Life Lately

Monday, August 31, 2015

Where has the summer gone? I can't believe that we are at the end of August. It has been forever since I've blogged about anything, but I thought I'd pop in and let you know that I am still alive. I guess I've been busy, but more than anything, I've just been enjoying the break from the blog. Sometimes you just need to step back and not feel the pressure to show up everyday. 

Here are a few little snips into the last few months. 

Bosley and I have been taking advantage of the pool. Sometimes it can be a challenge to swim together because he doesn't understand that I'm not having fun when he's digging his claws into me trying to get a grip in the pool. This dog would live in the pool if he could. 

I went to Minneapolis to visit a girlfriend who I haven't seen in about a year and I've missed her so much. We met when we were both living in Seattle and about the same time that I moved back to SF, she moved back to Minneapolis. We talk often and I'm so glad that we found a weekend that I could visit. I'd never been to Minneapolis and we had a great weekend! We tried a few restaurants that were great and walked around the lake and just relaxed. On Sunday, we met up with some of her friends to go out on their boat on Lake Minnetonka. We spent the day cruising around the lake, looking at the gorgeous houses and enjoying the beautiful weather. I am already looking forward to the next visit! 

Kedzie and I had our annual Tahoe weekend and spent most of it doing exactly this. Floating on the lake and relaxing. We were both exhausted from busy weeks prior, so instead of the crazy adventuring that I thought we'd be doing, we were both happy just relaxing and taking it easy and enjoying Tahoe. 

I did the beer bike downtown for the first time and it was so fun! You can't actually drink ON the bike, but the bike drops you off at a few bars around town for about an hour each and then you hop back on and cruise around town to the next bar. Great idea for a birthday party!

Bret and I celebrated one year! I can't believe how quickly the time has gone by but this year has been amazing and it has been so great being able to spend so much time together and figure out this whole long distance thing. I'd say we have it down and honestly, I'd still make the same decision because it is so worth it. This guy. He has my heart. 

I'm in Philly for the next 2 weeks and this weekend we are meeting my parents and aunt in NYC for a fun weekend of playing tourist! I can't wait!




Twenty Dinners:Duck Breast with Cauliflower Puree

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

On Sunday, Bret and I wandered over to Redding Terminal Market in Philly to poke around and get my favorite turkey and cranberry sandwiches (hey, it was my birthday!). 
We had been thumbing threw my new cookbook, Twenty Dinners, this week, looking for a recipe to try and when we saw the duck breast recipe, although we had both never tried to cook duck breasts, decided to give it a shot. I love ordering duck in a restaurant and wanted to learn to make this succulent dish at home. 
We started with two large duck breasts, scored them and then placed them in a cold pan, skin side down, and turned it on a medium heat. You are supposed to use a cast iron pan, but a regular skillet worked just fine. We seasoned the breasts with S&P and then as the fat started to render off, we spooned it into a jar and saved that amazing stuff for cooking with later! 
I started the cauliflower puree and let me tell you, it was SO easy. I threw a few sprigs of thyme, about 5 cloves of garlic, some peppercorns, heavy cream and milk and the cauliflower, chopped up, into a pot and brought it to a slow boil and then reduced to a simmer. When that was done, and the cauliflower was tender, I put the cauliflower and just a SMALL amount of the cooking liquid into a blender and blended it so that it was about as thick as loose mashed potatoes. You don't want this puree too thin. I also tossed some more S&P and about 4 of the cooked garlic cloves in and gave it another spin. Delicious.
 
Once the duck fat had rendered off and the skin side was golden brown, we took the breasts out of the pan, cleaned the pan out, added a tsp of butter, about 2 tbsp of thyme and crushed garlic cloves and cooked the duck breast skin side up for another few minutes. 
Serve the duck over the cauliflower puree with another side veggie and voila! A fancy mid-week dinner that only took about 30 minutes total and felt like a restaurant quality dish. 
Recipes Here:
Twenty Dinners is a great cookbook. It has a very rustic, farm to table feel, but doesn't feel overwhelming as far as the skill needed to make these recipes go. The book includes recipes for drinks, tips on how to stock your home bar, etc. The recipes are creative and include things that you wouldn't normally think to make. I really enjoy the diversity in ingredients that makes me want to try things that I might not normally try or not even know how to prepare a certain ingredient. 
The book is gorgeous. It is heavy and the pictures are beautiful. This would be a great cookbook to try if you are hosting a dinner party or just want to have a date night in and try to make something of the same quality that you could order in a restaurant, for half the price. 
 

Birthday Weekend- Philly

Monday, June 15, 2015

Yesterday I celebrated my birthday in Philly with Bret and it was AMAZING. I've never been a huge "omg, look at me, it's my birthday!" kind of person, but Bret really went the distance to make this one special. I appreciate him so much and it was so sweet of him to make a big deal of my birthday for me. 
On Thursday and Friday nights, we went to dinner and drinks with friends, since another friend had a birthday on Friday. A friend of ours, who bakes wedding cakes for a living, made us thee most delicious chocolate macadamia cake with chocolate ganache frosting. It was absolutely to die for and the whole thing was gone the next day. (In our defense, we did give a piece to our server, so technically we didn't eat the whole cake). 
In case you were wondering, we did find a way to eat that chocolate frosting cone on top. 

I knew Bret had a surprise planned for Saturday night, but I wasn't sure what was going on. Friday after work, he told me what it was so that I could plan what to wear and get excited. 
Excited was an understatement. 
T-Swift concert in Philly! 

Her show was absolutely amazing. When you walked into the stadium, they were handing out these funny looking white silicone wristbands and no one could figure out what they were for. 
As soon as the music started, the wrist bands lit up to the beat of the music and changed colors each song. It was incredible. The whole stadium was lit up, all the way to the nosebleeds. 

Her performance was great and she played all of her new songs as well as a few older ones. Bret hates to admit it but he was loving it. 


Also, we had to go get a beer and a giant pretzel at Frankford Hall before the show. This is an absolute requirement every time I'm in Philly. 

Sunday, my actual birthday, we headed over to Redding Terminal Market and picked up some veggies and duck breasts (fannnccyyy) to make for dinner this week. Keep an eye out for that recipe. 
We also saw Jurrasic World and it was actually pretty darn good. As hard as it is to recreate something so good as Jurrasic Park, this movie was entertaining and had a good story line. 

Our final birthday adventure was dinner at Parc, in Rittenhouse Square. This is a restaurant that I've been wanting to try for a while now, but it is pretty tricky to get reservations on short notice. What an amazing place! The food was fantastic and the decor was perfect for a French cafe (and the restaurant was huge, surprisingly). 
The perfect end to the best birthday. 
It is going to be a big year. 




Yogurt: A Book Review

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

I think it is not secret that I cook... a lot. I love new cookbooks and trying new things that force me out of my cooking comfort zone. I always find myself going back to the comfort foods, but since I'm doing another round with my trainer, I've had to look elsewhere for new recipes, since the the butter and cheese in the Ina recipes I like won't cut it anymore (but oh how I wish they would!). 

I found Blogging for Books through another blog and I had to give it a try. I hopped on, signed up and answered a few questions about what kinds of books I like and what I like to read. It then took me to another page with about 5 categories and 5 books in each category and I got to pick ANY book to try! The book was shipped the next day and when it arrived I was honestly shocked by how many recipes and creative things were in here.

This book, Yogurt, by Janet Fletcher, is just what it sounds like- a book about cooking with yogurt. The reason that I was drawn to this is because its very protein/veggie heavy and you can basically substitute the cream sauces in other recipes for these ones that use yogurt. The book has recipes for making your own yogurt and also has recipes for desserts, appetizers and lots of entrees. 

I decided to try 2 different recipes from this book. One was a hanger steak with a cilantro, garlic, grilled onion yogurt sauce and the other was grilled zucchini with a yogurt red pepper flake sauce with feta cheese and lemon zest and dill. I probably wouldn't serve these 2 dishes TOGETHER since there is a lot of yogurt sauce going on, but they were both delicious. 



I couldn't find hanger steak, so I picked a great flank steak, which is similar. 

And the zucchini... so fresh and delicious! 

The ingredients are fresh and simple and nothing in the book is really complicated. All of the recipes are interesting, easy to make and quick. It is the perfect cook book if you're trying to whip up something easy and healthy for dinner. 

There are a few other recipes I'm excited to try from Yogurt
Also, Blogging for Books... what a great idea. If you have a blog, hop on and check it out!





Lemon Blueberry Layer Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

Monday, April 6, 2015

I'm not much of a cake person. I always seem to go for the richer, chocolaty cheesecakes and ice cream types of desserts. I could take or leave cupcakes, cakes and cookies.

I had been trying to decide on a dessert to make for a family Easter dinner this past weekend, and I stumbled upon this little number here and I thought that it looked very appropriate for spring and something light after a heavy Easter dinner. 

Plus, who doesn't like cream cheese frosting? I could eat the frosting out of the bowl. 
I decided to give this cake a try, even though a cheesecake or caramel dessert sounded better. 
It was a huge hit and everyone was raving about it and having a second piece. 

The cake is very moist and dense and doesn't feel at all like a breakfast cake, it is rich and very dessert-y . It certainly has enough sugar and butter to be a dessert cake... 


Cake:
1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup (230g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cup granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups all purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk
zest + juice of 3-4 medium lemons (depending on how lemon flavored you want it)
1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries
1 tbsp flour (to mix into blueberries)

Frosting:
8 oz. full fat cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 cup unsalted butter (1 stick, room temp)
3 cups confectioners sugar
1-2 tbsp heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt




Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees and spray your baking pans (3, round) with non-stick cooking spray

2. Making the cake: Using a stand mixer or a hand mixer, in a large bowl, cream the butter until creamy (1-2 minutes) and then add granulated and brown sugars and beat until mixed and creamed. Add eggs and vanilla and beat on medium speed until everything is combined and set aside. 

3. In another large bowl, toss together (sift, if possible), baking powder, salt and flour. Slowly add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and beat on low speed for 5 seconds, after each addition. Add buttermilk, lemon juice and lemon zest and mix. Mix the blueberries in a separate bowl with 1 tbsp of flour and then combine into batter. Mix with a spoon as batter will be very thick and be sure not to over mix!

4. Spoon batter into 3 baking pans and bake for 21-26 minutes or until you can insert a toothpick and it comes out clean. A trick that I noticed was to keep an eye on the cakes in the oven. When they don't look raw in the center anymore, but still aren't browning, check them and take them out if they come out clean. It is better to not let them start to brown. 

5.Making the frosting: Beat butter and cream cheese together until creamed, about 2 minutes. Add sugar, vanilla, salt and one of the tbsp's of cream. Beat together until creamy. Add the second tbsp of cream and beat until blended. Cover and put the frosting in the fridge. 

6. Assemble and Frost: Make sure the cakes are cooled completely. I stuck the layers in parchment paper in the freezer for about 30 minutes since I was making the cakes the day of. They can't be at all warm or the frosting process will be a mess. Lay the first layer on a cake plate and cover with a very thin layer of frosting and then set the second layer on the frosting, frost with a thin layer and set the third layer on. Cover the entire cake with remaining frosting. There isn't a whole lot of frosting so just make sure that you keep an eye on the amount of frosting that you have left. A little goes a long way, I promise. 

You can make the cake ahead (1 day) and refrigerate. You will also want to refrigerate the cake for about an hour before cutting into it. This will ensure that it stays together. 

Decorate the cake any way that you like. I zested a lemon over the top of the cake and sprinkled with blueberries and then lined the base of the cake with thin, half slices of lemons. 

This cake is such a great addition to any spring party. It is light and colorful and seems to be a hit among everyone! It was fairly simple and didn't require a whole lot of effort. It baked easily and was easy to assemble and decorate. 

Enjoy!

Philadelphia and the Snow Storm

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

I am spoiled in California. Really, really spoiled. When it snows, you're probably in Tahoe wishing and hoping for snow because you're skiing, and when it rains, it's not a big deal, because it is still warm. I usually even wear my rainbows when its raining because it isn't usually cold. 
Let me tell you something about the East Coast... 

It SNOWS and it RAINS ICE. I figured freezing rain was probably something like hail, but boy, was I wrong about that too. It is literally frozen rain drops that stick to everything and turn it into a sheet of ice. Its dangerous and makes for impossible air travel. 

After my long visit in Philly, I got stuck here for a few more days after my flight was cancelled Sunday due to this frozen rain (stuck is a very loose term- I was actually really excited that I got to stay, although I was definitely the only person on that flight happy about being stuck). 


SO MUCH SNOW!!


Over the last few weeks, we were able to explore Philly some more and try out some great new (to us) restaurants and museums. We went to the Animals Body Inside Out exhibit as well as a Lego exhibit. This guy builds some crazy figures out of legos. I don't really understand it, because I would be frustrated and over it by lego #8, but more power to him. 



After that, we headed over to the flight museum at the Franklin Institute (along with the other eleventy million people trying to stay out of the snow storm for the day with hyper kids in tow), and Bret tried his hand at paper airplane making. If you fly real planes, you better be able to build a cool paper airplane. 



I was so excited about the snow (walking in it only, not driving in it- terrifying) that I insisted on taking a few selfies as we were walking to dinner. One night, we tried out a few new bars and it snowed several inches in just the few hours that we were out. I had a blast walking around in it. 



I have been gone for so long that I was worried that Bosley has forgotten me and has fallen into a deep state of depression. I'm concerned about him...

Until my mom sends me pictures like this of him playing in the river and finding the biggest stick that he can physically carry back. Obviously, he's devastated by my absence....



DIY Long Distance Relationship Coffee Mugs

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

I like to think that I'm fairly crafty, although it's a miracle if I have time anymore these days to do anything that requires patience and drying time. 
I was trying to figure out something cute and small to get or make Bret for Valentine's Day, when I came across this blog and idea on Pinterest. I decided that it looked easy enough and since Bret drinks more coffee than just about anyone I know, I figured he would get a lot of use out of it. 
What You'll need:
Oil Based Sharpies (they HAVE to be oil based so that they don't smudge later on)
or
Ceramic paint pens (you can buy these at any craft store)
White mugs
Tape
Cut outs of each state that you want to use 
To Make the Mugs:
Carefully cut out the state shapes and tape them to the center of each mug. Trace around the shape with a black sharpie and then peel the paper off of the mug and re-trace over the line with a thicker black line. 
Draw a heart with each city and then make a black bee line from one city to the next, so that they "connect" when the mugs are touching. 
On the back of the mugs, write your favorite song, quote or poem and then let the mugs dry for a few minutes. 
Place the mugs in a cool over and turn the oven to 350. Bake for 30 minutes and let cool.