grape endive salad

April 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

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I may be a bit of a competitive person. Some people I know might think this is an understatement, which in all likeliness it is. But I have calmed my competitive edge over the years, so at least I am not as bad as I use to be. I am still very competitive when it comes to any athletic activity or watching any sporting event. While board and card games only bring out little spirits of competition in me.

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When Ross and I have a little extra time at lunch or dinner we usually try and play something together, our games of choice being backgammon and cribbage, with a mix of rummy every once in awhile. While both of these games involve a lot of luck, Ross and I both have our stance on what is luck and what is skill. (I should add that although Ross thinks he’s not as competitive as me, in all honesty he is.) We playfully argue about how he always rolls doubles in backgammon and how I always get better cards in cribbage. There are some winning streaks where one of us will go on a tear for a week or two but for the most part our wins are split 50-50.

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It’s hard when you get older to continue to have opportunities to be competitive. When I was young I participated in all kinds of sports and loved the competition that came along with them. Now every time I can get a glimpse of competition I enjoy it just the same.

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Inspired by La Tartine Gourmande
Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side

Salad
One large or two small heads of endive
1 cup grapes, sliced in half
1.5 oz. goat cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted and lightly chopped
1/4 cup fresh basil, thinly sliced

Dressing
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of honey balsamic
1 clove of garlic, minced
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toast walnuts at 350 degrees for 5 minutes or so, just until they are slightly browned and fragrant.

In a small bowl whisk together all the dressing ingredients, olive oil, honey balsamic, garlic, salt and pepper.

Chop off the bottom inch of the endive head and peel back single leaves. Assemble individual leaves on a large platter. Top the endive with the grapes, goat cheese and walnuts. Drizzle the dressing on top and finish with a sprinkling of basil.

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good morning granola

April 11, 2014 § Leave a comment

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I have a wonderful brother-in-law. He spoils me constantly with gourmet food goodies, most of them homemade. It began just a few years back when he made me vanilla and stuck it in my Christmas stocking. I was not only happily surprised, but impressed too! Last year I was gifted homemade gingerbread syrup, perfect for pancakes and oatmeal in the morning. And most recently, he surprised me, for no reason at all, with honeycomb, just oozing with honey. He cutely pointed out that honeycomb aids digestion. I smiled and hugged him and was so happy for the awkward but lovely gift. The next weekend it was on my morning toast, just as tasty as the creamed honey it had replaced.

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I didn’t use the honeycomb in this granola recipe, but it got me thinking about good breakfast food. This granola is so easy and so tasty, and hearty too! I promise it will keep you full until lunch.

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Inspired be Thrive
Makes 3 cups

1 cup old fashion oats*
1 cup steel cut oats
1/4 cup shredded coconut, sweetened
1/4 cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons flax seeds
2 tablespoons chia seeds
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
1/2 tablespoon cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon coconut oil, melted
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup raisins

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

In a large bowl combine all the ingredients except the cranberries and raisins. Mix until everything is coated. Lightly spray a baking sheet and evenly spread the granola in a single layer.

Bake for 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes, until just slightly golden brown.

Remove from the oven and stir the granola around, so it doesn’t stick to the baking sheet. Allow to cool completely. Once cooled, stir in the cranberries and raisins. Store in an air-tight container and keep refrigerated. Enjoy with milk or yogurt.

*Note: You can use 2 cups of old fashion oatmeal instead of 1 cup of old fashion and 1 cup of steel cut, if that’s all you have.

30 in nyc

April 4, 2014 § 1 Comment

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New York in March may not be the most ideal getaway, we were caught in what seemed to be a small hurricane our first night there, with umbrellas working against us and the rain pounding down on our cute outfits and high heels, but we still made the best of our rainy weekend. My sister turned thirty this month and decided that the best way to celebrate was to treat my mom and I to a fantastic weekend at her place, all we had to do was get there. She spoiled us with an itinerary that was classic New York.

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The weekend began in the rain, jumping into a taxi to get to our first meal at East Pole. We indulged in brunch food, scrambled eggs and a sweet potato frittata; finishing the meal with a shot of espresso, with just enough kick to get us to our next stop, The Frick. The Frick is a beautiful home that has been converted to a full museum, reminding me of the Gardner Museum in Boston. We lingered among the paintings for a while and then headed back to the Palace Hotel, for a little relaxing and some time inside from the rain. We snacked on nonpareils and prettied up for dinner at A Voce and an evening at the Philharmonics. A Voce is classic Italian food. We snacked on fresh focaccia, salty olives, roasted red peppers and mozzarella to start. And then I went for it and had seafood stuffed ravioli with a lobster bisque sauce, just heavenly. Perfectly full and happy to be so, we headed to the Philharmonics.

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It is an absolutely beautiful thing to hear so many people play at the same time. My mom likened the music to “jazz”, all over the place, nothing she could understand, but she liked it nonetheless. I might have closed my eyes for just a minute and then pinched myself to open them. (Mind you the second song was a whopping 59 minutes long.) I think my sister said it best, “It would be wonderful background music to have on at home.” Then came the hurricane I mentioned before, but we plunged our way through the rain and back to our poufy beds.

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Sunday was all about brunch. We sat in Lafayette for almost 2 hours, sipping coffee and tea, snacking on an almond croissant and indulging in nutella banana waffles and berry lemon pancakes. Brunch is always my favorite, it could have been all about the food, but instead it was all about our lives. We didn’t stop talking for a single minute and finally got to chat about the really important stuff, job shifts, wedding and pregnancies, where we are going in our lives. These chats are critical to my sanity and I cherished every minute of that time.

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New York wouldn’t be complete without a little shopping and a Broadway show. Saks was calling us first and then we finished up the day in an intimate theater, chuckling our way through A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder. More food at Fig & Olive, left us stuffed on our train ride out of the city, back to reality, the girls weekend away almost over.

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I have a wonderful sister for planning such a fun weekend for us, each year she has become more beautiful, more caring and is always so generous. I hope she had a fabulous thirtieth birthday!

simple food for one

March 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

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My fiance, who I have been living with for years now, travels a lot. And by a lot I mean he’s gone about half the year. And even though his traveling has been going on for years now, I’m still not used to it. It’s a struggle every time he leaves and I find myself counting the days, hours and minutes until he’ll be home again. It’s a wee bit lonely when you’re used to someone being in the house with you all the time and then they’re suddenly not.

This traveling schedule has forced more than a few adjustments at home. The one I hate the most though is cooking for one. Food is supposed to be shared! I love cooking for friends and family, the more the merrier. I absolutely dread cooking for just myself. I think, no I know, grocery items are built for numbers. This means I am either eating the same thing every night because there’s so much of it and I don’t want to waste it, or I buy a bunch of food and throw half of it away, just so I can have some variety. It seems like a lose/lose to me.

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I have found a few recipes that I like making for one, things I don’t mind having multiple times in one week or recipes that have ingredients that don’t spoil quickly. I have also learned that cooking for one is most enjoyable when you simplify with fewer ingredients and shorter cook times. I’m usually against frozen ingredients, but they can be your friend in instances like this. Words of advice, eat your salads first thing in the week and save your grains and proteins for the end. Also, make meals that have simple bases so you can add whatever it is you have on hand. Like in this recipe, if you don’t have corn, add in frozen peas and spinach instead! Little tweaks can make cooking for one a little bit more enjoyable.

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Serves 1
1/3 cup Israeli couscous
1 tablespoon olive oil, split
1/3 cup yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup frozen corn
1/2 tablespoon fresh herbs
1/4 cup feta, crumbled
splash of lemon juice
sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a small pot over medium heat. Add the couscous and sauté for a couple minutes until the rice becomes slightly brown, stirring occasionally. While the couscous is sauteing, heat 1 cup of water in the microwave, until it begins to boil. Add the boiling water to the browned couscous, cover and turn the heat down to medium-low. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the water is absorbed and the couscous is plump and cooked through. (*Note: Sometimes I find Israeli couscous needs more water and more cooking time when you’re cooking a larger quantity. You really want your couscous to be soft so it melts in your mouth. If the water is absorbed, but the rice isn’t cooked, just add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup boiling water to the rice and continue cooking. Do this until the rice is cooked through; believe me it’s worth it!)

In a small saute pan over medium heat add the other 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. Once warmed add the onion and saute 5 minutes. Then add the corn and saute 2 more minutes, just until the corn is warmed through. Add the fresh herbs (I used thyme which was quite nice, but use whatever you have on hand), salt and pepper and remove from heat.

Once the couscous is cooked add the corn saute and stir until combined. Top with a squeeze of lemon juice, crumbled feta and enjoy.

olive, feta & kale salad

March 7, 2014 § 1 Comment

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From vacation mode back to work mode without much pause in between. I am so glad I wrote a couple posts on San Diego, it allowed me to live it a little longer. And now all of a sudden it feels like ages ago. I think the words “I need a vacation” even came out of my mouth in the past week or so. I’m not sure why I can’t keep the vacation vibe longer, but I can’t, and this time was no different. Which brings me to my next point. As soon as we got home from California, we booked our honeymoon. We couldn’t wait to get away again, this time to Europe!

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I have been lucky in my life so far to see a lot of Europe already. I studied abroad in Florence and while I was there, I toured most of Southern Italy. I have been to Dublin, which mostly involved walking around from church to pub in the rain. I went paragliding in the Alps of Switzerland and indulged in chocolate and cheese fondue. I’ve experienced the beautiful bold colors and dancing of Barcelona and the old-age feel of Brussels. We went to Paris just last year and soaked in every bit of the city that we could in just a week’s time. And soon we’ll be off to London and Northern Italy.

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I thought London would be a nice honeymoon transition for us. We will be exhausted from the days leading up to the wedding and being able to understand the language of the country we’ll be visiting first will help. I have dreamed about visiting Lake Como. I almost made it pretty close. I was suppose to go to Milan for a school fieldtrip, but it was cancelled at the last minute, so any place in Italy above Bologna is a mystery to me. London will be our city escape and I’m hoping Lake Como and Venice will give us that old-family charm we are looking for too. I think the travel bug has nabbed us; we are very excited to check these few places off of our long list of must-sees!

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Serves 4
Inspired by Sprouted Kitchen

3/4 cup quinoa
3-4 cups kale leaves, lightly chopped
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
sea salt and fresh ground pepper
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1/2 cup feta, crumbled
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives, sliced

Bring 3/4 cup of quinoa and 1 1/2 cups of water to a boil. Once boiling, cover and turn the heat down to low. Simmer for 15-20 minutes until the water is absorbed. Once cooked, remove from heat. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Allow to cool completely, uncovered.

Remove the stems from the kale with a knife or your hands. Work in batches and chop into bite size pieces. Put the kale in a large bowl. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt and pepper. Mix until kale is lightly coated and shiny.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 tablespoon olive oil, cider vinegar and Dijon mustard. Pour dressing over the kale and toss to coat. Add the cooled quinoa and toss. Top with the feta, tomatoes, olives and salt and pepper to taste. Toss again. Enjoy at room temperature or chilled from the refrigerator.

Because kale is a hearty green, this is a great salad that won’t get mushy overnight, so don’t worry if you have leftovers.

part 2: san diego & living in luxury

February 28, 2014 § Leave a comment

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There was so much I wanted to share about our trip to San Diego that it seemed like too much for one post. Hence post number two coming your way with a few more treasures.

There are so many little things that feel like indulgences when it’s the middle of February and you leave the snow behind. I noticed a few things instantly, that I didn’t even realize I was missing. First, rolling down the car windows. What a simple thing, but what a luxury too; feeling the cool breeze and listening to the sounds of the city. Second, sweating. I have been running all winter but haven’t sweat once. It’s somewhat disappointing to come home after working out and not feel like you really achieved anything. A big piece of this is sweat related. We went for a run in the rolling hills of Laguna our first morning away and I had beads of sweat within seconds. It made the run feel refreshing and tiring, in the good way. And third, taking a cold shower. Warm days just scream for a cool showers. Your warm, the water is cold, it’s just wonderful. Now these were the small luxuries that I loved in California, but we also had some higher-end luxuries that I am not usually use to either.

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We stayed at The US Grant in downtown San Diego. The beauty of this hotel speaks for itself, glass chandeliers in the lobby, large artwork over each bed, and corner rooms with big windows and views. But the service was just as impeccable. It’s the type of service that makes you feel important, even if you aren’t. I was even called Mrs. Tremblay at one time, which had me hiding a smile. Its funny how a beautiful hotel room to come back to each night and wake up in each morning can make you feel so much more relaxed.

There were a few other gems I wanted to share with you. The first being Stone Brewing Company. A wonderful spot, even if you’re not a beer lover. They have a beautiful outdoor space where you can walk around with drinks and relax in Adirondack chairs. We indulged in the stinky cheese platter, forgoing the really stinky cheese option. (I was a little afraid of it to be honest.) The cheese had just the right amount of stink with homemade crackers and crisp apple slices, it was the perfect mid-afternoon snack.

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If you find yourself in Coronado, please pop into The Attic. It’s a cute shop of household goods, jewelry, wonderful gifts and the prices are so incredibly reasonable. I picked up coasters and a new ring and was just delighted.

And if you find yourself in need of a pre-dinner snack, try Currant. This restaurant has a playful happy hour menu with gourmet popcorn and tater tots. A lot of indulgent fried food that was satisying but not heavy. The perfect combination with a glass of red wine.

And lastly, if you find yourself in La Jolla, check out the Legends Gallery. They house Dr. Seuss artwork, including some original sketches, like the Grinch! They also have some of his not so known work, that was quite interesting and very different from what we know to be his style. It’s a small gallery but a 15 minute walk through is worth it.

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All vacations can feel luxurious at times, your mind is usually at peace, its relaxing and different all at the same time. There are many things I will remember about our trip to San Diego, but its the small things that I know I will cherish for a long time. The best one being this kangaroo at the zoo. We spotted him right when we arrived, snoozing in the sunshine. Instantly, I knew this kangaroo was embodying Ross. If Ross could nap all day, he would, and he would love every minute. We looped back around to him before we left the park, hours later, and he was still in the same spot. Even when he had a scratch, he just lifted his head, not opening an eye, and got it. These are the priceless memories.

san diego & cafe chloe

February 23, 2014 § Leave a comment

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When my latte arrived at Cafe Chloe, I’m not sure I could have contained my smile even if I tried. It was in a small bowl, lightly browned foam covering the top with espresso just strong enough. It was even big enough that I shared a sip or two with Ross. I thought our first breakfast in San Diego couldn’t get any better, but then the food arrived. I ordered a crepe oozing with mushrooms and tasting like truffle. (Side note, truffle is huge in San Diego, you can get it on almost anything. We enjoyed it on fries and popcorn while there.) Ross had a zucchini omelette where the chevre just melted in your mouth. We ate in the sunshine, savoring every bite. A light salad on the side almost stole the show, with tomatoes that tasted like they had been picked just seconds earlier. Sometimes you forget what fresh vegetables taste like when they’re off season. I won’t lie, we were so impressed with this cafe that for our last morning in California, I ran over early and grabbed croissants and greek yogurt and brought them back to the hotel for breakfast in bed with the paper. The greek yogurt was covered in dried apricots, hazelnuts and granola, and had a ginger kick that I loved. And the croissants were everything they should be, flaky and moist.

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Eating good food is one of my favorite things when on vacation. We rarely eat out at home, so when we are away its a treat to get our meals out. And we very much enjoy the relaxation that goes along with it. We sip our drinks slowly, we sit there longer and enjoy each bite. A lot of hours are spent eating on vacation, so why not savor it. Cafe Chloe may have been the stand out, but there were so many other highlights.

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Being from New England, sometimes I forget that California is somewhat of a desert state. Their shrubbery is so different from what I’m used to. And the fog that rolled in each day was always a surprise. It seemed everywhere we went the coast followed us. We spent most of our days hiking, running and even surfing. I haven’t been in the ocean in ages, and although I am a bit frightened of the water (I’m not the best swimmer), I enjoyed it so. I even learned something new about myself, I surf goofy foot. I also now know that I look ridiculous in a wet suit, ocean water is way too salty, and if you push yourself just hard enough you can pretty much do anything. I got up on my surf board for just seven seconds and couldn’t have been happier with myself.

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Vacation is a wonderful time to regroup and decompress from our busy schedules. But it’s also a great opportunity to try something different and learn new things. I am not a sit on the beach all day kind of girl; first off I’m Irish and burn in under two minutes, but I also find it quite boring. Somehow I have been lucky to find the perfect balance of relaxing but also doing a ton of things on vacation. It’s just how I like it.

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