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Crisp crab and salmon pasta salad

2014 August 7
by Laura

Don’t get turned off by the name of this recipe — this pasta salad is one of my favorites to eat on blistering hot days or maybe just when you think you’ll jab a pen in your left eye if you have to eat another sandwich for lunch.

I posted it before, but it deserves a redox.

  • 3 tablespoons EVOO
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper to taste
  • 3 cups cooked pasta — GF, whole wheat, tricolor rotini (I like elbows)
  • 1-1.5 cups diced cucumber
  • 1 cup diced red pepper
  • 2 cans cooked salmon
  • 1 can cooked jumbo lump crab meat

In a large bowl, whisk together the first six ingredients. Add pasta, cucumber, and red pepper. Toss to coat evenly. Drain salmon, dice or flake the crab. Gently fold salmon and crab into pasta. Chill 30 minutes.

This salad keeps well in the fridge for a few days too — just moisten it up with a drizzle of extra olive oil and hit it with another grind of salt and pepper.

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It’s one of the few bright spots in a week with 6 shifts in 7 days!

Peach cake

2014 August 5
by Laura

I’ve been on a baking kick lately–partly to fatten up my roommate (muahhahahha) and partly because I simply must use all of the abundant, succulent fruits that summer is delivering to my door. (OK, to the Giant.)

Last week I made a blueberry cake that was divine, cheesy berry pie was the star of our Sunday dinner, and this week I decided to try a peach cake. (Peach pie felt too ambitious for a Monday.) Recipe c/o Ina, slightly modified by me.

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Ingredients:

1 stick butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
2 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup reduced fat sour cream, at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups gluten-free (or regular) flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3-4 large, ripe peaches, peeled, pitted, and sliced
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts for topping

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8- or 9-inch square baking pan.

Beat the butter and scant 1 cup of the sugar for 3 to 5 minutes on medium-high speed, until light and fluffy. With the mixer on low, add the eggs, one at a time, then the sour cream and vanilla, and mix until the batter is smooth.

In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt. With the mixer on low, slowly add the dry ingredients to the batter and mix just until combined. It will be thick and sticky! In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and the cinnamon.

Spread half of the batter evenly in the pan. Top with half of the peaches, then sprinkle with two-thirds of the sugar mixture. (Feel free to double up in some areas, doesn’t have to be a strict one-peach layer!) Spread the remaining batter on top, arrange the remaining peaches on top, and sprinkle with the remaining sugar mixture and the pecans.

Bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

New apartmento: The living room

2014 July 31
by Laura

Time for some truly horrible photographs of our living room!

The lighting is just…it’s horrible. Paired with the ugly colors of the walls, it’s a recipe for photography disaster. (For instance, I don’t have yellow couches. Those are beige.)

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Oh well. We have a really big space: At the one end of the living room is the semi-open kitchen, and at the other is the Man Cave. (Someone keeps insisting “it’s not a man cave!!” but it totally is.)

We’ve got a little dog wall: Riggy’s portrait, Preston’s wise face, and Someone’s Amber. [Photo of Gracie in the mail as we speak...don't worry.]

We’ve got a map of Moscow, a painting of Venice, and a poster that shouts, “Nurses Are Needed Now!”

A bookcase for each of us, two couches, our TV (watching So You Think You Can Dance, obvi), and the liquor globe. Oddly enough, the wall colors kind of matched our stuff anyway. I suppose are worse things than eggplant walls.

Boyhood

2014 July 31
by Laura

Boyhood is a movie that’s been getting lots of attention: Richard Linklater (of Before Sunrise et al. fame) went on a journey with his cast over 12 years of filming. The result? As I said to Someone walking out of the theater, “That was like watching a book.”

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The result? Definitely powerful, definitely different. It’s kind of amazing to watch the aging of a boy that you start to connect with. There’s lots of feels in the movie, and I’ve found myself thinking about it a few times this week. Very reflective and poignant.

There was a moment when it got a little slow toward the end, and be prepared that this movie is 2 hours and 40 minutes long. Although I didn’t look at my watch (the true measure of a good movie), I did find myself almost closing my eyes at one point. Overall, though, there was laughs and tears and it is, for sure, a must-see.

Save it for a rainy Sunday this summer when it’s too humid for words and you need a little escape!

I’ve got those post-vacay blues

2014 July 28
by Laura

Hi everyone, Debbie Downer here. Vacation is over and therefore so is my life.

OK, it’s not that bad, but I am definitely feeling the dismal post-vacation funk. I’m in major need of a detox. I think I gained 10 pounds in North Carolina between the amazing grilled dinners, the alcohol intake, and the incredibly decadent snacks (hoagie dip, guac, mom’s homemade salsa, cheese and crackers, beer and more beer and some wine spritzers on the beach…).

What up, pool pong?

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Oops.

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So yeah, an excellent vacation in Corolla. We had perfect weather and company. The goldens came too; while watching them swim, I felt some ridiculous reciprocal joy.

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It was also very special to share one of my five favorite places with Someone. The ocean is my happy place: add in my family, my dogs, and my Someone, and it was sheer bliss.

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Dad celebrated his 60th birthday at the beach, we had a blast celebrating him!

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OK, enough photo collages for one day. I will just leave you with this shot:

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Happy Monday!

Bacon-cheddar burgers and fries with chipotle aioli

2014 July 15
by Laura

“I honestly didn’t think you would grill this much,” Someone said the other day.

“What, you didn’t think I would grill 3-4 times a week?”

When a girl who has been deprived of gas grill cooking for 2 years finally gets a balcony (that doesn’t really permit gas grills but shhhhh), in the month of July, she grills.

In the last 7 days we’ve had steaks, salmon, chicken, and burgers on the grill.

The other day we went to Home Depot and purchased this little baby-que (as Pops calls it) from Weber. It has a stand that you can get so it’s not on the ground, but we like the ability to move it around the corner and out of any prying eyes when it’s not in use.

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It’s cute, right? And don’t worry, there’s still a surprising amount of square inches of grill space — enough for 4 steaks, 4 pieces of chicken, 4 burgers + onions…

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For two people, this is perfect.

Last night I made these bacon-cheddar burgers with ranch mayo and grilled onions, with a side of oven-baked fries and a chipotle aioli.

Burgers: 

  • 1 lb lean ground beef (I like 85-15 when you can find it, because it’s pretty dry when you go for 90-10)
  • 1 package instant dry onion-mushroom soup mix (Lipton)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce or steak sauce
  • 4 slices white cheddar cheese
  • 1 large red onion, cut into 1/2 inch slices
  • Burger buns
  • Green leaf lettuce
  • Tomato slices
  • 4 slices cooked bacon
  • 1/4 cup ranch dressing or light mayo (I mixed 2 tbsp each together)

Heat grill. In a bowl, mix together the beef, onion soup mix, parsley, and steak sauce with your hands. Form into 4 patties.

Place patties on grill and cover, cook over medium heat 10-14 minutes, turning once. (Cook burgers to 160 degrees.) About halfway through, add the red onions (coated with cooking spray) to the grill. Top each patty with a cheese slice and cook just until melted. Toast buns if desired.

Layer buns with ranch, lettuce, tomato, bacon, burger, and onion.

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The chipotle aioli recipe I made up in an attempt to re-create the kind from our favorite burger joint. Someone said I came “pretty darn close” to the original, so I’ll take that as a compliment.

  • 1/2 cup light mayo
  • 1/4 cup light sour cream
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or you could use 1-2 canned chiles in adobo sauce)
  • 1/4 teaspoon regular chili powder
  • 1 tablespoon lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic (more if you like a lot of garlic)
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

In a small bowl, mix together all ingredients. The first version of mine was WAY too spicy, so I just added more mayo and sour cream until it was still burning like fire but made you keep going back for more.

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Dip your fries and enjoy!

New apartmento: The bedroom

2014 July 14
by Laura

I have been planning on giving you a virtual tour of our new apartment since the night we moved in, but let’s be honest — even with my compulsive desire to unpack and hang things on the walls and get all the boxes out of the way, the apartment doesn’t get presentable for quite a few weeks after a move. One room at a time, I’ll share our new abode with you!

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The bedroom is actually one of my favorite spaces in the new place. Someone and I keep commenting that we have so much space we honestly don’t know what to do with it. I actually can’t hear him from certain rooms in the place, and that is fineeeee by me. We have a lot of square footage, and I am kind of obsessed with it.

I wasn’t sure how I was going to feel about all the paint in the new place. We did a lease transfer from the previous tenants, which means the leasing company is under no obligation to repaint or clean the digs before the next move-in. We had the apartment professionally cleaned the day before we moved in (because, ew), but there was no time (or cash) for a repainting. The color choices by the previous peeps are…interesting. The bedroom is electric blue, and the living area is split between an “I guess I can live with this” shade of peach-beige and a “what the hell were they thinking” hue of purple. (I know you are now on the edge of your seat until the living room is revealed.)

But, I digress. The bedroom!

(I apologize for the lighting and quality of the following photos; our apartment has very little natural light {which is actually fine with me because, night shift} which makes it difficult to photograph without floor lamps and an ugly flash.)

Luckily for me, I had a shabby chic set of furniture in creamish/white that helps lighten up the dark blue space. The new duvet cover also helps lift the room, and I went with a little “beach/water” theme, because what the heck else was I going to do?

The photo below showcases my little bedside nook, with a painted map of Barnegat Bay, a photo of bikes I snapped last summer, and a watercolor of New Jersey.

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I attempted a little “gallery wall” with photos of us in sepia and dark blue tones. Someone’s family makes a (blurry) appearance as does mine!

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So there you have it! The brightest blue bedroom in America.

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Love and marriage

2014 July 13
by Laura

I spent a beautiful weekend in Boston, MA, watching one of my dear college friends get married on the banks of the Westport River, in the place she loves surrounded by her man, her family, and her friends.

It was quite magical, indeed!

After a quick stop off in Newport, RI, for some crabs and a cliff walk…

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…we headed to Westport, ate oysters, drank beer and prosecco, and then watched a truly romantic ceremony by the water.

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As I said to Someone yesterday evening, weddings are kind of the most fun we get to have anymore. I know that sounds sad, but weddings are just so fun and really, when else do you get to dance the night away with your buddies anymore?

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Simply magnificent.

Hashtag movingproblems

2014 June 30
by Laura

In the past, I was a moving pro. I think I moved 10 times in 10 years.

When I moved out of Richmond in 2007, I got rid of a ton of stuff. I also owned nothing: all my furniture was lovingly provided by the university for the past four years. I moved to DC in June of 2007 with just two (small) cars’ worth of belongings, and even that wasn’t much. (I had a twin bed!)

Belongings accrued over time, of course, and when I moved to New York City I purged so many things. Books were one of the first things to go—I had a Kindle, and books in a NYC apartment is foolishness all over (at least when your studio was the size mine was!*)

When moving back from NYC to West Chester I took even fewer things. But now, two years after moving into my first ever “luxury” apartment building, it’s like the stuff has been secretly multiplying.

To be fair, I’m a 29 year old woman who cooks—over time, that lends itself to the acquisition of things. Of nice things. Of food processors and stand mixers and pizza makers (more on this later) and baking tools.

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I digress. The point of this post is just to say that yes, everyone hates moving. There’s no easy way to do it (other than hiring movers, which is so so essential). You have to pack and you have to purge and you have to consolidate. You have to go through condiments that have long expired and ask yourself whether you really will ever wear that shirt (that last fit you in college) again. You have to use your muscles and do heavy lifting and be pretty miserable for at least four days because you’ve over-packed too soon and now there’s no bowl for your cereal.

The only way to get through it is to (a) distract yourself (see wine and Nurse Jackie in photo above) and (b) keep the end goal big picture in mind.

For example: Changing your address on all of things is SO annoying. Living with your best friend is not.

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So here we go: T-1 day to go! Tomorrow’s the movers/moving truck/family helpers/isitoveryet/areyoukiddingmewiththeweatherforecast day!

Wish us luck!

*HOW DID I EVER LIVE IN AN APARTMENT SO SMALL

Mediterranean Pasta Bake

2014 June 23
by Laura

Yum! Enjoy this flavorful, easy pasta dish, which makes great use of leftover chicken.

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Summery and light, fresh flavors.

  • 2 cups uncooked rotini
  • ¼ cup butter
  • 3 large shallots, minced
  • ¼ cup flour
  • 1 3/4 cup chicken broth
  • 8 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
  • 1 cup shredded Swiss cheese
  • 3 cups or less chopped cooked chicken
  • 1 6-oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained
  • ½ cup or more oil-packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (+) chopped fresh parsley

Heat oven to 375F.  Spray 2 quart casserole with nonstick cooking spray.

Cook rotini. Meanwhile, melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat. Add shallots; cook and stir 1 minute. Stir in flour, cook 30 seconds. With wire whisk, stir in broth. Add mushrooms. Bring to a boil. Cook 3 to 4 minutes or until thickened, stirring occasionally. Remove rom heat; stir in cheese until melted.

Drain pasta. Add rotini, chicken, artichoke hearts, tomatoes, and parsley to mushroom mixture; mix gently. Spoon into spray-coated casserole. Bake at 375F for 25 to 30 minutes until bubbly. Garnish with parsley.

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