Friday, July 24, 2015

Fall Style Fix

Stella & Dot's Fall Collection launched this week and I am already in love! It's hard to shop for fall jackets and cozy sweaters when the temperatures are still rising, but jewelry and a cute clutch are all you need to start transitioning your summer wardrobe.

This season, Stella & Dot had some of their favorite fashion bloggers model the new styles, and Grasie Mercedes of Style Me Grasie has some great styling tips:


My fall line pieces arrived in the mail yesterday, and here are a few of my favorites:


Black and white is definitely trendy for fall. I like this small clutch (which can be made into a cross-body bag with the versatile chain), but the print also comes in a tote that's super fun if you need more room. 



I don't typically wear a ton of bracelets, but I think the layered look of beadsleather, and some edgy pearls is really chic.  

What are some of your favorite pieces? Beware: once you take a peek, there's no going back! You're going to want to SHOP!

Friday, July 17, 2015

Summer Friday

It's the end of the work-week, and I am ready for the weekend! Saturday and Sunday are going to be filled with fun things:
What's on your to-do list this weekend? Whatever it is, enjoy it! 

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Pack a Snack: Granola Bars


I try to pack my lunch most days, but no matter what I pack, I always crave a little something sweet around 3pm. Those mid-afternoon snack cravings are easily quelled by a tiny piece of candy, but a healthier treat helps me survive AND gives me the energy to make it to the gym after work.  This week I'm packing homemade granola bars. They were a huge hit with Neal, and since I made them myself, they don't contain any funky preservatives or ingredients.

What You'll Need:
1/2 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup olive oil
2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup pecans, chopped
1/2 cup pepitas
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1/2 cup unsweetened flaked or shredded coconut

Directions:
  1. Line a baking sheet or 13X9 in pan with foil and preheat the oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Whisk the maple syrup, light brown sugar, and kosher salt together. Once the sugar is dissolved, stir in the olive oil. 
  3. Add the oats, pecans, pipettes, sunflower seeds, and coconut to the mixture.
  4. Spread the granola on the pan (pressing it flat) and bake it for about 45 minutes. 
  5. Remove the granola from the oven and let it cool in the pan for 10 minutes. 
  6. Slice the granola into bars and let them cool in the pan for another hour. 
  7. Using the foil, lift the mars out of the pan and transfer them to a cutting board. Carefully recut the bars following the original cuts.
  8. Granola bars can be stored at room temp for up to 1 week. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

RSVP Etiquette


I recently met up with friends for a few cocktails, and I got the scoop on all the things they wished they knew before they planned a wedding. The number one stressor? Lack of RSVPs. There's nothing worse than planning an event (wedding or otherwise) with a particular guest count in mind and then having RSVP "rebels" show up at the last minute!

If you've been invited to a Saturday soiree, a wedding, or a big event, let the host know that you're coming! Here are a few simple RSVP guidelines:
  • Do not wait until the deadline. Although the invitations may indicate a particular response timeframe, it's appropriate to RSVP within 24 hours of receiving your invitation. It lets your host know that you're excited to attend their event!
  • Attendance is not required. If you receive an invitation to an event that conflicts with your calendar OR if it's an event you simply don't want to attend, there's no need to feel bad. Simply indicate that you cannot attend and will be celebrating with the host in spirit. A good host/hostess won't probe for further details or pressure you to attend.
  • Do not RSVP for those who were not invited. Invitations are addressed to those who are specifically invited. It's not appropriate to include additional attendees on your RSVP unless your invitation stated that you could bring a guest. 
  • Expect a phone call. It is not appropriate to show up to a wedding or big event without letting the host know you'll be there. In most cases, the host will call you to confirm your attendance if they haven't heard from you in advance. Save them the trouble and just send in your response!
  • Plan ahead. For far-away weddings or big events, you will likely get a save-the-date or some information prior to invitations being sent. This is your cue to book your flights and confirm your travel details (or opt out of the event). Once you're fully booked, RSVP-ing is a breeze!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Birthday Cake

Cupcake Print from Society6.com
Birthdays call for a celebration, and what better way to celebrate than with a delicious dessert? Flour Bakery in Boston carries a delicious, moist chocolate cupcake with the most incredible "magic" frosting. It's one of my go-to recipes when I need treats for a crowd, and it always gets rave reviews!

Ingredients:
2 oz. unsweetened chocolate, chopped
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup water
1/2 cup milk
1 egg
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup flour (I use a GF blend)
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

For the frosting:
2/3 cup granulated sugar
2 egg whites
1 1/2 cups unsalted butter, at room temp, cut into 2 inch chunks
1 2/3 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 tsp kosher salt
2 Tbsp milk
1tsp vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 350 degrees. 
  2. Line a 12-cup muffin tin with paper liners.
  3. In a small bowl, combine the chocolate and cocoa powder. In a saucepan, heat the granulated sugar, butter, and water over medium-high heat, whisking occasionally until all the ingredients are melted/dissolved. 
  4. Pour the hot butter-sugar mixture over the chocolate-cocoa mixture and whisk until all ingredients are melted and combined. 
  5. Whisk the egg, milk, egg yolk, and vanilla into the chocolate mixture until thoroughly combined. 
  6. In a bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt until well mixed. Dump the flour mixture on top of the chocolate mixture and whisk the dry ingredients into the chocolate mixture. 
  7. Let the batter sit for 1 hour at room temp (or store it in the refrigerator for up to 3 days). 
  8. Spoon the batter into prepared muffin cups, dividing it evenly and filling the cups to the rim. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the tops spring back when touched with a fingertip. 
  9. To make the frosting, whisk together the sugar and egg whites to make a thick slurry. Place the bowl over simmering water in a saucepan and heat, whisking occasionally, for 3 to 5 minutes. It will thin out as the sugar melts. 
  10. Remove the heat and scrape the mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whip attachment. Whip on medium high speed for 6-8 minutes, or until the mixture becomes a light, white meringue. 
  11. Turn dow the speed to medium and add the butter, a few pieces at a time. Beat for 3-4 minutes. 
  12. Add the confectioners sugar, salt, milk, and vanilla, and continue to beat on medium speed until the mixture is smooth and satiny. 
  13. Use the frosting immediately or store it in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. If you sorted it in the fridge, bring it to room temp and whip it again to smooth it out before you use it. 
  14. Fit a pastry bag with a small round or star tip and fill it with frosting. Pipe the frosting onto each cupcake and serve ASAP! 

Monday, July 13, 2015

Summer Sandwich


Sandwiches are Neal's favorite food- he'll eat just about anything that comes between two slices of bread. This weekend we cooked up a summer favorite: Turkey Reubens. Because this sandwich is riddled, it's best eaten right away (note: not a great choice for a packed lunch). Try it for dinner this week!

What You'll Need:
Bread (rye is a traditional choice, but choose your favorite!)
Butter or mayo (for grilling)
Smoked turkey breast
Swiss Cheese
Thousand Island dressing
Coleslaw

Directions:
  1. Heat a griddle pan over medium heat and spread either butter or mayo on the "grilling" side of your bread. Note that mayo doesn't have milk solids that burn like butter, so it will give your bread the perfect golden brown crisp on the outside. 
  2. Assemble the sandwich on the griddle: bread with the thousand island dressing, swiss cheese, smoked turkey, and coleslaw.
  3. Grill over medium-low heat for a few minutes, flipping so that each side gets crispy and the cheese melts on the inside. 
  4. Serve with chips, pickles, or your favorite side. Enjoy!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Get Out!

Brady's ready for some summer fun!
Warm summer nights are one of my favorite things, and I'll do just about anything to get out of the house and take advantage of the beautiful weather! Although a dinner al fresco is a great option, here are a few other get-out-of-the-house ideas:
  • Dog Date: One of my favorite things about Austin is that almost all restaurant patios are dog friendly. I'm looking forward to long walks around the lake followed by a quick bite to eat or a refreshing adult beverage while we lounge outside. 
  • First Thursday on South Congress: On the first Thursday of the month, South Congress is overrun with live music, craft vendors, and food. Take a stroll and enjoy the scene!
  • Catch a Drive in Movie: In Austin, the Blue Starlite Drive-In it the kitschy-est place to catch a movie- old or new. Bonus: they sell s'mores kits! 
  • Sunset Picnic at Mt. Bonnell: Even if you're not in Austin, you can use this idea. Pack up your favorite snacks (wine, cheese, crackers?) and head to the most picturesque spot in town. It's a budget-friendly and fun option! 
  • Improv at The New Movement: It's already getting hot, so although it's nice to be outside, a few moments in air conditioning are always welcome.  The New Movement is a talented group of actors, comedians, and writers who host nearly-free shows almost every week. 
  • Third Thursdays at the Blanton Museum: The museum stays open late on the third Thursday of every month. Enjoy a glass of wine and a bite to eat downtown and then peruse the rotating art collections as you digest.
  • Mini Golf: I'm no Jordan Speith, but I can definitely handle a round or two of mini golf. I got a hole in one last time I hit the greens at Peter Pan Mini Golf, and I'm ready to go back! Next time, I'm packing some tiny cans of Sophia Champagne- delightful!
Summer is full of concerts, BBQs, and other fun, but I hope that some of these ideas will inspire you to make every day count. Get off the couch and have some fun! What's on your weekend agenda?

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Roasty Toasty Hazlenuts


While dining out recently, I enjoyed a delicious dessert that was topped with toasted hazelnuts. I knew that I liked Nutella, but as it turns out, I LOVE raw roasted hazelnuts. They're easy to make at home, and they have become my go-to snack at work.

What You'll Need:
1-2 cups raw hazelnuts (also called filberts) from you local grocery store

Directions:
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spread the hazelnuts into a single layer on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes or until the skins start to blister. 
  3. Transfer the nuts onto a clean dish towel and gently rub them until the skins fall off (if they don't all come off, it's OK- they're edible). 
  4. Cool completely and store in an airtight container for snacking anytime!
In addition to eating them as-is, these little treats make a great topping for everything from freshly seared halibut to beet and goat cheese salad to ice cream sundaes!

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Visiting Home

I can't wait to see these lovely ladies!
I've lived in several places in my adult life, which means that going home is always a welcome respite from the day-to-day. We've been spending time in Boston this week, which feels like a second home to me, and I am looking forward to catching up with friends!

Visiting with loved ones is nice, but it can get overwhelming if you only make a few trips home each year. Here are my tips for managing the chaos so that you actually feel rested and rejuvenated after your "vacation":

  • Plan ahead. Know who you're going to see and when. Plan out dinners, lunches, in-between activities and schedule in some down time! It might feel silly to create a schedule, but this way you're guaranteed to get what you want out of the trip.
  • Go out with groups. There are so many people that I want to see when I come to town, so organizing group events allows me to see multiple people at once. This is particularly useful when visiting family (invite all the aunts/uncles/cousins out to a big dinner!), but it works with friends too. 
  • Prioritize. It's not always possible to see everyone on your list. Think about why you came to town. Was it for grandma's birthday? Make that a priority. Spending 4th of July with the extended family? That's first on the agenda. Any other visits you can schedule/squeeze in are a bonus. Good friends will understand if you can't make time to do it all. 
  • Do something YOU want to do.  Everyone has special memories or traditions at home. If there's a restaurant that you love to go to or a coffee shop that has the BEST Sunday morning bagels, make time for it! Doing something for yourself will make the trip feel like the vacation that it is. 

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Life's a Beach

We've been spending the last few days blissfully tucked away in the New Hampshire woods, soaking in the sun and swimming in the lake. Although it's not quite the same as a Mexico beach vacation, the same rules still apply: Beach bags are a handy carry-all for your sunscreen, a great book, and a big fluffy towel so that you can stake your claim on the dock.


Beachin'


Brazilian bikini / Stella Dot Weekend Bag / Kate spade Beach Towel / Peter Grimm Sun Hat / COOLA Suncare/ Eight Hundred Grapes / Stella & Dot Capri Tunic

Eight Hundred Grapes has been on my summer reading list, and although I don't have a hard copy (I downloaded it to my kindle), my beach bag doesn't look a whole lot different than what you see here. What's in yours?

Monday, July 6, 2015

Curried Tuna Salad-as-a-Salad


I'm excited that we're heading to Boston this week, and it's making me nostalgic for all of our favorite things that we left behind when we moved. Flour Bakery & Cafe was a spot that I frequented, but I've been able to recreate my absolute favorite lunch recipe at home: Curried tuna salad as a salad. Since it can be prepared in advance, it's perfect for a packed lunch. My coworkers are jealous every time they see it, but it really is oh-so-simple!

What You'll Need:
4 cans albacore tuna packed in water, drained
12 Tbsp mayonnaise
1 large Granny smith apple, finely diced (about 2 cups)
7 Tbsp golden raisins, soaked in hot water for a minute, then drained
4 Tbsp red onion, minced
2 Tbsp curry powder
3 Tbsp lime juice
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Mixed greens
Shredded carrot
Sliced tomato
Micro greens (I used arugula micro greens, but sprouts would also be yummy)


Directions:
  1. In a medium bowl, combine the tuna, mayo, apple, raisins, onion, curry powder, lime juice and salt and pepper. Mix well. This mixture can be stored in an airtight container for up to 2 days in the fridge. 
  2. Scoop a big helping of tuna salad onto a pile of mixed greens and shredded carrot. Add tomato and top with micro greens. Enjoy!
Note: This tuna salad is served up as a sandwich at Flour. If it suits you, serve this tasty mix between two slices of sourdough or hearty white bread!

Friday, July 3, 2015

Sleep In

I am a loungewear lover. My first instinct when I get home from work each day is to throw on a pair of my comfiest pajamas. Yep, you read that right: Pajamas! My dresser drawers are full of cute pajama sets, and I long for those lounge-y Sunday mornings that let me linger in comfort.

Even if you're more of a shorts-and-t-shirt kinda gal, a cute set of pajamas is a fun purchase. Pack them up for your next family vacation or a trip with your significant other- it will feel more special than your go-to college tee! Here are some of my favorites:

Sleep In


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Lazy Girl's Weeknight Beef Bourguignon


When I grow up, I want to be just like Ina Garten. The Barefoot Contessa cookbooks are some of my absolute favorites- I haven't tried a recipe I didn't like! Although most recipes make food for a crowd, I've adapted some of my favorites for a smaller audience of two. This week, on a particularly rainy night, I whipped up what I like to call the "Lazy Girl's Beef Bourguignon" because it has a few shortcuts that are omitted from Ina's version. It's not exactly light and summery, but it will beat any pot roast you've ever made. Bonus: The recipe includes wine, which, in my kitchen, means you can indulge in a glass while you cook!

What You'll Need:
1 lb filet of beef
Kosher Salt
Black pepper
2 Tbsp good olive oil
Rendered bacon fat (or bacon, if you'd prefer)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup good dry red wine
1.5 cups beef stock
1.5 Tbsp tomato paste
1 sprig fresh thyme
1/4 pound pearl onions
1.5 cups of baby carrots, halved (you can cut up whole carrots if you have them)
1.5 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp GF flour
1/2 pound baby bella mushrooms, sliced 1/4-inch thick



Directions:

  1. With a sharp knife, cut the filet crosswise into 1 inch thick slices. Salt and pepper both sides (be generous!).
  2. In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, salute the beef in the olive oil until browned on the outside but very rare inside. Then remove the filets from the pan and set aside. 
  3. In the same pan, saute the bacon if you're using it. I omitted this step because I already had some rendered bacon fat from breakfast. If you cooked the bacon, remove all but 2 Tbsp of fat from the pan and set the bacon aside. If you're making the "lazy girl" version like me, add a Tbsp or two of your rendered fat to the pan.
  4. Saute the garlic for a minute or two until fragrant, then deglaze the pan with the wine (on high heat!). 
  5. Add the beef stock, tomato paste, thyme, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper. Bring to a boil and cook for 10 minutes. 
  6. The Barefoot Contessa recipe says to strain the sauce at this step. I skipped it, but I DID remove the sprig of thyme. 
  7. Add the onions and carrots to the pan and simmer, uncovered, for about 20 minutes or until tender. If the sauce gets overly thick, add a splash of beef stock (or wine!).
  8. While the carrots and onions cook, saute the mushrooms in olive oil and/or butter (or a combo). They should be slightly browned and soft. 
  9. Add the butter and flour to the sauce/carrot/onion mixture and whisk until slightly thickened. 
  10. Add the mushrooms and beef slices (and bacon if you made it) to the pan. Cover and reheat for 5-10 minutes, but don't over cook! When it's done, serve immediately and enjoy. Bon Apetit!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

4th of July BBQ

We are days away from a long holiday weekend, and I can't wait to jet out East to spend some time with (future) family and friends. Neal's family heads to New Hampshire each year, and it's a week full of relaxation and outdoor activities. The best part? The annual 4th of July BBQ! 



We're going to leave the cooking up to someone else, but I were to host a fabulous 4th of July event, here's what would be on the menu:

A cooler full of craft beer (If you're looking for some GF options, try Omission Pale Ale and Lager!)

Keeping things simple will give YOU more time to relax and watch the fireworks! Keep cleanup simple by providing festive paper plates, napkins and utensils. I like the slightly-more-environmentally-friendly versions from Susty Party, but you can't go wrong with whatever you find at your local grocery or party supply store.