Friday, August 30, 2013

Weekend Reading

This slow-motion wedding video booth is the cutest. It's getting me in the mood to watch our wedding video on our anniversary next week.
~via Glamour 

I am making this guac with corn and feta tonight.
~via Closet Cooking

This middle eastern cream cheese looks simple and mega delicious. Labneh love.
~via Rhubarb and Honey

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Weeknight Idea: Summer Tortellini

It's been a week of pumping up the jam. I had some big, exciting professional moments to prepare for and naturally this meant rocking out to Katy Perry and Ellie Goulding in the car at 6:00am. Is there anything more intimidating that a white girl flipping her hair around in a Volkswagen? Marketing Eye of the Tiger baby.

With all of this jam pumping and PRing, we needed some quick dinners. Gotta fuel that fire, kids. It's also about 100 degrees, so that puts the damper on my big appetite. A simple summer pasta was just the ticket. I only wish I could claim carb-loading was necessary.

With pesto, yellow squash, tomato and arugula this is a delightful taste of late summer. Enjoy all of those delicious bumper crops while you still can. Plus I heard pesto is a key contributor to PR prowess. It's just science.

Weeknight Idea: Summer Tortellini
1 package refrigerated cheese tortellini (I like the kind from Trader Joe's)
1 yellow squash, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 cup prepared pesto
1/4 cup parmesan cheese
1 bunch basil, chopped
2 handfuls arugula
Salt and pepper

Prepare tortellini according to instructions on package. Drain thoroughly before placing in a large bowl. While tortellini cooks, saute yellow squash and onion in a large skillet with olive oil. It should soften up in about 5-8 minutes. Toss squash with tortellini in the bowl. Add tomatoes, pesto, cheese, basil and arugula; tossing to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy!

Friday, August 23, 2013

Weekend Reading

Fun with the husband on last week's trip to Chicago. 

These are some sassy man-updos! I do think that butterfly clips were an unfortunate oversight.
~via The Bold Italic

As a St. Louisan, I'm thrilled to see the results of Forest Park's transformation.
~via The Riverfront Times

I've always wanted a marquee letter M for the house. This DIY actually seems do-able.
~via 7th House on the Left

This pluot puff pastry tart couldn't get much prettier.
~via Adventures in Cooking

I only wish I could make an elliptical look this good.
~via YouTube

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Meals Can Heal

What is it about a plate of food that can connect us to one another? No matter the time that has passed. No matter our backgrounds or differences. No matter what the hardships. The simplicity of breaking bread (or brunch) brings us together -- sometimes in powerful ways.

I had a meal with a friend who needed to be heard the other day. Did we solve the world's problems? No. Did we each feel a little better afterward? I'd like to think so. I left with a smile and a reminder that connecting doesn't have to be as hard as we make it out to be.

We laugh. We share. We listen. Take the time to enjoy a meal with someone you love. Leave with a fully belly and a full heart.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Pesto Chicken with Goat Cheese Roasted Tomatoes

In my herb-raiding final throws of summer, I scored a MOUNTAIN of fresh basil. I was all like, "PESTO duhhhhhh." I may have actually said that out loud to myself too. Who's a cool cat?

And in my unending love for all-things caprese, I thought it would pair wonderfully with tomatoes and goat cheese. Grilled chicken rounded out this simple summer meal.

I wasn't kidding... friggin' basil mountains up in here. Only in August can you get such big, leafy beauties.

With the help of a food processor or blender, you can pull together this versatile sauce in about one minute flat. Simple ingredients here; just a bit of basil, almond, parmesan, garlic and olive oil.

Quickly pulse together the garlic, almond and basil and then run the processor while you stream in the olive oil.

Hello gorgeous!

Pesto is a great sauce and marinade. Be sure to reserve a few tablespoons before tossing with raw chicken. Let this hang out for a few hours or overnight, if you can.

While you grill the chicken, you can quickly pull your roasted tomatoes together. It's a seriously simple process: slice, top and broil.

Roasty, toasty, goaty. The perfect foil to your fresh pesto.

Pesto Chicken with Goat Cheese Roasted Tomatoes
4 cups basil leaves, loosely packed
1/4 cup slivered almonds
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
1/2 cup olive oil
3 boneless skinless chicken breasts
3 large tomatoes
1/2 cup goat cheese crumbles

Combine basil, almonds, garlic and parmesan in the food processor and pulse just until combined. Run processor and stream in olive oil. Reserve 3-4 tablespoons of pesto.

Toss chicken in remaining pesto and refrigerate, covered, for a few hours or overnight. Remove chicken from fridge 30 minutes before beginning cooking. Grill chicken breasts over medium-direct heat for 5-8 minutes per side until internal temperature reaches 160 degrees. Cooking time may vary based on chicken thickness. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before slicing or serving.

Heat broiler. Slice tomatoes and arrange in single layer on a sheet pan. Top with a spoonful of goat cheese crumbles. Broil sliced tomatoes until cheese melts. This took about 5 minutes in my oven, but broilers can really vary.

Top tomatoes and chicken with reserved pesto. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Rosemary Steak Bites

I raided my family's herb garden the other day. Isn't that one of the great pleasures of living near family? Mooching off their stuff? When you've got such beautiful plants to work with, it doesn't take much to make your dinner taste good. So take advantage of these gorgeous herbs before getting sucked down the all-things-pumpkin vortex of fall.

With such big strong stalks of rosemary, it seemed like a waste to peel the leaves from the stem. Big, strong stems... insert your "that's what she said joke here." But seriously, they were woodsy and burly enough to use as a skewer. Like, a delicious flavor-infusing skewer. #SuckItBamboo

The morning before dinner, slice up your steaks into large chunks and toss in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and a few bits of rosemary. Refrigerate and let it get good.

You'll poke a pilot hole through each steak bite with a skewer and then pass the rosemary stalk through, stem end first.

Grill over high-direct heat for about 3-4 minutes per side, taking care not to break the stalk when turning.

I ended up serving with a variation of my summer herb corn salad, this time adding one bunch of grilled green beans. Savor the summer while you still can.

Rosemary Steak Bites
1-2lbs sirloin steak, cut into 2-inch chunks
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
6-8 rosemary stalks

Whisk together olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Roughly chop 2 stalks rosemary and stir into marinade, along with steak chunks. Refrigerate, covered, for a few hours. 

Remove steak from fridge about 30 minutes before cooking. Use a skewer to poke pilot holes through the middle of each steak bite, and then load 3 onto each stalk of rosemary. 

Grill over direct-high heat for 3-4 minutes per side, taking care not to break the rosemary when turning. Remove from grill when internal temperature of the steak is 120 degrees. Allow to rest for at least 5 minutes before serving. Enjoy!

Friday, August 16, 2013

Weekend Reading

I'm not sure this dog could be happier during playtime. Crazy face!

America's favorite dog (other than mine, of course) is still trying to make fetch happen. Bravo White House for a bit of humor.
~via Time

Holy berry sheet cake. I want every bite of this.
~via Adventures in Cooking

I already want the navy and green dress from the new 3.1 Phillip Lim for Target collection.
~via Shop Sweet Things

These front porches make me want happy hour and a ceiling fan.
~via Desire to Inspire

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Asian Tuna Lettuce Wraps

One of the biggest side effects of moving out of a large urban area? Eating less Asian takeout. I'm ashamed to admit that I used to know what L stop I could call the noodle shop from in order for it to be ready just as I got off the train to walk home. Yes, there was a time they recognized my voice.

We've found a few good joints (LOVE Pho Grand), but the sheer convenience is reduced significantly. And I write a damn food blog, so figured I should make a quick Asian dinner of my own. My apologies to the noodle shops of Chicago for the decreased revenue.

Something about the salty, fresh flavors always call me back. The cilantro, jalapeno, green onion and cucumbers are classic -- with avocado, pineapple and tuna adding just enough twist.

Rice noodles are a great weeknight solution. The water from my tap is hot enough to soften these guys up in just 10 minutes. No boiling needed.

A quick minute to arrange this beautifully will have you wondering why you ever ate straight from the takeout box. Jump in with clean hands and make each wrap your own. 

Asian Tuna Lettuce Wraps
3 albacore tuna steaks
2 heads bibb lettuce, rinsed and leaves separated
1 package rice noodles
1/2 pineapple, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, seeded and thinly sliced
1 avocado, pitted and thinly sliced
1 cup cilantro, chopped
5 green onions, thinly sliced
1 jalapeno, seeded and thinly sliced
4 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
3 teaspoons sesame oil
4 teaspoons rice vinegar
2 teaspoons fish sauce

Combine 2 tablespoons soy sauce and 1 teaspoon sesame oil. Pour over tuna steaks and allow to marinate for 15 minutes. Preheat the grill and then grill tuna steaks over high-direct heat for 3-4 minutes per side, until firm. 

In large bowl pour hot water over rice noodles, completely covering the noodles. Allow to soak until softened, about 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Whisk to combine remaining soy sauce, remaining sesame oil, rice vinegar and fish sauce in a small bowl. 

Arrange pineapple, cucumber, avocado, green onions, cilantro and jalapeno on a plate, along with grilled tuna, noodles and lettuce. Let each diner assemble their own wrap and serve sauce on the side. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Summer Corn Crepes

I saw these on Smitten Kitchen and knew they had to be mine. Want now. Must eat. Is there anything that tastes more like summer than sweet corn, juicy tomato, smoky BBQ chicken and lemony basil? An embarrassment of summer riches.

You may have noticed from the past few weeks of Weekend Reading, but crepes had been calling me. That's the funny thing about cravings, when you have one, you see it everywhere. I was seeing crepes at every turn. They called me.

Sure they sound fancy and while they take a few tricks to get right, once you hit a rhythm, you're golden. Also, you can make a whole mess of them relatively quickly and they're good for breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Start with the sweetest corn you can find. I got lucky and found some hyper local goodie from southern Illinois. Candy sweet stuff from the Land of Lincoln.

Butter makes it all a bit sweeter.

A quick buzz in the blender brings batter of corn, flour, milk and eggs. The trick is to let the batter rest at least 2 hours. This will help keep your eventual crepes from falling apart. Time to marry.

A light salad of tomato, cucumber and scallions await their crepe destiny.

Nonstick pan is a must here. Apply a bit of butter and in with just a bit of batter. Rotate the pan around immediately to create a single thin layer.

When the edges brown a bit and the middle of the crepe bubbles, use a chopstick to loosen the edges. Peel up a bit and slide a flipper spatula underneath. A quick flick of the wrist and your crepe will overturn. 

I PROMISE you'll ruin the first one. Fret not, it is an essential part of the process. It will also make you more humble at heart.

And looky here... I even made a quick video to show you guys. Oh yeah... this is what I sound like. Watch out hollywood.

Stuff with summer goodies and enjoy immensely. This bountiful season will be over in a blink.

Summer Corn Crepes
2 ears of sweet corn
4 tablespoons of butter, plus extra for pan
1 cup flour
2 cups milk
4 eggs
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 large tomatoes, chopped
1 cucumber, seeded and chopped
6 scallions, chopped
1/2 cup basil, chopped
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 cups shredded barbecue chicken

Grill or boil corn for 10 minutes. When cool enough to handle, slice from cob. Melt butter and toss with corn. Add mixture to blender, along with flour, milk, eggs and salt. Blend until combined, leaving a few bits of kernel intact. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours or overnight.

Heat a small non-stick pan over medium heat. Brush with a bit of butter and ladle in about 1/4 cup. Once batter hits pan, immediately rotate around to create one thin layer. After about 2-3 minutes, the edges will begin to brown. Use a wooden chopstick to loosen the edges and peel back one side. Slide  a spatula beneath the edge and flip. Cook for 1 more minute and remove to a sheet pan.

Combine tomatoes, cucumber, scallions, basil, mayonnaise and vinegar. Spoon a heaping tablespoon or two of salad into a warm crepe and top with shredded chicken. Roll crepe and enjoy.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Weekend Reading

Beyonce isn't the only one who got a haircut this week...

Are there couples out there sleeping in separate beds to better their relationship? At first this horrified me, but made me wonder if there are people that make this work. Count me out... I love the cuddle too much.
~via Jess Lively

Aint' no one got time for that! Bravo for other people who call a "bowl" dinner on weeknights.
~via Shutterbean

GRILLED caprese? Two of my favorite things. I'm in!
~via With Style and Grace

I usually ignore any and all celebrity advice (lose weight with a grilled chicken salad for lunch, huh? Shocker!), but thought this piece about turning 30 by Olivia Wilde was really well done. Also, I once saw her fiance, Jason Sudeikis on the street and he smiled at me. #Swoon.
~via Glamour

Colbert has adorable dance faces and some sexy moves.
~via Mashable

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Baby Shower Sundae Bar

Another beautiful baby about to join this world. And goodness, will she be loved. The only thing this mom-to-be might love as much is ice cream. Seriously, I've never met someone who loves the stuff so much. She loves it enough to flip the spoon over with every savored bite. So naturally, I needed to prepare an ice cream dessert for her shower.

I decided to put together a sundae bar, so that guests could customize their treats. But sprinkles and maraschinos seemed ho-hum. I spiced things up.

Baby Shower Sundae Bar

Vanilla Ice Cream

Balsamic Strawberry Sauce

Salted Caramel Sauce

Fresh Whipped Cream

Dark Chocolate Almond Bark

Toasted Coconut

The guests loved the unexpected toppings. I mean, who doesn't love a sundae? And since this party wasn't at my home, it was great that I could make everything in advance. And each component was surprisingly easy.

Strawberries were simply sauteed in sugar and good balsamic vinegar.

Cream whipped.

Sugar expertly burnt and salted.

Dark chocolate was melted and topped with sliced almonds.

Coconut was toasted.

Baby girls and mommas were surrounded by love and good desserts. Bloggers enjoyed themselves enough to forget to take pictures of the finished sundaes. All is well.

Sundae Bar
For 15 guests
2 large containers high-quality vanilla ice cream

Salted Caramel Sauce
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
4 tablespoons heavy cream

Over medium high heat, melt sugar for caramel sauce; stirring frequently with metal whisk. Cook sugar until it acquires a copper color (about 3-5 minutes; monitoring closely). Off the heat, add butter and salt; stirring until butter is fully incorporated. Add heavy cream and return to heat; stirring vigorously. Cook another 1-2 minutes and handle with care; this is VERY hot.

Whipped Cream
2 cups heavy cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Whip cream with an electric mixer, until stiff peaks form. Add vanilla in last minute of whipping.

Strawberry Balsamic Sauce
2 cups strawberries, quartered
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Combine strawberries, sugar and vinegar in saucepan over medium heat. Stir until sugar melts and then reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10 minutes, until sauce thickens.

Dark Chocolate Almond Bark
1 12oz bag dark chocolate chips
1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted

Draw a 9x10 square on a sheet of parchment and reserve on cookie sheet. Melt two-thirds of chocolate over a double-boiler with water just simmering (not boiling). Remove from heat and stir in remaining chocolate, stirring quickly and vigorously.

Spread chocolate evenly to fill square. Top with almonds and allow chocolate to cool. Break into large chunks for chocolate bar.

Toasted Coconut
2 cups sweetened coconut flakes

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread coconut on a cookie sheet and bake for 10 minutes, stirring one or two times. Allow to cool.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Simple Secrets: Watermelon Feta Bites

Sometimes you need an easy party dish. And sometimes you want to look fancy. These don't have to be mutually exclusive. Here's an idea.... skewer cubes of watermelon and feta, garnish with a mint leaf.

Boom. Fancytown.

Sweet, juicy watermelon pairs beautifully with dry, salty feta; with mint perfectly punctuating the flavors.

Such jazzy little soldiers all in a row.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Weekend Reading

Seriously craving more crepes after seeing these Charred Corn Crepes.
~via Smitten Kitchen

The camp gyno. This little know-it-all becomes the popular girl at camp for her period expertise. Cool service idea and AMAZING marketing.
~via HelloFlo and AdWeek

Gin-Marinated Olives... did she just make my favorite drink a tasteful appetizer? Yes please.
~via 101 Cookbooks

These bears are adorably living up to their cartoonish reputation.
~via Deadspin

I love beer and gifs. These are mesmerizing.
~ via

Vermeer inspiration in Valentino's newest ad campaign. Flawless simplicity really makes the colors pop.
~via The Neotraditionalist