Life in Pictures

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A new furniture rehab project making it debut in the near future!

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A Cupcake ATM in my neighborhood you say? Check out the sprinkles by you for this awesome creation.

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A view of the harbor from the south-shore on a typically windy Chicago day.

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A quick canoe pitstop for a glass of smuggled white wine.

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Candyality Chicago style truffles – so cute!

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Quite possibly the biggest tree I’ve ever seen….and quite possibly the only plaid shirt I own.

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Stuffed shells with ground turkey, sun dried tomatoes and parmesan cheese, topped with a white wine and lemon cream sauce.

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A long hike on a warm fall day – yes, that is a murse I’m wearing.

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A beautiful bridge at sunset.

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Our chilly (I can’t believe it just snowed in early- [okay fine, mid-] November) skyline.

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Ode to SmittenKitchen – Potato Pizza

I’ve been curious about potato pizza for a while. I mean, it’s made up of a few ingredients that are independently delicious, so how could the resulting combination not be exponentially tasty? As it turns out, it was. One chilly Chicago night, I lugged home my sack of potatoes like, well, a sack of potatoes and got to work on the creation.

Now if you’ve read this blog, you know I adore basically all SmittenKitchen recipes, not only are they delicious and creative, but the simple instructions make even an amateur feel like they can tackle a hand-made pizza dough. You can! Who knew a light and hearty pizza crust could be attainable by these virgin crust-making hands? The end result was much as you would imagine, a warm, comforting pizza with soft potatoes and a hint of parmesan cheese.

 

 

 

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Jim Lahey’s Potato Pizza

From Smitten Kitchen

Makes two 8-inch pizzas or one 14-inch pizza

3 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon sugar
1 cup cold water
Olive oil, for bowl and pans
1 teaspoon instant dry yeast
2 potatoes, thinly sliced (about 2 cups) [I used Yukon Golds, and I believe this is what Lahey uses as well]
1/2 onion, diced into 1/4- to 1/2-inch pieces
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Fresh rosemary (optional)

1. Combine flour, 1/2 teaspoon salt, sugar, and yeast in the bowl of an electric mixer, and slowly add 1 cup cold water. Mix on low speed until ingredients begin to combine. Switch to a dough hook and continue to mix for about 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and elastic and cleanly pulls away from the sides of the mixing bowl.

2. Place dough in an oiled bowl, and allow to rest for 2 to 4 hours until it has doubled in size. Split the dough into halves, and form each into a log. Place each log on a generously floured surface, and allow it to rest until the formed dough doubles in size again, at least 1 hour.

3. While the dough rises for the second time, repare the potato topping. Slice potatoes very thin using a knife or a mandoline. Then soak them in several changes of ice water to remove excess starch and prevent discoloration. Drain slices in a colander, toss with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and set aside for 10 minutes. Drain any accumulated water. In a medium bowl, combine potatoes, onions, and 1 tablespoon olive oil, and set aside.

4. Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Prepare two rimmed baking sheets with vegetable oil. Divide dough in half. Place each piece on its own baking sheet. Using the palms of your hands, flatten dough out to the edges of the pan. Evenly spread potatoes over the surface of the dough up to the very edge, or about 1 inch from the edge if you desire a crust on your pizza. Season with remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil. Sprinkle with rosemary if using.

5. Bake potato pizza until it has shrunk away from the edges of a pan and the bottom is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, and allow to cool slightly; slice into pieces, and serve. Potato pizza is also delicious served at room temperature.

 

RPM Italian – The Look

Our RPM Italian dream has finally come true.  One warm September evening, Laura and I thought to ourselves, what could be the harm in just calling them to see when their next rezzie was? As it turns out, others had the same idea, because the next available weekend reservation was in November.  We snatched that bad boy up, marked our calendars and began the countdown.

With November creeping up, we eagerly looked forward to our hot date with mouths watering and menus favorite-d on google.  While I’d love to tell you about the delicious eats, I think it’s more important to tell you about the real event – what we wore!

Only kidding, I’m not crazy, we had the bolognese, I know who the star of this show is (food!).  But since Laura is out of town on business – and she holds the pics – the best we can do is give you a peek at the outfits.  Sorry to disappoint 🙂

 

L&A

Autumn Ankle Boots

To anyone giving a cursory glance towards my ankles lately (um, who isn’t?), it’s no secret I’m all about the ankle boot trend this season. I’m loving the shapes, sizes, cuts and colors – what’s that sound? Oh, riiiight, it’s my wallet groaning in agreement. Quiet down, you silly thing! We’re trying to look at boots here.

Autumn Ankle Boots

Ash biker boots
$490 – jades24.com

Lace up boots
boohoo.com

Military boots
$24 – desireclothing.co.uk

Military boots
ebay.co.uk

Biker boots
amazon.co.uk

Croque Monseiur with Pear

 

Pears and Basil

We had grand plans today – and failed horribly.  We’d been planning for months to attend a swanky scotch tasting where we would surely overcome our distaste for the amber liquid, and then it rained.  Now best intentions aside, a rainy, windy Wednesday morning will ruin almost any plan to dress in a cute outfit that will work from 7 am to 9 pm and haul your butt to the office on public transportation.  So we decided instead to stay in and watch the Presidential Debate like good little Americans.

Regardless of which candidate you plaster across your burn-out tee, we know you vote for cheese and bread.  You just do.  We certainly do, so we looked for seasonably appropriate recipes and found the holy grail of sandwiches.  A Croque Monseiur with sauteed pears

This food network recipe is a clear winner – it pairs a strong swiss cheese with honey ham and tart pears, and wraps the whole delightful bundle in egg-soaked bread scented with cinnamon.  Yes, cinnamon – trust a sister.  We paired it with a quick tomato basil soup that’s become a A/W staple in our house and had ourselves a nice little evening.

Ham and Swiss

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Croque Monseiur

Croque Monseiur with Pears

Croque Monsieur with Pear

  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 8 slices whole-wheat bread
  • 4 teaspoons light mayonnaise
  • 2 ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced (canned pears may also be used)
  • 8 ounces leftover ham slices
  • 4 ounces Swiss cheese (4 to 8 slices)
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup water

Directions

Coat a large griddle or skillet with cooking spray and preheat to medium heat.

Spread mustard on 4 slices of bread. Spread mayonnaise on remaining 4 slices of bread. Top mustard side of slices with pear slices, ham and cheese. Place second slice of bread (with the mayonnaise) over top, making a sandwich.

In a shallow dish, whisk together eggs, salt, cinnamon, baking powder and water. Dip sandwiches in egg mixture and turn to coat both sides. Place sandwiches on hot griddle and cook 3 to 5 minutes per side, until egg is cooked and cheese melts.

al

Chain O’Lakes State Park

The view from the back patio

This past weekend, we got our urban sherpa on. (This is Ali’s ingenious term for the plight of the automobile-free when attempting to leave the city or trek around the city without multiple trips home. Basically packing laptops, gym clothes, makeup, two changes of clothing, etc. in various bags: purses, totes and shopping bags and dragging said bags everywhere you go.) On Friday, we headed up to the burbs to celebrate our stepdad’s birthday. As always, it was a great time, but I think its safe to say the highlight of everyone’s weekend was the family canoeing trip.

Before we could get going, we had to make an emergency trip to DSW as our shoes were deemed “impractical.” We helpfully both brought home our respective pairs of leopard print shoes, so there was a family-assisted, fast and furious hunt for appropriate boating footwear. Mission accomplished in under 12 minutes; we are champs and the fam has great taste. And yes, we are aware that we are ridiculously lucky we are to have the kind of family that feeds us and houses us for the weekend and then buys us new shoes.

Chain O’Lakes State Park is about an hour and a half northwest of Chicago, and we really couldn’t have picked a better day for a drive. We admired our shoes and were there in no time flat. After a hike through the woods, some time acting like children on the swings, and a lunch of Ali’s amazing chicken salad and Asian apple pears, it was time to face the canoes.

Ali and I both love the water, but were less than thrilled at the perceived high probability of our canoe tipping and and flipping, fully clothed, into the muddy water. Luckily, my sister has an eagle eye and politely demanded a canoe roughly the width of a pontoon, so flipping turned out to be a non-issue.

She also turned out to be a pro navigator and the stronger paddler of the two of us, though I maintain my half-assed paddling was to take pictures. “ITS FOR THE BLOG!”

Our parents paddled along next to us and the four of us spent the next two hours canoeing up and down the banks of the river in total awe of how beautiful the scenery was, totally alone on the water with the exception of a crane and some elusive jumping fish. It was absolutely perfect in all respects: company, weather, and a new adventure, and a day I know I’ll always remember.

Ending the day with a dipped cone from Dairy Queen!

Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Bake


Sometimes, comfort food is just necessary. Particularly blustery, cold autumn Saturdays.

This was the happy result of some epic I-refuse-to-leave-my-apartment laziness, a strong desire for something cheesy and a recipe last week that called for a whopping four leaves of basil – leaving me with a ton left that I didn’t want to waste. (Why DO they sell basil and cilantro in such huge bunches anyway? Who can possibly eat that much basil if you’re not making pesto? And what on earth do you do with a pile of mountain of cilantro in any circumstance? I digress…)

After throwing some things together and eating two gigantic helpings, I officially declared the comfort food craving satisfied and fell into a carb-induced sleep.

Creamy Tomato Basil Pasta Bake

Creamy Basil Sauce:

  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 Tb olive oil
  • 3/4 C cream cheese (I used reduced fat)
  • 1/4 C milk
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Saute the basil and garlic in olive oil over low medium heat for a few minutes – this will flavor the olive oil and make the basil a little bit crispy!

Add in cream cheese, milk, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Stir or whisk vigorously until the sauce is totally combined and smooth.

Pasta Bake:

  • 1 C tomatoes, chopped
  • 3 C of your favorite pasta, cooked al dente
  • 1/2 C bread crumbs
  • Olive oil for drizzling

Spray an 8×8 baking dish with canola or olive oil to prevent sticking.

In a large bowl, mix together chopped tomatoes, cooked pasta and basil cream sauce from above recipe.

Add pasta mixture to prepared baking dish, then sprinkle bread crumbs over the top. Drizzle olive oil liberally over the top to make sure the crumbs get extra crunchy!

Bake for 30 minutes or until bread crumbs are a golden brown.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes (if you can) then serve and enjoy!


Life Lately

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sunrise over the lake // homemade chicken tortilla soup // teachers strike // super authentic in my new Guinness tee straight from Dublin

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date night outfit // “wig shop” at Untitled // Moscow Mule, fave drink ever

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Wrigley! // coffee in one hand, vino in the other // skyline and el tracks

Happy Friday

 

 

We made it! Happy Friday 🙂 Fall has officially arrived and we’ve decided to face the tragedy of summer’s end head-on by what else? Shopping for sweaters and boots!

Busy but fun weekends on the books for both of us and we’re looking forward to sharing a lot of great posts next week.

This week, we added new pages to the top of the blog to categorize all of our posts so they’re more easily accessible. So much fun to look back on our posts over the past year. What is it about fall that makes us want to be that much more productive?  Left over effects from our school days, most likely! Someone buy us new trapper keepers, please and thanks.

Some reads for your weekend:

 

Jessie, the Design Daredevil with David Bromstad behind the scenes on the White Room Challenge

  • We are BEYOND excited for our blogging buddy, the Design Daredevil.  Jessie will be tearing up HGTV tonight on the White Room Challenge! We already knew that she was gorgeous, talented and hilarious, but this story about her incredible passion for design and the struggles she has gone through to make her dreams happen really seals the deal – we are madly in love. Set your DVRs!
  • We’ll never admit how much time we spent this week watching Bad Lip Reading videos on YouTube, absolutely CRYING laughing. Whatever your political leanings are, these are hilarious. (Thanks, Shai!)
  • Martha Stewart’s Autumn Apple Recipe Guide has us drooling – but how to choose? Cheddar crusted apple pie? Apple butternut squash soup? Quinoa and apple salad with curry dressing? Yes please!
  • Orrrr if you’d prefer a cocktail, check out Huffington Posts’ Top 5 Autumn Apple Cocktails – cheers!
  • We loved this inspirational post over at Story of My Life on following your dreams and sticking with them.
  • We cannot go on without knowing at some point in our lives we can be a Chengdu Pambassador – we share this opportunity begrudgingly. Hug a panda, guys!

Have a great weekend!