Elevated black

Inspiration for the new week!

elevated LBD

Black is undoubtedly a color I gravitate to in dressing.  It’s slimming, sleek and classic and you pretty much can’t go wrong with a little black dress. However, the color can also feel stale and boring, especially if you wear a lot of it or if what you’re wearing lacks any punch.  That’s not to say that simple black equals boring, which is exactly what I discovered with this Zara dress.  I stumbled upon this dress back in the winter and was immediately drawn to its simplicity and elegance and knew it would serve so many purposes in my closet.  Recently it was the perfect wedding guest outfit to some friends’ summer wedding, but it will work just as well for a honeymoon dinner and a night out on the town for a bachelorette party, both of which I plan on doing in it.  This dress reiterates the power of an LBD with an unexpected detail.

Fashion note: I’m wearing a Zara dress (similar here) and J Crew jewelry.

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WEEKLY WRAP UP/WEEKEND COUNTDOWN

What got me through the week and what I’m looking forward to this weekend!

beach
Enjoying the end of summer with a picnic at the beach and some rose of course!

I’ve been delinquent about updating my weekly wrap up and weekend countdowns so I’m getting back on track this week.  In my defense, there’s been a lot going on, with my upcoming wedding getting closer and an almost week-long visit from my parents last week.  This weekend, although I’d like to say I’m laying low, I’ll be keeping busy with a taco fest, birthday party, experimenting in the kitchen and watching the Emmy’s.  Will you get curious and try something new this weekend?

  1. Fashion Week: It’s that time of year again, when the most glamorous faces of the fashion world come together in New York to sneak a peek at the latest visions of the design world.  What happens at the shows this week shapes the trends most of us we’ll be taking part in, whether willingly or not, in the upcoming year.  So far, it seems like we could be in store for some preppy with a side of 70s flair.  For front row updates with a dose of wit and humor, Eva Chen is one of my favorite people to follow on Instagram.
  2. Anthropologie cheese board: I’ve confessed my love for dairy and especially cheese many times before.  Despite trying to maintain an otherwise healthy diet, cheese is definitely a kryptonite of mine and I can’t deny a weekend cheese spread, especially now that my fiance and I were gifted this beautiful cheese board from Anthropologie.  It’s durable and unique and is a great piece to put out when entertaining.
  3. Emmy Awards: Although nothing compares to the glory of the Oscars, I’m a fan of all the traditional awards shows, but most occur in the winter.  The silver lining? The Emmy awards, which celebrate the best of TV and always occur in September.  The awards show goes down this Sunday and is hosted by Stephen Colbert so it’s sure to be entertaining.  Check out the complete list of nominees to see if your favorites are in the running.  I’m rooting for Westworld, Big, Little Lies and Stranger Things.
  4. Challah bread: Although I’m not Jewish, I do appreciate the cuisine of the Middle East and especially some traditional Jewish dishes.  When I lived in New York, I was invited on a few occasions to attend some friends’ holiday celebrations and discovered just how tasty these meals can be, especially for Rosh Hashanah which occurs next week.  In honor of the holiday, I’ve decided to try my hand at making challah bread.  I’ve been intimidated by the bread-making process for a while, but have finally decided to give it a try with this recipe.  I’ll check back in with the results…if they’re positive.  

 

Images two and three via here and here.

Date night in Venice- Part 2

Delicious recipes for the curious cook!

focaccia

For the latest installment of the “date night in Venice” series, I’m highlighting one of the favorite dishes made in our Venetian nights cooking class: focaccia with herbs and olives.  First, let me clarify that I don’t like baking with dough.  I don’t love baking in general as much as I love cooking because it requires such precision and attention to detail, which I’ve learned the hard way can’t be forgone.  But I really don’t love baking with dough for a number of other reasons.  Cooking with yeast has often freaked me out and intimidated me, I’m not that patient so I don’t like waiting for the dough to rise and I just have never been able to get it right.  

Boy did this class prove me wrong and I’m so glad it did because I truly loved this flavorful dish.  The yeast was not as intimidating as I thought and thanks to the wonderful chefs guiding the class, it was helpful to understand the science behind working with it (the key is to buy packs of yeast, keep it in your freezer or fridge and when using, wait for it to take on a scum-like appearance before proceeding).  Plus, once the yeast is added and the dough is made, there’s little left to the dish so it’s easy to prepare other parts of your meal while you wait for the dough to do it’s thing, which is what we did in class.  The simple but powerful flavor combo of herbs and olives was light and tasty and the perfect addition to any Italian meal.

If you’ve been curious about working with dough but are intimidated, I highly recommend you give this a try!

 

Focaccia with Olives and Herbs

Yield: 4-6 servings as an appetizer or side

Active time: 25 minutes

Start to finish: 1 hour, 30 minutes

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Focaccia Dough (recipe follows)

1/2 cup assorted pitted Italian olives, halved

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 1/2 teaspoons fresh oregano, rough chopped

Maldon sea salt to taste

 

  1. Rub a quarter sheet tray, including the sides, generously with about 1 tablespoon of the olive oil.
  1. Punch down the focaccia dough gently to deflate. Transfer the dough to the sheet tray. Use your fingertips to stretch the dough until it is an even thickness of about 1/4 inch. (It may not stretch all the way to the edges of the pan.)
  1. Gently press the olives, rosemary and oregano into the dough. Cover it with plastic wrap, and allow to rise about 20 to 30 minutes at room temperature.
  1. Preheat the oven to 400°.
  2. Remove the plastic, and dimple the dough all over with your fingertips. Drizzle the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil over the focaccia, and sprinkle with salt. Bake until light golden brown, about 25 minutes.
  1. Allow to cool, and then cut into squares to serve.

 

Focaccia Dough

Yield: One quarter sheet tray

Active time: 15 minutes

Start to finish: 1 hour, 15 minutes

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

1 1/4 cups water, 110o to 120o

Pinch of granulated sugar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 1/3 cups bread flour

1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon fine sea salt

  1. Sprinkle the yeast on top of water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the sugar, and stir gently until dissolved.
  1. Allow to proof until slightly foamy and aromatic to ensure the yeast is alive, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add oil, half of each flour and salt. Mix on medium-low speed with a dough hook until incorporated, scraping down the sides as necessary.
  1. Add most of the remaining flour, and knead on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, 5 to 6 minutes. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in flour as needed. It’s better to have a dough that’s a bit too wet than dry.
  1. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, knead a few turns by hand, and then shape into a ball.
  1. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap on top of the bowl, not touching the dough.
  1. Let the dough rise at room temperature until doubled, 60 to 75 minutes, or in the refrigerator overnight.

Recipe courtesy of The Chopping Block.

My favorite sports bras

Motivation to get you through hump day!

Sports bra

It might seem insignificant but a sports bra can greatly affect your workout.  If it doesn’t fit or support right, you can end up focusing more on the nuisance than your workout or worse, you can be tempted to stop your exercise short just to run home and take it off! I once owned a well-known athletic brand’s sports bra that fit so poorly it nearly cut off the circulation under my arms and it was all I could do to finish my workout.  From then on, I made sure I tried on sports bras before buying to ensure the fit was comfortable and supportive. The good news is I’ve discovered some great options along the way, including some very affordable ones! See below for some of my favorites.

  1. C9 Champion sports bra: this brand’s Target collection offers some stylish and affordable options, including some of my favorite sports bras.
  2. Free To Be Zen bra: this Lululemon bra runs small, but it offers great support.  The back straps also make for a stylish detail that looks great peeking out of any top.
  3. Athena Crop: I’ve written about my love of Outdoor Voices activewear before, so it’s no surprise they make the list again.  Technically, this is a crop top but it also doubles as a bra or can be worn in place of a sports bra, which is a win-win.  The cut is flattering, the technical fabric survives even the sweatiest of workouts and it comes in a variety of colors, making it a great option for so many workout outfits.

Feeling curious? Try one out for your next workout!

Image via.

Urban Farmer

Inspiration for the new week!

UF4

I have something to admit: I have no green thumb.  It’s something that has haunted me, especially since my parents are both very talented with growing both plants and produce, and even more so as I’ve gotten into the idea of growing things on my own as an adult.  Growing anything of substance can be challenging in a city, unless you’re one of the lucky few with a hidden urban oasis, but I’m fortunate enough to have a little room to house a few plants.  I’ve been experimenting with a few plants, including some succulents and a basil plant, and have tried to be diligent with their care, although I’m not consistent.   Still, I enjoy the habit of maintaining them and have been pleasantly surprised whenever I see them continue to grow.  And even though I’m far from a farmer of any kind, I do enjoy dressing the part with a large sunhat while I lounge in my greenhouse (aka my deck).
P.S. The basil plant has survived long enough to contribute to a number of dishes, including a tasty pesto and a spin on a classic caprese salad. Posts and recipes to follow!

Fashion note: I’m wearing Gap jeans, an Anthropologie hat (similar here) and J.Crew sandals (similar here).

WEEKLY WRAP UP/WEEKEND COUNTDOWN

What got me through the week and what I’m looking forward to this weekend!

Lake
Searching for sharks

It’s hard to believe the summer is winding down, but it’s not over yet.  The last few weeks have been busy and this weekend is no exception, with the wedding of two close friends taking place.  I’m looking forward to the mini-road trip we’ll be taking for the wedding and to making the most of the last few weeks of summer.

  1. Film concert series: I’m not one to visit the symphony often, but the Chicago Symphony Orchestra has an on-going series which piqued my interest.  Their film concert series pairs a classic movie with a live orchestra. The featured films are ones with memorable scores and are screened in entirety while the score is played by the orchestra.  For my birthday, my fiance gave me tickets to the Jaws screening, which was such a fun experience I can’t wait to go back for another show.
  2. Summer crudite platter: The summer produce is bountiful this time of year, making a perfect opportunity for a crudite platter.  The brightness of the vegetables makes for a beautiful dish, plus it’s a healthy spin on an appetizer.  Follow this recipe to make it for your next cookout!
  3. Prince Street Podcast: I’ve been getting into podcasts for my commute, while I write and sometimes when  I workout.  There are so many options out there, it’s hard to sift through and find ones that are well made and meet your interests.  I discovered the Prince Street Podcast accidentally and I’m so glad I did! It features culinary experts from various backgrounds interviewing other hot-shots in the food world. Do not listen while hungry!
  4. Princess Diana documentary: With the upcoming anniversary of her death, there are a lot of documentaries and specials airing.  I was pleasantly surprised by the ABC documentary, which was well-detailed and featured little known details as well as interviews from some of those closest to Diana.  It’s worth the watch.

Date night in Venice- Part 1

Delicious recipes for the curious cook!

Venetian meatballs

For a very long time, my fiance and I wanted to take a cooking class to learn more techniques, further our skills in the kitchen and just indulge in some really good quality food.  We finally had the chance last month when I surprised him with cooking classes at a local cooking school.  Thanks to a happy accident, the class we originally registered for was cancelled and we were able to join a Venetian Nights themed cooking class, and we were so happy we did!

I’m a firm believer of the thought that you can always know more and that was proven true during this class. I realized I’ve been slicing onions and garlic incorrectly for my entire life, learned some insider tips regarding dessert ingredients and what to use to form the best shaped meatballs.  At the end of the night, our bellies were full and satisfied thanks to a wonderful, entirely hands-on cooked-by-us meal of Venetian favorites.  

I’ll be sharing one recipe from the class each week.  First up are meatballs in a pancetta tomato sauce.  Trust me, they’re good.  So good, in fact, that I temporarily broke from my no red-meat rule to try them and I didn’t regret it one bit.  

MEATBALLS WITH PANCETTA TOMATO SAUCE

Yield: About 2 dozen meatballs
Active time: 30 minutes
Start to finish: 45 minutes

For the meatballs:
1/2 pound ground chuck
1/2 pound ground pork
1 egg, well beaten
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, rough chopped
1/3 cup ricotta cheese
1/4 cup parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/4 pound pancetta, small dice
1/2 onion, medium dice
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup red wine
One 28-ounce can crushed San Marzano tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
2 tablespoons fresh basil, leaves torn
Salt and pepper to taste
Pinch of granulated sugar, if desired


  1. Preheat the oven to 375° and line a sheet tray with parchment paper.
    2. In a medium-size bowl, gently mix together the ground meat, egg, breadcrumbs, oregano, chili
    flakes, parsley, ricotta, parmesan cheese, salt and pepper. Form the mixture into 1-inch
    meatballs, and set them on the prepared tray.
    3. Bake the meatballs until slightly firm and browned on the bottoms, about 15 minutes.
    4. While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce. Heat a wide, heavy pan over medium-low
    heat, and add the olive oil. Gently sauté the pancetta until just crispy.
    5. Stir in the onion and sauté until lightly caramelized around the edges, 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the
    garlic and cook an additional minute, or until aromatic.
    6. Deglaze the pan with the red wine, and reduce until almost dry.

 

Recipe courtesy of The Chopping Block.