A Squared: March 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Brown Thumbs & Weekend Happenings

The beginning of my urban garden... stay tuned for more!
Ahh... happy weekend!  Did anyone else feel like the countdown to Friday was abnormally long this week?  Nothing too exciting was happening here this weekend except some massive spring cleaning, organizing, and home improvements.  Wow, are we married people or what?

We have a little deck at our place and since this will be the first summer we'll get to use it I want to take full advantage and grow a few herbs and vegetables.  I have a notoriously brown thumb that Alex loves to tease me about; I've never met a basil plant I couldn't kill!  Here's hoping that I can break the cycle this year.  We've got a grill, now we have our plants, and we have a set of small deck furniture on its way as well-- I'll post pictures later when it all comes together.

I also wanted to share a recipe for the dinner that I made for us on Friday night.  We decided to stay in and watch a movie and drink some wine, so I decided to try a (meatless for Lent) new pasta recipe that looked good.  This recipe was really quick and easy-- the only thing that you really have to cook is the pasta.  Typically I'd share this in a What's For Dinner Wednesday post but, although delicious, I will not be making this meal again as I basically poisoned my husband with it!

After dinner he had some really severe heartburn and trouble swallowing, which I have seen happen to him only a few other times since we've been together-- once was on Valentine's Day a few years ago at an Italian restaurant during dessert, but Alex just thought it was the champagne or that he had accidently encountered some shrimp (which he's allergic to).  More recently it happened right after Christmas when he was eating some chocolate withe almonds. Surprise!  Alex is apparently allergic to almonds and thus last night's sun-dried tomato and almond pesto was only a success for me.  I'll share the recipe below so that you can make it for your almond-friendly friends.

Penne with Tomato Pesto and Smoked Mozzarella


  • 1/4 cup almonds
  • 2 cups loosely packed fresh parsley
  • 12 sun-dried tomato halves  *Make sure you use the jarred oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes.  I used the dried ones from a bag and ended up needing to add additional olive oil.
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 pound smoked mozzarella, diced
  • 1/2 pound whole-wheat penne
In a small pan over medium heat, toast almonds until golden brown, 5 minutes. In a food processor, pulse almonds, parsley, tomatoes, garlic and oil until slightly chunky. Pour into a bowl; season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Add mozzarella; toss to combine. Cook pasta as directed on package; drain and toss immediately with pesto.  I also tossed in a few additional thinly sliced sun-dried tomatoes to the final pasta mixture, which added some nice flavor and texture.

Recipe courtesy of Joan Lang via epicurious.com.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: [Lighter] Broccoli Cheese Rice

Hello everyone!

Life around here is slowly starting to get back to normal again-- we're moving past the robbery incident, I'm back from my conference in Florida, and we're finally cooking again.  I feel like it's been weeks since I have made anything but coffee in my kitchen!

We've had some crazy warm March weather in Chicago lately so Alex and I have been taking full advantage of it and have been putting our grill to good use.  Last night we did some simple BBQ pork chops and alongside it I served some broccoli cheese rice.  This is one of Alex's favorite sides, however he loves that Uncle Ben's kind that comes with the powdered cheese packet.  I'll admit it-- I really like it too.  It's like a grown up version of boxed mac and cheese (which I also hate to admit that I love).  Since I had most of the ingredients on hand though, I picked up some broccoli and decided to make my own healthier homemade version.  I think it turned out pretty tasty, was more filling than the boxed kind, and I certainly felt better about eating it.  I've included my recipe below. 


Lightened Up Broccoli Cheese Rice


  • 3 cups of cooked brown rice *For more flavor, I sub in fat free chicken broth for water when I make it.
  • 3 cups of chopped steamed broccoli
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/8 cup plus 1/2 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup grated sharp Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon dry mustard *I have also subbed in prepared dijon when I didn't have dry mustard on hand.
  • 1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • Cayenne pepper (to taste)
  • Salt and black pepper (to taste)
Whisk flour with 1/8 cup milk in a small bowl until smooth. Heat the remaining 1/2 cup milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming. Add the flour mixture and cook, whisking constantly, until the sauce bubbles and thickens, about 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in cheddar, dry mustard, paprika, cayenne, black pepper, and salt (if using).  While still warm, combine the cheese sauce, prepared rice, and broccoli in a large bowl.  Serve immediately.  Makes about 3 large servings.

Cheese sauce recipe derived from the following at EatingWell.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Our Favorite Things: Gone.

It's been a while since I have posted on this blog and, honestly, it has been a little tough to come back again.

Originally, I wanted to write another "favorite things" post about this beautiful J. Crew bracelet that Alex bought me for Valentine's Day.  Aside from my engagement ring, it is the first piece of jewelry that he's ever given me and I just loved it.  A lot has changed recently though and that doesn't really seem very important at the moment, so I won't be writing about that.  Also, I no longer have the bracelet in my possession.

Recently, our home was burglarized-- it's been one of my biggest fears since living in the city and it is an event that I hope none of you ever have to experience.  We met for dinner at our favorite bar one night after work and returned home to find our deadbolt broken on the floor, our apartment in a state of disarray, and numerous small valuables gone.  It's taken us a few days to get back on our feet and I imagine it will take even longer for us to feel normal again, let alone safe.  If you have ever had the bad fortune of being robbed, you likely understand what I mean.  There is no creepier feeling than knowing a stranger was in your home, touching your things, looking at your most personal belongings, and deciding which ones to take away with him.  I now have a little anxiety before entering my home alone, I check the locks on our door at least 3 times before I go to sleep, and I look at every stranger (and even every neighbor) a little differently.  It's affected my usually unaffected husband too.  Alex hears a noise outside or upstairs and does a lap around our place to make sure nothing out of the ordinary is happening.  It's really an awful feeling to not feel safe in your own home.  I know it will get better eventually, but part of me thinks that I will never feel truly safe again in this apartment.  Part of me also feels like I'll never feel safe again no matter where we live now that we have gone through this and we know that it truly can happen to anyone.  And it happened to us.

My motherboard, my self. True story.

They took my laptop, which was really scary.  In college I had experienced the occasional computer crash without backing up regularly (shame on me and Carrie Bradshaw), but at least the sad empty laptop was still sitting there in front of me and my persoanl information was unavailable to everyone-- myself included. Even with as often as you're using it, you don't totally realize how much of yourself is stored in that little machine until it's gone and you feel like some stranger has total access to you.  And they really do.

Sadder though, is that they took almost all of my jewelry.  I don't even own expensive jewelry and I wear my nicer things almost everyday-- thank God I was wearing them that day too.  The burglar did, however, make off with all but one piece of jewelry that I received after my Oma passed away.  They were mostly costume pieces that aren't worth anything to anyone other than me because I know the great woman to whom they originally belonged.  And they're probably sitting somewhere in a pawn shop now where their future owner will have no idea how much they meant to me and how much I miss seeing them in my jewelry box every day.  My laptop can be replaced.  Oma's bracelets and Opa's cufflinks cannot be and that really sucks.  Excuse my language, but there is really no nicer way to describe the situation

I'm not really sure how you end a post like this-- maybe with a warning to be vigilant about the security in your building or your neighborhood, to remind you to install "Find My Mac" on all of your devices (man, I wish I had done that), to encourage you to lock up your family heirlooms, or to tell you again not to trust a stranger-- no matter what they look like?  To say that it really can happen to anyone?  Maybe this is a sign that it's time to seriously consider moving into a house in the suburbs?  Or maybe we should think about how badly it could have gone and didn't-- one of us could have been home sick by ourselves when someone broke in, they could have destroyed the items that they left behind, or what if we hadn't decided at the last minute to meet for dinner after work and I had come home alone to discover the burglary?  I guess we're still trying to figure out what the conclusion to all of this is as well.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Spaghetti Alla Rustica

Tonight's What's For Dinner Wednesday is all about girlfriends. Okay, so I realize it isn't actually Wednesday. I went out with the girls for dinner last night to celebrate Bri's new job (yay for Bri!) and to start what will hopefully be a new tradition of ladies only nights-- something we don't do nearly often enough!  Alex grabbed dinner at his favorite bar across the street, so there was no Wednesday dinner at home this week. 

Instead, I will share with you what I prepared tonight-- and it was a good one!  This recipe for Spaghetti alla Rustica is courtesy of my friend Kit's cooking blog Kit(tchen).  Kit is a fellow New England girl living in Chicago and she loves to cook like I do.  I love her blog because it's full of great recipes that are light and easy like this one.  Check it out sometime!

Spaghetti alla Rustica

  • 1 large red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 2 tablespoons white wine
  • 3 cups canned crushed tomatoes (1 large can)
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 pound spaghetti
  • 5 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  • Fresh Basil

Put a pot of water on to boil.  Then melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the wine and the onions.  Cook the onions for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add the pasta to the water once it boils.

Once the onions are soft, add the crushed tomatoes and the salt.  Heat the sauce until it starts to bubble.  Let bubble, allowing the sauce to reduce, until the spaghetti has cooked.

Stir the cheese into the sauce.  Drain the spaghetti and toss the spaghetti in the sauce.  Top with chopped fresh basil and enjoy.

*Recipe courtest of Kit(tchen)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...