your valentine’s day look, simplified

8122d9be609b2d4ab45da898555281b1 your valentines day look, simplified

 

 

If you could narrow in on the days in a women’s life where she wants to look especially pretty, Valentine’s Day is probably one of them. Whether you’re single or in a relationship, there’s just something about the holiday (at least, I think) that makes you go extra-feminine, extra-girlie and extra-pretty for a few days.

I’m definitely not one of those people who thinks you should dress or look a certain way for a guy (like wearing your hair only the way he likes it, etc.), but I do feel like it’s very easy to go over-the-top on Valentine’s Day (or any other date night really). Red lips, red nails, fake lashes, lots of bronzer! Next thing you know, your guy thinks he’s cheating on you because he’s at a romantic dinner across from someone he barely even recognizes. This Valentine’s Day, keep it soft, pretty–and most importantly, you. Here’s how:

 

valentines day makeup inspiration your valentines day look, simplified

What’s that saying? Keep it simple, stupid? Well yeah, do that. Let’s face it, your guy isn’t going to notice if you spent four hours highlighting and contouring in the mirror (unless you’re late for your dinner reservation), so skip the hoopla for the evening and save it for a night out with the girls. Your date wants to take you out, not you and your entire Sephora collection, so any makeup you use should stubtly play up your best features. I love starting with a highlighting primer, like Make’s version, for a little bit of a glow. Bring some dimension to your face (and call attention to your gorgeous eyes) with a little brow action and some mascara (Eyeko’s version is seriously amazing…I always get compliments on my lashes when I wear it!). I’d even make a case for a bit of a cat-eye with a felt-tip liner…just nothing too crazy (think more Emma Stone, less Alexa Chung). Finish things off with a bright cheek and pretty lip (Laura Mercier makes the best lipsticks–so hydrating!).

 

 

valentines day hair inspiration your valentines day look, simplified

Now, let’s talk hair! You know that very audible hairspray “crunch”? Yeah…we don’t want that. Besides making sure you don’t have a heavy hand with the spray nozzle, focus on whipping up a ‘do that makes you feel pretty without the high-maintenance every half hour mirror check. I love going for loose waves–they’re pretty and romantic while staying out of that “too dolled up” category. I love starting with Fekkai’s Coiff heat protectant before I blow dry (plus it smells amazing), then I focus on creating loose, pretty waves with my Jose Eber wand (you’ll want to wrap hair with a lot of space in between the spirals on the barrel–that will ensure more of a wave, less of a ringlet). After finger combing my hair to give it an intentionally messy look, I finish with a combo of Living Proof hairspray and Bumble and Bumble’s thickening spray at the roots. Oh! And don’t forget perfume–that always makes me feel prettier and pulled together. Lately, I’m loving Issey Miyake’s “Florale” scent.

 

 

valentines day fashion inspiration your valentines day look, simplified

 

Finally, the best part–the clothes! I love the idea of a pretty, girlie dress for a special Valentine’s Day date (with your guy, or your girlfriends!). Liz’s Red Valentino frock is amazing (I mean, pretty much my dream dress), and hits the perfect note between just-fancy-enough while still young and fun. You could go with a pale pink like this Tory Burch to stay holiday-themed, or opt for a sexy black cut out number.  I love the pretty blue lace on this Alice and Olivia dress, the pattern on this Peter Pilotto for Target one, and the Olivia Pope-ness of this black and white one (doesn’t it remind you of the dress from this scene?).

 

 

 

 

 

top image via

valentine’s day eats: spinach, ricotta and caramelized pear homemade ravioli

Valentines Day homemade ravioli valentines day eats: spinach, ricotta and caramelized pear homemade ravioli

 

 

I can still remember one of the best meals I’ve ever ate. It was in Florence, on the final Thursday of our trip–a few friends and I ventured over to the other side of the Arno (which we didn’t really do much, as the side we were staying on was more populated/central) to a little restaurant called Trattoria Quattro Leoni. I ordered the pear tortellini (Somehow, even after 5 months, I still didn’t get sick of pasta. Go figure.) and I’m telling you right now, it was out. of. this. world. It was one of those dishes where you’re instantly like, “I wish everyone I’ve ever loved in my whole entire life could eat this right now.” That kind of good.

 

So that long-winded explanation boils down to this: for Valentine’s Day dinner, I’ve recreated that best dish ever in the hopes of letting you guys in on it. Is it going to be as good as the original? Nope. Probably not even close. Are these even tortellini? Also a no, but I made fresh pasta, OK? Shaping them into tortellini just seemed too complicated…

 

I know homemade pasta sounds intimidating, but I promise it’s not. You can even make it without that fancy Kitchen Aid attachment (I should know, because I don’t have one either). All you need is three ingredients, which I suspect are already hanging out in your kitchen.

 

pasta base valentines day eats: spinach, ricotta and caramelized pear homemade ravioli

 

 

For the fresh pasta, you’ll need:

 

  • 2 cups flour
  • 3 large eggs
  • olive oil (I used truffle oil for a little extra somethin’ somethin’)
  • sea salt

 

To start, sift your flour onto a clean, flat surface. Create a well in the middle with your fist or finger, like shown above. Crack the eggs into the well, adding in your oil and salt too. Mix together carefully using one hand–the dough will start to come together sticky at first, but keep kneading it until it’s smooth. If it feels too dry still after about 5-7 minutes, add a few drops of water–likewise, if it seems too wet still, add a pinch more flour.

 

raw pasta dough valentines day eats: spinach, ricotta and caramelized pear homemade ravioli

 

 

Ball up the dough and coat with a bit more oil. Wrap in saran wrap and allow it to sit at room temperature for about 30 minutes. In the meantime….

 

 

chopped pears valentines day eats: spinach, ricotta and caramelized pear homemade ravioli

 

…Chop up two pears! You can leave the skin on, but you’ll want to cut them rather small and cubed. First up is caramelizing the pears. If you’ve ever made apple pie filling, you’re going to be a pro at this. Just put the pears in a skillet with 1 tablespoon unsalted butter and 2 tablespoons brown sugar, cooking them on low until they’re slightly mushy and deep brown in color.

 

ravioli filling valentines day eats: spinach, ricotta and caramelized pear homemade ravioli

 

Add the pears to a bowl with the ricotta (I used one whole small container) and a handful or two of chopped fresh spinach (uncooked). You’re also going to want to add one teaspoon of granulated sugar to this mixture (like you would with lasagna, etc.). Mix together fully, then cool until you’re ready to use it.

 

homemade ravioli valentines day eats: spinach, ricotta and caramelized pear homemade ravioli

 

After a half hour, your dough should be ready–roll it out on a lightly floured surface until it’s very thin–about 1/4 of an inch or less. You’ll need two of these “sheets” for your ravioli–one to serve as the base, and one to serve as the top. Plop teaspoon-sized scoops of the ricotta mixer onto the bottom sheet in a grid formation. Top with the other sheet of pasta dough, then cut between the ricotta dollops to form squares. Press around the edges of each with a fork to seal them. Allow to set for an additional 10 minutes, while you boil a pan of water that’s been heavily salted.

 

Spinach ricotta and caramelized pear homemade ravioli valentines day eats: spinach, ricotta and caramelized pear homemade ravioli

 

Cook the ravioli for about 3-4 minutes, or until the pasta is tender and cooked through, but not mushy. Plate with a bit of unsalted butter, parmesan cheese and fresh parsley. Enjoy over a romantic candle lit dinner, then check each other’s teeth for spinach afterwards.

 

True love…there’s nothing like it.

 

 

 

 

valentine’s day eats: dessert first!

molten lava cake ingredients valentines day eats: dessert first!

 

There is literally nothing I love more than lava cakes. Truthfully, it all started at Applebee’s…seriously, no one does a lava cake like Applebee’s (except for maybe you, after this recipe). There’s just something so amazing about the ice cream on top of the warm cake, and that very satisfying gush of chocolate that comes out when you attack it with a spoon.

 

I have this thing where I love to order dessert first, if whoever I’m with will let me, so I figured for the big V-Day meal, we’d start with dessert first (don’t worry you traditionalists–I have a delicious dinner recipe coming at you later today). The great news is that these chocolate lava cakes, adapted from a recipe I found in Food and Wine, are super quick to make (like 20 minutes, quick) and are best eaten right out of the oven, so there’s that whole immediate satisfaction thing. You’re going to want to grab a glass of wine–let’s do this:

 

You’ll need:

  • 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, broken up
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons vanilla
  • 2 eggs, plus 2 egg yolks (that’s two whole eggs, plus the yolks of two additional eggs)
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the ramekins.
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt

 

melted chocolate for molten lava cakes valentines day eats: dessert first!

 

Pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees. In a double-broiler on the stove, melt the chocolate and butter together–you’re going to want to chop up both of these a bit so they melt easier and combine more quickly. Stir occasionally to ensure an even melt.

 

whipped egg whites valentines day eats: dessert first!

 

In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat together the eggs/egg yolks, sugar, vanilla and salt on high until light and thick, like above. Using a spatula, gently and gradually fold the melted chocolate and 2 tablespoons flour into the egg mixture, taking care to combine well (but don’t go crazy on it–you don’t want to deflate the eggs).

 

lava cakes valentines day eats: dessert first!

 

Pour the mixture into ramekins that have been coated with butter and dusted with a touch of flour–this recipe makes just enough for two perfectly sized cakes (they won’t expand that much, so feel free to fill them almost to the top). Pop in the oven to cook for about 10 minutes. It’s important to keep an eye on the cakes, because cook time will largely depend on your oven. You want the edges of each cake to firm up, but the middle to still be a bit soft.

 

Valentines Day lava cake dessert valentines day eats: dessert first!

 

Once cooked, remove the ramekins from the oven and allow the cakes to cool for one minute. Invert them onto a plate and allow them to cook upside down for five minutes before slowly lifting the ramekin–the cake should stay on the plate, but if it doesn’t, feel free to run a knife around the edges of the ramekin to loosen it up.

 

Dust the finished cake with some powdered sugar, or top with your favorite ice cream flavor or dessert syrup (carmel sauce would be amazing I bet!). Serve warm and to chocolate-lovers only…these are very rich, but so so worth it. Enjoy!

 

Valentines Day lava cake desserts valentines day eats: dessert first!

 

 

love letters, 2013

 love letters, 2013

(source)

 

Just a few little notes to the people and things that make me l-o-v-e life…feel free to leave your own little love note below (I want to hear what makes you guys all warm and fuzzy). Happy Valentine’s Day!! xo

 

To “my people”: You are the best girls (and guys) I know. Thank you each for bringing something unbelievably special to my life. You’re there for me when I’m a stress-case, put up with me when I sing obnoxiously off-key at the top of my lungs, happily oblige when I make you taste-test countless desserts for this blog (OK–you probably don’t hate that part), and always, always build me up. Thank you for making me a better me.

 

To my family: I love you for your constant support, for telling me what I need to hear (like, “No, Alyssa, that is correct. You won’t pay your loans off for another 10 years.”), for believing in me in the times when I hardly do, for laughing at my really corny jokes and for always making home feel like home.

 

To my sometimes-crazy job: I’m really happy I have you. You’re challenging, exciting and sometimes stressful, but I’m constantly left thinking it’s just a little bit magical that I have the privilege to go into work and do what I love every day. See ya in a few hours.

 

To Smartfood popcorn: I really (like, really) love you. Thanks for always being there for me in my time of need–like when I’ve had one drink too many or a tough day a work. You’re a special kind of delicious (and like I tell everyone, you’re better crushed).

 

To Alias, the best show on television: Did you catch me the first time? No? OK, I’ll say it again–you’re the best show on television. Or I guess I should say were, considering you’re not on anymore, but trust me when I tell you our weekly Netflix dates are going to continue on through 2013. Things are about to get real saucy, Sydney Bristow.

 

To you, the best readers ever: It still pretty hard for me to believe that anyone besides my mom and a few close friends read this blog, but I’m constantly overwhelmed by the amount of support I get from each and every one of you. You are the sweetest, most thoughtful and amazing women I’ve ever had the privilege of knowing. Thank you for making this so fun xo

be a date night beauty

 be a date night beauty

source: Liz Von Hoene for Nordstroms 

 

We’re going to talk about date looks, but trust me when I say we’re not going to talk about the whole “here are beauty looks guys like so do this” thing. I’m a firm believer in wearing and rocking what you like–trust me when I tell you the guy you like will love it either way.

 

We are, however, going to talk about not overdoing it on Valentine’s Day–or any other date night. It hurts my heart when I see otherwise gorgeous girls caking on the foundation and piling on the bronzer for a night out with their guy, only to find that the cute-in-the-movies head on the shoulder moment turns not so cute when your guy’s shirt becomes orange. This Valentine’s Day, opt for a little sumthin’ sumthin’ like this:

 

romantichair be a date night beauty

Romantic, Retro Waves: These pretty curls are a step up from a normal straight or tousled look, but they stay out of that “too dolled up” territory. Keep ‘em soft and simple, and please–go easy on the hairspray. No guy wants to hear a distinct crunch when they go in for a hug! If you’re looking for a simple, easy tutorial, The Beauty Department has a great one. I plan on trying it myself for the blog once my hair grows a few inches (sigh!).

 

beautyromantic be a date night beauty

Soft, Pretty Makeup: When in doubt, go natural. A guy is out on a date with you to see you, not you and your entire Sephora collection. Choose a glow-y foundation (I love Make Up Forever’s Invisible Cover Foundation), a touch of blush and a good dose of mascara and you’re set. If you’re a perfume girl, spritz it on, don’t soak in it. And because I’ve never met a guy who looks good with a red lip (unless it’s from a 7-Eleven slushy), don’t rock a serious shade if you plan on a little kissing (which uh, you should). Go natural with a light cream lipstick or tint–something like Revlon’s Just Bitten Stain in Sweetheart is perfect!

 

What are your date beauty do’s and don’ts? Do share!

 

a valentine’s day playlist: for the lovers and the lonely

 a valentines day playlist: for the lovers and the lonely

(source)

I alluded to it last month, and truth be told, this is the Valentine’s Day post I’ve been looking forward to the most! There’s not a broken heart or a budding romance that music doesn’t help, so why not make a playlist for both sets this Valentine’s Day? Honestly, I’m not above belting out a great version of Since You’ve Been Gone in the shower (very out of tune, I might add) and one of the love songs is my absolute favorite karaoke tune–see if you can guess which one! Single, taken, or hanging with the girls this February 14th, I hope you enjoy both of these playlists!

For the lovers:

 

Valentine's Day 2 by abucco10 on Grooveshark
 

 

For the lonely (but not really…): 

Valentine's Day 1 by abucco10 on Grooveshark
 

a little valentine’s day sugar

vcookiesopen a little valentines day sugar

 

If there’s ever a time for a little sugar, it’s Valentine’s Day. I had an idea as to how I wanted these babies to turn out, but truth be told, I totally messed up these cookies–twice. The first time, the batter was so watery, it could never be a cookie. The second time–well let’s just say there was a fire alarm involved (yeah, it was an off day). But you know what they say, after a few recipes tweaks, third time’s a charm! I plan on handing these out to spread a little love this Valentine’s Day.

 

vcookies1 a little valentines day sugar

 

You’ll need:

 

  • 2 1/2 sticks butter, unsalted
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
  • 2 cups sugar
  • a pinch of salt
  • 5 cups of flour

 

vcookies2 a little valentines day sugar

 

Cream together the butter and the sugar until smooth, but don’t over mix. Add eggs and vanilla and mix again on low. Add the dry ingredients and mix until incorporated, for no longer than 30 seconds.

 

vcookies3 a little valentines day sugar

vcookies4 a little valentines day sugar

 

Put the dough on a tray, sandwiched between two pieces of parchment paper. Roll out flat (or, if you’re like me and can’t seem to find your rolling pin, sandwich between two trays and lay on it with your body weight). Put in the freezer to chill for 15 minutes.

 

vcookies6 a little valentines day sugar

vcookies7 a little valentines day sugar

 

Cut out cookie shapes using the cutters of your choice (naturally, I chose hearts for the occasion). Make sure you give the cookies room on the sheet–they will spread a little bit!

 

vcookies8 a little valentines day sugar

 

For the frosting:

 

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 3 cups powdered sugar
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 4 tablespoons half and half
  • red and pink food coloring (optional)

 

vcookies5 a little valentines day sugar

 

Dye the frosting a variety of pinks and red, and go crazy! I did a few different designs, added some sprinkles and sparkles (naturally) and generally went all out.

 

vcookies9 a little valentines day sugar

vcookies10 a little valentines day sugar

 

Wrap them up in red cellophane and hand out to all of your Valentines! If you need, you can store them in an air tight container for up to five days.