with six foot snow drifts mounting outside my door and about a 36” cover of snow everywhere else in sight, there were few things i wanted to do during this blizzard other than eat grilled cheese and tomato soup.
…ask and you shall receive.
(that little mirror over on the right side of the picture is my car. awesome.)
anyway, i was glued to my couch working from home all day friday and saturday, but once saturday night came around, i was going a little stir crazy. first on my list was whole wheat banana-pumpkin muffins for breakfasts this week. before i started to put everything away, though, i realized i had 1/4 a can of pumpkin hanging around, all my baking goodies out and nowhere to go. so… i made some healthy whole wheat pumpkin dark chocolate chip cookies. in the entire batch, there is less than 1/2 a cup of sugar, whole wheat flour and rolled oats, pumpkin puree, no oil or butter.
unlike 99% of my recipes, i didn’t take step-by-step photos of this one because - to be honest - i didn’t have high hopes! this summer, i was tasked with making oatmeal chocolate chip cookies for my friend adam and i tried 3-4 times before getting them right. when trying to healthify cookies, i sometimes lose my mojo.
to my surprise, they turned out fantastic and i couldn’t help but share them. you get some finished product pictures instead of step-by-step, but i’ll walk you through the process anyway.
1/2 cup pumpkin puree
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 c. rolled oats
3/4 c. whole wheat flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp ground cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
1/3 c. dark chocolate chips
tips & things to do/know before you get started:
-preheat your oven to 350 degrees
-this recipe makes appx. 16 decent-sized cookies
-because there’s no butter/oil, they won’t rise/spread like “normal” cookies, so feel free to put them closer to one another on the baking sheet, but also flatten them out a bit so you don’t wind up with thick cookie puffs
okay now that that’s all settled, let’s get baking!
in a small bowl, whisk together your wet ingredients (pumpkin, vanilla, eggs) and set aside.
in a larger bowl, stir together the dry ingredients, aside from the chocolate chips. once everything is well-mixed, pour the wet ingredients into the dry. the dough will be fairly dry - don’t worry about it. mix in the chocolate chips and make sure they’re evenly-distributed throughout the dough.
line your baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it. roll the cookie dough into balls, flatten them slightly and place them on the cookie sheet. (note: since my dough seemed a little dry, i made sure to knead slightly with my hands to make sure all the flour/dry ingredients were mixed in).
pop them into the 350-degree oven for 13-15 minutes, depending on how well-done you like your cookies.
i love a good cupcake. like LOVE. whenever i would take the train home from NYC in the last year or two, i would pop over to the little magnolia bakery stand in grand central and get a treat for the ride home. it would be pretty darn difficult to convince me to get something other than their cupcakes because i even like their frosting and i am NOT a frosting person.
then one day, i was feeling daring. i had heard rumors that their banana pudding was their truly hidden gem, better than any cupcake and i didn’t believe it. i was in new york for a couple of days and knew i could always grab a cupcake later if said pudding was gross, so i went ahead and tried it. let me tell you! it was practically life-changing. HOLY COW!
fluffy, light, sweet, chunks of banana, nilla wafers sort of soaked by the pudding so they were cakey, not crunchy. basically, i wanted to bathe in this stuff.
fast forward to a visit from my friends allie & adam this december. i had a hankering for some pudding (because, well, when do i not crave it??) and as a surprise, they brought some in with them from the city (!!!). best surprise ever?
i ate it slowly because i didn’t want it to end, so i was on the 1-2 Tablespoon a day plan until i realized it would go bad at that rate. i even (gasp) shared some of it.
as soon as it was over, though, i needed more. my schedule would not allow for any trips to new york soon, so i was left to my own devices, the internet and the grocery store. turns out their recipe had been released a few years ago in the magnolia bakery cookbook.
in all honesty, i didn’t follow this recipe completely (in hopes of reducing a wee bit of the sugar and fat). it still tasted AMAZING, i felt a little less guilty about eating it, but the pudding just didn’t have the light, fluffy texture that the real stuff has. to be honest… i’m okay with that. the magnolia version is an amazing treat a few times a year - this stuff was a nice compromise.
if you’re interested in the real recipe, buy the book check it out here. if you don’t mind nixing half the evaporated milk, holding off on half the cookies or swapping out heavy cream for the lighter variety, check out my version here!
8 oz. sweetened condensed milk (1/2 a standard 16 oz. can)
1 1/2 c. cold water
small box instant vanilla pudding
1.5 cups light cream
1/2 box Nilla wafers
3 bananas, sliced
not too intimidating of an ingredient list, eh?
first mix together your sweetened condensed milk, pudding and water in a medium bowl. once it’s dissolved together, pop it in the fridge and let it sit for 3-4 hours.
i tried to whip my light cream and fast forward… it does nothing but froth it. i actually liked this step, but feel free to skip it. by using light instead of heavy cream, you not only save plenty of fat, but you also take away the ability to make whipped cream. hence the lack of the light, fluffy pudding found in the original. this method still makes it less “gloppy” and solid than normal pudding, though, so i recommend it!
anywho, after you whip/attempt to whip the cream, fold in your pudding that should be set in the fridge.
while that sits for a second, slice up your bananas and open up the nilla wafers. get out a large glass bowl/trifle and then get to layering!
pudding > bananas > nillas so on and so forth until you run out of all the ingredients! make sure you’re topping it all off with a final layer of pudding.
and there you have it! a slightly less decadent, still totally amazing version of magnolia bakery’s famous banana pudding :) enjoy!
hi kiddos - happy new year! apologies for being totally MIA. i have been falling off the recipe wagon and even the monthly recap train. all forms of transportation - fallen off.
i guess sometimes it’s more important to be living your life rather than blogging about it, eh? that and a serious case of vacation, holidays and long term dogsitting have gotten in the way. excuses, excuses. i know. i’ll pipe down.
but hey, now it’s 2013. and i know the number 13 has a bad reputation for being awfully unlucky, but i say screw it. this year will be fabulous - mark my words.
while i don’t usually believe in new year’s resolutions (i’m more of a monthly goals gal, myself), here are some things i’d like to do in 2013:
read more.i always say this, but after cleaning out my childhood bookcase this past weekend, i remembered how i used to DEVOUR books and how much i loved reading. hate to say it, but i think it was school’s fault that i started to hate the activity. i’ve also come to the conclusion recently that i much prefer non-fiction to fiction. give me a funny memoir any day of the week. anywho, i got an ipad and am hoping that a high tech e-reader is the answer to my prayers. i’ll flip a page with a flick of my finger and i won’t have a pile of dust-collecting books taking up valuable real estate in my room once i’m done with them.
pay off my student loans. the beauty of moving home after a few years living on my own is that alllll the money i would have put towards rent and utilities has gone straight to the us dept of education and dear old sallie mae. while i absolutely detest these folks, i’m proud to report that i am aiming to rid my life of them by my birthday. about eight years ahead of schedule, but not a moment too soon. (don’t worry, though, i still think my education and college experience were worth every penny)
start grad school. the only stinky part about goal #2 is that DoE and sallie will be welcomed back into my life a few months later if and when i start grad school. great… i think this decision will pay off big time in the long run, even if it makes me slightly grumpy for the next 2.5 years. if i’m going to be serious about this goal, though, maybe i should focus a little more on studying for the GRE, which i’m taking in t-26 days. just a thought.
drink more water.i’ve fallen off the wagon from my days as a loyal #100ozchallenge member and i really need to get back into sipping h2o at my desk and carrying it with me. sure, it might result in a great many bathroom breaks, but it’s for the best. i think i’ve found the key to my success at this challenge lies in the power of straws. am i wrong or is everything more fun to drink with a straw?
run three 5k’s. last year i ran two (one in person, one virtual) and i’d like to step up my game by completing three this year. also, by run, i mean any combination of running and walking that i see fit. at this point, i could care less about my finishing time and just care more about finishing. i’ve already got one on my calendar for the end of march, so we shall see where else i round out my list of three!
follow the one-minute rule. when i was reading gretchen rubin’s the happiness project, one of my favorite tips was her one-minute rule. if any task you need to do (call in a prescription, file a bill or pick up a pair of shoes) will take less than a minute, JUST DO IT. if you keep putting it off, you’ll eventually have a pile of shoes, a thick stack of bills or will be scrambling at the last minute to get to the drugstore. if you just take care of it at that moment, though, you weirdly will end up with less of a mountain of chores and more free time, i’ve found. i love, love, love this goal, because it has already worked wonders for me in the first week of the year.
bite the bullet.i love pen pals and value relationships, but i am terrible about putting off email responses and dawdling when it comes to making phone calls i don’t want to make. i need to just get them over with and be a responsible grown up… at least in this one small aspect of my life!
make a portfolio website. you might not know it, but i design websites and graphic design elements in my spare time. for lots of people, too! i am so proud of some of the work i’ve done, but have nowhere to display it. i’m not sure if i’ll make it a tab on this ole blog that i can link people to or start a whole new site, but i need somewhere to show off my stuff!
downsize.i’m insanely sentimental - as seen in the picture above, where i’m sporting a nursery school headband, my first pair of goggles and a sequined headband from my third grade dance recital..). i still have napkins from airplanes i took on my first trip to california when i was 12 and purses from sixth grade. at the end of the day, i don’t NEED this stuff. if it doesn’t fit, isn’t in style or isn’t representative of some monumental moment in my life, i have a feeling there is someone else who could use it (donate!) or the garbage would really appreciate it. before i moved home, i tackled a monstrous purge of the contents of my room, but after settling back in for a year and a half, i’m sure i can afford another sweep through.
think of tv as a reward, not a hobby.i love television. like love, love, love it. i swear netflix and the dvr are the demise to any exercise routine or productivity in my life. i need to remind myself that tv is a reward when i’ve done everything i NEED to do, not just a nightly activity. also… less mindless tv (i’m looking at you,keeping up with the kardashians) and more dedication just to the series i love.
go to sleep earlier.(gratuitous picture of my favorite snuggle buddy, lulu - yes i’m hidden under those covers somewhere) whenever i get into a routine of going to bed earlier, i am reminded how much i LOVE it. nothing good happens after 1030p when i have work in the morning and i always feel so much more refreshed in the morning when i get a good night’s sleep. i can’t control when i have to get up in the morning, but i can control what time i go to bed at night. also, note to self: you’ve seen every episode of friends at least six times. you don’t need to stay up until 1130p every night to catch an ep before sleep.
be grateful. pretty simple - and yes, i recognize this quote has nothing to do with gratitude - i just needed somewhere to put it. i know i’m very lucky and have an amazing family, friends, job, my health, etc. sometimes it’s easy to forget to be grateful for these things, but i’m going to make every effort to be more mindful of this in 2013.
i finally, finally made a contribution to the thanksgiving table year! the best part was i made this the day before the holiday, so i could stay out of dad’s way while he was preparing the actual feast. (truth be told, we went out to eat on thanksgiving this year and then had a mini family thanksgiving dinner on black friday! best of both worlds.)
i love my nona’s traditional cranberry sauce, but instead of mimicking her exact recipe, i looked for a new, unique one to use on my own. i found this one from cooking light and based my recipe off that, just tweaking a few measurements. it got rave reviews and i can’t recommend it enough! it’s not quite as tart as some cranberry sauce recipes, which i really liked. it made the side go better with the rest of the plate! i thought the cinnamon and apples were a FANTASTIC touch.
i realize i should have posted this before thanksgiving, but i’m posting now in hopes you can enjoy this for christmas dinner :) happy holidays!
2 chopped, peeled granny smith apples (appx. 1.5 cups)
1 bag (12 oz.) fresh cranberries
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white grape juice
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
peel the apples and chop the fruit into 1/2” pieces. wash and rinse your cranberries, too.
combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil (watch out for exploding cranberries! they’ll get ya in the eye!). reduce heat and let simmer for about 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally.
let it cool, store it in the fridge and serve chilled. it’ll firm up the longer it cools.
since i hate gravy, this is my favorite thing to eat on top of turkey! enjoy :)
the end of an era | saying goodbye to my first car
so… i do this thing. i get unnecessarily attached to inanimate objects. i personify things that aren’t people and name pretty much any animal that hangs out in my backyard. i am not entirely convinced that stuffed animals don’t come alive in stores when everything gets shut down for the night. and because of this… i love my first car like it’s part of the family. needless to say, i’m getting a little misty-eyed as i have to turn it in tomorrow and start a new chapter with my (barbie?) dream car. i just can’t help but feeling that i’m also saying goodbye to an important part of my life, since my car’s been through it all with me for the last 10 years.
let me tell you a little bit about my car. his name is nomarocco and was named such because of my affinity for those that have worn the #5 for the boston red sox during my tenure as a fan. he’s a galactic blue 2001 jetta and i got him as a surprise in january 2003 with a big bow on his head. he was a lemon, but the only thing wrong with him was that his cruise control didn’t work. and let’s be honest, what does a 17-year-old driving around glastonbury need cruise control for, anyway? answer: nothing. he was perfect for me.
my mom called me from her cell phone one afternoon, my junior year of high school, as i was doing homework at my desk. she asked me to come out to the garage to help her carry some things into the house because her hands were full. i obliged and came out to the garage to make that face you see above. my dream car (at the time) was waiting for me in the garage and my little high school life changed with possession of my own car. i got a job, a later curfew and could easily pass on the big yellow school bus. i grew up with my little four-wheeled friend.
i made a jetta mix to play on my discman and stream through my cassette player for my first winter and still can’t listen to maroon 5’s songs about jane or coldplay’s a rush of blood to the head without immediately flashing back to that first winter with my car and aimless drives around town with my friend michelle.
he’s gone through every move with me, lived outside four apartments and one house with me and traveled to eight different states with me. he’s let me sing at the top of my lungs with him, get lost on adventures and eat breakfast with him when my temporary summer digs in boston were too disgusting to eat in. i’ve cried, laughed and even done phone interviews/gotten job offers all zipped up in the drivers seat.
we’ve gone on vacation together, played in the snow together and moved together. in 2008-09, we played soccer mom when i nannied my first year out of school and we were also totally immature at other times, cramming far too many people inside after a concert in high school (yes, including one stuffed in the trunk).
he’s pissed me off a few times, making me endure a few recalls, some pricy fixes and nearly stranding me far from home. i’ve lost his keys, locked myself out and forgotten where i’ve parked him before, but all in all, he’s been the best first car i could ever ask for. i’m not quite sure what breaks my heart more: thinking that he could be sold for parts or that someone else might take him home and drive him around as their own. he is my car, after all. together we’ve traveled over 125,000 miles and i went from a shy high school student to a grown up with a real job, a career path and a life.
finally, if you know one thing about nomarocco, you should know that he is notorious for smelling like crayons. anyone that has ever been in my car comments on this almost immediately after setting foot inside. and as such, to carry on nomarocco’s memory, i plan to make my first stop with my new car (to be named later) to be a visit to CVS so i can purchase a pack of crayolas and get the new guy to smell like MY car.
we all know the new guy’s got some big shoes to fill.
“one of the most satisfying experiences i know- is just fully to appreciate an individual in the same way i appreciate a sunset. when i look at a sunset i don’t find myself saying, “soften the orange a little on the right hand corner, and put a bit more purple in the cloud color.” i don’t try to control a sunset. i watch it with awe as it unfolds. it is this receptive, open attitude which is necessary to truly perceive something as it is.”—carl rogers
so i’ve been meaning to write up my july and august post for a bit now and the thing that pushed me over the edge to finally get it done? knowing that this post would push ryan lochte off the front page of my blog and he wouldn’t start yapping every time anyone went to elizpaige.com. ha! my fault for putting him on my blog, but seriously… pipe down, ryan.
anywho! onto the second part of my summer and every wonderful thing going on that i was grateful for. i’m sure i’m forgetting things, but i’m sleepy and need to be up for work at 4:30 tomorrow morning, so i know you’ll forgive me. here are some highlights:
1. my aunt and uncle celebrated their25thwedding anniversarywith a surprise party and vow renewal. so romantic of my uncle to plan it all and yes, their vows even made me cry a bit. it was great seeing them and my cousins and celebrating a lifetime of love between those two.
2. two of my best friends, janelle & dustin, welcomed their son, tyler joseph, into the world in july! i was in their wedding two summers ago and it’s crazy to think what life has brought since then. he’s such a sweet little baby and i can’t believe my friends are parents!
isn’t that picture too funny?! he looks so deep in thought. i love it :)
3. we celebrated both my parents’ birthdays with mom in july and dad in august. mom’s celebration involved a trip to new york to see the lion king on broadway and dad’s included a trip to boston to see bruce springsteen at fenway park. both were so fun and i’m spoiled that i get to share in such fun activities for other people’s birthdays!
4. i had a very well-timed and random day off perfectly in line with a just jack party for my friends chris & brian. the weather - again - was perfect for the fun party and in addition to gorgeous chocolate covered strawberries, i even learned how to play ladder ball!
5. after many summers of trying to plan a trip, i finally visited my buddy whitin hyannis port and had an amazing couple of days with perfect weather, picnics, beach, shopping and relaxation. her family is always so hospitable and it was such a nice getaway! ps - did i mention there were s’mores? because there were.
i would whine and say”take me back to summer & the cape immediately,please!” but i’d be lying if i said i didn’tlove the fall. it’s been coming through lately and i’ve been enjoying the beautiful weather andpumpkin flavored everything.
in fact, i think i’m going to go whip up some vegan pumpkin muffins in honor of the season :) any excuse to bake with fall flavors is fine by me! september has been off to a fantastic start, including a trip to NYC, finally seeing my flauty after almost 1.5 years apart and by the end of the month, my other half will be in connecticut for a whopping FOUR DAYS for a gigantic wedding celebration. i cannot contain my excitement!
i hope your summer was memorable and that your fall is off to a wonderful start.
light, fresh, nutritious. everything a summer meal should be, right? this salad reminds me a lot of my last recipe (chicken & orzo salad with herb lemon vinaigrette or orzo stuffed peppers) but it’s meat free and packed with protein. it’s equally customizable, though. if i had a vegetable garden out back, i imagine i’d throw together whatever i picked fresh (zucchini, peppers, squash, tomatoes, peas, etc.) with whatever whole grain i had on hand at the time.
i cooked up a big batch of this salad and ate it a different way almost every day - once as a side with dinner, once as a quick snack from the fridge, another time for lunch on a bed of spinach (GBG = greens, beans & grains!).
1/2 c. quinoa (uncooked)
one can cannelini beans (15.5 oz)
1 small summer squash, shredded
2 plum tomatoes
1/2 red bell pepper, diced
1/4 large cucumber, diced
2-3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 T red wine vinegar
juice of half a lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
kosher salt & ground black pepper to taste
3-4 fresh basil leaves
done with the collecting? time for the doing!
first thing’s first: get your quinoa cooking and wash those veggies.
follow the instructions on your box of quinoa, but in case you bought in bulk or want to know the quick rule of thumb with this great grain, just remember this: 2 parts water to 1 part quinoa. dump it all in a pot, bring to a boil and then let it simmer until all of the water is absorbed. easy peasy!
next up, rinse your beans (until there’s no white foamy bubbles - that’s how you’ll know you’ve gotten rid of some of the salt!) and chop/grate/dice/slice those veggies. i shredded the zucchini because i like the texture and vinaigrette-soaking abilities. i diced up the tomatoes/pepper/cuke, as well, and did a quick chiffonade (rolling and slicing into a ribbon) with the fresh basil.
throw all that into a big mixing bowl and in a smaller bowl, whisk together your oil, red wine vinegar, lemon juice, minced garlic, salt and pepper. pour it on top of the veggies and quinoa in the big bowl and toss everything together.
and just. like. that. you’re done! enjoy it and soak up the last month of summer :)
summer = relaxing + traveling. relaxing + traveling are not always in line with blogging. oops! even so, i can’t fall off the wagon with reminding myself of all the great things i have to be grateful for, so even though it’s mid-july, here are some highlights from june!
i’ve always considered myself more of a spring/fall person, but this summer’s kicking a lot of butt. it’s making me a summertime convert, i think.
1) the first weekend of june, whit and i headed to newport, which blahblahblah you’ve already heard about. one of my favorite things about new england is the ability to visit all different cities/states in such close proximity. sometimes i like using my off-days as free passes to be lazy, do laundry and catch up on sleep. buuuut this summer has been full of day trips, visits with friends and lots of productivity.
2) the following weekend, i did MY FIRST 5K! if you asked me six months ago if i would ever participate in one, i would have laughed at you. i loved the feeling of crossing the finish line and once this summer humidity breaks, i can’t wait to train for a few more in the fall. also, the best part: it was for a good cause, benefiting the connecticut children’s medical center.
3) morgan and dave came into town for morgy’s birthday and i got to celebrate with them at barcelona in west hartford. i love having friends so close you’re just part of their family.
4) i got to celebrate my favorite mama-to-be, janelle, and her bundle of joy (can’t wait to meet him!) at two great showers. i still can’t believe one of my friends is going to have a BABY, but i’m so, so excited to meet him and had a blast at both showers. i’m surprisingly good at shower games!
5) we enjoyed father’s day in NYC with a trip to the bronx zoo, miss ally bo’s performance, a verrrryyyy filling italian dinner in manhattan and some gorgeous weather in the city that never sleeps. i love, love, loved the little monkeys that picked fleas off each other ha!
6) i wouldn’t consider myself a GIGANTIC rascal flatts fan, but i went to their concert this year and it was SO. FUN. it surprised me how many songs i knew of theirs (all but one or two!), considering i’m not a diehard fan. the weather was perfect and it felt sort of straight out of a movie when they started singing summer nights. cheesy, i know.
other than that, i enjoyed some family time with visits from floridian cousins and trips to the golf course with my cousins adam & joel. i got to see all of my favorite hockey east folks when they came to announce uconn’s invitation to the league. i volunteered at a sports clinic for kids and finally got some sunkissed skin. i can’t believe summer’s halfway over, but july’s got some equally fantastic things in store, including TWO (!) trips to the cape, hopefully meeting the baby (!!), another visit to la ciudad and some kitchen adventures.
hope you’ve got lots of fun, relaxing things going on this summer, too :)
“16. When eating finger foods, use the hell out of your dipping sauce, and don’t be bashful. It’s much better to be out of BBQ sauce and have chicken nuggets than vice versa.”—ha! i somehow feel like this is a metaphor for life. (found here with 29 other ways to make your 20s better)
this isn’t a very timely recap since i went to newport like three weeks ago… but just because i’ve been slacking doesn’t mean i should forget the trip entirely! so let’s see…
you might remember that i took a daytrip to newport, rhode island for my birthday at the end of march. it was a bit chilly, but such a great day - blue skies, restaurant week and fun with my mom. i was chatting with my friend whitney that day and she was saying she hadn’t been to newport in years and years and would LOVE to go. right then, we planned a quick girls weekend for the first weekend in june and we counted down the hours.
only issue… june = wedding season. newport = wedding location. weekend = wedding time. ergo… june weekend in newport = nearly impossible to find a hotel. the big staples were all booked, some of the b&b’s looked quite creepy and the upscale boutique hotels required a minimum two-night stay at about $450-600 a night. (no thanks.) instead of driving 35 minutes and paying a hefty toll back and forth over the jamestown bridge, i found an affordable hotel right in middletown (about 3 miles from the center of town in newport) - easy peasy!
on our trip, we visited a couple of the mansions, indulged in cupcakes and froyo (on different days, don’t worry) and had some great seafood. it was a perfect quick trip and we really lucked out with the weather on the second day. of course i didn’t quite luck out with the car issues i had during our last couple of hours in town, but i’ll get to that later.
here’s a little known fact that can save you some money when you visit the newport mansions: when you buy a pass for one or two mansions, that ticket can be upgraded at a lower price at any point within the next year. example: my mom and i bought a two-mansion ticket on my birthday and whit and i wanted to check out two mansions. instead of buying a new two-mansion ticket for $24, we were able to upgrade my original tickets (which i held onto) to a 4+ mansion ticket ($31 value) for just an extra $7. make sense? i thought so! i’m so glad i hung onto the tickets because i ended up saving us $34! such a bargain.
this trip, whit and i visited marblehouse and the elms (i went to the breakers and rosecliff with my mom in march). the mansions are so beautiful and fun to tour without it feeling boring and museum-ish.
eats & treats
we visited cupcake charlie’s on our first day and split a few of the cupcakes (didn’t finish them all, though. womp womp). clockwise starting top left: red velvet, chocolate mint, chocolate chip cookie, peanut butter cup. we didn’t realize until we were inside that cupcake charlie’s had been featured on food network’scupcake wars! what a ringing endorsement :)
since we all know how obsessed i am with self-serve froyo, we had to run into orange leaf (new to me, but they’re all over the place!) on our second day after lunch. good thing we did so much walking to burn it off!
and yes, we did eat food OTHER than dessert while we were there. we had a quick lunch at yesterday’s when we first got to town (no pictures, but quesadilla for me and cranberry chicken sandwich for whit!)
that night, when we went downtown in our cutest outfits, we ended up at the black pearl tavern (which will always remind me of johnny depp and pirates of the caribbean). we split a brie appetizer and both got scallops for dinner. too dark inside for pictures, but here we are outside the restaurant in our cutest summer dresses:
lastly, in between a boatload of shopping (so many shops downtown - a mix of regular retail stores like j. crew, banana republic and gap with fun touristy and boutique-y shops, as well), we had brunch outside on the water at the landing (wraps for all!). and yes, i’m serious when i say this was our weather and our view:
as we were heading out of town, my car started making some embarrassingly loud noises and i couldn’t figure out why. imagine whit and i in our cute sundresses, trying to politely crouch down to diagnose a car issue that we had no clue about. great visual.
a couple of very polite high school boys tried to help us out. here’s another visual: one of the boys put his bike down in front of my car and then crawled half under it off on the side of the road. EVERYONE that walked/drove by, stopped and gasped, staring angrily at me while they thought i RAN OVER THIS BOY. luckily that was not the case and he rigged up a temporary solution for me.
when i say temporary, i mean that it fell off four minutes later and i ended up having to call AAA. my oil pan cover or some-such-thing was dragging under my car and luckily he just ripped it off. you know, instead of my car being stranded in newport or me paying $3 a mile to get it towed 100 miles home…
i proceeded to drive 40mph home through torrential downpours until whit and i arrived in CT safe and sound. always and adventure…
overall, newport was an absolute blast and was a perfect way to kick off the summer. then again, i’ve visited during the holidays when the mansions were decorated for christmas and that was a blast, too. in short… newport is a great new england trip, no matter when you’ve got time to go!
if it doesn’t pass these three tests, give it the boot! i also use the rule of thumb that if i haven’t worn it in a year, it’s gone, too.
i firmly believe that our living spaces are a reflection of ourselves and when i get stressed, my room usually looks cluttered and messy. when i’m feeling good, my room is much neater and more orderly. time to cleanseeee!
a week or so ago, in response to my salad a day post, my friend leeza sent me a recipe for a lemon herb vinaigrette she had just tried. it sounded delicious and i knew i wanted to come up with a summery dinner salad to go with it. my wheels started turning and i had visions of going to the grocery store, picking out some great ingredients on my off day and whipping up something great.
…then i had car troubles, my car was stuck at the shop for the day and i was stranded at home. (more on that when i tell you about my weekend in newport!) good things about being stranded at home: it gave me motivation for a practice 5K before saturday and time to wrap up a couple of freelance projects. bad news: no way to get to the market!
instead, i rummaged through the cabinets and fridge and decided to use whatever we had on hand. the moral of this story is:this summery salad is totally customizable. it can be served hot or cold and can use what you’ve got! use my recipe as a guideline, but get creative :) in short, find a grain/pasta, a protein and some veggies. then follow the steps below and you’ll have a delicious meal.
in my case, we had orzo (i could have also used quinoa), a whole roast chicken (ready to make chicken salad with - but i had other plans), spinach (always on hand for my smoothies) and some red bell pepper for color. looking back, this is sort of the summer version of my one-pot lemony chicken and orzo. (full disclosure: i liked this one better, though!)
ingredients (for lemon herb vinaigrette)
2 T white wine vinegar
4 T extra virgin olive oil
juice of half a lemon (appx. 1 T lemon juice)
2 T water
1 t dijon mustard (optional)
1 t garlic powder
1 t dried basil
1 t dried parsley
generous pinch kosher salt
ingredients (for salad)
1/2 cup orzo
appx. 2 cups diced chicken (we used about 2/3 the meat from this small roasted chicken - you could also use about 2-3 chicken breasts)
3 c. raw baby spinach
1/2 red bell pepper, coarsely diced
lemon vinaigrette (recipe above)
done with your collecting? let’s move onto the doing. if you set yourself up properly, this will involve very few pots & pans and will make your cleanup a breeze!
there’s the start of the show - the lemon herb vinaigrette! i made this in a good seasons bottle (great suggestion, leeza!) so after i poured everything in the bottle, i could easily shake it up before serving. if you don’t have an empty dressing bottle, you could always prep it in a small bowl and whisk the ingredients together.
either way, combine all the ingredients (vinegar, oil, water, lemon juice, optional mustard, salt and herbs) and shake ‘em up. set it aside while you prepare the rest of your salad.
alrighty, here’s where a little coordination will go a long way:
1. get your water boiling for your orzo while you dice your chicken.
2. put your spinach and bell peppers in the collander/strainer you’ll be draining your orzo in and set aside.
3. pour the orzo into the boiling water and cook as instructed on the box.
4. finish prepping your chicken while the orzo cooks and pour the cubes into a large mixing bowl (note: picture above is NOT a large mixing bowl, but i’m trying to help you people save on dishes. learn from my mistakes!) set it aside.
5. when your orzo is done cooking, pour the boiling water over the veggies in the strainer to gently wilt them. pour the spinach, peppers and orzo back into the pot, put a cover on it and let it sit for a few minutes to wilt everything a bit more.
pour the veggies and orzo on top of the chicken and mix everything together. grab your dressing from the fridge and pour it on top of everything. mix everything until it’s evenly and lightly coated. then grab a spoon, serve it up and dig in!
no, i did not graduate from med school. no, i don’t like science. no, i will never be a doctor. my friend ashley, on the other hand… well, you already heard about my trip to philly to celebrate her graduation from med school. what you HAVEN’T heard, though, are some of the insanely creative details she put into her grad party!
in addition to being a total smartypants, ash is super creative and artistic, as well. a rare combo, if you ask me! she was able to take tons of ideas and pictures from pinterest and turn them into a totally focused, themed, fun med school graduation party.
instead of balloons tied to streamers, we blew up latex hospital gloves and strung them around the deck with ribbon!
ash made these adorable candy graduation cap pops with an upside down, mini reese’s peanut butter cup, a square of chocolate, some licorice and red frosting!
okay, this might be a little graphic for some, but centerpieces were portable urinals (filled with rocks and pinwheels) and little urine sample cups were filled with yellow food dye and water. apple juice could easily work, too!
pour grenadine into any drink (alcoholic or non) to make syringe shots! she just made a big batch in a bowl and sucked up the juice right into the syringes. to keep them cool, we kept them in little bedpans full of ice.
finally, she made one of those candy bars/tables that are so popular right now. glass bowls, vases, etc. of all different heights/widths and candy of every color you could think of helped to make the table pretty and fun! there were bags stamped with her official MD stamp and everyone could scoop up their own goody bag. we even put some of the candies that looked like pills into little CVS pill bags. she made an adorable sign for one of the jars (shown above) that said “pill poppin’” too.
make sure your guests of honor (sophie & ollie) get lots of attention and a good seat for the party & last but not least, make sure you remember why you’re celebrating - graduating med school is an INSANELY impressive accomplishment. congrats again, ash :)
told you i wouldn’t slip up on my monthly recaps! let’s see what happened in may… aside from the fact that it flew by!
i spent a weekend in philly to celebrate my friend ashley’s graduation from temple med school. ash and i were best friends in middle school, but when she moved to pennsylvania after 7th grade, we didn’t let that stop us from family visits around the holidays, long stays in the summer and plenty of solo train rides for me to visit her in high school. we ended up going to BU together and were able to see each other all through college. i’m so lucky to have a really special friendship with her, where i can go a year without seeing her and then we can pick up right where we left off, as if no time has passed at all. we really have been through it all together and i couldn’t have been prouder of pennsylvania hospital’s newest MD! (also… sit tight for a recap of her uber-creative grad party!)
another one of my friends from junior high through high school, jane (i think that picture of us is from 10th grade?), recently moved back east for grad school in boston and i got to spend a bunch of time with her during her interim stay back home. we took a day tripto boston, chatted loads about healthy living (she just ran the burlington city marathon this past weekend!) and explored the fresh market together. as is the case with ashley, i love that jane and i area able to pick up right where we left off, too, and i’m so glad she’s not a plane ride away anymore!
i got to spend mother’s day with my best friend in the whole wide world, celebrating my mama! one of the perks of being back in connecticut is getting to see my family almost every day, but i’m always happy for an extra excuse to celebrate my mom. we headed to new haven to seebeauty & the beast(shocking, considering my love of disney and broadway, that i had never seen it before!). our close family friend, andrew, is the asst. company manager and is off traveling the country (and canada!) with the show. we’ve known his family since he was a teeny tiny tot (heck, so was i), and i haven’t seen him in ages. it’s crazy to think how much we’ve all grown up, but i’m so glad his show took a pit stop in CT :)
not that this has anything to do with me… but my parents celebrated their 29th wedding anniversary and 30th year together :) fun fact: my parents’ wedding was one year, to the day, after their first date. when you know, you know, right?
i went to see (probably) my last show at the bushnell until next fall. come fly away was just like twyla/billy joel’s movin’ out in that it was all sinatra’s music (with a live band) and choreography, with no dialogue. i can’t say that’s totally my jam (especially since i don’t know sinatra’s music as well as i know billy joel), but the dancing was amazing and the songs i knew were great. the rest of the show went by pretty quickly. overall, i’m happy i went, but it wasn’t my favorite.
last but not least, the old blog has gotten some new accessories and a bit of a makeover - i hope you like them :) in other big blog news, i was selected as one of foodbuzz’s top recipes of the day last week and couldn’t have been more excited. but i’m sure you already knew that because you probably heard me scream that from the rooftops! (in case not, though, there was my tomato - middle left!) i think i peaked at #4 for the day. considering that was out of almost 4500 recipes, though, i’ll take #4 any day of the week and twice on sunday.
other than that, may included far too much damage at (two trips!) to the outlets, seeing my friend brian & his fiancee chris at dinner after far too many months and surviving some super early shifts at work. now, it’s big plans for a weekend trip and fingers crossed for a great june with lots on the agenda!
**QUESTION: what’s exciting in your life right now? what are you grateful for?**