Thursday, January 31, 2013

A Revenge Surprise

When I asked Joe what he wanted to do for his birthday, he wasn't really in the mood for anything more than a birthday dinner. In years past, we've met up with friends to celebrate, but I think he wanted to take a year off. Normal girlfriends would respect that wish, but not this one. I couldn't help but plan a little something when Tom connected with me to see if anything was in the works and mentioned that their buddy, Warren, would be interested in a "revenge" surprise by coming up to visit from Portland. (Because about a month ago, Joe and Tom surprised him in Portland for his birthday.) Who can say no to a revenge surprise?! Again, not this girlfriend.

I told Joe it would be just Tom and Gwynne, but little did he know that we'd be joined by Warren and Rachel. So we had a nice birthday dinner at Prost, drinks at the Kort Haus and dessert at home. Even if he didn't want a celebration, I think he loved it. Men, they say one thing and mean another, right? :)

P.S. I don't think I've ever posted a photo of our living room. So ta-da! I present you with our living room. In terms of decorations, it's probably one of my favorite rooms in our house. I love it.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Next Generation

The latest and greatest creative coming out of the doors of my office. In honor of the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, as part of our Choice Out Loud campaign - this video represents the next generation that will continue to fight the pro-choice battle. The offbeat campaign uses pictures of 40 different women from 40 different photographers across the country - all put together with a catchy song and words of inspiration. My favorite line: "It's not our mother's movement anymore, it's ours." Let's hope our daughters don't have to fight the same battle.

P.S. The campaign was recently written up in AdWeek - check it out to read more about the creative process behind it. Pretty neat campaign!

Monday, January 28, 2013

Itsa Meatball!

I can't even remember that last time I had spaghetti. While it's a staple for some people, I rarely make it. So when I was trying to think about what to make with the turkey I had in the fridge the other night, I remembered a recipe I've wanted to try for ages: Martha's spaghetti with meatballs. Bonus: I had everything in the recipe except crushed tomatoes and an onion!

My only qualm was the meatball cooking process - they kept falling apart in the sauce and almost turned it into a meat sauce. Since that's not what I signed up for, I finally took them out and baked them (with a coat of tomato sauce) at 400 for 10 minutes. Crisis diverted, phew.

The end product was incredibly flavorful - and it was even better as leftovers the next day. Yep, I'll be making this again.

tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups canned crushed tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper
1 large egg
1/3 cup milk
1 white onion, finely chopped
1/4 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/2 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese, plus more for serving
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Erika's addition: teaspoon of red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper for some spice!
1 pound ground turkey
1 pound spaghetti
  1. Make the sauce: In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add garlic, and cook about 1 minute. Stir in tomatoes, oregano, and thyme, and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, covered, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Make the meatballs: In a large bowl, whisk together egg, milk, 1 1/4 teaspoons salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper with a fork. Stir in onion, breadcrumbs, cheese, and parsley. Add turkey, and mix until combined. Form mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls.
  3. Add meatballs to skillet, and spoon sauce over to coat. Place over medium heat until meatballs are just cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  4. Cook spaghetti until al dente according to package instructions, about 12 minutes. Drain pasta, transfer to skillet, and toss gently with the sauce. Serve with more cheese.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Bite-Sized Food, Super-Sized Fun

Despite our best intentions, it was hard to get another cooking club night on the books. But finally, finally, we picked a day, a place and a theme. Liz hosted us all last Sunday night (and kicked Barry out for the night!) and since they live in a smaller condo, she chose "Mini foods" as the theme. Brilliant!

One might think that we'd opt for simple recipes like corn dogs or ants on a log. (But I guess we're not 5 years old either?) But no, we got all fancy. On the miniature menu:
  • Fried chicken and waffles
  • Individual chicken pot pies (that's the roll-looking thing with cheesy goodness on top!)
  • Brie and fig wrapped in some sort of croissant dough
  • Mini wedge salads (that's what I brought; I figured a veggie option might be refreshing)
  • Sweet potato goodness wrapped in some sort of amazing dough
  • Two types of stuffed mushrooms
  • Apple tarts (dessert seen below)
We clearly ate ourselves silly because in no time, we decided that it was absolutely critical to learn the latest line dance craze: The Wobble. It's like the Wobble said to the Macarena, "I'll see your catchy, rhythmic hand motion and raise you a body roll." Get ready to see Wobbling at a bar near you, friends. It's good.

P.S. Contrary to back-to-back dance-related posts, I actually don't crazy dance every single day. Usually only like 4 days a week :)
P.P.S. Next theme: Family recipes! Mom, Dad, what should I make?!

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Birthday Jig

It all started with Autumn and I rocking out to the beats on New Year's Eve. (Please excuse both of our awesome faces.)

Joe soon joined and as you can see, I got excited.

We danced. Not well, I will admit. Just silly dancing. But maybe you could already tell?

One thing led to another and soon enough I bumped my head on his knee. (Or least I think it was his knee?)

We laughed.

He gave me a "aww, it's ok" hug. 

Then I can't remember what he said to me, but I remember it being really, really funny.

What I'm trying to get to in the most roundabout way is that I love dancing with this man through life. We always come out of any situation smiling and laughing together. And I can't wait to dance away another year. Happy Birthday, Joe!

P.S. Thank to Stephers again for capturing our crazy dancing skills!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Pure Craftsmanship

As I've mentioned before, my dad and uncle are making us a dining room table and bench out of some maple lumber from my grandpa's house. And we're planning to buy a few chairs to match the style and stain. They keep sending periodic updates on the process and boy oh boy, I'm impressed to the max. It's absolutely perfect. I guess they have a few more tweaks, then they'll be staining it a dark honey brown. I'm thinking I owe them both quite a few homemade meals on this table, don't you think?

Friday, January 18, 2013


Hope everyone has a fabulous weekend! I have three days off (Go MLK Jr!) and I'm looking forward to sleeping in, taking it easy and maybe a couple laps around the lake.

P.S. Last weekend my Mom introduced me to Sky Nursery in Shoreline. Holy pretty flowers! You wouldn't expect it this time of year, but they had some beauties there. I think I'll be back in the spring to spruce up our backyard.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Zuppa Petes

Contrary to what it may look like on my little blog, I make a lot of non-recipe meals. I like to call them everything-but-the-kitchen-sink dinners. Basically, I scour the fridge to see what we have available and try to concoct a meal. It's generally pretty basic and I don't keep track of what I add or how long I cook things.

But today, I was inspired to make an original recipe - actually have a little forethought or strategy (i.e. grocery run, not cupboard hunting). I wanted soup. (Which should come as no surprise since I crave it immensely in the winter.) So I picked up some of my favorite soup ingredients and hoped for the best. With chicken sausage, kale, carrots and a tomato-y broth, I figured it couldn't taste too bad. But I was pleasantly surprised how delicious and flavorful it turned out to be! In fact, I'm already excited for leftovers tomorrow. Yep, I'll be making this one again.

Zuppa Petes

2 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 medium onion, diced (no need to get too small)
4 cloves of garlic
2-4 tbs olive oil
1 lb turkey or chicken sausage
1 - 32 oz box chicken broth
1 C water
1 can diced tomatoes, no salt added
1 can cannelleni beans (drained)
1/2 bunch of kale (about 3-4 stocks), chopped
Red pepper flakes (to taste, but about 1 tbs)
Ground pepper (to taste)

In a standard size pan, brown the turkey sausage. Meanwhile, in a larger pan or pot, add olive oil, garlic, onions and carrots and cook over medium-high. Cook until the onions are soft and see-through. Then add the can of diced tomatoes, juice and all. Break up the tomatoes if they are a little bigger than you'd like. Toss in some red pepper flakes and ground pepper. Add the chicken broth and water, bring to a boil. Cover. Let boil for about 5-7 minutes. Add kale and beans and turn down heat to medium. Then add turkey sausage from the other pan. Let simmer for another 5-10 - feel free to taste a carrot to see if it's cooked enough. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese, if you please.

Goose and Fifi, yet again

Because I know you can't get enough of them and I haven't been doing too well to keep my reputation of "crazy cat lady," here are a few gems. Up top, the kitties still cuddle together all of the time. In boxes. In our laundry hamper. On our bed. On the couch. In our laps. They're just a cuddly duo.

They really loved their game: Unroll. Reroll (Joe or me). Repeat. Fortunately for us (unfortunately for them), we found a solution by using a clothespin to secure the roll. I promise we don't kill all of their fun. Just the fun that ends up with an entire roll of wet toilet paper on the floor.

I had no idea when I bought this bathroom vanity that they little shelf was actually a cat shelf. As I posted on Instagram, "assume the teeth brushing position, Fifi!"

P.S. When I told Steph that I liked this sweater, she said, "of course you would." At least I know my friends still think I'm crazy :)

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Ski Bunnies

Awhile back when I was perusing old photos at home, I came across this treasure. My grandma and grandpa at the slopes. Aren't they adorable? I just love it.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Erika's Famous Taco Soup

Sometimes you just gotta call it what it is: Famous. I can't even count how many people I've shared my taco soup recipe with - you might even call it the sisterhood of the traveling recipe. Friends, cousins, aunts, coworkers, nanny families (I'm looking at you, Autumn), random strangers (seriously, it was one of the email recipe chains) and more. It's certainly made the rounds and without fail, it satisfies.

This time of year, you'll find this on our dinner table about once a week. It's incredibly easy. It's quick, which is ideal after a long day of work. It's healthy. And most importantly, IT TASTES AMAZING. So the next time you find yourself looking for a crowd pleaser, this is the recipe for you. 

1 lb of ground turkey (or beef if you'd prefer)
1 can of corn
1 can of red kidney beans
1 can of black beans
1 can of diced tomatoes (I usually get petite diced, sometimes with jalapenos)
1 packet of taco seasoning (I used reduced sodium)
Water (1/2-full can or so - just for what consistency you want)
Sour cream (I use fat free because it's mostly about the creaminess)
Cheese (picture doesn't show cheese because we didn't have any)
Tortilla chips

Brown meat in pan - add taco seasoning and a little water when it's almost all brown. Meanwhile*, in a large pot, combine all cans - corn, both beans and tomatoes - don't strain, add juices too (it contributes to the delicious flavor). Heat until boiling. Add cooked and seasoned turkey. Add water to taste - depends on how soupy you want it. I usually add 1/2 cup or so. Serve, topped with cheese and sour cream, plus tortilla chips for scooping soup and a Corona on the side.

Note: You can add onions, jalepenos, green peppers or other pepper-like ingredients if you'd like too.

*If you have a large pan or pot, you can just brown the meat, add seasoning and then add the cans of veggies/beans. That's what I normally do, but at one point, I didn't have a pan large enough for the volume of soup the recipe makes.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Sealed with a Kiss

Between Christmas and New Year's celebrations, we celebrated the marriage of my dear friend, Merith and her sweetie, Andy. It was a beautiful winter wedding, complete with a glowing bride and "this-smile-can't-be-wiped-from-my-face" groom. As always, it was so fun to be a part of their big day. Congratulations, Mr. and Mrs. Hall!

The high school crew.

The beautiful bride and me.

Best wedding date ever.

My lovely parents.

Merith partying with her stud of a nephew.

Husband and wife!

Friday, January 4, 2013

Poulet Au Vinaigre

During my trip out to DC, we had a team happy hour at the office. Since my team is bi-coastal, we don't always have the opportunity to just socialize with one another - sending emails and having conference calls doesn't really have the same effect as water cooler chats :) So it was quite fun to cheers to an exciting year of work and just mingle.

To our pleasant surprise, the lead partner for our team brought everyone a gift - so sweet, right? She purposefully picked out a different cookbook for each one of us and told us each why she chose it. (She said she was in the bookstore with all the cookbooks lined up, post-it notes with names on each - just trying to find perfect fits!) She gave me The Essential James Beard Cookbook because "he set the bar high in cooking just like [I] do in the Seattle office." Isn't that the sweetest?! She's so great. She also earmarked her favorite recipe, Poulet Au Vinaigre (translates to Vinegar Chicken), so it clearly had to be my first. Her words, "it's so simple, but sounds, looks and tastes very impressive..." Friends, she was right. Just add a simple side of asparagus and your tummy will be thanking you. Delicious.

6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter (I used 4 tbsp instead)
1 4-pound chicken, cut into 8 serving pieces (I used chicken breasts)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup water
2 scallions, white and green parts, finely chopped (The more the merrier, I used the whole bundle)
1/4 cup plus 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup top-quality red wine vinegar

  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat.  Working in batches, if necessary, add the chicken and brown on all sides, about 8 minutes.
  2. Lower the heat, and season the chicken to taste with salt and pepper.  Add 1/2 cup of water, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the scallions and 1 tablespoon of chopped parsley.  Move the pieces of white meat to the top so the dark meat, which takes longer to cook, can get more heat.  Cover again and cook until the meat shows no sign of pink when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife at the thighbone, about 20 minutes.
  4. Transfer the chicken to a platter.  Add the vinegar to the skillet.  Increase the heat to high, bring to a boil, and cook, scraping up the brown residue in the pan, until the vinegar has reduced to a thick glaze, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the remaining 1/4 cup of water and mix until smooth.
  5. Add 1/4 cup of chopped parsley, pour the sauce over the chicken, and serve hot.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Happy 2013!

To ring in the New Year, we all gathered at Autumn and RyRy's.... yet again. Third straight year. What can I say? They throw a good party. And once again, we had a blast. Between good conversations, cheesy food, sweet treats, bubbly and special jello concoctions, we know how to do it right.

I have high hopes for 2013. I say this every year, but I think it'll be the best year yet (glass half full, right?). 2012 brought us our new home and our fur babies. Good quality time with friends and family. Love and support. Even a recent promotion at work! 2013, you have big shoes to fill, but I'm confident you'll deliver.

Hope you had a wonderful New Year's Eve!

P.S. Pictures are compliments of Stephanie's new camera. (Thank you!) After stealing it a few times during the night, I'm sold. It takes such gorgeous photos!

Some ladies of the evening

The hostess with the mostest

My festive fella.

Karen and Daniel

 Drew and Laura

 Christmas card next year? :)

Stephers and Petes

Dancing and singing

Who can be louder?!

This should read 2013 with a heart on each side. I see a few hearts and a 3. We tried?

 With one remaining sparkler, we did it!
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