Friday, May 30, 2014

Meet Brady!


Neal and I are excited to introduce our new family member: Brady. We can't wait to welcome him home in a few weeks! In the meantime, we're continuing to get everything ready for his arrival.

If you're thinking of getting a dog of your own, check out these tips on Prepping for a Puppy.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

Brown Butter Rice Krispie Treats


Brown butter makes everything sound fancier, and it also makes everything delicious! The nutty, caramel flavor of brown butter does wonders for baked goods (check out my brown butter snickerdoodle recipe), and it also makes wonderful Rice Krispie treats.

After a long day at work yesterday, I couldn't resist whipping up a quick batch of these salty, carmel-y, marshmallow-y delights. Today they're almost gone! They must be good...

What You'll Need:
1 package mini marshmallows (10 oz)
1 stick butter
5-6 cups Rice Krispies
1/4 tsp coarse sea salt

Directions:
  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat. It will start to foam. At this point, make sure you're whisking constantly so the butter solids don't burn. Continue cooking until the butter turns a chestnut brown color and gives off a nutty aroma. 
  2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and immediately stir in the marshmallows. The heat from the melted butter should be enough to melt the marshmallows.
  3. Add the Rice Krispies and sprinkle in the salt (use a heaping 1/4 tsp). 
  4. Mix well and then press the Rice Krispies into a greased baking dish. Some waxed paper or a silicone spatula should help you to evenly press the treats into the pan.
  5. Allow time for cooling, then cut up and enjoy!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Garden Party

With hot days and warm summer nights on the horizon, I'm daydreaming of fresh herbs, salads, and ripe tomatoes. I've always wanted a garden to call my own, but urban living makes that tricky. Enter: the deck garden. I've scoped out several ideas for turning a tiny outdoor space into the perfect garden setting. 

A frame, moss, and chicken wire create a beautiful succulent garden that can hang on a wall. (Source: Pinterest)
Creative uses for old furniture... (Source: Pinterest)
Create a balcony greenhouse! (Source: Pinterest)
Use a trellis from Home Depot and some hanging pots from Ikea. Done! (Source: fabeveryday.com) 
Turn wine crates into tiny garden plots. I love this idea! (Source: Pinterest)

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Gifts for the Graduate

Graduation announcements are starting to flood my mailbox- I have friends graduating from medical school, business school, college and even high school (yep, the kids I used to babysit are headed to college...). If you're looking for the perfect gift for a recent grad, start here!


Alex and Ani bangles are trendy and make a great option for a recent high school or college graduate. Choose a couple bangles from the collegiate collection and don't forget the adorable graduation cap charm!


This coffee maker has a tiny footprint and brews an excellent cup of coffee. It will be just what the recent grad needs to get out of bed in the morning before work!



A sophisticated, slim wallet like this Kate Spade option is the perfect present for a grown-up girl. Bonus points if you fill it with gift cards so she can go shopping!

For the adventurous graduate, give them a book that highlights fun long-weekend trips around the US. If you're feeling generous, include a plane ticket or some gas money so they can get where they want to go. 


Julibox is a subscription service that sends you all the ingredients you need to curate custom cocktails each month. It's a fun option for the graduate who needs to move on from cheap beer. 

Monday, May 26, 2014

Memorial Day

Happy Monday! It's the official start of grilling season and the end of an awesome three day weekend. Whether you're laying by the pool, enjoying some BBQ, or spending time with friends, don't forget to take a moment to remember what Memorial Day is really about.


Today I'm remembering USMC Major Reid Nannen, a fighter jet pilot who died in a crash earlier this year. Reid's legacy lives on through my cousin Sarah and the beautiful family that they made together, and I feel honored to have known him.

To Reid and the other members of the United States Armed Services, past and present, thank you for your service.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Orinoco

Photo from Confessionsofachocoholic.com
Orinoco is one of my favorite South End dinner spots. It might be because I used to live close by (convenience is always nice), but Orinoco has incredibly delicious, simple food that keeps me coming back.

Neal and I recently met up with some friends at the South End location (they also have a restaurant in Brookline Village). We dined on Arepas (traditional Venezuelan grilled corn pocket sandwiches stuffed with homemade cheese, plantains, and meat) and sampled several Antojitos while catching up over some cold beers. Everyone left feeling full and happy, and I can't wait to go back!

Next time you're in the South End, walk down to Shawmut Ave and check it out.

If you can't make it all the way to Boston's South End, I highly recommend trying some Arepas at home (they're my favorite thing at Orinoco and a naturally gluten free food!). I like this recipe from Gluten Free Girl and the Chef.

Arepas from GlutenfreeGirl.com

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Sesame Chicken Lettuce Wraps


Asian-inspired chicken lettuce wraps are popular at restaurants, but you can make a delicious version at home. This crockpot recipe, adapted from skinnytaste.com, is so simple to make and it's healthy too.

What You'll Need:
1.5-2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breast tenders
Fresh ground black pepper
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup tomato paste
3 Tbsp rice wine vinegar
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tbsp water
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp Sriracha hot chili sauce
1 Tbsp cornstarch
1/4 cup water
Sesame seeds for garnish
3 cups cooked quinoa
1 head iceberg lettuce

Directions:
  1. Place the chicken in the crockpot and season with black pepper. 
  2. In a small bowl, mix the honey, tomato paste, rice wine vinegar, garlic, 1 Tbsp water, sesame oil, onion powder, and hot chili sauce. 
  3. Pour the sauce mix over the chicken and cook on LOW for about 4 hours. While the chicken's cooking, make your quinoa if you haven't already. 
  4. Remove the cooked chicken from the sauce and shred it with a fork (it will fall apart). 
  5. Dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup of water. Pour the cornstarch mix into the crockpot sauce. Cook on HIGH for about 20 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken. 
  6. After 20 minutes, add the chicken back to the sauce and mix well. Keep the crockpot on a WARM setting until you're ready to serve. 
  7. Clean the iceberg lettuce and trim off the end. This will allow you to peel pieces away, creating lettuce wraps. 
  8. Add some quinoa, chicken, and a sprinkle of sesame seeds to a lettuce wrap and you're ready to eat!

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Groomsman Duties

Pinterest
If you or or your sweetie are standing up in your friend's wedding this spring, make sure you're prepared. Here's a checklist of all the groomsman duties leading up to the big day:
  • Attend engagement parties (if appropriate). Don't forget a small gift and a card, congratulating the couple. 
  • Attend the bachelor party. Bonus points if you help plan it. 
  • Attend any couples showers for the Bride and Groom. Again, make sure to bring a gift. 
  • Get fitted for a tux or suit. If the groom as picked out a particular brand, stick to it!
  • Pick up your tux or suit. Make sure it fits before the day of the wedding. At that point, it's too late. 
  • Write a toast. This is optional for groomsmen, mandatory for the Best Man. 
  • Attend the Rehearsal. Arrive on time to avoid stressing out the Bride. 
  • Confirm the schedule for the Wedding Day. You don't want to be late for photos or other important events. 
  • Attend the Rehearsal Dinner. If you have a date, this is a great time to introduce her to the other members of the wedding party and their dates. Be social! 
  • Arrive on time to the "getting dressed" location. 
  • Ensure that the Groom is calm, has something to eat, and maybe has a drink or two to calm his nerves. This is why he chose you to be there on his big day!
  • Smile for pictures. There will be lots of them. Just suck it up. 
  • Get to the church on time. And by on time, I mean early. 
  • If appropriate, help escort guests to their seats as they arrive. 
  • Walk down the aisle, stand by your friend, and enjoy the ceremony. This is big stuff. 
  • At the reception, you may have to be introduced as part of the wedding party. 
  • Eat, drink, and dance. Your job is to make the reception a smashing success, so have fun and help others have fun too. 
  • If appropriate, help carry gifts out to the car at the end of the night. Make sure your gift is in that pile. Being part of the wedding doesn't excuse you from gift-giving duties. 
  • Party late into the night with the Newlyweds and the wedding party. Your job is done!

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Get Dressed

I've been in several weddings, and bridesmaid dress shopping is never as fun as it should be. Enter Brideside.com. At Brideside, you can shop tons of designer dresses, order your top picks, and try them on at home!

How fun would it be to get all your girls together for a fashion show at home?! Pop some champagne and let your ladies parade around in their Brideside dress choices. Each bridesmaid can sign up and choose up to three dresses to try on. Shopping online can be a little tricky, so to help narrow down the options, Brideside offers fit videos that cover topics like necklines, dress silhouettes, etc.


I've done a little shopping of my own, and here are a couple of my favorite dresses from the site:

Joanna August Newbury Long

Monday, May 19, 2014

Rock My Run

RockMyRun.com
When I'm running, great music can make or break my motivation. Here's what's on my running playlist right now:

Alive, Krewella
Break the Ice (Remix), Britney Spears feat. Fabolous
Don't Trust Me, 3OH!3
Beer for My Horses, Toby Keith & Willie Nelson
Dr. Jones, Aqua
End of Time, Beyonce
I Love It, Icona Pop
Love and Memories, O.A.R.
Stay the Night, Zedd
Wake Me Up, Avicii
Best I Ever Had, Gavin DeGraw
TroubleMaker, Olly Murs

My picks are fairly pop-heavy, and I have a country mix that I rotate in from time to time, but if you're looking for something a little different, try RockMyRun.com. You can choose mixes of music from different genres, or pick your playlist based on total length or beats per minute.  A premium subscription costs a small fee, but if you only need one new playlist a month, you can download it for free!

I just downloaded a Spring Hip Hop Mix. See you outside!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Jalapeño Popper Stuffed Chicken


I recently made this cheesy jalapeño popper stuffed chicken, and it was a huge hit. Adapted from a recipe found on Skinnytaste.com, this chicken is crispy on the outside, has a little kick, and is light enough to enjoy while you're getting your bikini bod back in shape!

What You'll Need:
2 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
3 jalapeños, chopped (if you want a more mild dish, remove the seeds)
1/2 cup reduced fat shredded cheddar cheese
3 oz (1/2 block) reduced fat cream cheese
1 Tbsp chopped scallions
6-8 thin cut boneless, skinless, chicken breasts
1/2 cup Gluten Free panko breadcrumbs (or regular breadcrumbs if you love gluten)
Juice of 1 lime
1 Tbsp olive oil
Fresh ground black pepper
Toothpicks

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spray a baking dish with nonstick spray.
  2. Combine cream cheese, cheddar cheese, chopped jalapeños, chopped scallions, and crumbled bacon. Set aside.
  3. Combine lime juice and olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside.
  4. Pour the breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Set aside.
  5. Season chicken breasts with pepper. 
  6. Place some of the cream cheese mixture in the center of a chicken breast (eyeball it). Roll up the chicken and secure it with a toothpick. 
  7. Dip the chicken in your prepared lime juice/olive oil and then roll it in the breadcrumbs. Place it in the prepared baking dish.
  8. Repeat steps 6 and 7 with remaining chicken breasts. 
  9. Bake for 20-25 minutes, then serve immediately.
Tip: I served mine with a kale and spinach salad with fresh buttermilk ranch dressing. It was healthy and delicious!

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Bikini Ready

We're hitting the beach this weekend, and I can't wait to show off the new swimsuits that I bought last month. Are you ready for bikini season? If not, try this workout from Tone it Up's bikini series.


Tone it Up offers printable workouts, health-eating tips, and fitness inspiration from trainers Karena and Katrina. Sign up here to receive a printable workout every Tuesday. See you on the beach!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Gift Closet

Gift Wrap from PaperSource.com
If you've ever found yourself scrambling to find a last minute hostess gift, birthday gift, baby gift, etc.  then keep reading! To avoid last-minute gift-buying stress, I collect small gifts and treasures all year long and stockpile them in my gift closet (well, actually, mine is more of a gift bin.. it fits neatly under the bed in our tiny apartment). Here's what you need to do to create your own:

1. Buy Gift Wrap.  I keep a selection of different types of gift wrap in my box. Pick a few gift bags, some tissue paper, ribbon, and wrapping paper. As you receive gifts, you can also add those gift bags and ribbons to your box for reuse. 

Tip: Choose gift wrap that is generic enough to be used for multiple occasions. It doesn't have to be boring, but you can't use "Happy Birthday" paper to wrap a hostess gift. I like the options above.

2. Shop Sales. Sites like Ruelala.com frequently have fun kitchen gadgets, wine, candles, dog toys, etc. on sale. Plus, you might find some great gift-y items while you're at the mall shopping for something else. Pick them up and store them in your gift closet. You'll thank yourself later!

3. Collect Re-Gifts. There's a special art to re-gifting, but if you've received an item that you don't love, add it to your gift closet. Make sure to tag it with the name of the person who gave it to you. It would be a major faux-pas to give that gift back to the original giver. 

4. The Perfect Thing. Do you ever pass something on a store shelf and think "Wow,  _______ would love that!"? If so, buy it for them! Add it to your gift closet and save it for the next gift-giving occasion. It will take away the stress of finding the perfect thing when the holidays roll around. 

5. Make Space. Pick a spot in your closet or buy a bin to hold everything. I use this long underbed storage box with wheels from The Container Store. 

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Frozen Key Lime Pie

GirlCooksWorld's version of this recipe
We're celebrating Neal's birthday in Florida this week, so we'll be swapping birthday cake for key lime pie as we relax by the beach. Key limes are smaller and more acidic than traditional limes, plus they make a delicious dessert. 

Here's a recipe for a frozen key lime pie, courtesy of the Barefoot Contessa. 

What You'll Need:
3/4 cup sugar
6 Tbsp butter, melted
6 large egg yolks
1 14-oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 Tbsp grated lime zest
3/4 cup freshly squeezed key lime juice (6-7 key limes)
1 cup cold heavy cream
1/4 tsp pure vanilla
Thin lime wedges for garnish

Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Make the crust by combining the graham cracker crumbs, 1/4 cup sugar, and melted butter in a small bowl. Press it into a 9-inch pie pan, ensuring that the sides and bottom are evenly thick.
  3. Bake the crust for 10 minutes, then allow it to cool completely as you make the filling.
  4. Beat egg yolks with 1/4 cup sugar on high speed with a mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.
  5. Add the condensed milk, lime zest, and lime juice to the egg mixture. Mix well.
  6. Pour the filling into the prepared crust and freeze. 
  7. When the pie filling is set, decorate it. To make the topping, beat heavy cream on high speed in a mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Allow soft peaks to form, then add 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 tsp vanilla. Continue beating until firm peaks form. 
  8. Pipe the decoration onto the pie and pop it back into the freezer overnight. 

Monday, May 12, 2014

Washington, DC: Birch & Barley

Image from Washingtonian.com
Heading to DC this spring? Check out Birch & Barley on 14th Street near Logan Circle. The restaurant is known for their local flavors and large collection of artisanal beers (they have over 555), but they're also very accommodating to food sensitivities/allergies and everything is absolutely delicious. In fact, dining at Birch & Barley has probably been my best restaurant experience since going gluten free.

Last time I was there, I dined on a fig and prosciutto chickpea flatbread, followed by incredible roast duck. Although Neal was sipping a glutinous brew, I had a whole page of GF beers to choose from, plus the waiter brought out a charcuterie board for us to sample. Typically, the pre-dinner breadbasket and snacks are off-limits, but everything on the charcuterie board (including the bread) was gluten free (and incredibly yummy). I left feeling full and happy, and I can't wait to go back!

The menu changes regularly, but you can't go wrong. Make a reservation, enjoy a delicious meal, then head to Churchkey (the bar upstairs) for another drink.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Neptune Oyster


New England is known for it's fresh seafood, and Neptune Oyster is one of my favorite places to get it in Boston. I'm not the only one who loves this restaurant on Salem Street- the wait is generally 3-4 hours long, so arrive early, put your name on the list, and grab a drink at another North End eatery while you wait.

Here are three menu items you won't want to miss:

1. Lobster Roll. Served either mayo-based or with drawn butter, you can't go wrong with this one. I skip the bun, but there's always more than enough lobster meat to fill me up. It's insanely good!

Image from FoodandWine.com's Review of Neptune Oyster
2. The Burger. Ok, it sounds weird to order a burger at a place that is known for it's shellfish, but it's amazing. They don't have gluten free buns, but even without the bun, it's a winner. Bonus: if you're traveling with a seafood-averse crowd, they'll still have an excellent option on the menu.

Image from Chefsfeed.com
3. Oysters. How could you come to a place called Neptune OYSTER and not get a few of these little guys on the half shell? Opt for the East Coast varieties since they're local, and don't forget the cocktail sauce!

NeptuneOyster.com

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Mother's Day Gift Guide

I love my mom, and although I won't be able to celebrate her in person, I sent ahead a tiny token of my affection. Mother's Day is on Sunday, so if you haven't found the perfect thing for you mom yet, here are some ideas:
Diptyque Candle (Mimosa Scent Pictured), Nordstrom.com

Throw Pillow, Etsy.com
Bobbi Brown's Pretty Powerful Gift Set, BobbiBrown.com
Beautiful Moroccan Print Wrap, StellaDot.com
 Don't have time to order anything? There's always time to order flowers. Call your local florist and send your Mom some beautiful blooms. As an alternative, take her out for a manicure and pedicure or a relaxing massage. She'll love spending time with you and you'll both enjoy getting pampered!

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Mid-Week Refresh


We're halfway through the week, and if you need a relaxing moment to help you make it to Friday, try  hydra aromatherapy Shower Bursts. I bought these in a gift shop in Salem a few weeks ago, and they are amazing!

Taking a relaxing soak in the tub isn't always an option, but a Shower Burst transforms your shower into a spa-like aromatherapy experience. Simply put the Shower Burst on the floor of your shower and let the indirect spray activate the scents. I used the Refresh Burst this morning, and the mix of grapefruit and lavender was a perfect pick-me-up. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Outdoor Wedding Survival Guide

Pinterest
Wedding season is in full-swing, and outdoor weddings are a favorite during the spring and early summer months. If you're witnessing some outdoor nuptials, make sure you're prepared with these essentials:

1. Bug spray. It sounds weird, and nobody likes the smell of bug spray, but you'll be thanking me when you're not getting eaten alive by mosquitos or bothered by black flies. Skip your perfume (which might help attract bugs, rather than repel them) and instead choose an herbal bug repellent. I like the California Baby Natural Bug Blend, but it might also be convenient to stash a few Off! wipes in your clutch. 
2. Lipstick. Trade in sticky gloss for lipstick (bonus points if it has SPF). You never know what kind of weather the great outdoors will hand you, but if it's windy, you don't want your hair getting stuck to your mouth. Plus, sticky lipgloss is a magnet for bugs, pollen, and other things floating in the air. Yuck! I like Bobbi Brown's lip color in Rose Berry- it's beautiful, moisturizing and much more kissable than gloss. 

3. Wedges. I attended a wedding this past weekend, and it made me so sad to see a fellow guest's beautiful Jimmy Choos sink into the mud. When you'll be walking around in grass or dirt, swap your stilettos for wedges. Here are some of my favorites:
Vince Camuto "Luciah" Wedge, Nordstrom
Martina Shimmer Linen Wedge, J.Crew

Tory Burch Savannah Wedge, Norstrom

With these essentials, and maybe a light wrap in case it gets chilly when the sun sets, you'll be distraction-free and ready to celebrate your friend's special day. 

Monday, May 5, 2014

Paloma

Recipe adapted from BonAppetit.com
It's Cinco de Mayo, and although margaritas are delicious, this quick and easy tequila-based cocktail might become your new favorite.

Try this: Pour some kosher salt on a plate. Use a grapefruit wedge to wet the rim of a glass and dip in the salt. Once your glass is rimmed, fill it with ice. Mix 1/4 cup fresh grapefruit juice with 1/4 cup lime juice, 1 tsp sugar, and 1/4 cup tequila (pick your favorite- I like Cabo Wabo) in a cocktail shaker. Shake until the sugar is dissolved. Pour the mixture into your rimmed glass full of ice, top with a 1/4 cup club soda, and garnish with a grapefruit wedge. Cheers!

If you're looking for a shortcut, make a Paloma like they do in Mexico: Combine a Jarritos grapefruit soda with tequila and a squeeze of lime. It's equally delicious, and if you pour it into a glass it will look equally as posh as the one above.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Confetti Cookies


It's Saturday, and although I usually don't post on the weekends, this recipe was delicious and worth sharing. I'm enjoying some of these cookies with my morning coffee as I write!

What You'll Need:
2 1/2 cups GF All Purpose Flour
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 egg
2 Tbsp milk
3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup butter (1 stick), softened
1/2 cup butter flavor crisco
1/2 cup rainbow sprinkles 


Directions:
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the butter, crisco, and sugar until fluffy. 
  3. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until incorporated.
  4. Mix in the flour, baking soda, and salt until the batter is smooth. 
  5. Add the milk and continue missing. 
  6. Add the rainbow sprinkles and mix until just incorporated.
  7. Drop cookies onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake for about 10 minutes. The cookies should just be starting to brown along the edge when you pull them out. 
  8. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for a few minutes, then enjoy!
Tip: A batch of cookies makes about 3 dozen. If you can't eat them all at once, consider freezing the prepared dough balls. When you're ready for a hot, fresh cookie, simply preheat the oven and put the frozen dough on a prepared baking sheet. It's like homemade break-and-bake cookies!

Friday, May 2, 2014

May Flowers

April showers bring May flowers, and if you're in the market for a beautiful bouquet, stick to the blooms that are currently in-season. There are lots of beautiful options to choose from:
Calla Lilies, Roses, and Gerbera, From Pinterest
Cornflowers, Sweet Peas, and Freesia, From www.flamingpetal.co.nz
Sweet Peas and Peonies, From Elizabethannedesigns.com
Paper Whites, From Pinterest
Freesia, From BridalGuide.com

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Upgrade: Homemade Corn Tortillas

I definitely prefer the texture of flour tortillas over the store-bought corn variety. However, homemade corn tortillas have the soft consistency of flour, are gluten free, and are infinitely more delicious than anything you can buy at the store. Plus, they're super simple to make.

What You'll Need:
Corn Masa Flour
Water 
Tortilla Press (or a rolling pin in in a pinch)

Directions:
  1. Mix about 2 cups of the corn masa flour with 1 1/2 to 2 cups of water. 
  2. Continue mixing just until the flour mixture holds together.
  3. Roll up tiny balls of the flour mixture and press on a tortilla press. 
  4. Heat the tortillas on a griddle for about 1 min on each side. 
  5. Top with grilled steak, veggies, carnitas, or any of your other favorite toppings and enjoy!
Tip: If you're looking for Corn Masa Flour, look for the bag in your grocery store's International section.