Friday, July 22, 2016

tomato and feta crostini

my friend emily loves to cook ina garten recipes. for our soup swap earlier this year, she brought ina's tomato orzo soup which rocked my world. recently, when emily and her husband had us over for dinner, she served these to die for tomato and whipped feta crostinis. sure enough, another ina garten recipe. 

first of all, tomatoes and cheese are my love language. second of all, I am mildly obsessed with the gorgeous colorful array of summer tomatoes. so when stephen and I were at costco last weekend and I stumbled across a two pound container of colorful cherry tomatoes, I scooped them up with no second thoughts. it was then that I knew I had to make ina's crostinis! luckily, we had friends coming over so I actually had a use for two pounds of gorgeous tomatoes. while this recipe is a slight labor of love, chopping all those tomatoes, it is so freaking worth it.










ingredients:

-6 oz. feta, crumbled
-2 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
-2/3 c. good olive oil, divided
-2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
-kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
-2 T. minced shallots (2 shallots)
-2 t. minced garlic (2 cloves)
-2 T. red wine vinegar
-2 pounds ripe heirloom or cherry tomatoes, 1/2-inch-diced
-3 T. julienned fresh basil leaves, plus extra for serving
-20 to 25 (1/2-inch-thick) diagonal baguette slices, toasted

1. for the whipped feta, place the feta and cream cheese in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. pulse until the cheeses are mixed. add 1/3 cup of the olive oil, the lemon juice, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper and process until smooth.

2. for the tomatoes, up to an hour before you're serving, combine the shallots, garlic, and vinegar in a medium bowl. set aside for 5 minutes. chop your tomatoes at this point if you haven't already.

3. whisk in the remaining 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper.

4. add the tomatoes, stir gently, and set aside for 10 minutes. stir in the basil and taste for seasonings.

5. to assemble the crostini, spread each slice of bread with a generous amount of whipped feta. with a slotted spoon, place the tomatoes on top. sprinkle with extra basil and serve.

recipe adapted from the barefoot contessa

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

my first pilates reformer/tower class

I have done lots of hot yoga over the years, although not too consistently, and I recently tried pure barre which I really enjoyed. last week, I tried my first ever pilates reformer and tower class. I had absolutely zero idea of what to expect, but luckily for me, my friend emily was teaching the class. I knew she wouldn't judge and I knew she would support a well deserved after class margarita. I also wasn't the only newbie in our class, which made me feel better.

first of all, our class at adrenaline pilates only had six spaces which I loved. I felt like I was almost getting a one on one, which was especially helpful given it was my first time. second of all, holy cow I could feel the burn. the reformer is spring loaded so you're working against your own resistance, but  you can also adjust the springs to make it harder or easier. I had to adjust to a lower spring weight several times. we started with a warm up, followed by legs, arms, and abs. my favorite was an arms move that really worked your obliques by pulling the resistance bands completely across your body. I love those little oblique muscles! I was sore for days afterward, which I also love.


so even though the reformer looks like some sort of medieval torture or 50 shades of gray device, don't be intimidated. it was a fun class that kept me guessing and 60 minutes flew by. but I will say, this was a pretty intense workout - much more burn than I've ever felt with yoga. I could tell that doing pilates reformer consistently would definitely get you sculpted. I also like that you can pretty much just show up, you don't need a mat or towel unless you are sweat prone. don't get me wrong, I sweat in this class, it just wasn't pouring off me like in hot yoga.


the only downside is that pilates is seriously not cheap. even though I'm not supposed to be spending money on working out (hello, go run outside for free) - I am thinking about shelling out some money on pilates. if you're in atlanta, be sure to check out adrenaline pilates, they offer two free classes to first time students.


Monday, July 18, 2016

meatless monday: sweet and spicy tofu

I'm so excited to tell you that I finally finally FINALLY cooked tofu for the first time. #vegetariangoals coming to life over here. so first I should say that I am a fair weathered tofu fan, I love it on this one salad from fresh to order but then had it somewhere else in a taco and hated it. evidently, it's all about how you season it. so I set out to season it right and honey sriracha sounded like I couldn't go wrong.

I love when you decide to make a recipe and discover that you already have most of the ingredients, it's such a nice surprise that really makes you feel like you have your life together. rice vinegar and sesame oil? why, yes I do have those items in the pantry. albeit, they were unopened, but I did already have them. a couple years ago, my mom gave me an amazing electric wok so stephen and I went to the asian market and stocked up on tons of asian goodies like rice vinegar, sesame oil, and much more. you can usually find these items at your local grocery store, so don't fret if you don't already have random asian items in your pantry like I did. 


it turns out that cooking tofu is extremely easy, although I hate pan frying because the hot oil shoots out of the pan and gets you on the arms. it's like a mini firing range. anyway, this was totally easy and anyone could make this dish.

in other news, stephen just bought a new grill and had picked up steaks for his debut meal. meanwhile, I whipped up this tofu in the kitchen. we sat down to enjoy two completely separate meals! no complaints on either side. I was happy stephen got to indulge his meaty aspirations on the grill and that I got to try something new that he probably wouldn't love anyway.

with that being said, this sweet and spicy tofu would be bomb in a veggie stir fry. cook up some mini corn, mushrooms, and broccoli with soy sauce and toss with this tofu for probably the greatest meal ever. if you've been wanting to cook tofu or just love spicy foods, definitely give this recipe a go!








ingredients:

-2 tbsp vegetable oil (or other neutral oil)
-1 garlic clove, finely chopped
-1 block -14oz (396g) medium firm tofu
-2 T. sriracha sauce
-1 T. soy sauce
-1½ T. honey
-1 T. rice vinegar
-corn starch for dusting (about 2 T.)
-1 t. sesame oil
-1 T. sesame seeds

instructions:

1. drain tofu and wrap in paper towel to remove excess water. repeat 3 to 4 times until the tofu is drier. allow the tofu to rest on paper towels while you complete the next step.

2. whisk sriracha, soy sauce, honey, and rice vinegar in a bowl and set aside.

3. slice tofu into 1 inch cubes. dust tofu with potato starch until all sides are coated.

4. in a large pan over high heat, add oil and garlic and fry for 30 seconds. add tofu and fry until the sides are slightly golden (about 7 minutes).

5. add sauce and stir while coating tofu cubes. cook for 3 minutes.

6. turn the heat off and add sesame oil and sesame seeds. stir once more to evenly coat tofu cubes and serve.

recipe adapted from the pickled plum

Friday, July 15, 2016

5 tips to prepare for engagement photos

we had our engagement photo session a few weeks ago and I found myself completely relaxed about it up until the week before our shoot. if you've never had photos of yourself taken, it can be a pretty nerve wracking experience since you may not know what to expect. we are still waiting to get our photos back and I am still nervous. HAHA. I know, I need to take a chill pill.

one thing I did feel really good about was the preparing that I did prior to our session. pretty shortly after we got engaged, I went to the dermatologist for a general consultation. this way, I was able to use prescriptions for months before our photos which gave me enough time for noticeable results. I am pretty low maintenance and the rest of my steps are easy to follow. while some people may want to get their teeth professionally whitened, I am okay with using crest white strips and knowing the photographer will probably work her magic. if you find yourself preparing for a photo session, here my top five tips.


1. think about you and your spouse's attire well in advance.
this one is big. I mean start thinking about this months in advance, if you have the time. if you're like me and getting dressed in the morning is a pain, think about the added stress of picking an outfit that you will be photographed in. there are so many factors to consider. type of fabric, color, and silhouette are huge. you must feel confident in how you look in the outfit, make sure it's a fit that is flattering to your body type. fabric is important because often times, engagement shoots feature different poses in different settings. if you sit on a bench, will you feel comfortable in the fabric? does it give, does it stretch, is it forgiving versus a very rigid fabric that will show flaws. phew. once you've got that covered, do it all over again for your spouse. guys are typically not as difficult. make sure your attire goes together by trying the outfits on well in advance and standing in front of the mirror together. if you're doing a print, make sure to keep it to one pattern only. I'm a firm believer in no outfit changes. it makes things too complicated. commit to your choice!

2. start your personal care regimen early. 
for me this included going to a dermatologist, teeth whitening strips, mederma, and heavy moisturizer for my arms (sleeveless dress). I was a little apprehensive about a sleeveless dress, but we did our photos at the beach so I felt like it was the most appropriate given the hot july weather. I used daily moisturizer on my arms for at least a month before our photos. I also tried to do a daily arm workout but didn't keep it up. if you have more willpower than me, add it to your list. mederma for scars is a must, and don't be afraid to use makeup to cover scars on the day of.

3. get a manicure and pedicure the day before your session and clean your ring the day of the session.
this is an obvious one. your ring and hands will be photographed, so be sure to put them in the best light. I bought this bad boy on amazon for $30 and clean my ring with it frequently, it is awesome!

4. consider doing your hair/makeup trials the day of your shoot so you can kill two birds with one stone. 
I did not do this because I'm doing an updo for the day of and wanted my hair down for the engagement photos. if you want the same hairstyle, I highly recommend this option.

5. have a drink before it's go time!
the day is finally here, you've planned and prepared and you're ready to go. why are you still nervous? take a deep breath, open a bottle of wine, and toast to each other. it's just a photo session and you will do great! be yourself and have fun.

do you have any other tips I missed?

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

what I read in june

today I'm linking up with jana and steph for show us your books, what I read in june. the title of the link up has 'books' plural; however, sadly in the month of june, I was only able to finish one book. hey, it's better than nothing and will make for a short post for you to read. if you're like me, you end up buying a lot of books from these linkups so if anything, I'm helping to narrow it down for you.

drumroll... the one book I managed to read in june was...


what she knew by gilly macmillan
in a heartbeat, everything changes…
rachel is walking with her eight-year-old son, ben, when he asks if he can run ahead. it’s an ordinary request on an ordinary sunday afternoon, and rachel has no reason to worry—until ben vanishes. police are called, search parties go out, and rachel, already insecure after her recent divorce, feels herself coming undone. as hours and then days pass without a sign of ben, everyone who knew him is called into question. as she desperately pieces together the threadbare clues, rachel realizes that nothing is quite as she imagined it to be, not even her own judgment. and the greatest dangers may lie not in the anonymous strangers of every parent’s nightmares, but behind the familiar smiles of those she trusts the most. {amazon.com}
my take: A-
this book definitely struck a chord that had me asking "what would I do?" in this situation as a mother. and by as a mother I mean as a cat mother, since I don't actually have kids yet. when seemingly all odds are against you, do you take matters into your own hands and risk looking like a crazy person or do you trust in the system to solve the case? as females, we must trust our instincts because they rarely lead us astray and this book is a subtle reminder of that. what she knew was an easy read that will keep you guessing.

so that's it for june. you're welcome for keeping it short this month :) happy reading, everyone!




Sunday, July 10, 2016

weekly reading, volume 10

a lot of my posts are written in advance, given that I work a full time job, am crazy busy, and like to keep a regular posting schedule. I'd love to be able to write every day, but that's just not the case. these posts are so nice because as I've said before, they feel spur of the moment and spontaneous. 


unfortunately, this was an extremely rough week with pervasive violence and sadness. this is the first time I've had a chance to write about it here and I feel a little late on the topic. the night of the falcon heights shooting, I tossed and turned. I had dreams of violence. I awoke with so much sadness and held back tears throughout the day. I always joke that my eye holes are too small because I cry pretty easily, like there's not enough room to hold them in. if you find yourself in a similar situation, one of my friends posted this article on how to cope in times of trauma. 

I am overwhelmed by notions of racism or oppression, I just cannot understand hatred and unfairness toward people for no reason other than skin color, sex, gender, wealth, etc. it is wrong and it is disgusting. I mourn for the families affected by baton rouge, falcon heights, and dallas. I am so saddened for these people who all, so unfairly, were robbed of their lives. dallas is my city and I can't imagine the pain they are feeling right now. there is too much collateral damage. 

you can and should be both #blacklivesmatter and #backtheblue. we are already too divided as a society, this is a time where we need to come together. because I cannot solve these worldly problems, I have simply taken to reflecting on my own actions. I can be kinder, I can be less quick to judge, I can be more patient with people, I can be more giving, I can be more forgiving. what can you be? 
comments turned off on this one.

Friday, July 8, 2016

tried and true breakfast casserole

a couple weekends ago, we had stephen's family stay at our house for the weekend and we cooked up a storm! I made cheesy beef enchiladas, guacamole, strawberry rhubarb pie, and this tried and true sausage and egg breakfast casserole. I shared this recipe over a year ago, around easter time last year. back then, I was still using my iPhone to take pictures so the post had some room for improvement. 

you guys. I make this casserole all the time. bachelorette party weekends, couples trips, family holidays - any time there is a group together for breakfast, you can bet I'll be making this casserole. it is so easy to make and it's really impressive to pull a hot breakfast out of the oven for the crowd. not to mention, it takes all of 10 minutes to prepare and you have to make it ahead of time which basically forces you to be a better prepared hostess with the mostess. I scooped up some banana bread from fresh market, sliced it up and plated it along with some fresh fruit and breakfast is served!