Thursday, May 30, 2013

7-layer spring-to-summer salad

Summer is quickly approaching. I know this because I'm already living in maxi skirts and sandals. The beauty of living in California, I tell ya.

Salads are delicious. I find they are even more enjoyable with a fun [quasi] alliteration. So, today I present to you my 7-layer spring-to-summer salad. Say that 5 times fast. Or just eat it.. that works, too.

I love cabbage, because it will stay crisp after tossed with this light lemony vinaigrette. It's fresh, perfect for the season, and just oh so good. Excuse me while I shovel this into my mouth now.

7-Layer Spring-to-Summer Salad

1/2 head of cabbage, shredded (about 8-10 cups)
3 cups shredded carrot
1 medium red onion, pickled (see recipe below)
1 Fuji apple, sliced
3 Roma tomatoes, diced 
5 slices of crispy bacon, chopped
2 avocados, diced
lemon vinaigrette (see recipe below)

1. Reserve 1 avocado and 2 slices of bacon. 
2. Layer all ingredients. I pretty much follow the order listed in the ingredients section.
3. Toss everything together well but gently. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes. 
4. When read to serve, add reserved avocado and bacon on top.

Pickled Red Onion

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced (about 1 cup)
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup warm water
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp Kosher salt

*NOTE: eliminate sugar to make this completely Paleo

1. Placed thinly sliced red onion into a bowl. Cover with red wine vinegar and warm water.
2. Add sugar and salt to bowl and stir to combine well. 
3. Make sure all the onion is submerged in the liquid. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit for 30 minutes.
4. Drain onions. Use immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.

Lemon Vinaigrette

1/2 cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp whole grain Dijon mustard
4 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 tsp honey
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp Kosher salt

1. Whisk together all ingredients.
2. Refrigerate for at least 15 minutes prior to use.
3. Store in an airtight container or jar for later use if necessary.

Friday, May 17, 2013

banana pudding

You know what they say.. When life gives you ripe bananas, make banana pudding. Okay, maybe that's just a personal motto. It's a good one though, right? Duh, don't answer that.

On my first trip to NYC, my sister brought me to Magnolia Bakery and made me try the banana pudding. OH MY GOODNESS. It was like heaven in a cup. Every bite seemed like it was even better than the one before it. It's so filling and deliciously decadent that a small cup is all I need. I never knew a small cup could seem so large. And even then, as stuffed as I am, I just can't seem to stop eating it if it's in front of me. It is seriously that good. I'm pretty sure I got drunk off that pudding once. Like food drunk that makes you deliriously happy. Good times.

The recipe for Magnolia Bakery's Banana Pudding is all over the web (like here). The first time I made banana pudding at home, I obviously used their recipe so I could relive that life-changing banana pudding experience. Over time, I've unintentionally created my own banana pudding recipe. When I'm missing an ingredient, I tend to find a way to do without it while still fulfilling my craving. That's what probably happened here. Sweetened condensed milk isn't exactly on my weekly grocery list, if you know what I mean. But honestly, I'm not going to tell you not to make it the Magnolia way. There's no denying that pudding is yum.

My banana pudding is a little lighter and more airy compared to Magnolia's recipe, but the flavor is still there. I can't detect too much of a difference-- but I'm also not a picky pudding eater. I just need the Nilla wafers. Hell yes. Those are magical in pudding.

With my recipe, you also don't really have to do much measuring if you buy the ingredients in the indicated volumes. I like to be lazy and not bring out a bazillion things I'll have clean up afterwards.

Once you see how easy banana pudding is to whip up, your ripe (perhaps, on the cusp of over-ripened) bananas will never see the trash. No cooking, no baking. 5 ingredients that will blow your mind and, hopefully, make you smile.

Banana Pudding
Yields 1 large bowl of pudding, serves however many people you think that feeds. 

4 ripe bananas, sliced (Use at least good, medium-sized bananas. I got about 3 cups sliced.)
3.4oz box vanilla instant pudding mix
2 cups (1 pint) cold fat free milk
2 cups (1 pint) whipping cream (I used the regular whipping cream but you can use heavy whipping cream also)
11-12oz box vanilla wafers

1. Reserve 1 cup of the vanilla wafers. This will be used to top the whole shabang.
2. As indicted by the box of instant pudding, whisk milk and instant pudding mix together in a medium bowl until it is soft set-- about 5 minutes. Then refrigerate while you prepare all your other ingredients. The longer you allow the pudding to set, the better.
3. Slice bananas if you haven't done already. Also, in the bowl of a stand mixer with a whisk attachment or a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip together the whipping cream until stiff peaks. Note: Start your hand/stand mixer on low and then increase to medium speed. Do not shoot straight to medium or there will be problems.. messy problems.
4. When your pudding looks more like a medium set, you are ready to use it. At least 5-10 minutes in the refrigerator. 
5. With a spatula, fold in about 1/3 of the whipped cream into the pudding mixture until there are no pudding streaks. Then add the vanilla pudding mixture directly into the bowl of the remaining 2/3 whipped cream. Continue folding the mixture until, again, no streaks and it all looks cohesive.
6. In a large bowl, layer the vanilla wafers, banana, and pudding mixture. I like to go in that order, and I usually get at least 3-4 layers. The number of layers will depend on what size bowl or dish you use. Just make sure you end with a layer of pudding on top.
7. With your hands, crush the reserved 1 cup of vanilla wafers over the very top of the layered pudding to finish it off. 
8. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 5 hours. Overnight is even better.
9. After the pudding has been sufficiently refrigerated, you are ready to serve it up. Or grab and spoon and dive right in. Do not let pudding sit out. Continue to refrigerate leftovers.

The pudding mixture might seem somewhat too loose when layering. Don't worry about that. If you whipped your cream into stiff peaks and gently folded in the pudding (completely but not overdone), you are good. Just be nice to the pudding and it will be nice to you.. in about 5 hours. 

And, after refrigerating overnight..

As you can see, the pudding continues to set as it refrigerates for all those hours. It fluffs up and all that whipped cream creates a really light texture. My favorite part is getting a bite of a vanilla wafer. The wafers soften into this cake-like deliciousness that is so so amazing. Nom.

I made this last night, had it for breakfast this morning, and probably could have devoured at least half the bowl in one sitting. I resisted. Self-control is a bitch.

If you don't want to make banana pudding right now, there is something wrong with you and we probably shouldn't be friends. Just kidding.. kind of.

Goodnight, lovelies.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

nameplate reinvented

When I got my nameplate from BaubleBar (as seen here) sometime last year, I was so impressed. It is personalized perfection. Not only does it remind people that my name has 2 'N's, but it's just so freakin cute. Win.

I'll admit, I'm a social media slut and have been drooling over a twitter-plate necklace ever since it first popped up on the BB site. Because all avenues of social media use handles now (i.e. Instagram, Pinterest, Twitter, Facebook, etc etc), this necklace is really so much more than just a Twitter-plate. Needless to say, I finally gave in. But it also symbolizes my presence (as little as it may be) in the cyberworld. Since I don't plan on changing my handle ever, I consider it a good investment.

I received my Twitter-plate a few weeks ago, but I wore it out for the first time today. So, if you happen to forget where you can find me, just check my neckwear for answers.

shirt: old-- forget where I got this || jacket: Old Navy

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

the home. t

It's important to be proud of where you come from. And if you're from one of the 50 states, you can snag this uber cute t-shirt to rep your home. I wear a lot of blouses and way too many sweaters. Sometimes, it's nice to just throw on a cute tee that means something. And, of course, piling on tons of baubles is also part of my usual dress code.

Another thing-- this shirt is unisex. Don't you love it when ladies and gents can be twinsies? I do. So, boys, don't be shy--  you can show off your home and support the cause, too. But maybe leave the bauble-wearing to the ladies. Or not. I don't judge.

If I haven't yet convinced you that you should purchase one of these tees, then maybe you should also know that there's a cause involved. Buying this shirt means you're contributing to multiple sclerosis (MS) research.

Rock this tee, support the cause, and feel good (literally-- this tee is SO soft!).

 shirt: The Home. T || jeans: Rag & Bone
necklaces: BaubleBar Onyx Chain Strand (top) & BaubleBar Lilac Tab Strand (bottom)
bracelets (left to right): Gorjana Cross Over Cuff Bracelet, BaubleBar Onyx Garbo Bracelet (ivory & sky available), & BaubleBar Pave Links Bracelet

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

strawberry balsamic salad with chicken

It's getting warmer, which means I certainly feel like eating lighter. Spring/summertime is my favorite because there's plenty of fresh produce available, and I seriously can't get enough. I decided to sweeten up my salad with strawberries, and then added leftover barbequed chicken thighs to balance it all out. The smokey, grilled flavor from the chicken was a bonus. Have I inspired you to have dinner outside? Fire up the grill and toss this simple spring salad together.

Strawberry Balsamic Salad with Chicken
Serves 2

3 cup chopped romaine lettuce
3 Tbsp strawberry balsamic dressing (see recipe below)
1 cup cooked chicken pieces, chopped (I had leftover BBQ'ed chicken thighs.)
3/4 cup sliced fresh strawberries

1. Toss romaine with strawberry balsamic dressing. Add 3/4 cup of the chicken pieces and 1/2 cup of the strawberry slices and toss again.
2. Top with the remaining chicken and strawberries.
3. To brighten it up, you can also finish your salad off with fresh lemon zest.


Strawberry Balsamic Dressing

1/2 cup mashed fresh strawberries
1/8 cup balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp + 1 tsp honey
pinch of salt and pepper to taste

1. Add mashed strawberries balsamic vinegar and honey to saucepan and heat on medium high until it starts rapidly bubbling. Stir well to incorporate everything and also frequently to keep from sticking to the sides. 
2. Once it starts rapidly bubbling, allow to cook for about 2 minutes while stirring. Then, turn the heat way down to low/medium-low heat. Stir the mixture around occasionally as it continues to cook. It's ready when the balsamic vinegar has reduced-- the mixture has thickened and the volume looks like it has halved.
3. Add salt and pepper to taste. Allow mixture to cool for a few minutes before using. This can be used a spread, because it is somewhat jam-like. Or you can also use this as a dressing. Take your pick.

Thursday, May 9, 2013


Broccoli, meet guacamole. You don't know it yet, but you will be great friends. So great that you two deserve your own fun moniker. Shall we call you broccamoli? Oh, we shall.


2 ripened avocados, diced
1/2 cup tomatoes, diced
1/4 cup onion, diced
1 cup cooked broccoli, chopped
1 tsp fresh cilantro, roughly chopped
juice of 1/2 a lime, freshly squeezed
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

1. Add all ingredients to a bowl and mix well to combine.
2. Serve with whatever you usually eat with guac.

And there you go. Broccamoli-- your not-so-traditional dip.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

faded neon sweater + layered sparkle

I don't care what the season, I will always wear sweaters. What can I say? I'm addicted to baggy, casual comfort. And, since it's spring, a little neon doesn't hurt either. This sweater from Madewell looks heavy for the season, but it actually has just the right amount of weight for a partly cloudy day. Yellow, violet, pink, skinny jeans, and sparkle.. Yep, I think I covered all the bases.

 sweater: Madewell || jeans: Rag & Bone || necklaces: BaubleBar || ring: BaubleBar
 necklaces: Ice Akasha Strand (top) ||  Violet Triad Collar (bottom)

Monday, May 6, 2013

cheddar and chive buttermilk scones

Okay. Storytime. So, when people don't know what the hell to buy me for my birthday, Christmas, etc etc.. I almost always receive a cookbook. And since I spend all my free time in the kitchen, I can see why I'm just so easy to please. But out of all the cookbooks I've accumulated over the years, my sister seems to find me the best ones. She actually puts in a lot of time researching and reading reviews beforehand. It's thoughtful and--I'm almost positive-- a giant hint she wants me to make all that stuff for her.

One of the most recent cookbooks from my sister, Tartine, is a must-have.. at least for me. The recipes from this San Francisco based bakery are not only diverse but doable. And for those less interested in the actual recipes themselves, this gorgeous hardbound book would look sensational on a coffee table.

I've been dying to make scones, because I'm always interested in making something new. When I was strolling through Trader Joe's the other day, I intentionally picked up buttermilk, a block of sharp cheddar, and chives knowing I had to be on this mission.

Note: When attempting to make something for the first time, always have a good standby guide on hand. In this case, mine was the Tartine cookbook. Although their dessert buttermilk scone recipe wasn't quite what I had in mind, it's all about adapting... And I happen to adapt well.

Cheddar and Chive Buttermilk Scones
Adapted from Tartine // Elizabeth M. Prueitt & Chad Robertson
Yields 12 scones

4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp baking powder
3/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 cup + 1 Tbsp unsalted butter, very cold
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar + more for sprinkling
1/4 cup chopped chives

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Then add sugar and salt and stir with wooden spoon.
3. Cut cold butter into 1/2-in cubes and scatter over dry ingredients. Use a pastry blender to cut butter into dry ingredients until it's a coarse mixture with visible pea-sized lumps of butter.
4. Add buttermilk, cheddar and chives all at once to the mixture. Stir gently with the wooden spoon. Continue mixing until dough comes together-- add small amount of buttermilk at a time if the dough is too dry. 
5. Turn dough onto work surface lightly dusted with flour. Shape into a rectangle about 18 inches long, 5 inches wide, and 1 1/2 inches thick. 
6. With a sharp knife, cut into 12 triangles and place onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. 
7. Brush the tops of the triangles with melted butter (you will need about 2 Tbsp). Sprinkle extra shredded cheddar on top (optional).
8. Bake in preheated oven for 25-35 minutes until the tops are lightly browned. Remove from oven and serve right away.

Crisp on the outside and SO fluffy, flaky, and tender on the inside. It really is everything a savory scone should be. The end.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

homemade tagalongs

As if I haven't been using chocolate and peanut butter together enough already (see here and here), I've got another recipe to add to the recipe box.

For the whole month of February and most of March, I tried to track down those darn Girl Scouts. I must say, when I was a Girl Scout, I worked hard pushing cookies. This cookie pusher was always on a mission: selling in front of grocery stores, walking door-to-door to every house in the neighborhood, calling all my relatives and anyone I knew. I actually kind of hated cookie season because of this. But I genuinely looked forward to the day the tables would be turned. What the hell.. I'm still waiting. I swear, times have changed. I'm not only disappointed but sadly cookieless, as well. Worst feeling ever.

Anyway, screw it. I made my own Girl Scout cookies-- Homemade Tagalongs. I stumbled upon a blog that successfully replicated these treasures. Though With Sprinkles on Top got the recipe elsewhere, I love her pictures. They are so gorgeous I didn't even feel compelled to photoblog my cookie-making journey for you.

These take some time but, for me, not nearly as much as trying to track down one freakin box to buy. Seriously, Girl Scouts? Look what you made me do. Please also note, I purposely picked the fattiest cookie on the menu to replicate, because no scouts (and cookies) in sight made me slightly depressed.

Homemade Tagalongs
Recipe by We Are Not Martha
Yields: a lot of scrumptious cookies

1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temp
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 Tbsp vanilla extract
3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup powdered sugar
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate (or whatever chocolate you want)

1. In a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and white granulated sugar together until fluffy and even. Scrape down the bowl and beat again to make sure butter and sugar are incorporated well. Beat in egg and vanilla.
2. In a separate bowl, whisk together flour and salt. Then add this dry mixture to wet mixture on the lowest speed.
3. On a large piece of parchment paper, shape dough into a cylinder (diameter of 2-3 inches). Wrap in the parchment paper and freeze for at least 25 minutes.
4. Slice the chilled dough into 1/8 inch disks. Place as many as you can fit on parchment-lined baking sheet, because they won't spread. You can cut as little or as much as you like, but the filling and chocolate proportions in the recipe are for about 30 cookies. Must make more peanut butter filling and melt more chocolate to accommodate the whole cylinder of dough. Wrap any dough not used in plastic wrap and freeze for later use.
5. Bake cookies in preheated 350 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes. Do not overbake. You are not looking for any sign of browning. Definitely should not be over 10 minutes. The cookies might look somewhat soft but will firm up further as they cool.
6. While the cookies are cooling on a wire rack, mix together peanut butter and powdered sugar.
7. Place disks of the peanut butter mixture on top of the cooled cookies. You don't need to press peanut butter filling to the very edge of the cookies. It's best to leave a bit of room.
8. Melt chocolate chips over a double broiler-- or microwave (heating in 30 second intervals and stirring well until all the chocolate is smooth and even.
9. Dip cookies in chocolate and coat well. Place back onto parchment lined baking sheet to set. Pop in the fridge/freezer for a few minutes to speed up chocolate re-hardening.
10. Store leftovers in an airtight container.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

nutella cookies with sea salt

Hello, May! I thought I'd start off this month with an extremely easy, chocolate cookie with a salty surprise. This recipe by Ambitious Kitchen came to me via Pinterest. Only 1 bowl and 5 ingredients-- all I happened to have in my kitchen. Really, can't get much easier than that. As you bite into the chewy (and slightly crisp exterior), you literally want to close your eyes and savor the fudgy center. That is exactly what I did.

Nutella Cookies with Sea Salt
Recipe by Ambitious Kitchen
12-14 cookies

1 cup Nutella
2 Tbsp packed light brown sugar
1 egg
1/2 cup + 1 Tbsp all-purpose flour
coarse sea salt for sprinkling

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. With a electric hand mixer or stand mixer with paddle attachment, mix together all ingredients except for sea salt.
3. Portion dough into about 1-inch balls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Freeze for 10 minutes.
4. Bake in preheated oven for 8-10 minutes. Look for the edges crisping up. I ended up baking for a total of 14 minutes, because it had a very round center still after 10. This could have been because a) I froze the dough a bit longer and/or b) my oven lies to me and usually needs extra time to warm up to the set temperature. My advice is to start with 8-10 and add extra minutes if necessary.
5. Remove cookies from the oven, and generously sprinkle with sea salt. Allow to cool directly on the baking sheet for a few minutes. Then transfer to a wire rack to finish cooling. Cookies will seems very soft, but that's why they are so fudgy once they cool completely!