pepper steak

When the cold weather arrives, Saucy looks forward to cooking over a hot stove. One of Veto's favourite meals is pepper steak. It's an old-school dish, cooked in one pan in about thirty minutes.

Key ingredients: red onion, dark beef broth or consomme, and of course, peppers... in more than one colour. They're good for you.

You'll also need two tablespoons of vegetable oil, 1/4 cup butter, 2 tablespoons flour, salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, red wine (a splash for you and a splash for the steak). You will need about one pound of steak cut into pieces suitable for a stir-fry.

What kind of steak should you use? Well, it doesn't really matter. If money is no object (and that's not the case for most of us) you can use a nice piece of tenderloin. If you are looking for value and flavour, a piece of round steak (top round or bottom round) will do nicely, but since this is a quick-cook recipe you should avoid eye of round, it needs a longer cooking method to get nice and tender.

Prep your veggies: slice the peppers into like-sized pieces and do so for the onion.

Cutting your veggies into like-sized pieces ensures even cooking and also a really nice presentation on your plate of what is essentially going to be a stew.

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, warm the vegetable oil. Drop the steak pieces in - they should sizzle when they hit the pan.

Here's the trick about browning meat for a dish like this: let the pan do the work. Let the meat cook over the heat getting nice and brown. Don't hover over the pan, stirring constantly. Let the pan sizzle and pop. Love the sound, love the smell.

Oh, and it's too early to season the meat. Just cook the meat. You can season it later.

Check it out - the brown bits on the bottom of the pan. That's a pan full of flavour, right there. When the meat is almost done (still slightly pink in the middle) you can remove it from the pan and set it aside in a dish.

Now, reduce the heat to medium and throw the onions in the pan. They'll get nice and dark with the brown drippings from the steak. When they are not quite cooked through, remove them from the pan to the steak pieces.

Next, throw the peppers in the pan and cook them the same way. They have a different cooking time than the onions so that's why you aren't cooking them together. Really, you're just going to toss them in the pan for a minute or two so they aren't overly crunchy - resist the urge to cook the peppers. Later, when they hit the sauce (and you do, too) they could get too soft and mushy and lose their nice bright colours. So pull them out of the pan quickly and throw them over the onions and steak.

Your pan is now ready to make the sauce. First, melt the butter over the medium heat.

Add the flour and whisk the mixture rigorously. You're making the base of your sauce here, also called a roux. Bring the roux to a gentle boil over a medium-low heat. See the bubbles? That's good. You need to see the bubbles so you know the flour mixture is cooked through and your finished sauce won't taste pasty.

Here we go... now it gets fun. Pour the entire can of broth or consomme into the roux, whisking gently. You don't want the roux to get lumpy. Bring your heat to medium-high for a few minutes and the mixture will come to a gentle boil. Again, this ensures that the sauce doesn't taste like flour.

So now, if you have any wine left in your bottle, you can add a splash to the sauce. Say, about 1/4 to 1/2 cup. How you like it. A dash of Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper to taste. You can go crazy if you want and add other seasonings, sometimes a sprinkle of garlic powder gets thrown in, or seasoning salt. It's up to you. You can't call yourself a cook if you don't experiment every now and again, right?

When the sauce is seasoned to your liking, add the cooked peppers/onion/steak to your pan. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for about ten minutes. You can have another glass of wine while you set the table.

Really, this photo doesn't do the dish justice. You can blame the wine. Serve pepper steak over a bed of brown rice or even better, garlic mashed potatoes. It will make you wish for cold weather.

rubber duckies on red velvet

Saucy made special cupcakes for a sweet baby boy this weekend. The new mother favours Saucy's red velvet cakes so to make them baby-friendly, Saucy topped them with tiny fondant rubber duckies.

Making these little bath-toy replicas is a breeze. Saucy had 24 of them whipped up in no time flat. She made one batch of marshmallow fondant, it's super easy (thanks to Angela) and tastes yummy, too.

Melt one bag (250 g) of miniature marshmallows with two tablespoons water in the microwave on high heat for 2 minutes, stopping to stir halfway through. You can stir it again and heat for another 30 seconds to completely melt the marshmallows.

Use Crisco to heavily grease your counter and your hands - you'll need about 1/2 cup in total. Start off generously and leave some to add as you need. Turn the melted marshmallows onto the greased counter with four cups of confectioner's sugar. Knead the entire thing until the sugar is worked into the marshmallow, adding more Crisco as necessary. If the fondant gets too dry or cracks, add more water, one tablespoon at a time, no more than three more tablespoons. Almost all of the sugar should be absorbed. Your hands will be silky and soft after the kneading is complete.

Form the fondant into a ball and cover tightly with plastic wrap, then place it in a ziploc bag, removing excess air. Let sit overnight at room temperature. You can knead paste food colouring into the fondant to tint it a desirable shade.

To make the rubber duckies, form two balls of fondant: one measuring about 1" and the other about 1/3".

Gently press an indentation into the larger ball using your index finger.

Pinch the "rear" of the large piece of fondant to create the duckie's tail.

Using the small ball of fondant, pinch a beak for your duckie straight across one side. The beak should be wide and flat, not pointy.

Attach the head of the duckie to his body, if it doesn't want to stick you can moisten the head with a little bit of water, but not too much! It will relax and stick as it sits.

Using a skewer, poke holes where your rubber duck's eyes will be.

Use a fine tip on a pastry bag to pipe black icing into his eye holes.

Use a fine brush to add his orange beak with a bit of diluted food colouring paste.

If your finished fondant creations look a little dusty or dry because of the confectioner's sugar, you can very quickly and gently hold them over a pot of boiling water to steam them to a shiny perfection. Do this before you add the eye and beak detail.

Your duckies will look sweet nestled in a fluffy "bath" of cream cheese frosting tinted blue. The "bubbles" are lustre pearl sprinkles from Williams-Sonoma, but Wilton also makes these.

Unused fondant can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for about two weeks. It's nice to have on hand to make little cupcake toppers. Try rolling it out and cutting shapes with cookie cutters - so easy. Canadian Thanksgiving is weekend after next - the leftover yellow duckie fondant can now be tinted orange for autumn leaves on something!

mike and ike cupcakes

The Cheerios have a thing for these old time movie concession candies:

They're so bright and colourful (like the Cheerios) Saucy had to make a cupcake for them to enjoy, just because it's Friday.

Piping the buttercream in giant puffs was quick and easy. Sparkling crystals in orange, blue and green added the extra shot of colour. And sugar.

Everything was nestled upon vanilla confetti cupcakes, prompting the girls to ask, "did you put Mike & Ike's IN the cupcake?" Even Saucy thinks that would have been over the top.

Saucy is progressing on the overhaul of the Pink Prom Gown Project of 2010. One layer of white organza has been sewn by hand over the entire dress, gathered at the top of the bodice and sewn down at the zipper seam. Saucy left the selvedge end of the fabric unfinished, because that's sort of the look she's going for... the deconstructed look.

This weekend, it will be fit to Loopy and work on the skirt will begin. Stay tuned... this is about to get fun.

fabulous frenemies

Friends, Halloween is almost upon us and Saucy & Loopy turn to you for your opinion. They have decided the theme of this year's costumes should be frenemies.

Should they be Sarah Palin and Tina Fey?

Bombshell McGee and Sandra Bullock? Surely they would argue about who gets to go as... Sandra.

Captain of the Cheerios Quinn Fabray and Coach Sue Sylvester?

Dueling attention whores Lady Gaga and Katy Perry?

Or simply Paris and Nicole? Or Paris and Lindsay? Ankle bracelets are easy to find, aren't they?

You can vote in the sidebar until next week.


Looking in wedding magazines before taking Mustang Sally's photographs led Saucy to look at all of the beautiful new wedding dresses and she was particularly taken with the new Vera Wang collection. Even more so when Ms. Wang appeared on Oprah to unveil her new collection, White by Vera Wang. The whole idea of affordable couture had Saucy more than intrigued.

Later, when out thrifting, Saucy ran across this little number:

Thirteen dollars. Twelve dollars and ninety-nine cents, to be exact. In pretty fine shape, just in need of a light sponge bath around the hem. It's pure polyester, it can take it. Into the bathtub it goes.

Are you thinking what Saucy's thinking?

A Loopy photo shoot. Let's do it. Let's turn this plain jane thrifted prom dress into something spectacular. Are you in?

The bodice has potential. The potential to be covered up. Again, it's in wonderful shape. The very light pink colour won't be a problem. Even some of Vera Wang's new collection are in pastel shades.

Saucy paid a visit to her discount fabric store. Its more like a rat's-nest hole-in-the wall but she invested another fourteen dollars on fabric. She got the last chunk of ivory organza off the roll and a huge whack of fine tulle. Oh, and a little black netting too, that seems to be a trend. All of it for fourteen bucks.

Now, she just has to work a little magic. And she doesn't sew, you know that. She can pull out a needle and thread to pull it all together, but don't go expecting an all-out reconstruction project worthy of the runway. This is for a photo shoot so looks, not construction, are key.

Should she layer the tulle and organza over the skirt?

Should she cut the organza into wild, uneven strips and slip stitch it together to create a sculptural effect?

Or, if she can't decide, a little bit of both? And maybe add some feathers... she has a few ivory boas in a box in the attic. You bet she does. She even has some fabulous long black vintage gloves around somewhere.

These gowns by Vera Wang take Saucy and Loopy's breath away. Loopy will certainly wear one of them to become Mrs. Jonas. If you want your breath taken away, have a look at the runway show here. Then come back, and tell Saucy how you would go about this thrift-gown-makeover.

Because she really, really doesn't know exactly where to begin but she knows it will be fun and it will be fabulous.

mustang sally gets hitched

Saucy coached Mustang Sally way back when... they were cheering for the Mustangs. Now Sally helps coach the Bears with Saucy. On this past beautiful, sunny Saturday, Mustang Sally took a groom.

Some of the Cheerios were on hand before the ceremony to present Mustang Sally with her bouquet - a token of their love and appreciation. JWOWW put in a hard day's work with Saucy taking pictures. Here are some highlights... and some tips, in case you ever take photos at a friend's wedding.

Get a beauty shot of the venue, indoors and out! This old church is beautiful. JWOWW also got some great photos of the sun shining through the windows from the inside.

Saucy and Mustang Sally did a little photo shoot the Saturday before the wedding. It took some of the pressure off of the big day. Sure, there were still a few opportunities to take shots of the bride by herself at the formal wedding shoot, but mostly they were out of the way and done beforehand. Doing the shots when Sally had her practice hairdo was the trick... she looked fantastic and together she and Saucy could take all the time in the world with the bridal shots.

Little blue shoes? Can you believe it? Too, too cute.

If you have access to a fun and funky chair, bring it. Don't be afraid to put a fancy chair in an unexpected spot. In the art biz, its called juxtaposition, and it works. It's an awesome trick.

Get beauty shots of the flowers, cake and rings.

Don't be afraid of lens flare. It tells the story of a bright and sunny day with a bright and sunny future. Plus, shots like this add an element of photodocumentary to the portfolio, and that's cool right now. Here, the groom and his daughter prepare for a wonderful future with Mustang Sally in their lives. They're very lucky.

The rule of thirds? Divide your frame into three parts: one part positive space (the subject) and the rest negative. Embrace it.

The bride wore a vintage veil and headpiece. Make sure you get shots of the back of the dress, the veil and train.

Snap candids of the groom when he's not looking... the bride will love it.

The less "posed" the shots of the wedding party these days, the better. Try to capture them in the moment. That is, after all, how the bride and groom will remember them.

Men especially don't like to pose. Have the groom take a seat with his guys and shoot the breeze. After a few minutes they will forget you are even there. Ask them to look your way and snap the shot. You can do this indefinitely, they'll get more at ease with you. Play with the angles a bit. Walk around them quietly, but let them have their "guy time." You can fiddle with your camera and just let them "be." It will all work out.

Absolutely one of Saucy's faves! Mustang Sally lookin' downright sassy! The best accessory a bride can wear is confidence. Sally had it in spades this weekend.

Get a hand-in-hand shot or arm-in-arm... just zoom in whilst you are taking the formal shots.

Don't forget the guest book! Sign it, and take a picture of it. Take a picture of a full page, though.

Mustang Sally decorated her own cake! Zoom in on each of the tiers or certain parts of the cake. Details, details, details.

Thanks to digital cameras and the help of JWOWW and The Plaintiff, there are over a thousand pictures to sort through. This is just the tip of the iceberg but Saucy's peepers are pooped from this very tiny bit of editing.

Lastly: don't even try to dress fancy to be the wedding photographer. You can't go wrong with dark pants and top, working in layers (black) and wearing flat, comfortable shoes with a quiet sole. Your commitment typically ends after the bride and groom share the first dance. After that, get some rest. You deserve it.