Monday, December 15, 2014

Restaurant Review: Blaze Pizza

Since going gluten-free three years ago, I have found substitutions for almost every food that I loved in its previous form. One exception has been pizza. I make cauliflower crust pizza all the time, and I buy the Udi's crusts on occasion, but I have missed ordering pizza in a restaurant like all the other girls. In other words, I'm seriously deprived, so when Blaze Pizza contacted me with pizza coupons and I saw gluten-free crust on the menu, I was elated and ready to chow down.

Blaze introduces a unique and fun concept - for one price, you get an 11-inch individual pizza with all the toppings you like. Think of it as the pizza version of Chipotle or Subway, except there are no additional costs for adding on more extras. After you've customized your pie with your favorites, the chefs fire your pizza in a blazing oven for 180 seconds until it's piping hot and crispy. For me, the individual size and selections are the perfect way to enjoy pizza. Each diner gets exactly what he or she wants and while sharing is always an option, the personal pan size means that you can convince your friends that it's all yours.

Jeff and I headed to the brand new Meridian location on Saturday night around 6:00 p.m. and were impressed to find the place completely packed. Families with cheese pizza lovers, young couples on double dates, and resident foodies filled the tables while I eyeballed their selections. The place smelled amazing and I couldn't wait to place my order. All of the crusts were being pressed to order, and the gluten-free option was made on a different machine. As soon as we ordered, our server asked about any allergies so she could make sure to alert the assembly line. The next step was to select toppings, or in my case, cover mine with almost everything. I topped my pizza with red sauce, fresh and grated mozzarella, Gorgonzola, Italian sausage, black and kalamata olives, caramelized onions, red peppers, cherry tomatoes, and a pesto drizzle. Jeff chose one of Blaze's signature pizzas, the Meat Eater with pepperoni, crumbled meatballs, red onion, mozzarella, and red sauce. We also selected local craft beers and two salads - a classic Caesar and a roasted veggie with Gorgonzola. 

The pizzas are served on brown paper and a silver pan and the salads and drinks are located in a refrigerator case by the cash register. After grabbing a table and Parmesan and red pepper flakes, we dug in. I was in heaven - the dough was chewy and crispy, the pizza was hot, delightfully saucy, and all of my toppings complemented each other perfectly. Our salads were cold and fresh, though I would have benefited from a bowl or plate instead of eating out of the plastic container. The environment was loud and lively, not exactly a romantic date spot, but a great place to grab a bite and take in the atmosphere. I tried my hardest to finish my pie but fell two slices short, so to the to go containers I went. The boxes, which come in half and full sizes, are made of eco-friendly materials, like many of the other items found in the restaurants.

Our Blaze experience was excellent, and we'll definitely be back. The gluten-free crust rocked my world and everything we ate was delicious. I love the concept and the price point, which makes Blaze accessible to every diner. I highly recommend checking out the Blaze Pizza in your area!


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

The Giving in Thanksgiving


Happy Thanksgiving week! I am very excited for a few days off to eat my favorite foods with my favorite people and enjoy one holiday that is all about being thankful. For many, it is also the beginning of the shopping season. Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and my favorite, Giving Tuesday, will take place and our economy will be stimulated with lots of spending. Thanksgiving is an opportunity to look at your own life and consider your blessings. While I can do this any old day, I am always more tuned to my gratitude as the holiday season begins, and reminded of those less fortunate. Last year, I posted a gift guide of a few of my favorite charitable organizations. This year, I’m sharing a few tips and a few ideas for how to get involved in giving back.

Tip #1: Give to the organizations that matter to you
Everyone has their opinions, the cashiers are asking you to round up, the commercials on television are encouraging you to give, but you shouldn't feel guilted into making contributions to every cause. Learn about the organizations that are most important to you and focus your financial energy there. That being said, a few pennies for the Salvation Army aren't going to break the bank so give if the giving's easy!
Tip #2: Do your research
Websites like Charity Navigator are there to help ensure that the charity you’re donating to is actually going to put your money where your intent is. Unfortunately, and for lots of reasons, there are organizations that only donate a few cents to every dollar that you give, with the rest of your donation going to overhead or administrative costs. Once you know what area you want to give to, look into your options and pick the one that is able to donate the most to the cause.
Tip #3: Stay local
I am biased because I work in development for a local hospital, but I see every day the impact that local donations have on our organization. National charities are amazing for certain causes, but helping the people in your community makes a difference that you can see. For things like the animal shelter, the food bank, and of course children’s hospitals, give locally and know that your neighbors and friends are grateful.

Idea #1: Incorporate charity into your holiday gifts
This may a mildly controversial topic because there are people out there who don’t appreciate charitable gifts being made in their name. I am not one of them, and I have received livestock from Heifer International that I adore and wish I owned in real life. If your recipients love presents and you love giving them, add a small donation to another gift. Every dollar truly makes a difference and your recipient may feel compelled to pay it forward.
Idea #2: Get something new, donate something old
Thrift and second hand stores are in need at this time of year as well, so if your list includes a new coat for Christmas or Hanukkah, donate the one that’s in your closet from last year. If you have kids, encouraging them to collect a few gently used toys for the children’s hospital or books and stuffed animals for the shelter can help you clean house and provide gifts for those who need them.
Idea #3: Turn Girls’ Night into Give Back Night
This is a great idea for any time of year – round up your girlfriends and turn your happy hour into a night of serving food at the soup kitchen or raking leaves for an elderly neighbor. A group I’m in recently painted pottery for our food bank’s annual event – the bowls are donated to the event and people buy them back filled with delicious soup from local restaurants. It was fun, creative, and we even had wine! 

There are seemingly endless ideas and opportunities for giving back this holiday season and throughout the year. When you’re thinking about what you’re thankful for this week, imagine how you can help others. Every kind gesture makes a difference.


Wednesday, November 12, 2014

These Are a Few of my Favorite Pins...

Unless the creative juices are flowing and my fridge and pantry are full of bounty, I turn to Pinterest for cooking inspiration. I'll often find a recipe online and tweak it, either out of necessity because I don't have all the ingredients or to make it lighter. However, there are those recipes that require no departure from their original goodness. Those meals that are perfect for me exactly as they were created and I wouldn't dare change a thing. These are the recipes that I wouldn't blog about because I haven't made them mine, but they deserve all of the attention of fellow foodies. Simple comfort food that's tried and true.
I give you, a few of my favorite Pinterest plates:

Spicy Peanut Chicken Soba Noodle Salad by Pinch of Yum

All American Beef Chili by Brown Eyed Baker

Cauliflower Pizza Crust by The Roasted Root

Skillet Taco Pie by Mel's Kitchen Cafe

Asian-Spiced Mini Meatballs over Vermicelli Noodles by Bev Cooks

Buttermilk Quick Breads by The Kitchn

Check out these delicious blogs and follow me on Pinterest for more of my favorites!


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Chili Macaroni & Cheese

Fall came on like a force in Boise, with one crisp morning after another and a much appreciated weekend of rain. I’m welcoming the new season with its changes in activities, wardrobe, recipes, and more. While I’m not always so happy to wake up in the dark, I love the scent in the air, being wrapped in a scarf, and curling up with a big bowl of something delicious. After a summer of salads and grilling, I am so excited for comfort food! To kick things off, I made an easy favorite – Chili Mac. This is one of those meals that comes together in a snap and uses plenty of pantry staples that you may have on hand. It's hearty, filled with protein, and hits the spot on a cold evening. Enjoy!

(Serves 6+)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
1 pound ground turkey
15 ounce can low sodium tomato sauce plus ½ can saucy water
2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
½ tablespoon garlic powder
½ tablespoon onion powder
12 ounce can low sodium black beans, drained
3 cups dry pasta (I used brown rice penne)
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup cheddar cheese, grated
Toppings: Black olives, green onion, salsa, sour cream or yogurt

In a large, deep pan, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and ground turkey, breaking up turkey with a wooden spoon. Cook, stirring occasionally, until turkey is no longer pink and onions have softened.
Add to the pan the tomato sauce, water, cherry tomatoes, and spices, and stir to incorporate fully. Continue heating over medium until tomatoes begin to soften.
Add black beans and stir to incorporate. Leave heat on medium until it comes to a slow boil, then reduce heat to simmer.
Cook pasta per directions and drain.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Pour pasta into a large casserole dish (I used a 9x13 glass dish). Add ½ cup cheddar cheese to sauce and stir until melted. Pour sauce over pasta and mix together.
Sprinkle remaining ½ cup cheese over the top.
Bake for 15-20 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. Top with your favorites! I put sliced black olives and a dollop of Trader Joe’s Jalapeno Yogurt Dip on top and it was outstanding.


Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Our Newest Addition...

Jeff has been campaigning for a second dog for years, usually in fun but sometimes more seriously. I knew I couldn't handle another Vizsla...all 60 pounds of Bear, who thinks he's a tiny puppy that fits on your lap, is plenty of dog to love. So when Jeff sent me a link to a rescue last week, one would think that I wouldn't have given it a second look. But sometimes I surprise myself. 

Norma Jean, a Schnauzer and Scottie mix estimated to be about six months old and a dozen pounds, was looking for a new home. She was rescued a few towns over and had been in foster care for a couple of weeks. Her temperament and personality sounded perfect - she was playful, loved to snuggle, and would be very happy in a home with another dog. After reading her bio, I had fallen in love. I texted Jeff that I wanted to meet her and filled out an online application. A few hours later, I got a call from Norma's foster mom to schedule a home visit. She asked me lots of questions about me and Jeff, Bear, our home, our lifestyle. It felt like a great job interview, and I was thrilled that she was taking all of the necessary precautions to make sure Norma ended up in the right place. We scheduled our home visit for a few days later. When they arrived at our house, Norma was incredibly friendly, running around the yard, sniffing Bear, and letting us pet and hold her. After an hour of checking out the place, her foster mom asked if we loved her. The answer was simple (another surprise!). And just like that, we had a new puppy to adore. 

Growing up, we had a few kittens from the Humane Society, but this is the first pet I've had who was rescued from a dangerous environment. I never imagined getting another dog because I wasn't ready to care for a tiny puppy, but the decision to adopt Norma was an easy one. We could give her a home, a playmate, a family, and she would enrich our lives. A few days into having her and I can't imagine what it was like before. Bear is still getting used to this little creature who bats at his ears and wants to play tug of war all day, but I know they will come to be best friends.

Welcome to the family! Meet Hazel.

Now that I'm a rescue convert, check out the services available in your own community! We worked with Fuzzy Pawz and had a wonderful experience.


Monday, September 1, 2014

New Glasses from Firmoo

I have been loving the online eyewear craze but it can be intimidating to purchase glasses without the ability to try them on. I have a small face and head so unisex glasses don't always work on me, and I've made mistakes with the size and dimensions of frames before. So when Firmoo approached me to do a product review, I was excited to redeem myself and find a pair that works for me. I've seen Firmoo glasses on friends and bloggers and I love that they have a huge selection and reasonable prices. Armed with the knowledge of my spatial limitations, I got to shopping. The online experience was great - the dimensions of the glasses are very clear, all of details are readily available, plus many of the frames have customer pictures to show how they actually look on a person. I did my research and picked this pair. I love the sleek brown pattern, the metal arms, and the positive reviews from other wearers. After entering my prescription details, the glasses came quickly and in an adorable map printed case. They fit perfectly, the dimensions are just right, and I'm loving wearing them. I am so happy with my order and I can't wait to get another pair...sunglasses maybe? is offering its First Pair Free Program right now, with select frames free to first time customers. Also, Firmoo is celebrating its 5th anniversary with a special discount of 40% off storewide! Use the code FIRMOO5Y before September 10. Get online and pick out a pair! 


Friday, August 22, 2014

Favorite Things Friday

Summer has gone by in a flash! I always make a lofty to do list in June, filled with projects and plans and adventures, and now in late August, many boxes are left unchecked. But it has been a wonderful summer. I shared Boise with three of my besties, watched another get married in California, explored Idaho with half my parents (the other half is coming in September!), made progress on the house and yard, and enjoyed many warm nights walking around the new neighborhood, drinking wine and drinking in the serenity of our home. I am learning that I'm more of a homebody than I ever thought, that I love quiet nights, making dinner, lounging in our peaceful bedroom. I realize that despite my love of social outings and my career in a fast paced, fast talking field, I'm restored by the laughter, the hugs, and the easiness that I get from my little family at home. I'm always excited by adventures, big or small, by getting out of town and around the people I love, but Jeff and I both needed lots of downtime this summer and I'm so glad we were able to embrace it. Here are a few favorite things that I'm loving right now...

White hot summer

My edible obsession

Inspired by Oscar Wilde

Organizing art for fall projects

Snap dragons and mason jars, what else do you need?


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Happy Three Years, Boise!

On July 8, three years ago, I moved to Boise - wide eyed, bushy tailed, and literally following my heart. So much has happened in these three years – from moving in with Jeff and experiencing all of the discomfort and joy of first time cohabitation, to getting engaged and planning a wedding and getting married, to starting my own life here, making friends and building my career, to buying our house and settling down. I’ve always thought that the first few years out of college were the biggest catalysts for change. You’re out there in the world, umbilical cord cut, trying to make it. Those years were incredible for me, but there was always a little something missing, a weight that comes with being a sensitive and emotional young person in a life that’s moving a mile a minute and in a city that’s filled with pressure and opportunity and noise. Those were the years that shaped my path and gave me all the tools to be successful and driven, but these past three years have helped to identify who I am, what I want, and how to be happy, by no one’s standards but my own. Lately, I’ve been startled multiple times by the fact that I am watching myself grow up. I feel older, more mature and less worried, more confident about the choices I’ve made and less concerned with what I haven’t done. In the age of Instagram and Facebook, where you can compare your life, your travels, your beauty, your happiness, to someone else’s by the refreshing of the feed, it’s easy to be preoccupied with what could be instead of focusing on what is. I still get caught up and I don't always choose to listen, but I feel like I'm moving more comfortably in my late 20's and I have a growing self awareness of what really matters. 

This anniversary also means more than the two that came before it because I lived in New York City for three years. To have now been here for the same amount of time is bittersweet - I love being the girl from the big city, having those life experiences that you can only get from a few special and scary places in the world. My New York years had a profound impact on me and part of me misses the intensity and passion of the city, being surrounded by people with so much motivation and enthusiasm. However, the world is so full and I know that there's plenty more to see and learn. The transition to small city girl has been tumultuous at times, but ultimately a very positive one. I'm proud to have made that crazy leap, landed on my feet, and taken off running. I love my life and that makes me love Boise just a little more ;) Happy July 8th!


Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Sunwear Season with Karlie Kloss x Warby Parker

The eyewear gurus at Warby Parker have made a few splashes in their history. First, they created stylish prescription glasses at affordable prices. Then they allowed us the store experience of trying on our selections from the comfort of the couch. Best of all, they inspired us with the concept of making an impact - for every pair of glasses we buy, they work with non-profits to provide a pair to someone in need. Up next? The debut of their newest collection, a collaboration with fashion magnet and ultimate cool girl Karlie Kloss. 
Karlie's sunglasses are delicate, feminine, and wearable, from the park to the patio, the farmer's market to the music festival. Available in three frame styles and multiple lens colors, there is a pair for every girl and every sunny occasion. Summer is upon us and I think the Clara frame would be perfect for an outdoor concert, brunch with the girls, or wherever Saturday takes you. And Warby Parker isn't letting the sunnies speak for themselves - a portion of each sale will benefit Edible Schoolyard NYC, an organization close to Karlie's heart that provides kitchens and gardens to low-income public schools, giving students the tools to develop lifelong healthy habits.
Here are two looks that I think will perfectly complement these new frames...
Warby Parker

Information and materials provided by Warby Parker, all opinions are my own.


Monday, June 2, 2014

Favorite Things

The weather has been just gorgeous lately, warm and breezy and perfect for slow weekends lounging around with a great book and nowhere to be. I've been taking full advantage of the amazing screen porch and serene backyard at our new house, alternating between the couch and the cool grass. This is the best time of year - when the warm air is wafting in and everyone feels a little more optimistic. To me, this weather means grilling, cold drinks, fresh fruit, sweet smells, and long, sunny days.
Here are a few of my favorite things...

 Hot pink peonies are blooming in my garden

Rosé with every meal, especially in sangria

 A perfect one piece with a little sass

A refreshing anytime appetizer

Daydreaming of a beachy vacation


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Savory Shrimp and Mashed Potatoes

After months and months of cooking for cold weather, I'm having a hard time transitioning from the oven to the barbecue. Being out of practice means that I can't remember my favorite spring and summer meals, so soup and casserole are still at the top of my mind. The other night, when I needed to cook what I had - shrimp, Yukon Gold potatoes, tomatoes, and spinach - I improvised and the result was the kind of meal that's teetering on the edge of both hot and cold weather food. Juicy shrimp in a tangy tomato sauce, light and creamy mashed potatoes, a bed of sauteed spinach. Perfect on the patio or curled up by the fire. The temperatures are rising steadily this week, and I'm looking forward to recreating this meal one more time before I stop using the stove entirely!

(Makes 4 large servings)

For the shrimp, adapted from Jo Cooks:
1-2 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon onion powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound shrimp, peeled and deveined (I used 31-40 count)
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large deep pan, combine all of the ingredients except for the shrimp. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to low and simmer until cooked down and tomatoes are soft. Add shrimp and toss to coat with sauce. Cook until shrimp are pink and serve immediately.

For the potatoes:
1 pound (4-6) medium Yukon Gold potatoes
1 cup nonfat plain Greek yogurt
1/2 cup milk
Salt and pepper to taste

Quarter potatoes and place in a large pot. Cover potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Continue boiling until tender (15 minutes). Drain and return to pot.
Add milk. Mash potatoes with a potato masher until fluffy with few lumps. Fold in yogurt and continue to mash until your desired texture is reached. Add salt and pepper to taste.

For the spinach:
16 ounce bag or 12 cups of fresh spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Steam spinach in a pan with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. Toss to combine.

To serve, plate a quarter of the spinach, a scoop of mashed potatoes, and a quarter of the shrimp and tomatoes. Drizzle with pan sauce. Enjoy!


Friday, May 2, 2014

The Good Life

The past few weeks have been a whirlwind of packing, moving, unpacking, spending money, cleaning, organizing, trying to remember where I put things, and loving everything about our new home and being homeowners. There are nights that I lay awake in bed worrying about things breaking, but ultimately, the feeling of having something that is all ours and that we’ll fill with great memories is amazing. I am so happy and proud that we own this home, and forever grateful to our families for helping us and giving us the confidence to take this step. 

Having this experience, making an adult and life changing decision with my partner, has given me a lot of peace and encouraged me to reprioritize. Yes, I want the house to be perfect, but I’m learning how to live with a little bit of chaos while everything works itself out. While I would love for our home to look like a Restoration Hardware ad, I’m content with what we have and with allowing things to come together naturally. This is a big step for me, and I was reflecting the other day about how strange it is to notice yourself maturing and changing. I find myself gradually growing out of my materialism, not needing to have more money, and enjoying the little things in life. 

There are so many elements in the modern world that work against us feeling like we can live simply and happily and sometimes blogs and Pinterest and social media are just too much. I recently heard a blogger say “If we’re not sharing it, if we’re just keeping it private, why are we experiencing it?” It would take me a long time to answer this person’s question, and I know it may have been taken out of context, but it reminded me how important it is to live your life in a way that brings you joy. For you, not for anyone else. The littlest things have been making me happy lately and I’m so glad.

Have a wonderful weekend! xo 


Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Big News!

If you're my social media friend, you may know that after a quick and crazy few weeks, we bought our first house! The day that I wrote this post, we went to see three homes - one that I liked, one that Jeff liked, and one that our realtor tacked on because she's a genius house whisperer. The first house was too big, the second was too small, and when I walked into the third and saw that the kitchen and living space were not only two different areas but also actual, large rooms, I fell in love. It had everything we need to live now and to expand our family later, there were funky additions like a big screen porch in the back, lots of room for Bear to play, and the house was in impeccable condition. Before I knew it, we were telling our realtor that we wanted to put in an offer, and then spending the next day and a half in a frantic haze waiting to hear the big news. After many anxious and impatient hours, we found out that our offer had been accepted (5 total offers - this market is nuts!). Over the past few weeks, we've been signing our names a thousand times, packing boxes, and making plans. We moved in on Saturday and while there's still so much to do, we are pinching ourselves that we get to start our next adventure in this amazing house.

Jeff and I have made lots of decisions together in our relationship, from me moving across the country to getting married, but this one felt the most monumental in a practical sense, but also positive and easy. We are so excited for the changes and memories that will be shared in this home over the years. I'll be back with lots of DIYs and room reveals - stay tuned!


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: Six Months Later

Last Saturday marked six months since Jeff and I got married. When did that happen? The past six months have been a whirlwind of changes, busy days, the ups and downs of normal life, and it’s hard to believe that it was not so long ago that I was walking down the aisle to make it official with my dream guy. The greatest part of looking back on our time as newlyweds is knowing that it has been the best chapter of our relationship so far. My heart is so full and I am so happy. In the spirit of reflection and celebration, here are a few of my favorite bits about marriage so far:

The word “husband” is the best:
I love it! I had a hard time taking or using “fiancé” seriously, but husband feels just right.

Marriage changes things:
Maybe it’s naive, but I didn't think it would for us. We had been dating for years, we lived together, and we had been through a lot, and I assumed marriage would be like that with a certificate. Instead, I realized that making the biggest commitment of our lives deepened our love, gave us new insight on each other, and strengthened our bond. I am more in love with Jeff than ever before, because we made this great leap together.

Don’t write thank you cards before:
The organized women among us would argue, but I’m so glad I didn't write my thank you cards until after the wedding. I’m an emotional person, and to be able to reflect and write a few words to the loved ones who sent their well wishes or traveled great distances to be with us, after the experience of getting married, was amazing.

Take your time:
I have plenty left to do (including a few of those aforementioned thank you cards…) to show our gratitude to our friends and family. We haven’t been on our honeymoon, and probably won’t go until after our first anniversary. Instead of stressing and racing to make these things happen, we've been letting life take its course. Things are exciting and busy enough and I know everything will happen when it’s meant to.

Be the new you: 
Before our wedding, I had grand plans for the next few years. Maybe we’d move, maybe I’d go to grad school, maybe we’d have more adventures before settling down. I wasn't prepared for what actually happened – that I felt a great sense of comfort, stability, and peace as a newlywed in Boise. Getting married and officially becoming a little family was just what I needed to stop and smell the roses. I really like these roses and I’m so excited for what’s to come in our life here.

On to the next six! Do you have any great advice for newlyweds? 


Monday, April 7, 2014

Reflections on Dessert and a Savory Recipe

Well, I did it! 30 days without sweets and I lived to tell the tale. Since falling back off the wagon last Friday, I've had dessert quite a few times. I spent the weekend mindlessly munching on handfuls of candy and bowls of ice cream until last night, when I finally took note of how I was feeling. I realized (drum roll, please) that all that sugar simply didn't taste as good. My body wasn't used to its intensity and I was eating dessert because I could, not because I wanted to. Even crazier - after a month walking through the "chocolate covered everything" aisle at Trader Joe's and lusting after its contents, I was finally allowed to purchase something and I came home empty handed. Who am I? Major revelations happening over here! Going forward, I'm going to listen to my body and enjoy the treats that I crave, when I crave them. It has been a very interesting, challenging experience, but I'm so glad I stuck with it and gained some new insight.

Here are a few things that I learned from 30 days without dessert:
1. Cutting out dessert is the same as quitting or starting anything - it takes time. It takes your body two weeks to crave exercise, or two weeks to stop craving cigarettes. It took over a week for me to not think about the dessert I would have been eating after my meals.
2. When you don't have something, you learn not to miss it - after the initial period, I didn't want or need the sweets I was so used to eating. I made an effort to replace them with similarly yummy, but healthier treats.
3. I felt lighter - I didn't weigh myself before or after this experiment and I ate plenty to make up for the missing dessert calories, but I felt healthier and more fit and I craved less heavy food in general.
4. Sugar tasted sweeter - because I only cut out things that I consider to be dessert, I was still eating fruit, cereal, yogurt, and oatmeal. These things tasted so much sweeter when I wasn't eating candy and they actually felt like a special treat.
5. I'm capable - it might sound silly, but this was a big deal for me. I'm so used to my routines and eating patterns, and dessert has played a big part in my life. Not having it, and knowing that I could challenge myself to stick to my guns, was a huge accomplishment.

And now, a Vietnamese Pork and Noodle Bowl because it's delicious.

Recipe, adapted from Hungry Huy:
(Serves 6)

For the pork:
2 shallots, diced
2 garlic cloves, diced
3 tablespoons soy sauce
3 tablespoons fish sauce
2 tablespoons oil
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon black pepper
1.5 pounds pork shoulder, cut into small pieces

For the fish sauce:
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 tablespoons lime juice (1 lime)
2 tablespoons sugar
3+ tablespoons fish sauce (to taste)
1 tablespoon sambal oelek or other chili paste

12 ounces rice noodles
3 cups cucumber, chopped
3 cups carrot, shredded
6 cups mixed greens
6 cups steamed broccoli

Mix all of the marinade ingredients together in a large bowl. Add pork and marinate for at least two hours or overnight.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees and bake for 10-15 minutes, then broil for 5-7 minutes until golden brown and fully cooked.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add noodles, remove from heat, and cook noodles for 8 minutes or until al dente.
Mix all of the ingredients together for the fish sauce.
To assemble your bowl, put 1 cup of mixed greens on the bottom, followed by a scoop of noodles, a scoop of pork, 1/2 cup of carrots, 1/2 cup of cucumber, 1 cup of broccoli, and 1/4 of the fish sauce. Garnish with additional lime juice, crushed peanuts, and Sriracha. 


Thursday, March 27, 2014

Flourless Chocolate Cake and More

Wow, three weeks down and only one to go! I am feeling very impressed with myself for withstanding this challenge. Last week, I wondered why I picked a whole month in the first place, but now I can see the light at the end of the tunnel and I'm excited. I'm also hungry. Not for just any old crappy candy though, I deserve only the finest treats to delight my palate when this is done. I've been daydreaming about dessert, and it's taking me back to the vision quest I went on as a senior in high school. 

I should preface this story by saying that I went to a very progressive, small, private liberal arts high school in the Bay Area. We called our teachers by their first names, went on annual week long trips to restore California wildlife, snowboard, or attend numerous Shakespeare plays, and a third of the student body rarely wore shoes. This was not your typical high school experience, but my classmates and I adored it. One opportunity that we were given as seniors was to go on a vision quest - we would spent three days and three nights fasting alone in the dessert desert. Sound like an insane thing to sign your kid up for? Well hundreds of parents were game to see what happened, and many of my classmates and I went willingly on these soul searching missions. The fasting was well rehearsed - we started a month before our trip and removed things from our diet little by little. First went caffeine, then red meat, then grains, until all we were eating on the drive to Death Valley was a handful of dried fruit. 

I could tell a much longer story about how my vision quest shaped me as a young adult (read: scared me senseless - what 17 year old has ever been alone in a desert without food or entertainment before?), how I found myself, etc. It was an incredible experience and I am truly grateful for the opportunity to have the time and space to reflect and look forward. But really, aside from missing my friends, boyfriend, and parents, and being a little afraid of coyotes, I was hungry. In the journal that I filled, I wrote lists of all the foods that I would eat when we got home. I wanted my dad's steak and mashed potatoes, a sandwich from Whole Foods, a burrito from Los Hermanos, my mom's spaghetti. I had a very detailed and specific menu of demands, and I spent the better part of my adventure salivating at the thought of them. As you might imagine, after 30 days if eating very little and then three days of experiencing starvation, my stomach had strunk. They took us to a sandwich place after we all reunited at the main camp and we each ate about two bites before we felt ill. Over the next few weeks, I regained my appetite and made good on my list of favorite meals. Thank goodness, right?

Today, I'm feeling a little like I did on my vision quest - hungry for a few special things and very close to making a list to help with my cravings. To truly torture myself, I'll share with you my last dessert - this amazing flourless chocolate cake that is easy enough for the most novice bakers among us. Try it out and I'll live vicariously through you!

Flourless Chocolate Cake, adapted from What2Cook:

12 ounces semi-sweet chocolate chips
3/4 cup unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
5 eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup unsweetened natural cocoa powder, plus more for pan

*I didn't make the glaze that the recipe includes, but I topped the cake with whipped cream and strawberries. It was delicious!

Heat the oven to 300 degrees and position a rack in the middle of the oven. Lightly butter the bottom of a 9-inch round cake pan and line it with a round of parchment paper. Lightly butter the parchment and the sides of the pan and dust with cocoa powder. Tap out any excess.
Put chocolate and butter in a medium microwaveable bowl and melt in the microwave, stirring with a rubber spatula until smooth. Set aside to cool slightly.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or in a large bowl with a hand whisk, combine the eggs, sugar, vanilla, and 2 tablespoons of water. Beat until the mixture is very foamy, pale in color, and doubled in volume. Reduce mixing speed to low and gradually pour in the chocolate and butter mixture. Increase the speed to medium and continue beating until well blended, about 30 seconds. Add the cocoa powder and mix until blended, about 30 seconds.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake until a pick inserted in the center comes out looking wet with small gooey clumps, 40 to 45 minutes.
Let cool in the pan on a rack for 30 minutes. Run a small knife around the edge of the pan to loosen the cake. Cover the cake pan with a wire rack and invert. Remove the pan and parchment and let the cake cool completely. Transfer to a plate. Cover and refrigerate the cake for at least 6 hours or overnight.


Friday, March 21, 2014

Spread the Love

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about love. I used to think that if you were in love with someone, you didn’t have as much love to spread around to the rest of your world. How could your heart have the capacity for everyone? Well, maybe it’s the sunshine, maybe it’s the fact that my brain isn’t clouded by a sugar haze, or maybe I’m just learning and growing, but I had the distinct realization this week that I love so many people and I’m darn lucky for it. My incredible husband, my amazing family, the best friends, and all of the people around me who I care deeply about. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that you can love so many people at once, but if I have the capacity for a little extra kindness, I should share it. I think about the times when I’ve been in a funk and the barista’s smile or the driver who ushered me to cross the street have made a profound impact on me. This spring, I’m inspired to spread the love and focus on the wonderful life that’s happening around me.

Have a great weekend! 



Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Happy Hump Day!

I give you one of the happiest, and most hump day appropriate, pictures on the web. 
Hope you're having a great week!



Friday, March 14, 2014


And just like that, it's Friday again! I don't know what happened to the last week of my life, but between work, evening meetings, house hunting (enter newest, most time consuming life development yet), and coming to terms with the realization that spring is the craziest time of the year, I've been a busy girl. It's all very exciting, I just don't have any room left in the ol' brain! 

Jeff and I decided to start going through the process of buying a house. We have been renting for close to a decade, and that's a lot of money leaving our pockets without much to show for it. I never thought I wanted a starter home, but as we began looking at the inventory, I realized that a place that we can enjoy and make our own is very attractive. The five months since the wedding have been interesting and wonderful, and my biggest takeaway is how comfortable I am with settling down in Boise. It's been a journey, but I see us here and I am really happy to want to make the commitment of laying down roots. Like tens of thousands of dollars worth of roots ;) Stay tuned, we might just be homeowners someday soon!

I have survived one week of a dessert free life. Some days it's been terrible, other days, totally doable. I am just going to take it one step at a time, be grateful for wine, and take note of how I feel when I'm not eating all the sugar I was before. I realized the other day that this was the worst possible time to stop eating dessert, but also a great opportunity. Stress usually puts my hand right in the candy bowl, so I'm going to learn some new tactics for chilling out.

Happy weekend! 



Friday, March 7, 2014

Happy Weekend!


As far as I'm concerned, spring is here! It's going to be in the 60's tomorrow, and I'm reminiscing about the first few sunny days after long winters in college. We would strip off our sweaters and sunbathe in the quads, not a care in the world and a Slurpee in hand. This weekend, I'm looking forward to gaining some new freckles, re-reading this, and enjoying a few computer-free days. 



Thursday, March 6, 2014

The Sugar Free Challenge

I actually wrote this post yesterday and realized that I needed 24 hours under my belt to know if I had any chance of pulling this off. I'm feeling a little more confident this morning, so here I go! This is one of those posts where I make a crazy declaration of something I'm going to commit myself to and because it's public, I can't be a total chicken and quit any time I want to.

It's no secret that I have a passionate sweet tooth. I love love love dessert. I used to say as a little girl when I didn't want to finish the broccoli that I was served every.single.night (love you, Mom!) that my breakfast, lunch, snack, and dinner stomachs were full but my dessert stomach was totally empty. I love baked goods, ice cream, candy - you name it. While I'm comfortably shameless about my affection for sugar, I have realized over the years that I might need to reign myself in. Everyone should have an indulgence, and I'm so proud of myself for being in a place where I don't feel consumed with guilt when I eat dessert. However, I'm currently having something sweet twice a day and I want to make strides to be in better control of what I put into my body and be less dependent on sugar. 

Starting yesterday, I'll be taking a 30 day break from eating any processed treats or homemade dessert. No candy after lunch, no brownies after dinner, no milkshakes on Sunday nights. Pretty much no fun. Honestly, this is going to be really hard. I'm so used to the eating patterns that I've created, I'll have to adjust to new routines, and I'll just miss my treats! But hopefully but the end of this tortuous period, I will have a greater appreciation for my favorite meal of the day and be more prone to choose it when it's truly delicious and not just because it's there. I went 30 days without gluten two years ago and I'm still gluten-free. Make no mistake that I will be enjoying an enormous ice cream sundae at Goody's on April 4, but I'm glad to remember that I'm capable of such discipline ;)

Lots of people are getting underway with Lent, and to you, good luck. Wish me the same as I embark on my hardest challenge yet! I'll be back with weekly updates, so if you have any great tips for living sugar free, please leave them in the comments.

First Day: 
Wednesday, March 5

Last Day: 
Thursday, April 3


Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Italian Bean Soup

This winter, I have had a permanent craving for tomato soup. I never considered myself a real fan before, but lately I can't get enough. So when I was making our shopping list for dinners this week, I got a little daydreamy about tomatoes, and then about white beans, and about mushrooms. What was a dish that combined some of these favorite things? My take on Pasta e Fagioli Soup. I decided to omit the pasta so I could dip bread into the luscious looking sauce and to make it a little more healthy. In the end, it was perfect. Salty, bursting with flavor, eat bite filled with the perfect ratio of turkey, veggies, and beans. The Parmesan cheese and red pepper flakes gave it a little bite, and made it taste more like an Italian chili. This would be delicious with spicy sausage, or with swiss chard or spinach and no meat. The weather is getting warmer in Boise, but I'm thinking this soup will stay in our dinner plans for months to come!

Recipe, adapted from Iowa Girl Eats:
(Serves 6)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound lean ground turkey
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 cup carrots, sliced
8 ounces fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
28 ounce can tomato sauce
14 ounce can low sodium diced tomatoes
2-14 ounce cans cannellini beans
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dried basil
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium, add ground turkey, and cook until no longer pink. Add onions, carrots, mushrooms, and garlic, and saute for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans, and spices, stir to combine, and simmer over low-medium heat for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
When the soup is ready to eat, stir in Parmesan cheese. To serve, ladle into soup bowls, garnish with extra Parmesan cheese, and enjoy with toasted bread, crackers, or tortilla chips.


Monday, February 24, 2014

Update on Happy + Jeff's Birthday

So I survived one week of keeping my mouth clean! I had two moments of weakness, things that really frustrated me and that I wanted desperately to vent about, but I talked myself through them and ended up getting over things much more easily and quickly than I would have had I been able to gossip. In general, the week wasn't as hard as I thought it would be, but I attribute a lot of that to the fact that I didn't do anything social. Had I been gabbing with girlfriends over wine? Different story. I did learn some good lessons - that I'm much more pleasant if the things I have to say are positive, that I liked myself a little more, that I felt better. I definitely see myself adopting some of these new found principles long term and the cleanse was a great idea for me. I recommend giving it a shot!

Jeff's birthday was on Saturday, so we rented a place in Sun Valley to escape for the weekend. It was the perfect getaway - delicious meals at Ketchum Grill and Dashi, snowshoeing and cocktails with friends, enjoying the freshest air, sleeping in, and celebrating. It's always hard to come back to reality after even the shortest vacations, but we both feel rejuvenated and relaxed after a few days in the mountains. Happy birthday to my main man, my partner-in-crime, my biggest fan. I have loved celebrating these last seven February 22nds with you, and I can't wait to be by your side for the next seventy or so ;)