Friday, June 28, 2013

Friday five: Summer staples

I know it's nearly a week away, but can we all just agree to consider this weekend the start of the July 4th holiday?  Because I'm mentally already on vacation time and don't have the willpower to turn this ship around.  'Kay, thanks :)

We're expecting a party bus-size group of out of town visitors starting next week and through the weekend, so Matt and I plan to do some cleaning and just lay low and play it casual.  There has been talk of mini golf over the past few days, so if we can find a place, chances are we'll end up there for a very competitive evening.  Loser buys ice cream, for sure.

Mini golf and ice cream just scream summer, don't they?   They aren't just luxuries but total necessities during the warmer months.   A few days without ice cream is like a few days in Purgatory, if you ask me.  I can't live without it!  (So much so that I'm salivating thinking about the gelato I had two nights ago: half Pay Day flavor, and half blueberry muffin.  Oh em gee.)  I started thinking about what else I can't live without in the summer and came up with quite a list.  For this week's Friday five here are a few of my must-have summer items

1. Ice cold glassware - Once a gal that could survive on water out of the Brita pitcher or even faucet, I've turned into that person who requires a glass full of ice with any beverage.  We're filling up the ice cube trays (two!) nearly every day.  I've even started keeping a glass in the freezer, chilled and ready to use.  To do this, simply run a glass or beer stein under cold water, inside and outside.  Place glass upright in freezer for at least 30 minutes until a thin frosty coating has formed.  Try with vintage ice cream goblets, too, for a dessert that won't melt on the spot!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Huevos rancheros

Talking to a friend recently, we were trading the evening's dinner plans.  I said I'd be making one of our stand-bys, huevos rancheros.

"Huevos what?"
"Oh, you know, eggs, tortillas, beans, salsa.  Nothing fancy."
"Eggs and tortillas and beans and salsa?  That sounds so good!  Is it on your blog?"
"Uh, probably."

Good thing I didn't place any wagers on that because she called my bluff.  "I can't find it anywhere."  Oops.

Had I really not posted it anywhere?  In nearly 4 years of sharing recipes here with you?  I seriously couldn't believe it.

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Moscow mule cocktail

No, your eyes aren't playing tricks on you.  This is really a post about an alcoholic drink.  With alcohol.  Like I said, nice weather makes people do crazy things :)

This past Sunday, we visited a friend's new house for an old fashioned cookout.  (For those keeping track, like myself, this makes 6 consecutive weekends of grilling.  At this point, I want to see if I can keep the streak alive all summer.)

The new homeowner is a dude and, as it turns out, can throw one heck of a party.  I don't know how else to say this without offending the male folk out there, so I'm just going to say it -- dudes don't always get credit for being the best hosts.  Maybe it stems from college parties where a case of beer and bag of chips count as "drinks and food."  Or that guys aren't crazy about details like women are.  Whatever the reasons, I'd like to assure all men and women out there that stereotypes aren't always accurate.  Because dude knocked it out of the park!

Monday, June 24, 2013

Gnocchi with zucchini, goat cheese, and corn, chicken

Despite my bragging, I managed to avoid jinxing things/tempting Mother Nature.  We ended up with another weekend of picture perfect weather.  I've always fancied myself a (rare) winter-loving East Coast gal, but I think I'm starting to really enjoy this thing called summer.

Before you get worried and think I'm going to become some warm-weather craving Californian reptile, let me assure you that this new-found fondness for summer has a long way to go before it even enters the same state, let alone zip code :)

But, summer sure has its perks, doesn't it?  At least the kind of summer we're having so far.  Temperatures in the 80s, sunny with a few sporadic clouds, and the most perfect light breeze to keep you from feeling downright hot.

Good weather can be almost hypnotic.  It makes nearly every idea seem like the best idea ever!  Outdoor concerts in a field!  Kayaking in a muddy river!  Ice cream for dinner!  (Obviously)  Making our favorite zucchini goat cheese pizza at home!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Fast Friday: Smashed avocado and chick pea wrap

(looks around nervously) I'm hesitant to even mention this in fear of jinxing things, but I must -- how about this weather, East Coast people?!

I cannot believe how lucky we've been over the past few weeks.  With the exception of a quick shower here and there, it's been absolutely incredible outside.  Look in the dictionary next to "perfect summer weather" and you'll see our forecast.  Low 80s and sunny with a gentle breeze.  Unreal dot com!

No A/C needed since it's been so pleasant with the windows open.  And, no A/C needed because this girl has managed to avoid turning on the oven.  That surely won't last because I've got a baking itch, but the accidental ban it has resulted in some pretty spectacular dishes so far.

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Blueberry balsamic sauce, many ways

Whenever I hear someone say, "I'm blue," I think of my 7th grade German class.  It was my first year taking a foreign language.  After the first weeks of instruction, we'd learned basic conversation skills like greetings, introductions, and questions about the weather and one's well-being.  We'd also learned how to ask to go to the bathroom, get a drink of water, and sharpen one's pencil.  (Our teacher was all about total immersion in the language.  I may not remember cardinal directions, but I can surely inquire about a water fountain.) 

Our teacher paired up students and asked us to create a 2 minute dialogue using stuffed animals, action figures, or props of some kind.  I want to remind you that, in 7th grade, I was desperately trying to embrace being a teenager and seem older and more mature to anyone and everyone.  I was already smaller than most of my friends and therefore looked even younger.  So, the thought of revealing to my peers and teachers one of my childhood toys didn't exactly scream cool junior highschooler.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Cheesy zucchini orzo

Absence is a funny thing.  They (who, exactly?  I've always wondered) say it makes the heart grow fonder.  It's the time apart that makes you appreciate that someone or something.  Even something that you swore you wanted a break from at last meeting.

No, this is not a subtle jab at any person in my life.  I love all of you dearly and wish I could see so many of you much, much more often!  :)

Instead, this is a bit of a sheepish apology to zucchini.  Last year, you see, I may have gone a bit overboard with zucchini recipes.  I grilled it, roasted it, fried it, and ate it raw.  I sliced it, stuffed it, and grated it into pieces.  I dressed it up and baked it into anything I could possibly imagine.  And it was so undeniably delicious.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Friday five: Dad's favorite recipes

Hello, Friday!  And farewell, Pittsburgh!  The car is gassed up, the oil changed, and our bags packed.  This afternoon, Matt and I are making the trip across the state to Reading to visit his family and celebrate his cousin's wedding on Saturday.  (The bride is incredibly crafty, and I hear she's been super busy with wedding-related projects.  I can't wait to see what surprises she has in store for guests!)  Plus, we'll get to spend Father's Day with Matt's dad.  While women love flowers and chocolates, the former doesn't really do it for guys.  Thankfully, my father-in-law is a serious chocolate fanatic, so it was an easy decision to make a batch of double chocolate cookies for him.

I'll be missing my own dad on Sunday, but thankfully we had a great visit with my parents last weekend.  In honor of my papa, I thought it'd be fun to highlight his  favorite recipes from my blog.  When I called and first explained what I was doing, his response was funny and sweet: "Katy, do you honestly expect me to remember everything you've ever made?  I love almost everything you cook, and I have a terrible memory."  Sweet and true, I should say.  We spent a good 20 minutes on the phone rehashing recipes and brutally cutting the number down to size.  In no particular order, here is this week's edition of Friday Five: my dad's favorite recipes!

1. Herbed chicken in puff pastry - This is a recipe my dad originally got from a coworker over a decade ago.  We've made it together many times at home before I began making it on my own with a few tweaks.  I made this for Matt the first time I cooked him dinner.  Decadent but easy-to-find ingredients like herb cheese and puff pastry will wow even the pickiest critic!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Greek tilapia with feta tomato orzo

I was all set to write about the abundant sunshine we've been enjoying and this bright and fresh recipe.  But, it seems like Mother Nature is trying to foil my plan by soaking much of the East Coast with rain.  Luckily, this dish will brighten up your next mealtime, rain or shine.

With the official comfort food months of fall and winter are long behind us, we've been enjoying less oven-bound casseroles and heavy pasta dishes in favor of grilled meats, market fresh vegetables and salads of spring and summer. 

But, as the mercury rises, so increases my will to enjoy the outdoors as much as possible.  I usually reserve Saturday mornings for running, but I've been getting the itch to pound the pavement more often and also earlier in the week.  Matt has always raved about post-sunset summer runs as being the best, so I decided to give it a go last week.  Gone are the scorching sun, humidity, and crowded city of the daytime.  When I head out around 8:45, I'm welcomed by warm summer air, a light cool breeze, and empty sidewalks.  Perfection!

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Guest post: Homemade wedding card box "cake"

Today's post comes from a recent MOB.  The mother of this lovely bride, to be exact!  While I'll always think of Susan as my go-to person for all things paper and fonts (the woman knows fonts like I know food), she is quite the crafty lady.

For Julie and Bryan's recent wedding -- OMG, has it been 5 weeks already?! -- Susan made the card box to be placed at the wedding reception.  But, this was no ordinary card box.  Instead, it was a card box that looked sweet enough to eat, as it was a wedding cake!

My friends and I gushed about it at first sight, and Matt, being married to a crafty lady himself, even took a picture of it for me.  What a doll that guy is, huh?  I asked Susan to share her creative process just in time for the busy summer wedding season.  This would be great for birthdays, anniversaries, and graduation parties, too!

Homemade Wedding Cake Card Box

  • Three hat boxes from a craft store or website (I used 10”, 12”, 14” boxes)
  • Two small or one large bottle of acrylic craft paint
  •  Sponge brush
  •  One and one half yards of lace. (I purchased Chantilly Lace from Joann’s Fabric. Look online for coupons! There is less expensive lace, but the Chantilly is beautiful, soft, and easy to work with.)
  • Trim: I used strung pearls, but be creative! You can use satin ribbon, handmade bows, silk flowers, etc.
  • Spray adhesive
  • Glue gun
  • Box cutter or Xacto knife
  • Wax paper 
(Note: I found it easier to cut and then paint, so do the cutting first.)

Monday, June 10, 2013

Broccoli slaw

I've got a fever!  ...and the only prescription is more cowbell cookouts.

It seems like everyone in the area has caught the barbecue bug, including yours truly.  For the past three weekends, I've been lucky enough to enjoy some kind of outdoor gathering with friends or family.  Hot grills, icy beverages, delicious food, and shenanigans like volleyball games on a hill and frisbee in the woods with dogs.  (Yes, the latter two are absolutely terrible ideas, but that's what made them so much fun.)

Yesterday, Matt and I headed to our country home a.k.a. my parents' house in the woods for the day.  We'll be traveling next weekend, so we wanted to visit with my folks and celebrate Father's Day a little early.

There was nothing firm on the agenda, and we took full advantage of it by spending the majority of the afternoon lounging on the back porch reading, chatting, and enjoying some homemade iced tea.  I did manage to peel myself out of my chair long enough to play with the dogs and chase them around for 20 minutes or so.  Eventually, I they grew tired and simply laid down in the middle of the yard and stared at me.  Do you think they realized the smell of charcoal was not for their dinner? :)

Friday, June 7, 2013

Fast Friday: Cool oats with yogurt with fresh fruit

We're friends, right?  And friends can ask favors of their friends.  So, I have a teeny tiny favor to ask of you today: Give yourself a gold star.

(In a pinch, a pat on the back will do, but there's something about a shiny little sticker that's so uplifting, don't you agree?)

If you are one of those insufferable people who ask "why?" and need a reason to reward yourself (cough yours truly cough), here are a few.  Feel free to use any/all:

-Shiny things make you happy
-You totally rocked that thing at work this week
-You only hit snooze once today
-You crossed off a major item on your to-do list
-It's Friday!

I'm giving myself a gold star on behalf of my husband because I came up with a new favorite summer dish that doesn't use the oven.  It's a tasty Fast Friday miracle!

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Pizza with chicken, peppers, and spinach

Just in time for summer, I've rekindled my love for our Friday night pizza-making tradition.  There's nothing like cranking up the oven to nearly 500 degrees when it's a sweltering 90 degrees outside.  What can I say?  Nothing can get between me and my love for pizza.  

It seems a bit cruel that the options for pizza toppings increase ten-fold when it's hottest and least ideal for oven cooking of any kind.  Matt loves to point out that the baking/oven bug bites hardest at this time of year.  I love to point out that he doesn't seem to have a problem with it when he's stuffing his face with delicious food.  Agree to disagree, mmkay? :)

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Goat cheese and basil stuffed chicken

I'm so excited to finally be writing this post because it means I get to share with you a project near and dear to Matt's heart (and our stomachs): an edible garden!

For the past two months, he's been growing, nurturing, and downright babying a few herbs and vegetables.  The cherry tomato seedlings and lettuce plant have been moved outside to the roof to benefit from the 10+ hours of sun that side of the building receives daily.  Meanwhile, the herbs, which he will proudly tell you he started from seed, still have an indoor home on the window sill that overlooks said outdoor plants.

Like an animal stalking its prey, I've been watching the dill, chives, and basil like a  hawk, waiting for the day when I could pluck some fresh green herbs to chop up and use.  Seemed like for-ev-er!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Baked doughnuts with chocolate glaze

I may not possess the yard sale/antiquing gene that Matt and Laura have -- let alone, the patience -- but I do have one thing they do not: a doughnut pan! (...and delicious doughnuts, obviously, but I'll get to that.)

A few weeks ago, the three amigos explored the Mexican War Streets neighborhood of Pittsburgh for a community-wide yard and sidewalk sale.  Laura and Matt were totally in their element, criss-crossing their way around the streets, being attracted to one shiny object after another.  To their credit, they do have an eye for junk treasures and spotted cool stuff like vintage hamburger signs and first edition Stephen King books.

I, on the other hand, was having a metaphorical bird on the inside.  You see, I was riding a high from a major clean-out that Matt and I completed a few days earlier.  We filled three large bags with clothes, books, and other unused items destined for Goodwill.  Closets and cabinets were freshly organized, and I felt so light and rejuvenated!

So, you can surmise that this girl wasn't exactly ecstatic about the idea of cruising for knick-knacks that would once again clutter our newly-organized apartment.