Monday, January 30, 2012

Be Inspired

I recently joined Pinterest, and while I think it's an incredible site for recipes, DIY projects, home decor, and fashion, I've most enjoyed discovering boards of inspirational quotes. We can always use more stuff - more things to buy, creations to attempt, foods to try - but I think it's very special that people have taken the time to collect beautiful, meaningful words that make others smile, make them believe in themselves, or help them to remember how wonderful they are. Given the community-minded nature of Pinterest, this is my favorite feature because it means that members are choosing to share the inspiration that they find with others, just because. What a truly beautiful thing. Here are a few of my favorites today...

Source: via April on Pinterest

Source: via April on Pinterest


Friday, January 27, 2012

It's the Little Things: Dessert

For as long as I can remember, I've been a huge fan of dessert. As a little girl, conversations around the dinner table would go something like this:

Parent: "Zoë, please finish your broccoli."
Zoë: "But I'm so full! (whine, whine, grumble, grumble, finishes broccoli) Can I have ice cream?!"
Parent: "I thought you were so full?"
Zoë: "My breakfast stomach is full, my lunch stomach is full, my snack stomach is full, my dinner stomach is full, but my dessert stomach is completely empty!"

I was one precocious kid. While I've gotten older and wiser since those days (I now love broccoli!), one thing that hasn't changed is my appreciation for that special last meal of the day, the opportunity to fill my "dessert stomach." I don't discriminate - cookies, cake, ice cream, pie, candy - I love sugar and I've been known to eat whatever I can get my hands on. My palate has matured over the years and I've grown to favor certain sweets in particular, with lemon curd and chocolate mousse topping the list. For the most part, I love to eat nutritiously, enjoy coming up with healthy alternatives to my favorite comfort foods, and feel great when I eat well. However, nothing can compete with a decadent, rich treat and I believe that it's practically a requirement to allow oneself to indulge now and then. After all, they say everything in moderation, right?

"Life is uncertain. Eat dessert first."
Ernestine Ulmer


Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Closet Envy

Since moving into the freshman dorms, I have had a complicated relationship with my closet. That first closet consisted of one door and a couple drawers; it looked like a room for dolls, not the only option for my growing wardrobe. After that, it was really hit or miss. Sophomore through senior year, I had sizable closets that I stuffed with my many Forever 21 purchases, Oregon t-shirts, and costumes for dress up parties. When I moved to New York City, I first lived with my dad and step mom, which meant being spoiled by a walk-in fit for a queen. From there, I endured two years with my closet in the hallway. That wasn't always pretty, especially the first year when my entire wardrobe was destined to fit inside something that was intended for the broom. My second hallway closet experience was much more lovely - double doors with built in shelves - so you can imagine my surprise when, in moving to Boise, my clothes were forced back into confinement. While we have plenty of space in general, our closet situation is a little bleak, just one single door space in each of the two bedrooms. I'm used to it by now, and proud of myself for finding resourceful places for my goodies, using lots of hooks and baskets, and learning how to fold a perfectly creaseless sweater. Still, I dream of the day when I don't have to rotate my summer and winter wardrobes, when I can see all of my items without having to reach into the depths for something stashed away, when my clothes can take deep breaths and live a wrinkle-free existence. Until that happy day arrives, I will spend my free time admiring the most enviable of closets.



 (via 1, 2, 3)


Sunday, January 22, 2012

Pasta Made Amazing

I was recently browsing one of my favorite blogs, Posie Gets Cozy, and came across this recipe for risotto-style pasta. I'm a big fan of pasta, and everything Posie photographs looks like gold to me, so I couldn't wait to give it a whirl. My only issue was that I wanted to use gluten-free rice pasta and wasn't sure if it would work the same way as regular pasta. In my searching, I found that risotto-style pasta is a hot topic and was even written about in the New York Times, a true sign of arrival. I also came across a blog with a recipe for risotto-style pasta using the gluten-free stuff, so off I went.

I found this method of cooking pasta to be very interesting, fun, and a whole lot more flavorful. The pasta absorbs all the chicken broth, cooking along the way, and the end result is a creamy, cheesy, one pot meal that doesn't waste a drop of water. This is on my highly recommend list!

Risotto-Style Pasta with Mushrooms and Peas

Recipe, adapted from Fine Cooking and the NY Times:
(makes 6 servings)

1 red onion, finely diced
2 tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms
1 cup water or white wine
2-1/2 to 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1/2 lb. dried elbow macaroni or rice elbow noodles
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup frozen peas
1/2 cup plus a few tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Grated zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
12 fresh basil leaves, torn into large pieces

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat for 30 seconds. Add the onion and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until the onion is soft and translucent and mushrooms begin to brown, about 10 minutes.
Add pasta, stirring occasionally, until it is glossy and coated with oil, 2 to 3 minutes. Add water or white wine. Stir and let liquid bubble away.
Ladle stock into skillet 1/2 cup at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so. When liquid is just about evaporated, add more.
After the third addition is absorbed, toss in the peas and continue adding broth and stirring until the pasta is just tender. Turn the heat down to simmer and check pasta consistency. When the pasta is cooked, stir in the Parmesan, lemon zest and juice, and basil. Serve immediately with extra Parmesan sprinkled on top.


Thursday, January 19, 2012

It's the Little Things: Snow Day

This week has been one of those whirlwinds of early morning meetings, after work plans, and the feeling of never being completely awake. I'll attribute the latter to the blanket of snow that fell over the Treasure Valley yesterday, covering us with inches of beautiful powder. For many, especially those in the snow industry, the anticipation has been intense as slopes can't open, rentals aren't being made, and businesses are suffering. Despite the added time it takes to get anywhere and the necessary layers and boots, this snow was welcomed with open arms by all. Now, it has turned into rain, the sky is a light, sleepy gray, and drops are pitter pattering on my windows. I'm happy that such simple moments of life can bring so much warmth and contentment. It's wonderful to live in a place that embraces going outside, taking in the sweet smelling air, and truly enjoying what's around you. I feel very lucky - and ready to have a snowball fight!



Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Best in the Globe

I have many favorite times of year - summer, the holidays, the first signs of fall, and of course, awards season. As I've mentioned before, the Golden Globes are easily the most fun of the shows - TV and movies come together, the champagne flows, and it seems like all the best celebrities are having a genuinely good time socializing together. And to round it out, there's the fashion. My favorite looks are usually the ones that step outside the box, maintain femininity, and include pops of color. This year, I loved layers, Grecian cuts, tulle, and unique textures. Here are a few must sees rocking the red carpet:

Jenna Dewan, all other images via InStyle

Charlize showing off those gams in her cocktail dress meets gown (plus a perfect headband), Julianne wearing anything but basic black, Madeleine working color and tiers, Emma and Jenna keeping sheer and cutouts classy, and Julie having a princess moment. Can't wait to see how they top these looks at the Oscars! Bring it on.


Sunday, January 15, 2012

Smorgasbord Soup

After my butternut squash success, I was riding the soup train and couldn't wait to make another batch. This time, I decided that a thick and hearty bean and vegetable soup would be perfect for the cold, dark nights we become accustomed to this time of year. To create this masterpiece, I took the majority of the contents of my fridge and pantry and got to cooking. The end result was a velvety, savory, textured soup that had us practically licking our bowls.

White Bean and Vegetable Soup with Pesto

(Makes 6 servings)

3 cans reduced sodium white beans, drained
1 can no sodium diced tomatoes, drained
2 cups chicken broth
1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 cup carrot, chopped
1 cup spinach
1 cup Parmesan cheese, divided
4 tablespoons pesto
1 tablespoon red pepper flakes (less if you don't like it spicy!)
Pepper to taste
Olive oil

In a large pot, heat oil and cook carrots until softened, remove from pot
Add garlic and onion to pot and saute until soft
On medium heat, add to pot 1 1/2 cans white beans, 1 cup chicken broth, 1 cup spinach, and 1 can diced tomatoes
Put remaining 1 1/2 cans white beans, 1 cup chicken broth, and carrots to blender and puree until smooth, add to pot
Add 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes to pot, stir, and bring contents to boil
Reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally
When ready to serve, ladle portion into bowl, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese add 1 tablespoon pesto


Friday, January 13, 2012

It's the Little Things

Last night on the phone, my mom and I got to chatting about blogging. This has been a trend lately - she shares her thoughts about blogging in general, my blog, and the blogs of others. It should be known that my mother is a very wise woman, and often conversations with her turn into revelations for me to ponder for hours to come. Most recently, she reminded me that when I started this blog (living alone in Portland after be wretched from everything wonderful in New York City and needing a personal space to put my musings, more or less for my eyes only), my intention was to post only about life's most joyful things. I remember saying this - I would never write about anything negative and would post the beautiful and lovely things I came across that day. Of course over time, this has evolved. I think that my blog has become more cohesive and useful since then, as I've grown and had different experiences to share with my loved ones and new friends. No matter what, I will always love beautiful things, and will always love to post about them here. I decided to start a site series - It's the Little Things - the pictures, quotes, poems, and more that I happen upon throughout my week that make me think, make me smile, and fill me with joy. Think of it as my personal opportunity to stop and smell the roses.

“Kiss your life. Accept it, just as it is. Today. Now. 
So that those moments of happiness you're waiting for don't pass you by.”

From the archives - my mom and me on Prince Edward Island, 1988


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

African Inspiration

My dad is a very skilled photographer whose own home is filled with pictures that he's taken throughout his adult life (the little Zoë shots above as a few examples). When I was moving into my first place, I knew that the best house warming gift I could ask for would be the start to my own collection. The three I received, black and whites of ice and water, have hung in my bedroom for the last three years. This past summer, he and my stepmom went on a South African safari, and as soon as I saw the photographs he'd taken, I knew they would be perfect additions to my small collection. We recently received a few prints of our favorite selections, as seen below, inspiring me to explore more safari-themed decor. I would love for our next living room to transport us on a foreign adventure, filled with eclectic, artisan pieces to accompany these beautiful images.

Impala Bull

My daydreams lately have been of animal print pillows, intricate vases, woven baskets, and lots of chotchkies. Here are a few of my favorite things...


Thursday, January 5, 2012

Saint Phanourios's Cake

A few weeks ago, I came across a post on a friend's blog about Saint Phanourios's Cake. As a Greek girl with lots of long standing family traditions, I was surprised that I had never heard of such a cake. I was intrigued by the story - Saint Phanourios is the patron saint of lost things, and while making this cake, the baker is supposed to conjure up a lost thing and pray to Saint Phanourios for clarity and assistance to find what has been lost. Not a religious person, I was still struck by the meaning behind a baked good and imagined that for Greek Orthodox women, this may be a very important cake. I was looking for something to make as a Christmas gift to Jeff's parents and figured that a recipe that pertained to my heritage and love of food would be perfect.

Saint Phanourios's Cake

Recipe, adapted from Leite's Culinaria:

1 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
1 cup orange juice
1/2 cup red wine (it calls for brandy - I didn't have any and saw that other bakers had tried wine)
1 cup sugar
1 cup chopped walnuts
4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Oil the bottom and sides of a 9-inch round cake pan. Dust the pan with flour, tap out any excess, and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the oil, orange juice, wine, and sugar until thoroughly combined. Mix in the chopped walnuts.

Sift together into a medium bowl the 4 cups of flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, and cloves. In small batches, add the flour mixture to the brandy mixture, whisking vigorously as you go. Continue whisking until completely combined. The batter will be very thick and slightly gummy..

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan. Before putting the cake into the oven, pause to say whatever kind of prayer you feel comfortable with as you focus on the thing you hope to find.

Bake the cake until the top looks hard and golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then remove the cake from the pan and let it cool completely on a wire rack.

Sift powdered sugar on top. Traditionally, the cake is now given away whole or cut into nine pieces and shared with others. Wrap leftovers well as the cake dries out easily.


Baking this cake was a rather moving experience. I rarely think about anything while baking aside from reminding myself to wait for things to cool before I try them, so to actually have a genuine thought in my head was refreshing. My lost thing was not literal or tangible - in light of recent events, I was asking to find my courage and bravery, maturity and understanding, which sometimes get lost in the shuffle. While I don't know if I've found it completely, I do feel more in tune with my thoughts. Baking this cake helped me find a little piece of myself.

When we sliced into it a few days before Christmas, I had no idea what to expect. It was extremely aromatic, dense but light, and full of interesting flavors. I had used a 9-inch baking pan and the outside was dry while the middle was slightly undercooked. All in all, I found it to be a strange cake, but not one that I wouldn't try again.

While home for the holidays, my mom and I were planning the menu for a large family dinner. I wanted to contribute dessert, and hadn't stopped thinking about this cake. What better group of diners to share it with than my own Greek family? I gave it another shot. This time I baked it in a Bundt pan to cook more evenly, used brandy, olive oil instead of vegetable oil, and added currants in addition to walnuts. We also served it with ice cream - vanilla, coffee, and caramel.

St. Phanourios's Cake, round two

This cake came out much better, probably because I followed the recipe! To be creative is not always to be right. The Bundt pan also made a huge difference, as the cake was evenly cooked and not quite as thick. The ice cream also added a special something - similar to what I would assume icing could do for the cake. I would also categorize this cake as more of a bread, something one could enjoy with coffee or for breakfast. I'm glad I tried it again, and that I shared it with my family, introducing us to a new Greek recipe with a great story behind it.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award

Yesterday, my sweet friend Jhani of your new favorite blog, A Girl Called Jhani, nominated me for the Versatile Blogger award. Speaking of versatile, Jhani shares on her blog stories of life in New York City, the journey to becoming a teacher, musings about life and family, and exciting adventures with her man.We've been friends since our freshman year of high school, and bloggers since a few years after that, and there isn't anyone I'd rather share this award with. Lots of love and thanks for the nomination, J!

Now, here are seven fun facts about me, in no particular order:
  1. I was named after Zoe Caldwell, a Broadway great born in the 1930's. While doing a research project in the eighth grade, I learned that Miss Caldwell and I share a birthday, news to me and my parents!
  2. I have broken almost all of my toes thanks to one ballet mishap or another. 
  3. I jumped off a 70 foot cliff during a trip to Portugal.
  4. I hated being a redhead until I was about 15, and attempted to dye my hair brown in middle school. It wasn't until I realized that being different is wonderful that I accepted my unique coloring.
  5. I'm 1/4 Greek and a master at making my family's tiropita recipe.
  6. I wasn't given a middle name.
  7. I have visited eight countries and cannot wait to travel more. My goal is to take a big trip at least every other year for as long as I can!
And to pass along the blogger love, I would like to nominate:

It's just one workout - Chicagoan and my study abroad bud, Tatiana, takes us on a wild ride as she works her butt off to get in shape. While most of her posts are about fitness, nutrition, and the battle to a bikini body, Tatiana is hilarious, entertaining, and hopeful, qualities that will carry her no matter what the content of her blog.

tea & crumpets - I went to college with Vanessa, the cutie behind the blog, and have fallen in love with her site. She blogs about food, family, life in beautiful San Francisco, style, and more. She is a great writer and has a lovely aesthetic.

Simply Aunie - Simply Aunie is just one of the four blogs that my co-worker, Annelise, maintains, making her the definition of versatile. She blogs about hair, nails, make-up, and daily doses of Aunieisms.


Monday, January 2, 2012

Soup, Soup, Glorious Soup

For Christmas, Jeff's parents gave us a blender and huge cast iron pot, both of which I wanted to christen with a big batch of soup. I've never made any soups besides chili and was craving hearty, winter flavors. I decided to create a butternut squash soup and jazz it up with lots of extras.

After enjoying my first bowl, this is without a doubt one of my new favorite meals. Roasting the squash gave the soup had so much natural flavor that it barely needed any spices. The cayenne pepper gave it an extra kick and the milk and yogurt gave it the velvety texture that would otherwise come from cream. It felt healthy yet totally filling, rich, and flavorful. I'm already dreaming up other blended soups as well as thinking about the next time that I can make this recipe!

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Spinach, Bacon, and Yogurt
Roasted veggies
Perfectly crisp bacon
Into the blender!
From blender to pot to reheat
Beautiful little grilled cheeses
With all the fixings


(Makes 4 large servings)

1 large butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 can (14.5 ounces) low sodium, fat free chicken broth
1 cup fat free milk
10-12 slices low sodium bacon
1 cup fat free Greek yogurt
2 cups cooked spinach
1/4 cup olive oil
Cayenne pepper and black pepper to taste

For grilled cheese:

4 slices Udi's whole grain gluten-free bread
4 slices cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange butternut squash and onion on a large cookie sheet, cover with olive oil, toss, and roast in oven for approximately 40 minutes.

Heat large skillet on medium heat. Add slices of bacon, approximately 4 at a time, and cook on both sides for 3-4 minutes or until crispy. Remove to plate and blot with paper towels. When bacon is cooled, cut into 1-inch pieces and set aside.

When squash and onion are finished roasting, add half of each to the blender with 1/2 can chicken broth and 1/2 cup milk. Blend until desired smoothness (I did it on the soup or puree setting until creamy). Pour soup into large pot and simmer. Repeat blending with remaining squash, onion, broth, and milk. Season soup with cayenne pepper and black pepper to taste.

While the soup was heating, I cooked up two gluten-free grilled cheese sandwiches for dipping!

To serve, add 1/2 cup spinach to the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle soup on top, add a 1/4 cup of yogurt and a handful (approximately 2 slices) of bacon pieces.