A Squared: January 2012

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Our Favorite Things: Custom Alexander & Co. Poster

Alex and I have lived in our loft for about 5 months now and because of all of the wedding craziness that we were handling for the first couple of months that we lived here, it still feels like a bit of a work in progress.  Since we don't own it, it will probably always feel that way but it has definitely taken us some time to settle in-- there are still a few boxes and bags of random items hanging around that we still haven't had the energy to sort through.  All in good time though.

One thing that was new for both of us in this place is that we now have a fireplace!  It's cozy and really makes the loft feel more like a home than a cookie cutter apartment, but it did cause a bit of a decorating dilemma.  We have super high ceilings and a mantle so I felt like we really needed a statement piece to hang there.  Even though I knew we'd have some really lovely wedding photos I could not bear the idea of a 24" x 36" poster of us staring back at me every time I sit on my couch, so I was on the hunt for something to hang there as soon as we signed the lease.

It didn't take very long to find the perfect piece.  I was shopping for wedding items one afternoon with my MOH Alexis at Smitten, a great little wedding boutique in Chicago's West Loop when we came across the customized Alexander & Company posters that they sell there.  Alex and I love vintage Chicago posters and we even have a few waiting to be framed and hung up in our bedroom so when we spotted these I knew it would be the perfect addition to our new home.  The posters are definitely an investment, so we decided to buy one as a wedding gift to each other.  We finally received it a few weeks after our wedding and then got it framed in a beautiful walnut frame at the end of the year and it has finally graced our mantle.  The poster is really our style-- a little modern, but a little vintage and definitely fitting for two architects-- and it finally feels like our living room is coming together... what do you think?

Apologies for this crappy photo... I took a million but can't get the lighting quite right.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Italian Chicken Quesadillas

I don't know if you have discovered Pinterest yet, but if you are reading this recipe on our blog it is likely that you have.  I am officially obsessed with this site and have used it to decorate the home that we do not yet own, to create the wardrobe for the black tie events that I have yet to attend, and to collect hundreds of recipes. 

Tonight's What's For Dinner Wednesday meal was actually inspired by a recipe that I found on Pinterest courtesy of the Sugar Cooking blog, but I gave it my own Italian spin.  I left out her her cayenne pepper, added some caramelized onions, and subbed in an Italian blend of cheeses.  Sugar Cooking also served it with a delicious sounding avocado sour cream, but I served mine with a simple (and lighter) marinara sauce for dipping.  I have to keep my eyes on that Biggest Loser prize, after all! 

As long as the chicken is cooked before you go to prepare this, it is actually a quick and easy dinner to make.  I served it along with some mixed greens with a simple vinaigrette.  Enjoy!

Italian Chicken Quesadillas


  • 4 medium flour tortillas
  • 2 chicken breasts, cooked and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups baby spinach
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • 3 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
  • 1 cup reduced fat shredded mozzarella or Italian cheese blend
  • Non-stick cooking spray
  • 1 cup marinara sauce for dipping
  1. In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Add onions and cook until until soft, about 8 minutes.  Add the spinach, garlic, salt, and pepper and cook until just wilted. Remove from heath and set aside.
  2. Heat a grill pan (or regular pan) over medium-high heat. Spray with non-stick cooking spray or drizzle with olive oil. Toast the inside of the tortilla for about 30 seconds.
  3. Remove the tortilla from heat and assemble as follows: On one half of the tortilla evenly sprinkle mozzarella, followed by a few slices of chicken, the spinach and onion mixture, and top with crumbled goat cheese.
  4. Carefully use  tongs or a spatula to fold the empty half of the tortilla onto the loaded half. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown and cheese begins to melt. Flip the quesadilla over and cook for an additional 1 -2 minutes, then remove from the pan and repeat steps 1-4 with the next tortilla.  
  5. Allow the quesadillas to cool for about 5 minutes before slicing into triangles.  Serve with marinara sauce for dipping and enjoy!

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What's for Dinner Wednesday: Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

I realize that my What's for Dinner Wednesday recipes have been lacking some variety lately and that you also must be wondering if Mr. Colvin and I eat anything besides chicken and pasta.  We do, but now that the holidays are over we have been trying to get back to healthier eating habits so that he is in marathon-ready shape and so that I can have a competitive edge in my company's Biggest Loser competition!  So, for the next few weeks be prepared for a lot of recipes involving whole grains, vegetables, and lean proteins.
The below recipe is one that I came up with last summer when I was looking for a light side dish for grilled chicken. It is a perfect summer recipe, but nice anytime you're looking for a lighter pasta recipe.  I served it alongside Cooking Light's Sauteed Chicken with Olive Tapenade.

Orzo Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

  • 8 oz. dry orzo
  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon zest
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 cup red onion, diced
  • 3 cups arugula or baby spinach, chopped*
  • 10.5 oz. grape tomatoes, sliced in half
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat.  When fully cooked, drain orzo and do not rinse.  In a large (non-metal) bowl, whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, vinegar, lemon zest, salt and pepper.  Add the warm orzo and chopped red onion to the vinaigrette and toss to coat.  Let the orzo mixture sit for 10 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Add arugula/spinach and tomatoes to the orzo mixture and toss to combine.  Season with additional salt and/or pepper to taste.  Serve at room temperature as a side dish to grilled chicken or seafood.

This recipe makes 4-6 servings depending on whether you are eating it as a main course or as a side.  I pack the leftovers for a light, but filling lunch throughout the week.  If serving as a main dish, add toasted pine nuts and grated parmesan or romano cheese to round out the meal.

*The choice of arugula or spinach is really based on your preference or on what is available at your grocery store.  The peppery taste of the arugula pairs really well with the sweetness of the dressing and the tomatoes, but the spinach holds up better if you plan on refrigerating the salad and eating later.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

My Very Own NYC Food Tour

My apologies-- I have been slacking on the blogging lately. I have just returned from five days in New York City (for fun and for work) and admittedly, I was also slacking as a tourist. I visited with a ton of old friends, it was a gorgeous weekend in the city, and I took one photo. And it was a photo of cocktails. Good work, Anne.

A few photos from New York visits past...

I'm back home in snowy Chicago now though and wanted to share with all of you some of the great places that my friends took me to during my visit. A handful of my closest girlfriends live in New York and I was lucky enough to spend time with each of them alone and then to have a girls' dinner with all of them together too! Since food, wine, and shopping are a few of my favorite things I thought I would share with you some of the highlights from my trip...

I spent most of Saturday with Lisa, my best friend from high school. We met up for a long brunch at Cookshop in Chelsea and I had a delicious fritatta with ricotta and mushrooms. Normally I am not a big mushroom fan, but it is one of the "big kid" foods I am learning to eat as an adult (along with brussels sprouts and beets). We had some fabulous brunch cocktails here too.

Lisa and I wandered the city for the afternoon and did some window shopping (I was REALLY good and didn't buy a thing). She introduced me to the Madewell store (I have seen the catalog, never the store) and also to Fishs Eddy. As someone who is obsessed with my kitchen, this was obviously my new favorite place! They do wedding registries... I wish I would have known a year ago! Check out the skyline and floorplan themed dining sets. Love!

Following our little shopping tour of Manhattan, we met up with Meghan (college friend and my host for the weekend) and some more old friends from our Syracuse days and then she took us to Artichoke Pizza. More than one friend has recommended this place and now I know why. This pizza was SO good. There is always a line out the door at this takeout place and it is totally understandable. It's like spinach and artichoke dip meets soup meets alfredo sauce on a pizza. If I lived near this place I would need to plan all of my routes around avoiding it because I would want to eat it all the time.

Sunday was basically a continuation of Saturday's shopping and eating frenzy, but this time with Meghan instead. We had brunch at Mudspot in the East Village where we had some great eggs and fantastic coffee. Apparently Mudspot is the permanent home of the Mudtruck, a well-known Manhattan coffee truck. We followed brunch with more shopping (surprise!) where I scored a cheap dress for my company's Monday night cocktail event at Zara and Meghan introduced me to Uniqulo, where I probably could have done a lot of damage if my suitcase would have allowed it. It's like the Gap meets H&M meets J. Crew, with a little Japanese flair. Why don't we have this store in Chicago yet?

That evening Meghan and I met our friend Matt for cocktails and I took the infamous one photo from my NYC visit. We went to a cute little lounge called The Dove Parlour in Greenwich Village for some craft cocktails and it was happy hour-- always a plus! We followed cocktails with a girls' dinner with Lisa and Maggie (my other college best friend) at Otto, Mario Batali's pizzeria. I love a pizzeria because you can share everything with the table, which we did. The highlights for me were definitely the brussels sprouts antipasti, the balsamic onion and goat cheese pizza, and the olive oil gelato, which was highly recommended by all three of my dinner companions who had been here before.  Dinner was delicious and shockingly affordable.

Cocktails at The Dove Parlour. The lone photo from my NYC adventure.
I moved out of Meg's place on Monday and into my hotel where my meeting would be taking place for the next few days. Maggie was my New York babysitter on Monday and we continued the Mario Batali tour of New York with lunch at Eataly. I am in love with this place! It's a New York version of the open Italian markets that I visited while living in Florence with little themed cafes interspersed throughout. We tried the Verdure cafe and shared a great salad and a roasted winter squash. We obviously ended lunch with some more gelato.

The rest of my trip was full of meetings and networking, but the grand finale to my New York trip was dinner at Le Cirque on Tuesday night. It was a three course dinner that included surf and turf and some adorable petit fours and since I could never afford to go here on my own, it was lovely to be able to go for a work event. The restaurant itself is pretty gorgeous-- we were in the wine room, which was right next to the wine cellar. Phenomenal.

And in a nutshell, that is how I ate my way around Manhattan. Alex has never been to the city, so rest assured that my next trip will be with him and this time we'll have to see all of the sights so I promise to actually take pictures then.  Stay tuned!

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken

It's detox week, folks.  After a few weeks of holiday eating, festive cocktails, and a lot of napping (read: not exercising), it is time to get back on the healthy eating wagon again.  I'm headed to New York this weekend for a six-day trip that will likely entail more eating, more cocktailing, and most likely no trips to the gym so this week's dinners are all about eating light.

I've been subscribing to Cooking Light for the last couple of years and am pretty much obsessed with it. Seriously, finding that magazine waiting in my mailbox makes me really happy.  I love to cook, but with the exception of a few of my go-to recipes I get really bored with making the same dinners over and over again.  Cooking Light has provided some much needed inspiration and tonight's dinner is right out of their January 2012 issue.  I served this chicken along with green beans and roasted sweet potatoes.

Maple-Mustard Glazed Chicken

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth *I forgot to buy chicken broth, so I used dry white wine instead
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup *The real stuff, not the lite "breakfast" syrup that has no actual maple in it.
  • 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 2 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon cider vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon stone-ground mustard


1. Preheat oven to 400°.
2. Heat a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil; swirl to coat. Sprinkle chicken with pepper and salt. Add chicken to pan; sauté 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Remove chicken from pan. Add broth, syrup, thyme, and garlic to pan; bring to a boil, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add vinegar and mustard; cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Return chicken to pan, and spoon mustard mixture over chicken. Bake at 400° for 10 minutes or until the chicken is done. Remove chicken from pan; let stand 5 minutes. Place pan over medium heat; cook mustard mixture 2 minutes or until liquid is syrupy, stirring frequently. Serve with chicken.

Recipe courtesy of Cooking Light magazine, January 2012.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Wishes For A New Year: The Top 10

Happy New Year, friends!  We hope you all had a fun and safe night celebrating with your loved ones.  We had a great time entertaining a few friends at our place before heading out to a bar in the West Loop to ring in the New Year. 

Ringing in the New Year with good friends

Happy New Year from the Colvins!

A few years ago when life had thrown us a few curve balls, Alex and I decided to make a list of all of our goals and wishes going into the New Year.  I prefer to not look at them as "resolutions" (as we all know how those usually turn out), but rather as moving targets.  Sometimes we hit them (goal for 2010: Put a ring on it.  Success!) and sometimes it's a miss (goal for 2011: lose 10 pounds.  Fail.), but either way it is something to work toward.  So that we weren't too hard on ourselves when they didn't happen, we also made a list of things that went right the year before.  We usually post these lists on our fridge so that we can keep them top of mind.  This year we'll post them on the blog to really throw them out into the universe and hope that they come true!

Things That Went Right In 2011:
1. We got married!  Duh.
2. We took our first real vacation together-- to Maui!
3. We were both employed for 12 consecutive months. 
4. Alex got a new full-time job (plus benefits, minus self-employed status).
5. Alex earned his LEED accreditation.
6. Anne celebrated her one year anniversary at her job.  A career record for her!
7. We moved into a new (and cheaper) apartment.
8. We celebrated 4 years together in June.
9. Anne ended her second year as Co-Director of Fundraising for Minds Matter of Chicago.
10. We started this blog!

Our Wishes & Goals For 2012:
1. Pay off our wedding-related debts.  Yikes.
2. Save more money so that we can:
     a. Buy a house.
     b. Get a dog.
     c. Travel more. Domestically, of course.  We need to be somewhat realistic with these goals. ;)
3. Run another half marathon/possibly another marathon. (Alex)
4. Start running more. (Anne)
5. Spend more time with our friends (both far and near).
6. Explore more Chicago neighborhoods.
7. Work on becoming a licensed architect. (Alex)
8. Read more books and watch less TV.
9. Stress less and sleep more!
10. Keep on blogging.

Cheers to a wonderful 2012 ahead!
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