A Squared: October 2012

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Spanish Tortilla

Happy Halloween!  My apologies: This post has absolutely nothing to do with the holiday.

I feel like I have been posting a lot of vegetarian recipes lately.  I'm not a vegetarian, although my taste does run on the more semi-vegetarian side (I don't eat a ton of meat, but when I do it is mostly poultry and seafood).  Yes, it's a real thing.  I promise.  And it's mostly a matter of personal preference, but also for health reasons too.  That said, I do think that fall is a great time to serve vegetarian entrees because you can work with heartier ingredients like squash or sweet potatoes and hardly miss the meat.  However, with my husband being a Texas man we do have to work red meat into our dinner rotation, so I usually try to do that once a week and with some kind of lean steak or with bison (which is pricey, but super lean).

But, I digress.  Tonight's recipe is still vegetarian, but since eggs are the star of the show it is certainly not lacking in protein and is filling enough to serve as a main course.  Back when I studied abroad in Florence, my professor was from Spain and one night she and her fellow professors threw a cocktail party (drinking with faculty is not uncommon in study abroad programs) and she cooked traditional Spanish tortillas for us.  You may have had these at a tapas restaurant before (and if not, you should try them), but it's a really delicious take on an omelet with the potatoes baked right in.  They can be served hot or cold, with a number of different ingredients (veggies, spices, cheese, and meat too-- bacon or sausauge would be delicious in this recipe) and cut into little bites as appetizers (which is how my professor served them) or in pie-style slices as an entree.  A tortilla is perfectly complemented by a a simple side of mixed greens.




Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 3/4 cup red potatoes, pre-boiled and diced
  • 7 large eggs
  • 2 Tbs. milk
  • 1 Tbs. fresh thyme, chopped
  • 2 Tbs. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. smoked paprika
  • 1/2 cup Manchego cheese, shredded
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper



Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Heat oil in a medium cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add onion and peppers and cook for 4 to 5 minutes until softened, stirring often. Add garlic and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  Add potatoes and cook for 2 additional minutes.  Remove from heat.

Whisk eggs and milk in a large bowl until combined. Gently stir in thyme, parsley, paprika, cheese, salt, and pepper.  Using a spatula, move the vegetables and potatoes around in the skillet so that they are distributed evenly around the pan.  Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables in the skillet and bake for about 15 minutes or until the eggs are set.

Remove the tortilla from the oven and gently run a spatula around the edges to loosen. Invert a large plate over the pan and turn the tortilla out on the plate. Slide the tortilla back into the pan and bake for an additional 5 minutes. Slice and serve warm or cold.


 

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

East Coast Love

I'm feeling a little groggy this morning since I am back at work after Alex and I returned late last night from a long weekend in Los Angeles.  Once I go through all of our photos I will post some updates on our trip and let you know where we went, who we saw, and of course, what we ate.  I'm also feeling very blessed this morning that we were able to make it home without a hitch (and 20 minutes early, actually).  When we were waiting for our bags at O'Hare there were a ton of people camped out in baggage claim for the foreseeable future.  We were on our way home to sleep in our bed and they were sleeping on the floor and awaiting their cancelled flights to the east coast.

I am also very thankful for social media right about now.  My family and the majority of my closest friends live on the east coast (and in New York City, no less) so it's been both fun and comforting to read their updates-- to know that they are weathering Hurricane Sandy and that they're making the best of being evacuated, stranded, and without power.  Especially after seeing blackouts, flooded streets and beaches, and an explosion in lower Manhattan I am very happy to have been able to keep tabs on all of my loved ones remotely.

Even after living in New England for 12 years I never actually experienced a hurricane.  There was a threat of one when I was in high school once, but that was it.  My family is no stranger to inclement weather conditions (a blizzard was a common occurrence growing up in Michigan!), so they've been having fun in the wake of this Sandy craziness.  Plus, my sisters have had the last two days off from school and no teenager will ever complain about that.  Check out this cute video my dad sent of the two of them at the beach in Wickford, RI yesterday... love these girls!


video


Continue to stay safe and dry, east coast friends!




Friday, October 26, 2012

Halloween Costumes

I have to be honest: I'm not the biggest fan of Halloween.  I know, I know... I'm NO fun.  Even my husband would agree.  He loves all things spooky, creepy, and the opportunity to go out in full gory face paint.  I don't know what it is about Halloween, but I'm just not that into it.  That said, we usually do end up pulling together some plan to go out and celebrate and I have to whip out a costume at the last minute.  While I lucked out last year because we were honeymooning in Hawaii over Halloween, I have managed a last minute costume here and there over the past few years.

See below for Halloween 2007 when our friends all went as contestants from the old show Legends of the Hidden Temple.  Costumes are much easier with a big group!

And then there was Jack Skellington and Kim Zolciak of the Real Housewives of Atlanta (the shirt says "don't be tardy for the party"), Halloween circa 2010.







This year we will be in L.A. this weekend prior to Halloween, but I have the gears turning in case I need to pull out a last minute costume for the following weekend.  We've been watching a lot of Mad Men lately, so I was inspired to keep a Joan Holloway Harris costume on the back burner for this year.  I think it's recognizable, stylish, and not too costumey, right?  Plus, I already own that 1960's-ish Boden dress and the pumps, so I just need some period jewelry (including her signature gold pen necklace) and a red wig, of course.

What do you think-- can I pull off Joan?  Should I make Alex spray his hair gray and go as Roger Stirling?


Halloween 2012: Joan Holloway Harris

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Celebrating Year One: Snapshots

What a great first anniversary we had!  I wanted to update you sooner, but I spent most of Tuesday on a roadtrip to Indiana for work and came home too tired to blog.  So, I'm playing catch up now and wanted to share some snapshots of our celebration...


Beautiful flowers that Alex sent to me at work.  He had them create an arrangement that looked like my wedding bouquet.  You did good, Mr. C.!


Paper gifts are the tradition for first anniversaries.  I made Alex a photo book of all of our "firsts" together and our gift to each other was tickets to the Fun. concert in Chicago next month.  I also gave Alex the "to my groom on our wedding day" card that I meant to give him on our wedding day.  It got lost in a bag of wedding items during that crazy weekend so I figured it was better one year late than never. :)

The highlight of our day was definitely our dinner at Girl & the Goat.  If you aren't familiar with the restaurant, Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard is the executive chef and she's basically a food superstar here in Chicago.  It's one of the hardest reservations in the city to score and I have been trying for two years now.  So, when I was looking in early August and found one at a normal time on our anniversary date I figured it must be meant to be!  The odds were against us with a business trip scheduled for the crack of dawn the next morning and the virus that wiped me out for a full week leading up to our anniversary, but I made it... I wasn't going to give up this reservation after waiting so long!

Dinner didn't disappoint either.  The restaurant is actually really laidback for as hyped up as the place is and the service is great.  The food was obviously the highlight though.  I enjoyed it so much I didn't even photograph it!  The plates at Girl & the Goat are meant to be shared, which is good since I had a difficult time paring down exactly what to order.  Our server encouraged us to order 4-6 items and they'd bring them out as they were ready-- tapas-style.  We started with their freshly baked focaccia (or "fallcoccia," as they called it) with mushroom butter and tomato jam.  And then we shared chickpea and goat cheese fritters with tomatillo sauce, amazing grilled broccoli with blue cheese sauce and homemade spiced rice krispies (random, but probably my favorite thing that we ordered), seared scallops with Brussels sprouts, pomegranate seeds, pepitas, and pecans in a pumpkin sauce, and then we also tried goat (her signature ingredient, of course)-- a confit goat belly with lobster, crab, and fennel.  It was an amazing meal and it definitely exceeded my already high expectations!

And while they did have a pumpkin pie gelato on the dessert menu (my two weaknesses in one dessert!) I restrained myself so that we could go home and eat year-old frozen wedding cake.  I have to admit, it held up better than I had anticipated.


 Cheers to our first anniversary!  Here's to many more years of A Squared!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Pesto Flatbread with Caramelized Onions & Roasted Peppers

It has been (and continues to be) one seriously busy week.  After a celebration of our anniversary on Monday, an all day business trip to Indiapolis on Tuesday, and a little west coast mini-vacation coming up this Friday I am exhausted just thinking about it all!  Since we have so much going on this week pizza seemed like a great dinner to work into this week's rotation.  It's quick and satisfying and easy to put together while we're running around preparing for our trip.  Pair it with a simple salad and dinner is ready.  This recipe also make enough for about 4 servings, so we had some leftovers for lunches this week too.




Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray
  • 2 Naan flatbreads
  • 1/2 cup prepared pesto
  • 1/4 goat cheese crumbles
  • 3/4 cup shredded reduced fat Italian cheese blend, divided
  • 1/2 Tbs. butter
  • 1/8 tsp. salt
  • 1 Sweet Vidalia onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 Red Bell Pepper, sliced in half and seeded



Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Coat a cookie sheet with cooking spray and place flatbreads on the sheet.  Spread pesto evenly over the top of each flatbread and sprinkle with goat cheese.  Take 1/4 cup of the shredded cheese and sprinkle over each flatbread.

Heat a pan over medium heat and add butter.  Once melted, add onions and salt and cook, stirring often, until the onions are soft and slightly browned, about 10 minutes.  Remove onions from heat and set aside.

Preheat the broiler and flatten peppers skin side up onto metal baking sheet.  Broil the peppers until skin is blackened and blistered.  Transfer peppers immediately to a medium sized bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap.  Set aside and let peppers cool, about 10-15 minutes.  Peel the skin from the outside of each pepper and discard the skins.  Thinly slice the peppers and layer pepper and onions slices evenly on top of each flatbread.  Sprinkle the remaining shredded cheese on top of the flabreads.  

Bake 10-15 minutes until cheese begins to look brown and bubbly.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 5 minutes before slicing.


Monday, October 22, 2012

A Note for My Husband on our First Anniversary

About a month ago I had this brilliant idea that, in celebration of our one year anniversary, I was going to do a full week of wedding retrospective posts.  I started this blog about a month after our wedding so I never got to blog about the details of our big day or the planning leading up to it.  Well, I ended up very sick and asleep for most of this past week/weekend so those posts haven't come to fruition.  Yet.  Maybe we'll revisit next year for our second anniversary?  Instead, I'm going to keep it simple.

Alex,

Thank you for a wonderful first year of marriage.  It's been a year of highs (fun travel and new jobs!) and lows (a robbery...), but after navigating this past year (and the 4 before that) together I can safely say that we've come out stronger and can weather anything together.

The year leading up to our wedding was so busy, expensive, and stressful that it's made the past year of just relaxing and spending time with you even more enjoyable.  I know I sometimes complain about not having a "project" to focus my energy on, but when I think back to how many times we were at our breaking points while planning our wedding I feel satisfied to just live in the moment for a while.  With you, of course.



Most of all though, thank you for being you-- a great compliment to me when I am being me.  You are calm when I am overreacting.  You are goofy when I desperately need a laugh.  You are a quiet listener and shoulder to cry on when I am frustrated or sad.  And you are a willing partner for whatever adventure I have planned for us-- even when you don't really want to go along.



Being able to call myself your wife for the past 365 days has been such a gift.   I couldn't have asked for a better partner and I am so lucky to be married to my best friend.

With love always,

Anne
 

 

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Friday, October 19, 2012

Soup Makes Everything Better

It's official: I am sick.  I've been burning the candle at both ends lately and it's finally catching up with me, I think.  Also, everyone in my office has been sniffling all week so that can't be helping anything.  The upcoming week is a busy one complete with an anniversary dinner, business roadtrip, birthday lunch, and a crosscountry flight.  I am tired just thinking about it.

The good news is we have no plans for the weekend leading up to all of that so I plan to lay low, nap often, and eat a lot of soup.  Thankfully, I had the foresight last weekend to cook up a big pot of soup so my freezer is stocked and ready to go.  I've included the recipe for you below-- it's a vegetarian spin on Yummy Mummy's pasta e fagiole soup recipe.

I hope you're feeling better than I am and have plans to make the most of this lovely fall weekend.  What will you be doing?  Carving pumpkins?  Apple picking?  Going on a haunted hayride?  I'm so jealous right now!




Vegetarian Pasta E Fagiole

Ingredients:

  • 1 Tbs. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Small yellow onion, diced 
  • 2 Carrots, diced 
  • 3 Celery stalks, chopped 
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ tsp. salt 
  • ¼ tsp. black pepper 
  • 1 15 oz. can diced tomatoes 
  • 1 tsp. dry oregano 
  • ½ tsp. dry thyme 
  • ½ Tbs. fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 1 large sprig rosemary
  • 1 Parmesan cheese rind
  • 8 cups vegetable broth 
  • 1 1/2 cups dry small pasta *I used Barilla White Fiber Mini Shells to up the healthy factor a bit 
  • 1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed 
  • 1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed 
  • ½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • Parmesan cheese, for serving

Heat oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and sweet potato. Stir in salt and pepper. Saute vegetables until tender, about 8 minutes.  Add minced garlic and sautee for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.  Add tomatoes, oregano, thyme, and rosemary (spring and chopped leaves) and stir to combine. Add broth and bring to a low boil. Add pasta and simmer until al dente, according to package instructions. When pasta is about 2 minutes from being done, add the parmesan rind, beans, and parsley. Simmer over low heat for another 15-20 minutes.  Season to taste with additional salt and pepper.  Remove parmesan rind and rosemary sprig before serving.  Serve with Parmesan cheese and garnish with rosemary or parsley.

Original recipe courtesy of Yummy Mummy Kitchen 


Thursday, October 18, 2012

Top 10 Essential Kitchen Gadgets

It's no secret that I love cooking.  Because of that I spend a lot of time working in my kitchen and experimenting with new foods, new recipes, and new gadgets.  Like some of the recipes that I try (and don't post here), some of the gadgets that I have tried have been epic fails.  Some though, have become things that I can't live without in my kitchen.  Most of these things are pretty simple, but kind of genius.  Today I wanted to share my top 10 favorite kitchen gadgets with you.  If you love cooking, are planning your wedding registry, or shopping for someone who loves being in the kitchen pay attention to this list.  These items are not to be missed-- and even better, each one is $100 or less!


Top 10 Essential Kitchen Gadgets



1. Misto Oil Sprayer.  I haven't bought a can of Pam since I got my Misto.  Fill it with olive oil (or canola or vegetable, if you prefer), pump, and use like you'd use any chemicalized cooking spray in a recipe.  A true game changer. $12.95 Misto 5061116 Aluminum Oil Bottle Sprayer (Google Affiliate Ad)

2.  Nonstick Barbecue Skewers.  Skewers are such an excellent tool to use when you are cooking on the grill.  Skewering cubed vegetables, shrimp, chunks of meat, marshmallows is a million times easier than turning each piece individually.  These skewers have a nonstick coating so you don't need to spray them or worry about soaking, breaking, or burning traditional wooden skewers.  $0.95 each at Crate & Barrel.

3. Microplane Rasp Grater.  I love this grater-- for grating cheeses, zesting citrus fruits, and finely mincing garlic or ginger this is my favorite tool.  It is easy to hold and produces a really fine feathery texture on whatever food you are grating.  $15.95 at Crate & Barrel.

4. OXO Hand Held Mandolin.  A mandolin is a great tool to use to precisely and thinly slice fruits and vegetables.  I especially like it for potatoes when I want more of a chip-like quality, for slicing carrots for a sautee, and also for shredding brussels sprouts.  $15 at Crate & Barrel.

5. Kuhn Rikon Corn Zipper.  I have always had a weird aversion to having things stuck in my teeth so you can imagine that eating corn on the cob is basically a nightmare for me.  Until discovering this tool, I have always used a knife to messily cut the corn off the cob, but this little zipper is amazing-- it quickly and cleanly peels the kernels (cooked or raw) right off the cob! $12.95 at Cooking.com.

6. Le Creuset 10" Skillet.  A heavy cast iron skillet is a definite kitchen essential.  So many recipes seem to require a heavy bottomed pan that can travel from stovetop to oven and this cast iron skillet is durable and ideal for this purpose.  Plus Le Creuset products have great colors-- I have this Spinach green one!  $99.95 at Crate & Barrel.

7. Champagne-Wine Stopper.  The best wine bottle stopper out there.  It's airtight so you can use it for bottles that are stored horizontally and even to keep your champagne bubbly after opening it!  $6.95 at Crate & Barrel.

8. Cuisinart Smart Stick.  Talk about bang for your buck.  This tool is an immersion blender, electronic whisk, chopper, and food processor.  The Smart Stick is great for pureeing soups, chopping veggies for salsa, and blending sauces.  $59.95 at Sur La Table.

9. OXO Stainless Steel Salad Spinner.  The easiest way to clean and dry large quantities of lettuce for your salad.  And a bonus-- the handy stainless steel outer bowl is pretty enough that you can turn around and serve your salad right in it.  Limited clean up!  $49.99 at Bloomingdale's.

10. ROSLE Garlic Press.  I use garlic in almost every meal I make so a good garlic press is essential.  This one is great because it is easy to clean and so powerful that you can put cloves in with the skin on and still get perfectly minced garlic.  $45 at Sur La Table.

I realize a lot of these items are available at Crate & Barrel... likely because most of these items were given to us via our Crate & Barrel wedding registry.

Which tools are essential in your kitchen?

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Turkey Burgers Parmigiana

I'm starting this What's For Dinner Wednesday out on a slightly different foot this week.  A very happy birthday wish goes out to my bff of 16 years (how is that possible?) Lisa.  Have a fabulous birthday, friend-- so good to see you in New York!

I looked for an actual photo of us from 16 years ago but I think they are buried in my storage unit somewhere.  Or maybe in my parents' basement.  In the meantime, enjoy this throwback from 6 years ago instead.







The second thing I want to talk about on this Wednesday is, of course, dinner!  Turkey burgers are one of my favorite weeknight meals to make, especially in warm weather when we can grill them.  Sometimes though, I just get so bored with the typical burger and need to change the flavors up a little.  I discovered this recipe in Cooking Light magazine a few years ago and because it combined two of my favorite things-- turkey burgers and Italian food-- it quickly became one of my go to recipes.

This week I was noticing that the cold weather front seems to be taking a toll on my herb plants-- yes, they are still alive.  But just barely.  So, I had some basil leaves that needed to be used ASAP.  Then we also stopped by the farmers market over the weekend and discovered HighRise Baking Company's amazing baked goods.  They were selling fresh baked ciabatta rolls so we scooped up a bag.  Although the ones we get at our regular grocery store are good, now that we have tried these I am not sure how we will go back-- the rolls were crusty on the outside and soft and chewy on the inside.  Just how real Italians intended!  Between the basil and the rolls everything fell into place and we enjoyed one of our favorite easy weeknight dinners tonight and I wanted to share the recipe with you this week.  Enjoy!

 

Ingredients

  • 2 square ciabatta rolls
  • 1 garlic clove, halved
  • 1/2 pound ground turkey
  • 1/3 cup plus 2 tablespoons marinara sauce, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
  • 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
  • 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon black pepper
  • Cooking spray
  • 1/4 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese, divided
  • 8 basil leaves
  1. Preheat broiler.
  2. Cut rolls in half. Place bread, cut side up, on a baking sheet. Broil for 3 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove bread from pan. Rub each slice with cut side of garlic. Set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 375°.
  4. Combine turkey, 1/3 cup marinara, rosemary, thyme, red pepper, salt, and black pepper. Divide into 2 portions, shaping each into a 1/4-inch-thick patty. Heat a cast iron skillet over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add patties to pan; cook for 4 minutes. Turn patties, and place pan in oven. Bake at 375° for 10 minutes. Top each patty with 2 tablespoons cheese; bake 1 minute.
  5. Layer bottom half of each roll with 2 basil leaves, 1 patty, 1 tablespoon marinara, 2 basil leaves, and roll top.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Fall Baking: Baked Apples

Sometimes a weekend full of nothing is just what the doctor ordered.  This was one of those weekends.  See that photo to the left?  That's what it looked like in Chicago for the last two days so it was prime staying in and laying low weather.

We did make it out for a dinner and movie on Friday night-- Mangia Roma and Argo, respectively.  Check out Argo-- a nailbiter, but really well done.  Aside from that I did get around to some cleaning, finished MWF Seeking BFF and started Loving Frank, and had a nice little Sunday brunch date at the bar down the street with my hubby.

Since we stayed in I had time to do a lot of cooking this weekend too, so I have a handful of recipes to share with you.  The one I am sharing now is an easy dessert that I put together on Saturday night.  Alex stocked up on tons of Honeycrisp apples at the farmers market last weekend so I figured we should put them to use before they go bad.  I remember my mom making her own version of these when we were kids, but it's been forever since I have had them.  This is a great fall dessert-- it's low maintenance to put together, relatively healthy, and can be easily multiplied if you are serving a crowd. 



Baked Apples

Ingredients:

2 Large apples *I'd recommend Honeycrisp or Macintosh for baking
2 Tbs. Butter, melted
2 Tbs. Brown sugar
1 1/2 Tbs. Old fashioned oats
1 Tbs. Pecans, chopped**
1 Tbs. Chopped dried dates
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon
Vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt, for serving


Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  Use a melon baller to scoop out the core of each apple, making sure to leave the bottom of the apple intact.

In a small bowl stir together butter and next 5 ingredients until combined.  Using a small soon, stuff the mixture inside of each apple.  Place the apples in a small baking dish filled about 1 inch high with water (or with apple cider if you have it) and bake for 45 minutes until the apples are soft.

Serve warm with ice cream.

**Alex is allergic to some nuts and generally , just not a huge fan of most tree nuts.  For his apple, I subbed in 1/2 Tbs. each additional oats and dates for the chopped pecans.




Friday, October 12, 2012

Fall Cleaning

Happy Friday!

I don't know about you, but fall seems like a much better season for doing some serious cleaning and closet purging than spring ever does.  Fall always makes me feel energized and like it's the start of a new year and time to take on new projects.  Cleaning is one of my least favorite projects.  I should be more specific-- We do a decent job of keeping the apartment clean, but keeping it organized and limiting the amount of clutter we have is another story.  My husband and I each have our own hoarding tendencies so this is a big challenge!

Even though I'm not in school anymore, I always feel the need to do some back to school shopping in the fall (force of habit, I guess!), so I end up bringing a lot of new items into my closet.  And then the weather starts to cool off so I find myself spending more time in my apartment that I've neglected for trips to the beach, street fests, and farmers markets during the summer months before.  That's when I also start to notice how much stuff I have.

It seems that most of our friends are out of town this weekend and we are expecting some rainy weather, so we don't have any "real" plans for the next few days.  Aside from a dinner and a movie date with my husband tonight, I'll be spending some time in the scary space pictured below: My Closet.  I'm ashamed to share these pictures with you because it's a disaster.  But if I can't be honest on this blog, then what's the point of writing? 


I have too many clothes.

You can see that I started to organize at some point... what a mess!

I am certainly limited by the size of my closet and dream of one day having a closet like the one pictured below.  It's so bright, clean, and spacious.  Sigh...

Dream closet

In reality though, the two photos below are seriously inspirational when it comes to organizing my current closet.  They aren't outrageously spacious, but they are still pretty, low on clutter, and every item has a home. 

Small, yet organized
Small, girly, and neat




So now you know my big plans for this weekend.  What are you up to?  Whatever it is, enjoy it!


Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall Baking: Pumpkin Angel Food Cake with Chocolate Glaze

Life seems to get busier and busier as I get older and sometimes I find it really tough to make time for friends.  It sounds terrible and I hate to admit it, but it's the truth.  We're all busy with work and traveling for bachelorette parties, weddings, baby showers, so it can be tough to coordinate a time for all of us to get together at one time.

Mere and Bri
A few of my girlfriends and I try to meet up for dinner every couple of weeks (in reality it happens like every other month, but we are working on it) to catch up and have some quality girl time.  This week Mere had us over for a pasta dinner at her new place and we had a great time chatting, drinking wine, and staying up way past my school night bedtime.  What a great evening-- can't wait to do it again soon!

I volunteered to bring dessert and decided to try out a new fall appropriate pumpkin angel food cake recipe that I found on Pinterest.  It's a bit of a cheat recipe (meaning that it's a boxed cake mix with a few extra ingredients), but the results were great.  The cake was light and had a nice subtle pumpkin flavor, which was perfect after all the pasta and garlic bread we ate.  And I love the flavor combination of pumpkin and chocolate (like in my all time favorite muffins) so I made a chocolate glaze to top it off.  Delicious!



P.S. Did you also know that yesterday (October 10) was National Angel Food Cake Day?  First, I didn't know that this holiday even existed.  Second, what freaky timing for this baking project/post!




Pumpkin Angel Food Cake with Chocolate Glaze 

Ingredients:

1 box white angel food cake mix
1 Tbsp. all-purpose flour
1 tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. nutmeg
1/8 tsp. cloves
¾ cup canned pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)
1 cup cold water
 6 oz. heavy cream
6 oz. dark chocolate chips


Move oven rack to lowest position; heat oven to 350°F. In extra-large glass or metal bowl, beat all cake ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 1 minute. Pour into ungreased 10-inch angel food cake pan.

Bake 37 to 47 minutes or until crust is dark golden brown and cracks are dry. Immediately turn pan upside down onto heatproof funnel or glass bottle. Let hang about 2 hours or until cake is completely cool. Loosen cake from side of pan with knife. Turn cake upside down onto serving plate.

Meanwhile, place chocolate chips in a glass heat-proof bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan until it just begins to boil, about 3 minutes. Pour cream over the chocolate chips and let stand for 1 minute. Stir until smooth and combined. Place over a bowl of ice and continue to stir until the chocolate mixture thickens up.  Drizzle over the top of the cooled cake.


Original cake recipe courtesy of Grin & Bake It

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

What's For Dinner Wednesday: Chicken in Red Wine Sauce

This past Friday it was cold out and knowing that we had a weekend full of dining out plans with friends we figured that dinner and a movie in was exactly what we needed after a long work week.  Chilly fall nights are so perfect for a great comfort food dinner, aren't they?  There's nothing like a hearty dinner in your belly (along with a glass of red wine) to make you feel cozy and relaxed on a fall evening.  The issue I always run into with meals like this though, is how do I make something that is hearty and satisfying but that also isn't heavy and loaded with fat? 

The recipe I am sharing tonight is a great one to address that concern-- the sauce is loaded with vegetables and the richness comes from cooking with red wine, chicken broth, and tomatoes.  This sauce is versatile-- you could add mushrooms (I don't because I don't like them!), it would work great in the slow cooker, and is also delicious with beef, but chicken breasts really up the health factor here.  Even my sometimes picky husband loves when I make something in a red wine sauce for dinner.  The recipe couldn't be easier, the ingredients are pretty cheap, and most of them are things that I have in my pantry/fridge all the time.  I served it with orzo (since that's what I had on hand), but Alex loves it served over egg noodles.  I also roasted some broccolini on the side to round out the meal and it was delicious.




Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 Tbs. Exta Virgin Olive Oil
  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 15-oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 1/3 cup fat free low sodium chicken broth
  • 1/2 Tbs. fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
  • 1 Tbs. fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • Pasta, couscous, or rice for serving

Heat olive oil in a sautee pan over medium high heat.  Season chicken breasts with salt and pepper and add to hot oil.  Sautee until brown on each side and no longer pink in the middle, about 4-5 minutes on each side.  Remove chicken from pan and reduce heat to medium.  Add onions and carrots to the pan and cook for another 5-6 minutes or until the onions begin to soften and become translucent.  Add garlic and cook for another 2 minutes, stirring often.  Pour wine into the pan, scraping any brown bits up and then bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and allow the wine to simmer until the liquid has reduced by half. Add tomatoes (including liquid) and cook for another 4-5 minutes until the mixture begins to thicken.  Stir in broth and herbs and cook for 2 more minutes, season with salt and pepper, and then add chicken breasts back to the pan.  Nestle them in the sauce until the chicken warms up (just a few additional minutes) and serve over starch of your choice.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Top 10 Favorite Pins from Pinterest

I know that Pinterest is not new at this point, but I have to admit: I still love it.  It is such a great place to find new recipes when I am getting bored with my usual meal planning, to find inspiration for designing my (future) home, or to get some great ideas for fun gifts, holiday decor, fitness, and more.  I also find that Pinterest is an excellent way to reduce clutter around my home.  All of those pages that I used to rip out of magazines or entire magazines that I have saved in piles around my house can go straight to my recycling bin since I can handily save them on Pinterest now. 

If you follow me you know that I have a LOT of ideas pinned.  And if you don't follow me, well then you should!  Regardless, of the 2,500+ pins on my pinboards I wanted to share a few standout pins with you.  They range from food to fashion to furnishings and here are 10 of my favorites.


My Top 10 Favorite Pins

1. Pink and green tablescape from Martha Stewart Weddings.  The first wedding image that I ever saved and the first point of inspiration for my wedding color scheme-- charcoal gray with pops of green and pink.


 
http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874840955200/


2. Chobani conversion chart.  Cooking is important to me, but the health of my family is right up there too.  I love the idea of making swaps for butter, oil, and mayo with something healthy like Greek yogurt and not some scary chemicalized low fat products.  Swapping Greek Yogurt in for mayo or sour cream in baking, chicken and potato salads, and sauces and dressings is one of my new favorite recipe tricks!

http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874841823169/

3. This amazing ensemble from Wendy's Lookbook.  She always puts some fabulous things together, but this one incorporates all of my favorites into one fun party look: bold stripes, a little leg, a sparkly clutch, and a classic topknot and pumps.  Love it!



http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874841540483/


4. Rosemary lemon sandwich cookies.  How delicious do these look/sound?  The fresh citrusy lemon flavor with that deep woodsy taste of rosemary.  Yum.  Now I just need an excuse to make them....



http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874840973010/

5. This image of a living room full of things I love.  A fabulous lamp, garden stools in my favorite shade of green, a cool ceramic pineapple (they do mean "welcome," after all), and an adorable retreiver hanging out on the floor.  If it weren't for that ugly grandma chair in the foreground I'd be ready to move right in.



http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874841142020/

6. An inspirational quote.  She believed she could so she did.  This is the kind of phrase that I aspire to live by... and I think I'm doing a pretty good job so far!




http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874841258338/

7. Butternut squash and sage flatbread.  This recipe just screams "fall" to me.  And it could not be prettier.  I want to make this for a fall get together with friends.



http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874841098281/

8. This gorgeous kitchen.  It's modern and classic, light and dark.  I am in love with that subway tile backsplash anad the contrasting colors on the island.  Dream kitchen, for sure.


http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874841171971/

9. A decadent and delicious looking pasta.  This recipe takes your comfort food up a notch by adding goat cheese, rosemary, and roasted chicken to a simple mac and cheese.  It's definitely fancy enough for entertaining and I love the idea of baking and serving it in individual crocks too.



http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874841604134/

10. And finally, who doesn't love a little sparkle (especially during the holidays)? I love a good DIY project and these pears are just so lovely.  They seem pretty cheap and simple to make too- just some dollar store fruit and glitter.  I can imagine these in big glass apothecary jars or in a bowl as a centerpiece.  Simple and elegant.


http://pinterest.com/pin/152629874840959911/

Sunday, October 7, 2012

A Fall Weekend In Photos

After a whirlwind weekend away in New York it was great to enjoy a quiet[er] weekend here in our home city with very few plans.  Like any good fall weekend, the sun was shining and there was a chill in the air so we put on our layers and headed outside.  Alex will be running a half marathon in Los Angeles later this month so he started off his Saturday with a 9-mile run while I began mine with 2 cups of coffee and a few blog updates.  Perfect.

We did a little fall decorating to keep things festive...



All bundled up for the Printers Row farmers market

On Saturday afternoon we ventured down to Printers Row to check out their neighborhood farmers market.  It's no Green City Market (think 5 vendor tents instead of 30), but it was quiet, closer, and we came back with plenty of good stuff.

Printers Row Farmers Market

Our farmers market haul: it wasn't just produce!

On Saturday night I joined my friend Maggie for an evening of catching up and carbohydrates at Via Carducci in Lincoln Park.

Rigatoni Siciliana at Via Carducci

On Sunday Maggie ran the Chicago Marathon so we bundled up to go out and cheer her on.  I'm used to running around alone and waiting for Alex to run by during these races so it was nice to have him in my cheering squad this time around.  Check out his creative sign, which seemed to amuse all of the runners.
 

Even though it was super cold and it was her first marathon, Maggie did an awesome job.  Her spirits were high and when we caught up with her on Sunday night she hadn't even napped yet.  Congratulations to you, Maggie-- what an amazing accomplishment!

Run Maggie run!

I hope you had a great few days as well.  What did you do to stay busy this fall weekend?
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