delicious monday: stoplight salad

some of my favorite summertime fruits and vegetables are bite-size tomatoes, pretty pink watermelons, blueberries, and sweet corn. all together they’d make a strange salad, but luckily today’s recipe only uses two of them.

i call this side dish stoplight salad because it includes the colors red, yellow, and green. it’s an easy yet elegant salad that pairs well with anything from grilled eggplant or steak to fried chicken. plus you can assemble it in less than five minutes if you use thawed frozen corn!

MATERIALS

  • 1 pint of cherry tomatoes
  • 4 ears of sweet corn, cleaned and lightly blanched
  • 1/4 of a sweet or red onion, sliced
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped basil
  • 1/2 cup of feta cheese
  • olive oil and balsamic vinegar
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

MODIFICATIONS

  • substitute 3 cups of thawed frozen corn instead of fresh corn.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. blanche the ears of corn for 3-4 minutes in boiling water. allow them to cool completely before shaving the kernels off with a sharp knife.
  2. in a bowl, combine the corn, tomatoes, onion, and basil. add a splash of olive oil and balsamic for a quick dressing. season with salt and pepper.
  3. serve cold with crumbled feta on top.

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delicious monday: sweet and spicy fajitas

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it’s been awhile since i posted one of our meals— as if we’re not eating (i could eat several times a day). we filled the past two weeks with trusty suppers like thai curry and roasted chicken and light lunches like italian salads and soups. today’s recipe is one of our favorite real simple meals; i never thought of using sweet potatoes in a tex-mex dish until i found it.

the original recipe suggests dressing the tortillas with sour cream, but michael and i prefer (and loooooove) pico de gallo and sliced avocado. you can also serve the dish with regular salsa and it would be just as good. take my word for it— this isn’t our first rodeo with these yummy fajitas. enjoy!

MATERIALS

  • 1 1/2 pounds of tenderized skirt steak
  • 2 poblano peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into triangles
  • 1 large avocado, pitted and sliced
  • 1 cup of fresh pico de gallo
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

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delicious monday: summertime gladness pasta

vegetarian friends, guess what? i have a yummy summer lunch for you. i even used spinach pasta (call me popeye). it’s an easy pasta salad that took me less than thirty minutes to cook and pack for lunch.

one of my favorite things about summer is the abundance of fresh vegetables. michael and i eat a lot of tomatoes and squash when the weather warms up. i love mixing vegetables with pasta. everything looks so pretty— but not so pretty that you can’t eat it!

MATERIALS

  • 1 pint of grape tomatoes, halved
  • 2 cups of fresh green peas
  • 2 zucchinis, cut into strips with a peeler
  • 1 cup of walnut nuggets
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • spinach tagliatelle pasta
  • crumbled goat cheese or fresh mozzarella
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning
  • olive oil

MODIFICATIONS

  • omnivores: add grilled chicken for a heartier lunch.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. cook the pasta for 8 to 9 minutes.
  2. while the pasta water heats up, preheat a skillet to low-medium. warm a little bit of olive oil and add the walnuts. toast them until fragrant.
  3. add the garlic, tomatoes, zucchini strips, and green peas. sauté until the vegetables are slightly tender.
  4. drain the pasta under cool water and add to the skillet (it’s okay if the pasta is still damp).
  5. stir the noodles into the vegetables. season with salt and pepper.
  6. serve cool with goat cheese or fresh mozzarella on top.

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delicious monday: bird’s eye papaya salad

mom, i did it! i finally mastered the art of making papaya salad at home. don’t get me wrong; shredding the papaya is very time consuming. i use a julienne peeler for the job. when you get a craving, you get a craving!

i grew up eating a variety of papaya salad; my mom had her version and her friends had theirs. i remember one woman made papaya salad with so many chilis that it was pink. i tried a bite as a foolish elementary schooler and just about died— it was so spicy.

today’s recipe is one that i make at home, but you can embellish it as needed. green papaya can be found at asian grocery stores; pick one that has unbruised skin and feels firm. green beans are popular additions; i’ve even seen salads with dried, salty shrimp on top. you can buy bird’s eye chili (the official name for thai chili) at asian stores, too, either fresh or frozen. we’re lucky because my mom brings a bag from her garden every time she visits texas!

MATERIALS

  • 2 cups of shredded green papaya
  • 1/2 cup of shredded carrots
  • 1 handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
  • fish sauce
  • brown sugar
  • fresh lime juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, skin removed
  • 1 thai chili or other hot chili pepper
  • mortar bowl and pestle

MODIFICATIONS

  • substitute the carrots with a handful of green beans (ends cleaned and halved).
  • sprinkle crushed unsalted peanuts on top.
  • serve on a bed of green leaf lettuce or rice vermicelli noodles.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. smash the garlic and thai chili together in the bowl. add the papaya and carrots and gently beat on the pieces, turning everything occasionally with a spatula.
  2. add a tablespoon of brown sugar and fish sauce and a teaspoon of lime juice. mix into the salad. taste a small bite— if it’s not seasoned, add more fish sauce. if it’s too spicy, add more brown sugar.
  3. gently fold in the tomatoes. transfer to a large bowl to share or small bowls as an appetizer.

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delicious monday: chicken caesar salad

caesar salad is one of my favorite salads to order at a restaurant in addition to caprese or something with walnuts and goat cheese. we often make salads for lunch but can you believe we’ve never made caesar salad at home? it’s incredibly easy, almost as simple as breakfast cereal (pour cereal into bowl, generously top with cold milk).

many grocery stores offer pre-cooked chicken but michael likes buying boneless chicken thighs, seasoning them with salt and pepper, and throwing them on the grill. the chicken ends up with beautiful grill marks and a smoky, summery scent. plus you can freeze any extra chicken for future salads.

MATERIALS

  • hearts of romaine, cleaned and chopped into small pieces
  • cherry tomatoes
  • croutons (homemade or store-bought)
  • grilled chicken
  • shaved parmesan
  • caesar dressing

MODIFICATIONS

  • restaurants usually mix the dressing into the salad prior to serving. you can follow their lead or pour the dressing yourself (my preferred method).

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. in a salad bowl, layer the lettuce with tomatoes and pieces of chicken. add a handful of croutons and shaved parmesan.
  2. serve with caesar dressing.

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delicious monday: asian cold noodle bowl

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when michael and i were dating, he said i had to try this vietnamese noodle dish called bun. he described it as noodles with pork, herbs, and spring rolls. to his surprise, i told him the dish wasn’t strictly vietnamese; my mom makes the same kind of dish and she’s from laos. basically a cold noodle bowl is a deconstructed spring roll without the wrapper, and the peanut sauce is the best part.

last year we began making noodle bowls at home. you can use any kind of grilled meat you like (or even tofu). my mom creates egg rolls by hand, but we buy frozen egg rolls from the asian supermarket because we go through her stash quickly. the frozen ones are tasty, too— just make sure the oil isn’t super hot when you fry them.

have you ever eaten a cold noodle bowl? what do you put in yours?

MATERIALS

  • vietnamese rice noodles (also called bun or rice vermicelli)
  • shredded lettuce, cucumber, and carrot
  • small bunches of cilantro, mint, and basil, chopped
  • bean sprouts
  • thai chili peppers
  • fish sauce
  • brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon of minced garlic
  • grilled meat (we used pork cutlets)
  • peanut sauce (see recipe for instructions)

MODIFICATIONS

  • we always make noodle bowls with egg rolls on top!
  • i make peanut sauce on the stove and let it cool; the recipe doesn’t require heat. 

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

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lovely tuesday: book nook

in one of my favorite seinfeld episodes, jerry laments, ”what is this obsession people have with books? they put them in their houses like trophies. what do you need it for after you read it?”

michael and i have owned these bookcases forever (meaning at least six years). when we lived in an apartment, they stood against a wall in the bedroom. when we moved into our house, we lined them up at the end of our living room. we painted the walls dark just for the bookcases. but i never put a chair near them.

over thanksgiving, i began our book nook project by updating some of the decor on our bookcases and adding a comfortable place for reading. what a difference a chair makes— i actually sit by the window and read (or check instagram).

i prefer two styles of bookcases: the eclectically cluttered or the extremely sparse. our shelves are quite busy, and i don’t mind. i arrange the books in color families with matching objects. we also display drawings, a few photographs, and pugs, lots of pugs!

the green bins on the bottom hide my husband’s comic books and corral board games that we don’t break out enough. one day i’d love to replace the chair with a chaise so i can relax and read or relax and nap, whichever happens first.


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delicious monday: shrimp chowder with corn

texas cannot make up its mind. i’ve spend the last two weeks covering my plants because it’s below freezing at night and then uncovering them later because it’s warm and pleasant during the day. this afternoon i covered all the plants again! sophie was curious but wary; she stayed indoors (pugs don’t got time for that).

when the weather gets cold, michael and i like hearty, hot soups for lunch. we made chowder last week from one of our real simple cookbooks. the only difference between our chowder and the magazine’s chowder is the bacon— you can never go wrong with bacon. enjoy!

MATERIALS

  • 2 leeks, white parts chopped
  • 1 fennel bulb, chopped
  • 3-4 large gold potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 18-24 large frozen shrimp, peeled and deveined
  • 2 cups of frozen sweet corn
  • 3 cups of milk
  • 1 small bottle of clam juice
  • chopped parsley to garnish
  • all-purpose flour
  • butter
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

MODIFICATIONS

  • sprinkle the chowder with chopped crispy bacon.
  • use raw shrimp instead of cooked ones. when the shrimp are pink and opaque, they’re done!

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

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delicious monday: kow piek (chicken and rice soup)

today’s recipe is very special to me— it’s the quintessential soup of my childhood. whenever we watch top chef, the contestants are challenged (usually toward the finale) to cook a dish that evokes a warm memory. when i think of my parents’ kitchen, i see a little girl in a bowl haircut sitting in a wooden chair eating kow piek.

kow piek literally translates to “wet rice.” it’s a traditional chicken and rice soup found in many southeast asian countries. the base of the soup resembles chicken pho; in lieu of noodles, the chef adds steamed rice to the hot broth.

MATERIALS

  • 8 cups of chicken stock or broth
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of minced ginger
  • 1 1/2 pounds of chicken thighs (remove bones) or cutlets
  • 1 cup of chopped scallions and cilantro
  • fried garlic (available at asian grocery stores)
  • 4 cups of steamed white rice, chilled
  • soy sauce
  • sesame oil
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. warm a large pot with your chicken stock or broth (you can also use a crock pot).
  2. preheat a skillet to medium. add a dash of sesame oil and sauté the onion, garlic, and ginger until fragrant and lightly browned. add the chicken thighs or cutlets and cook until they are no longer pink. dump the contents of the skillet into the pot.
  3. cook the soup on low with a lid to tenderize the chicken. while the soup simmers, prepare the rice. check on the soup after a couple of hours and shred the meat into pieces with a fork.
  4. allow the rice to cool to room temperature. using a ladle, slowly add a cup of rice at a time into the soup. the rice grains will separate as they touch the liquid. season the soup with soy sauce (or salt) and black pepper. replace the lid until you’re ready to eat.
  5. serve the soup in bowls with fresh scallions and cilantro and a pinch of fried garlic. if you want more spice, citrus, or salt, take my mom’s advice: “add whatever you like.”

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delicious monday: italian wedding soup

if you’re making italian wedding soup, you must default to the barefoot contessa— ina garten’s italian recipes are always on point. we made a big batch of soup last week as the temperatures dipped into the 30’s, and we ate it for lunch leading up to thanksgiving. the soup was perfect!

we made a few modifications to ina’s recipe. michael didn’t use any milk in the meatball mixture and we chose a large bag of baby kale over spinach. we also used italian sausage instead of chicken sausage and mixed in leftover orzo and orecchiette from the pantry.

michael rolled so many meatballs that we froze a container of them. i might break them out as a holiday appetizer later this month, cute lil’ toothpicks and all!


MATERIALS

  • 3/4 pound of ground chicken
  • 1/2 pound of italian sausage
  • 2/3 cup bread crumbs
  • minced garlic
  • 1/4 cup shaved parmesan cheese
  • one beaten egg
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 cup of diced or matchstick carrots
  • 10 cups of chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup of fresh dill, minced
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

MODIFICATIONS

  • use kale instead of spinach.
  • use orzo instead of traditional pasta.

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

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delicious monday: baked ziti with kale and mozzarella

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my baked ziti recipe is a mix of my mom’s spaghetti and my mother-in-law’s baked rigatoni. we haven’t made pasta in awhile. on friday after school i arrived home and settled on ziti.

if you don’t like hamburger, you can substitute italian sausage, ground turkey, or chopped eggplant. baked ziti is like the kid that plays well with everyone. it’s a flexible dish, and it’s elegant enough for guests. eat up!

MATERIALS

  • 1 pound of lean ground beef
  • 1 bag of baby kale leaves, stems removed
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon crushed garlic
  • 1 jar of marinara sauce
  • 6-8 fresh basil leaves
  • 1 container of fresh bocconcini (mozzarella balls)
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella
  • 1/2 box of ziti noodles (feeds 4)
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. preheat a skillet to medium. add olive oil to the pan and cook the hamburger meat, breaking it into small pieces. drain any access liquid and sauté the onions and garlic until softened and fragrant. stir in the marinara sauce and season to taste. lower the heat.
  2. bring a pot of lightly salted water to boil. add the pasta and cook for 7-10 minutes. drain the noodles well and mix them into the meat sauce. preheat the oven to 375F.
  3. add the kale leaves a handful at a time, allowing them to wilt before getting a new handful. repeat with the basil. drain the bocconcini and put them in the pan. mix well.
  4. using a large spoon, scoop the pasta mixture into porcelain ramekins. sprinkle shredded cheese on top of each dish. bake them for 10-15 minutes until the cheese is browned.
  5. serve the ziti with a fresh green salad like my mother-in-law or with warm bread like my mom.

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delicious monday: tex-mex bowl

in texas, comfort food doesn’t always refer to chicken noodle soup or pot roast. comfort food can be something spicy, and fortunately, we like it spicy! one of our favorite meals is a warm bowl of pork and rice garnished generously with pico de gallo. occasionally michael substitutes black beans and corn instead of the rice. either way, the meal quickly appeases a hungry stomach.

MATERIALS

  • 4-6 pound boston rump roast
  • olive oil
  • steamed white or brown rice
  • avocado, pitted and sliced
  • fresh pico de gallo
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. preheat a skillet to medium-high and a crock pot to medium. season the roast with salt and pepper. add olive oil to the pan and sear the meat on all sides until brown.
  2. place the roast inside the crock pot with two cups of water. cover and cook for 3-4 hours until meat falls apart with a fork. drain the liquid and season again if needed. keep warm.
  3. thirty minutes before the pork is done, steam rice in a rice cooker or over the stove. rinse the rise thoroughly before adding water. add two cups of water per one cup of rice to the pot. bring to a boil and then lower the heat. fluff with a fork after 15-20 minutes. if you’re using brown rice, follow the instructions on the package; brown rice usually takes longer to cook.
  4. spoon the rice into bowls. serve the pork on top and garnish with avocado slices and pico de gallo.

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lovely tuesday: art room

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thank pinterest for gallery walls. before the pinning craze, i would have defined gallery walls as “walls in gallery” the same way a celebrity would refer to walmart as “a store for walls.” now i know a gallery wall refers to pictures arranged nicely in a group.

our gallery wall has been a work in progress since we moved into our house. we quickly decorated the living room in shades of green, grey, white, and black, but we left the largest wall blank. i wanted a wall with maps, but it took awhile to find the right maps and complimentary pictures. three years later, our art room is finally complete.

some gallery walls are symmetrical and others are arranged in a carefree manner. michael and i both liked the idea of having similarly sized frames with different images. we bought our large world map, map of paris, map of rome, and feather prints from home goods. the maps have blue and green color schemes and match our living room decor. the feathers are neutral but their dark frames add contrast to the rest of the wall.

i designed our compass print and paper dolls (both available from my studio) and displayed them in twin, metallic frames from tj maxx. i bought the little chickadee lithograph and embroidered map of virginia at the thrift store. if you’re an avid thrifter, you’ve had those magical days when you feel like you were supposed to find something. that’s how i feel about the virginia piece; it’s my home state and the place where we met. after our wedding, i plan on sewing one of our cake toppers (a crochet heart) onto the wooden embroidery hoop.

my favorite thing about gallery walls is that all of them look different and personal. you can use a template to help arrange the gallery, but the content of the frames— whether they are photographs, doodles, children’s art, objects, or posters— is entirely up to you. two of my favorite gallery wall artists are jen (of jen loves kev) and lauren kelp.


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delicious monday: seafood strata

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a few years ago, i cooked strata for the first time because we wanted something easy yet classy to serve at a family brunch. michael and i are perfectly happy with scrambled eggs and cornflakes. when we have guests, strata seems a bit more elevated. plus, it’s fun to assemble. we like it so much that sometimes i make strata and don’t invite anyone over.

our favorite recipe is from an older issue of better homes and gardens. i snipped the recipe and glued it in our book. my version never looks as brown or crispy as the magazine strata, but it tastes pretty darn good!

MATERIALS

  • 6 leeks, halved and cut into moons (white parts only)
  • 8 tortillas
  • 1/2 pound of cooked shrimp (peeled and deveined)
  • 1 cup of cooked lump crab meat
  • 1 cup of shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 2 tablespoons fresh dill
  • 6 eggs
  • 3 cups of milk
  • flour
  • butter
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

MODIFICATIONS

  • substitute corn tortillas instead of flour tortillas.
  • substitute italian sausage instead of seafood and add chopped bell pepper.
  • cut extra tortillas into strips. arrange on top to resemble a pie crust (it’s my thing).

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

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delicious monday: albondigas

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today’s recipe is truly an oldie but goodie. i tore it out of woman’s day magazine six or seven years ago and taped it inside a green scrapbook of recipes for michael’s birthday. we still have the little book, and it still has the recipe.

if you like meatballs, you’ll love albondigas. they’re southwestern style meatballs made with pork and seasoned with cumin, oregano, and other herbs. we eat them with rice or cous cous; albondigas are a simple and spicy weeknight meal. enjoy!

MATERIALS

  • 2 cups of cooked rice or cous cous
  • 1 package of ground pork
  • 1 zucchini, grated into stripes
  • 1 handful of smashed tortilla chips
  • 2 scallions, white and light green parts sliced
  • fresh cilantro, chopped
  • 1 can of enchilada sauce (mild or medium)
  • 1 egg
  • minced garlic
  • cumin and oregano
  • kosher salt and pepper for seasoning

INSTRUCTIONS

  1. view the full recipe here.

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