Family Dinner


Wednesday, February 25, 2015

I tried to fit everything I made into the title of this post, but "Chicken Country Kiev, Sun Dried Tomato Feta Dip, Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Carmelized Onions and Bacon, White Bean, Lemon and Rosemary Dip" was somehow a little too long! But there you have it, our delicious dinner from Sunday night that Cam and I are wanting all over again as I post these photos and write out the recipes for you.

It seemed like every Sunday afternoon from my childhood until I left for college (that could be my pregnancy brain over-remembering, Mom?) we had family dinner out on our back patio and I loved it. I think all of us kids looked forward to it. My Mom would make an amazing dinner with our favorites: bbq tri-tip, a big green salad with fruits and yummy toppings, garlic bread, vegetables, creamy potatoes, and wine of course. Like any good meal, it was as much about the fun time together as the food. During the week, even if we weren't hungry, we still had to sit down together as a family and I'm so grateful for that now. We do the same with John Shea, even when he's throwing his food or refusing to eat, and hopefully he'll come to appreciate that time together one day as much as I do looking back on my growing up!

Sun Dried Tomato & Feta Dip

about 6oz fresh feta (in brine is best so it's not dried out!)
4-5 heaping TBS sun dried tomatoes in it's marinated olive oil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp salt 
1/2C - 1C EVOO

This is so simple and so delicious! It's a perfect appetizer or accompaniment to dinner.

Combine all of the ingredients in a food processor (or a blender if you don't have a food processor!) and drizzle in more EVOO as needed for your desired consistency. Serve immediately with a crunchy, warm bread, or a gluten-free option for my GF friends.

Chicken Country Kiev à la Emina (my Mom!)

about 1 lb chicken breasts, thinly sliced
1/2 C olive oil
1-2 TBS white wine
3 tsp dried oregano
1/2 - 1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ancho chili pepper
1/2 C bread crumbs
2 TBS butter

This is one of the simplest and most delicious chicken recipes! I make it far too often and we love it every single time. Thanks, Mom.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Melt the butter in a large bowl or plate and add in the olive oil. On another large bowl or plate, combine the breadcrumbs, (feel free to use a GF option like almond meal or GF flour if you can't eat breadcrumbs - but double the herbs and salt for added flavor) oregano, salt and ancho chili pepper. Wash and pat dry the chicken slices. Dip them in the olive oil/butter, then in the breadcrumbs and place in a medium baking dish. Once all of the chicken is in the baking dish, pour the remaining olive oil/butter over the top and drizzle on the white wine.

Bake for about 35 minutes or until lightly browned and cooked through.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Caramelized Onions & Bacon

1lb brussels sprouts
fine sea salt
2-3 pieces of bacon, chopped
1/2 onion

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. You can stick the brussels sprouts in while also cooking the Chicken Country Kiev!

Remove the outer leaves of the brussels sprouts, cut them in half and toss evenly with EVOO and a good pinch of fine sea salt. Roast for about 30-35 minutes or until lightly browned. About 15 minutes out from being done, cook the onion and bacon.

Add about a teaspoon of EVOO to a saute pan over medium low high heat until it begins to shimmer and toss the onions in it. Occasionally stir the onions so they cook evenly and don't burn, for atleast ten minutes to allow them to begin to caramelize. Once they begin to brown, add in the bacon. There's no need to add salt to the onions as the bacon will do just that. Saute until the onions are a rich brown color and the bacon crispy. Set aside.

Toss the brussels sprouts with the caramelized onions and bacon and serve immediately. I had planned on making a vinaigrette to add to this as well but the sprouts have such good flavor on their own along with the sweet onions and salty bacon it didn't need anything else!

White Bean, Lemon & Rosemary Dip

1 can white beans (cannellini or great northern), rinsed and drained
juice of 1 lemon
1 TBS crushed garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/3 C EVOO

Add all of the ingredients to a food processor and combine until it has reached as smooth a consistency as you like, adding more EVOO as needed. Serve immediately with crunchy bread and wine!

Around Our Monterey Home


Tuesday, February 24, 2015

My latest thrift store find. An antique jewelry box for two dollars!

The shelf in our teeny guestroom with some of my favorite books and vases gifted by Ash, Lorraine & Mary Grace!

 My girly office, from this post...

John Shea's nursery from Okinawa, from this post. His room in our house now has a different rug and is about a third the size, so we lovingly call it the lamb cave ;)

The last time I posted a photo of this side table, he could barely reach the drawers, now look at him!! Thankfully, he has zero interest in what's on the tabletop (like those bottles of alcohol) unless Daddy leaves out a tool, then he's all over it!

I love our home! I think in the age of social media, and even just in general, it's easy to forget how blessed we are and how incredibly much we're given moment to moment. Hearing Mika (my Bosnian Grandmother, hi sena!!) tell us stories over Christmas about how she grew up and how our parents grew up so differently than we did was a great reminder that we are so very spoiled. I am so thankful for all the Lord has done for us and given us! We may not be homeowners yet, and probably won't be for a good while during our gypsy lifestyle we love, but He always provides a beautiful home for us and the freedom and originality to make it our own, a place we truly love being in, which is what I think interior decorating is all about, right? It is so much fun turning a house into a home with each of our moves, even though I clearly know next to nothing about interior design. It's something I'd love to learn more about and hopefully will get to while in Europe. I do know what I'm drawn to, though! : soft colors, comfort, simple, fresh, classic, finding things from our travels, antique and thrift stores, garage sales and my guilty pleasures, Pottery Barn and Anthropologie. Welcome to our home in Monterey!

(I don't think I ever did a post like this while we were in Okinawa, but a lot of our apartment can be seen here.)

Early Spring in Monterey & Carmel-by-the-Sea


Thursday, February 19, 2015

It seems like there are flowers blooming all over the peninsula right now, as a reminder that Spring is almost here, or starting early. Hooray! I think springtime is the most magical time of the year with the promise of new life and new beginnings budding everywhere you look, a symphony of color building up to the most joyous celebration of them all, Easter!!  Huge, glorious bushes of pink and white camellias are now turning it over to the cherry blossoms, jasmine (I put some in our car - natural air freshener! - and the smell is still unreal), tulips, garden roses, freesia, ranuculus, wisteria and colorful vines.

John and I stopped in at The Carmel Coffee House for a little date (chai latte for me, big cookie for him) before our long walk along the beach this morning. He took off his shoes and made himself completely at home, making friends along the way as he always does. I get it, and I love it about you, sweet boy!

This bebe sea lion was only a few feet from us on our walk and I had to hold back John from running up to him for a big hug! From the stunning and jagged coastline, to the sea life, to the forests, to the wildlife, (it's a rare day that we don't have a herd of deer in our yard or on our street!) Cam and I joke often that living in Monterey is like living in a National Geographic magazine.

"Wrong will be right, when Aslan comes in sight, at the sound of his roar, sorrows will be no more, when he bares his teeth, winter meets its death, and when he shakes his mane, we shall have spring again." -CS Lewis, The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

Fresh Herb & Chicken Soup


Thursday, February 12, 2015

Sometimes the sweetest and most refreshing gifts come in the form of good food and time together.

Cam is spending this upcoming weekend with three other guys in below zero temps climbing Mt. Whitney, which is the tallest mountain in the contiguous United States! Ahn and her girls are coming today and then we're heading out of town together with our babies. So Cam and I had a stay-at-home date this past Saturday night after we put John Shea to bed. He cooked! And not only did he cook for me, but he made an amazing meal! He made a roasted butternut squash sauce from scratch to go over four cheese ravioli and a green salad with all of my favorites in it: strawberries, blackberries, goat cheese, good croutons and nuts. It was absolutely incredible and he's promised to make it again soon so I can take photos and write down his recipe to share.

We eat together as a family every night but it's really special (and fun!) getting to have alone time with just my husband and so important and refreshing to refocus on each other. I adore him!

I made my Spicy Chorizo Vegetable Soup over the weekend too and when it ran out, which is always a sad day, Cam asked for more. The same soup, a new soup, it didn't matter, just more tasty soup please! And so this Fresh Herb & Chicken Soup was created, based off my Spicy Chorizo, but more calm. It's loaded with fresh herbs and vegetables, incredible with a good crusty bread alongside it for dipping, and like any good soup or meal does, feeds your soul as much as your belly.

Fresh Herb & Chicken Soup

1 quart organic chicken stock
1 yellow onion, chopped
3-4 large carrots, chopped
4 bell peppers, chopped
1 bunch of celery, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
2 cans diced tomatoes + juice
1 can red kidney beans
2 cans cannellini / white beans, rinsed
red wine {about 1/2 cup}
1 rotisserie chicken or about 1 lb cooked chicken, shredded
1/2 pint heavy cream 
about 1 C chopped fresh cilantro (parsley is also a nice substitution!)
about 1 C chopped fresh green scallions
about 4 TBS chopped fresh oregano or 2 TBS dried
about 1 TBS red chili powder
fine sea salt

The beautiful thing about this soup is it doesn't take long to make and makes enough to last for a few days. For Cam and I, it will usually give us three dinners and two lunches. If you're cooking for more people, consider doubling the recipe so you can have more free nights! :)

In a large pot, on medium heat, drizzle enough EVOO to cover the bottom and saute the onion until soft and translucent, about a minute or two. Add in all of the veggies and add a few generous glugs of EVOO with them along with a generous pinch of salt. Stir and saute for about 15 minutes or until the veggies become tender. 

Add the tomatoes + juice, rinsed beans, wine, chicken stock, chicken and red chili powder. {I prefer not to use low-sodium chicken broth for soup - it loses a lot of flavor!} Bring to a boil. Simmer for atleast half an hour, though the longer the better! In a saute pan, combine about 1/2 - 1 C of EVOO with all of the chopped herbs and allow the flavors to marry for a few minutes on low heat while you stir so they don't burn. Pour in the wonderful herb olive oil concoction to the soup along with the cream, simmer just a bit longer and taste; add in as much salt as needed to bring out the flavor! Serve with crusty bread and shaved parmesan on top. 

What Goes with Chocolate?


Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Molly Gibson, Roger Hamley & me. 

If you've ever read the British novel or seen the mini series, Wives and Daughters, written by Elizabeth Gaskell in the turn of the 20th century, you can probably picture the likable character Roger Hamley. In the beginning, he's overlooked and in the shadow of his older brother Osborne who is praised for his looks. But as it turns out, Roger is the son whose character shines. He quietly and humbly studies and works hard and makes his family proud. He also regularly picks the most stunning bouquets of wildflowers for the women in his life, Molly Gibson being the most appreciative of them. The book & movie quickly became one of my favorites lately (Pride & Prejudice will always have first place!) and I've watched it atleast five times in less than as many weeks late at night when my pregnancy insomnia strikes. Cam has no idea what he's missing! (I'm laughing outloud.) As if I needed any more kick to fill our home with flowers, all those beautiful English garden roses and bouquets Roger picks along with having a little girl! bouncing in my belly, inspired me to fill our whole house yet again with vases big and small of wonderfully smelling camellias and my weekly $7 David Austin roses. All the better being that it's Valentine's week. The tables throughout our home and my posts this week are all sprinkled with roses and camellias. I rarely ever give Cam a chance to bring home flowers, so he turned to the next best. Chocolate.

We have so much good chocolate in our house right now that I found myself asking, what goes with chocolate? Other than the answer for a true chocoholic (everything!), the farmers markets cleared it up. Early Springtime local berries have just returned, making my baby's eyes light up and his chubby little hands reach out every time I push him in his stroller past the stands of bright strawberries, blackberries and blueberries. Strawberries! That's what goes with chocolate! So this afternoon after my Croatian class finished was a busy but glorious one. With my little helper John Shea, who likes to stand on a bench next to me at the counter and stir make-believe concoctions in a big red mixing bowl with his favorite whisk (absolutely adorable) while I cook and make sure he doesn't fall off, we made a new soup with fresh herbs and chicken (recipe coming soon!) and dipped the strawberries we picked out at the market into warm chocolate for dessert.

A special treat this week.

5 Tips For Delicious Chocolate Covered Strawberries

1. Choose ripe, juicy strawberries that are ready to be eaten right away but not soft or mushy. 

2. Wash the strawberries and make sure they are thoroughly dry and at room temperature. If they're still damp or wet, the chocolate won't stick.

3. Choose a high quality chocolate to melt. I used Guittard milk baking chips - they're incredible!

4. The easiest way to melt chocolate is to place the pieces or chips in a heat-proof bowl in the microwave. Stop the microwave every 30 seconds to stir until they begin to melt, but remove completely before all have lost their shape. Continue stirring until the chocolate is smooth. The residual heat from the bowl will continue melting the chocolate without burning it. It's like making scrambled eggs - you want to remove the eggs from the heat just before they're done as the pan will continue to cook them through and it's easy to let them get overdone. The last thing you want is overdone, chalky chocolate! I don't add cream or butter, I like to keep the chocolate pure as is. 

5. Dip the strawberries and place on a parchment paper lined flat surface. Let them cool and harden in the fridge for atleast twenty minutes and eat immediately :)

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