Thankful/Little Things


Thursday, November 29, 2012

This has been an especially good week with so much to be thankful for.  There's been a lot of turning up the music and dancing in our house and so much excitement I can't fall asleep at night. Partly due to my love being home and partly because day after tomorrow we're leaving for NEW ZEALAND !! Ahhh!!!! We've dreamt for years of traveling there together and have spent the past months since we bought our tickets jumping up and down {me} looking forward to this. It's a dream that's actually coming true and my heart feels like it's already spilling over with gratefulness.

{Finding more photos from Tokyo on my memory card. Aren't those two doors above cute?! These were all in the adorable Azabu district.}
 {Going to the Marine Corps Ball with the Perezs & Grundens the other weekend. I was lucky to dance all night as their fifth wheel. And I got a third wear out of my dress!}
{It's been raining most of the week but there were a few spectacular sunsets watched with that handsome guy before he went back to work.}
{We're trying to get our thumbs as green as possible and just added lettuce to our potted garden. Every time we successfully don't kill a plant, we give each other a high-five and say, ok, maybe we can grow our dream vineyard one day. Baby steps!}

I'll still be posting next week! I hope you all have an amazing upcoming weekend.  NZ here we come!!

He Asked for a Small Mediterranean Feast


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

While Cam was gone, I asked him what he'd want for his welcome home dinner. All he could talk about was roast lamb {the recipe is from my amazing Mama} and my homemade mezze -- tzatiki dip, hummus, baba ganoush, heirloom tomato salad and whole wheat pita breads to go with. My husband is an even happier man now.

Homemade tzatiki. I feel like saying, amen. It's so delicious & fresh {and good for you} and would also be great as a thick salad dressing or side to roasted veggies.  

Tzatiki Dip
1 cucumber, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
8 oz non-fat plain greek yogurt
1-2 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped
1 tablespoon EVOO
pinch of salt
1/2 fresh lemon juice, squeezed
Mix all of the ingredients together and refrigerate until ready to serve!

 Baba Ganoush
1 large eggplant {or 2-4 japanese eggplants}, charred
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons EVOO
pinch of salt
about 1 tablespoon tahini
Roast the eggplants in the oven or char them on the bbq until they're darkened. Cool in cold water and drain. Peel the skins off and pulse the insides in a blender or food processor. Add in the remaining ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve! Garnish with fresh pomegranate seeds.

Emina's Roast Lamb w/ Fresh Rosemary, Thyme & Lemon
 1 leg of lamb
10 cloves of garlic, minced
leaves from 6 sprigs of fresh rosemary
fresh thyme leaves
3 lemons
sea salt
Drizzle EVOO all over the lamb leg and cover it in the garlic and sea salt and the rosemary & thyme leaves. Slice the leg in various spots to stuff more in it. Squeeze the lemons on top; cover in foil and let marinate overnight or up to two days. Roast in a preheated oven at 450 for about 2 hours.

Whole Wheat Pita Breads
{makes 10}
3 C Flour ~ 2 C Whole Wheat, 1 C White
1 T Salt
2 T Raw Sugar
1 Teaspoon White Sugar
1 Packet Dry Active Yeast
1 1/2 C Warm Water
In 1/2 C warm water {not lukewarm!} dissolve the packet of yeast. Stir in the teaspoon of sugar. This will help the yeast to activate. Set aside for 5-10 minutes until the yeast doubles in size. In a medium sized bowl, stir together the flour, salt and sugar with a fork. Pour in the yeast mixture, 1 cup of water and the EVOO. It should form into a sticky ball. On a well-floured surface, knead the dough with your hands for about 5-10 minutes. Oil a medium-sized bowl and put the dough ball in it, making sure to coat all sides in the olive oil. Set aside for about an hour to an hour and a half to let rise.

Preheat your oven to 450. Punch the dough down with your hand or fist to release the air bubbles and then divide it into small dough balls. Mine made 10. Spread each to about 1/4 - 1/8 inch thick. Stick as many into the open oven onto the baking sheet or pizza stone as will fit and bake for about 10 minutes or until the tops begin to turn golden. After they've cooled, drizzle on a little EVOO. They are absolutely the best hot out of the oven!

He's Home Again, Home Again! Jiggity Jig.


Tuesday, November 27, 2012

We've been each other's shadow since he got home Sunday morning. Ah, I'm so happy I can't stop smiling!

I hope you all had such a beautiful Thanksgiving weekend. Thank you so very much for reading!

Happy Thanksgiving! Pumpkin Molasses Cookie Trifle


Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Personally, I love Thanksgiving for it being a whole day set aside to be thankful. To thank God for His many, many blessings while eating great food together. I wish Cam was going to be here, but I am so thankful it's not much longer until he comes home. {Eeeee! Doing my excited dance.}

If you're looking for another dessert for tomorrow, this one was so easy to make and is so delicious it just became my favorite Thanksgiving dessert of all time {had to taste test...} I made a huge version of this in a trifle dish for a bunch of single marines we're spending tomorrow with, and prettied up these wine glasses for us girls after.

Swiss milk chocolate shavings on top. Be still my heart. I wish you were all here to help me keep my sweet tooth in check so I don't accidentally eat everyone's dessert.

Happiest Thanksgiving!!

Pumpkin Molasses Cookie Trifle
{serves about 12-15}
{feel free to cut this recipe in half}

2 cans pumpkin puree
1 1/2 C sugar
2 T vanilla
1 T nutmeg
1 T ginger
1 T cloves
1 box vanilla pudding 
2 C cold milk {your choice what %}
Gold Leaf Molasses Cookies
2 small cartons of heavy whipping cream
chocolate shavings

I used my Gold Leaf Molasses Cookie recipe here.

For the whipped cream, combine the cream, 1/2 C sugar and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Using a handheld or upright mixer, whip until peaks form. Refrigerate until ready to use.

For the pumpkin mixture, combine the pudding and milk and stir with a whisk until firm. Fold in the pumpkin, spices, and 1 tablespoon of vanilla. Fold in about one whisk full of whipped cream. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Layer a trifle dish or wine glass or mason jar or whatever you'd like! with broken cookies, pumpkin mixture, whipped cream, cookies, pumpkin and more whipped cream. You can layer however you'd like to -- it's delicious any way! Enjoy and Happy Thanksgiving!

Pasta e Fagioli


Monday, November 19, 2012

The very first time I tried Pasta e Fagioli {literally "pasta & beans"} was on a freezing cold winter day while living in Padova. Our Italian teacher took us out one night to a hidden gem -- a tiny, cozy, warm trattoria tucked away on a cobblestone side street. I still remember being all bundled up, shivering, and then trying out this hearty soup and falling in love, partly because it was so warm and comforting with a glass of red wine, and partly because it was absolutely delicious.

This soup is made differently throughout Italy, but no matter the variation, it was always thick and hearty. I learned to eat it drizzled in EVOO, topped in parm or pecorino, and lapped up with a thick piece of bread. I have a traditional recipe written down in one of my journals from that year... which is somewhere in your attic, Mom & Dad! So the one I cooked today is loosely based on what I remember it tasting like. I also added in kale for some greens and a fresh sprig of rosemary for more flavor.

Pasta e Fagioli
{serves 4-6}

1 yellow onion, finely chopped
4 cloves of garlic
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 bunch fresh kale, chopped
1 large sprig of fresh rosemary
2 cans cannellini beans
1 can kidney beans
1 quart organic, low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
4 slices of pancetta or bacon, chopped
1/2 C red wine 
1 small can tomato sauce
1 can diced tomatoes
1-2 cups dry ditalini pasta
salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a large stockpot over medium heat, cover the bottom in olive oil and add in the onion, garlic and pancetta or bacon. Stir around for a couple of minutes until they become lightly browned. Add in the carrots and sprinkle in salt & pepper. Add in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, beans, broth, red wine, and stir together. Raise heat and bring to a boil. Add in the rosemary sprig, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the ditalini pasta al dente in well-salted boiling water. Drain.

Add the pasta to the soup, as well as the kale. Taste; add more salt and pepper as needed. Eat hot with shaved pecorino or parm and a drizzle of EVOO. If you're not ready to eat, let the soup simmer for as long as you'd like! I left mine for a few hours and it was even better.  Happy Thanksgiving week!



Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tokyo is an amazing city. Have you ever been? I'd imagined it would all look like the Shinjuku district -- crowded, skyscrapers, traffic everywhere. But it's surprising what a lovely city it is, filled with so many different neighborhoods, incredible restaurants, small businesses, kind people, awesome fashion!, beautiful gardens, so many charming cafe-lined side streets. And gosh, we were so impressed by how clean and organized it is. Even when walking in the most crowded part of the city {to get to H&M, YAY!}, shoulder to shoulder for blocks, it felt polite. Manners in Japan are truly unlike anywhere else we've ever been.

My favorite part of Tokyo was the precious hours I had with Cam before saying goodbye again, sitting at a little outdoor cafe, drinking vino {are you surprised? (: }, talking and watching with our jaws on the floor at each car that drove past. Ferrari, BMW, Mercedes, Aston Martin, Ferrari, repeat.  You all know by now that we love traveling together, and though deep down we're not really city people {pretty please picture us on a vineyard one day raising a brood of kids and chickens and making wine} it's so much fun experiencing them. Tokyo is one of the best cities we've been to. If you've never been, I hope you get to see it someday!

Pumpkin Soup with Nutmeg, Gorgonzola, Shallots & Sage


Wednesday, November 14, 2012

This is a very easy and quick soup. It's perfect after a busy day when you just don't have the time you'd like to cook something more extravagant. Also, pumpkin is naturally gluten-free, low in calories and high in anti-oxidents, fiber and vitamins.

It's a taste that's a bit on the subtle side, so you'll want flavorful toppings. The creamy gorgonzola, chopped delicious bacon {my husband's influence on me!!} and crunchy sliced shallots gave incredible taste and texture in this. Browned fresh sage is great too, but please feel free to add whatever toppings sound best to you.

Pumpkin Soup with Nutmeg, Gorgonzola, Shallots & Sage
{serves 4-6}

1 yellow onion, finely diced
2 cans pumpkin puree
1 C milk {I used 1% but feel free to use whatever you prefer}
2 1/2 C organic, low sodium chicken stock 
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
1 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon salt
shallots, finely sliced
crispy bacon, chopped
fresh sage leaves
salt & pepper to taste 
olive oil

On medium heat, cover the bottom of a medium to large pot in olive oil and saute the onions and garlic until lightly browned. Add in the pumpkin, chicken stock and milk, stirring until fully mixed. Turn the stove to high, add in the spices, and once it's come to a boil, simmer for about ten minutes. {The longer the better!} Taste; add in more spices if you like, and salt and pepper to taste. Also, it should be very thick, which is how I liked mine. Add in more milk or chicken stock if you'd like yours thinner.

Serve hot in bowls topped with sliced shallots, gorgonzola, and chopped bacon. Heat up a teaspoon of butter or olive oil to lightly brown the sage leaves if you're using them. 

ps: I'll share the recipes from the Christmas dinner after Thanksgiving!

Christmas Dinner in the IHOD Holiday Gift Guide 2012


Monday, November 12, 2012

When Anna asked me to be a contributor to this year's DIY Holiday Gift Guide, I knew I wanted to share what I was already planning on gifting some of my girlfriends: a beautiful dinner on the beach. It was super laid back and not extravagant. {I rented the table and chairs for $4.50!} I just wanted it to be simple and fresh and remind them how special they are. It was such a special night and so much fun. We ended it by blasting our car stereos and dancing in the headlights. Yes! The girls said it was one of the best Christmas gifts they've ever received, and to be honest, it was one of my most favorite that I've ever given. There really is far more joy in giving, especially when it takes a little time & effort to plan and create.

I haven't forgotten about Thanksgiving! It's such an important holiday but thanks to the girls for getting their Christmas present early and letting me snap some photos so I could share this idea with you all.

You can see more on Anna's blog. And if you haven't seen the 2012 Holiday Gift Guide yet, you can see it here. Anna did an amazing job curating, designing and packing it with wonderful ideas!

{all photos copyright@Amanda Marshall}

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