Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Heavenly Risotto

Risotto is one of my favorite things. I don't make or order it too often because it can be very rich, but I had an urge the other day so out came the arborio rice. I've always followed my mom's recipe, but I didn't have a shallot or white wine this time, so I decided to improvise with garlic and extra chicken broth. The result was, hands down, the best risotto I've ever eaten, let alone made myself. It was creamy, bursting with flavor, and didn't even need a dusting of Parmesan at the end.

This meal resulted in Jeff offering a suggestion for a new blog addition - the boyfriend meter. He tries the majority of my kitchen creations, so why not put my live-in second opinion to use? He'll be judging meals on a five point scale to give you a better idea of how edible these things I make actually are.

Mushroom Risotto

(Makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cloves fresh garlic, minced
1 cup arborio rice
3 1/2 cups low sodium chicken broth
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Fresh ground pepper to taste

Melt butter in a large pan at medium heat. Add garlic and saute until golden.
Add rice and stir until the rice is lightly coated in butter.
Add 1/2 cup of chicken broth, bring to a boil, and cook until broth is reduced by half. Reduce heat to medium-low. When broth is almost absorbed, add another cup of broth. Repeat with remaining broth.
While the rice is cooking, heat olive oil in a pan and add mushrooms, sauteing until brown and soft. Remove from heat.
When broth is completely absorbed, season with ground pepper and gently fold in the cheese. Stir in the mushrooms and serve immediately.

Boyfriend Meter:
5 out of 5 (He actually said 8 out of 5, but let's be reasonable)
"Comforting, flavorful, satisfying"


Monday, February 27, 2012

Oscar's Girls

The Academy Awards - the last show of the season hands out the most coveted prizes of the year, both in Oscars and in fashion's best dressed. I look forward to this night to see if my favorite films will win, and also for a red carpet that is sure to impress. Everyone seems to step it up on Oscar night, reminding us that these Hollywood starlets have what it takes, on and off the big screen. Here are a few of my most loved looks:

 (all images via InStyle)

Octavia is elegant in this made-for-her-figure number. Emma rocking red on red and an enormous bow.
Jessica in perfect hair and an embellished stunner. 
Kristin looks soft, feminine, and like she was dipped in gold. Milla embodies old Hollywood glamour.


Friday, February 24, 2012

It's the Little Things: Pass it Forward

I've been following Ashley at The Shine Project for a few months and I love her story and what she stands for. She is doing her part to make the world a better place, and when I saw her latest endeavor, I knew I wanted to get involved. Called "Pass it Forward," this project engages people to share little acts of kindness and generosity with random strangers through the use of a "Pass it Forward" card. Ashley offers the example of paying for the person behind you in the drive-thru, something I've considered doing at Starbucks or the parking garage more times than I'd like to admit, but have never followed through. When you pay for someone's coffee, you give a "Pass it Forward" card with its own special ID number to the next person, who will hopefully do the same for another stranger. You can then go online to www.spreadtheshine.com to follow your card's travels and see just how many people one small act can touch. Cards can be purchased at The Shine Project's store (10 cards for $2.50).

Interactions with strangers are part of the daily grind. Be it someone you pass on the sidewalk, the cashier at the grocery store, a customer service rep on the phone, we're in constant contact. We hear that the way we communicate and behave can have a huge influence on the well being of others, especially when our behavior is negative. We've all been guilty of taking our bad day out on an unassuming stranger, but I've realized that it's so important to be a conscious, active participant in my own life. If we're going to interact with so many people every day, why not make our interactions positive? Ashley's project is one way to remind yourself and the people around you that the little things count and can make a difference. I hope you'll join me on this journey!



Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Tile Coasters for the Birthday Boy

I love giving gifts, especially to the people I love, and when Jeff's birthday was coming up, I couldn't wait to think of something to make him. I wanted a special gift that he wouldn't pick himself, so when a girlfriend told me about the tile coasters she had made, I knew it was the perfect idea. The project is easy, inexpensive, and can be personalized for just about anyone with photographs, movie or concert ticket stubs, or scrapbooking paper. The only things that don't work are images from an inkjet printer (the ink will run). It was lots of fun and I'm looking forward to making more of these in the future!

Here's what you'll need for 8 coasters:

8 4x4" glossy tiles (I got mine at Home Depot)
Gloss Mod Podge
Medium foam brush
2 sheets of scrapbooking paper
Clear acrylic sealer
2 sheets of felt or 32 felt dots
Rubber cement

Using a tile, trace your scrapbooking paper with pencil and cut the paper about 1/8" smaller than the tile (so that you have a small border).

 Working on one tile at a time, apply a thin coat of mod podge to the tile, press the paper on top, and smooth across. Let dry for 15 minutes.

 Apply a thin coat of mod podge to each tile. If the paper bubbles a little, smooth away bubbles with your finger, not the brush, as it will make the paper too wet.

 Let them dry for 15 minutes. Repeat 4 times. 

 After the last coat of mod podge has dried, apply one coat of acrylic sealer in short bursts. Let dry for 15 minutes, then apply a second coat in long, sweeping sprays.

 While the tiles are drying, cut your felt into 3x3" squares.

 Apply rubber cement on the bottom of each tile and smooth on the felt.

You're done! Your tile coasters can handle a hot or cold beverage, so get to drinking!

Happy birthday, Jeff!
Can't wait to enjoy these with you.



Monday, February 20, 2012

Banana Delights

I have a love/hate relationship with bananas. I love them for a potassium filled snack, to put in smoothies, and to bake into bread. I don't love, however, when they get browner and browner sitting unloved in our fruit bowl. Every week, I go to the grocery store, imagine how many bananas we'll eat, buy half as many, and I still end up with two or three speckled ones by the weekend! So my goal as of late has been to come up with new and delicious ways to make use of my overripe bananas. Last weekend, I found this recipe for Caramel Banana Cake from the Kitchn, which sounded like a welcome alternative to my staple banana bread. It was light and fluffy, perfectly sweet, and would have been only a bit more incredible with some cream cheese icing on top.

Caramel Banana Cake

Recipe, adapted from the Kitchn:
(Makes 10-12 servings)

3/4 cup butter
3/4 cup white sugar
3/4 cup brown sugar
3 eggs
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 cups nonfat milk
3 mashed bananas
1/2 cup caramel sauce
Powdered sugar

Heat oven to 325ºF. Grease one 9x13" rectangular pan.
Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy then add the eggs and beat. In a small bowl, mix the flour with the baking soda. Mix the milk and mashed bananas in a separate bowl and add to the eggs and butter, alternating with the flour. Beat until smooth.
Pour half the batter into the prepared pan. Pour half the caramel sauce onto batter, swirl with a knife, pour the rest of the batter, then the rest of the caramel sauce, swirl with a knife. Put pan in the oven and bake for about 70 minutes, or until the centers are set and a knife comes out clean.
Cool completely and dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Next up, I can't wait to try this one ingredient banana ice cream!

What do you do with your leftover bananas?


Friday, February 17, 2012

It's the Little Things: L-O-V-E

"Fall in love, you won't regret it.
That's the best work of all, if you can get it.

And you can get it if you try."
George Gershwin



Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our New Favorite Place

As aforementioned, Jeff and I were ready to chow down on some burgers and fries for Valentine's Day. I'd been dying to try Boise Fry Company since I'd first heard of it, and they recently opened a bigger location on the east side of town that seemed like it could be appropriate for date night. Fries at BFC are the main attraction, complete with about 20 different flavored salts and dipping sauces to try, and the burgers are the side dish. This is a concept I can get behind!

We showed up around 5:30 p.m. for an early dinner before catching a movie, and about four tables were taken. When we got up to the counter, we were greeted by a very friendly server who took us through the whole menu and helped us make our selections. They serve six kinds of potatoes cut any way you want them, three kinds of burgers (including a vegan burger), and local wine and beer. We both chose bison burgers with all the fixings - garlic aioli, red onion gastrique, cheese, and mixed greens, Jeff got regular cut purple fries, and I got homestyle cut gold fries. We found a table and headed over to the dipping sauce station. Here, we found sauces I would never think to try, so we decided to taste them all. By now, the restaurant was starting to fill up, and we were soon surrounded by couples and families. When our order came (quickly and piping hot), we shook rosemary garlic salt on our fries and got down to business.


This meal was, in a word, great. For a side dish, the burgers were delicious, unique, and while large in size, didn't leave us feeling like we needed to be rolled out of the place. The onion gastrique was sweet and crunchy, the meat was tender and perfectly cooked, and the garlic aioli was the right creamy addition to soften up the bun. Of course, the fries were awesome, and dipping them in every sauce was lots of fun. My favorites were the spicy fry sauce, chipotle, and blueberry ketchup (I was surprised, too!). Best of all, everything BFC serves is local or organic. On top of the yumminess of the food, the atmosphere was spot on. The vibe is a little funky, with recycled bicycle lights hanging from the ceilings, modern art for sale on the walls, and tables made from re-purposed wood, but it felt clean and bright. Plus, there were a few conveniently placed TV's around the restaurant, giving the boy a chance to check out some college basketball while waiting for our meal. This is easily a place that I'll return to again and again, especially when summer rolls around and outdoor seating in Boise is at its peak.

The spread
Sweet mustard, garlic pear, blueberry ketchup, fry sauce,
spicy fry sauce, garlic aioli, chipotle


Monday, February 13, 2012

Love and Potatoes

A year ago, I was celebrating Valentine's Day solo in New York City. As long distance loves, Jeff and I saw each other as often as we could and I was due to visit him a week later for his birthday. My single or long distance girlfriends and I had originally planned to treat ourselves to a fancy dinner, but we failed to get a reservation in time and decided to postpone until after the biggest date night of the year. With roomies out to dinner and a quiet apartment to myself, I was ready to indulge and I knew just what I wanted. I strolled out of my building and down the street, past couples arm in arm, guys carrying bouquets, and girls in tiny red dresses, until I arrived at the sparkling lights of Shake Shack. To anyone who has yet to experience the fabulousness that is Shake Shack, I highly recommend hopping on the next plane to NYC. The burgers are the perfect size, the crinkle cut fries are hot and crispy, and the thick milkshakes come in delicious flavors. I placed my order of a Shack burger and fries, received a complimentary Valentine's Day strawberry and rose shake from the sweetest cashier, and took the meal back to my apartment to enjoy. Sitting on my couch in that moment, I was truly happy. I was in love and content to be alone on Hallmark's favorite holiday, which is a combination that felt just as sweet as my milkshake. To me, Valentine's Day is about so much more than grand gestures of romance, flowers, and chocolate. It's simply about love, of others and of yourself.

Tomorrow, Jeff and I will celebrate our fifth Valentine's Day as a couple, so we figured, why break from tradition? We'll be dining on burgers and fries, and maybe even a milkshake with two straws. It won't be Shake Shack, but in the land of potatoes, I have a feeling it will be better.

Have a happy Valentine's Day!



Saturday, February 11, 2012

It's the Little Things: Bear

Growing up, my family always had cats. They were the most amazing cats - beautiful, affectionate, independent - and great companions for our busy family. While I'm definitely a cat lover, I had always dreamed of having a dog someday, though I was tentative due to my lack of experience. It wasn't until my dad and step mom got a Tibetan terrier puppy a few years ago, who I call "my sista," that I warmed up to the idea more. When I moved to New York, Nelly became a huge part of my life. I loved taking her for walks in Central Park, snuggling with her while watching movies, or chasing her around my parents' apartment. Forming such a close bond with her made me sure that I wanted to have a dog of my own, so it was a blessing when Jeff moved back to Boise and scooped up Bear. Now almost two, Bear is an incredible pup who loves to give sloppy kisses, greets you at the door like it's been years since he saw you last, and can run and play for hours. He has brought so much joy to our lives and I truly can't imagine mine without him.


Friday, February 10, 2012

Fill in the Blank Friday

Linking up with Lauren from the little things we do!

1.  I started my blog because
I needed a hobby and a place to gather my thoughts. Overtime, it has become a place to share things I love and how I spend my time.

2.   One thing I love seeing on other blogs is the beautiful aesthetics and talents of seemingly normal people! I love the blogs that teach me something new, whether it be a DIY project, a recipe, or how to decorate a room. 

3.  Something I love about blogging is the ability to be creative on my own time. I love the feeling of finishing a post that I really love and am proud of, and knowing that both strangers and my family and friends will learn a little something about me.

4. A favorite blog post of mine is probably my post about leaving New York and moving to Boise. The experience has been a huge, emotional, and wonderful step for me, so it felt great to be able to write my story down and share it with my readers.

5. Something my friends in real life know about me that I've never before mentioned on my blog is so much! This isn't intended to be a blog about my personal life, so I leave out a lot of details. The first thing that pops into mind is that I'm really into nicknames, I think they're so endearing and affectionate. My mom always called my brother and me the oddest, most loving things, and now my friends and I are constantly giving each other zany names. 
7.  Something I tend to avoid doing on my blog is writing negative posts. I made a point of this from the beginning of my blog, and I've enjoyed looking back on all of the positive things that have happened since then. Don't get me wrong, I have lots of gripes on a daily basis, but I just don't find it very therapeutic to write about them here!


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Zoë Twist

Today, my signature hairstyle (aka one of four ways that I wear my hair) is being featured over at Bye Bye Beehive!

This is the blog of a co-worker and friend who is going 365 days without styling or coloring her hair, and is raising money for our local cancer hospital in the process. Pretty impressive stuff!

Miss BBB first blogged about the Zoë Twist here, and now it's my turn to show how it's done. I hope you check it out and enjoy!


Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Fashion Week Memory

Whenever Fashion Week blows through the Big Apple, I'm reminded of the most exciting summer, the summer of 2008. I landed in New York City two days after my college graduation, and within hours was decked out in a silk blouse, animal print pencil skirt, and sky high stilettos, ambling down Canal Street en route to the SoHo studio of Zac Posen. I was an intern in the public relations department for three months, and in that time I mailed countless dresses to celebrity stylists, delivered garment bags to the doors of pop star hotel rooms, played the part of assistant stylist for a Bloomingdale's fashion event, donned Posen's own creations, and ended the summer at Bryant Park for Spring 2009 Mercedes-Benz Fashion Week. The night of Zac's show was exactly what you would imagine - crazy, thrilling, exhausting - the kind of stuff that makes people fall in love with the fashion world. My role was to receive celebrities. I stood at the top of the tent steps, headset in my ear, clipboard in my hand, surrounded by security, attempting to spot stars from among the hundreds of paparazzi flashbulbs and PETA protestors. Just like Anne Hathaway in The Devil Wears Prada, I had studied faces and names so I wouldn't miss a beat. When all were safe and sound in their seats, the show went on. It was spectacular blur of models, bright lights, pounding music, and it was over in minutes. We spent the rest of the night working the door at the after parties, massaging our tired feet, and grinning. I had the time of my life and while the summer was so much more than Fashion Week, it's a bucket list item that I can check off and memories that I'll have forever.

(Spring 2009)

The icing on the fashionista for the summer cake? The day that Zac sauntered through the offices, stopped in front of me, and told me that my outfit - a cream blouse with a black bow and gold mini skirt - was fabulous. I was dressed shoulder to knee in Forever 21. Don't I always say that it's the little things in life?


Monday, February 6, 2012

Hors d'Oeuvres, S'il Vous Plaît

A couple of girlfriends and I decided to have a little appetizer potluck the other night and I, of course, was thrilled to have an excuse to try a few munchies that I'd been craving. I decided to make something old and something new - my mom's cheese puffs and Greek turkey meatballs with tzatziki, respectively. These are both incredibly simple recipes that work hot or cold and are easy to serve. Enjoy!

Mama Barb's Cheese Puffs

(Makes 16-20 puffs)

1 cup water
1 cup flour
6 tablespoons butter
4 eggs
1 1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease cookie sheet.
In a small pot, bring the water and butter to a boil. Remove from heat.
Add the flour and beat until fully mixed.
Drop in eggs one at a time and beat. When blended and fluffy, stir in your cheese.
Drop dough onto cookie sheet (1/2 cup size approximately). Bake for about 20 minutes, check, then bake for 10 additional minutes, or until puffed and golden brown.

Greek Turkey Meatballs with Tzatziki

Recipe, adapted from Skinnytaste:
(Makes 24 meatballs)

1 pound lean ground turkey
1 zucchini, grated, with excess liquid squeezed out
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 egg
1/3 cup Feta cheese
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Black ground pepper to taste
* I made these gluten-free by omitting the breadcrumbs in the original recipe

Preheat oven to 400 degrees, grease a large cookie sheet. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl, using your hands if you want! Roll balls into approximately 1/8 cup size. Drop onto cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes, until browned and bubbling.

For tzatziki:
1 cup nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 cucumber, finely chopped
Juice of 1 lemon

Mix all ingredients together!

And for Superbowl Sunday, we dug into onion dip (made with Greek yogurt instead of sour cream!), spicy chicken bites, crudites, and quesadillas. Go Giants!


Friday, February 3, 2012

It's the Little Things: Dance

I started ballet, like many girls, as a toddler. How I first decided to continue dance, I'll never remember, but dance I did through the majority of college. My first love was ballet, but I also studied modern, jazz, and hip hop. Dance will always be an enormous part of my life, of who I grew up to be, and of what I love. I am blessed to have been an artist and an athlete, to understand the strength, tenacity, and passion that it takes to be a dancer, and to appreciate the culture of the arts. These days, I can often be found standing on the balls of my feet, pirouetting through the kitchen, expressing my port de bras during tree pose at yoga, or moving and grooving to a great song on the radio. These moments are the sweetest, when I reflect on my past and remember how much I simply love to dance.

"We're fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance."
Japanese Proverb

"To dance is to be out of yourself. Larger, more beautiful, more powerful."
Agnes De Mille

"Dance first. Think later. It's the natural order."
Samuel Beckett


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Mad About Stripes

While putting away laundry the other day, I made the realization that about half of the shirts in my drawer are striped. When shopping last weekend, I looked down at my pile and saw that every top I'd grabbed wore stripes (and I came home with three of them). I've always liked stripes, but it wasn't until recently that I realized what a collection I had amassed. I love that they're versatile and can go from casual daytime - a red and white cotton henley, jeans, and a trench - to a night on the town - a gold and black silky dress with puffy sleeves, black tights and pumps. I love that a pair of wide legged jeans and a blue and white boat neck T is totally nautical, while a pair of black skinny jeans and a black and white striped jersey top can transport you straight to Paris. They're whimsical, timeless, and work in practically every scenario and color combination. This is a trend that I'll be rocking for years to come.