Tuesday, July 30, 2013

a brief departure series: kitchen decorating

I love my apartment. It's a cute studio in the North Beach neighborhood of San Francisco, and I have made it my own over the past 3+ years.

But I am starting to get stir crazy. Or maybe I just need a complete overhaul to the look and feel of it. Or maybe I am just ready to have an actual bedroom again.

I realize how lucky I am to be in a rent controlled place and have the luxury to live sans roommates in a great neighborhood. So I am not complaining.

But I never saw this studio as long term, and so to satisfy myself until I find the next perfect apartment for me in the ultra-competitive real estate market, I have resorted to decorating a non-existent place.

Of course, Pinterest has kept me busy, but I have been combing Etsy, decorating blogs, my favorite websites and stores for inspiration, and below are a few of the ideas I have had.

First up: the kitchen--I know I want bright colors to be prominent in the kitchen, so I like the idea of the brightly colored stools or a shock of color from the kitchen table. 

UPDATED: to include where you can find these lovely pieces

love the brightly colored table and the appropriately themed wall art. I do need to choose a color scheme though...
clockwise from top: coral stool; labeled bowls; mint green scalloped jar; chevron cereal bowls; kitchen utensil photo, courtesy of 7th house on the left blog; bright kitchen table via matchbookmag.com; "eat" sign via etsy, no longer available (similar items here)

Monday, July 29, 2013

cookie. cake.

This one has been a long time coming. Who doesn't love warm, soft chocolate chip cookies? Now make it a GIGANTIC chocolate chip cookie and you have a crowd pleaser on your hands.

My friend Katie has made this a few times (several of them after I begged her) and I became obsessed. Making chocolate chip cookies has always been a go-to that makes everyone happy. During our Christmas baking frenzy (where we are overly ambitious with what we can bake in a day), my mom and I always throw a few batches of good old chocolate chip cookies in the oven.

But this, this cookie cake--it's a new challenge and something different. And what is more craveable than a GIANT chocolate chip cookie?

Recipe revised for a less dense and more gooey cake!

cookie cake
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
2 sticks of butter
2 1/2 tbsp of vanilla extract
2 eggs
2 1/4 cups of flour
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
2 cups of chocolate chips
  • pre-heat oven to 375 degrees
  • combine sugars, add butter and cream together
  • add eggs and vanilla- mix well
  • in a separate bowl combine dry ingredients
  • slowly, add combined dry ingredients
  • add chocolate chips
  • split into two 9 inch cake pans
  • bake for 10-15 minutes
tip: watch this cake like a hawk and check the center with a toothpick. you want the center to be slightly undercooked (pieces of the cookie batter showing up on your toothpick) and the edges a light brown. while it cools it will cook a bit more and you want it gooey on the inside!

You can share, or just keep it all to yourself, but make sure you have plenty of milk on hand!

Friday, July 26, 2013

organization addiction

I am your typical "type A" personality. I love to be in control, make plans and organization gives me a strange high I can attribute to nothing else. It just makes me happy, okay?

Recently I reorganized my bedside drawer just using some boxes leftover from Christmas-what was previously a mess of hand creams, nail files, lip balms, ibuprofen and pillow spray is now a tidy little space that makes me happy every time I open it. It's the little things.

I thought I would share a few of my recent organization finds (from Pinterest of course.) You can also follow my organize board for more ideas if you are as type A as I am :)

tack plastic baggies to a cabinet door-HOW have I not thought of this?!?

the is worth it just to stop the amount of times I grumble re-arranging pans and dishes to get to one

this drawer just makes me seriously happy-my kitchen drawer is getting this makeover!


Wednesday, July 24, 2013

summer dessert: grilled peaches and homemade caramel sauce

I do not have access to a grill, and I feel like my cooking life is severely lacking as a result. I want to grill pizza, have a cookout with burgers and hot dogs, and get creative on the grill with some stone fruit.

Since I choose to live in a city and a small studio apt at that, I am not privy to such luxuries--but that does not mean I am missing out on making some of these treats.

This weekend I tackled some grilled (read: stove top, in a pan, in Mikes kitchen) peaches with homemade caramel sauce because why not? They may not have gotten those beautiful grill marks or the slight char flavor from the grill, but they tasted caramelized and delicious and could not have been easier.

The homemade caramel was a "push myself" recipe, which I made the night before, but put both together for a perfect end of weekend dessert Sunday night.

grilled peaches
2 peaches, slightly under-ripe (should smell ripe and be slightly soft to the touch, but not squishy)
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tbsp butter
  • preheat pan (or grill) with butter -if you are using a grill, skip the butter
  • slice the peaches in half and take out the stem and pit
  • I also scooped a little of the inside out because pieces of the pit were stuck in there and it just looked a little cleaner
  • sprinkle the sugar on a plate and dip the cut side of the peaches in the sugar to coat
  • place them cut side down in preheated pan on medium-low heat
  • let them be for about 5 minutes--you will start to smell the sugar caramelizing and they will be browned in color on the cut side-then you can pull them out
  • place in a bowl with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce (recipe below) and serve!

caramel sauce
This is incredibly easy thanks to Ina Garten, but it needs to cool for a while which I why I made it the night before. I also did not have/use a candy thermometer and was fine.

1 1/2 cups sugar
1/3 cup water
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 tsp vanilla extract (can be omitted if you do not have it on hand)
  • using a deep sauce pan, mix the water and sugar over low heat until the sugar dissolves--about 5-10 minutes-do not stir while dissolving
  • increase the heat to medium and let it come up to a boil (do not cover it) until the sugar turns chestnut brown (if using a candy thermometer, about 350 degrees)-this should take about 5-7 minutes
  • gently swirl the pan to stir the mixture, but be careful as it is very hot-I was unable to get my caramel to "swirl" so I just used a rubber spatula to stir it
  • keep an eye on the caramel as it can get burnt very quickly
  • once it gets to the caramel color, turn off the heat and add the cream and vanilla-stand back to avoid splattering
  • the cream will bubble -a lot- and then the caramel will solidify
  • simmer it over low heat and stir continuously--all crystals should dissolve and leave the caramel smooth (don't worry, not all of mine dissolved and it still tasted great)
  • allow to cool to room temp (at least 4 hours) then serve
caramel cooling

tip: if reheating the caramel, put a pot of water to a rolling boil, and place the caramel in a heat proof container and place in the water bath. it will smooth out, warm up, and not get too hot or burnt.

happy (makeshift) grilling!

grilled peaches, a bit of vanilla ice cream and homemade caramel

Monday, July 22, 2013

sunday dinner: lemony deliciousness

Following my own advice, I had a laid back weekend--and Sunday was the perfect way to end it. I woke up around 10 and went for my first >1 mile run in ages which felt fantastic.

I had some yogurt and berries by the pool and caught up on an issue of Glamour and my latest book (reading Girls in White Dresses--highly recommend) and did some swimming and relaxing. Mike and I hit the mini golf course & arcade for some afternoon fun--he always beats me.

For dinner, I tapped a tried and true flavor as the base of our meal--lemon. It's so versatile and really infuses chicken when cooked properly--so here's what I came up with..

lemon and thyme stuffed chicken breasts
2 chicken breasts butterflied (slice lengthwise, but not all the way through to halve them) and seasoned with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes inside and outside
6 sprigs of thyme, split and stuffed inside chicken
1 lemon, sliced into half moons and stuffed inside chicken
  • pre-heat a pan with a 1/2 tablespoon of butter, let it melt
  • lower heat to low-medium and place chicken breasts in
  • leave them alone. I can not stress enough that to properly cook chicken, and get a nice color on the outside, you should not touch them until they are ready to be flipped
  • you will know they are done when you see the sides start to brown/cook-then flip
  • once flipped, take a spoon and tilt your pan slightly to gather the juices, and baste the chicken throughout the process (every few minutes)
  • once done-again, you will see the sides start to brown, and on a thick piece of chicken it should be about 7-9 mins/side
  • once cooked, take out of the pan and let rest

orzo with sauteed squash, corn, sugar snap peas, arugula and tomatoes
1/2 lb of orzo pasta, cooked (reserve a bit of pasta water for your sauce)
1 medium size squash, diced into half moons
corn on the cob, cooked (I did it with butter, salt, pepper and chili powder, left over from the previous nights dinner) and sliced off the cob
about 2 handfuls of sugar snap peas, diced
about 2 handfuls of arugula, chopped
a handful of baby tomatoes, diced
salt and pepper for seasoning
  • pre-heat a pan with a small amount of butter, and put all veggies except the tomatoes in the pan, season with salt & pepper
  • once cooked through mix with pasta

lemon cream sauce
3 tablespoons of butter
2 tablespoons of flour
a few splashes of cream or milk
a few splashes of your reserved pasta water
salt & pepper for seasoning
juice of half a lemon
  • place butter and flour and pre-heated pan
  • whisk together until you form a thick paste, remove from heat and add the cream or milk-whisk together and put back on low heat, adding your pasta water until you get to a sauce consistency
  • add your seasonings, remove from heat and add lemon juice

spoon sauce over chicken and pasta, serve and enjoy!

shocktop summer shandy with a lemon slice, completing the lemon theme!

I have been searching high and low for these--and they were awesome!!

my morning poolside

Friday, July 19, 2013


It's the weekend and my focus is balance. It seems like this evasive concept but I try to spend my weekends doing a bit of this, and a bit of that which helps me achieve it.

My new obsession is yoga in the morning (any day of the week-it really refreshes you!) I  do it at my apartment using some pinterest discovered tutorials, a few of my faves here, here and here.

I have also discovered yoga before bed, which has helped me sleep like a baby.

Some of my weekend faves: a night out with friends for some drinks (friday happy hour anyone?!), a morning run or yoga, a trip to the farmers market, trying a new recipe, catching up on our fave shows with Mike (watching Arrested Developments new season right now!) chatting with my friends and family back east and sleeping in.

Unless I have somewhere to be on a weekend before say, noon, I do not set an alarm. Sometimes I wake up at 8, other times I sleep till 11. But it doesn't matter because my body is telling me what it needs, and that's sleep.

So pause. Listen to your body. Think about what you really love, and spend your free time accordingly.

And enjoy the balance

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

friday night dinner: chicken roll-ups with creamy cauliflower mashed potatoes

Getting into a relationship prompts eating out, sharing desserts and general indulgence--and it's all delicious, fun and exciting.

But Mike and I have been together for almost a year (ahhhh within itself!) and I am really making a conscious effort to be healthier.

Does that mean I am going to cut out ice cream, cheese or wine? NO. Do you think I will be cutting out pasta? I mean, have you read this blog?!?

It's about moderation, and making small changes where I can, but still indulging at times (buratta and gelato this weekend? yes, please!)

So after a Friday afternoon brainstorm with my co-workers, we came up with these stuffed chicken roll-ups. I swung by the grocery store and the cauliflower mashed potatoes came to me-you get the consistency and taste of mashed potatoes, but you sneak in veggies. It's definitely one of my favorite fake-out foods.

chicken roll-ups
1 lb of chicken breasts, pounded thin (the best part of this is you can buy the breasts, slice in half, cover in plastic wrap and pound the guts out of it. use a rolling pin or any non-breakable object--it really gets your frustrations out after a long week.) this should give you 4 thin pieces
1 lb of spinach, chopped
2 heirloom tomatoes, chopped
1 cup ricotta (buy full-fat, and buy it fresh if you can)
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped (half the amount if dried)
salt, pepper and red pepper flakes for seasoning

creamy cauliflower mashed potatoes
1 head of cauliflower, diced up
4 small potatoes (any type you like) skin left on and diced
1-2 dollops of fat free sour cream
1 tbsp fat free milk
1 tbsp butter
salt and pepper for seasoning

heres what to do (warning-lots of multitasking ahead!):
  • preheat oven to 350, and preheat a pan (I used my cast iron because it can go from stovetop to oven) with some olive oil
  • saute spinach and tomatoes with parsley, salt and pepper in pan (garlic would be a great addition here too, Mike hates it so I left it out.)-once cooked down, drain and save the juices
  • keep your pan on low heat and add some more oil
  • put up a pot of cold water with diced potatoes and small handful of salt-let them boil on their own for about 5 minutes and then add the cauliflower
  • in a small bowl, mix ricotta, and a pinch each of salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
  • your spinach and tomatoes should be cooled, so spread the thin chicken breasts out next to each other, season on both sides with s&p and begin stuffing with a teaspoon of spinach/tomato mix, then a small dollop of the ricotta mixture
  • once you have your toppings on the chicken, roll each one and seal with a toothpick (if you have one)
  • if not, put them seam side down in your warm pan and turn heat up to medium heat
  • you want to get a good color on all sides of the chicken (about 2-3 mins per side) and then transfer to your preheated oven for approx 10 minutes and remove from the oven and let rest
  • at this point the potato/cauliflower should be boiled by now--pierce a potato with a fork and it should almost fall apart-drain your potatoes & cauliflower, making sure to reserve some water
  • transfer to a mixing bowl, add your butter, milk, sour cream, salt and pepper and beat until creamy and season to taste
  • lastly, take your pan juices from the chicken, some potato/cauliflower water and the excess juice from the spinach and tomato saute and heat/whisk together with a bit more seasoning to make a flavorful pan sauce to add to your chicken

serves two

plate and serve-enjoy!