Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Weeknight Dinner: Grilled Pork Chops and Peaches

I had an interesting conversation with a friend the other day in which she said she loved reading the blog because she liked looking at dishes she "could never make." Bless her heart because I know she meant it as a compliment and I appreciate every eyeball on this little 'ole blog, but part of me died a little when I heard that.

It's my greatest pleasure to hear about when people make one of my dishes and enjoy it. Window shopping is fun, but what's the point if you guys don't feel like you can make this stuff? Food blogger reality check.

Spending an extended period of time on a Sunday afternoon cooking something challenging is about my favorite thing in the world (plus wine, of course). But let's get real... there's not always the time and many of you are trying to keep tiny people alive day in and out (mad props, seriously). Not to mention, I'd be 20lbs heavier if we ate tagine and risotto every night.

With all this said, I'm going to start sharing more of the stuff we eat during the week. Like the stuff I throw together whilst complaining to the Husband about endless meetings or figuring out when the dog goes to the groomer. We still eat well during the week, but it's always a lot less composed. Think of these posts more as idea-starters than tried-and-true recipes. I'll try my best to inspire, because there ARE simple and healthy foods that can be prepared quickly.

As a caveat to this whole rant, I am blessed to have incredible lady friends that I've known most of my life. They put up with my endless shenanigans and constantly inspire me (sometimes unintentionally). #TheLuckiest

So let's get real with a Monday night dinner...

The pork chops were huge, so the Husband and I split one and saved the rest for leftovers. Hello, lunch. I also decided halfway through that this would be awesome with a spinach salad, so try that for yo'self!

Grilled Pork Chops and Peaches
4 bone-in pork chops, about 1 1/2 inches thick
4 peaches, halved and pitted
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons dried mustard
Dijon or whole grain mustard for garnish

Preheat grill. Rub down both sides of chops with olive oil, salt, pepper and mustard. Grill over medium-direct heat for about 5-6 minutes per side, until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Grill peaches for about 3 minutes per side.

Allow meat to rest for 5 minutes before slicing. Serve with grilled peaches and a dollop of good-quality dijon or grainy mustard. Would also be tasty atop baby spinach. Enjoy!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Wine Time: Giving Rose a Chance

When did Rose get such a bad wrap? Probably has something to do with it being sold in massive bottom-shelf jugs (you know the ones I'm talking about). Maybe it's pink color means that we don't take it seriously. Whatever the source of ill-repute, it was never a wine that I wanted to try.... until this summer.

One of my dear friends -- a woman of impeccable taste -- brought a bottle to a recent outdoor picnic and I was so pleasantly surprised. Tart, fruitful and crisp, but with more complexity and body than most of the whites I typically favor in the summer. Completely refreshing on a midsummer's eve. And I've been on a kick ever since. How had I completely ignored this entire category for so many years?

So here are some of the bottles I've been digging...

My Favorite....
Grand Bois, Domaine Les Cote du Rhone -- About $13 at my local wine store
Medium-body, with sweet florals.

The Runner-Up..

Mulderbosch -- About $10 at my local wine store
Refreshing acidity, with a hint of berry.

Best Budget Buy...

La Ferme Julien -- Available at Trader Joe's for around $9
Less tart, but fruit-filled.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Weekend Reading

The amazing art deco details at the old Omaha Union Station, where we attended a beautiful wedding last weekend.

Local news story on St. Louis Hipsters. This is like mom jeans journalism. Thank you Gawker for proper national mockery.
~via Gawker

The ingenious John Oliver absolutely DESTROYING Anthony Weiner. Deja ewwwwww.
~via The Daily Show

Stunning crepes.
~via My New Roots

If the husband ever picks up homebrewing, he's gonna have to make me fizzy water too. Love fizzy water!
~via Kath Eats Real Food

Quick workouts and corresponding songs. Need to try a few of these to mix up my morning workouts.
~via Buzzfeed

Let's go camping in a yurt. Shag carpets provided.
~via Desire to Inspire

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Kitchen Gear: Insta-Read Thermometer

Hot or not? No, this isn't an early 2000s website, this is a review of a meat thermometer. #SexyTimes

I'd wanted this one for awhile. After seeing it on countless episodes of America's Test Kitchen, I finally bought the Thermoworks Thermapen. Simplicity of design here -- no buttons, large display, no beeps, no settings -- just accurate temperature. Annnnd... I love it.

We have trashed at least three digital thermometers in the past two years, most to dysfunctional buttons or a bit of water. The Themapen is not cheap (around $100), but if it holds up like they say, it will be worth it. Splash-proof too, so as long as we don't submerge it, we should be in the clear.

The biggest benefit for me is the speed of the read. The temperature shows up immediately, without having to fiddle with buttons.

14 colors available. I've never seen this thing in a retail outlet, so buy direct from Thermoworks 

This one is a winner.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Caprese Steak Salad

I've made it no secret that my favorite dish in the world is fresh caprese salad. In peak tomato season, it's simply the perfect meal. But occasionally I'm looking for something more substantial. The call of the grill caught me and a balsamic-marinated steak was a tasty addition. And a bit of peppery arugula was just right to balance out the rich steak.

The marinade uses the same ingredients as the traditional caprese dressing, so no special ingredients needed and it only takes a moment.

And a quick grill adds flavor. Tastes like summer.

I always prefer steak on the rare side, but especially so on salads. The last thing you want is the chew of a gray steak on your fresh, crunchy greens.

 Assemble and done.

Isn't she just so gorgeous?

Caprese Steak Salad
1 1/2 lbs tri-tip steaks
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus some for drizzling
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, plus some for drizzling
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
4 cups arugula, washed
3-4 tomatoes, sliced
1 ball fresh mozzarella, sliced
1/4 cup basil, chopped

Whisk together olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper. Toss steaks in mixture, coating both sides, and allow to marinate in the refrigerator for at least a few hours.

Preheat grill and remove steak from refrigerator, giving it time to come-up to room temperature. Grill steaks over medium-direct heat until they reach an internal temperature of 120 degrees. They will be rare. Allow steaks to rest for 5-10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain.

Assemble arugula and top with tomatoes, mozzarella, steak and basil. Sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper and then drizzle desired amount of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Enjoy!

Monday, July 22, 2013

Weekend Reading

....a few days late...

My friend Mikinzie over at Atypical Redhead nailed all the reasons dating can be rough. While I'm not on the market, I remember every feeling.
~via Atypical Redhead

The bedroom is filled with gray and ice blue, but I think we need a serious P-O-C (pop of color). This has me thinking coral.
~via Centsational Girl

"The idea of literalism in the Bible is a relatively new phenomenon." Heard a fascinating interview with Reza Aslan on Fresh Air this week. What if we viewed the historical Jesus as activist? Need to add Zealot to my reading list.
~via Fresh Air

You wish you looked as good as Katherine Hepburn or Hemingway in your passport photo. Old timey foxiness!
~via Visual News

Make yourself a dang quesaDILLA!
~via How Sweet It Is

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Hot Sweet Shrimp with Coconut Rice

Even food bloggers get stuck in a rut. For all the recipe development, blog reading and pinning I do, you would think we'd always be eating something different. Truth is, just like you, I find myself reverting back to the same things over and over. Sometimes its a celebration of things you love and sometimes you just need to break free.

Read the rest of this post with Queen's "I Want to Break Free" playing. Sidenote -- Never realized how drag fabulous this music video is. Amazing. 

Yes, it is the season of tomatoes, corn and BBQ, but there are so many other refreshing dishes to consider. "I want to break free." The clean herb flavors and bright citrus notes of many Asian dishes always attract me when it's warm, so I decided to put together this rice dish, punctuated with sweet, creamy coconut. "God knows I want to break free."

Paired with fresh-grilled hot and spicy shrimp and perfectly charred red pepper and pineapple; this rice is sure to break you out of your summer salad rut. "I've fallen in love. I've fallen in love for this first time."

With so many ingredients available at groceries stores and bevy of cultures to inspire us, why would we ever eat the same thing over and over? "I've GOT to break free."


Hot Sweet Shrimp with Coconut Rice
2 cups brown basmati rice, thoroughly rinsed
3 cups water
1 cup coconut cream (or coconut milk if you'd like to go lighter)
3 inches ginger, peeled; slice 2 quarter-inch pieces and mince the rest
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1/4 cup basil, chopped
2 shallots, minced
2 green onions, chopped
1/3 cup toasted almonds, toasted
4 tablespoons soy sauce
Juice of 2 limes
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons sriracha
1lb shrimp, peeled and deveined
1 tablespoon vegetable or canola oil
1/2 pineapple, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 red peppers, cut into 2-inch chunks
2 teaspoons sesame seeds

Combine rice, water, coconut cream and ginger slices in a medium-sized pot and bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to simmer. Cook until all liquids absorb, about 35-45 minutes. Remove ginger slices. Allow to cool slightly.

While rice is cooking, heat grill over medium heat. Skewer shrimp, pineapple and red pepper; keeping each separate of one another. Combine honey, sriracha and 2 tablespoons soy sauce in a small bowl; set aside. Wipe down grill with vegetable oil. Grill shrimp for 2 minutes per side. Pineapple and red peppers will take about 4 minutes per side. When each skewer is just about finished, brush with sriracha sauce on each side. Allow shrimp to rest for 5 minutes before removing from skewer.

Toss rice with minced ginger, cilantro, basil, shallots, green onions, almonds, remaining soy sauce and lime juice. Serve shrimp, pineapple and red peppers over coconut rice. Top with sesame seeds and enjoy!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Loft Tour -- Progress

It's been six weeks since we moved into our new loft, so I thought I would share an update on our progress. This is not a before and after situation. Most things outside of HGTV are not. We're slowly working our way through the loft, but I'm not sure it will ever be "done." I'll forever be rearranging and tweaking the space, so consider this progress.

So here she is! The living room and dining room are one large industrial space, with an open kitchen to the left. Our bedroom is just past the kitchen and the office/guest room is just over the wall on the right. We actually had most of this furniture when we moved, but this was the first time we had a chance to "arrange" it rather than just squeeze it in wherever it fit.

I can't get enough of the 11ft ceilings and 8ft windows. Our place in Chicago was bright, but this takes it to another level.

The dining table and chairs were a new purchase for us. We found them at an antique store that specializes in 50s, 60s and 70s pieces, so they're only new to us. 

I love the clean lines and leginess. Yes, I just called a table leggy. So many of the new pieces I looked at were overbearing and heavy. In this space, it needed to feel light and open. The leggy legs on this Mid-Century Modern piece did just the thing. The grainy walnut finish is gorgeous too. I may have the chairs reupholstered at some point, but I'm liking the black leather for now. 

The windows really make the place. Old brown sofa made the move and is hanging in there, though needs more frequent fluffing than it used to. Poor old guy was the only seating in my past three apartments. The pillow we refer to as "Howards Biological Mother" makes it cuddly. 

Sofa - Klaussner, Fuzzy Pillow - Target, Throw - World Market, Rug - Purchased in Turkey / Table - Vintage via My Parent's Basement

Here you can see one of the original posts in the loft. The building is a 100-year old former shoe factory and the construction is SOLID. Check out the iron joist that connects the beams. Crazy! And the beams run throughout to the bedroom. I love the element of character these provide in a rehabbed space.

Chair - Reupholstered vintage via My Parent's Basement, Table - Vintage via my Grandmother's House, Lamp - Homegoods

With the natural light and comfy chair, this is becoming a good reading and blogging spot.

The kitchen is open to the rest of the space, with the stove and bulk of prep space facing the windows. It's been amazing to the have the Husband actually fit into the kitchen with me. Plus I can feed my House Hunters addiction while cooking. #Unnecessary

This is where all the action has been going down. There is enough room for my big block, knives and stove all next to one another. The uninterrupted workspace is beyond amazing.

Here's the other side of the kitchen, looking over to the dining area. The backsplash is stainless steel, which I'm loving.

Then I tried to get a picture in the kitchen with Howard and he was not having it. Apparently he's reached his photo max for the week (too many Instagrams). The one time this dog doesn't want to cuddle...

If he weren't so cute and lovable, he'd be in serious trouble for ruining this blog post. Naturally he's exhausted after this endeavor and is now sleeping on the couch. 

The living room area is certainly the most put together, with the bedroom and office coming along. Sneak peek below, but neither are quite there yet. Remember what I said about progress above? It all starts slow...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Weekend Reading

Insta of the Week: Pancake Breakfast for the Husband's 30th Birthday. 

I'm a Millennial who's sick of getting ragged on by every other generation. Maybe this makes me as narcissistic as they say I am. Need a good comeback for these arguments with your elders? Site this amazing editorial cartoon piece. Key line: "Stop hating on Millennials. We didn't create this mess. We came late to the banquet and were served up the crumbs." Boom.
~via CNN

Interesting gallery of photos from Afghanistan in the 50s and 60s. While war-torn for the better part of the last century, there was a brief rebuilding period in the mid-twentieth century that included moderate easing of conservatism. I love the first shot of the female medical students.
~via The Atlantic

The Husband turned 30 this week, which makes mine feel more imminent. Buzzfeed nailed it, this is my life.
~via Buzzfeed

If this blog were a beer, I think it would be an IPA on a good day, but maybe more Corona on the regular. Bitter goals.
~via Foodbeast

I want to live here. Light n' bright, unexpected pops of color, kilims and clean-lined furniture. All of it is to.die.
~via Desire to Inspire

Wanting this purse to tote around my DSLR. Wrapping it in a scarf probably isn't adequate protection.
~via Lo and Sons

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Classic Baked Beans

Beans, beans the magical fruit...the more you eat 'em the cuter you'll look? I don't think this is scientific fact, but I love baked beans. They're a BBQ classic for a reason. Sweet, smokey and spicy; all things this girl likes. 

I was craving beans for a BBQ recently and endeavored on some online research. Some hardcore food people were all about starting with dry beans, but other Southern traditionalist types swore by canned pork and beans. Who to believe -- east coast media elites or southern state home cooks? C'mon... this is an easy one. 

Bring on the pork and beans!

But it's not like I'm just going to reheat canned beans. No, no. Don't you realize you're reading a food blog?

Don't be so skeptical. Celery, green pepper, onion and bacon are going to plus up these humble canned beans.

Wait... you're still greedy for more flavor? Don't worry, there are spices and yummy stuff to build up those beans.

Still not satisfied? How about some local beer? Now we're talking. Did I really have to bring beer into this to convince you? It's okay, I love beer too.

Baked to oooey gooey beany perfection. You won't even remember that pesky can.

Classic Baked Beans
1 teaspoon olive oil
6 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 cup celery, diced
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup green peppers, diced
1 28 oz can pork and beans
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon dried mustard
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon brown sugar
8 oz can tomato sauce
1/4 cup full-flavored beer

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Heat olive oil over medium-hight heat in a large skillet. Add bacon and cook just until browned. Remove bacon from pan using a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate. Add celery, onion and green pepper to pan with remaining bacon fat. Cook until vegetables have completely softened.

In a large bowl, combine bacon, cooked vegetables, oregano, mustard, vinegar, brown sugar, tomato sauce and beer. Stir to combine and pour into a baking dish.

Bake for about 45 minutes until beans thicken. Allow to cool 5-10 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Goat Cheese Pistachio Scones

Sometimes I like to be a fancy lady. You know... the kind who cooks in pearls with her hair done. I've got the lipstick part down, but I need to work on the rest. Confession, I frequently wear Crocs when I cook... hangs head in shame

Certain foods make me feel fancy and ladylike too. Grown up tea party stuff. I had a few friends over for brunch recently and decided to be a fancy lady. Horrendous, dishwashable shoes were put away. We used cloth napkins and sat at a table like real adults. This called for legit tea party food... enter Goat Cheese Pistachio Scones. 

These are legitimately two of my favorite things. Goat cheese is the crack of the dairy world and I could single-handedly consume a pound of pistachios in under 6 minutes if it weren't for the shell cracking to slow me down. Witnessing this would probably not help you think I was more ladylike. Thank the shells! 

Salted pistachios are great to snack on, but would have overpowered in a scone. I had trouble finding unsalted pistachios in my market, so I rinsed thoroughly under water and dried them out in the oven before I got started with the scones.

Dried, crunchy, chopped and de-salted. Scone-time!

The key to making any dough like a scone or a biscuit is to have very cold wet ingredients. When then butter grinds up into tiny pieces, as opposed to being melted, it will give off steam while baking. This creates air pockets, which gives the pastry luscious lightness with those buttery flakes we all love.

For this dough, I froze the goat cheese crumbles ahead of time and took the butter straight from the fridge.

Combine with mixed dry ingredients in a food processor just until it looks like small pebbles. Then you'll add the pistachios, combining lightly with a fork.

Make a well in the middle and add beaten egg and cream. Then use a fork to gently rake the dry ingredients into the wet.

The mixture looks weird and lumpy. The dough will be very loose. Don't freak out, this is going to be okay.

Dump onto a floured surface and use your hands to gently pat the dough together. The warmth of your hands will start bringing it together. Keep at it just until it sticks. You don't want to overwork the dough.

Form into a 1.5 inch thick disc and slice like a pie. 

By lightly working the dough, you've preserved all of those lovely buttery bits and lumps of cheese. They're like little treasures when you find them in the baked scone.

Brush with a bit of cream and top with pistachios.

There isn't a Croc in sight, 10 points to ladydom. Brunch your way to fancytown, because these scones are the real deal.

Goat Cheese Pistachio Scones
1/3 cup pistachios, shelled, plus 2 tablespoons
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus some for flouring your surface
2 tablespoons sugar
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, cold and cut into cubes
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles, frozen
1 egg
3/4 cup cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If starting with salted nuts, rinse pistachios under cold water. Spread in an even layer on a baking sheet and cook for about 10 minutes, just until the nuts dry out.

In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt; just until combined. Add cold butter and pulse until butter pieces are about the size of peas. Turn out mixture into a bowl and lightly stir in pistachios and goat cheese. Form a well in the middle of the mixture. In a separate dish, beat egg and cream together. Pour milk into well in butter/flour mixture and use a fork to gently combine the two. When the liquids are absorbed, the mixture will be quite lumpy with dry spots.

Flour a clean surface and turn out dough onto board. Using your hands, lightly form the dough into a 1 1/2 inch disc. Cut into eight wedge shapes. Place scones on a parchment lined baking sheet and brush with a bit of cream and top with remaining chopped pistachios.

Bake for about 15 minutes, just until the edges start to turn golden brown. Remove from oven and serve warm. Scones are best enjoyed within 1-2 days. Enjoy!