Thursday, March 29, 2012

House of Flowers

In the last few days, plants have burst into bloom around town and I have fallen in love. There is an incredible, pink blossomed tree outside my office that I have to pry my gaze from; thank goodness my chair faces the other way. This happens every year - the minute that spring begins to peak out from the wet, coldness of winter, I start to lose myself in daydreams of having my house filled with fresh flowers. I like to stick them into anything - vases, jars, pitchers - and have them everywhere so I can drink in their smell and admire their beauty all day. In New York, I would go to the corner store and buy a bouquet of whatever looked most divine, cut and arrange them with care, and keep them on my bedside table. There weren't as many random, natural flower sightings in the big city, but here in Boise, I have a feeling that there will be many gorgeous blooms to see. Someday, maybe I'll find my green thumb and have my own garden, but until them, I will love to be surrounded by beautiful bouquets.

(all images via Pinterest)


Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Mexican Enchiladas Go White

It's ironic that a few days after writing a post about being inspired to make dinner, I was sitting at my computer, scouring the internet for recipes, and coming up empty. I tried all my favorite sites, magazines, and cookbooks, and was pretty convinced that we'd be having grilled cheese for dinner (which is a delightful idea, by the way), when I happened upon The Pioneer Woman's White Chicken Enchiladas. Like everything she makes, these looked sinfully good. Never completely convinced on my own, I asked Jeff what he was craving for dinner. "Mexican lasagna!" he answered, and so a marriage was made. I had never made my own enchilada sauce before, and now I know I'll never go back. It was easy and incredibly delicious, a flavorful punch of chiles and cheese, and the perfect complement to the layers of lasagna.

White Mexican Lasagna

Recipe, adapted from The Pioneer Woman:
(Makes 6+ servings)

12 corn tortillas
1 pound of lean ground turkey
1 large white onion, diced
14 ounces canned fire roasted diced green chiles
1/4 cup nonfat milk
2 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 cup nonfat plain yogurt
2 cups frozen spinach, defrosted
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a medium pan, cook ground turkey, breaking it up with a spoon as it cooks. When no longer pink, transfer to a bowl and set aside.
Using the same pan, add onion and cook until soft. Return turkey to the pan and add half of the diced chiles, the milk, and 1/2 cup chicken broth and heat until bubbly. Turn off heat and set aside.
In a large pan on medium heat, add the remaining 1 1/2 cups chicken broth. Stir in remaining chiles, yogurt, 1 1/2 cups of cheese, and cayenne pepper. Allow cheese to melt and mixture to get hot.
Place first layer of tortillas (3) on the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Spoon turkey mixture, spinach, and sauce on top of tortillas. Continue with tortilla and filling layers until all ingredients are used up. (I did between 1/2 cup and 1 cup of turkey mixture and sauce and a few heaping spoonfuls of spinach for each layer)
Top with crushed tortilla chips and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese before putting in the oven for 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and lasagna is bubbling. Serve with beans and hot sauce or salsa!

Boyfriend Meter:
4.5 out of 5
"Filling, great sauce, fiesta in my mouth"


Monday, March 26, 2012

It's the Little Things: Weekend

After much anticipation and less than reliable weather reports, Boise was blessed with a few hours of sunshine this weekend. Jeff and I walked the Greenbelt, a very long bike path that runs along the Boise River through the city, and took to the wilderness of Camel's Back Park, one of many spots with hiking and biking trails in town. We grabbed dinner and drinks with friends at a neighborhood pub that was filled to the brim with other sun lovers. We still have a few weeks and many more raindrops to go before the warm weather is here to stay, but we got to rock sunglasses and short sleeves, and soak up some Vitamin D, which made life very enjoyable indeed.

The Boise River


Friday, March 23, 2012

Taking the Kitchen By Storm

Family and food blogger, Dinner: A Love Story, recently did a post about how on earth to get dinner, and your family, to the table every night. For a family of two (furry members don't count at dinner time), the quantities are smaller, but the sentiment remains the same. It reminded me of nervous I was to go from the one-pot meal on Sunday that I'd eat for three days to making a meal for two multiple nights a week. It can be daunting - you want the food to be interesting, you don't want it to take hours, leftovers would be a plus - but I've also realized that making meals for Jeff and me is also really fun. I've learned that I love to cook, that I'm eager to try new things, and that it's not actually that hard. The only thing that can be difficult is cooking a meal for only two. For anyone out there who's currently wondering how on earth to find the time to make meals from scratch, multiple nights a week, and hope the food is edible, here are my recommendations:

1. Grocery shop once - I dedicate an hour or more every Sunday to grocery shopping. I personally enjoy the alone time thinking about food, but to cut the time at the market down, write a list, follow that list, and shop at a store that you know how to navigate. When I started grocery shopping in Boise and didn't know my way around a store, I would wander through every aisle, picking up all sorts of random things along the way. Not great for the budget!

2. Plan ahead - About that grocery list...sit down on Sunday before you hit the store and plan two or three home cooked meals that you'd like to make that week. I usually peruse a cookbook, EatingWell, or Pinterest, or Google something I've been wanting to try. Once you have your meals picked out, look through the pantry and fridge to see what you already have. Add to your list what you still need, and get to shopping!

3. Cook for a family - Does the idea of making a new meal every night for a week scare you? I understand, which is why I rarely make fewer than four portions of a meal. If the recipe you're trying sounds delicious, I can promise that it will taste just as good the next day. Plus, you'll only have to set aside time to cook every other night, and you won't have to worry about what to do when the only chicken available is a package of four breasts.

4. Have a back-up plan - There are those weeks that are so insanely busy that the last thing on your mind is dinner. You might not have planned ahead, gone grocery shopping, or have a single creative thought left, which is why we should all have tried and true recipes in our back pockets. These recipes should use ingredients you always have (rice, frozen veggies and chicken, canned goods) for something quick and easy. Our go-to meals? Chicken and brown rice, tomato soup with white beans, or huevos rancheros.

5. Treat yourself - After your week of cooking, doesn't not slaving away in the kitchen sound amazing? We usually "eat out" two nights a week, one night of takeout and one night at a restaurant. This allows for a date night and a night of not having to think about cooking - usually when we've got late work stuff going on.

Most of all, relax and enjoy it. Cook with your guy, for friends, or make treats just for you. Every meal won't turn out the way you imagined, but over time, you'll become your own version of an expert. I get so excited when I make something truly delectable, and having someone to share it with makes it that much better. Dinner for two? You're pretty great.


Wednesday, March 21, 2012

A Post About Blogging


I started this blog as a way to keep in touch with loved ones across the globe, as well as to give myself a special place to call my own. I was in a transitional stage in the fall of 2007, with changes coming from every direction, and I needed something to keep my feet on the ground and to help me find contentment in my situation and myself. As I've also mentioned before, a million and one things have changed since then, and it's been a wild ride that doesn't show any signs of stopping. What's beautiful about where I sit today, amidst an exciting and spontaneous life, is that I'm very happy. I have a completely different sense of self than I did at newly 21, I love my life and the changes that I've consciously put into motion, and I feel in control and ready for anything. I'm so glad that this blog has been along for the journey, and since moving to Boise where the dust of life has settled a little, so has my blog. I love writing posts more than ever, be they about food, fashion, life, love, or anything in between, and it's been awesome to start to mold this blog into a cohesive site that reflects who I am and what I'm up to.

It's been pretty incredible, as much as I try not to get caught up in the numbers, to watch my readership grow. A few months ago, I had never commented on or followed another blog, published my URL on other social media sites, or put myself out there to anyone besides close family and friends. When I started writing posts more frequently and following other blogs, I watched my page views go from 1,000 in October to over 18,000 today, and I gained a few followers along the way. While this pales in comparison to many blogs out there, to me, it's a little victory that feels wonderful and that I'm honored to celebrate. Writing these posts is that much more special because it means there's a chance that someone out there is trying a recipe or project I've written about, or at least finding enjoyment in a post. It's equally great to have found other blogs that I look forward to reading, women who I feel like I could be friends with in "real life," and sites that inspire me.

I want to thank each of you for reading and commenting on my blog. I truly appreciate your support, have loved reading your blogs, and look forward to sharing this crazy blogesphere with you for a long time to come!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Boxed Cookies With a Twist

While wheeling myself through the grocery store on Sunday, I was having some serious sweet tooth cravings. What else is new? So when I arrived in the baking aisle, my eyes landed immediately on the gluten-free cookie mixes. I've made Betty Crocker gluten-free chocolate chip cookies and brownies, but I saw a new game in town - Hodgson Mill gluten-free cookie mix. I've used Hodgson Mill flour before, but had never tried one of the mixes, and I was intrigued. Plus, it was cheaper than the Betty Crocker box! I'm an easy sell. What's great about the Hodgson Mill mix is that it's really just a sugar cookie, and you can add whatever you want to it. I decided to make peanut butter chocolate chip cookies, and man, were they delish.

Gluten-Free Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies



(Makes two dozen cookies)

1 box Hodgson Mill gluten-free cookie mix
3/4 stick of unsalted butter, softened
1 egg
2 teaspoons vanilla
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a large cookie sheet.
In a large bowl, cream together the butter and cookie mix. Add egg and vanilla and mix until soft. (I had to add 2 tablespoons of water because my dough was pretty dry).
Mix in peanut butter. Add chocolate chips.
Spoon messy 1-inch balls of dough onto cookie sheet, about 2 inches apart. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until edges are brown. Let cool on a wire rack.


Monday, March 19, 2012

March Photo a Day, Round Two

As the month continues, I'm having a great time taking pictures for the March Photo a Day challenge. It wasn't always easy to find inspiration for every picture, but I enjoyed following the prompts and putting my own little interpretation in the photos. Here's what I've been up to...

Is anyone else doing the March Photo a Day Challenge? If so, leave your Instagram username in a comment below so I can follow along. Find me on Instagram or Twitter @zoegb914!


Saturday, March 17, 2012

It's the Little Things: Nesting

Laying in bed this morning, all I could think about was how completely elated I was that there was nowhere else I needed to be. This past week was a crazy one - I had a three day work event that had me up long before dawn, Jeff was out of town for business, and we closely resembled chickens with our heads cut off the whole time. Friday night couldn't have tasted sweeter, and a plan free, responsibility free weekend is just what the doctor ordered. As much as I love being busy, it's the opportunities to relax, recharge, and enjoy the quiet moments that make me feel most capable and ready to tackle whatever comes my way. This weekend has been like a gift, and I'm enjoying every minute.

 "The time you enjoy wasting is not wasted time."

The perfect nesting spot, via Pinterest


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Sauce That Sings

From the moment I saw this pin, I knew it would be love at first taste, and I couldn't wait to try the recipe. Everything The Pioneer Woman makes sounds divine, plus her photographs are practically edible and she's hilarious; the perfect ingredients if you ask me. As is customary, I made a few small changes - a little less butter and skim milk instead of heavy cream - but as I can't imagine it tasting any better, the original recipe should probably be illegal. I can't take credit for how genius and amazing this was, but I can say that Jeff and I licked our plates, I told about five people about it within an hour of eating it, and I'm already thinking of the next opportunity I'll have to make it. Without further ado, I give you...

Onion-Blue Cheese Sauce

Recipe, lovingly adapted from The Pioneer Woman:
(Makes 4 servings)

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large yellow onion, sliced
1 cup skim milk
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

In a large skillet, melt butter. Add onions and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally and allowing onions to caramelize and get dark brown.
Reduce heat to simmer and pour in 1 cup milk. Cook until milk reduces by half. Stir in blue cheese and cook until melted.
I served my sauce with boneless pork chops, mashed potatoes, and sauteed spinach. It went great with pork chops and I'm sure it would be delicious with chicken, steak, or with a spoon!

Boyfriend Meter:
5 out of 5
"..." (speechless)


Monday, March 12, 2012

Spring Fever

In honor of my obsessive hankering for spring, I got to daydreaming about warm weather fashion last night. I love spring especially because it's a transitional season - I can still wear jeans, blazers, and scarves from fall with light and airy pieces for spring. This year, I'm craving pretty prints, maxi dresses, navy and tan, pops of color, enormous sunglasses, and great shoes. Here are a few of my new favorite wardrobe additions, and a couple of pieces that I'm still lusting after...


Saturday, March 10, 2012

It's the Little Things: Sunshine

Backyard. Page turner. flip flops. Glass of white. For the first time in months, I came home from work, threw on jeans and a t, and headed to the backyard to bask in the dappled sunshine of early evening. Just a few minutes of relaxing in the fresh air and soaking up some Vitamin D made me feel brand new and left a permanent grin on my face. It reminded me of the days while living in New York that I yearned for personal space and alone time, somewhat impossible to attain in a city of millions. In the spring and summer, I would find solace in Central Park, walking home from work, winding through the trees and lawns. I did some of my best thinking, writing, and sometimes dancing or singing, on those peaceful walks. It never ceased to amaze me how serene and quiet the park was, despite being dropped smack in the middle of the busiest city I know. If it was too late to be in the park, I'd go home and head directly to my building's roof deck, where I could take deep, rejuvenating breaths of somewhat fresh air and have a few moments to myself. Now, I have a backyard to call my own and life has changed so much, yet enjoying a little time in the sunshine is still the best medicine. Come on spring, I know you're close...


Friday, March 9, 2012

Chicken Cacciatore Done Right

When it comes to using the recipes I find in cookbooks or online, I often adapt them to my tastes and put my own spin on things. This is usually a combination of wanting to use the ingredients I have and liking my food a certain way. However, sometimes you come across something that's right just the way it is, which is what happened when I found Giada's Chicken Cacciatore. Aside from omitting the flour used to coat the chicken (making this recipe gluten-free!) and using only chicken breasts, I followed her recipe to the letter, and it was totally delicious. Over polenta with a side of sauteed spinach, this meal hit the spot, just as Giada had intended.

Chicken Cacciatore

Recipe, courtesy of Giada de Laurentiis:
(Makes 4 servings)

4 chicken breasts
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3/4 cup dry white wine (I used an inexpensive Sauvignon Blanc)
1 (28-ounce) can reduced sodium diced tomatoes with juice
2/3 cup reduced sodium chicken broth
3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh basil leaves
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Parmesan cheese to taste

In a large heavy saute pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame. Add the chicken pieces to the pan and saute just until brown, about 5 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and set aside.
Add the bell pepper, onion, and garlic to the same pan and saute over medium heat until the onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add the wine and simmer until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, broth, capers, and oregano. Return the chicken pieces to the pan and turn them to coat in the sauce. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Continue simmering over medium-low heat until the chicken is just cooked through, about 30 minutes for the breast pieces.
Using tongs, transfer the chicken to plates. Spoon the sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle basil and Parmesan cheese on top.

Boyfriend Meter:
4 out of 5
"Savory, saucy, light"


Wednesday, March 7, 2012

March Photo a Day: Week One

After admiring the pictures in the February Photo a Day Challenge on other blogs, I decided to give it a shot this month. I'm no brilliant photographer and I'm working with an iPhone 3G, but it's been really fun to use the prompts to attempt creative, interesting photographs. I'm looking forward to the rest of March, and here is a look at my first week's images...

Are any of you doing the March Photo a Day Challenge? If so, leave your Instagram username in a comment below so I can follow along. Find me on Instagram or Twitter @zoegb914!


Monday, March 5, 2012

Outdoor Living

The past few days have been gorgeous in Boise. The sun is shining, the air is warm, the sky is brilliantly blue, and I was literally awoken yesterday by chirping birds. I spent much of the weekend outside and am now enjoying my sun soaked office until I can head out to the day again. I love just being outdoors - having bare feet in soft grass, lounging with a good book and a glass of lemonade, taking deep breaths of fresh air. This preview of spring has me thinking of nothing but the days when I can be warm in a sundress and have a picnic in the yard, so I turned to the source of all things decor inspiration - Miss Martha. I can't wait to create my version of one of these beautiful outdoor spaces in my own backyard...

(all images via Martha Stewart)


Thursday, March 1, 2012

It's the Little Things: In Print

Whether by fate or coincidence, many couples have complementary physical traits. Chemically, we are evidently drawn to people who have similar coloring, face shapes, or smiles to our own. Jeff and I both have blue eyes and fair skin, and when he started growing a beard after we'd been dating for a while, it came in with reddish patches. I like to think that we look good together, but I didn't count on coming across so many signs that it may not be by chance. When I saw the first example of a red haired girl and brown haired boy in print, I thought it was cute. When I saw the second and third, I thought "I really can't make this stuff up!" Now, I come across them regularly, which warms my heart each time, and I've started a bit of a collection. Here are a few of my most current favorites...

Rifle Paper Co.
Valentine's Day card, Renoir Dance at Bougival,
"Chemistry" print, Kate's Paperie Valentine's Day card