Pitaya (Dragonfruit) Breakfast Bowl

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I’ve been sporadically buying these for a couple weeks down here in San Antonio, and realized lately I better learn how to make them myself, because $9 for a breakfast bowl is notttt happening. Dragonfruit (or Pitaya, if you want to be really fancy about it) is a crazy-looking fruit that’s packed with antioxidants and is a gorgeous bright pink color the stuff my eight year old birthday party dreams were made of. I combined a frozen smoothie pack of this with some coconut water and frozen cubes of fresh papaya and banana, plus about a tablespoon of chia seeds that I soaked overnight. Then, you blend it into “eat with a spoon,” not “drink with a straw” texture, top artfully with fruit and toppings of your choice and serve to your fiance, who will think this is so pretty he’ll instagram it (Hi Brendan!).

PITAYA (DRAGONFRUIT) BREAKFAST BOWL (makes 1)

  • 1 packet Pitaya Plus Smoothie Pack (NEPA friends – check Wegman’s)
  • 1/2 frozen banana (peeled and cut into slices)
  • small handful frozen papaya cubes
  • Coconut water, about 1/3 a cup
  • 1 tbsp. soaked chia seeds (optional)
  • Toppings (your choice): Sliced fresh banana, raspberries, blueberries, coconut flakes, granola, kiwi, etc.

1. In a Nutribullet or a blender, combine the smoothie pack, frozen banana and papaya, chia seeds and coconut water. Blend until it’s an “eat with a spoon” consistency (add more frozen banana or even ice to thicken it, or more coconut water to thin it).

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2. Pour carefully into a smallish bowl.

3. Top creatively with fruit, granola, coconut etc. There are so many options for this beautiful, insanely healthy way to start your day. Enjoy!

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Cauli-rice


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I swear, cauliflower is one of my favorite sneaky little foods. It seems so boring and basic, but then all of a sudden, it’s cauliflower mashed “potatoes” that would easily pass for the real thing. Or it’s an insanely flavorful roasted little snack. Or it’s blended with potatoes and a hearty, comfort-food-style soup.  I kept reading about cauliflower “rice” and – amazingly – doubting its ability to be awesome. And then I tried it, and once again, cauliflower surprised me. This was so delicious (and healthy!), I don’t think I’ll ever go back to the real deal.

CAULI-RICE (serves 2)

  • Half a head of cauliflower
  • 1 tbsp. EVOO
  1. Carefully cut away most of the stems of half a head of cauliflower. Working in batches, pulse in a food processor until the texture resembles rice.

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2. Heat EVOO in a large skillet over medium heat.

3. Add cauliflower to the skillet when oil is heated, then cover and let cook for about 10 minutes. You want to let this sit a bit to pick up some flavor from browning, so don’t stir it more than once or twice.

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4. When cauliflower is ready, serve alongside just about anything. We had ours with salmon in parchment for a super-simple, heart-healthy Sunday dinner.

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Blood Orange Citrus Salad with Honey, Basil and Sea Salt


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Winter in San Antonio has been…not terrible. While the poor East Coast is getting Snowzilla’ed, we’re outside enjoying the sunshine. And Central Market is currently having their Citrus Celebration, which features about 60 different kinds of grapefruit, oranges, lemons, etc. It’s beautiful and delicious and makes me happy every time I set foot in that store.

This salad is perfect as either an appetizer or a dessert. Blood oranges are seasonal, and sweeter than a typical orange, but the addition of a little drizzle of honey, some flaked citrus salt (if you have it, if not, regular salt will work too) and some julienned basil is the most amazing combination. So many flavors!!

BLOOD ORANGE CITRUS SALAD WITH HONEY, BASIL AND SEA SALT (Serves 2)

  • Two blood oranges
  • Local honey, approx. 1 tsp. per salad
  • 7-8 basil leaves
  • Pinch of flaked citrus salt or regular sea salt
  1. Cut off the top and bottom of the orange, so it can stand on one end. Then, carefully remove the skin with a sharp knife, making sure you don’t cut away too much of the orange.

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2. Cut orange into slices, width-wise, and arrange on a plate.

3. Drizzle with honey, sprinkle with sea salt and top with julienned basil. Serve immediately.

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Look at all this citrus!!! Come on!!

Paleo Chicken Fingers (Gluten-free)


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Ok, to preface this  – I am not “going gluten-free.” However, I’m half Sicilian, and I love pasta way too much. And I also have a wedding dress I need to fit into in seven months, so something’s got to be done. So for the past few weeks, I’ve been experimenting with gluten-free recipes during the week, and “cheating” during the weekends. It keeps me in check with what I’m consuming, especially down here in Texas, and the portion control piece of all of this is also working out better than I expected. After three months of indulging in our new city, it’s time to reign it back in. And it’s a testament to these recipes that Brendan had NO CLUE I’d decided to start eating, and cooking, gluten-free. These were seriously delicious.

PALEO CHICKEN TENDERS (serves 4)

  • 1 lb. chicken breast or chicken tenders
  • 1.5 C almond meal (Bob’s Red Mill makes a great combo of the meal/flour)
  • 1/2 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp. freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  1. Preheat oven to 375.
  2. Prep your setup: in one bowl, have the eggs. In another, larger bowl, combine the almond meal with the spices. IMG_0559
  3. Using a fork (this will keep your hands from getting all breaded, themselves) dip the pieces of chicken first in the eggs, then on both sides in the almond meal, lightly pressing to make sure the almond meal forms a good coating on the chicken.
  4. Spray a cooking sheet with cooking spray or rub some olive oil on it.
  5. Place the “breaded” chicken on the baking sheet, then bake for 20-25 minutes, flipping once, until golden and chicken is cooked through.
  6. Serve with a side of honey mustard – I made this by just combining dijon mustard with a little honey and a little mayo – and some green beans.  So good.

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San Antonio – AndWhatIDid (for the past two months, at least)

It’s been a a little while, I know. This transition to San Antonio over the past two months has been just that…a transition. Both my job and Brendan’s are going really well, we’re finally getting the hang of the layout of this city, we’ve had some serious eats at some awesome restaurants, we’ve been doing a lot of cool activities but best of all, we’ve been doing it together. It’s a good thing he’s my best friend since we have been spending a LOT of time together. Making friends in a new city is harder than I remembered, but maybe I’m just missing my friends and my family. In any event, it’s been great to be living in a city again – we’re taking advantage of it. Here’s what we’ve been doing, next up is what (and where) we’ve been eating.

Moving day morning snuggles with Colly, Mom and Murray before hitting the road.

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Co-pilot game strong since 1997

Traveling through the southern states, spent a night in Knoxville and another in New Orleans – first time for both! Tennessee is so much prettier than I expected it to be and New Orleans was like Vegas for me: a quick trip in and out, some good eats, a little fun, cross it off the list.

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Got to San Antonio after three days of driving and almost three weeks away from Bren.

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La Crema for less than $10 a bottle at Trader Joe’s? Shopping at Anthropologie  in my city? Two reasons I love San Antonio.

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La Fonda quickly became one of our favorite places for its around-the-corner location, awesome food and the enormous Live Oak canopy on the backyard patio. Also awesome: scoring box seats to the Rampage, the rosemary in this city that grows like San Antonio was Seattle, “Ice Houses”, which are basically outdoor bars in every neighborhood.

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Brendan: bed hog, camping enthusiast and belated birthday-celebrator.

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Before we moved here, everyone was all “Ohhh, the River Walk!”, and I thought, “How good could this possibly be?”  It really is. The Museum Reach portion of it, with art installations every block or so, is probably my favorite part, but the whole thing is just so beautiful and unique. It’s probably my favorite piece about living in San Antonio.

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Went back to Colorado to surprise Brendan’s family and his grandparents for Thanksgiving. They’re all such great people and I’m so excited they’re going to be my in-laws.

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Love that man. <3

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Brendan and I stayed up until 4 a.m. one night, DEAD SOBER, to finish this puzzle we’d started a little before midnight.

San Antonio’s music scene may not be as well-known as Austin’s, but it’s strong. I love having the option of walking to shows just about any night of the week. Architecture in this city is also pretty incredible – Brendan’s office building is gorgeous, and are you kidding me with that Majestic Theatre???

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The Octopus Project at Paper Tiger, Tamale Fest at The Pearl, Christmas Tree cutting.

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The sunset here on my Dad’s birthday, wedding venue dreaming (8.6.16 in Breckenridge – check out that view!!), lit-up Cinderella carriages downtown, San Antonio Museum of Art, concert in a cave (which my environmental-journalist-fiance called his best date ever), 108 sun salutations in honor of the winter solstice.

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Such thoughtful Christmas gifts from my cousins, how Christmas looks via Skype when Delta delays your flight a full TWO DAYS, ON CHRISTMAS, so your only alternative is to cancel your flight home and stay in Texas (don’t even get me started, I had a fullblown meltdown), Christmas weekend in Austin, where we ate the best Italian food I’ve had so far in this state, visited these ancient springs and saw a seven-months pregnant woman juggle a table, a vase and two of her three children, ON HER FEET. #KeepAustinWeird

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Don’t worry. I saved him.

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Coming up next – AndWhatIAte. San Antonio is so much more than tacos!!

 

Texas, y’all

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…as in two days until I begin the three-day drive to San Antonio. Brendan and I both got great new jobs, amazingly found an apartment in adorable Tobin Hill in a whirlwind 72-hour tour of the city, had some serious Texas eats and explored what’s going to be our new home. Or, I guess, what’s going to be mine, since Bren’s been down there for more than a week now.

Today, since this has been a pretty emotional rollercoaster, I have really mixed feelings about going. NEPA is my home, and home to the people I love most in the world (with the exclusion of JBG, of course). I’m going to miss my parents, my sister and my girlfriends more than I can express. But I’m also excited about starting this new life with the love of my life, living in a city (and an awesome one, at that) again for the first time in years, stepping up my career and watching Bren do the same with his, exploring a whole new part of the country and most of all, doing all this together. There’s nobody else I’d rather be with.

In the meantime, though, I’m loving the time I’ve been spending with my family and my girlfriends. They’re some of the greatest people in the world, and I’m just so lucky and grateful. We’ve been in each other’s lives for decades, and their support, encouragement and love is unparalleled. I’m really going to miss them but I’m so fortunate to have spent all this time with them. Ugh, let’s just get this purgatory “transition” time over with already!!!! On another note, if anyone has tips for things to do or how to meet people in San Antonio, I’m all ears, because Bren and I are going to need it!

Three days in San Antonio to do everything:

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Our engagement dinner at my parents’ house:

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Birthdays, last day of work, Steamtown Marathon Sunday, Race for the Cure, Indigo Girls:

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I love you and I’ll miss you, NEPA!

 

French Green Bean Salad



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French Green Beans are one of my favorite foods in France. To be clear: these are not green beans, those chunky, crunchy, scowl-inducing veggies your mom used to make you eat as a kid. These are French Green Beans, or haricots verts, slender little delicate beans that are delicious on their own or quickly blanched and then tossed with some carrot sticks, a couple beet greens and that dijon-spiked, shallot-based classic french vinaigrette. This is not a salad. This is an event.  Enjoy.

FRENCH GREEN BEAN SALAD (Serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side)

  • 1 lb. French Green Beans
  • 1/4 C. matchstick carrots
  • 1/2 C. beet greens (no more – the beans are the star of this, not the greens)
  • Classic French Vinaigrette

1.Blanch your green beans. You do this by gently boiling some salted water in a large pot, then throwing the beans in for no more than 2 minutes, or until the beans have a little bend to them, but aren’t soggy. Test them pretty often, so you make sure you get the right texture – it’s key to the salad.

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2. Have an ice bath ready, and when the beans are ready, quickly drain them in a colander and dunk them in the ice bath so they stop cooking. 

3. Drain the beans and pat them dry. Toss with 3/4 of the vinaigrette, then add the carrots and beet greens, and toss with the rest of the vinaigrette.

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4. Serve immediately and enjoy. J’adore les haricots verts!

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Love, Love, Love (is all we need)

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When I answered the phone at work one day in December 2013, I never thought the voice on the other end was that of the man I’d eventually marry. Journalist Brendan Gibbons, despite our eleven year age gap, complete resistance on both of our parts to falling in love with each other because we were “trying to be practical about this,” different backgrounds, interests and life experiences (so far) is, without question, the love of my life. And we’re engaged.

I’ve been in a lot of relationships, with a lot of different kinds of guys. At some point, I tried to convince myself that I was willing to settle for “less than.” But that kind of thinking can only carry you so far, and now, after nearly two years with Bren, I finally know what it’s like to be with a man who challenges me, excites me, thrills me and loves me so deeply and whole-heartedly that I can’t believe I ever tried to convince myself I wanted anything less. Of course we drive each other crazy sometimes, but there’s nobody else I respect or admire more, or who I have more fun with. He’s the best guy I’ve ever known, and I’m so grateful we’re going to spend our lives together. It’s going to be an incredible adventure.

JBG, thank you for loving me the way you do. I’m the luckiest.

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Classic French Vinaigrette



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I have tried and failed to duplicate that French vinaigrette – the real kind, the Paris kind – for years now. When we went to Paris in July, I made it my mission to figure it out. Every place we went that served something with the right flavor, I asked them what was in it. Vinegar and olive oil were usually the response, until one waitress hooked me up. This. This is the one.

  • 1 tbsp. sherry vinegar
  • 1 tbsp. rice vinegar
  • 2 tbsp. finely chopped shallot
  • 1 medium garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tbsp. good whole-grain dijon mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/8 tsp. fresh black pepper
  • 1/4 c. EVOO

1.Combine vinegars with the shallot and garlic. Let sit for 15 minutes – this mellows the flavors and sweetens it, somehow? It’s awesome.

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2. After 15 minutes, whisk in the mustard and the salt and pepper.

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3. Whisking constantly, drizzle in the EVOO until combined.

4. Taste and season. Serve with just about anything.

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Classic Pesto


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When I lived in Boston, I was part of a cooking club with some of my girlfriends, and the first thing we ever made was a Pesto, which I instantly fell in love with. There’s something so perfectly end-of-summery about it, and while it doesn’t keep all that long, you can freeze it in an ice-cube tray and then pop out little ice-cube portions of pesto whenever you get a craving. Brendan and I found these enormous, gorgeous bunches of basil at the Farmer’s Market on Friday, so I threw together this pesto. We’ve been eating it all weekend. Pestoooo.

CLASSIC PESTO (Makes about 2 cups)

  • 2 cups fresh basil leaves, tightly packed (just leaves, not stems)
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1/3 cup toasted pine nuts
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1/2 C. EVOO
  • good pinch kosher salt, to taste
  • Squeeze of lemon, to taste
  1. Toast the pine nuts. Just put them in a skillet over medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes, shaking pretty frequently to rotate them. Keep a close eye on them so they don’t burn.
  2. Add basil leaves to a food processor (there’s no getting around having one of these to make pesto) along with the garlic and pine nuts, and pulse a couple times until it’s combined.IMG_0687

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3. Add cheese, pulse again until combined, scraping down the sides with a spatula. With the processor running, slowly add the EVOO until it’s all blended.

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3. Season with kosher salt and a squeeze of lemon to taste. We’ve had this on pasta, toast and as a base for a breakfast sammie. So good.

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  • A postscript – August was…interesting. There’ve been some real moments and challenges, but all I can say is how grateful I am for all the people in my life who love me, especially the support of Brendan, my family, and Pam and Mark G. I know I’ve been posting a lot less, but I had to take a break for a little while to kind of get my voice back. September is going to be one of the most decisive months of my life, but I’m going to keep writing through it. Lots to come. xo