Friday, December 20, 2013

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

This afternoon my husband and I are flying south to spend Christmas at home in Texas.  After the extreme cold and copious amounts of snow we've had in Boston, I'm ready for a change.  And I can't wait to see our family and friends. We'll also work our way through our "Texas To-Do List" (items on this list include TexMex, Chicken Fried Steak, BBQ, breakfast tacos, Shiner beer, chili from Texas Chili Parlor, and kolaches from the Czech Stop). Of course there's never enough time to catch up on everything we miss from home! I hope everyone has a wonderful Christmas, filled with love, friends, family, and good food! I'll see you in January!

"Then the angel said to them, 'Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be the sign to you: You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.'" Luke 2:10-12

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Kale Salad with Pecorino and Pecans

For those of you who don't know, Texas is famous for its pecans. Though now that I think about it, if people don't know about our pecans, are we actually famous for them?? Either way, if Texas pecans aren't world famous, they should be. I have fond childhood memories of sitting around bulging bags of foraged nuts and shelling them with my family. A few weeks ago when a large box arrived in the mail from my amazing mother-in-law, I squealed with delight when I saw two large bags of pecans. I've been tossing them in almost everything: arugula salad, warm grain salad, chopped fall salad, roasted brussels sprouts, pecan pie, pecan cookies, you name it.
This weekend I made one of my favorite recipes, a simple kale salad from The Kitchn.  It's a great salad to bring to a picnic, a holiday potluck, or in your lunch at work. And it's versatile! This time I threw in some of my pecans and a little whole grain dijon mustard in the dressing. One day I topped it with a handful of dried cranberries, and another day I tossed it with diced pear, both adding a little bit of sweetness that was great with the tangy dressing and salty cheese. If you don't have pecans, try almonds or walnuts. It's easy peasy!
Serves 4-6

1 large bunch of kale, stemmed (I used purple kale this time, but lacinato or good ol' curly kale work too)
~4 Tb lemon juice
1 Tb whole grain dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
~1 cup pecans, roughly chopped
4 oz pecorino, finely grated
Optional: dried cranberries, diced pear

Stack and roll the kale leaves together (similar to how you prepare to chiffonade basil) and slice into thin ribbons. Place into a large bowl and "massage" the leaves a little bit with your hands to help make the leaves more tender. 

Add the pecans and pecorino to the bowl, and toss to combine.

In a separate bowl, add the lemon juice, dijon mustard, salt, and pepper, and whisk until the salt is dissolved. Slowly pour in the olive oil, whisking continuously, until the dressing is emulsified.

Taste the dressing and adjust according to your taste (If it's too tart, add in a little more oil. Not tart enough? Squeeze in a little more lemon juice. Add more salt and pepper if necessary)

Pour the dressing, little by little, into the bowl with the salad, tossing to coat, until the salad is dressed how you like it. (You may not need all of the dressing.)

Let the salad sit at least an hour at room temperature before serving.

Optional: Serve topped with dried cranberries or diced pear.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

All I Want For Christmas - 2013 Edition

As I've been doing my Christmas shopping, I've found quite a few things along the way that I've been tempted to buy for myself. But my mother taught me to never buy myself anything in the month of December, because you never know what you'll get for Christmas! Since I had so much fun putting together a Christmas wish list last year, here are some items that I'm loving this year!

I would love using this ridiculously adorable Dansk Kobenstyle Butter Warmer Pot.
(photo from Amazon)

These Southern Saying Pencils are such a cute reminder of home.

(photo from Brookish on Etsy)

Since my husband and I love making cocktails, it would be so much fun to set up a pretty Bar Cart.
(photos from The Glitter Guide and Obaz)

I've been eyeing this beautiful Penguin Threads Embroidered  Edition of Little Women for quite a while now.
(photo from Amazon)

This Kiss My Grits Tea Towel. for a little sass in the kitchen.

Coffee Scrub Kitchen Soap because nothing beats the smell of coffee (and because coffee is supposed to help remove the garlicky smell from your hands after cooking).

I've been eagerly anticipating the release of The Homesick Texan's second cookbook, so my fingers are crossed for a Pre-Order of the Homesick Texan's Family Table. Her first is one of my favorite cookbooks.
(photo from The Homesick Texan)

Aren't these Monogrammed Lockets lovely?

These colorful Nine West Flats.
(photo from Nine West)

This Wooden Recipe Box is pricey, but it's absolutely gorgeous.
(photo from Rifle Paper Co)

Kale Market Bag. Tee hee!
(photo from West Elm)

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

DIY Serving Tray

This week my husband and I teamed up for a craft project: a DIY serving tray! Power tools were involved, so of course he wanted to be involved. And I loved having him help out, even if he did over-engineer things a bit (I mean, seriously. Was epoxy really necessary instead of Wood Glue? I think not.). I was looking for a way to use a beautiful piece of fabric from Sew Fine Fabric, so when I saw this photo on Pinterest, an idea was born!

I'm really thrilled with how the finished product turned out!  I think it will be a fun, versatile piece to have in our kitchen! It can be used for serving drinks at a dinner party, displaying decanters and pretty glassware, serving a pot of tea and tea cups, delivering breakfast in bed, or setting out cheeses or snacks at a cocktail party. If you're curious about trying to make one of your own, here's what we did!
Framed Clear Dry Erase Board (or a wooden picture frame)
Fabric (similar prints here and here)
Measuring Tape
Foam Board
Utility Knife
2 Cabinet Handles and screws (be sure to buy screws that will not exceed the thickness of the tray)
Sand Paper
Masking Tape
Black Semi-Gloss Spray Paint

1. Measure the inner surface of the back of the frame. Cut the fabric (with scissors) and foam board (with the utility knife) to fit.
2.Measure the outer surface of the frame. Cut the plywood to fit using the utility knife. Sand the edges such that they are smooth.
3. Sand the back of the frame with sand paper in order to help the epoxy adhere.

4. Ensure that the glass or clear plastic is clean and then insert the piece of fabric such that it shows through the front of the frame, and insert the foam board behind the fabric. The foam board should be flush with the frame. (If foam board is too thick for your frame, you could try using a foam sheet or a thin piece of cardboard).

5. Apply epoxy to the back of the frame, and place the piece of plywood on top, ensuring that it is properly aligned. Apply firm pressure until the epoxy cures (ours took 10 minutes).
6. Measure the length and width of the frame so that you can center your handles. Mark the hole locations, and using a drill, drill a hole for each handle screw, sanding away any excess material left by the drill. Install the handles to ensure that they fit properly.
7. Using masking tape and newspaper, mask the glass or plastic surface on the top of the tray to protect the top from spray paint.
8. Remove the handles, and sand the entire surface of the frame and the back of the tray with sand paper to help the paint adhere.

9. Use a coat hanger to hang the tray by one of the screw holes somewhere outside where you can spray paint. We used a tree branch in the backyard.
10. Let the paint dry. Once it's dry, remove the masking tape and paper and re-install the handles.

11. Ta da! You're done! All that's left to do now is to enjoy your pretty new tray!

Bonus: Since this was made from a dry erase board, it can be written on with dry erase markers to label drinks, cheese, etc. At a dinner party, you could write out a "Signature Cocktail" recipe to go along with the bottles on the tray. Or you could write cute little statements like "Cheers!"

Monday, December 9, 2013

Night Shift Brewing

Last week, we checked another item off our ever-growing "Boston To Do List": we visited Night Shift Brewing! After enjoying a few of their beers this past year, we were pretty tickled to discover that the brewery is in Everett, just a few miles down the road from our house. It was the Saturday after Thanksgiving when we decided to pay Night Shift a visit.  We followed GPS directions until we turned into a semi-deserted construction area. The car rolled to stop, and my husband and I exchanged glances. We had to have taken a wrong turn. It looked like a prime location for a Jack Bauer chase scene rather than a brewery (can you tell we've been watching too many old seasons of "24"?). Just when we had decided we must be in the wrong place, we spotted a little sign on a telephone pole pointing the way to Night Shift Brewing. We weren't lost after all!
We parked the car and followed signs until we came to this door. It looks a little seedy on the outside, but don't let that scare you away. Inside and down a corridor, you come to the entrance of the brewery.
The first thing you see coming in the door is the bar where they sell samples or beer to take home. Shelves are filled with bottles and growlers, and an adorable owl statue collection is scattered around the building. To the left is the brewery area. Racks of barrels line one wall for barrel-aged beers, and brew tanks are visible in the back. And we weren't alone! Plenty of other folks were milling around the brewery, so we joined them at one of the tables to enjoy our flights of beer, four 4-oz samples for each of us.
We tried the Seaglass, the Viva Habanera, the Taza Stout, Chinooknation, and the Mainer Weisse. We enjoyed them all, especially the Viva Habanera with its warming spiciness and the roasty chocalate Taza Stout, but our favorite was hands-down the crisp, sour Mainer Weisse aged with wild Maine blueberries and cinnamon. Sour beer is one of my favorite styles, and this one was one of the best I've had. I can't wait to try the Cape Codder Weisse aged with cranberries and orange that they'll begin selling this spring.
We had a blast visiting Night Shift and sampling their decidedly unique beers. We brought home a few growlers, and I look forward to filling them up repeatedly on future visits!
Update 6/2: Night Shift has moved to a shiny new location at 87 Santilli Hwy, Everett, MA. They continue to offetours, samples, growler fills, and bottles on location.

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Great-Grandmother's Green Pea Casserole

When it comes to Thanksgiving, my family is very traditional. I love that we cook the same menu every year, despite all of the beautiful and tempting new recipes in food magazines and blogs. But this year, my husband and I were on our own, so we decided to mix a little new in with the old. Our favorite menu addition was seared brussels sprouts with bacon, a delicious way to add a little green to the menu. On the traditional side of the plate, I made my mom's cornbread dressing and a recipe from my great-grandmother, Dersh: Green Pea Casserole.

My mom resurrected this family recipe a few years ago, and for me, it was love at first bite. Green peas are baked with cream of mushroom soup (it wouldn't be a vintage recipe without that, now would it?), pimentos, toasted almonds, and grated cheese. What's not to love about that?  Now, coming out of the oven, it may not look like much, but it's downright tasty -- creamy and cheesy with a little crunch from the almonds. And for me, being able to cook one of Dersh's recipes is so special.  If you're looking for a "retro" addition to your holiday table this year, you should definitely give this one a try!
Serves 6-8

2 cans LeSueur Very Young Small Sweet Peas, drained
2 cans Cream of Mushroom Soup
1 2.5oz package sliced or slivered almonds
1 small jar chopped pimentos, drained
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Toast the almonds in a dry pan over medium high heat for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Once they have begun to toast and turn golden brown, remove them to a small bowl.

Empty the cream of mushroom soup into a large mixing bowl. Add in the peas, the pimentos, about 3/4 of the almonds, and 1 cup of cheese. Gently stir to combine.

Pour into a greased 8"x8" baking dish. Top with the remaining 1/2 cup of cheese and almonds.

Bake for about 15-20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the casserole is bubbly.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Date Night in Central Square

Last weekend we ended up in Central Square for a night out with our friends Jessica and Bryan. I'll admit that Central is not one of my favorite areas. It doesn't have the quaint charm that some Boston-area neighborhoods do. It's a little rough around the edges, a little grimy and seedy, but man, are there some good places to eat and drink in the area.

We started at Brick and Mortar, a speakeasy-style craft cocktail bar. Through an unmarked glass door next to the entrance to Central Kitchen and up a wooden stairway you find the bar, complete with exposed brick walls and a gleaming copper-topped bar. We snagged a table, and I started with a "Last Word," a classic made with gin, Maraschino, Chartreuse, and lime juice. It's one of my favorites, and theirs was a good one (as was their "Sister Mary" with tequila, Aperol, St Germain, and grapefruit). The men-folk loved the "Duck You Sucka!" (rye whiskey, Averna, Maraschino, and bitters). The bartenders were even able to mix up great off-menu classics like a Martinez and a Hanky Panky.
After a couple drinks, we went downstairs for dinner at Central Kitchen. It was a windy, cold evening, so we loved being able to dart quickly from one door to the next.  In their cozy dining area, we started with another round of drinks and a couple appetizers to share. The cocktails were solid, we loved the mussels in a buttery broth and topped with fries, but I think our favorite starter was the Raclette. Melted hunks of cheese and fingerling potatoes alongside pickled vegetables? It was perfect for a cold night, and it disappeared quickly. 

For entrees, the star of the show was the Steak Frites ordered by both of the boys. We girls enjoyed our Cioppino (despite the red splatters on my outfit thanks to a botched attempt at cracking a crab claw doused in tomato broth), but I stole as many bites off my husband's plate as I could get away with. The house-aged steak, topped with a generous pat of herb butter, was perfectly tender. It was served alongside crisp hand-cut fries and a well-dressed watercress salad with just enough peppery bite.  Fantastic!

For dinner and drinks out on the town, Central Kitchen plus the upstairs Brick and Mortar are a great (and convenient) combination! I can't wait to go back to both! Who wants to come with us? :)

Monday, December 2, 2013


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday! Ours was a good one. It was a quiet celebration this year, just the two of us. While we missed being home with our families, it was nice to spend a relaxing weekend together with no hectic travel involved. 

Thursday morning started off with us preparing the turkey and my husband getting the smoker going. We used a simple but flavorful rub of rosemary, thyme, sage, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. Combined with the mesquite smoke, it was a heavenly combination.
Before and after shot of the turkey! Yum!
I set the table with a brown table cloth, orange napkins, two china place settings (Lenox Hannah Gold, a retired pattern that I snagged for $5 each!), the antique green cut-glass glasses that I bought last week at Farm and Fable, candles, and a centerpiece of fall fruit and greenery.
I really loved how the centerpiece turned out. Who knew persimmons, apples, a pomegranate, and some greenery from the front yard could look so pretty!
After puttering around the kitchen all day, watching as much of the James Bond TV marathon as we could manage (one of my favorite holiday traditions), and calling our families, everything finally came together for dinner. The turkey was off the smoker and resting. The cranberry sauce was chilling in the refrigerator.  The gravy was simmering on the stove. The cornbread dressing and green pea casserole were ready to come out of the oven. The mashed potatoes were mashed with a generous amount of butter and cream, and the seared brussels sprouts were ready to be tossed with crispy bacon and toasted almonds.
My husband carved the turkey, I poured the wine (a delicious Spanish white, Ameztoi Txakoli), and we lit the candles. Then dinner was served! After clinking glasses and taking a moment to be thankful, we dug in!
This was our very first Thanksgiving to cook entirely on our own, and we were excited that it turned out so well. After dinner we had just enough room left for a sliver of pumpkin pie. We lingered at the table for a while once our plates were cleared, sipping the last of our wine and talking. Once we finally cleared the table and washed the dishes, we collapsed onto the couch in a heap and spent the rest of the evening watching more Bond movies.

The rest of the weekend was quiet as well. We ate lots of leftovers: Turkey Terrific sandwiches with turkey, cranberry sauce, dressing, mashed potatoes, and gravy on potato rolls, Cranberry Sauce-Brie Grilled Cheese Sandwiches, Leftover Couscous Salad, and a big pot of Turkey Gumbo.  We watched movies. We watched a large chunk of "24" Season 5 (We're working our way through the seasons. And for the record, I do not like President Logan). We worked on a craft project (more on that later). We visited a new-ish local brewery, Night Shift Brewing (more on that later as well).
And last but not least, we put up our Christmas decorations! It's officially "the most wonderful time of the year!"

Wednesday, November 27, 2013


Well, Thanksgiving is tomorrow! My husband and I will be spending a quiet, cozy Thanksgiving for two at our house this year. I've got the menu planned (smoked turkey, gravy, my mom's cornbread dressing, cranberry sauce, my great grandmother's green pea casserole, seared brussels sprouts with bacon lardons, whipped potatoes, and pumpkin pie), and I know how I want to set the table (I just have to iron the tablecloth, my least favorite thing ever).  All that's really left to do is the cooking in the eating, and that's what I'm best at! But before I get elbow deep in crumbled cornbread and cranberries, I want to take a moment to be thankful.  

(Card from Rifle Paper Co)

I'm thankful for the family and friends in my life. I'm thankful for the food on our table and the roof over our heads And I'm thankful for where we are in life, for where we've been, and for the path we have ahead of us. 

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!
"And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him." Colossians 3:17

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Sunday Morning in the South End

Sunday was bitterly cold with gusting winds, but my husband and I intrepidly ventured out of our home and spent the morning exploring the South End, a part of town that we don't make it to very often. It's quintessential Boston: gorgeous old brownstones, tree lined narrow streets, and cute little shops and restaurants tucked into every nook and cranny. 

The first order of business was breakfast at Mike and Patty's.  It's a tiny place, and it was packed. The one six-seater table was full, and the rest of us piled on top of each other in front of the counter, happy to be out of the cold. The phone was ringing off the hook with call-in orders, and the cooks were making sandwiches as fast as they could manage. The wait was 30 minutes, which apparently was a pretty slow Saturday morning for them. 
We're normally not fans of crowded spots, but we loved this place. Everyone pitched in to help. People with free hands passed sandwiches from the kitchen to folks at the table. A gentleman standing by the coffee station was on cardboard sleeve duty, passing them over as customers got their coffee.  Those who lived in the neighborhood got their sandwiches to go, while the rest of us waited for seats to open up at the table. We finally squeezed into a spot just as our sandwiches came out of the kitchen. This beauty is the breakfast grilled cheese: salty bacon, a runny egg, and cheddar and american cheese all between two buttery pieces of toasted white bread. This might be the perfect breakfast sandwich.
After finishing our sandwiches, we gave up our coveted seats and headed over to a new shop called Farm and Fable, specializing in kitchen antiques and vintage cookbooks. We had so much fun poking around the shelves, flipping through the books, and admiring all of the pretties. 
I came home with a set of green cut-glass glasses. Aren't they lovely? I can't wait to use them for Thanksgiving!
Across the street from Farm and Fable is the South End outpost of Formaggio Kitchen.  This place is a treasure trove of local and imported food and beverages. Shelves are packed with honey, jam, chocolate, pickles, spices, pasta, wines, craft beers, you name it. One case holds delicacies like foie gras mousse and duck confit while a case in the back is filled with wheels of cheese. A person could spend hours in here!
We sampled a couple wines and cheeses, stocked up on some rare beers, and picked out drinks for Thanksgiving (a Spanish white wine and cider from Normandy). Then my husband dragged me out of there before I could try to buy the entire store!
We then headed back home, spoils from the morning's excursion in tow. It was a fun morning, but we were glad to come in out of the cold. We spent the rest of the day where it was cozy and warm: on the couch watching football!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Stitch Fix: Possibly The Best Thing Ever

Have y'all heard about Stitch Fix? I had a couple friends try it with rave reviews, so I decided to give it a shot myself. And I love it! It's basically a personal shopper service for those of us that have trouble finding time to go shopping (and/or have trouble keeping up with the latest trends).  You simply fill out a style profile (size information, style preferences, and preferred price range), and they send you a box of 5 items selected just for you! Deliveries can be as frequent as once a month or as infrequently as you request them.

My first box arrived last week, and it was like Christmas had come early.
Inside, I found a note, tissue-wrapped bundles, cards to help style my pieces, and even a few holiday recipes.
The clothes were very cute, fit well, and were in the price range I requested (and best of all, I didn't have to step foot into a mall). My favorites were a navy polka dot blazer. a teal knit dress, and a black and white stripe sweater with a pink block across the top and shoulders. A gold knotted pair of earrings were pretty as well. I didn't care for one item, a floral top, but thankfully a friend liked it enough to buy it (Stitch Fix offers a 25%-off discount if you keep all five items -- I'm such a sucker for a deal).  
If you want to send items back, they include a bag for returns that you just drop into a mail box within 3 days of receiving your "Fix." Afterward, check-out online, paying for what you keep and providing feedback on each piece to help them improve for your next delivery. And that's it!

If you're interested, give Stitch Fix a try* ! I can't wait to get another box (though I'm going to wait a few months in an attempt to exercise some self discipline).


*Full disclosure: I get a $25 credit for referrals, but honestly, this was so much fun that I would recommend it to people with or without the monetary incentive