Friday Faves

I don’t know about you, but this girl is definitely ready for the weekend. I’m heading to the beach for what Bridget Jones would call a “mini-break,” and I cannot wait to get on the road. What is it they say about the sea air restoring your soul? I can’t really remember, but I’m excited to curl up with a blanket and a bottle of wine and relax after a crazy busy week. That’s still a few hours away though, so in the meantime – a few highlights from the past seven days:

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View from Section 331

Every year my friend Katie’s parents buy a huge block of tickets for the Mariners’ home opener. It’s become such a fun tradition, even though Safeco can be kind of a zoo on Opening Day. This year was actually warmer than past years, there was amazing people watching in the beer garden, I ran into so many friends, and the M’s even got a win! (Let’s not talk about anything that’s happened since then).

Peonies at the market – makes it seem like spring even when it’s gray and rainy!

It’s pretty much impossible to get out of my grandparents’ house without my grandma trying to “gift” you something – whether it be food, an old cardigan, or a family heirloom. Lately she’s been trying to give away some of her really nice things, such as this china teacup. She insisted that I take it home this past weekend, asking only that I try to find it “online” (not sure she really understands the concept) to find out what it’s worth. So that’s on my to-do list, but in the meantime I’m just appreciating it for its intricate design and delicate beauty (hand-painted gold!). I have an extensive teacup collection thanks to my godmother, so now all I need is a huge dining room with a china hutch. Maybe someday…..

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I’m obsessed with my new cucumber candle from West Elm (on clearance!).

I’ve been loving my new ballet flats from Sperry – I love their boat shoes but these just seem to work better with my wardrobe. I’m obsessed with this pair but not sure if I would wear them enough to rationalize the purchase (my sister bought them and returned them for the same reason). Although, now that I look them up online I see that they’re actually Milly for Sperry, which means I probably should go back and buy them immediately. Who doesn’t need a pair of hot pink boat shoes for spring? Now I just need more friends with boats!

A couple other pairs of fun spring shoes I love:

Colorful flats: here and here

Kate Spade pumps: here and here

I always need cute new running shoes: Nike Frees in pastel stripes

And just to torture ourselves: Manolo Sandals

Happy Friday!! I hope everyone has fabulous plans for the weekend, and that 5 o’clock (or 2 o’clock, in my case) comes quickly! XOXO

A “Comfort Food” Themed Meal: Chicken Pot Pie and Old Fashioned Chocolate Pudding

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I should begin this post by telling you all that I don’t actually eat these pot pies. One of the best things about cooking really unhealthy things is that you have much less interest in eating them after you see how much butter is used. But the people that eat them don’t know, so they can enjoy their meal, and you can feel good about making them happy (and salvaging your own arteries at the same time).

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My grandparents are both 93 years old (they’ll be 93 and a half in a couple weeks!!), and as it’s getting to be more and more work for my grandma to prepare meals, whenever I’m in town I try to make a couple things for their freezer. Last fall, as I was putting together some soups and casserole-type dishes that I thought would freeze well, I asked my grandpa if there was anything in particular he would like me to make. I’ll never forget his response – it was as though he had literally been waiting a full 93 years for someone to ask him that very question.  Without skipping a beat: “I’d like an old-fashioned chicken pot pie, the kind with the lard in the crust like my mother used to make.” (Very emphatic about the lard). It seemed like a reasonable enough request, and I had recently seen an episode of the Barefoot Contessa’s show on the Food Network where she made them, so I had a place to start. I looked up her recipe and saw that the crust did indeed call for Crisco – yum.  Three stores later – Pier One for the perfect-sized ramekins, New Seasons for an organic, free range chicken, and Trader Joe’s for everything else – I was back in the kitchen and ready to get to work. The fact that they turned out to be such a big hit is both good news and bad news – good news, obviously, because if you go to that much work you want people to really LOVE what you’ve made; bad news because now I feel like I need to constantly have their freezer stocked with pot pies. If I haven’t been down to see my grandparents in a while, I’ll often get a lovely card from my grandpa, casually mentioning that it’s been a while since they’ve seen me, and boy, they sure do enjoy those pot pies. He’ll usually include a check – not for groceries, just because. No pressure or anything.

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This recipe really isn’t hard – it’s a bit time consuming, but I take shortcuts by buying the pre-chopped onions (honestly, what did people do before Trader Joe’s?) and rotisserie chicken. That means the only prep work you really have to do is chopping and blanching the carrots (a mildly annoying but apparently necessary step), cubing the chicken and then chopping up a bit of parsley. I love just opening the bags of frozen peas and pearl onions and dumping them all in the pot. You could use store-bought pie crust for a real time saver, but this crust comes together pretty easily, especially if you have a food processor. Without the food processor, however, a pastry blender (the little handheld one you can get for $10) works just fine.

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I recently tried to mix it up a little (and skip the crust altogether) by trying this recipe from Joy the Baker. While it received good reviews, it was made pretty clear that going forward people would prefer the original. I love Joy but I guess it’s pretty hard to beat Ina. I do love the casserole idea though if you needed to feed a large crowd – whether you use Ina’s filling recipe or Joy’s. And don’t the chive biscuits look so pretty? My dad was a fan of the biscuit topping, so when I made the Barefoot Contessa version for the millionth time this past weekend I did half with the crust like usual, and then threw together a quick batch of these biscuits and topped a couple of the pot pies with them instead. The best part is now we have unbaked biscuits in the freezer for the next time we need topping for a pot pie, or strawberry shortcake. (It is worth noting that Ina’s recipe says it makes four pot pies, but depending on the size of your ramekins it will actually make double to triple that amount – this time mine filled five normal sized ramekins and four of what I call the “hungry man” sized, giant ones – but there’s usually only enough pie crust for about 6.  So you can double the crust recipe, or do some with biscuit topping). I usually bake and then freeze them, but I’m pretty sure you could freeze them assembled but unbaked – it takes so long to defrost and then reheat them in the oven, you may as well defrost and then bake.

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And since this weekend was so rainy and miserable – and going with my theme of comfort (or 70s-era) food – I whipped up some chocolate pudding too. I love Cup of Jo’s blog and her “best of” series – once anyone calls anything the “best _____” I pretty much have to make it (even if, as in the case of chocolate pudding, it isn’t something I would think to make otherwise). This really did only take 8 ingredients (plus toppings), most of which you probably already have in your fridge/pantry.  It was so simple and easy, I might now be really into making pudding (which is pretty much the last thing I need to start doing).

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If anyone has any freezer-friendly ideas, for grandparents or otherwise (I’m bringing dinner to some “new parents” tomorrow), please feel free to share in the comments. And if you’re all of the sudden craving a pot pie after reading this, I won’t judge you – every once in awhile I think you’re allowed to splurge. And the closer you are to 93, the more often!

Friday Faves

TGIFF – thank goodness it’s finally Friday! I hope everyone’s April is off to a lovely start. This week started out gorgeous and sunny in Seattle, but the last few days have been pretty grey and blah. In spite of that, I did my best to come up with a few highlights – and I can’t complain too much about the weather, because I’m heading to Hawaii in two weeks! The forecast for Kailua is low 80s and sunny, which makes the current Seattle rain just a teensy bit more bearable. As will the spray tan I’m going to get at lunch today!

I had a really sad day on Monday, for reasons I won’t go into. After work I dragged myself to a spin class, even though I would have much preferred happy hour. During the instructor’s inspirational rant towards the end of class, she yelled out “take whatever it is that ruined your day today and work it out this way, rather than at the bar.” I was feeling so proud of myself for doing just that…until after class when I promptly ordered a drink at dinner. This “cucumber mint agave” cocktail was so delicious though, I didn’t even feel guilty. It’s my new drink for summer: vodka muddled with cucumber and mint and then mixed with lime juice and a little agave nectar. Paired with a good workout and great friends, it was the perfect cure for a bad day.

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My friend Katie and I went on an online shopping spree last summer, when a slow work day happened to coincide with the Kate Spade sale – a dangerous combination. When this bag first arrived in the mail, I was afraid it was a little too bright and didn’t really use it at all. However, I recently rediscovered it in the back of my closet and for some reason this year I feel like the color is perfect – and I’ve gotten so many compliments on it that I know it’s not just me. If you’re in the market for a fun spring handbag, here are a few that I love:

  • Tory Burch Robinson Spectator Double Zip Tote – I love anything from the Robinson line, but I especially love this in the white, and with the laser-cut detailing (here)
  • Kate Spade Grove Court Maise in Maraschino – love the pink and orange combo, and the polka dot lining (here)
  • Rebecca Minkoff “M.A.B” Leather Tote in Sea Green – perfect for a fun summer work bag (here)

I’ve turned 29 my past few birthdays, so all of the sudden I find myself buying more skincare products than I used to. I know this is an issue for most of my friends as well, so whenever I find an amazing new product I have to share. I’m still waiting for my friend Yoona to do another skincare post, but in the meantime, this is my new moisturizer obsession. It’s light and non-greasy, which are my two main criteria for a moisturizer, but it’s also super hydrating, anti-aging, smoothing, calming, etc. Basically a lot of things that my skin needs. And it smells good. If anyone else has a product they want to share, I would love to hear about it in the comments!

One of my favorite parts about having my blog is that people will discuss things with me that they wouldn’t necessarily have discussed before. A friend at work the other day gave me a list of his favorite cookbooks, so of course I immediately went back to my desk and ordered them all. He gave me three suggestions – one is backordered, but the other two arrived this week (in a HEAVY box, they’re both HUGE)and I’m having so much fun starting to go through them. If anyone has any favorite recipes from Marcella Hazan’s Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking or Dorie Greenspan’s Around My French Table , I would love to hear them! I have a feeling they’re both going to force me to up my game!

My grandma is famous for a lot of her recipes, but one of the top five family favorites is her lemon poppyseed cake (which – shhhh!!! – is just a slightly doctored up cake mix). I made it on my own for the first time this past weekend, and it was a big hit at my cousin’s baby shower. Even Grandma gave it the thumbs up, although she was quick to add that hers is “lighter.” Also you’ll notice the crack at the bottom of mine from when I flipped it – heartbreaking.

Grandma’s Lemon Poppyseed Cake:

2 boxes lemon cake mix (“lemon supreme” if you can find it, I used plain lemon because I couldn’t)
2 small boxes instant lemon pudding (if you can find it, I used vanilla because I couldn’t find lemon)
Lemon juice (fresh squeezed, or from concentrate, as you’ll need 1-2 cups)
Eggs
Oil
1 large jar poppyseeds
1 cup powdered sugar (approx.), for glaze
4 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice (or juice of one lemon, approx.), for glaze

Prepare cake mix according to package directions, only substitute lemon juice for the water. You can do just one cake mix (and one box of pudding, and one small or half one large jar poppyseeds), but for a tall cake you should use two and double the recipe.

Spray a bundt cake pan with “pam for baking” (or butter and flour the pan) and cook according to package directions (if you use two boxes of cake mix it will take anywhere from 15-30 minutes longer to bake).

To make the glaze, whisk the powdered sugar and 4 teaspoons lemon juice together until smooth (mine turned out a little too thin, which is why you can barely tell it’s even on there – too much lemon juice!).

Allow cake to cool for 20-30 minutes, then invert pan onto platter and drizzle the glaze over the top of the cake. Serve with fresh berries.

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I hope everyone has fun weekend plans, sunshine or not! I’ll be rooting for Wichita State tomorrow (I can’t believe I just said that!). xoxo

Jamie Oliver’s Eggplant Parmesan

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I really wanted to post this a couple weeks ago, in case anyone was looking for meatless recipes during Lent, but I’m just now getting around to it. So just in time for a Meatless Monday instead! My friend Tracy introduced me to this recipe a few years ago – I fell in love with it then, and each time I’ve made it since I fall in love with it all over again. I have a couple of Jamie Oliver’s cookbooks, and I love his stuff because it’s usually pretty easy and relatively healthy.  This recipe is no exception.

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His eggplant parm is lighter than most because his eggplant is grilled (or roasted) rather than breaded and fried like the traditional recipe. Each time I make it I’m reminded of how eggplant immediately soaks up olive oil, so you really need to brush it on rather than drizzle it (as evidenced above). Jamie has you grill the eggplant slices either on the stove top or barbecue (his recipe can be found here), but Tracy sent me a variation on the recipe (found here – love the Wednesday Chef!) and she just brushes them with olive oil and roasts them in the oven, which seems easier to me.

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Everything else comes together pretty quickly, and the sauce is the best part – every time I make this dish I start thinking I should be making this sauce by itself, any time I need a marinara (which I suppose is basically never, but if I did). The San Marzano tomatoes really make a difference, which I say only for the benefit of people who don’t already know that (as I realize many of you already do).

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I put it on top of whole wheat, Omega-3 fortified pasta (which tastes amazingly just like normal noodles), but I had the leftovers plain and it was still delicious – the eggplant is substantial enough you don’t really need the pasta. I will tell you that between prepping and roasting the eggplant, making the sauce, and then baking the casserole, the dish doesn’t come together quickly – but that shouldn’t deter you from making it. If you’re looking for a quick weeknight meal, I would suggest perhaps making the sauce and/or roasting the eggplant the night before, and then putting it together and baking it the following evening. Otherwise, if you get home as late as I do, dinner won’t be ready until bedtime. But although it is time-consuming, it’s really not hard. If you try it, let me know what you think. And if you have any other “Meatless Monday” recipes to share, or Jamie favorites, I’d love to hear them in the comments. Happy Monday, everyone! And Buon Appetito!

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