Thursday, October 31, 2013

{raspberry gouda grilled cheese}

When shopping around for what cheese/toppings combo I wanted to use for my own sandwich at our grilled cheese party, I happened across pesto gouda combo cheese at Trader Joe's.  I figured the bright green color would make for a fun looking grilled cheese (and by fun I mean that it would resemble green eggs & ham).  I also picked up some raspberries to toss in to try making it more of a sweet grilled cheese.  People questioned these choices, but I love how this sandwich turned out- especially the tart flavor from the berries.  If you can't find pesto gouda you could always use regular gouda and add in a couple tablespoons of regular pesto.

Check out some other interesting grilled cheese flavor combos at the bottom of this post!

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

{party inspiration: a grilled cheese soiree}

You might have seen on Instagram that last Sunday night we hosted a little grilled cheese soiree at our place and it might just be my new favorite party theme.  We purchased a bunch of bread and butter then asked guests to B.Y.O.C. - bring their own cheese and desired toppings.  Of course there ended up being a little friendly competition among guests to make the best grilled cheese combination- some of the front runners included jalapeƱo pesto pear with gruyere, baked beans with cheddar, and a surprising combo of american singles with hot dogs!  This is such an easy inexpensive last minute party idea that requires minimal set up and it gets guests involved!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

{appetizer essentials}

No dinner party is complete without a great spread of appetizers to get everything going (and cocktails- let's never forget those.)  While I love to try out interesting dishes and greet guests with something truly special (like this or this), many times I would rather spend the time focusing on helping Chris cook or getting our place "party-ready".  In those cases I rely on a tried and true spread of appetizers including a mixture of unique flavored nuts (Trader Joe's has an extensive selection), gourmet olives, a few different cheeses and crackers or bread.  I also love to add a few interesting spreads like the seasonal fig butter from Trader Joe's and artisanal honey alongside the cheese to give guests the option of getting creative with their cheese assembly!  If we are having a bigger group of guests or I anticipate the meal needing more prep time after guests arrive I will add in a tray of charcuterie to make the spread a little more full/filling.

As I have mentioned before, I try to only buy white dinnerware and clear glassware, but with serving pieces I'm willing to branch out a little bit.  One of my favorite materials for appetizer pieces is acacia wood- it has a deep rich color to it and based on my experience it holds up really well to heavy use as well as a variety of foods.  I already have a couple acacia pieces like the paddle ones pictured above from our wedding registry and this vintage one from a recent Palm Springs trip.

Target just released a line up of acacia and other wood serving pieces right in time for the holiday season so I scooped up this olive tray and this bread bowl.  Both pieces are pretty singular in their uses.  Chris would call them "uni-taskers" and he usually won't allow them in our house- I have been unsuccessfully trying to bring this avocado slicer into our lives for years among other silly kitchen gadgets.  Regardless of their singular nature, theese new acacia pieces are something we have desperately needed for our entertaining line-up- especially the bread tray because up until now I have been using random salad bowls to serve sliced bread in!

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Target via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of  the opinions or positions of Target.

Monday, October 28, 2013

{new office rug + layout}

A few months back I bought these lamps for my office, but they didn't quite fit underneath the shelves in the previous layout.  I loved these lamps so much that rather than return them and find something a few inches shorter, I decided to re-arrange the office to make it work.  You can see the original layout here.  I actually like this layout much better especially since my desk now looks out the window, but the room still didn't feel "finished" yet.

RugsUSA offered to send me any rug of my choice and this completely solved the uncompleted feeling I was experiencing with this room.  It's crazy how much a rug can pull together a room in an instant.  After agonizing over which rug to choose, (see those options in this post) I went with the safe bet on a trellis pattern in creme and deep navy.  This rug is 100% wool so it has a plush feel to it, but it's not too fussy to be inappropriate for the office.  I also figured that if we ever move to another place without a 2nd bedroom then this rug will easily fit it with our decor in other areas of our place (navy has clearly become one of my favorite colors to decorate with after all).

Right now RugsUSA is offering 65% most off their rugs so you can scoop this guy up for less than $200!

{vintage milk glass and frame from Target} 

 {acrylic note cube from The Container Store & Russell + Hazel tape dispenser}

Friday, October 25, 2013

{what i loved this week}

on pinterest:  It's a swan faucet- enough said.   One of my favorite parts about pinterest is discovering interesting dishes like this one for chili tofu with mint pomegranate relish!

on instagram:  Love the mix of florals & stripes on this invite.  I am totally stealing this hilarious way to address envelopes.  If you are looking for a last minute costume for the weekend this flamingo would be perfect- some pink tights, pink boas and a flamingo head hat!

on the blogs:  The most recent Ikea hack from Little Green Notebook is blowing. my. mind. I am seriously obsessed with the transformation she created for her closet using Ikea Pax units.

on the internets:  The new Kelly Wearstler collection for Paperless Post is pretty great- I especially love this one for a casual cocktail get together.

on my wishlist:  I am obsessed with this monogrammed LV Neverfull tote- although I know I would agonize for weeks over what color to choose.  Clearly custom monogrammed leather goods are on my mind lately- especially these simple key fobs which would make for a great gift this holiday season!  Solid brass coasters from Poketo would be a wonderful addition to your bar cart.  While I don't usually like leopard print, I do think this simple shift would be great for fall with tights and boots.

{friday cocktail: the fog cutter}

Well temperatures hit less than 40 degrees on more than few days this week in Chicago and that just doesn't really work for me. At all.  So we tried to drink the weather away with a tropical tiki cocktail recipe complete with pink paper umbrella garnish.  The high temperature this weekend is going to be in the 50s so I think it worked...

Most tiki cocktails are pretty sweet, but this one is a big exception to that.  It still delivers on tiki flavor from the orgeat syrup (famously used in a Mai Tai) and the mixture of brandy/rum, but it doesn't give you a sugar headache after.  


Wednesday, October 23, 2013

{pumpkin ravioli with crispy sage & brussel sprouts}

I have owned up to it in the past, but Chris definitely handles waaaay more of the cooking around here than I do (but I do think I am valuable support staff!).  When I'm left on my own for dinner, I generally opt for some sort of ready made meal like Trader Joe's salads or sandwiches- which is fine, but let's be honest it just not that exciting.

I decided to try out elevating a some pre-made Trader Joes pumpkin ravioli and brussel sprouts with a few simple cooking steps (something even I could handle).  In addition to the pack of pumpkin ravioli and brussel sprouts, I picked up a pack of fresh sage and saved some of the pepitas from these arrangements.  Rather than boring ravioli and steamed veggies, I created pan-fried pumpkin ravioli topped with crispy sage and roasted pepitas alongside pan-fried brussel sprouts (full explanation at the bottom of the post).

This dish serves two, but could easily be doubled or tripled to use for a dinner party which means you have no excuse to not host a few friends over this holiday season!

what you need:

  • 1 pack pumpkin ravioli
  • 1 pack par-boiled and seasoned brussel sprouts
  • fresh sage leaves
  • roasted pepitas
  • butter
  • vegetable oil
  1. Pull off about two to three sage leaves per person and quickly fry in oil following these directions. Set aside on paper towel to drain excess oil. 
  2. Boil water in medium saucepan and cook ravioli for about 6 minutes. Strain and set aside. 
  3. While ravioli water is boiling, place a healthy tablespoon of butter into a pan on medium-high heat. Toss in brussel sprouts until they get slightly browned on each side- about 8 minutes. Set aside. 
  4. In a separate pan, place another tablespoon of butter of medium-high heat. Gently toss in pasta until slightly crispy on edges- about 2 minutes. 
  5. Place pasta and brussel sprouts alongside each other on plate.  Garnish with crispy sage and roasted pepitas.
  6. Never eat a boring salad for dinner again.  

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

{autumn color palette & tablescape}

To go along with the floral arrangement I posted about yesterday, I created this table-scape inspired by a deeper autumn color palette.  I started with a kraft paper runner (the same roll from our wedding is still going strong!) layered with another smaller wrapping paper printed with a modern black trellis design.  The table decor was simply the three floral arrangements which brought in the autumn color palette of oranges, oxbloods, and greens.

It is pretty rare that I don't use our gold chargers in place settings (I really need to invest in one more set of chargers, but I just love the gold ones so much that it's hard to break away).  I then layered each setting with a mix of our white dinner plates and black salad plates.  While my general policy is to buy everything in white so that it all works together no matter what, I found a set of these dark glossy black salad plates at a thrift store a while back and figured they wouldn't hurt to have around especially for Halloween!  I rounded everything out with gold flatware and a simple black/ white striped napkin plus a pop of color from the vintage green glass water cups.

And get the look for yourself (bonus points since almost all of these things are from Target!!):

Disclosure: Compensation was provided by Target via Glam Media. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Target.

Monday, October 21, 2013

{fall inspired florals}

On a recent trip to Whole Foods, I could not help myself, but to pick up all these amazing dark fall florals.  Our local Whole Foods usually gets some pretty boring selections in the flower department so when I spotted these lotus pods, hypernicum berry and thistle (all on sale!) I just knew I had to put something together!  I threw in a bunch of deep pink spray roses to give it a little femininity and pop of color.

I know it's been all over pinterest, but the first person I saw make an arrangement in a hollowed out pumpkin was my mother when I was in grade school and I remember thinking at the time that it was just about the coolest thing I had ever seen.  I picked up three of these "pie" pumpkins also from Whole foods, hollowed them out and then popped a small glass vase in each one.  I am sure you could skip the vase part, but I was concerned the pumpkins would get super soggy within a day- these ones are still going strong about 4 days later.

Be sure to check back tomorrow to see the full tablescape that went along with these arrangements!

Friday, October 18, 2013

{what i loved this week}

on pinterest:  Pumpkin ice bucket- totally genius, but I wonder if it gets gross inside?  We will be hosting Thanksgiving in Chicago for 11 people and I have become obsessed with the idea of finding a bunch of vintage candlesticks for the tablescape.

on instagram: I generally prefer to keep our liquor in their original bottles (with the exception of this), but every time I see a display of crystal cut decanters it makes me re-think the whole bar situation.  All the photos from the Martha Stewart Weddings party this past week were amazing, but I especially loved this idea to use a star cut out on appetizers.  Swan art - disregarding the fact that we already have this massive piece of swan art I think we need more swans adorning our place!

on the blogs:  I am a huge fan of simple ways to dress up store bought food- especially these quick ways to fancy up a store bought cake.  I love this new-to-me blog, The Love List, especially her music playlists and snarky writing style. 

on my wishlist:  A fall appropriate floral dress? yep I need it.   Loren Hope makes some real good stuff in the earring department- love these vintage inspired baubles.  Another dark floral, but this time its an adorable lingerie set from Anthropologie.  

{friday cocktail: the dry dock}

We own a scary amount of bitters, but even with the wide variety available us, I tend to gravitate towards a select few on a regular basis.  I decided to give one of the the lesser loved bottles some attention with this friday's cocktail by searching around for a recipe to utilize the Scrappy's Cardamom bitters.  The spice infused bitters just seemed so perfect for the gloomy Fall weather we have been experiencing lately in Chicago.

The best recipe for unique bitters and liqueurs generally come straight from the source so I went directly to Scrappy's website in search of a recipe they personally recommend for their bitters.  The Dry Dock fit the bill perfectly since I had all the ingredients on hand and it included lavender simple syrup which is basically a direct route to my cocktail heart.  This recipe reminds me of a more sour version of a lavender collins and even though you are only adding a few dashes of cardamon bitters, they really make this drink by adding an interesting spice to the overall flavor.