Crepes - Jackietara blog


A Tartan Thanksgiving

A Tartan Thanksgiving - Jackietara blog

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, I was lucky enough to take a little vacation and disconnect from the city life with Teddy’s family in Bethany Beach.  We rented a house in a golfing community, so we were surrounded by lots of greenery and trees, and had plenty of outdoor activities to keep us busy.  T was able to play tennis with his family while I could jog around the community.  It was cold outside, but the sun made it perfect running weather.  Sometimes I can’t believe how quickly running has become part of my weekly routine.  I get disappointed when I miss running club on Tuesdays for evening events and I actually wanted to go running in the cold… while on vacation!

Thanksgiving day was absolutely beautiful, which was magnified by the calmness and happiness of being with family in a new place.  We had lots of great food, contributed by several members of the family [T and I made our famous goat cheese mashed potatoes], and wine, and once the meal was over, we sat around the table playing board and card games.  It really couldn’t have been any better.

A Tartan Thanksgiving - Jackietara blog A Tartan Thanksgiving - Jackietara blog
A Tartan Thanksgiving - Jackietara blog
A Tartan Thanksgiving - Jackietara blog

Wearing: tartan dress: ModCloth // short cognac boots: Frye

Photos by Teddy Wolff

A Tartan Thanksgiving - Jackietara blog A Tartan Thanksgiving - Jackietara blog A Tartan Thanksgiving - Jackietara blog
A Tartan Thanksgiving - Jackietara blog


Other Duties As Assigned

Other Duties as Assigned - Jackietara blogOther Duties as Assigned - Jackietara blogOther Duties as Assigned - Jackietara blogOther Duties as Assigned - Jackietara blog

Last month a friend asked me to help host her father’s birthday party to free up some time for her family to enjoy the festivities and forget about the responsibilities.  I am a natural host: I love greeting smiling faces eager to enjoy a carefree evening, pouring glasses of bubbly, and dashing to the kitchen to refill quickly disappearing dishes, so this was the perfect job for me.  It also helped that Teddy was asked to document the evening, so I would have an event partner-in-crime.

The family was expecting about 40 people, had prepared several entrees and desserts, and was anticipating a few additional dishes with the arrival of a few guests.  Bottles of wine were stocked and ready for serving in the cellar, plates and utensils were nicely laid on the table, hot dishes were coming out of the oven, and guests began to steadily stream through the door when I realized that my previous definition of “hosting” was a romanticized version and was leaving out several other duties.

Once the majority of guests had been received, drinks were poured, and food was eaten, it was time for a long bout in the kitchen with dishes.  I was wearing relatively comfortable shoes, but quickly aching feet from standing in one place had me longing for my leopard Steve Madden flats!  I was running up and down stairs to fetch new bottles of wine and dashing [as I had anticipated] to and from the kitchen to clear dinner and set out hot-from-the-oven desserts.

Other Duties as Assigned - Jackietara blogOther Duties as Assigned - Jackietara blog

Photography by Teddy Wolff

Although hosting is incredibly rewarding, this experience reminded me of all the work that is and could be involved.  With the holiday season and it’s many occasions around the corner, here are some tips for easing your stress and labor while assisting friends or hosting your own fête:

Wear comfortable shoes.  In addition to washing dishes, you most likely will be running back and forth from the kitchen with hot dishes or a fresh bottle of wine to serve!

Wear an apron.  Although your hand-me-down red plastic apron might not be the trendiest look during a party, it will save you the headache of getting stains out of your lovely holiday dress down the road.  There are also some super cute cloth aprons out there, like this macaron apron from Paper Source.

Know your schedule.  If you’ve been asked to help friends and/or family with their upcoming party, make sure you know the plan in advance!  How long will the party last?  How many guests will they have throughout the night?  Will there be entertainment?  Knowing these details will put you at ease and free you up for any other duties as assigned.

Have fun.  Hosting can be stressful, so throw on some cheerful music to keep yourself entertained in the kitchen, pour yourself a delicious beverage, and don’t hesitate to ask your guests for a helping hand!


Fourth of July Fun

Sandwiched between a long week at work and two Harry Connick, Jr. events at Wolf Trap, July 4th was a low-key holiday for me this year.  But “low-key” didn’t mean I had to sacrifice on fun and creativity!  Before our guests arrived, I decided to prepare my famous deviled eggs [a labor intensive but satisfying dish to make], melon with prosciutto [one of my all time favorites], and a berry champagne cocktail.

Luckily, Teddy made a blueberry syrup on a whim the day before, so all I needed was fresh strawberries and blueberries.  After having a little fun shaping the strawberries into hearts, I froze the berries for a couple of hours and chilled a bottle of prosecco.


This [red, white, and blue] berry champagne cocktail was a festive and refreshing libation after spending a few hours in the sun and a perfect way to celebrate our nation’s independence before watching fireworks on the National Mall.  The best thing is, you don’t have to wait for the next holiday to enjoy this drink – you can make it all summer long!

Berry Champagne Cocktail


A Snail Tale

If you didn’t know already, my three year anniversary with Mr. Teddy Wolff was this month [June 19 to be exact].  To celebrate three fantastic years as a duo, we planned a day of delicious culinary experiences.

The first was an unassuming authentic lunch at A&J in Annandale, VA.  If you ever want to have an inexpensive, traditional, and gratifying meal, go here.  A&J’s Chinese tapas are the epitome of comfort food and warm your soul with every bite.  I recommend the scallion pancake, pork dumplings, and spicy beef noodle soup [all menu choices were perfectly chosen and ordered by Teddy].  The soup is to die for and the noodles are homemade!

That night, Teddy and I opened a bottle of Lovingston Winery Pinotage [that I had been saving for a special occasion] and got going on our second delectable meal of the day, escargot. Both of my parents have made escargot several times for the family throughout my life and it has always been one of my favorite treats.  How can you go wrong with butter, garlic, shallots, and more butter?  The snails are pretty good too…



Octopus [I promise it’s delicious] Salad

As I promised in my last blog post, here is the recipe for octopus salad!  My dad has made this dish several times, and I have always wanted to try it, so I finally took the plunge and bought a package of frozen octopus on my last trip to Harris Teeter [I obviously haven’t been grocery shopping in a while… on my to-do list!].  Once you get past the tentacles, this is a quick, simple, and delicious dish to create.

2 lb octopus, thawed and rinsed (buy frozen and pre-cleaned)
3 tomatoes, quartered
1 shallot, diced
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup roasted bell peppers
1/4 cup cured black olives (a key ingredient!)
1/3 cup fresh or dried parsley
(I recommend fresh, but dried parsley works in a pinch)
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp capers
1/2 tsp salt

1. Thaw frozen octopus.


2. Slice tomatoes, shallot, and garlic, and combine with other ingredients.
Add pepper to taste.


3. Boil octopus for 20 minutes with a cork.  This can be any cork without plastic.  It may seem odd, but my chef-of-a-dad swears by it.  Be careful not to boil for more than 20 minutes.  Any more than that will make the octopus rubbery!


4. Remove the octopus from the boiling water, let cool, and slice into 1 inch pieces.
The octopus should be a nice eggplant purple color.


5. Mix octopus and the prepared salad and serve.



Spring To-do List

I love lists and it’s spring, so here is my to-do list for the new season!

1. Go outside!  This “task” may seem like a no-brainer, but working a 9-5 job and then some + teaching makes it hard to get outside during the day.  My goal is to be able to pry myself away from my desk for 10 minutes a day to enjoy the sunshine and get some Vitamin D.

2. “Live it up” and go to brunch.  Brunch has always been something I have viewed as a hoity-toity expensive and frivolous activity.  Having experienced brunch at District Commons and all it’s glory last weekend, I have decided that it’s actually a great way to catch up with friends after a long week, enjoy some comfort food, and have one of my favorite things in the world – mimosas.  I’m going to depart from my usual frugality and go to brunch more often, starting tomorrow ($9 bottomless mimosas at the Argonaut!).

3. Experiment with food.  Not in the Frankenstein or Flubber sense of the word, but to have more of an adventurous spirit while cooking.  Growing up with a French dad I have had it all, from escargot and pate, to venison and Cassoulet.  I am a pretty decent cook and I most certainly have an open mind when it comes to food, so I think it’s time to put the two together.  My first shot this week was making octopus salad (recipe and photos to come!).

4. Discover new music.  I have been listening to NPR’s podcast All Songs Considered a lot lately on my commute to work.  One of my favorites right now is Junip’s new song “Your Life, Your Call,” which reminds me of my best friend’s motto [in reference to all the stupid things that people do], ” it’s not my life.”  Never mind the disturbing video, the song is great.

The Flaming Lips’ new album, The Terror, will be released tomorrow, April 16!  Apparently I have an affinity for disturbing music right now, because The Terror has also been described as being “disturbing” by Wayne Coyne himself.

Another album I am anticipating is Vampire Weekend’s Modern Vampires of the City.  Take a listen to “Diane Young.”

5. See the cherry blossoms.  Although, I think the storm this morning may have undermined by plans to go downtown tomorrow to see them.  This is how I feel about the situation in haiku form:

Pink and white blossoms
Disappear from the old trees
Untimely cruel storm

What are you planning on doing this spring?  Please share!

Green Machine

The weekend of St. Patrick’s Day, Teddy and I were left with a challenge: to eat all of the left-overs from his Panera-catered photo shoot.  We of course accepted this challenge with pleasure as we crafted a very green sandwich with the left-over baguette.

Piled high with turkey, provolone, spinach, and avocado [and all the fixin’s], our sandwich was a green machine and paired nicely [though coincidentally] with the holiday we planned to celebrate that evening.  To accompany our well-constructed lunch was a left-over house salad with tomatoes and onions.

Teddy and I pride ourselves with creating a meal with whatever we have in the fridge, so this was definitely a delicious [and healthy!] win for us.