Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Nova Scotia

Back in July, my husband and I took a trip to Nova Scotia. When we found out I was expecting, we began brainstorming vacation ideas.  We wanted to go somewhere new and fun, but we also wanted it to be a trip truly centered around rest and relaxation. The more we researched, a trip to Nova Scotia to visit the quiet seaside sounded like just the right thing for us.  We also loved the idea of going somewhere a little milder during the sweltering Texas summer.

When we told people our travel plans, we received quite a few puzzled looks, as I don't think Nova Scotia is a particularly popular destination for Texas folks, but it should be!  During our years in Boston it was always a trip I longed to take (especially since one of my favorite literary heroines, Anne of Green Gables herself, grew up in Nova Scotia before moving to Green Gables on Prince Edward Island), and we had the most wonderful time during our week there!
We spent our first three days on the far western shore of the peninsula in the tiny fishing village of Middle West Pubnico where we rented the most amazing waterfront guest house on airbnb.  The owners lived in the main house next door and were so welcoming and friendly. We woke up to the sun rising over the water, seen through a wall of windows along the back of the house. We spent quiet mornings on our patio eating breakfast and enjoying the view. We explored the area during the day, visiting little museums, trying our hand at geocaching, taking scenic drives, and eating seafood directly off local fishing boats.  In the evenings, we pulled on a sweater and sat around the fire pit. It was just as beautiful and relaxing as we hoped it would be.
For our last three days, we rented a different apartment in Lunenburg, a slightly larger (and as it turned out, much more touristy) fishing village about halfway between Pubnico and the capital city of Halifax. On our way from Pubnico, we stopped in Shelburne, a lovely town on the water, for lunch and for a brewery visit (more on that later). Once in Lunenburg, we spent some time exploring the area, but we also took a couple great day trips while we were there: one to the post card worthy village of Mahone Bay and another to Peggy's Cove to visit the Peggy's Point Lighthouse.

Things We Ate:

We stumbled on to some truly wonderful food in Nova Scotia. Our most memorable meal was at a more upscale restaurant off the beaten tourist path in Lunenburg called Lincoln Street Food (#1). The menu was fresh and seasonal and boasted plenty of Atlantic seafood. We also loved trying a local favorite, haddock with creamed lobster, at the Red Cap Restaurant (#7) which was right down the street from where local fishing boats brought in their catch. Throughout the week we found  pizza with delicate seafood chowder (#2), hearty breakfast fare (#4), authentic (and fantastic!!) German schnitzel thanks to descendants of German settlers (#8), ice cream with a view (#5), loose leaf tea by the pot (#3), and mussels by the pound served on a patio overlooking the water (#9).
1: Lincoln Street Food in Lunenburg, 2: Rhubarb near Peggy's Cove, 3: The Tea Brewery in Mahone Bay, 4: The Savvy Sailor in Lunenburg, 5: La Creamy Treat in West Pubnico, 6: Charlotte Lane in Shelburne, 7: Red Cap Restaurant in Lower West Pubnico, 8: Old Black Forest Café in Lunenburg, 9: Salt Shaker Deli in Lunenburg

Other notable meals (not pictured above) were had at Dennispoint Café in Lower West Pubnico (get the fried clams and the poutine!), at Rebecca's Restaurant in Mahone Bay (I loved the vegetarian options here), and Brooklyn Warehouse in Halifax (you can't go wrong with their burger and with a pint of local craft beer).

Things We Did:

To stick with our relaxing vacation vibe, we limited ourselves to one or two activities per day (meals don't count, obviously). My favorite outings were geocaching around the Pubnicos and a visit to Peggy's Point Lighthouse in Peggy's Cove.  Geocaching led to some great scenic drives off the beaten path, and the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove was so incredibly beautiful. It was easy to see why it's one of the most photographed spots in this region of Canada. We made the drive from Lunenburg on a perfect sunny day. Once we walked up the rolling granite rocks to view the lighthouse, we found a perch on one of the rocks to soak up some sunshine and watch the waves come crashing in. I think I could have sat there for ages if only our stomachs hadn't started growling (if you visit, definitely visit Rhubarb for lunch afterward)!
We also paid visits to a couple Acadian museums in the Pubnicos (Acadians were French settlers that were eventually driven out by the English. Some eventually returned, but many ended up in Louisiana and are the ancestors of the Cajuns), a fantastic craft brewery called Boxing Rock, fishery and railway museums (including incredibly detailed model railroad recreations of historical regional rail stops), local scenic spots, a distillery, and even a UFO museum (touted as the Area 51 of Nova Scotia)!
1: Historical Acadian Village of Nova Scotia in Lower West Pubnico, 2: Boxing Rock Brewing Co in Shelburne, 3: Geocaching at Pubnico Harbor Lighthouse in Lower East Pubnico, 4: Halifax and Southwestern Railway Museum in Lunenburg, 5: The Three Churches of Mahone Bay, 6: Ironworks Distillery in Lunenburg, 7: Shag Harbor UFO Incident Museum in Shag Harbor, 8: Fisheries Museum of the Atlantic in Lunenburg, 9: Acadian Museum and Archives in West Pubnico

And would it be a vacation with this husband of mine if there weren't a few stops for beers along the way? I think not! He's drinking for two now, after all.
With that, I think I've managed to hit the high points of our trip. It was a great final long-distance get away before baby's arrival, and I know I'll treasure the memories we made. 

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Oh Boy!

I've been awfully remiss in updating this little corner of the internet, but given that my husband and I have some pretty big transitions coming up this year, I hope you'll forgive me. You see, come December 18th or so, things around our house are going to be a bit different. We'll be welcoming a baby boy into our family! Our little dog Charlie is pretty excited about it (and by excited, I mean that he has no idea what's coming), and my husband and I are thrilled!
Currently, we're scurrying around trying to get ready for the little guy. We finally got a full-sized dining room set along with a buffet for storing our china. After 5 years, our beautiful china, formal flatware, and crystal are finally out of boxes!  And once we get curtains and a few prints hung, our formal dining area will be complete. Though it's only a matter of time before a little boy's spaghetti-covered hands ruin those white chairs, isn't it?
We've been working on the nursery and tackling a few DIY projects along the way, including painting and staining a piece of family furniture to use as a chest of drawers and repairing a bookcase that I used in my own childhood bedroom. My fabulous in-laws repainted the nursery so that it's now a nice, soothing neutral instead of the horrible blue and khaki stripes that were present when we bought the house. The crib is assembled, and we have a refinished antique dresser that we're using for a changing table. We've ordered a comfy upholstered rocker, and my mom is repainting a wooden family rocker for us to use that originally belonged to my great-grandmother. I can't wait for it all to come together!
We're researching pediatricians, setting up baby registries, picking out freezer recipes to make and put away before baby's arrival, going to baby showers, and just having a great time (while trying not to panic about everything that we still need to do).

I'm pretty sure we have no idea what adventures lie ahead of us, but we're excited to find out!

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze and Pepitas

I typed up this recipe last winter and for some reason never got around to posting it. But now that there is an autumn chill back in the air and the heat of summer has passed, it feels like it's time for roasted vegetables again.  These brussels sprouts are roasted so that they get a good char on the outer leaves while remaining nice and tender in the center. Once they're out of the oven, they're tossed with a balsamic glaze for some sweetness and roasted pepitas for a little crunch. I used grapefruit white balsamic vinegar which I bought from one of those specialty olive oil and vinegar shops, but regular balsamic vinegar makes for a fabulous glaze as well. The glaze is also wonderful tossed with roasted carrots. This is a side dish custom-made for welcoming fall, so bring on the cooler weather!
Serves 4

1 lb brussels sprouts, ends trimmed and tough outer leaves removed
1 Tb olive oil
1/2 cup Grapefruit White Balsamic Vinegar (or regular Balsamic Vinegar)
1/4 cup sugar
~1/4 cup roasted pepitas

Preheat oven to 400F.

Slice the brussels sprouts in half, and spread on a baking sheet. Drizzle with about 1 Tb of olive oil, and sprinkle with salt. Toss to coat.

Roast the brussels sprouts for about 20 minutes, until slightly charred and tender.

While they roast, combine the vinegar and sugar in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, and then reduce heat to a simmer. Let the mixture simmer and reduce for about 15-20 minutes until it's thick and syrupy.

When the brussels sprouts are done, toss them with the balsamic vinegar reduction and a handful of roasted pepitas. Serve immediately.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Hello, 30!

Well folks, it's official. I'm 30. And you know what? Not only am I ok with it, but I think my 30's are going to be really great! I was tempted to say that it's hard to believe that my 20's are already behind me, but that's not really true. I squeezed a lot of wonderful memories and adventures with really great people into my 20's. I was (and am) very blessed, and I feel like I have only enjoyed myself more as I get older. So when I say that it definitely feels like 10 years have passed since I turned 20, I mean that in the best way possible.

To celebrate, we really turned it into a birthday week, which is my favorite way to go! There was a Paris celebration with my family the weekend before my birthday. We had a nice dinner at Perry's Off the Square with custom table decorations courtesy of Mom. There were lovely flowers and old pictures featuring me over the years with each family member. My in-laws also sent a GORGEOUS bouquet to the house. Talk about making a girl feel special!
After dinner, there were more presents than a girl deserves followed by my favorite dessert, my great-grandmother's peach cobbler recipe!
The grand finale was a fireworks show out at Dad's farm!  On the first explosion, we sent the cows running for the back of the pasture. Mom and I sat in the back of the truck toe enjoy the show while my husband and dad were on pyrotechnics duty. It was such a blast (literally)!
Back in McKinney on my actual birthday, there were balloons, a sparkly banner, and the cutest itty-bitty pinata that you ever did see (named Li'l Sebastian after Parks and Recreation). I couldn't bring myself to bust it open with the broom handle, so eventually I cut it open to retrieve the candy inside.
After dinner at a new restaurant in downtown McKinney called Sugarbacon (where the Wild Arugula Salad really stole the show), there was a dreamy Lemon Raspberry cake courtesy of Nothing Bundt Cakes and even more presents.
Finally, last but not least, the weekend after my birthday brought visitors to us! My in-laws and my husband's aunt drove up to join in the fun.
Saturday night we went to dinner at Patina Green, also in downtown McKinney.  It was an absolutely fabulous experience.  The chef does a multi-course blind tasting menu where he cooks whatever he is inspired to make based on what he found at the market that week. Seven courses went by all too quickly, each as good as (or better) than the last! It's a casual environment where fine-dining worthy dishes are brought out in cardboard boats, which was fun. The food was delicious, and even we learned some new (to us) ingredients like Papalo and pullet eggs. The chef didn't lead us astray once.
The weekend was also filled with more presents (talk about spoiling a girl) and all kinds of projects around the house. They were kind enough to help us paint one of our guest bedrooms (finally removing all evidence of the most horrid stripes), AND my husband and father-in-law went to some pretty great lengths to hang a porch swing for us. Does it get any more southern than that? Despite how hot it has been, I'm absolutely loving evenings spent in the swing.
After a birthday week full of fun memories with family and friends, this new decade is off to a fine start. I look forward to seeing what is in store for us!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Quinoa Bowl with Kale and Chickpeas

August is here, and the dead of summer is upon us!  While it's definitely my favorite time of year, the heat can be a bit de-motivating when it comes to the kitchen.  It's even too hot to grill (yesterday, it was 107)!  So tonight, I turned to a quick salad that only required cooking a batch of quinoa on the stove.  Everything else is just tossed into a bowl as-is! I loved the heartiness of the greens, grains, and chickpeas along with the crunch from the pepitas, the sweetness from the golden raisins, and the vibrancy of the vinaigrette and feta.  Now it's time to put my feet up and enjoy the AC for the rest of the evening.  Stay cool, everyone!
Serves 4

1 cup quinoa
2 cups water
3 Tb olive oil
1.5 Tb white balsamic vinegar
1/2 lemon, juiced (roughly)
1 bunch lacinato kale, ribs removed and roughly chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained
1/2 cup golden raisins (roughly)
1/2 cup pepitas (roughly)
2 oz feta, crumbled (roughly)
1 tsp salt

Add quinoa and water to a saucepan, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Let cook for 15 minutes, and then remove from the heat. The water should be absorbed, and the quinoa should be tender.

While the quinoa cooks, make your vinaigrette. Whisk together the vinegar, lemon juice, and salt until the salt is dissolved. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil until well combined. 

"Massage" the chopped kale a bit by squeezing it firmly with your fingers a few times, until you notice that the leaves are a bit more tender. Toss the kale, chickpeas, and golden raisins with the vinaigrette, and let sit until the quinoa is done. 

When the quinoa is finished, toss it immediately with the vinaigrette, kale, chickpeas, and golden raisins. Then toss in the feta cheese, and stir to combine. Taste, and add more salt or lemon juice if desired. 

Serve topped with a good handful of pepitas.

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

A Texas July 4th

Well, I suppose now that it's officially one month past the 4th of July, it's fitting that I'm finally uploading a few photos of our celebration. July 4th is one of my favorite holidays as it combines many of my favorite things: summer, fireworks, watermelon, small town parades, and Sousa marches.  It was such a fun weekend that, belated or not, I hate to let it pass by without a little reminiscing.

We started the weekend in my hometown of Paris where we spent the 3rd of July with my family. That evening, after indulging in BBQ, beans, deviled eggs, and watermelon, we went to see the Paris Municipal Band concert (as a former member, I love going to their concerts) and the Paris Fireworks at Noyes Stadium. We doused ourselves in bug spray, lugged our lawn chairs out onto the football field, chatted with old friends, and then sat back to enjoy the show. This was my husband's first time at the Paris July 4th festivities (and the first time at my high school football stadium), so it was really special to be able to share it all with him.
Once the last march was played and the last firework exploded, we made the trek back to the truck with a few more mosquito bites on our legs and with a smile on our faces. It was such a fun evening, small town life at its best.

On the actual 4th, we bid Paris farewell and hit the road back to McKinney, but on the way, we made sure to stop at a country fireworks stand to load up on sparklers for later evening!
We were invited to celebrate that evening with our neighbors and some of their friends, so we figured we would bring along our backyard games (ladder golf and corn hole), some Roasted Jalapeno Lime Hummus, and a few packs of sparklers since they're hard to come by for city dwellers. So yeah, we were the people that showed up with no kids of our own but with plenty of flammable objects for other people's kids to play with!
After dinner and fun out in the backyard, dusk finally arrived. We dragged our lawn chairs to the corner of our street, one of the guests pulled up their truck and turned on the radio so we could hear the music to go along with the fireworks, and then we waited. The kids ran around squealing with excitement until it was finally dark enough for the first firework to go off, and then everyone settled in for the show. And what a show it was! We enjoyed the heck out of it. After a fantastic finale, it was time to call it a night. Little ones were exhausted and melt downs were occurring left and right. We bid everyone farewell, and the celebrations drew to a close.

I hope everyone else had a lovely 4th of July as well! And enjoy these wonderful long summer days that we have left!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

A Multi-Generational Baby Shower

Last month, I was lucky enough to be able to throw a baby shower for my sweet friend, Alison. She's expecting a little boy within the next couple of weeks, and we had a great time celebrating his eagerly anticipated arrival. What made this shower especially fun for me was that I got to play hostess alongside my mom and grandmother. You see, our moms have been best friends since childhood (Alison's mom actually hosted a shower for my mom when I was born -- check out that vintage photo below), and our grandmothers are friends as well! So we turned this into a shower that spanned three generations of family and friends, and it was just so much fun.
Our goal was to tie in elements of baby shower trends from over the years. For our current generation, we opted for mason jars, paper straws, and cutesy favors. Our punch was popular during Mom's generation, and we were sure to include butter mints and nuts in a nod to my Grandmother's era.
For our invitation, I turned to Freshly Squeezed Cards on Etsy. How cute is that little yellow bird? And it went perfectly with the colors we wanted to use: light blue, yellow, and grey,
We kept decorations pretty simple. I made a table centerpiece using antique blue mason jars filled with white hydrangeas and a wooden "S" monogram spray painted grey for the family's last name. We draped the serving areas with white tablecloths and hung a customizable banner. I like to use clear plastic plates and metallic plastic cutlery (that looks deceptively like real silverware) for food and mason jars with patterned paper straws for drinks. This time around we also used Susty Party's punch cups and cute patterned napkins.
Food we kept fairly simple as well. Since it was an afternoon shower, we wanted easy to eat finger foods. The final menu consisted of fruit skewers, Mini Zucchini Basil Quiche, Rosemary and Lemon White Bean Dip with pita chips, marinated mushrooms and mozzarella, spiced pecans, butter mints, frosted sugar cookies. A local girl made the cookies for us, and we were thrilled at how well they turned out. They were a big hit! For drinks, we served Cucumber Citrus Water (just fill a large beverage jar or pitcher with ice and lemon, lime, and cucumber slices, and top it off with water) and a Pineapple Punch (Ginger Ale and pineapple sherbet). I placed frozen blueberry skewers in each punch cup for a little extra color and fun.
Once everyone arrived, we had a wonderful time catching up. After snacks and sips, we moved into the living room for Alison to open presents. Thankfully, she had some expert help from a couple little girls in attendance! Along with gifts, we gave books in lieu of cards. I picked this darling book, How to Catch a Star, that tells the story of a boy who longs to befriend a star. It's so sweet, and the illustrations are beautiful.
Once the afternoon drew to a close and hugs were given all around, we sent folks home with lavendar bath salts tied up with colorful ribbon and twine in little paper sacks. Because who doesn't deserve to put their feet up in a hot bath, especially a mom-to-be? It was a lovely afternoon with lovely people. Now for the countdown to meet that little baby!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Kurt & Nina Come to Dallas

Guess who came to town a couple weeks ago? Kurt and Nina! After a fun visit to hang out with them in Tucson a few months ago, they decided to make the trek to Dallas. We had a great time catching up and showing them around town. Here are the highlights from the weekend (I doubt you'll be surprised to discover that most of them involve food)!

First up was one of our favorite downtown McKinney combos: Pie Night! To start things off, you get yourself a couple pizza pies at Cadillac Pizza. Then you follow that up with heavenly dessert pie at Emporium Pies (favorites this time around were the Cherry Bomb cherry pie and the Mellow Yellow lemon chiffon pie). And that's it, simple as that!
We spent a little time enjoying the warm summer air out on the back porch (and I finally got to light the mason jar lanterns that we made)!
There was TexMex to be eaten and margaritas to be sipped at La Hacienda Ranch in Frisco. Because you can't visit Texas without indulging in a little TexMex!
We made the trek into Dallas so we could poke around the Bishop Arts District. It's such a fun neighborhood, and we discover something new each time we visit. This time, we meandered around the neighborhood, sampled delicious (and sometimes delightfully weird) homemade chocolates and toffees at Dude Sweet Chocolate, cooled off with icy cold Topo Chico at The Wild Detectives (a cute coffee shop with a quirky book selection), sipped glasses of locally made cider at Bishop Cider, and we cozied up to a table at the wonderfully divey Ten Bells Tavern for local craft brews and bar snacks.
 Here we are out and about in Bishop Arts!
Finally after a long, arduous afternoon of food and was time for dinner at Stock and Barrel! Gosh I love this place. Favorite dishes of the evening were the avocado toast topped with chorizo (I don't care how trendy it is -- it's delicious), the goat cheese dumplings, the duck confit, and the ribeye.
One morning, we had a laid back breakfast around the kitchen table thanks to Rudy's and their brisket breakfast tacos (talk about killing two birds with one stone for out-of-state guests -- BBQ and breakfast tacos)! Another morning, we drove across town for breakfast at the oldest restaurant in McKinney: Bill Smith's Cafe! While it's hard to go wrong with anything on their menu, I love to get the chicken fried steak and eggs or the taco omelette. Or you can go my husband's route and get pancakes, eggs, and bacon...with a side of biscuits and gravy! So much food!
Kurt and Nina were also nice enough to go with us to the Local Yocal to participate in their Steak Class! A cattle rancher husband and wife team who believe in high quality meats that are raised properly (you know, eating grass and stuff like that without exposed to hormones or antibiotics) started their own meat market to butcher and sell locally raised meats along with some other locally made products.  The class involves a "lecture" from the owner himself about the meat industry, a tour of the butcher shop, a tutorial on all of the different cuts of steak along with where they come from on the cow, and finally (they save the best for last) they grill 17 (seventeen!) different cuts of steak for you to sample! I don't think I've ever had so much steak in my life. It was so fun to compare the different cuts, and they were all the best bites of steak I think I've ever had. It was a really fantastic experience. It was educational, fun, and delicious (also note that the class is BYOB, so feel free to bring your favorite beer or wine along)!
 That's a big side of beef (and I don't mean Kurt)!
After all of the steak was gone and the class drew to a close, we piled into the car and drove 45 minutes north to Sherman to hang out at 903 Brewers for their 2nd Anniversary Party! So far, they're our favorite brewery in the area, so it was fun to introduce them to Kurt and Nina, fellow craft brew enthusiasts. Throughout the party they were constantly tapping new beers brewed solely for the anniversary party. Some were amazing, some fell a little shy of expectations, but they were all fun to try!
 Hanging out at by the taps (these three are beer festival pros)!
For their last day in town, we went to Snug for their breakfast sandwiches. Snug is just the coziest, cutest little local coffee shop on the square in McKinney, and we always try to take guests there if we can!
Finally, we played a little golf at Top Golf (I came in last, as usual, but it's still surprisingly fun) followed by lunch at Freebirds before we had to make the trek back to the airport.
Such a fun weekend with sweet friends! Who wants to come visit us next??

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Grilled Pizza with White Beans, Spinach, & Yellow Cherry Tomatoes

I've mentioned my love of grilled pizza before when we hosted a grilled pizza party for friends. It's fun to make, a cinch to throw together thanks to fresh pizza dough at the grocery store, and ridiculously versatile. Whenever warm weather and grilling season arrives, it's one of our favorite things to add back into our dinner rotation, but since this spring has been so rainy in Texas, the grill has been a bit neglected. Until now! This week has been sunny and beautiful, so when I saw this White Bean and Spinach Pizza recipe from The Kitchn, I knew it was the perfect inspiration for our first grilled pizza of the season! So without further ado, let's get to the pizza.
1 ball of fresh pizza dough
Flour for rolling out dough
1/3 cup olive oil
1 large garlic clove
4 oz taleggio, rind removed
Grated mozzarella
1 can of cannellini beans (though you wont need the whole can)
A handful of fresh spinach
6 or so yellow cherry tomatoes, halved

Light the grill, and let it get as hot as possible.
(Warning: my grilling instructions will be a bit lacking, as my husband is in charge of the grill at our house).

While the grill heats, toss and roll out your pizza dough.
(We try to get ours as thin as we can and as round as we can, though it usually ends up pretty oddly shaped. There's no judgment here. It'll still taste good).

Also, heat the olive oil in a small pan on the stove over medium heat. Once hot, toss in the minced garlic and let simmer for a few minutes to infuse the olive oil with the flavor of the garlic.

Once the grill is hot, toss on the pizza dough. Close the lid, and cook for 1.5 to 2 minutes.
(We use a wooden pizza peel dusted with semolina to prevent sticking. One good quick jerk of the arm should slide it from the peel to the grill).

Once the bottom has crisped nicely, remove the dough from the grill, and flip it over so that you can decorate the cooked side with the toppings.

Brush the crust with the garlic-infused olive oil, and top with roughly torn pieces of tallegio and the grated mozzarella. Scatter with a good handful of white beans, tomato halves, and fresh spinach leaves.
(Try to avoid overloading the pizza too much so that everything will heat through and melt nicely in the quick amount of time required to cook the bottom of the crust)

Return the pizza to the grill, close the lid, and cook for another 1.5 to 2 minutes. The bottom should be cooked and crispy (a few charred spots are fine), and the cheese should be melted.

Cut into pieces (I use kitchen shears), and serve immediately!

Friday, April 24, 2015

One Pot Chicken Orzo Salad with Blood Orange Vinaigrette

Can I tell you how long I've been wanting to share this recipe with you? It's been months since we improvised this little dinner number (you know, back when blood oranges were in season), and yet here I am, only just now letting you in on the secret. I love a warm pasta salad, and this one can be pulled together using just one pan. Orzo is tossed with a citrusy vinaigrette, shredded chicken, cilantro, toasted almonds, and sweet little pomegranate seeds, and the results are pretty darn good.
Serves 2-3

1 cup orzo
1 large chicken breast
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1/4 cup cilantro, roughly chopped
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds
1/4 cup juice from a blood orange juice
(regular orange would work fine too I bet)
2 Tb balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a dry saucepan over medium heat. Once heated, toss in slivered almonds and toast for a few minutes, stirring and tossing occasionally, until the almonds begin to turn golden brown. Once toasted, remove the almonds to a bowl, and wipe out the saucepan.

Place the chicken breast in the same saucepan, season with salt, and cover with enough water to cover the chicken by about two inches.

Place the saucepan on a burner over high heat, and bring the water to a boil. Once the water comes to a boil reduce the heat, and let simmer for 10 minutes or so, until cooked through.

Remove the chicken from the water to a cutting board. Return the water in the saucepan to a boil. Once boiling, add in the orzo and another pinch of salt. Cook the orzo according to package directions (about 8 minutes).

While the orzo cooks, whisk together the blood orange juice, the balsamic vinegar, and a pinch of salt until the salt is dissolved. Then slowly whisk in the olive oil to make your dressing. You can also shred your chicken breast once it's cool enough to handle.

When the orzo is done, strain and return to the saucepan. Pour in about half of the salad dressing and toss in the shredded chicken. With the burner on medium-low, toss the orzo, chicken, and dressing and cook until the orzo has absorbed some of the dressing and the chicken is warm. Taste and add more dressing as desired.

Once warmed through and dressed to your liking, remove from the heat and toss with the chopped cilantro, about half of the pomegranate seeds, and a couple cracks of black pepper.

Serve warm (though I imagine that it would be good cold as well), topped with the remaining pomegranate seeds and almonds.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Texas Pimm's Cup

On a trip to London a couple of years ago, I ordered a Pimm's Cup on a whim while browsing around the Borough Market, and I was hooked. Pimm's is a gin-based liqueur that's traditionally mixed with lemonade, mint, cucumber, and strawberries to form one of life's perfect drinks. Since it's sometimes fun to riff on a classic, I tried giving it a Texas twist (or more accurately, a Mexican twist, beloved by Texans). Along with Pimm's and lemonade, I added a good splash of Lime Topo Chico, a sparkling mineral water imported from Mexico. I'm not sure if it can be found outside of Texas, but if you're in the Lone Star State or if you ever see a bottle, please buy it immediately!  The combination was a delicious one, as it adds a little fizz to the drink while keeping the sweetness of the lemonade. It's crisp and refreshing, perfect for sipping on a beautiful Texas spring day!
Serves 1

2 oz Pimm's No. 1
3 oz Lime Topo Chico
3 oz Lemonade
a few English cucumber slices, cut into half moons (regular cucumber will also work)
1 strawberry, thinly sliced
mint leaves, thinly sliced into ribbons

Fill a tall highball glass half full with ice.

Toss in a few cucumber slices, strawberry slices, and a good pinch of mint leaves.

Pour the Pimm's, lemonade, and Lime Topo Chico into the glass, and stir.

Serve with a straw, and enjoy!

Saturday, April 4, 2015

Pan-Seared Salmon over Arugula Salad

As much as I miss Boston, can I tell you how thrilled I am that warmer weather has arrived in Texas while winter lingers long past its welcome in New England? Hopefully this post finds you enjoying warmer weather as well, but if not, I'll try sending a little Texas sunshine your way, because Spring has arrived. And with the arrival of spring, so returns my excitement for making salads again!

One of the first meals we cooked in our new house was this beautiful recipe from Serious Eats. While perfect without a single tweak, I couldn't help myself from throwing in a few more things here and there. I've added a splash of soy sauce for the pan-seared salmon. And into the salad, I tossed cucumber slices for a little extra crunch and mandarin oranges for a little sweetness to balance out the bite of the arugula. I feel like mandarin oranges are a little "un-cool," but you know what? They taste good, and they add a pretty pop of color as well.
Serves 2

2 4-6 oz salmon fillets, skin on
2 tsp soy sauce
3-4 cups baby arugula
1/2 cucumber, peeled and thinly sliced
1/2 can of mandarin oranges, drained
1/2 avocado, diced
1 Tb lemon juice
2 Tb olive oil + 1 Tb olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat a skillet over medium-high heat. Pour in a tablespoon or so of olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan. Once the oil is hot, place the salmon in the pan, skin side-down.

Cook for about 6 minutes, until the skin has crisped nicely. About 1-2 minutes into the cooking process, pour a good splash of soy sauce over the top of each fillet.

While the fish cooks, make the dressing by whisking together lemon juice and a pinch of salt until the salt is dissolved. Then whisk in the remaining 2 Tb of olive oil.

Once the salmon skin is nice and crisp and the fish is cooked about halfway through, gently flip the fillets, lower the heat to medium-low, and cook for another 2-3 minutes, until a thermometer inserted reads 130-140 degrees (130 is medium).

While the fish finishes, toss the arugula, cucumber, and avocado with the dressing. Divide onto two plates and scatter with the mandarin oranges.

Once the fish is done, remove from the pan, and place on top of the salad, skin side-up. Serve immediately, and enjoy!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

A Night with Gemma

A couple weeks ago, my husband and I made it into the big city for a date night at Gemma. It was a chilly, drizzly evening (as so many have been this month), but inside the restaurant was cozy and warm. We sidled up to a little table for two and started with a round of cocktails while browsing the menu.
My husband sipped on a Fennel Rickey while I tried a Muddled Kumquat Caipirinha. I wished for a little more sour kick from the kumquats, but it was very good!
The food was the real star of the show, though (along with the wine on tap)! I started with a beautiful shaved vegetable salad. Crisp romaine leaves were topped with creamy-tangy dressing, parmesan, and paper-thin but still crisp shavings of carrot, a couple radish varieties, and kohlrabi. We each opted for one of their homemade pasta dishes for our main course. I honestly didn't think we would find good homemade pasta after leaving Boston, but both the pappardelle and the ricotta cavatelli tossed with rich, braised meats were wonderful. Along with glasses of red wine, it was perfect fare for a chilly evening.

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spring Green Frittata

March has been a happy month around here between pie for Pi Day, Irish Soda Bread for St Patrick's Day, and the first day of Spring! To celebrate the change in the seasons, I whipped up a frittata chock full of vegetables (plus a handful of grated cheese for good measure). It's perfect for a quick dinner or weekend breakfast! And wouldn't it be lovely for an Easter brunch? Here's to looking forward to warm weather and sunshine!
Serves  6

1 Tb olive oil
1 bunch swiss chard, stems removed and leaves sliced into ribbons
1 bunch of asparagus, tough ends removed and sliced into 2" pieces
4-5 mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp herbes de provence

9 eggs + 3 egg yolks
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
1/2 cup gruyere cheese, grated
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
2 Tb panko breadcrumbs
1 1/2 tsp salt
black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 325F.

Heat oil in a large (10") oven-proof skillet (I used cast-iron) over medium heat. Add the mushrooms, herbes de provence, and salt, and cook, stirring occasionally for 8 minutes or so. The mushrooms should be browned and the extra moisture evaporated.

While the mushrooms cook, whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, cream, salt, and pepper. Then stir in the breadcrumbs and grated cheese.

Once the mushrooms are browned, add the asparagus and swiss chard to the pan, stirring for 3-5 minutes until the swiss chard has just wilted. 

Pour the egg mixture over the vegetables, stirring to combine. If you need to, shake the pan a bit or carefully tilt it to make sure that the eggs settle all around the vegetables. 

Smooth the top of the frittata with your wooden spoon, and then place it in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the eggs are set and cooked through.

Remove from the oven when done, and let cool for a few minutes before serving. Serve sprinkled with a little pinch of grated parmesan if desired.