Little Things


Friday, September 28, 2012

What's making me thankful and smile this week?
Meeting my husband out tonight in red high heels (:
Our potted garden. Even if you live in an apartment with no yard, it's still possible to have a little garden! It has been producing so much basil and rosemary to my cooking heart's delight. 
 Pulling over on the side of the road to catch the gorgeous sunset.  I don't even have to finish my sentence,  Cam is so used to this by now! 
 Finishing this book in two days. A Vineyard in Tuscany: A Wine Lover's Dream.
Yep, devoured that. We are wine lovers and owning a vineyard is our dream.
 Heading to the beach for a couple weekend hours with this handsome guy.  Always a pleasure.
These very true, inspirational words spoken by Dad Wayne.

I hope you all have an amazing weekend!

Off The Vine Tomato Soup & Gouda, Brie, Arugula Grilled Cheese


Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Made with fresh tomatoes that I picked up at the market and basil from our garden, this was quite possibly the best tomato soup we've ever had. 

To me, it's all about using local, quality, fresh ingredients and creating something simple from them.
We had grilled cheese sammies to go along with it, stuffed with arugula & some of our favorite cheeses:  gouda for Cam {his other love} & brie for me.  

 Tomatoes are a staple in our kitchen.  They make me think of my Mika {my Bosnian Grandma} who told Cam and I when we visited her in Florida, to eat tomatoes as often as we can because they are packed with vitamins, calcium, potassium, and are great for your heart.  You can taste how fresh and good-for-you this soup really is.

Off The Vine Tomato Soup & Gouda, Brie, Arugula Grilled Cheese

Soup: {Serves 6}
3 cups of pureed fresh tomatoes {I used about 3 Tomatoes on the Vine, 1 Heirloom & a bunch/container of cherry tomatoes - feel free to use whatever is available in your area}
2 yellow onions finely chopped
Fresh Basil Leaves
4 Cloves of Garlic
2 teaspoons of pepper
2 teaspoons of salt {+ more for taste}
Olive Oil
1 teaspoon of chili powder

2 cups of low-sodium free-range chicken broth
1 can {15oz} Cannellini Beans
1 small can of tomato sauce or paste
1 can of diced tomatoes {15oz}
Bacon & Pecorino for topping

Thinly sliced Brie or Gouda {or Gruyere!}
Your favorite bread

In the soup pot, drizzle enough olive oil to cover the bottom and saute 4 chopped cloves of garlic until lightly browned. Add the thinly diced onions and saute for about 15-20 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and chili powder. Using a food processor or blender, puree the tomatoes. Stir in the tomato puree, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, chicken broth, and beans. Bring to a boil and then simmer for atleast an hour. {The longer the better!}

Cook the bacon until crispy in a medium pan. Blot off the grease and chop into small pieces. If you're a vegetarian, omit this step... or take my word and try it this once! It adds so much flavor to the soup. And this is coming from the girl who used to hate bacon!

At this point, you can either leave the soup chunky as is, or puree it to make it a smooth consistency. Serve with freshly grated Pecorino, crispy bacon pieces and chopped fresh basil, and either a Brie or Gouda Arugula grilled cheese. (:

Sandwiches: Brush both pieces of the bread on one side with olive oil.  Turn over and layer on pieces of Brie or Gouda on the non-oiled side. Heap on Arugula, sprinkle on a bit of salt for taste and top with the other piece of bread, pressing down firmly. Toast either under the broiler or on a pan on medium-high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side or until the bread is golden brown and the cheese is melted and oozing.

So Thankful For Our Life on Oki... via Video (:


Monday, September 24, 2012

This stunning place is Cape Manzamo, in the town of Onna. We went on a dive here on Saturday with two good friends and it was amazing. If you could listen to my thought process while we were diving in the deep turquoise water, swimming through arches of corral, surrounded by the most gorgeous, brightly colored fish, looking up above us to see the sun streaming into the sea, you would have heard something like: "WOW, Lord! You truly are the Creator of the universe. Thank you!" 

We took some videos over the past few weekends together {including this Cape!} when Cam wasn't in the field or working, that I put together for you.  The last part is from our anniversary trip to Thailand. There's so much missing in this, but atleast it gives you a little glimpse of the beautiful island we get to call home.    
Click here for it !

Autumn: Red Wine Butternut Squash Minestrone


Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cam has been working afternoons & overnights this week, so when he surprised me and walked through the front door yesterday at 5pm, I almost dropped the pot I was holding to cook this soup in. 

Even just a few days apart makes us appreciate all the more what we have.
He sat next to me on the stool in the kitchen while I chopped & cooked, drinking a glass of vino, catching up on this past week, making my heart so happy.  Maybe that's why this soup tasted so good?  

I received a comment recently on my formspring insinuating that I portray our marriage as perfect on the blog. To be honest, that made us laugh a bit because it's of course not. No one's is. It's sometimes hard work. God's grace keeps our marriage so sweet, and I share it out of sincerity because we're so ridiculously thankful that I can't help it. Thanks for reading everyday despite my constant mush and gush.

It's raining here right now and getting cool {in the high 70's is laughably cool to us now} so we've been craving soup. I had minestrone on my mind when I rode Chardonnay to the farmer's market the other day, picking out fresh zucchini, butternut squash, carrots, onion, hearty greens and celery. I saw our farmer neighbors on the way, laughing that I looked like an Okinawan on a bike with fresh produce in my basket.

I also used some basil and rosemary {for a whole wheat focaccia bread} from our potted herb garden.

So fresh, healthy and delicious.  The red wine makes this minestrone rich and ... so right. (;

 Red Wine Butternut Squash Minestrone:

1 Butternut Squash
3 Zucchini Squash
2 Stalks of Celery
1 Yellow Onion
2 Large Carrots
1 Bunch of Kale or Hearty Greens like Spinach
Fresh Chopped Basil Leaves
1 Cup of Red Wine {I used a Cab Sauvignon}
2 Cups of all-natural low-sodium Chicken Broth
1 can (cup) of Tomato Sauce
1 can of Diced Tomatoes
1 can of White Cannellini Beans
Salt & Pepper to taste
Dash of Chili Powder
4 Cloves of Garlic 
EVOO {about 1/2 cup}
1 Box of Ditalini Pasta
Pecorino for Topping

Drizzle olive oil in a large pot on medium heat & saute about 4 chopped cloves of garlic. Once brown, add in chopped onion, and saute until it begins to brown. Next add chopped carrot & celery, & saute for about 3 minutes until they soften. Add the chicken stock, tomato sauce, and diced tomatoes, with the juice. Add 1/2 - 1 cup of red wine, depending on your taste. The wine gives the soup a hearty richness. Bring to a boil.

Once it reaches boiling, lower heat to simmer. Add the chopped zucchinis and butternut squash. Add in the white cannellini beans, chopped kale (or spinach!), chopped fresh basil, chili powder, and sea salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for atleast an hour.

Cook the ditalini pasta in well-sea salted boiling water for 6-7 minutes only. Drain, but do not rinse. Keeping the pasta al dente will keep it from getting soggy in the soup. Toss with olive oil and set aside.

Ladle soup into bowls; add as much pasta into the soup as you would like, and top with freshly grated Pecorino and a bit of EVOO. Serve with a glass of red wine like a Merlot or Malbec & a piece of crusty bread.  It gets even better the next day. (: Happy Fall!

PS: I was over at my lovely friend Anna's blog the other day ... In Honor of Design. Hers is one of my favorites!

Love the Beach on Nights Like These + Almond Peach Pastry Cake


Monday, September 17, 2012

Can you see me frolicking around?!  That's what was going on behind the camera.  What we hope was the last typhoon of the season hit all day Saturday and Sunday, leaving behind a pink sky and gorgeous sunset tonight. 

We had a little wine & cheese night at our house Friday night with good friends and we honestly were having so much fun that the only photos I got were beforehand of the cake! Sorry, Mama, after promising you pictures... You know when you laugh so hard your stomach hurts and you have tears in your eyes? That sums up Friday night.  Cam told one of my {many} long, embarrassing stories for the entertainment. You have to hear it in person so you can actually see him acting me out, using his "Mands voice"  ...which happens to be the same exact hilarious voice he uses for every female he interprets.

Hoping you all had a fun and relaxing weekend too!

My simple almond peach pastry cake. (:

If you're ever looking for an easy, delicious, pretty, light & fluffy dessert, I hope you'll try this! I've been wanting to teach myself how to make pastries, but somehow this is what I came up with instead... I got the juiciest peaches at the farmer's market and those married perfectly to the fluffy whipped cream and the gooey honey almonds. Heaven.

Almond Peach Pastry Cake:
{roughly serves 6}

 2 Peaches {or whatever fruit is seasonally sweet in your area}
1 Cup Sliced Raw Almonds
1 Cup Raw Walnuts
1 Tablespoon Almond Extract
2 Cups Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tablespoon Vanilla Extract
2 Tablespoons Sugar
I box of frozen pastry dough

For the Almond filling: Combine the sliced raw almonds, raw walnuts, almond extract, & a good squeeze of honey in a food processor or blender until the nuts are in small pieces and sticking together with the honey. Taste; add more honey to your liking for sweetness and consistency.

For the Whip Cream: Beat the heavy whipping cream, vanilla extract, & sugar on high until stiff peaks form.

Using a bowl & knife, cut the pastry dough into 3 circles; bake according to package. Once they have cooled, spread 1/3 of the honey almond mixture on the first pastry layer. Next spread 1/3 of the whipped cream. Add another pastry layer, continue with the honey almond & whipped cream. Spread the remaining whipped cream on the last pastry layer, the remaining nuts in the middle and peach {or your seasonal fruit} slices around the edges.

Peach slices in each layer would also be delicious. Enjoy!

Simple Things: Beach, Flowers & Mahi Mahi


Friday, September 14, 2012

There's beauty and joy in every day. I really do believe it's the seemingly simple things that are always present and are some of the most extraordinary gifts in our lives. Here's three from this week on this side of the world. I'd love to know what are some in your life right now!

This is the beach we found this weekend on an overgrown path, only a bike ride down the road from where we live. I love snorkeling in warm, crystal clear turquoise water with that man.

Our delicious dinner last night. Fresh Mahi Mahi baked in parchment packages with rosemary from our garden, lemon, olive oil & olives. I think the best meals start with fresh ingredients and are cooked simply.

Lemon Rosemary Parchment Package Fishies:

2 Filets of Fish
4 Sprigs of Rosemary
4 Garlic Cloves
2 Lemons
Good Olives
Sea Salt
White Wine

Preheat the oven to 400. Place the fresh fish in the middle of a piece of parchment paper. Sprinkle sea salt over the top & squeeze half of a lemon over it. Drizzle white wine & a good drizzle of olive oil {about 2 tablespoons}. Place about 5-6 whole olives on it, as well as 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary and 2 peeled garlic cloves.

Fold up the parchment paper like a package and tuck in the edges to keep all the liquid inside. Bake for about 15 minutes or until the fish easily flakes with a fork.

Serve with your favorite white wine. We drank a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc with ours. Enjoy!

A Dinner al Fresco for our Okinawan Neighbors


Monday, September 10, 2012

Do you remember when I shared on here in June about missing our flight in Hong Kong, being stuck in the airport for two nights, and then because of it, meeting an Okinawan couple who live in the same neighborhood? Proof that good can come out of every. single. situation! We've become fast friends with them, as well as their whole family and close friends, and just shake our heads in wonder at how wild it is that we're given an inside look at this culture though such warm, fun, hilarious locals. They've had us over for incredible sushi + soba and we got to host them this time on our back deck for a simple al fresco dinner. It was such a fun, late night with lots of talking, laughing, translating, laughing hysterically at translating, and vino.
We had wine and Goat Cheese & Apple Crostini Drizzled in Warm Honey for an appetizer.
I recently threw this together with what I had in the fridge and now I can't stop making it! All you have to do is toast a sliced baguette in the oven that's rubbed in olive oil, salt and garlic, and then top it with a slice of apple, goat cheese crumble and a drizzle of warm honey. So simple and the flavors are amazing together.
We served dinner family-style so everyone could eat as much as they wanted. 
We had roasted Caprese Capellini {2+ lbs & 2 platters!}
My Lemon Rosemary Shrimp grilled over charcoals with roasted garlic cloves
And... Grilled Pear & Papaya Salad {in the first photo} and garlic bread. Sometimes I like to lightly grill fruit on our charcoal bbq... it adds a yummy, savory flavor.

Cooking a full meal for 10 people took all afternoon, but I loved it. I realize more and more the blessing of letting your creativity flow through cooking something beautiful & delicious for others. That's my favorite part about it. I get to be creative with a sense of freedom & imagination improvising with fresh ingredients, and it becomes a gift for those there to eat.
 We really wanted them to experience some America so... we had milk & cookies for dessert. Yes! It was hilarious watching them so confused at first, tentatively trying it, and then literally shrieking at how delicious it was. We cracked up. WHO can resist warm chocolate chip cookies and milk!!? I cut the cookies in strips to dip more easily and used different size mason jars and glass mugs for the milk. So simple, but can't go wrong with it!
We're so thankful for our Okinawan neighbors and that they had a good time. They asked us midway through dinner if they could all move in.  Hahah, we told them that probbbably wouldn't be great for our marriage.

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