Thursday, September 29, 2011

Trying New Things

(Available at

Today, I bought my first cookbook. While I have spent plenty of time pining after beautiful books filled with mouth watering pictures, recipes that make my tummy grumble, and a pleasant reminder of all of the cooking going on around me, I've never bit the bullet and bought one. Most of the recipes that I work with come from EatingWell, Mama Martha, and various blogs that I stumble upon. But last night, I made sesame rice noodles with shrimp and broccoli and while it was a feat to say the least, I was inspired to look into more gluten free cooking. I don't have a wheat allergy, but I would love to be able to pull a gluten free baked good or meal out of my back pocket if the need presented itself. Not to mention that I do have certain curiosities about the benefits of eating sans gluten and of all the diets or eating lifestyles that I think I could manage, gluten free seems like a reasonable and interesting option. You may be seeing more "gluten free - but you wouldn't know it!" recipes here, if I can get my act together. It's the first week of my new job (which I love!), so the simple fact that Jeff and I have eaten solid meals instead of cereal is impressive to me. I'm embarrassed to say that thanks to countless hours spent relaxing during my two months of being job free, a very calm eight hour work day leaves me in a puddle of exhaustion. Soon I'll be adjusted and I can't wait to do a DIY post about decorating my new office! It's truly the little things in life.


Saturday, September 24, 2011

Zoë's Mexican Lasagna

I won't go so far as to say that I invented this recipe, but I've been making it for years and it's one of my favorite easy and inexpensive comfort foods. It can be made vegetarian or with any kind of meat, as a side dish or a main course, and can be jazzed up with any assortment of veggies, cheese, and salsas. I've made it in every possible baking dish, but it works best in something like this - deep enough for at least four layers, the right size to fit a flat corn tortilla. My number one recommendation would be to use a soft corn tortilla, so that it's easy to cut through after baking. I have been known to actually bend bags of tortillas in the market to determine softness, but it's very important for this dish!

First layer of tortilla in baking dish
Meat, beans, cheese, and salsa layer
Four layers later
Ready to bake

(Makes 6 servings)

10 corn tortillas
1 pound cooked ground turkey (ground beef, steak, or chicken work, too!)
1 can beans (pinto, black, refried)
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 cup salsa
Garnishes as desired - sliced avocado, tomatoes, black olives, tortilla chips, sour cream, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Cover bottom of baking dish with tortillas
Add spoonfuls of ground turkey, beans, salsa, and cheese (reserve 1/4 cup)
Repeat tortilla layer and turkey/beans/salsa/cheese layer until you have reached the top of the baking dish
Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cheese on top 
Bake for 20 minutes, or until the cheese is melted and the lasagna is bubbling
Top with additional garnishes (I favor avocado and tortilla chips) and cut into slices


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Currently Crushing

I spend a lot of my free time daydreaming about home decor. I'm anything but an expert and have covered the map in terms of my personal aesthetic, but lately, I've realized that while I like cleanliness and order, I also crave a more eclectic approach. Before Jeff and I started moving into this place, I would lay in my bed in New York and dream about a green, gold, and black living room, a bedroom of various blue tones, an all white kitchen. I certainly could have achieved these visions, but my personality and history would be missing. If you ever visit my mom's house, you will see walls covered with photographs and paintings, hundreds of books lining the walls, sculpture and china and linens that clearly have stories to tell. In their twenties, my parents traveled throughout Europe, collecting keepsakes along the way. When they started to build their own home, they retrieved beloved furniture for their parents' houses - my childhood twin bed is the same one my mother slept in. I only have to look as far as the house that I grew up in to see why I love the room I sit in today. In order to join pitchers from Spain with wall art from Japan, you must have a creative approach, an interest in layering styles, and a heaping spoonful of whimsy. As we get settled further, I'm most excited about going back to California to retrieve more of my own treasures as well as visiting Boise's best consignment, thrift, and antique stores to dig up pieces with their own history. A few looks I'm loving right now...

1. Antique birdcage - I first thought that these would be great for candles, but upon further snooping, I saw that people use them with clothespins to showcase photographs and cards or to fill with flowers.
2. Colored glass - I have a love affair with sea glass and have always like the look of colored glass vases serving as olive oil or soap vessels, as well as for flowers.
3. Vintage clock - I have an old clock in my childhood bedroom that looks like it was transported straight from the 1920's. Why tell time with anything else?
4 & 5. Throw pillows - I'm a big fan of pattern and color and love the idea of layering various pillows for an international splash.


Saturday, September 17, 2011

Le Coq Rouge

The day before my birthday, a card arrived in the mail from my dad and stepmom by way of Le Coq Rouge, a French restaurant in Boise. Knowing how much Jeff and I love French cuisine, they had arranged for a gift certificate so that we could enjoy a Parisian getaway. I had already done a little research to see what Boise had to offer in terms of French food, and after reading the amazing reviews for Le Coq Rouge, I couldn't wait to spend an evening there. I quickly made a reservation for Friday night and daydreamed about frites and vin for the rest of the afternoon.

Le Coq Rouge doesn't have a website and the menu changes daily, dependent on what the chef wants to prepare. Because of this, an early reservation ensures that you won't miss out on any of the offerings. We arrived at 6:00 p.m. and were immediately greeted by a French waiter who showed us to our reserved table and gave us a few moments to peruse the wine list and make our selections. The restaurant is full of character, with old movie posters lining the walls, chandeliers and hanging lights, and lots of color, and it was fun to take it all in while seated at our red checker clothed table.

Our view

The pinot grigio I chose was delicious, light, and dry. Jeff's pinot noir was full bodied and had a spicy kick to it. Best of all, the prices weren't outrageous and the pouring hand was heavy. After starting our wine, the waiter brought over the chalkboard I'd read so much about - daily appetizers and entrees written in chalk to be described in detail by the staff. His explanations were thorough, though it was hard to remember the details of the 11 entrees after he left!

The menu
We started with the well reviewed raviolis aux truffles (truffle ravioli) and coquilles (scallops). The raviolis, while delicious, were a little plain in taste and were dominated by the incredible butter and balsamic sauce that covered the plate. I could have dipped bread in that sauce all night! The scallops were divine, served in their shells with a crunchy cheese, cream, and pesto sauce. I would die for a dinner portion of those.

Ravioli aux truffles

The flow of the meal was perfect if you're in the mood for a slow pace. We had placed our entree orders with the appetizers, but had about 10 minutes to digest before they arrived. I ordered the porc gorgonzola and Jeff ordered the boeuf forestier, neither of which we knew much about but all I need to hear is pork medallions or ribeye steak to know that I'll be a satisfied customer. Mine came covered in a rich, creamy sauce with a serious dose of gorgonzola cheese and pasta. The pork was tender and perfectly cooked. Jeff's plate was very well rounded, with a healthy portion of carrots and asparagus, a potato cake, a roasted tomato with cheese and pesto, and sliced steak and mushrooms in a heavenly, dark sauce. Both were wonderful but they weren't kidding around with the portions. I got through a third of my pork and barely made a dent in the pasta before throwing in the towel, but knowing those leftovers are waiting in my fridge makes me very happy indeed.

You had me at gorgonzola...
Colorful plate

We certainly didn't have room for dessert, but I had to try something and ordered the chocolate mousse cake, a personal favorite. I had never had chocolate mousse quite like this - it had a sort of shortbread crust and the mousse was less pudding and much more crumble, with a texture like dried ice cream (for all you Planetarium visitors out there). While I wasn't crazy about the density, the flavor was rich and it hit the spot.

Chocolate heaven

Overall, it was an incredible dining experience. While expensive, the food was delicious, the ambiance was eclectic, comfortable, and laid back, and everyone around us seemed to be having equally delightful evenings. I like that you never know what to expect when dining at Le Coq Rouge, and I look forward to enjoying the surprises on future visits to France.

Full and happy, thanks D&B!


Quarter Century

On September 14, I turned 25. As one of the youngest of my friends, I've watched my best girls leaving 24 behind in the last few months and have yet to see any quarter life crises. All of my friends are in great places in life - going to graduate school, enjoying exciting careers, loving single life or in devoted relationships. I'm so proud of my friends and the success that their 20's has brought, and I was excited to join the ranks and turn 25. I have a feeling that this year is going to be a wonderful one and I'm looking forward to the second half of what has been an incredible decade. The day before my birthday, I accepted an amazing job, a true "icing on the cake" moment. Now I can't wait to rejoin the workforce, settle in with Jeff, enjoy having a house and dog, travel short distances to see West coast family and friends, and celebrate a more mature chapter of life. Here's looking at you, 25!


Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Book Drive


I'm a huge reader and find few things more satisfying than cozying up with a great book and losing myself in the story. For a long time I was only a lover of novels, but after discovering such memoirs as The Glass Castle and Beautiful Boy, I have become obsessed with this genre. The ability to write one's own story in a way that captivates the reader can be even more incredible than creating a story entirely. From memoirs, I have even started to dabble in a little historical non-fiction, a departure that I never expected to take. I've learned so much about myself as a reader over the past few years, not to mention the innumerable lessons I've collected from the books and authors themselves. Reading is the best escape and I appreciate nothing more than receiving recommendations from other book lovers. I recently finished all of my new books, and instead of heading to the library, store, or back to my own shelves, I turn to you. What is the latest and greatest book you've read?


Monday, September 12, 2011

Home Sweet Home

Since arriving in Boise two months ago, I've been working away to make our house feel like a home. After leaving my mom's house for college in 2004, I've moved at least once annually, and one year, I moved three times! All this is to say that it was important to me that Jeff and I could lay down roots in this house and feel like it belongs to us and speaks our language, regardless of how long we end up staying here. Challenge number two presented itself in the form of a male roommate. I've decorated my bedrooms with floral prints, frilly duvet covers, and ballet posters, never worrying about being too girly. Now, we needed to make our place feel like a couple lives here. Finally, all this had to happen on a budget. Jeff and I were very lucky to get lots of hand-me-downs from his local family as well as collected trinkets from my many moves. Eventually, with more money and time, we'll add things here and there, but for now we have a cozy, comfortable home that we love.

My favorite room in the house, naturally

Bear's lair
My most prized possession needs its own wall


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Huevos Rancheros, Por Favor

Many of my kitchen creations, especially when I'm feeling lazy or frugal, come together with whatever I've got in the fridge and pantry. Last night, craving a little Mexican flavor, I pulled out a can of beans, half an onion, cheddar cheese, corn tortillas, eggs, salsa, and hot sauce and decided to make some huevos rancheros. While not a big egg person for breakfast, I love adding them to less conventional meals like sandwiches, so this seemed right up my alley.

Onion ready to saute
Heading into the oven to get melty and bubbly
Embarrassing eggs - I lacked mobility due to a Band-Aid on my thumb,
so this is how my eggs turned out looking. Still yummy!
Feast assembled
Up close and personal

(Makes 2 servings)

4 corn tortillas
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup cheese, shredded
1/2 can pinto, black, or refried beans
4 eggs
Olive oil 
Salsa and hot sauce to taste (I use Sriracha Hot Chili)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Put corn tortillas on a cookie sheet, top with 1-2 heaping spoonfuls of beans and cheese (For a softer tortilla, pop it into the microwave to steam for 15 seconds before putting it on the cookie sheet)
While tortillas are heating, saute onion in olive oil on medium heat until browned and soft
Heat skillet with olive oil for eggs and cook eggs to personal liking
When eggs are almost done, remove cookie sheet from oven
Top tortillas with salsa, onion, egg, and hot sauce

I served the dish with a mixed green salad. I think the addition of sliced avocado or other sauteed veggies would be delicious. Unlike the authentic version, I didn't fry my tortillas and don't find it necessary, but that is always an option!


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Pillow Talk

I wish this could be an instructional DIY post, but unfortunately, the beautiful creations you're about to see are not replicable by me in any simple way. As a housewarming gift, Jeff's mom JoJo offered to teach me how to make throw pillows for our living room. I was excited because great decorative pillows are expensive and you can't necessarily find exactly what you want. JoJo is also a masterful seamstress who has created some really special things, so I couldn't wait to have more of her work in our place. While I can't recall exact measurements, we used 20"x20" pillow forms, 3 yards of fabric, and an envelope style. There are plenty of patterns for this kind of pillow, but being the professional that she is, JoJo didn't need one! I remain in awe. If you have time for a project, would definitely recommend making your own pillows over buying some at the store. It's a creative, inexpensive way to add a little decor to your favorite space.

The materials - pillow form, fabric for pillowcase and piping
The finished products! Love.


Tuesday, September 6, 2011

I ♥ My Cookie Jar

Having a cookie jar in my first house was an absolute must. I love everything that it represents - a home for delicious munchies, a clear indication that its owner is a sweets fan, the quick journey back to childhood that you're taken on upon reaching into the jar. A cookie jar is at its best when it's full, and today my baby got filled with my favorite healthy chocolate chip cookies, courtesy of EatingWell, which I first made last spring. As far as cookies go, these are fairly guilt free while remaining delicious, the perfect marriage for a dessert lover like me.

(Makes approximately 20-25 cookies)

3/4 cup oats
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup canola oil (I do 50/50 oil and applesauce)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup dried cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees
Coat 2 baking sheets with cooking spray
Mix together oats, flour, baking, and soda
Beat butter in a large bowl until fluffy
Add oil, granulated sugar, brown sugar, egg and vanilla
Beat until smooth and creamy
Add the dry ingredients, mix until just combined
Stir in chocolate chips and cranberries
Drop the dough by heaping teaspoonfuls, at least 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheets
Bake until firm around the edges and golden on top, about 15 minutes
Cool the cookies for 2 minutes on the baking sheets, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely


Monday, September 5, 2011

Happy Labor Day!

To celebrate the day off, Jeff, his parents, and I drove out to Bogus Basin for a morning hike. Bogus is a recreational ski area by winter and a great place for an outing when the weather is warm, and we were joined by lots of other Boise hikers along the way. It was a beautiful, warm day with clear skies, and in between the huffing and puffing, we got to enjoy an amazing view. After tiring ourselves out, we headed down the mountain to Highlands Hollow, a neighborhood burger joint for salads, fries, and ice cold beverages.

Howling Dog Rock
Bear, the rock climber!


Sunday, September 4, 2011

How To: Sweet Potato Wedges

I have discovered my newest favorite food - homemade sweet potato wedges. I made them for the first time on Friday night when we had friends over for dinner and was so pleased with the results that I made them again tonight as a side dish for BBQ chicken and greens. On Friday, I seasoned them simply with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper, so tonight, I decided to kick it up a notch with red pepper flakes...spicy!

Clean potatoes and chop them into wedgelike pieces
(2 large potatoes = 3-4 servings)
Dress wedges with olive oil, red pepper flakes,
garlic powder, salt and pepper (to taste)
Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes, turn wedges over,
and bake for 15-20 additional minutes
(depending on thickness of wedges)
Ready to serve! Both times they came out perfectly browned and crunchy on
the outside and smooth on the inside.
Delicious with ketchup, BBQ sauce, or as they are.


Saturday, September 3, 2011

Must Love Ducks

I chose to go to the University of Oregon for three reasons: Sprawling quads, close enough to home to get there for a long weekend but not so close that I would be able to do my laundry there, and football. I attended a small, private high school where soccer was the popular sport, and I dreamed of going to college in a community filled with spirit, surrounded by crazy fans, looking forward to football season every fall. What I got was the most amazing college experience and what lives on are the friends that I made and the team that I love. Three years after graduating, my devotion to the Ducks is as strong as ever, and I can't wait to root for the green and yellow for the rest of my life. This is the best time of the year, when Saturdays are reserved for couch sitting, beer drinking, snack munching, touchdown cheering afternoons.