The other day at work the topic of Thanksgiving foods came up, and while it’s not a traditional Thanksgiving food, I mentioned that we always have a mac and cheese at ours because my siblings aren’t big on turkey. One of the best mac and cheese dishes that I’ve ever eaten was on our honeymoon, and the dish came served with a side of homemade applesauce — delicious. My wheels started turning for how I could combine these flavors in a new way, and I came up with this cute little idea for a savory and sweet side dish: mac and cheese baked apples. I love the idea of offering these in small apples as an appetizer, or as a bigger portion for a side dish at dinner — either way, they’re a super tasty treat. Full recipe below!

Mac and cheese baked apple Mac and cheese baked apple1 mac and cheese baked apple2 mac and cheese baked apple3 mac and cheese baked apple4 mac and cheese baked apple5 mac and cheese baked apple6Ingredients:

  • 4-5 large apples (honey crisp apples worked great)
  • 5 cups of cooked pasta (elbows work great!)
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 3 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 2 tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup of shredded sharp cheddar cheese (plus extra for garnish)
  • salt and pepper

Instructions:

Cook pasta as directed, removing from water when still al dente. Clean apples and slice their tops off; using a melon-baller, scoop out the insides of the apple leaving a half-inch rim around the edges. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter and begin to whisk in flour until a roux forms, then slowly whisk in the cup of milk and heat until the sauce thickens. Next, mix in the cheeses and combine until the sauce is a consistent texture. Remove from heat fold in pasta until fully coated; salt and pepper to taste. Fill the hollowed-out apples with macaroni and cheese mixture, and top with additional sharp cheddar cheese. Bake in a baking dish in a 400 degree pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes.

 

I’ve been trying to be better lately about not wasting food. Cooking for two means we unfortunately sometimes end up tossing out lots of leftovers, so I’ve been challenging myself to be creative with what’s in the fridge and use as much as I can. We had a roasted chicken for dinner this weekend so I was brainstorming ideas for what to make with the extra meat. I whipped up a batch of chicken stock with the bones from the chicken and decided it would make a pot-pie, but in order to use more of the stock and chicken, I made it into a soup instead. I even added a fluffy biscuit for dipping to get the crust flavors. Full recipe below:

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Ingredients:

  • 3-4 small red potatoes
  • 1 large carrot
  • 1 yellow onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 tbsp flour
  • 3 cups of chicken stock
  • 1 cup of half and half
  • 1.5 cups roasted chicken, shredded
  • 1 cup of fresh corn
  • 1/2 cup of frozen peas

Instructions:

Dice red potatoes, carrot, and onions. Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Add roasted mixture to a large pot with 1 tbsp of olive oil. As the mixture heats up, stir in flour until it dissolves and coats the vegetables. Add chicken stock and half and half and bring the soup to a low boil. Reduce to medium heat and add in chicken, corn, and peas. Simmer for 15 minutes to blend flavors; add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with a warm biscuit for dipping.

I’m super lucky to work so close to Flour Bakery — when I go there for lunch, which is often, I tend stick to the same order each time. This week though, a quiche on their weekly specials board caught my eye: sweet potato and blue cheese. These are two of my favorite flavors, but I never thought to put them together until I saw them on the menu. I ordered the quiche — it was amazing — and left with determination to use this flavor combination in a dish of my own soon. My spin on the Flour Bakery quiche is a sweet potato blue cheese frittata — full recipe below:

Sweet Potato Blue Cheese Frittata 7Sweet Potato Blue Cheese Frittata 1 Sweet Potato Blue Cheese Frittata 2 Sweet Potato Blue Cheese Frittata 3 Sweet Potato Blue Cheese Frittata 4 Sweet Potato Blue Cheese Frittata 5

Ingredients:

  • 1 Large sweet potato
  • 1 Small yellow onion
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6 eggs
  • 1/2 cup of milk
  • 1/3 cup of crumbled blue cheese
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme

Instructions:

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel sweet potato and dice into small cubes, thinly slice yellow onion and toss with sweet potatoes in a pie dish with a drizzle of olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20 minutes, tossing mixture at the halfway point. Remove from oven and let cool slightly before crumbling 1/3 cup of blue cheese over the roasted mixture. In bowl, whisk 6 eggs with 1/2 cup of milk and 1 tsp of fresh thyme leaves, salt and pepper. Pour egg mixture over sweet potatoes in pie dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

I was in the hardware store a few weeks back and saw this neon cord in a big bin — I picked up and a little light bulb when off over my head — craft project! It’s been awhile since I’ve dabbled in jewelry making, and decided to put this neon cord to good use in my closet by making myself a new necklace. This project is as easy as tying your shoes — if you can make a simple knot, you can make this necklace! I cut a piece of the cord about twice the length I wanted my necklace to be (you lose length as you make knots). Then, starting in the middle, I added a wooden bead and tied a double knot on either end of the bead to hold it in place. Keep working on either side of the center bead, adding on additional beads and knotting just above the bead opening to hold it in place. I found that make a loose knot, and then holding my thumb on top of it while pulling tight helped keep it close to the bead. Repeat until you get to the desired length, and then grab the two ends of the cord and tie them together in a double knot to finish the necklace off! You can add a little bit of clear nail polish to the end pieces after you trim them, as well as a light coat over the top knot to keep it from fraying. Bright, cute and oh so simple, right?
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My cellphone has been alerting me that I’m just about at the max for storage space, which is a little bit how my brain has been feeling the past few weeks. I hate the glorification of ‘busy’ — so no complaints here about having a lot of stuff going on. It’s more that I have been on the go so much the past few weeks that I’ve slipped a little behind on things like cleaning my apartment and writing blog posts.  I spent this weekend (the first one home in a while!), unpacking bags, catching up on projects, and finally uploading a few of those phone photos here for a little update…

I got to experience my very first NY Fashion Week this year — including pampering and mimosas at DryBar, and then partying it up with my sister at the Reward Style blogger party. I have to admit, I was embarrassingly excited about getting the invite to the event. I’ve been blogging for over 5 years, and like I’m sure many others do, I never feel like I’m really ‘legit’ — the comparison game is inevitable, as hard as I try to avoid it! I always tend to worry that I’m not big enough, or have enough followers, or wonder if I’ll ever feel like a ‘real’ blogger — silly, right? But going to that event and rubbing elbows with people who I know are ‘legit’ gave me a little boost of confidence, and we could all use a little of that! My sister and I walked over to Lincoln Center after the party and snapped some selfies — a little pinch-me moment as we realized some childhood daydreams as grown-ups.

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Another big event that took me away from home for a few days up to Vermont was my best friend’s wedding! I joined the bride-to-be a few days prior to the wedding up in her hometown to help a fellow bridesmaid-slash-florist with flower prep for the big day.  It is such a nice feeling to be surrounded by your best girlfriends, rolling up your sleeves and getting to use your hands to make something beautiful — I learned so much about flowers over the course of the weekend and so much fun doing it. The wedding was gorgeous and filled with so many perfect little details that only someone as talented as my friend Taz could come up with. Oh and I got to give my first ever wedding speech — great news, I didn’t trip, fall, or drop the microphone — success! IMG_4078.JPGIMG_4130.JPG

Somewhere in between all of that traveling and celebrating, I’ve also been working on some content collaborations that I’ll be able to share here soon, as well as prepping for my upcoming DIY Recipe Box class at Farm & Fable in the South End (there are still a few seats left if you’d like to join! More information here: http://farmandfable.com/collections/classes)IMG_4340.JPG

I have been a pretty bad blogger later and am quite behind on sharing projects, photos, and life updates! So I’m back in the game this week and catching up — and I’m so happy to finally be able to post some of the picture from our trip to Marfa, the last leg of our West Texas Adventure after a few days in Austin and a stay in Big Bend National Park. This was by far my favorite part of the trip, partly because there was so much anticipation in planning it. For those of you that haven’t heard about Marfa, let me explain a little bit about this  town: it’s a quirky little community in the middle of nowhere known for its  minimalist art, bohemian vibe, and eclectic food.

MARFAWhen we decided to add Marfa to our itinerary, I knew exactly where I wanted to stay: El Cosmico for some glamping! We stayed in a restored vintage lime green camper, complete with a cute little front porch, air conditioning (yay!) and amazing outdoor shower. The whole El Cosmico site is a feast for the eyes, I had so much fun taking pictures of all of the vintage trailers, teepees, and yurts that make up the complex. The communal spaces at the site were also a highlight, after the sun went down we joined other guests for cocktails in the hammock grove where a visiting band played live music under strung lights and the stars. I mean, does that sound magical or what?

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Another must-see that we tackled on our exploration of Marfa was checking out the art installation, Prada Marfa. Having admired Gray Malin’s photos of the site, I was so excited to see it in person — and it surpassed my expectations upon arriving.  I think one of the most interesting things about the site, is that it genuinely confuses people that don’t know the context and story of the installation. When we were standing across the highway from the store, a passerby in a pickup truck slowed down as he drove past it, and ended up turning around to get out of the car and take a look. He looked at my husband and I and said “well that’s something else, isn’t it?” — I think he was right, it really was something else!   MARFA 9MARFA 8

It turns out that we arrived in Marfa on a Tuesday, and most shops and restaurants close down mid-week as it’s a weekend-tourist destination. So while we didn’t get to hit up a few of the spots on my list (like Garza Marfa and Cast + Crew), we did enjoy a few of the local favorites. We stopped for lunch at Comida Futura (owned by the same folks that run Food Shark — made famous by Beyonce’s tumblr), and the food was amazing. I had the brisket plate with a baked bean and corn bread pudding and it was out of this world. For dinner we visited Jett’s Grill on the patio of the famous Hotel Paisano.
MARFA 10I kept saying as we left Marfa that it was such a magical place, I think I used the word magic approximately 8 times on the drive back to Austin — and frankly, the drive it self was also magical — we left super early in the morning and saw the sunrise over  West Texas as we drove out of town. The perfect end to a perfect trip!

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Part two of our West Texas adventure took us to Big Bend National Park. When planning this trip I took on most of the Austin leg, meticulously curating reservations at all of the must-visit restaurants. My husband on the other hand did the research for this part of our vacation — you know, things like ensuring we had the right supplies to survive in the desert. My contribution was rolling out of bed and into the car early one morning in Austin and waking up several hours later in the middle of nowhere — which was precisely our destination! Big Bend is one of the most remote National Parks — the nearest city (and city is a loose term) is 100 miles away. I was a little hesitant about this — I’m not much of an outdoorsy type — but I’m so glad we visited. The only way to describe the landscape is breathtaking, which sounds super cliché, but it really was just that. I was quite surprised by how different the terrain was as we moved through the park; parts looked like barren desert, other parts were rocky and mountainous, and we even moved through some swamp-like areas when we got close to the Rio Grande and Mexican border (at one point we could literally see just across the river into Mexico, which was pretty cool). We closed out our stay in Big Bend with a stop in Terlingua, a ghost town on the edge of the park, where we ate dinner at the Starlight Theater — an old-fashioned saloon! We put a little wild west in our West Texas adventure.

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I have been digging through the photos that I took on our West Texas vacation and can’t believe it’s been almost two weeks since we got back. Because I just can’t narrow it down, this recap is likely going to be a multi-part blog post — I need to share the detail of every.single.bite. I ate and lots of fun pictures too. First up: Austin! Austin, despite being about 100 degrees, was totally and completely awesome. We fell in love with the cute little house bars on Rainey Street, browsed through the vintage shops in the South Congress area, and tried many, many tacos to try and nail down a favorite (barbacoa tacos at Torchy’s were the winner!). A few more favorites from our Austin stay were…. IMG_3655.JPGElizabeth Street Cafe. When I was doing research for our trip, I happened upon Elizabeth Street Cafe through Mackenzie’s Austin recommendations and decided to check it out for ourselves! I love the super bright space with quirky little teapots and floral wallpaper, and the outside had a bright pink and turquoise paint scheme that was so cheery and cute. We had the pork belly buns and spicy pork meatball bahn mi — and I couldn’t pass up the macarons in the pastry case when we were leaving — they were delicious!DSC_0001IMG_3732.JPGDSC_0008 copy

Hillside Farmacy. I’d seen pictures of the Hillside Farmacy on Instagram and knew we had to go here. The striped awnings and bright green facade reminded me of our wedding color scheme, so I was sold even before we walked in. We ate here for brunch and I was prepared to go for eggs or pancakes, but then I saw a piping hot skillet of the mac and cheese walk by our table and I had to order some of my own. I am quite glad it did — it was super rich and delightfully tasty (and I washed it down with a wasabi bloody mary, yum!).

IMG_3695.JPGDSC_0016Barton Springs. This place was amazing, I’ve never seen anything like it! Given that the temperatures were creeping  up into the hundreds during out trip, a little respite from the heat was very welcome. It was part pool, part lake, one-hundred-percent refreshing once we jumped in.

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Josephine House. Our meal at Josephine House was phenomenal and the restaurant design was nothing but impeccable. We got there just as the light was fading and I didn’t get any pictures of the interior, but trust me when I say it was gorgeous — take a look at some of the gorgeous pictures on their website. The best part of the meal was dessert: a honey panna cotta with Texas figs and ginger-oat streusel — heavenly. It was just the treat we needed before heading off on the next leg of our trip! DSC_0021

 

A few weeks back I surprised my husband with a brewing session at Hopsters in Newton for his birthday. I wouldn’t consider myself a big beer drinker, but ended up having so much fun just going through the whole process of brewing and bottling it. We picked a recipe (crystal wheat beer) and the brewers at Hopsters helped us measure our ingredients and work through the brewing process. Then we went back after the beer fermented for a few weeks and got to bottle it — which I found to be the best part (look at those American flag caps!). You can even design your own label, and my husband came up with a very clever name — don’t you think?IMG_3497.JPGIMG_3512.JPGIMG_3513.JPGIMG_3514.JPG

 

 

I am absolutely terrible at packing my lunch for work — I try to bring leftovers every once in a while, but I tend to prefer heading out for lunch to get something fresh. When a copy of Mason Jar Salads and More showed up in my mailbox though, I figured it was good motivation to make something tasty to bring along with me to work this week. The book has lots of good tips for layering salads and meal ingredients in mason jars to keep them fresh and crisp (dressing on the bottom, and pack down ingredients over it to keep other ingredients from getting soggy!). I took inspiration from the book’s caprese pasta recipe and made my own version: spinach tortellini with pesto, mozzarella, grape tomatoes, red onions, grilled corn, and more tortellini on top — the flavors melded together great!

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