Monday, July 29, 2013

50 DIY Designer Knock-Offs: From A (Anthropologie) to Z (Z Gallerie) - Part 1

Who doesn't love a craft that's easy to make and ends up looking like a million bucks?

If you, like me, are always looking to save some money without sacrificing great design, then this blog post is for you!

As the first of a two-part series, following is a list of 25 exciting DIY ideas for designer knock-offs, from jewelry and clothes, to dinnerware and furniture. (Stay tuned for next week, when I'll show you 25 more.)

Hope you see something you like and give it a try!

* For specific how-to instructions, click on the caption below each photo.


























Tuesday, July 23, 2013

The Story of Michael Ruhlman + His Wheatberry Salad

When I was in the very early stages of writing my book, I dreamed of having a renowned expert in the culinary world (a food god, if you will) write my foreword. At the very top of my wish list (ok, the only person on my list) was Michael Ruhlman.

Photo credit: Donna Turner Ruhlman

Now, unless you've been living in a cave for the past few years, you know darn well that not only is Michael highly respected nationally (and probably globally, too) as a top-notch food writer, cook, and all-around charismatic guy, but even more importantly, he's also a native Clevelander. Born and bred. (And I have no problem with him being an eastsider. Just saying.)

He fit all my criteria...and then some.

So I wrote to him. And I boldly, blatantly, and probably even shamelessly just came out and asked him if he would do me the honor. (After all, what did I have to lose, right? Am I right? Of course I'm right.) To my utter and complete amazement, he said yes. I was on top of the world!

Fast-forward one year later when my manuscript -- with Michael's copy -- was due. As it turned out, Michael was suddenly and unexpectedly super busy at that particular time and couldn't make any promises that he'd be able to deliver what he had promised a year earlier. I had only three more days left before I had to turn everything in, with or without Michael's foreword. I'd either have one of the best forewords in the cookbook world...or nothing at all. Yikes!

To say I sweated it out during those three days is an understatement. A real understatement.

But lo and behold, in the eleventh hour, Michael pulled through (being the consummate professional that he is) and sent me his copy just in the nick of time. I love him to this day for it.

Which brings me to why I am such a huge fan of his. He's passionate about the topics of food and cooking. (And I mean good food and good cooking.) He's dedicated to educating his readers and followers through both his books and his fascinating adventures in the kitchen. And he's quite an interesting person.

So, being the loyal fan that I am of him and the lover that I am of wheatberries (which has absolutely nothing to do with their healthy benefits for fiber and protein and everything to do with an irresistibly sweet version called Serbian koljivo -- read about it here), when I read his latest blog post on a wheatberry salad he made, I just knew I had to give it a try.

I made it for my husband and two daughters a couple weeks ago. They loved it.

Then I made it for my three little grandchildren last week while visiting them in Charlotte, NC. And they loved it.

Next, I'll be making it for my friends who are attending a summer picnic with us next week. I'm sure they're gonna love it, too.

Which is why this recipe is now officially a keeper in my repertoire.

It's healthy. It's colorful. It's filling. It's vegan. It's great in all weathers, including summer. And it's downright delicious (thanks, in large part, to the special vinaigrette).

Why not give it a try yourself? I guarantee you won't be disappointed.

Adapted from Michael Ruhlman
Serves 6-8

For the salad
  • 1 cup wheat berries
  • 3 1/2 cups water
  • 1 Spanish onion, diced
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Salt to taste
  • Olive oil
  • 1 red bell pepper, cut into small dice
  • 2 ears corn (or 1 cup corn kernels)
  • 1 cup shelled edamame (or lima bean or peas), cooked
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the vinaigrette
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/4 to 1/3 cup olive oil
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 leaves romaine lettuce or head lettuce (optional)
  1. In medium saucepan over high heat, combine the wheat berries and water, and add half the diced onion and the bay leaf. When the water reaches a simmer, cover and reduce the heat to low. After 30 minutes, add 1/2 teaspoon salt, stir to dissolve, and taste the cooking water. If it needs more seasoning, add another 1/2 teaspoon salt. Cover and continue cooking until tender, another 30 minutes or so. Uncover and simmer until almost all of the water has cooked off. Set this aside and keep at room temperature or chill.
  2. In a sauté pan over medium heat, heat a film of olive oil, then saute the remaining diced onion. When the onion is tender, add the red pepper and sauté until the pepper is tender. Remove from the heat. While the onions and peppers are cooking, boil the corn ears for a few minutes. Hold them under cold water till they’re comfortable to handle, then slice the kernels off the cob into a large salad bowl. Add the cooked edamame, the onions and peppers, and the wheat berries.
  3. To make the dressing, combine the lemon juice, shallot, garlic, and a three-finger pinch of salt and allow to sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Add the cayenne, and whisk in the oil. Taste. If it’s too sharp, add more oil.
  4. Toss the vegetables and wheat berries with the dressing, holding some back. Add freshly ground black pepper to taste. Taste and evaluate. Add more dressing or additional lemon juice to taste.
  5. Serve in lettuce leaves if you wish.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Today's Newest Dessert Craze: Cronuts!

You love being on the cusp of all the latest-of-the-latests. In social food!

Which takes me to the topic of this post and my question to you:

What new dessert could possibly be so tasty, so special, so wonderfully exquisite so as to become an overnight sensation and sell out within an hour...every single day?

The answer is the cronut. And the place of origin is Dominique Ansel Bakery in New York City.

Photo credit: Taylor Jewell

Chef Dominque Ansel, who placed as a finalist for the prestigious James Beard Outstanding Pastry Chef Award this year, created this delectable French twist on an American classic: half-croissant, half-donut.

It's made of layers of buttery croissant dough that are first deep fried, then filled with a flavored center. These heavenly creations are eventually rolled in flavored sugar and finished with a glaze. Inside, they're flaky and light. Outside, they're crispy and warm.

Who could resist one? (Not me, I can assure you!)

Photo credit: Dominique Ansel

In fact, they're so popular that the name has been trademarked and they're being sold (via black market, believe it or not!) on Craigslist. They are also being copied by bakeries around the world under various names such as doissants.

However, it was Ansel who created this original masterpiece. "We tried about 10 different recipes and the first ones were a total disaster," he says. After much trial-and-error, he came up with the winning recipe -- and the rest, as they say, is history.

Chef Dominique Ansel

Ansel plans to release a new flavor every month. (Some examples: Rose Vanilla, Lemon Maple, and Blackberry. Look for many more to come!)

If you're not lucky enough to be able to visit his bakery well before its 8am opening time in the SoHo neighborhood of New York (and I'm talking hours before, standing in a blocks-long line), you can be sure this tasty hybrid of a dessert will be popping up at a bakery near you sometime in the future.

Dominique Ansel Bakery at 189 Spring St., NY, NY

A typical wait in line

To meet the mastermind behind this phenomenon, just click below for an interview with Chef Ansel:

And if you'd like to give this baby a try at home yourself, Pillsbury has created a recipe that's quick and easy, and pretty tasty, too. (Consider it a knock-off. Close enough if you can't make it to New York City anytime soon.) Check it out below and be sure to let me know what you think!

Photo credit: Pillsbury

Makes 3 servings
Adapted from Pillsbury

2 cups vegetable oil
1 can (8 oz) Pillsbury® refrigerated crescent dinner rolls
1 snack-size container (4 oz) vanilla pudding
2 tablespoons caramel sauce
1/4 teaspoon kosher (coarse) salt
1/2 cup powdered sugar
Additional caramel sauce, if desired

    1. In deep fryer or 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil over medium heat to 350°F.
    2. Separate crescent dough into 4 rectangles. Firmly press perforations to seal. Stack 2 rectangles on top of one another. Fold in half widthwise to make tall stack. Repeat with remaining 2 rectangles.
    3. To make 2 doughnuts, use 3-inch biscuit cutter to cut 1 round from each stack; use 1/2-inch biscuit cutter to cut small hole in center of each round. Reroll remaining dough to cut third doughnut.
    4. Fry doughnuts in hot oil 1 1/2 minutes on each side or until deep golden brown and cooked through. Drain on paper towels. Cool 5 minutes.
    5. Carefully split doughnuts in half. Place pudding in decorating bag fitted with tip, and pipe some of the pudding onto bottom half of each doughnut. Top each with some of the caramel sauce; sprinkle with salt. Cover each with top of doughnut.
    6. In small bowl, mix powdered sugar and enough milk for spreading consistency. Spread on tops of doughnuts. Drizzle with additional caramel sauce.

Expert Tips:
Add food color to the powdered sugar glaze for a fun and colorful doughnut topper.
Cut doughnut holes out of dough scraps with 1/2-inch biscuit cutter.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Top 50 Al Fresco Dining Spots in Cleveland

Among a lot of other incredibly awesome things to do during summertime in Cleveland, there is also the chance for both you and me to enjoy wonderful, leisurely, outdoor dining at many fabulous restaurants throughout town.

In fact, Plain Dealer reporter extraordinaire, John Petkovic, recently culled a pretty impressive list of what he considers to be the top 50 spots for al fresco dining in our fine city. I happen to agree with him 100%.

May I share them with you?

(All photo and caption credits: The Plain Dealer)

Barking Spider, 11310 Juniper Road, Cleveland, 216-421-2863,
Even when the world is crazy and angry, this patio is a village of good vibes. Low key, laid back and a flashback to the 1960s vibe that ruled when this part of town was a hippie bastion.

Hoopple's, 1930 Columbus Road, Cleveland, 216-575-0483,
Located on a bluff overlooking the Cuyahoga River, this blue-collar joint offers a great view of the skyline and an even better feel for old-school Cleveland. Check out the bridges from the spacious patio!

La Strada, 2050 E 4th Street, Cleveland, 216-861-3663,
Yes, it's named after the Fellini film, Italian for "the road." Yet there is nothing sweeter than sitting at this stylish cafe in the summer and watching others travel that road known as East Fourth.

La Dolce Vita, 12112 Mayfield Road, Cleveland, 216-721-8155,
The landscape is perfect here -- a great sidewalk cafe where you play voyeur over a cappuccino. The patio behind the restaurant is snazzy and manicured

West Park Panini's, 17209 Lorain Avenue, Cleveland, 216-938-8930,
It's a sports pub, stocked with countless TVs. But look out back -- it's a tiki bar, with a thatched hut that sets this place apart in Kamm's Corners.

Momocho, 1835 Fulton Road, Cleveland, 216-694-2122,
Ah, you can't beat sipping away a summer day with a blood-orange margarita on this Ohio City patio. Well, actually you can. The guava margarita is even better. The neighborhood vibe and that big Day of the Dead mural are pretty good too.

The South Side, 2207 W 11th St Cleveland, 216-937-2288,
The patio is open year-round. It features two sides, indoor/outdoor, along with a stone fireplace, comfy seats and tables that put plastic picnic fare to shame.

Reddstone, 1261 West 76th St., Cleveland, 216-651-6969,
This laid-back leafy patio feels like a park. Except that parks don't serve $5 burgers and 25-cent tacos -- Wednesdays and Thursdays, respectively. The secluded getaway also rolls out a vibe that's laid-back yet party-hearty.

Spice, 5800 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, 216-961-9637,
This locale has been so many things, everything from a mac&cheese spot to modern taqueria. The one constant has been the patio -- a secluded getaway from the street and the city. Spice has one-upped previous tenants, adding colorful flowers to go with a list of drinks and small plates that make you want to get all lazy on a sunny afternoon.

Sunset Grille, 2800 Whiskey Island, Cleveland, 216-631-1800,
Nothing spectacular about this place. It isn't snazzy, chic or trendy. Ah, but the sun is more brilliant than glitzy decor or 40 taps of craft beer. Especially when the sun sets over the lake and you're kicking it on a picnic table.

Trattoria Roman Garden, 12207 Mayfield Road, Cleveland, 216-421-2700,
We come for the gnocchi and the eggplant. Trattoria also serves a stellar Manhattan. But more than that, we come to pasta time on this Little Italy patio -- an easy-going, enclosed patio far from the traffic of Mayfield Road.

Town Hall, 1909 West 25th Street, Cleveland, 216-344-9400,
  The newest addition to West 25th always seems to be packed, with the patio crawling with partyers. They come for the mod, clubby look. They come for the cocktails. And, yes, they come to see what the buzz is all about.

Vosh, 1414 Riverside Drive, Lakewood, 216-767-5202,
Vosh and its sister location Georgetown share a patio that looks like something you might find in a park. Not just any park -- a place like Central Park. Except that you're in Lakewood, amid the brick walls and tall trees and feeling that summer is endless.

South East Gears & Cheers, 23333 Aurora Road, Bedford Heights, 440-232-0029,
Where do you start at this biker-themed superstore of patios? There's the cool bar with the garage-doors and retro decor. A grill on the patio. A Tuesday bike night. A Thursday car cruise. And live bands.

Stone Mad, 1306 West 65th St., Cleveland, 216-281-6500
The enchanted cobblestone drive came from Scranton Road. But Stone Mad looks and feels like a pub in Ireland. The patio's plain ol' maddening -- constructed out of stone tables, meticulous masonry and that fireplace.

Sterle's, 1401 East 55th St., Cleveland, 216-881-4181,
Life is sehr gut in a Biergarten --€” far from work and surrounded by beer. Sterle's patio does that trick well. It also serves live music and grilled meats, made right on the patio.

Shooters on the Water, 1148 Main St., in Cleveland's Flats, 216-861-6900,
The Flats never died -- the action just moved to Shooters, which boasts a patio where you watch the lake, the river and downtown. And, just as nice, you can party like it's 1989.

Johnny's Bar 3164 Fulton Road, Cleveland 216-281-0055,
This quaint bar also rolls out a patio with a meticulous garden in the back that looks like something you'd find on an estate, not in the middle of the city.

Gamekeeper's Taverne 87 West Street, Chagrin Falls 440-247-7744,
Gamekeepers has long been a favorite patio hang out. But that didn't stop the eatery from upgrading the patio yet again this year. Let's see: brick, stone, a fireplace to go with trees, lights and a spacious yet cozy vibe.

DNA Level C, 618 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, 216-298-9009,
You can dance if you want to. This is a dance club, after all. But the rooftop patio offers a shot of the downtown skyline that makes you feel as though you are partying in a postcard -- especially when DNA hosts its Sunset Sundays soirees.

Brew Co. Parma, 5513 Pearl Road, Parma, 440-882-3365
Wasting away again in Parmaritaville? Well, this is the place to do it -- and not just because the newly opened spot rolls out 20 local brews. The sprawling patio rolls out a cabana-style bar -- to go with large-screen TVs and DJ, Bike, Truck and Ladies Nights.

Twist, 11633 Clifton Blvd., Cleveland, 216-221-2333,
It's a high-energy gay club and a laid-back corner bar. But Twist also boasts a patio that spills life out onto the sidewalk of Clifton Boulevard and back into the club, thanks to large garage doors that open up in the summer.

Zanzibar, 13114 Shaker Square, Cleveland, 216-752-1035,
The newly opened Zanzibar location, in the old Sarava spot, has well-manicured bushes, cushy seating, tables you can eat at or just lounge around. But more than that, it lets you kick back and watch the places and faces of Shaker Square.

Houlihan's Westlake, 25651 Detroit Road, Westlake, 440-808-9090,
Houlihan's in Westlake rolls out a massive yet secluded patio with an outside bar, tables, trees, an outdoor kitchen, lights and enough people to make it feel like a quaint little town.

Taqueria Junction, 8154 Columbia Road, Olmsted Falls, 440-793-6700,
Pull up to this old-timey outpost located in Grant Pacific Junction, that collection of shops and eateries housed in refurbished buildings dating back to the 1880s. The TJ rustles up a quaint view of it all, along with some retro deals -- $3 Margarita Wednesdays and $3 Sangria Thursdays.

Felice's Urban Cafe 12502 Larchmere Blvd., Cleveland, 216-791-0918;
This Mediterranean-tinged restaurant with a homey vibe and sophisticated menu is located in a restored turn-of-the-century home. Ah, but check out the refurbished barn out back. It features a bar with art on the walls and cafe seating -- and a menu of small plates and drinks.

Velvet Dog, 1280 West Sixth St., Cleveland, 216-664-1116,
The mood at this Warehouse District club is always party-hearty. The exotic decor and spectacular view of downtown from this rooftop patio are even better. The lights, the sights -- life is a party.

Washington Place Bistro & Inn, 2203 Cornell Road, Cleveland, 216-791-6500;
  Check out the old rooftops of Little Italy and the towers visible over these walls. Even the traces of modernity -- the mod decor -- are balanced by the old brick and classic flower arrangements.

Flying Fig, 2523 Market Ave Cleveland, 216-241-4243,
It's so close to West 25th and yet so peaceful sitting here on the sidewalk of Market Avenue at the Fig -- a serene sister to the brew-haha of West 25th.

Treehouse, 820 College Ave Cleveland, 216-696-2505,
The big toucan mural on the wall says "Lovely day for a Guinness." Gotta believe him, judging by the crowds that pack and drink on the patio. It's leafy and lively, not to mention a regular stop for locals and bike hounds.

D'Vine, 836 W. St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, 216-241-8463,
Sip wine and watch the beautiful people, even the not-so beautiful people. You'll see both walking past D'Vine, which pairs a fine wine list to go with the finest sidewalk seating in the Warehouse District. At times, it's like Paris. Other times, like "Jersey Shore." Entertaining either way.

Academy Tavern, 12800 Larchmere Blvd, Cleveland, 216-229-1171
Amid the antique shops of Larchmere sits this old gem of a bar -- open since 1939, with a vintage vibe. Walk out the door and you're somewhere else: A leafy green hideaway with vines on the walls, a stony fountain and a place in the shade, far from the city.

Bar Louie, 1352 West Sixth Street, Cleveland, 216-452-5500,
Since when does a patio seem like an all-out bar? Since you ordered a drink at this sidewalk spot, which wraps around West Sixth and St. Clair and features a full bar, ample seating and a great view of the Warehouse District.

Barrio, 806 Literary Rd. Cleveland, 216-999-7714,
Raise a margarita and a taco to the good-time girl who lords over this Mexican-flavored Tremont spot. She's the flapper mural overlooking Barrio's chic but simple patio.

Don's Pomeroy House, 13664 Pearl Road, Strongsville, 440-572-1111,
The grove of thick old trees. The white-picket fence. The barrels and luscious plants amid the mid-19th century mansion. It might be in Strongsville, but the patio feels like a breezy day down south.

Edison's Pub, 2373 Professor Street, Cleveland, 216-522-0006,
Past the bar, popcorn machine, booths and pool table, there is a door. Walk through it and you will find yourself among friends, sipping beer at a picnic table amid the leafy, green vines and a vibe that rewards conversation.

Flannery's Pub, 323 Prospect Avenue, Cleveland, 216-781-7782,
Yes, we know about the Irish pints here. But amid the sips and guzzles comes a moment of clarity: This stalwart has a killer sidewalk patio that is spacious, fun and never pretentious.

Flying Monkey, 819 Jefferson Avenue, Cleveland, 216-861-6659,
Just because it's named after those critters in "The Wizard of Oz" doesn't mean the fun-loving regulars are cowardly lions when it comes to getting down. The lively patio makes sure of that with live bands and party wizards.

Greenhouse Tavern, 2038 East Fourth Street, Cleveland, 216-443-0511,
Wow, look at all those people down there on the street -- the foodies, strollers, folks heading to a ball game. Yes, the world passes us by and it's all good from this rooftop patio.

The Harp, 4408 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, 216-939-0200,
The Harp reminds me of winter -- maybe it's the fireplace and rich polished woodwork, the whole cottage vibe. Then you walk out onto the patio, see Lake Eire, er, I mean, Erie and you realize it's summer and it's breezy and it's fun.

Hodges, 668 Euclid Ave Cleveland, 216-771-4000,
Yes, it has a snazzy, sprawling patio. But I'm still focused on this fantastic view of the skyline and downtown's vibrant future on a renovated Euclid Avenue.

Jekyll's Kitchen, 17 River St., Chagrin Falls, 440-893-0797,
It's like walking into a postcard -- a patio deck that overlooks the picturesque falls in Chagrin Falls. Jekyll's also serves one of the best Happy Hours in the area. Which means an inexpensive pizza, an affordable Mai Tai and a priceless view.

L'Albatros, 11401 Bellflower Road, Cleveland, 216-791-7880,
I could say the patio of this French eatery is reminiscent of something I once saw in South Beach. Except that the South Beach place was a lesser version of this spot -- a creative mix of stylish decor and leafy, organic charm.

Lopez on Lee, 2196 Lee Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-932-9000,
The Southwestern cuisine might be the big ticket. But the patio at this Mexican bar-restaurant is an all-out fiesta, especially when Lopez rolls out half-price margaritas 5-7 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Luxe, 6605 Detroit Ave., Cleveland, 216-920-0600,
This pad reminds me a little of some pad in South Beach. Except that you never feel like you're crashing someone else's party. It's welcoming and stylish without being pretentious.

Market Garden, 1947 W 25th Street, Cleveland, 216-621-4000,
Located next to the West Side Market, this patio brings together a love for Cleveland's past with a desire to make it happening again. There's the view of the market stands, the hustle and bustle and, whoa, all those Market Garden brews.

Moosehead Saloon, Dover Center Road, Cleveland, 440-871-7742,
A cozy, intimate nook where drinks and conversation go hand in hand? The Moosehead has that and more -- island vibes, lanterns, flowers and windows that have water streaming down from them that look like something out of some old movie.

Nighttown, 12387 Cedar Road, Cleveland Heights, 216-795-0550,
This Cleveland Heights club-bar-restaurant-institution might have a jazzy vibe. But it's pure picnic time on the patio -- spacious, quiet and mellow and just right for a pint.

Prosperity Social Club, 1109 Starkweather Avenue, Cleveland, 216-937-1938,
OK, it is a bar. But the patio feels like a backyard party, with retro decor and a vibe that is anything but exclusive. The social club welcomes all sorts, most of which are sociable in this back yard.

Stamper's Grill Pub, 21750 Lorain Road, Fairview Park, 440-333-7826,
The "Paddy-o" concept has been stripped away. But Stamper's still rolls out summer-y beers, bands and vibes -- not to mention an easy-going crowd that savors a night out with drinks in their hands as the music plays.