Thursday, May 31, 2012

Around the Neighborhood

While Boise may be nicknamed the "City of Trees," I think it boasts a lot more than just greenery. Every time I take Bear for a walk, or find myself driving down a pretty street, I'm in awe of the new colors and blooms that have burst up. Some are wild, some are tended by my green-thumbed neighbors. Here are a few things that have made my view very enjoyable lately...



Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Comfort Food Fix

No matter what, sometimes you just want Mama's home cooking. My mom's food is the best (don't we all think so?), but she lives just a few states away and can't be in my kitchen when I come home from work. Next best choice? Smitten Kitchen. Deb's food tastes like warmth, love, and home, and trying her recipes always make me feel like I'm in very good hands. Thanks to her, I now have an amazing red sauce recipe under my belt and some comfort food in my tummy.

Spaghetti Squash with Meat Sauce and Spinach

Recipe, adapted from Smitten Kitchen:
(Makes 4 large servings)

2 medium spaghetti squash, sliced lengthwise with seeds scooped out (You can get 2-3 servings out of one medium squash)
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons garlic, minced
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 cup red wine
1 14-ounce can no sodium diced tomatoes with juice
1 10+-ounce can tomato puree
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped and separated
1 teaspoon salt
Black pepper to taste
5 cups fresh spinach
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Cover two cookie sheets with tinfoil, place spaghetti squash cut side down, and bake for 45 minutes.
In a large, deep skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and cook ground turkey, breaking into pieces, until fully cooked. Remove to a plate and cover.
In the same skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and add onion, cooking for 10 minutes or until soft and translucent. Add garlic, red pepper flakes, and wine and turn heat to medium-high. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, stirring occasionally.
Add tomatoes, salt, pepper, and half the basil and mix together. Return ground turkey to the sauce and mix in. Turn heat to simmer and cook for 10 additional minutes or until heated through.
In a separate skillet, heat olive oil and saute fresh spinach until wilted. Set aside.
When squash is done, let cool and then scrape strands into a bowl or directly onto plates.
Serve squash onto plates, add spinach, spoon sauce on top, and sprinkle with remaining basil and Parmesan cheese. Dig in!

Boyfriend Meter:
5 out of 5
"Savory, addicting, light"


Thursday, May 24, 2012

It's the Little Things: Thankful Thursday

Life is going about a mile a minute right now, and I'm finding few opportunities to stop and take a deep breath. When I get stressed, I tend to get a little ornery and easily fired up. While this doesn't affect my ability to get it all done, it does frustrate me to lose sight of life's little blessings and forget how good I have it. In honor of Thursday and the weekly post of one of my favorites, here are a few of my little things:



My job. I may not be the one curing cancer, but I get to be around brilliant caretakers, selfless fundraisers, and a community that truly believes in the cause. I had a very long, very cool meeting with Boise State students about a huge fundraiser they're planning for the children's hospital. To see the excitement on their faces is everything.

My boy. I came home to him cooking last night and left him grinning this morning. When things are stressful and you can still crack up and love the little moments, life is very good. And with that comes my dog, who is so full of adoration and sloppy kisses and keeps us constantly entertained.

My library. I avoided the public libraries in New York, but since moving to Boise, I have been a regular at our downtown branch. My bedside table has a permanent stack of books that I race through to meet the due dates, and getting an e-mail that I have a new one to pick up can totally make my day.

My family. My brother just got engaged (woop woop!), my mom and step dad are exploring the possibility of a huge life adventure, and my dad and step mom are visiting Boise for the first time in a few weeks. I'm smiling a lot.

My city. Boise is still growing on me, but with our move and summer on our heels, and the city in full bloom and draped in sunshine, it's pretty easy to love it here.

My summer wardrobe bins. They're waiting in the garage until we move and I can make the great closet switch, but I've been doing a lot of daydreaming about bare legs and sun kissed shoulders. I just can't wait.


Monday, May 21, 2012

Simple Supper

This month has been pretty hectic due to my work events, Jeff's lacrosse season, and prepping for our move, and it's only going to get more busy in the coming weeks. I've been reaching for easy, quick dinner recipes (put this macaroni and cheese on your short list!) that will satisfy without taking up too much time. Last night, I made simple crab cakes and salad that was oh so tasty.

Crab Cakes with Tomato and Yellow Squash Salad

Recipe for crab cakes:
(Makes 8 cakes)

16 ounces real crab meat (usually found in the fish refrigerator next to butcher)
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 eggs
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
Generous shakes of black pepper, onion powder, and garlic powder
Olive oil
1 lemon, quartered

Recipe for salad:
(Makes 2 servings)

4 cups of romaine lettuce
1 yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 cup of cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
4 tablespoons of dressing (I used Annie's Organic Goddess dressing)

For crab cakes - 
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mix together mayonnaise, mustard, eggs, Worcestershire sauce, and spices. Add crab meat and mix together gently. Form mixture into 8 patties.
Heat olive oil in a large sauce pan. Add patties (four or so at a time) and brown, two to three minutes on each side. Transfer to cookie sheet.
Bake for 10 minutes until crab cakes are browned and heated through.
Mix salad ingredients together. Split salad between two plates, top with two crab cakes each, and squeeze lemon on top.

Boyfriend Meter:
Coming soon!


Friday, May 18, 2012

In Our Backyard

Lately, Jeff and I have been daydreaming about our new house and the little plans we have for the outdoor space. As much as I may love to imagine having a completely perfect and gorgeous backyard, the reality is a lot more simple - sipping wine in Adirondack chairs, hosting friends underneath twinkling lights, lounging in the grass on sunny afternoons. I may actually plant a flower or two, and we've already picked the spot for our beloved BBQ. Our new backyard is private, lush, and big enough for all of our ideas. Here are a few items on my shopping list:

Paper lanterns: This will be my first backyard addition - perfect for parties or just a pop of color.
Printed cups: To drink or dip from, these brighten any table.
Drink dispenser: I can't wait to fill this with sangria for sipping all night long.
Beach towel: For laying out or backyard picnics without the grass stains.
Adirondack chairs: Imagine these unfinished chairs with a vibrant coat of paint or two.
Citrus dinnerware: Plastic plates that will make it through even the wildest dinner parties.


Monday, May 14, 2012

Cookie Monster

I strongly believe that foods with fewer ingredients are better for us, and because of my cooking novice, I'm naturally drawn to recipes that don't require the whole pantry. When I came across a Whole Living recipe for flourless cookies, I was excited to find a gluten-free treat that didn't call for special ingredients and that fit my appreciation for easy baking. These were a cinch, came out chewy, crispy, and loaded with flavor, and were an instant favorite.

Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Cookies

Recipe, adapted from Whole Living:
(Makes 14 large cookies)

1 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips 
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, add egg and beat lightly, then mix in peanut butter, sugar, baking soda, and chocolate chips until well combined.
Roll dough, about 1 heaping tablespoon at a time, into balls. Place 2 inches apart on baking sheets.
Bake until cookies are golden and puffed, 12 to 14 minutes. Cool 5 minutes on sheets; transfer cookies to racks to cool completely.


Friday, May 11, 2012

Cocktail Time

One thing I love about the warm weather rolling in is having an icy, delicious cocktail in the sunshine. Restaurants open their patios and it's an invitation to rock a pencil skirt and leave the tights at home, meet up with girlfriends for happy hour in sunglasses, and sip something sweet. One of my new friends and I are throwing a bridal shower for another new friend of ours, and I've been daydreaming about fun and flirty cocktails for us to sip while we chat, play games, and toast the future bride. Here are a few of my favorite pins...

Pomegranate Spritzer (non-alcoholic recipe)


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Being Martha

Zoë & Martha doesn't have nearly the same ring to it as Julie & Julia, but I feel the same kinship to Martha Stewart's food. I've tried many of her recipes over the last few years, on my journey to becoming an adequate cook, and she's taught me so much about what I'm capable of. It helps that I haven't had to bone a duck or make any sort of roux, but I do feel a certain accomplishment when I create a successful meal from one of her recipes. Last night was no exception. I pinned this recipe a few days ago and was determined to try my hand at a new ingredient - spaghetti squash!

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey Meatballs



Recipe, adapted from Whole Living:
(Makes 4 servings)

1 spaghetti squash (about 3 pounds), halved lengthwise with seeds scooped out
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup white wine
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
1 pound lean ground turkey
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
1 bag fresh spinach
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Bake squash, cut sides down, on a tinfoiled cookie sheet until tender, about 45 minutes. Let stand until cool enough to handle. Scrape flesh into strands using a fork and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Cook onion and garlic, stirring, until soft. Add half the wine and continue to cook until liquid is absorbed. Divide mixture between 1 large and 1 small bowl.
Stir 1 tablespoon cheese into the large bowl of onion-garlic mixture. Mix in turkey, salt, and pepper using your hands. Form mixture into 12 balls.
Using the same skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Brown meatballs, turning, 4 to 6 minutes; transfer to a plate. Add mushrooms to the skillet and cook until soft and beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes. Add remaining bowl of onion-garlic mixture, meatballs, and broth; bring to simmer. Cook, partially covered, until meatballs are cooked through, 4 to 5 minutes.
In a medium skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat and cook spinach until wilted.
Divide squash, spinach, and meatball mixture into 4 servings. Sprinkle with remaining cheese.

Boyfriend Meter:
5 out of 5
"This is one of the best meals yet" (and we're talking about squash, people!)


Friday, May 4, 2012

It's the Little Things: Great Moments

I came across this story on Facebook yesterday, after it was shared by a few friends and thousands of strangers. It epitomizes what so many of us strive for - to be present, patient, selfless, to live in the moment long enough to see that it could be life changing. It reminds me of the quote "Life is not measured by the number of breaths that you take, but by the moments that take your breath away." I hope to remember this story in the future, when I'm feeling anxious or annoyed, and remind myself that this moment, this interaction, this person could be, even if briefly, a meaningful part of my life.

"The Cab Ride I'll Never Forget"
By Kent Nerburn

...When I arrived at 2:30 a.m., the building was dark except for a single light in a ground floor window.
Under these circumstances, many drivers would just honk once or twice, wait a minute, then drive away.
But I had seen too many impoverished people who depended on taxis as their only means of transportation.
Unless a situation smelled of danger, I always went to the door. This passenger might be someone who needs my assistance, I reasoned to myself.
So I walked to the door and knocked. “Just a minute,” answered a frail, elderly voice. I could hear something being dragged across the floor.
After a long pause, the door opened. A small woman in her 80's stood before me. She was wearing a print dress and a pillbox hat with a veil pinned on it, like somebody out of a 1940's movie. By her side was a small nylon suitcase. The apartment looked as if no one had lived in it for years. All the furniture was covered with sheets. There were no clocks on the walls, no knick-knacks or utensils on the counters. In the corner was a cardboard box filled with photos and glassware.
“Would you carry my bag out to the car?” she said. I took the suitcase to the cab, then returned to assist the woman. She took my arm and we walked slowly toward the curb. She kept thanking me for my kindness.
“It’s nothing,” I told her. “I just try to treat my passengers the way I would want my mother treated.”
“Oh, you’re such a good boy,” she said. When we got in the cab, she gave me an address, then asked,
“Could you drive through downtown?”
“It’s not the shortest way,” I answered quickly.
“Oh, I don’t mind,” she said. “I’m in no hurry. I’m on my way to a hospice.”
I looked in the rear view mirror. Her eyes were glistening.
“I don’t have any family left,” she continued. “The doctor says I don’t have very long.”
I quietly reached over and shut off the meter. “What route would you like me to take?” I asked.
For the next two hours, we drove through the city. She showed me the building where she had once worked as an elevator operator. We drove through the neighborhood where she and her husband had lived when they were newlyweds. She had me pull up in front of a furniture warehouse that had once been a ballroom where she had gone dancing as a girl. Sometimes she’d ask me to slow in front of a particular building or corner and would sit staring into the darkness, saying nothing.
As the first hint of sun was creasing the horizon, she suddenly said, “I’m tired. Let’s go now.”
We drove in silence to the address she had given me. It was a low building, like a small convalescent home, with a driveway that passed under a portico. Two orderlies came out to the cab as soon as we pulled up. They were solicitous and intent, watching her every move. They must have been expecting her. I opened the trunk and took the small suitcase to the door. The woman was already seated in a wheelchair.
“How much do I owe you?” she asked, reaching into her purse.
“Nothing,” I said.
“You have to make a living,” she answered.
“There are other passengers.”
Almost without thinking, I bent and gave her a hug. She held onto me tightly.
“You gave an old woman a little moment of joy,” she said. “Thank you.”
I squeezed her hand, then walked into the dim morning light. Behind me, a door shut. It was the sound of the closing of a life.
I didn’t pick up any more passengers that shift. I drove aimlessly, lost in thought. For the rest of that day, I could hardly talk. What if that woman had gotten an angry driver, or one who was impatient to end his shift? What if I had refused to take the run, or had honked once, then driven away?
On a quick review, I don’t think that I have done anything more important in my life.
We’re conditioned to think that our lives revolve around great moments. But great moments often catch us unaware – beautifully wrapped in what others may consider a small one.


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Tortilla Soup for You

As summer approaches, I've been thinking up lighter recipes to complement the warmer weather. Tacos, salad, and BBQ are on a regular rotation when it's too hot to think straight, and this week, I cooked up a big pot of light, brothy tortilla soup to enjoy with a cold glass of sangria and crisp, leafy greens.

Tortilla Soup

(Makes 6 servings)

4 cups of low sodium chicken broth
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 jalapenos, diced with seeds removed
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1 can of no sodium diced tomatoes, drained
1 can of reduced sodium black beans, drained
2 limes
4 corn tortillas
1 avocado, diced
1/4 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
Chili powder to taste
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large pot, bring chicken broth to a boil. Add chicken, jalapenos, and scallions, cover and reduce to a simmer until chicken is cooked, about 15 minutes.
Remove chicken to a plate to cool. Add the tomatoes, beans, and juice of 1 lime to the pot. When chicken is cool enough, shred or cut into small pieces. Return to pot, add chili powder, and let soup simmer for another 5 minutes or until heated through.
In the meantime, cut tortillas into small strips. Toss with olive oil and chili powder and place on a cookie sheet. Bake for 5 minutes or until crispy.
To serve, spoon soup into bowls and top with cheese, cilantro, avocado, tortilla strips, and lime juice.

Boyfriend Meter:
5 out of 5
"Spicy, healthy, delicious"