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 ;) 


Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: What We Wore

I blogged about my dressmaker before the wedding, but I obviously had to wait for the reveal until after the big day! I loved my dress. It was modeled after the Christos Brista, but made in taffeta with pockets and a smaller skirt. My favorite detail was the silk rosette straps. I wanted a dress that was modest, beautiful, and comfortable, and I felt wonderful and very me in mine. I kept the floral details going in the gorgeous Bari Jay bridesmaid dresses, which are the palest shade of greyish silver in person but photograph perfectly lavender. The boys were dapper in grey suits with a faint herringbone pattern, checked ties, and pop color suspenders (an homage to the Oregon Ducks, of course). We took a few risks - not ever seeing or trying on my dress before it was made, my bridesmaids ordering theirs with no return policy, the boys' whole look being assembled the day before the wedding - but everything came together seamlessly. The guys and gals looked fabulous and we love admiring everyone's looks!




Flower Girl and Ring Bearer

My dress: Bridal Bliss Designs
My earrings and hair comb: Blue J Bridal
Bridesmaid dresses: Bari Jay
Groomsmen suits: Jos. A. Bank
Suspenders: Suspender Store

A note about wedding suits: We got a killer deal on suits from Jos. A. Bank - buy one, get three free. So we spent roughly $2,000 on eight $900 suits, a steal because the guys got to keep them and looked great! At this point, no national suit stores that I know of do suit rentals, so this was a welcome alternative to renting tuxedos for a similar price. I would highly recommend checking in with your local Jos. A. Bank to see when they're having promos like that one. They love to make a sale (or eight) and our store worked with us to pull it off. The suits were delivered to stores in each groomsman's city, where he could have the appropriate alterations. 


Monday, February 17, 2014

The Happiness Project

On Sunday, curled up with a big cup of coffee and the latest issue of Glamour, I read an article that really resonated with me. Anna Breslaw gave up bitching for a week - no complaining, whining, trash talking, or negativity for seven days. The result was that she felt happier, healthier, and more aware of her persona and the things that occupied her thoughts daily. I often find myself guilty of complaining and being negative, and lately I've realized how tired I am of hearing myself talk in that way. Has that ever happened to you? You're bored with the things you have to say? I attribute that mostly to the fact that I know I have more interesting thoughts and conversation topics, but in an effort to vent, share, or find a commonality with someone, bitching can take over. I spend a lot of time thinking and writing about living positively, being grateful, and seeing the little, sweet things in life. The article reminded me that despite my best efforts, I have a tendency to allow myself to get carried away instead of focusing on being grateful. 

For the next week, I'm going to take a page out of Glamour and banish the negativity. And I don't mean I'll banish emotion - when frustrating and disappointing things happen, it's essential to allow yourself to be present and able to deal. I'm focusing on the petty things that are in my control - how I react to traffic, after getting an annoying email, when I want to gossip. It won't always be easy and I might not be completely successful, but I'm looking forward to seeing how I do and what I learn. I'm planning to keep a running list of the things that I don't communicate during this experiment, and how I help myself get over them. I'll be back next Monday with a full report - wish me luck! 


Friday, February 14, 2014

Happy Valentine's Day!

Today marks the fifth consecutive year that I've eaten french fries on Valentine's Day. That, my friends, is a great accomplishment. Whether they're fried, mashed, baked, or scalloped, I'm a fan of all potatoes and I feel a sweet sense of serendipity that I fell in love with a boy from Idaho. I had a different plan for today's post until I came across the drawing above on the Twitter feed of our favorite burger joint, Boise Fry Company (first blogged about here). Love and potatoes go hand in hand for me, and this little spud is perfect for my Valentine. I hope you have a heart filled holiday!



Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Wedding Wednesday: Our Vendors

Our wedding was the best combination of our visions and our vendors' execution. Armed with Pinterest and amazing venue backdrops, I was able to put all of my favorite pieces together and pass them along to our vendors with total confidence that they would deliver. For any Bay Area brides, I would highly recommend any of these vendors, and please contact me with questions!

Mill Valley Flowers

Working with Katie from Mill Valley Flowers was a wonderful experience, and she made my vision come alive in all of our floral pieces. Everything was lush and beautiful, and Katie incorporated all of the ideas I threw at her from Pinterest and her own unique additions. I am so glad that I trusted her as the expert - I was speechless with the end result! Katie was laid back and easy going, she implemented all of the details perfectly and stayed within my budget.

Salon DeCota

The ladies at Salon DeCota are the best. I had my hair and makeup trial a few days before the wedding, so I got to know a few of the stylists. They are all fun, professional, and easy going. We were able to take over the salon the morning of the wedding and Evet and her crew provided breakfast and mimosas. They created a great environment for us to relax and laugh a little before all of the excitement really began. All of the girls looked gorgeous!

Susie Cakes

We had a great tasting at SusieCakes in the spring and throughout planning, all of the communication was easy and thorough. I knew from the beginning that I wanted an array of desserts with a special cake for us to cut, and SusieCakes made it happen within my budget. Everything that they provided was delicious and beautiful. We saved half of our little cake for our one year, but we might have to pay SusieCakes a visit for an upgrade next October!

Archival Photo Booth

First of all, I'm never having another party without a photo booth! The photo booth brought everyone out of their shells and set the tone for a fun night. Erin and her crew were wonderful at the wedding and great to work with throughout the year. Archival is very affordable and low maintenance, while providing a complete package, including a special photo album of all of our pictures. Everything was well done and we are so pleased to have all of these memories.

Pride & Joy

Pride & Joy is part of our family - they performed at my step-sister's wedding seven years ago. They are the best band in the Bay Area, they got every single person on the dance floor, and they didn't slow down for the whole night. I was so excited about the opportunity to have a band, and when I knew I could have Pride & Joy, I was ecstatic. They played songs that every generation could dance to, they allowed my crazy friends to get on stage with them, and they were outstanding performers. 

Timepiece Studio

We were blessed to have two friends shoot our wedding, which led to lots of crazy antics and very few posed pictures (just the way we like it). River and Christin came up from Los Angeles (and they'll travel anywhere!) and brought so much love and joy to the day. They put Jeff and me, and our wedding party and families, at ease and kept permanent smiles on our faces. They are a wonderful addition to any celebration, and we keep pinching ourselves that they could be at ours!


Monday, February 10, 2014

Creamy Tomato and Mushroom Spaghetti with Shrimp

Happy Monday! I'm here today to share with you the most amazing pasta recipe I've made in a long time. As delicious as anything I've eaten in a restaurant, easy, and elevated enough for company. The only problem is that it's so good, you'll definitely have seconds and then you'll stand over the pot eating forkfuls until there's nothing left. With that in mind you should probably double the recipe. 

Recipe, adapted from Natasha's Kitchen:
(Makes 4 servings)

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound raw shrimp, peeled with tails removed
4 medium tomatoes, diced
1 yellow onion, chopped
8 ounces cremini mushrooms, sliced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 cup dry white wine
1/2 pound spaghetti (I used brown rice spaghetti)
1/2 cup milk or cream
16 ounce bag or 12 cups of fresh spinach, cooked (either steamed in the bag in the microwave, or sauteed in a pan with a little olive oil. Spinach shrinks a lot so it won't be that much when you're done!)
4 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a large, deep pan over medium heat. Season shrimp with pepper and saute until cooked through, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
In the same pan, add butter and garlic and cook until melted. Add tomatoes, onion, mushrooms, red pepper flakes, and basil and season with pepper. Cook down for a few minutes. Add wine and cook over medium heat for 10 to 15 minutes. Turn heat to medium-high and cook until most of the wine has evaporated.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
Once the sauce is cooked down, stir in the milk and return the shrimp to the pan. Heat sauce until warm throughout. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
In a large bowl or your pasta pot, toss the pasta with the sauce until fully combined. Serve on a bed of cooked spinach and garnish with Parmesan cheese.


Friday, February 7, 2014

Friday Inspiration

I spent the week in Salt Lake City at the Children's Miracle Network Hospitals spring conference, working with other program directors to share ideas, hear best practices, and get inspired to raise more money for the kids at children's hospitals across the country. I'm always excited to spend time with CMN Hospitals staff, the hundreds of people who feel so passionately about helping children, and this trip gave me a boost to do more and do better for the kids at our hospital. This adaptation of a Mother Theresa quote perfectly encompasses the dedication of my colleagues and peers, as well as of the people who support our efforts. CMN Hospitals' campaigns are often a dollar at a time, meaning that all of the small things that you do - purchasing a Miracle Balloon at Costco or Rite Aid, making a donation on National Pancake Day at IHOP, sponsoring a student through Dance Marathon - add up to the great things that happen at children's hospitals every day, and they're only possible because of the love of people who care.

It is also true in so many other aspects of life. We often worry that the small things don't make a difference or that if we can't do it all that we shouldn't do anything. Through my job, I hear these concerns from potential donors or volunteers on a daily basis, and I have concerns about my own capacity to support causes that I believe in. In my personal life, I worry that I'm a bad friend, daughter, or sister if I can't dedicate a lot of time to my relationships. But this quote reminds me that every touch, compliment, gift, extra hand, or smile makes a difference to the people in our lives, and that it's important to always do what you can. It's okay if our gestures can't be grand because as long as they're genuine, no matter how small the effort seems, the impact can be great. As I always say, it's the little things...

Happy weekend!