Recipe Testing

3e4d4c12ece789356fcc9905169ffc7eRecently I’ve been devouring my cookbooks as though they were novels, poring over them as I lie in bed each night. I take notes on which treats I want to try and, as a result, we have been cooking a lot lately. Reading my cookbooks has also inspired me to try out all of the recipes I’ve bookmarked online over the months (okay, let’s face it, years). We’ve discovered so many new kitchen staples, so I thought I’d share some of my favorite recipes that we’ve tried here. Nearly everything we’ve made has been a winner! Some are from those delightful cookbooks I’ve been pawing through (like The Forest Feast), and others have been gems discovered online. Take a peek at the list, and let me know if you try your hand at making any of these recipes yourself!

From The Forest Feast:

From It’s All Good:

From The Sprouted Kitchen:

From The Blogosphere:

  • Oven-Baked Chicken with Lemon & Thyme – Cooking chicken has always intimidated me, for some reason, but now I have a go-to method for making chicken that creates a flavorful, delicious, and juicy outcome. You must incorporate the lemon and thyme for extra special flavor that will have you coming back for seconds.
  • Soba Noodle Salad with Ginger Peanut Dressing – This is delicious and light, and it gets better each day that it’s left mingling in the fridge. I really liked taking this to work for lunch for several days in a row.
  • Green Detox Smoothie – I crave this delicious blended concoction on a daily basis and, as a result, have been enjoying it every morning for breakfast. I was scared of using the spirulina at first because it smells terrible but you can’t taste it at all and the superfood’s benefits are mind-blowing. The pomegranate seeds on top are a must – they are so yummy!
  • Thai Chicken Stuffed Sweet Potatoes – So much flavor! We ate these while I was cleansing so the sweet potatoes were perfect but the chicken mixture would be good on top of anything – rice, quinoa, noodles.
  • Chicken & Poblano Chili – If James had to pick a favorite from the bunch, I think this would be it. This chili is hearty and packed with great spicy flavor. (The original recipe calls for turkey, which would probably be delicious, too.)
  • Chocolate-Dipped Peanut Butter Cookies with Pretzels & Toffee – I mean, DELIGHTFUL.
  • Egg Muffins with Vegetables – Great for breakfast on the go.
 Image via The Everygirl

San Francisco

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetWe’re experiencing California-like temperatures here in Dallas this week (a high of 77 degrees today, eee!), and the weather instantly transports me to the wonderful trip I took to San Francisco, Half Moon Bay, and Big Sur with Mom and Andrew in November. It’s about time that I finally share some photos, and I have to break them up into parts since each location easily deserves its own post. Up first: San Francisco.

Mom and I flew into San Francisco on a Thursday, and though I’ve been to northern California a dozen times since I graduated from college, I hadn’t gotten a chance to explore San Francisco on its own in such a long time. Mom and I had so much fun together. After we landed, our first stop was at Craftsman and Wolves, a hipster coffee shop and patisserie that I had been dying to try, and there we encountered the most delicious treat of all time – the rebel within, the dreamiest and most curious savory muffin stuffed with a perfectly poached egg (now I have to try to recreate it). We wandered around the neighborhood, popping into lots of little shops, my favorite being Little Paper Planes. Later we met my cousin and her fiancé for dinner at Nopa, sharing cocktails and lots of delicious small plates. The next day we woke up feeling refreshed and took a long luxurious stroll near the water, meandering over to Saint Frank for more hipster (and delicious!) coffee and breakfast. We strolled past Lombard Street, finding ourselves out of breath as we hiked through the hilly streets. We headed to Plow for a super-late brunch, which was just divine (three words: lemon ricotta pancakes), and then made our way to the Golden Gate Bridge – the day was too beautiful to pass up a photo shoot with the gorgeous landmark. We took a pitstop at the Painted Ladies before strolling through Hayes Valley, the cutest little strip of shops and restaurants.

Looking back, I can’t believe how much we packed into our San Francisco schedules in such a short amount of time. It was perfect!

Stay tuned: Half Moon Bay is next.

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Bouquets Exhibit

Bouquets ExhibitOn Saturday Korena and I went to the Dallas Museum of Art to check out their most recent special exhibit titled Bouquets: French Still-Life Painting from Chardin to Matisse. It was gorgeous. The whole exhibit, filled with floral still lifes, was truly swoon-worthy. Above is a photo of one of my favorite paintings that we saw at the museum – doesn’t it look so real, like it is an image from a photo shoot instead of paint on canvas? We marveled at the intricacies of each painting, and it was fun to see how the style progressed over the years (initially the pieces were super detailed, like the painting above, and they evolved into a more expressive, Impressionist style, a bit wilder and brighter and more abstract). The exhibit was beautifully curated, so we spent lots of time soaking up the amazing art and learning lots of fun new tidbits about the artists whose works were featured. It was the perfect way to spend an afternoon.

Dallas friends, the exhibit ends on February 8th, so there’s still time to get to the museum and check it out!

French Class


I am a self-proclaimed Francophile. After the trip I took to Paris and Champagne with Laura, Kyla, and Lauren a few years ago, I fell in love with all things French – the style, the culture, the language, the wine, the art, the fashion, and, of course, the food. I am incorrigibly drawn to striped shirts and pain au chocolat and French accents and real ice-cold Champagne (not sparkling wine, non!). Ever since that trip to Paris, I have been planning my imminent return. As Audrey Hepburn said, Paris is always a good idea.

Last year my brother signed up to take a French class at a local community college, and the idea intrigued me. I took Spanish throughout high school and college and, in spite of the pop quizzes and grammar lessons and oral reports, I loved learning a second language. I like the way that Spanish words rolled off of my tongue, and I felt that it was an increasingly useful skill to know how to speak it. French, as a language, interested before my love for the culture began; the sounds and words seemed so romantic somehow. Anyway, after Andrew told me he was learning French, I kept learning about people and bloggers and colleagues who said they were, too. It’s like when you buy a new car and suddenly you see that make and model on every single highway and street corner – everyone, it seemed to me, was studying French. And I felt a stirring within me to learn French, too.

So I took the plunge. I put the idea on my list of 2015 New Year’s Resolutions and, while browsing the internet one day, realized that a class at Dallas’s Language Institute started on January 13th (today!), lasting through the first week of April. My calendar was completely clear on Tuesday evenings and, coupled with the fact that James and I are hoping to travel to France and Italy in the fall, I took it as a sign that I needed to register for the class.

I have always liked school, so in my typical nerdy fashion, I am super excited (and even a little nervous!) for my first class tonight. I have a brand new notebook and everything, y’all. Wish me luck!

The Forest Feast

FF_printed_cookbook_001One of my favorite birthday presents was a beautiful copy of The Forest Feast, a cookbook that features deliciously easy vegetarian recipes, all of which are accompanied by whimsical watercolor illustrations and gorgeous photographs. The book itself was so lovely to receive, so pretty, in fact, that it was easy to leave propped up in a prominent place in our kitchen…and then left untouched. Until yesterday, when I realized what a travesty it was to leave the gorgeous book on the counter by its lonesome and proceeded to read the entire thing cover to cover, earmarking each delicious recipe that I want to try (essentially all of them). Everything looks so mouthwateringly-delicious, and each recipe contains just a few uncomplicated steps, illustrated brilliantly and clearly, which is perfect for visual learners like myself. Nearly every recipe contains basic ingredients that are typically on hand, paired with a few items from the produce section. It’s the perfect cookbook.

tumblr_m2nqa8k9AX1r4p2epo2_1280Coincidentally, Korena got the cookbook for a gift, too, so for the past 24 hours, we’ve been sending each other a flurry of text messages about the treats we want to try. I gave the Red Roasted Vegetables a whirl last night (using asparagus and tomatoes instead of carrots), and they were delicious – the cinnamon added such an unexpected kick. Korena raved about the Corn & Cauliflower Tacos, which I can’t wait to cook next, and tonight she made the Butternut Caprese, which looks unreal.

tumblr_m72nuht6qh1r4p2epo1_1280 tumblr_m72nuht6qh1r4p2epo2_1280 tumblr_m72nuht6qh1r4p2epo3_1280I can’t recommend this cookbook enough. The simple recipes, pretty illustrations, and the chapter devoted solely to cocktails make it absolutely worth adding to your collection!

Photos via The Forest Feast

Week & End

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Happy, happy weekend! We survived the first full workweek of 2015 – go, us! What do you have going on this weekend? There is hardly anything on my calendar, which feels really refreshing. Everyone seems to be laying low after all of the holiday indulgence and sparkle and cheer has subsided, and I think that’s kind of nice, a good way to ease into a new year.

Enjoy your weekend as well as some fun links from around the web!

I am on the fifth day of a 10-day AdvoCare cleanse and, without a doubt, this has been my easiest cleanse yet (knock on wood). It helps that I’m actually looking forward to cooking and eating fresh, lean meals after consuming so many Christmas treats, and it makes it easier that my calendar isn’t jam-packed with plans that are coupled with lots of opportunities to give into temptation. I haven’t even been craving sweets as much as I usually do, but I thought it might be fun to try my hand at this raw meyer lemon & vanilla bean cheesecake nonetheless. The crust is made from dates and almonds, and the “cheesecake” filling is made with a mixture of cashews, coconut oil, and other goodies. In other words, it’s totally cleanse-approved! I’ll let you know how it turns out.

Speaking of cleansing, doesn’t this detox green smoothie look delicious? I am adding these ingredients to my grocery list. I love the fun addition of topping the smoothie with pomegranate seeds!

The only downside of the timing of this cleanse is that it coincides with the Golden Globes, my favorite award show of the season. I’d rather be enjoying some take-out Thai food and champagne while I watch, but maybe I can scrounge up a couple of healthy snacks to enjoy (it would be perfect if my NatureBox treats show up!). There are so many movies nominated for awards that I haven’t seen yet (and want to!) but the one that’s been intriguing me the most lately is Cake, starring Jennifer Aniston. It looks like such an amazing breakout role for her, something so different from her rom-com past. I like that the actress’s profile on the Golden Globes site paints a picture of how deeply contrasting her role in Cake was to her role as Rachel Green in “Friends” (which she won a GG for over 10 years ago).

I am this close to finishing Unbroken – I have absolutely LOVED the book. I can’t believe all that Louie Zamperini overcame in his amazing lifetime, and Laura Hillenbrand does an amazing job of capturing each and every scene so vividly. I especially loved learning about his conversion to faith after being filled with the Spirit at a Billy Graham revival. I can’t wait to see the movie! I like this interesting article about 5 Key Lessons Every Entrepreneur Can Learn from ‘Unbroken’ – I think it presents an interesting modern-day spin on how we can apply what Louie experienced to our own lives, even in very small ways.

It’s not even that cold here in Dallas compared to the rest of the country but it’s certainly chilly by Texans’s standards, so I liked this article about reasons to get outside even when it’s frigid. I know that Callie always appreciates it when I bundle up and take her for a walk during the winter months – this seems to be her favorite time of year.

Image via Riches for Rags

On “Parenthood” & Family Gatherings

Phood_S6_DDKA_horzTonight is a special night in TV Land – “Parenthood” finally returns from its several-week hiatus, just in time to mark the series’s 100th show! “Parenthood” is unanimously our favorite TV show. We actually watch it live on Thursday nights, which feels like a lost art in this day and age of Rokus and Netflix and DVRs. We count down the minutes until the show begins, then watch the hourlong program in rapt, agonizing through frequent commercial breaks. We laugh and we cry (usually James more than me – real talk) and then we bite our nails while watching the preview for next week’s show, thereby starting the waiting process all over again. Clearly, this ritual has become an obsession, but I like that we’ve started a fun little tradition all the same.

Becca passed along this link to me: ‘Parenthood’ Cast Share What They Learned From Being a Braverman. I got emotional reading through it, not only because it brings about an air of finality about the show itself (this is “Parenthood’s” last season, so it will come to a close by spring) but also because it is such a bold reminder of the importance of family. In today’s culture, it’s common to be separated by several states (if not a few countries), and while sometimes that space is important, this shift is wildly different than the way things used to be when families lived mere miles (heck, even blocks) from one another. I don’t think this is necessarily bad, but it’s markedly different, to be sure. Technology and ease of travel has made maintaining relationships simpler but a lot of planning and effort have to go into coordinating schedules, visits, and memory-making. And, frankly, for those families who live down the street from one another, there still can be a lot of planning and effort that goes into connecting with one another. So this begs the question, what do we have to do to connect to our families in meaningful ways?

Of all of the answers to the question of what the cast members learned from their roles on “Parenthood,” I like Lauren Graham’s response best:

“I think for me, the thing I’ve gotten is when in doubt, gather a group. Just fill your house with people, and something good will happen.”

This. Yes. Exactly! Pile your family into your home for a weekend visit, whether or not you have enough space (or clean sheets or blow-up mattresses or spare toiletries). Go over to your mom’s house for dinner, show up to your cousin’s birthday party, invite your brother and his friends over for cocktails. Form a habit, a routine, a tradition. Get people together in the good times and the bad. Celebrate together, grieve together, eat together, read together, rest together. Gather a group, your group. Fill your house with people, and something good will happen.

Image via NBC

The Best Bruschetta

Processed with VSCOcam with f2 presetKyla, Laura, and I had a blast at Kyla’s parents’ house in Fort Worth this weekend. We invited ourselves over for a slumber party and were treated like the back home ballers that we envision ourselves to be. Kyla’s parents, Denise and Kyle, are so much fun to be around, and Denise is an insanely talented cook to boot (she used to manage her own catering company). She made a delicious dinner of chicken scallopini, a simple green salad, and individual berry crumbles a la mode. Before dinner, we made Denise’s bruschetta recipe, which we had all unanimously requested because it is so seriously delicious (especially when paired with a lovely glass of wine and your jammies). Though bruschetta is typically reserved for the summertime when tomatoes are in season, I find it delectable all year round. There’s something comforting about enjoying a warm slice of tomato-topped bread with salty parmesan cheese and just a hint of sweetness. While I admittedly haven’t tried many bruschetta recipes, I think I have a good reason: Denise’s recipe is so perfect that I don’t want to try anyone else’s.


Recipe via Denise Kiser

  • Olive oil, heavy splash
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 roma tomatoes, diced
  • Balsamic vinegar, heavy splash
  • Brown sugar, heavy pinch
  • Salt & pepper
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • Grated parmesan for topping
  • Baguette
  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly brush baguette slices with olive oil on both sides and bake until crisp.
  2. Heat a heavy splash of olive oil in a skillet. Add the minced shallot and stir until coated in oil, then turn down the heat to medium.
  3. Add the garlic and stir continuously, ensuring that the garlic doesn’t burn.
  4. Add in the diced tomatoes, balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, and salt & pepper. Stir everything together to ensure that the ingredients are mixed well.
  5. Take the mixture off heat and stir in the fresh basil.
  6. Top baguette slices with tomato mixture and a sprinkling of parmesan cheese.

Things I Don’t Do

beachside-australian-wedding-75The start of a new year is so exciting, so full of promise. It’s easy to get carried away thinking about all of the fun things there are to do in a new year – all of the new habits you can make, classes you can take, projects you can start (or finish), places you can go. I personally have a long list of resolutions for 2015, and, for me, the practice of annual goal-setting hasn’t changed much over time – I love writing down goals for myself each January (and each spring and summer and fall, for that matter). But I’ve also found that there’s a necessary counterbalance to all of the resolution-making, an exercise inspired by Shauna Niequist. This year, in addition to writing down the things I hope to do, I’m starting a tradition of jotting down a list of things I don’t do. As Shauna writes,

“It’s brutal, making the list of Things I Don’t Do, especially for someone like me, who refuses most of the time to acknowledge that there is, in fact, a limit to her personal ability to get things done. But I’ve discovered that the list sets me free. I have it written in black and white, sitting on my desk, and when I’m tempted to go rogue and bake muffins because all the other moms do, I come back to both lists, and I remind myself about the important things: that time is finite, as is energy. And that one day I’ll stand before God and account for what I did with my life. There is work that is only mine to do: a child that is ours to raise, stories that are mine to tell, friends that are mine to walk with. The grandest seduction of all is the myth that DOING EVERYTHING BETTER gets us where we want to be. It gets us somewhere, certainly, but not anywhere worth being.”

So! Here goes nothing – my 2015 list of Things I Don’t Do.


Oh, this is a shameful one to admit. I love writing, clearly – whether it’s here on this blog, for Darling Magazine, or for Bungalow Magazine. I have tried journaling so many times (and I have stacks of beautiful blank journals to show how that turned out). I admire people who journal, who carve the time out to write and write and write, just for themselves. I often think about what an amazing keepsake a journal is, a place to catalogue your thoughts and fears and dreams and hopes. But this year I am saying it aloud: I don’t journal. I don’t keep up with it, going months and months without penning an entry. I channel my writing energy into other places and journaling goes to the wayside. This year I am saying that that is just fine. I have other ways of documenting my life – through photos and this blog and such – and I think it’s okay to reserve my pretty blank journals for to-do lists and recipes and other notes.

Attempt Crafting/DIY Projects

If I believed in reincarnation, I would hope to come back in another life as someone who is so effortlessly talented at crafting and successfully completing DIY projects. I see so many amazing ideas on Pinterest, making me want to invest in crafting supplies and a dedicated space in which to complete projects. However, in this very real life of mine, the closest I can get to any sort of crafting project is putting pictures in frames. So, yeah, there is no need for me to pursue this type of hobby. The only caveat is if a group of girlfriends wants to get together to do some sort of craft or activity – I can always get behind a group project (especially if a little bubbly is involved).

Check E-Mail Before Going to Work…or Before Going to Bed

I have literally zero reason to check my e-mail early in the morning before going into the office or late in the evening before turning in. I am thankful that as far as Touch A Life-related e-mails are concerned, there is nothing so urgent that it can’t be addressed during work hours – and, if there is some sort of emergency, I will receive a phone call or text. Nothing pressing will show up in my inbox, forcing me to miss out on some important bit of information before I can get to the office. The only thing that checking e-mail before work or before going to bed does is stress my little mind out. In the morning it makes me feel rushed to get into the office (even if the e-mails aren’t that urgent – just knowing that they’re there makes me fired up) and at night it keeps me up thinking about my to-do list instead of drifting off to dreamland. There is no point to that madness, so it ends now.

Say Yes to Every Event/Coffee Date/Party I’m Invited To

I have been working on this a bit over the course of the last several months, but I want to make 2015 the year that it sticks. I love a full calendar, one that’s packed to the brim with project deadlines and weekend trips and dinner dates and exercise classes. But I am an introvert at heart – I recharge best by myself, soaking in some quiet time, whether that’s by done by reading or napping or going for a jog or trying a new recipe. So I burn out easily when my social calendar is packed to the brim. I have learned that it is indeed okay to say no to things even though I don’t actually have a conflict that prevents me from saying yes. Since I truly love spending quality time with people, I  feel guilty when I turn invitations down without having a “legitimate” reason for doing so. But if I’m not refreshed and engaging, the person I’m with won’t enjoy our time together anyway – I frequently have to remind myself of that. I don’t need to run myself ragged in order to spend time with people I love.

Finish Books That Aren’t Good

There are millions of wonderful books in the world, so many that I don’t need to waste my time on reading the ones that aren’t great. This is not to say that I can decide, say, two pages in, that a book is bad – sometimes I’ve had to persevere through a tough section of a book to find out that, by the end, I love it. But if I’m over halfway through and the content or the writing style are just not improving, it is okay to put the book down and be done with it. The perfectionist in me rejects this idea wholeheartedly but I need to stop wasting time by finishing mediocre books. A plus – they can always be donated to good causes or sold at Half Price Books, majorly reducing clutter in our house.

There you have it! What do you think of a Things I Don’t Do list? Will you make one?

Image via Erin + Tara Photography for Ruffled

Happy New Year!

f6d85d67f44e260d209ff6ebddb82854While 2014 is definitely going to be a tough year to beat, there is so much goodness to look forward to in 2015! (An aside – I absolutely cannot believe that it is the year 2015 already.) I always love the fresh start that comes hand-in-hand with a new year, and I’m excited for all that’s in store – lots of great travel plans, fun memories to be made with family and friends, new classes to take and restaurants to try, exciting places to see and things to do. I can’t wait for all of it!

Are you looking forward to the weekend? You’ve likely already started your weekend rituals thanks to the holiday season but, if not, the work-week break is here! Some of my dear friends from college, Christyn & Mark, are coming through Dallas tonight on their way from Atlanta to Denver so a group of us is getting together for Mexican food (at a new restaurant that I haven’t tried yet – exciting!). We’ll likely all rendezvous for lunch tomorrow to send them off to Colorado, and then I’m heading straight to Kyla’s parents’ house in Fort Worth for a daylong loungefest-turned-slumber party – I’m SO excited! I absolutely adore the Kiser family, so it will be such a blast to spend an entire day and night enjoying good food, pajamas, fun movies, and lots of conversation.

Since you’re hopefully at home enjoying some rest and relaxation, take a gander at these fun thinks from around the world wide web. Happy Friday, and happy 2015!

My most recent post on Darling Magazine’s blog is about being intentional when we’re short on time. Check it out, and let me know if you have any other ideas to add – I’d love to hear!

Last week Lauren and I signed up to attend The Yellow Conference in Los Angeles in August – I am SO excited! I wrote about the conference last year, so I’m thrilled that I’ll have the chance to check it out in person in 2015. Yay!

Spurred on by a random promotion through our bank (so random, I know), I signed up to try NatureBox! I have always loved the idea behind this healthy snacks subscription service but I’ve never taken the plunge. The promo was just what I needed to jump right in. I have already spent way too much time curating my pantry and selecting snacks for my first full-sized box (I’m craving these, these, and these).

I make a fun list of resolutions to keep each year, and one that cropped up for 2015 was my desire to take a floral arranging class. Doesn’t this one look fun?

After stumbling down a blogger rabbit hole, I found myself going nuts on Keep, a Pinterest-like site that lets you corral items that you’d like to purchase, say, for your home, your office, or, perhaps, yourself. Somehow it’s more visually appealing, clean, and organized than Pinterest to me (though of course I still love to pin fun, pretty things!) so I’m enjoying playing around on it, pretending like I have many more rooms in our home to decorate…

Image via Coco Lapine Design