Harvest Salad + Basic Vinaigrette

Since we’re in the height of the holiday season, our calendars filled with parties and treats and goodness galore, I’m seeking some balance as I plan out my meals, especially as I chart out my workday lunches. To counter all of the delicious holiday treats that I’m consuming (and loving), I’ve been guzzling green juice and noshing on lots of fresh salads, ensuring that I’m still absorbing loads of good nutrients. I’ve come up with a leafy concoction that mirrors a salad that Korena makes every year for the harvest, and, as a result, there are very few exact calculations for the amount of each ingredient required. So I’d just use however much of each item that fits your palette best. I love this salad because every bite is a little surprise – you may get a burst of tomato or creamy avocado, a bite of tangy cheese or wholesome quinoa, or a taste of tart cranberries or crunchy pecans. The vinaigrette I use with this salad is my very favorite because it’s so versatile, and it comes from a recipe in Bread & Wine (of course). It’s super basic yet hugely flavorful and it goes with everything (including last week’s White Bean Soup). Enjoy!

Harvest Salad

Ingredients for Salad:

  • Mixed greens
  • Spinach
  • 1/4 ripe avocado
  • Grape tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • Broccoli, chopped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup cooked quinoa
  • Mediterranean feta cheese (regular feta will suffice but I love the added kick from the Mediterranean flavors – I use Président brand)
  • Dried cranberries
  • Pecan pieces (toasted if you have time!)

Ingredients for Vinaigrette:

  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • Salt & pepper

Directions:

  1. Mix all of the salad ingredients together. That’s it!
  2. For the vinaigrette, combine the ingredients in a jar (I use a rinsed out salsa jar – it works perfectly). Shake, shake, shake until you achieve your desired consistency. Add more oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper to taste.

Camille Styles Entertaining

Camille Styles EntertainingOver the weekend I had the pleasure of meeting Camille Styles at her book-signing party in Dallas, and, as expected, she was just lovely – genuine and bubbly and so nice to be around. I have always loved reading her blog because it’s so chock-full of excellent, creative content, beautiful visuals, and lots of resources for things to do and places to eat in Camille’s hometown of Austin, one of my favorite places to visit. I was so excited when I learned earlier this year that she was publishing a coffee table book. (Fun side note – our wedding planners arranged all of the flowers for her gorgeous book!) The final product is just beautiful, and like the blog, it is filled with fun ideas for making every day one that is not only worth remembering but also, most importantly, worth celebrating. I love this excerpt from the book where Camille writes,

“So while I’m not always successful at it, I do my best to seize the day and let the beautiful items I own bring me joy right this minute instead of waiting for a ‘worthy’ opportunity. We all deserve to be surrounded by beauty, and if something breaks, it can be fixed; if it’s lost, it can be replaced. Even if your spending an evening solo eating Chinese takeout, set the table with real dishes, pour yourself a glass of wine, and savor a good meal. It’s moments like these that set us on a path toward living the life we dream of – a life in which we’re respecting our bodies with nourishing food, nurturing our souls by making time for our passions, engaging our senses with beauty, and expressing our love to family and friends by inviting them to create memories together.”

I’ve gathered so much inspiration from within the book’s pages, and I can’t wait to put Camille’s tips into practice!

Week & End

IMG_8696Happy weekend! What are you up to over the next couple of days? Becca and Mark get in from Nashville late tonight, so James and I are going to eat the yummy pot roast we put into the crock pot this morning and snuggle with Callie until they arrive – I can’t wait to see them! Becca and I are taking a City Surf class in the morning, then the boys will join us as we meet some friends from college for lunch at Good 2 Go Taco. In the afternoon, when Becca and Mark head to a wedding, Laura and I are going to meet up to attend the Camille Styles Entertaining book party! I’m so excited – all of Camille’s other parties have looked so beautiful, and I’m sure the Dallas event will be no exception. On Sunday, we’re going to eat more tacos and Tex-Mex, and in the evening, Laura and Kyla will come over for our annual besties Christmas dinner. We’re going to whip up some of this festive punch to drink alongside a harvest salad, tortilla soup, and pie. There’s so much goodness to look forward to!

Have a great weekend and enjoy some links from around the interwebs!

I saw this carry on cocktail kit on Instagram the other day and thought that the idea was brilliant. The packaging is so dang cute, too.

It might be time to face the facts: I am addicted to Serial. Like, want-to-cancel-all-of-my-plans-so-I-can-listen-to-more-podcasts addicted. Becca sent me this great link that helps listeners associate photos with the characters in the real life story, and while I love the way the podcasts force you to really hone in and listen actively, it’s nice to have a visual of the people mentioned throughout the episodes. I also love that friends and even local businesses have been hosting listening parties – it conjures up images of fireside chats and evenings spent listening to programs on the radio. So good.

My friends Natalie & Andrea posted a gift guide on their blog and I love everything they selected! I especially adore the shout-out they gave to me and the Clare Vivier coin purses that I gifted to our bridesmaids at our wedding. Their sweet words about our special day were so touching – thanks, gals!

Per our birthday tradition, Erin sent me our favorite Momofuku Milk Bar B-Day Truffles and they are unbelievably delicious. I actually can’t believe that I still have a few left – it would be so easy to devour them in minutes – but I’m glad that I saved some so that I can enjoy one (or two) for dessert after tonight’s pot roast.

As is typical this time of year, there are so many amazing movies coming out. I want to see The Imitation Game, Exodus: God and Kings, Wild (I read the book last year), and Unbroken (I’m reading the book now), to name a few. P.S. We saw The Hunger Games: Mockingjay before Thanksgiving and loved it – definitely a must-see!

Photo by Briana Wollman for James’s 30th birthday party 

White Bean Soup

I swear that I crave soup on a weekly basis in the wintertime. It’s not even very cold here in Dallas (I think it’s supposed to be 70 degrees on Saturday!) but there’s something about the combination of soup and December and the holidays that is nostalgic for me, so I find myself making tons of different kinds over the course of the month (continuing on into January and February, too). Since I’m cooking through Bread & Wine, I decided to try author Shauna Niequist’s White Bean Soup, a hearty mix loaded with delicious beans and vegetables. It is safe to say that I am now obsessed with this soup – it was so easy to make and it is extremely tasty. It thickens over time and gets better and better each day, almost chili-like in texture and so flavorful and robust. I add vinaigrette to my steaming bowl of soup, and James liked his with prosciutto. Both of us agree that parmesan cheese a must. And here’s an important note – I couldn’t find fennel at the store when I was shopping so I made the soup without it, and I think it turned out delicious. I’m sure it tastes wonderful with fennel included, as the recipe suggests.

White Bean Soup

Recipe via Shauna Niequist

Ingredients:

  • 2 shallots, sliced
  • 1/2 lb carrots, sliced into thin coins on a diagonal
  • 1 bulb fennel, sliced
  • 4 celery ribs, sliced on a diagonal
  • 6 cans white beans in liquid
  • 1 tbsp rosemary, rough chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. In a stockpot or Dutch oven, soften two sliced shallots in olive oil over medium heat.
  2. Add carrots, fennel, and celery, and allow to soften for 10 – 15 minutes.
  3. Add beans in their liquid and chopped rosemary.
  4. Cover and cook for 20 minutes at a gentle boil.
  5. Taste, add salt & pepper, taste again – and keep in mind that you’ll get a good amount of salt from the toppings.
  6. Cook for 20 more minutes, or longer if you have time. Off heat, mash with a potato masher or the back of a wooden spoon for a rustic chunky texture. If you’d like a smoother texture, run it through a food processor or use an immersion blender in the pot.
  7. For the balsamic vinaigrette, mix a spoonful of Dijon, a few tablespoons of balsamic, a quarter cup or so of olive oil, some salt and pepper in a glass jar, then shake well. Adjust to taste.
  8. Serve with a small pitcher of vinaigrette, and bowls of prosciutto torn into ribbons, grated Parmesan, and chopped rosemary.

Around Here

Party DecorWow, time sure does fly – December 10th already?! I apologize for my absence on the blog lately – but then again, I don’t because so much goodness has been happening around here and I’ve stepped away from my online presence to soak it all in.

The holidays are such a magical time of year, aren’t they? We had an amazing time in Chicago for Thanksgiving, and last week was spent celebrating James and my birthdays, which are just four days apart (so fun!). My 29th birthday was on Wednesday, the 3rd, and Touch A Life has a policy that gives employees the day off on their special day, which is such a treat. I got my stretch on at yoga and my sweat on at City Surf, treated myself to my favorite juice and smoothie at The Gem, picked up some birthday goodies at J. Crew, and got a foot massage at my favorite place. James and I noshed on filet mignon, barbecue ribs, creamy spinach dip, and French fries at Houston’s for dinner, toasting with martinis (for me) and whiskey (for him). It was the perfect day.

James’s 30th birthday was on Sunday and I threw him a surprise party! It was the best. Nearly 35 of our closest friends came to celebrate James and he was so totally shocked when he walked into our house – we nailed the surprise! My super talented friend Bri took photos of the day, which I’ll share here soon. I had so much fun planning the decor (a few party remnants are pictured above), snacks, and drinks, and all of our friends pitched in with setting up, throwing James off, and keeping the secret about the party. It is the best party I’ve ever hosted, filled with so much fun, love, and good food. James had a fantastic time, which made me so happy.

Holiday events are in full swing, which I love! Tonight is a Christmas-themed girls night in at Korena’s, and tomorrow the Black Frames are playing at a charity wrap party hosted by Fullosophie. My dear bestie Becca and her boyfriend Mark are coming in from Nashville to attend a wedding this weekend, and I can’t wait to see them (and eat tacos at the best spot in town). Sunday night marks Laura, Kyla, and my fifth annual Christmas besties dinner, and the following day is my favorite event of the season (tied with the besties dinner, of course) – the Cone Christmas dinner at Patrick and Lauren’s, where Patrick cooks an entire holiday meal filled with delicious seasonal favorites. James and I are going to check out the Highland Park lights with Callie and hot chocolate in tow, and we’re scooting down to Austin the weekend before Christmas as a special treat to one another (also with Callie in tow, as we’ll be staying at my favorite hotel).

I’ve been cooking some of Shauna Niequist’s recipes, as I planned, so I’ll be sharing a recipe tomorrow, as well as some fun posts the rest of the month! But if I go MIA again, have no fear – I’m just enjoying all that the holiday season has to offer, namely the fact that we get to spend this month thinking of the amazing Christmas story and Jesus’s birth. What a beautiful season – I hope you are loving it as much as I am!

Touch A Life + Black Friday

TAL on Black FridayHow was your Thanksgiving? Ours was just as phenomenal as anticipated, filled with food and laughter and joy and togetherness. I’m so glad James and I will be in Chicago for a few more days! On the agenda – heading to the gun range at our country club (a first for our family!), hosting a pizza & wedding video outtakes viewing party, getting foot massages, and celebrating my birthday a few days early. I’m so happy!

In between all of our fun activities, I’m sure I’ll be checking out some awesome Black Friday deals, including the fabulous one that Touch A Life is offering. For a $50 donation, we will send you a signed copy of Pam Cope’s memoir, Jantsen’s Gift, along with a set of five beautiful Artifact Uprising prints of our children and Care Center in Ghana taken by photographer Nancy Borowick.  This is a limited edition item – only 16 sets are available!

For a $20 donation, we will send you a set of 10 Christmas cards with illustrations drawn by five Touch A Life children in Ghana. These are perfect to send to your family and friends as a Christmas greeting!

Visit Touch A Life’s website to make your donation and select the item that you’d like to receive. Your purchase will make a difference in the life of a child in Ghana – there’s not much better than that!

Happy Thanksgiving!

35a00f62746e7d2f98053b1194338660Happy Thanksgiving, friends! I hope you’re having a perfect day enjoying great food, delicious wine, and lots of time with people you love.

I am so thankful to be home in Chicago with James and my family. We’ll spend the day cooking up a storm, cheering for the Bears, and, later, enjoying dessert with Erin and her family. I am overwhelmed with gratitude for this day and all it represents.

Now, off to enjoy all of my favorite Thanksgiving treats!

Image via Chantelle Grady

Cooking Through Bread & Wine

lindsay-letters-betweenus-canvas-navy_1024x1024As I mentioned a few weeks ago, I reread Bread & Wine recently and it inspired me to get creative in the kitchen. When life gets chaotic and full, I tend to fall back on the recipes I know and love – enchiladas, quinoa bowls, breakfast for dinner, tortilla soup – instead of foraging into the land of the unknown. Shauna Niequist, the author of Bread & Wine, shares loads of delicious recipes in her book, which is part memoir, part cookbook, and they got me excited about trying out some new dishes. Shauna uses good wholesome ingredients and her instructions aren’t a mile long; instead of using complicated, fussy verbiage, her recipes are straightforward and easy to understand. So I thought it might be fun to work my way through the book, chopping and dicing and sautéing, stirring and tasting and trying, and then reporting the results to you here on the blog.

I’m already a fan of several of the recipes in the book – the blueberry crisp, the basic vinaigrette (which I make once a week and pour on just about everything), the goat cheese scrambled eggs, the lentil soup – so I may post about them here, or I may just venture into uncharted territory…we’ll see. Either way, it will be fun (and delicious). Stay tuned!

Image & canvas via Lindsay Letters

Friendsgiving

IMG_9600Can I just take a moment here to give a big round of (online) applause to whoever coined the term “Friendsgiving?” I know that I always say that the Fourth of July is my favorite holiday because it encompasses so many things that I love but Thanksgiving is truly my very favorite. It’s really my dream day, one spent celebrating food and family and friendship and wine and gratitude. It doesn’t get better than that.

IMG_9599It makes me so happy that someone thought to broaden the Thanksgiving sentiment to encompass all of the friends in our lives that we want to celebrate the holiday with but don’t because we’re (rightly so) spending the big day with our families. If I had it my way, I’d have one Thanksgiving meal with my Dallas besties, one with my college besties, one with our small group, one with my coworkers, one with my family, and one with James’s family – that’s how much I love this holiday.

IMG_9601Yesterday we celebrated Friendsgiving as a small group and considering that our festivities lasted for EIGHT HOURS, I’d say it was a fabulous success. We ate turkey and stuffing and brussels sprouts with cranberries, broccoli cheddar casserole and mashed potatoes and pumpkin pie and s’mores brownies. We toasted to one another, to yesterday’s beautiful weather in Dallas, to Callie sitting underfoot waiting for us to drop morsels onto the floor. It was perfect – just perfect. And the best part? We get to do it all over again with my parents and brother on Thursday! Color me giddy.

Photos by my beautiful friend Briana Wollman