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Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Bourbon-Marinated Pork Tenderloin

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Since my brother has been living here this summer, we've started a tradition: Sunday night movie night. My sister, my brother, and my sister's fiance come over for dinner which is followed by a movie. It's a nice way to close out the weekend and an attempt to squash the Sunday night blues. So far it's been working and so I'm hoping this is a tradition we keep up even after Quinn leaves us for the summer (in one week. Sad.).

Monday, July 30, 2012

Zucchini Quiche

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I'm cutting myself some slack lately. In an ideal world, I would never buy beans in cans, opting instead to start with dried beans. Any ice cream in our house would be homemade. I'd try things like infusing olive oil with herbs and vodka with fruit. At this point in life, however, that ideal world just isn't realistic. I can't do all of those things and work a full time job, manage this blog, finish up my Master's degree, and spend time with friends and family. The overachiever in me wants to do it all, but I'm learning to take shortcuts, and to take them guilt-free.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Chewy Chocolate Peanut Butter Butterscotch Cookies

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The month of June, our house was operating more like a hotel than a home. Ryan counted and we think we had eight or nine different adults sleeping at our house over the course of seven days! It was a crazy few weeks, but we honestly love having company. We purposely bought a house with enough bedrooms to host our family and friends as much as possible, and the house feels so much more fun when it's full of our favorite people!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

2012: Eat and Repeat Half & Half

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Half & Half has been on my radar to try, long before it was recognized as one of the Twenty Five Best New Restaurants in St. Louis and consequently eligible for my 2012: Eat and Repeat challenge. However, we'd heard stories about long waits on weekends and sneaking away for breakfast or brunch during the week just isn't possible. We finally stopped by a few Sundays ago after church, determined to wait it out no matter how long it took! Though our wait was quoted at 40 minutes, we found ourselves seated within 15...a pleasant surprised. The first seats available were at the bar, but we snatched those up, having heard service at the bar is typically better than at a regular table anyway.
Sitting at the bar made me a little too self-conscious to pull out my DSRL, which is why all pictures in this post are via my iPhone. The place was packed and I decided not to be the obnoxious girl snapping photos throughout the meal!

Half & Half is known for their fancy coffees and brewing methods, but I'm not knowledgeable enough to explain what or why. Ryan opted for an iced coffee since it was so hot out, but wished he could've tried one of the pour-over speciality coffees. The iced coffee was on the sweeter side, with no shortage of half & half (no pun intended!). We mulled over the menu and as tempted as I was to order the giant burger that the guy seating near us at the bar was chowing down on, we'd come to try their breakfast foods.
The menu has a little bit of everything on the spectrum of classic (eggs and potatoes) to indulgent (fried chicken livers), savory to sweet (mango pancakes, one of the specials the day we were there!). We decided to split the much raved about Clara Cakes [pancakes with raspberries, mascarpone, and granola] and the Veggie Hash [brussels sprouts, spinach, potatoes, and onions with 2 eggs and toast].

Considering how busy it was (there was a steady stream of people in and out and waiting the entire time we were there), service was much better than we expected, especially after seeing some negative reviews about the service. We were never without water, a good thing considering how hot it was in there (which I attribute partially to the 107 degree temps outside!), and hardly had to wait for our food.
Had we had to wait longer for the food to arrive, it would've been worth it. Oh, the food!!! We started in on the Clara Cakes, which felt like we were being naughty and eating dessert first. Not normally a fan of thick pancakes, I couldn't get enough of their tender, fluffy cakes. I would LOVE that pancake recipe! The berries, mascarpone, and granola were all added in generous portions and put these pancakes over the top.
The veggie hash also won us over. It was definitely on the greasier side, but not overly so. Why have I never thought of adding brussels sprouts to hash before? Brilliant! The eggs were cooked just as we liked them, with plenty of runny yolk to drown the vegetables in.
Prices are a little higher than a typical breakfast joint (especially for the coffee!), but this isn't your average breakfast. The atmosphere is undoubtedly hipster--I felt like we were in Nashville, TN or Wicker Park, IL--but although the decor and the servers and the pretentious coffee might be hipster, you definitely don't have to be a hipster to enjoy this spot! We'll definitely be back again and again...and in the meantime you can bet I'll be creating one (if not both) of these recipes next month for the second half of the challenge!

One Year Ago: Blueberry Polenta Muffin Tops
Two Years Ago: Minty Cabbage Salad

Half & Half on Urbanspoon

Friday, July 27, 2012

Grapefruit Campari Sorbet

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This is a lot lighter than most of the ice creams I make. Butter Pecan, Banana Pudding, and Cake Batter all tend to fall on the opposite end of the spectrum. However, when my friend Mike asked if we could make this Grapefruit Campari Sorbet, I couldn't resist. For one, I don't turn down special requests. And two, I didn't have to do any work---except provide my ice cream maker! We churned this one night while making dinner at Mike and Maggie's house and then stuck it in the freezer until we were ready for dessert.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

White Gazpacho

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We eat a ton of soup in the winter. It's one of the (only) redeeming qualities of winter. I might be miserable 95% of the time, but at least I can look forward to steaming bowls of soup served with lots of bread for dipping. From about April to October, though, soup is totally off of my radar. That is, until we enjoyed dinner at our friends Jon and Michelle's a few weeks ago, and they introduced us to this White Gazpacho.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Marinated Kale and Green Bean Salad

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On the rare occasion that I get my nails done, I love to take advantage of the stacks of magazines sitting there. I use the 30 minutes during my pedicure to flip through as many trashy magazines as possible. On my most recent trip to the nail salon, I was pleasantly surprised to see the July issue of Bon Appetit, one of the few food magazines I don't subscribe to. Us Weekly was quickly tossed aside. When I flipped to the page featuring Marinated Kale and Green Bean Salad, I knew I had to make this recipe, and soon. You're not going to judge me when I admit I ripped the recipe out of the magazine, are you? Does it help that I gave an extra big tip? It turns out, kale makes me do crazy things!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Frozen Peanut Butter, Chocolate, and Banana Loaf

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This recipe is the perfect example of why I am an incessant list maker. I'm constantly juggling a lot of different thought processes--one regarding work, one regarding the blog, one regarding our schedule for the week, one regarding stuff around the house...you get the idea--and the best way to keep it all straight is to keep lists. My desk at work is covered in post-it notes where I make lists. My purse has a few different notebooks full of lists for various things. Even if I don't refer back to my list, once I write it down, I commit it to memory.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Savory Cornmeal and Chive Waffles with Salsa and Eggs

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The first time I was introduced to chicken and waffles, I kind shuddered at the thought. Fried chicken? With waffles, one of my favorite breakfast delicacies? NO thank you! I haven't yet tried chicken and waffles, but the idea of it no longer grosses me out. Since then I've tried enough weird combinations to know that you can't judge a food until you taste it. Chicken and waffles, I'm coming for you one of these days! In the meantime, I tried another take on savory waffles. This one from my girl crush, Joy the Baker.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Ginger Bars

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I have a fond appreciation for ginger. I’ve learned to love bourbon thanks to a little mixer known as ginger beer and I’ve started storing fresh ginger in the freezer so that I always have it on hand to add to recipes. When I saw the recipe for ginger bars from Women’s Day magazine on A Full Measure of Happiness, I immediately bookmarked them. As expected, these packed quite a ginger bunch, thanks to a hefty dose of both ground and candied ginger. 

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Banana Nut Granola Bars with Dried Cranberries

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Bananas are one fruit that I consistently buy year-round at the grocery store. It's habit. As I make my way through the produce section, I always throw a bunch of bananas in my cart, no matter how many other fruits have already found their way in there. In the summer, we go a little crazy with the produce buying, and the poor bananas tend to sit on the counter, neglected in favor of strawberries, blueberries, and my personal favorite (obsession): watermelon. Needless to say, I've been building up quite a stash of ripe bananas in my freezer!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Asian Turkey Lettuce Wraps

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Does anyone remember the book The Five Love Languages? If I recall correctly, the love languages are words of affirmation, acts of service, quality time, physical touch, and receiving gifts. There's a test you can take to determine what your love languages are, both in terms of giving and receiving. I'd like to argue that there's a sixth love language, all having to do with making food for others. That, my friends, is undoubtedly my love language. There are few greater joys that making food for others to enjoy, and lately I find it's how I best show my care and affection for those I love.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Corn, Avocado, and Tomato Salad with Honey Lime Vinaigrette

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About a month ago, my office was infested with mice. I kid you not, infested. Thankfully I didn't come face to face with any of the creatures, but they left their evidence inside just about every desk on our floor! Needless to say, it was a rather, err, exciting day at work when this discovery was made. Stuck on a telecon as my coworkers scurried around me inspecting one another's desks, I silently shuddered in horror. The longer the shrieks went on, the more I lost my appetite.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

S'mores Cookie Bites

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The great thing about baking is that most recipes yield enough to feed a crowd. The terrible thing about baking is that most recipes yield enough to feed a crowd.

Thing is, I love to bake. I love to bake often. Some baked goods last mere days before they're completely gobbled up, giving me an excuse to bake something new. Other times, I find myself pawning baked goods off on people so that I have an excuse to bake something new. When my sister mentioned her 4th of July potluck at work (nurses don't always get holidays off!), I jumped at the chance to bake something for her.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

White Pesto Pizza with Tomatoes & Basil

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What happens when you send three boys (husband Ryan, brother Quinn, and [almost] brother-in-law Nate) to the grocery store to pick up chicken sausage, green onions, and tomato sauce? They come home with chicken sausage, a green pepper, and tomato paste. One for three, at least, right? My sister Julia and I could only laugh when we unpacked the contents of the Trader Joe's bag.

Monday, July 16, 2012

Grilled Asparagus Salad

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When I was in 7th grade, there was a kid, Matt, in my youth group. Problem was, I called him Mike for a good three or four weeks before he finally corrected me. Whoops. Now, more than ten years later, I think I'm finally getting the payback I deserve. At least once every couple of weeks, I get an email sent to me and addressed "Laura" or "Lauren". A far cry from Natalie! At least Matt and Mike started with the same letter! It seems people pull the "Laur" from McLaury and derive a new first name from it. I guess it could be worse, huh?, but I still shake my head every time I see "Dear Laura" at the beginning of an email.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

No Bake Desserts for Summer

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Yesterday was all about no-bake meals, but we can't forget about the desserts either! I'm the weirdo that doesn't mind turning on my oven and sweating in my kitchen for the sake of baked goods, but I'm guessing you're looking for some oven-free desserts to satisfy your sweet tooth when the temperatures are soaring! Here are a few of my favorites...
S'Mores Ice Cream Pie (does require 2 min under the broiler-WORTH IT)

Do you have a favorite no-bake dessert? Leave a link in the comments so we can all get some new ideas!

Saturday, July 14, 2012

No Bake Meals for Summer

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When you're dealing with 100+ degree temperatures for day after day after day, as we recently did, the desire to cook seems to die...alongside our grass! There's only so many nights that I can stand giant bowls of popcorn or smoothies for dinner, though, which is why I've been returning to some of my favorite no-bake meals. They don't require an oven and they come together quickly, leaving plenty of time for sitting in front of the fan!
 Greek Salad with Chicken (Pick up a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store!)

You can stay cool and eat well! Good luck :)