Sunday, October 27, 2013

Kale Salad with Quinoa, Acorn Squash and Apples

Apologies for the rather unappetizing salad photo, but I swear it's good. I threw in a few photos of the fresh ingredients to convince you that this salad is legit.

This feels like a good time and place to tell you about an event my (first blog, now real life!) friend Kit is hosting in a few weeks on food photography for bloggers in Chicago. Search here for the free class on November 10 at Next Door Chicago. 

So, I vowed to make my lunch last week and stop spending $13/lunch/day. I made a huge batch of salad that would hold up all week and hold up it did. As in, I ate this salad every. single. day. last week.

So, while I'm totally sick of it, I still thought it was awesome at least days 1-3 and thought I'd share.

This isn't really a recipe because the proportions are up to you.

But! I will be a little more detailed in the dressing because this sauce is the BOSS. (Did I just quote a BBQ commercial?)

Kale Salad with Quinoa, Acorn Squash and Apples

Cook up a few cups of quinoa. When you've taken it off the heat but its still hot, mix half of a diced red onion into it while it's cooling -- this will soften the onion just enough without having to get another dish dirty. #genius

Cook and dice your acorn squash. (I like the microwave method - stab it a few times with a fork so that it doesn't explode, then cook it for about 3 minutes until it's soft enough to significantly lessen the risk of losing a finger when cutting it in half. Cut it in half. Put each half upside down in a low dish of water and microwave for about 5 more minutes. It is now extremely hot and cooked through. Let it cool a bit, scoop the stuff out, you're done!)

Dice up an apple or two and squirt a lemon over it. This is a two-birds-one-stone move for both taste and aesthetics!

Mix up the quinoa, squash, apples with a few cups of chopped kale. The Tuscan variety is prettier and everywhere right now.

Now, make your salad dressing!


  • 1/2 C olive oil
  • 1/4 C soy sauce
  • 3 Tb apple cider vinegar
  • 1-2 Tb brown sugar, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp red chili flakes

Whisk everything together... it'll emulsify better with about a teaspoon of water at the end.

Pour your dressing over the salad and lightly toss everything together. The squash is rather delicate so don't squish it like I did!

Cheers to your health and eating seasonally.

Monday, October 21, 2013


"Ricordi" means "memories" in Italian :)

It occurred to me that it's officially been 2 months, today, since our trip to Europe. Time, as they say, flies. Stilllllll need to get around to blogging about it, but this is definitely one of my favorite memories from the trip, helpfully captured in a gif (thanks RC!)

On the night we arrived, we stopped in a deserted plaza in Venice on our walk back to the hotel, following an amazing dinner and about seven thousand aperol spritzes.

We had the whoooole trip in front of us. Sigh. I am coming back for you, Italy!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

My weekend in 11 photos


Every photography tutorial/blog/etc that I read says that you MUST SHOOT IN MANUAL, at all times, to really learn how to use your camera.

That... is difficult. The pictures turn out so nicely in any of the helper modes! (Aperture priority, I'm looking at you.)

BUT! Those photographers, those tutorial-writers, they know their stuff... because it's true. The more I practice and play in manual, the more I learn and the easier it gets. Also, some really fun stuff is starting to happen.

I had no. earthly. idea. my camera could take a photo like the one I took above of the lake at night! And I'm pretty sure that never would have happened in automatic.

So, I pretty much snapped away all weekend.

1 // Fact: cloudy days make better sunrises
2 // Tortellini, mozzarella and tomato skewers with balsamic glaze for game night 
3 // New print from a small boutique just outside Chicago (read: Ikea) -- a series of animal sketches by Picasso
4 // Saturday nights in + practice practice practice 
5 // Officially fall
6 // The Chicago skyline from Olive Park
7 // Loving the (city-sanctioned) street art at Illinois + LSD
8 // Olive Park walking West
9 // Old and new: animal-print Turkish jewelry dish + a landscape from my grandfather
10 // Pumpkin seeds with S&P, garlic powder + smoked paprika (the trick is not to wash them first!)
11 // Jack-o-lanterns! 

Unpictured: Cards Against Humanity (yikes), strawberry + balsamic pastries by my sister, multiple trips to Dollop, Portillo salads, Ikea madness, Uncle Julio's carry-out, my first Divvy ride ever. 

I hope your weekends were great, too :) 

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Chicago Marathon Photos

I love the marathon. I can think of few things more inspirational. I cry every year. You're all just incredible.

Oh, and I found Waldo. 

Saturday, October 12, 2013

The Smart Lady's Guide to Homemade* Hummus

Have you ever looked up a recipe for hummus from a chef or blogger that's really, really good? The standard recipe is: garbanzo beans, olive oil, tahini, seasoning. Process it all together.

Then, there are those that reallyyyyy know their stuff, that go above and beyond, and they add one very special step. They are happy to tell you the secret to the smoothest, creamiest hummus.

Do you know what it is?

De-shelling the freaking garbanzo beans.

Seriously. Every, single one. Here's what you do. There's a really thin layer (membrane? Worst. Word. Ever.) that covers every single little pea bean and if you pinch the outsides of it gently, it'll pop right out of that shell. Discard the shell. High five! You did ONE bean. Now, do a thousand.

No thanks! I did it once and it was smoother and creamier but I like to think of things in terms of effort and return. I am not convinced the effort was worth the return.

So, I have my own, lazy cook's secret for hummus. This is mostly just for entertaining in my book, but if you regularly make yourself fancy homemade hummus, #respect. This will work for you too. Ready? It's.........

Buy Sabra!

I like the garlic kind, but any kind will work (and honestly, so will any brand, I just happen to be particular to Sabra.) Mix it up so it looks smooth and creamy, then take it out of that plastic container and put it into a proper bowl.

Drizzle it with olive oil. If you have flavored olive oil, this is even better. We have a chili infused olive oil that is out of this world. Then, add some chili flakes and a big sprinkling of oregano. It'll make glorious little rivers and pools of extra flavor that is my 30 second version of "above and beyond." Mix it up a tiny bit but don't combine it totally. It loses both flavor and effect!

Ta da!

It looks better, tastes amazing, and I'm pretty sure the Sabra factory de-shells those bad boys for you because it's perfectly creamy and you'll enjoy an hour of your life that otherwise could have been spent de-membraning those glorious but tricky little Mediterranean beans.

Cheers friends, and happy weekend!

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

The Pioneer Woman's Salmon, or The Easiest Dinner In The World

Say that thinking of The Most Interesting Man in the World.

Tonight, there were important things to get to than dinner. Building a coffee table and last week's DVR'd Scandal in particular. The fact that both of those things are happening right now, today, and not 4 months ago/one week ago respectively is bananas. The coffee table is one of the FIRST things we wanted for our new place and I've waited anxiously for months for Scandal to come back, so yeah. How do these things get away from me? WHERE ARE MY PRIORITIES?

I digress. Salmon! Oh my gosh, this is so good and so easy it's not even fair. I'm a sucker for a good love story and good food, so it was love at first read for me and the Pioneer Woman's blog. And now that she's regularly on the Food Network, I fully (irrationally? maybe?) think of her as my friend. She's so nice! She'd like me, I know it.

So, when I walked past these beautiful, huge pieces of salmon tonight at the grocery store, my mind went straight to my BFF Ree.

Her recipe for salmon (which is actually a recipe from a friend of hers) is so simple. Rub salmon filets with olive oil, salt and pepper. Put the filets on a baking sheet, put it in a cold oven and turn the oven on to 400. After 25 minutes, take out your salmon and you will guaranteed have perfectly flaky, perfectly cooked salmon on your hands.

A few tips:

  • Wrap your baking sheet in tin foil for minimal dish washing. I do this whenever possible, I am that lazy. With salmon, I consider this step non-optional.
  • This is a great base recipe for any sort of salmon you want. In my world, pretty much nothing is getting in my oven without at least two spices on it and salt and pepper do not count. Neither does garlic. I added a lot of lemon pepper and dill to the salt and pepper and it. was. awesome. I've also used this method for miso salmon and a mustard glazed salmon, both good too!
  • My salmon filets were quite possibly the biggest I'd ever seen, and were particularly thick. If that photo is not doing a good job of proving it, note that that is a DINNER PLATE, not a small plate. So, I knew they'd need a little longer to cook than 25 minutes and let them go just one extra minute, then took the pan out and tented it with foil, allowing very little air to escape. This helped the salmon keep cooking gently while the broccoli roasted.
  • Speaking of broccoli roasting, it's pretty much my favorite thing ever. Pop another sheet pan (use that foil again!) in the oven with chopped broccoli, drizzled with olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder if you please. This should go in at the same time as the salmon, but it'll need an extra 15 minutes to get extra crispy (turn the oven up to 475 if you like it extra crispy like mine) which is coincidentally the perfect amount of time to make couscous and pour yourself a glass of wine.
The table's done! I clearly had nothing to do with this considering I just wrote nineteen paragraphs about the "easiest salmon ever." Anyway. I'd take a photo of the table but low-light photography and I are not friends yet. Someday, someday.

Olivia Pope (another good friend) awaits.

Cheers, friends!

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Photography: Chicago Sunday

There's few things more enjoyable than a Sunday afternoon walk. Something about a nice long walk makes me feel healthy, productive, adult! Even when the reality is that I'm mildly hungover from Octoberfest celebrations the night before and the most productive thing I've accomplished is refilling the water tank in the Keurig.

On just one such beautiful Sunday, I headed out for a long walk and on the way out, grabbed my camera to work on my 10,000 photographs... here's a few of my favorite shots. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Butternut Squash and Kale Pasta Bake with Chicken Sausage

Hey Chicago friends, remember how we didn't have a spring? I'm pretty sure this insane, ridiculous, story-book perfect fall we are having totally makes up for it. I'm head over heels for autumn, and my love affair is manifesting itself in embarassingly stereotypical ways. I'm exclusively drinking pumpkin spice lattes. I bought tiny pumpkins for my dining room table. I'm instagramming pictures of the changing leaves. I BOILED A FREAKING CINNAMON STICK. I know! I'm a tragic victim of Pinterest-fueled autumnal hype.

So, I'm just going with it. Tonight, I made a VERY seasonal dinner and it turned out prettyyyy great, so I thought I'd share. 

It was also very easy. Embrace the frozen organic veggies, my friends! Chopping up a butternut squash is one of my top ten least favorite things to do, and I'm pretty sure cleaning kale is up there too. 

And if the goat cheese gives you pause, don't worry. It melts together with everything else and there's only a hint of that sharp, tangy flavor when its all said and done. This is not an overly gooey, stringy, cheesy dish. Instead, the cream sauce just sort of sticks everything together enough so that you taste everything at once and everything on its own ALL AT THE SAME TIME. That makes no sense, you say? Blame the cinnamon fumes.

Recipe below!

Butternut Squash and Kale Pasta Bake with Chicken Sausage

Serves about 6 hungry adults

Prep time - 20 minutes
Bake time - 30  minutes

  • 4 links cooked Italian chicken sausage
  • 1 C onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2.5-3 C cubed cooked butternut squash (I used frozen)
  • 2.5-3 C chopped kale (I used frozen)
  • 1 box of whole wheat penne
  • 1 Tb olive oil + more for drizzlin
  • 1 C Italian seasoned panko bread crumbs
  • Goat cheese cream sauce, below

Goat Cheese Cream Sauce
  • 4 oz goat cheese
  • 15 oz container of light ricotta
  • 1 C chicken stock
  • 1/4 C milk
  • 1 Tb salted butter
  • Cracked black pepper to taste
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tsp sage
  • 1 tsp flour

To start, preheat your oven to 350, boil your (salted!) water and prepare the pasta until it's cooked to al dente. Drain the pasta and return to the pot.

While your  pasta is cooking, dice your onion and mince up the garlic, then saute it all over medium heat in the olive oil until your mixture is translucent. When the onion and garlic are cooked through, add the kale and butternut squash and mix everything together. Let it cook uncovered for about 10 minutes or until the frozen vegetables have heated through and all of the liquid has evaporated.

To prepare your sauce, combine all ingredients over medium-low heat in a saucepan and slowly whisk together until its totally combined and smooth. Allow the sauce to come to a boil and then take it off the heat from heat. (Note: if it seems VERY thin, add a bit of flour, but you want it to be more liquid-y than less so that as it bakes it stays really creamy!)

Dice the chicken sausage into small pieces.

To the pasta, add your chicken sausage and vegetable mixture. Toss it all together then add your sauce to the pot -- mix lightly, don't squish it all up!

Spray a 13x9" pan with olive oil or canola oil spray, then scoop in your pasta. Smooth it all out into an even layer then sprinkle the panko bread crumbs over the top. Drizzle olive oil lightly over the top, then cover the whole pan with foil.

Bake for 20 minutes covered, then remove the foil for an additional 10 minutes to brown the top.

Eat and enjoy!