Baked Pumpkin Doughnut Holes

I’m finally semi-settled into my new home in Portland.  It’s so incredibly different here, and every day is an adventure.  There’s so much I’m learning and getting used to, but I’m totally smitten with this place.  The brilliant colors of fall, the ocean (you can’t go practically anywhere without seeing water), the charm, the history, seagulls everywhere, friendly, laid-back people (Maine can seriously give Southern hospitality a run for its money), farmers markets, lots of local food, cool artsy spots, the gelato (oh my gosh, the gelato), so many coffee shops, lighthouses, the rocky coast, hardwood floors (for a girl from Florida, this is a huge deal), crazy weather (it changes on a dime, and I’ve never seen such a ridiculous amount of fog – this is due to the city being surrounded by so much water) aaaaand I could go on and on.  I basically feel like the luckiest person right now.

I’m always learning what’s popular up here – what’s super New England-y or what the “Maine” things are.  Doughnuts are a big deal.  I always knew Dunkin’ Donuts originated in New England, but not until I moved here did I realize the extent of it.  They’re pretty much everywhere, and the ones from Dunkin’ are bigger and way tastier than any Dunkin’ doughnut I’ve had down south.  So for my inaugural post in Maine, doughnuts seem incredibly appropriate.  Especially of the pumpkin variety.  Classic autumn.  Classic New England.

Baked Pumpkin Doughnut Holes (original recipe here)

Makes 24 doughnut holes

  • 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoons nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon allspice
  • 1/8 teaspoons ground cloves
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup canola oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the cinnamon sugar topping:

  • 2 tablespoons cinnamon
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly oil a mini muffin pan or coat with nonstick spray.

In a large bowl, combine flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, baking powder and salt.

In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk together pumpkin puree, milk, brown sugar, canola oil, egg and vanilla.

Pour mixture over dry ingredients and stir using a rubber spatula just until moist.

Scoop the batter evenly into the muffin tray.

Place into oven and bake for 10-12 minutes, or until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

To make the cinnamon sugar, combine cinnamon and sugar.

When the muffins are done, cool for 2 minutes and dip each muffin into the melted butter and then into the cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Let cool on a wire rack. (Or in my case, a pizza pan.)

Moist, spicy pumpkin doughnuts with Trader Joe’s pumpkin spice coffee on a chilly autumn morning = the most comforting morning ever.

See my hardwood floors!

Here are some of the highlights from my first few weeks in Maine:

At the airport in Manchester, New Hampshire.  My best friend Lindsay and I pretty much burst into tears when we saw each other.

Lindsay and AJ took me to get lobster that night for dinner.  It was the best.  Only when the reward is eating lobster is salt water running down your arms an acceptable scenario.

Eating ridiculously delicious gelato and playing Bananagrams with some lovely ladies in the Old Port district.

Walking along the Eastern Promenade with my friend Michele and my first pumpkin spice latte.  This place seriously has some of the most spectacular sights.  There are always boats docked there, and sometimes you’ll see sailboats and crew teams.  Islands are a short distance away where you can see some awesome fall foliage and charming, New England-y houses.

Now I’m not completely naive…I know that the winter is serious here, and it’s coming soon (dun dun dun).  But I’ve got my down jacket and my Bean Boots (another Maine thing) so hopefully those will help.  I’m sure I will chronicle my crazy winter stories here in the months to come!

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Kale Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing

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Over the years, I’ve made peace with my personal weirdness.  I mean really, almost everyone is weird.  It’s just that my weirdness is different than yours.  People don’t normally think of themselves as weird, but they are.  They just don’t know it.  And the actual normal people out there, well they’re just boring.

So many of my “weird” things used to make me insecure, but now I almost take pride in the ways I’m different.  So what if I hate trashy reality shows and would rather watch the news?  So what if I’m obsessed with fonts?  And recently rugs, weirdly enough.  I could probably spend hours looking at rugs online. (Knowing how to make a rug work in a space separates the men from the boys, so to speak.) So what if I count syllables in my head? (Yeah that happens.  I’ll know if a phrase is exactly ten syllables before I actually count.  Weird?  Yes, yes it is.)

And I was ecstatic when I saw the first kale of the season at the farmers market, taking even myself by surprise.  Because I have an odd relationship with kale.  I wasn’t excited because I love the taste of kale and can’t get enough of it.  But simply because it’s KALE!  It’s so healthy and I should love it.  (I actually do love kale chips.  Who wouldn’t?  It’s the raw kale I’m learning to love.) It also represented the return of autumn produce, which I always enjoy.

So I guess I can add being inordinately excited about learning to love kale to the list of my weirdness.

Kale Salad with Tahini-Lemon Dressing (adapted from A Full Measure of Happiness)

  • 2-3 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp water (or more to thin as needed)
  • few handfuls of kale
  • sunflower seeds or lentils (optional)

Combine the first 6 ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth.

Toss the dressing with the kale and add toppings if you wish.  I went with sunflower seeds, but I want to try the lentils next time.

The lemon makes this dressing tart.  Dare I say, possibly too tart.  Next time I’ll probably cut the lemon content.  Adding a creamy dressing to kale alleviates some of the toughness kale tends to have.

Another fun fact: I am a terrible procrastinator.  Like now, I’m blogging and getting ready to watch the vice presidential debate when I probably (ok definitely) should be packing.  I’m moving hundreds of miles away to Maine…in two days.  After I hit “publish” (and inevitably edit my post obsessively), I’ll be watching/listening to Biden and Ryan duke it out while I try to fit my life into two suitcases and a carry on.

Pumpkin and Zucchini Bread

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Pumpkin and zucchini…summer meets fall.  And that’s all I have to say about that.  This is one of those times when I don’t have anything particularly interesting, funny or deep to say, so I’m going to make one of those annoying lists. (I’m starting to understand why people do those.) This is my life these days…

Making me happy: leaves slowly changing

Listening to: Janglin’ by Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros…on repeat

Excited about: heading to Maine (smack in the middle of fall!); college. football. every. week; the return of Modern Family.

Craving: chocolate frosted doughnut (must be Dunkin’) and ummm…more of this bread

Currently reading: Crazy Love by Francis Chan and The House of the Seven Gables by Nathaniel Hawthorne (perfect enigmatic, slightly spooky novel for October)

New blog discovery: Sprouted Kitchen.  Beautiful food, pictures and words.  I can’t wait to get her new cookbook!

Just learned: most states have early voting…like right now!  Go to canivote.org to see if your state has early voting.

Made me laugh: grammar jokes – Pinterest, you’ve done it again

Amazing/ironic/timely blog posts: Joy the Baker falls in love with Maine and makes Fore Street Mussels from Portland.

Added to the bucket list: visit a ghost town.  Maybe in New England?  Maybe in October?!  Chills.

Currently obsessed with: bad lip reading videos on YouTube – these need no embellishment. (Rick Perry, Ron Paul and The Hunger Games are my favorites.)

All right, that’s enough.  So about this hybrid bread…

Pumpkin and Zucchini Bread (adapted from The Little Red House)

  • 1/4 cup browned butter (for browned butter instructions see here)
  • 1 cup raw honey or 3/4 cup regular honey
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cup pumpkin puree, canned or fresh (if you want to make your own puree, see this post)
  • 1 cup shredded zucchini
  • 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup flour, white or whole-wheat
  • 1/2 cup rolled oats
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Lightly grease and flour a 9×5 loaf pan.

In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients and mix.

In a mixer, combine browned butter and honey.  Mix in eggs until well combined, about 1 minute.  Mix in pumpkin puree, zucchini and vanilla until thoroughly combined.  Slowly add in dry ingredients, a little at a time, until just mixed.  Do not over mix.

Pour into pan and place on bottom rack of oven, and bake for 40-50 minutes, until toothpick inserted into center comes out clean.

This is the last picture I took.  I just had to have a piece right away.  It was moist and delicious and beautifully studded with oats and zucchini.  The combination of pumpkin and browned butter is crazy good.  And nothing beats the smell of baking pumpkin.  This is the aroma of fall.

End of Summer Minestrone

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A more accurate title would be End of Summer/Beginning of Fall Minestrone, but oh my what a mouth full.  Today was the perfect day to make soup.  With a hint of crispness in the air, I threw open the windows to tempt the cool breeze, grabbed the last of the summer produce and set to work making soup once again.  It’s officially fall for me when there’s a big pot of soup simmering on the stove. (The unofficial start being when football season is back.) This recipe, which I found on the wonderful blog The Little Red House, is great for transitioning from the bright produce of summer to that of the more muted, earthy produce of autumn.

End of Summer Minestrone (adapted from The Little Red House)

  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 4 small potatoes, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large tomatoes, diced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 1 summer squash, sliced
  • 2 cups beans (I used pinto)
  • 4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • handful of any combination of herbs (I used fresh parsley and basil and a pinch of dried marjoram)
  • splash of balsamic vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste

In a large pot, sauté the onion, carrots and potatoes in a little olive oil until the onions are tender.  Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for a few more minutes.

Add a splash of balsamic vinegar and the stock, beans and herbs.  Bring to a low boil and then lower the heat to a simmer.

Simmer all afternoon or just until the potatoes and carrots are tender.  Add the zucchini and squash during the last 15-20 minutes of cooking so they don’t get mushy.

Embellish with any toppings you’d like.  More herbs, goat cheese, a side of crusty bread…go to town!

I haven’t blogged in a while because I’ve been getting ready for probably the biggest and craziest thing I’ve done in my life thus far: my move to Maine!  I’m a huge mess of emotions…excited/anxious/nauseous all rolled together, each one rearing its head at different times.  But it wouldn’t be much of an adventure without fear.  In your twenties, the time is ripe for taking risks like this.  If not now, when?  And I’ve never even been to Maine!  I guess I can cross moving to a place I’ve never seen off the bucket list.

I’m so excited to experience life in a seaside, New England town though.  There’s so much history and charm.  Plus, I read that Portland is the “foodiest small town in America.”  A lot of emphasis is on seasonal, local food from surrounding farms.  I can’t wait to incorporate Maine into my cooking!

Now that autumn is here, I have so many things I want to make.  I’m going to try to crank out a few posts before I move in October, so we’ll see how it goes.

Tomato Toast with Basil Butter + Office Photos

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I haven’t had an office update in quite some time, so here it is.  We’re more or less finished.  The walls are painted, chairs have been redone, curtains are up (the most beautiful white curtains – $20 for two panels at IKEA, people!), the gallery wall is complete, and we found an awesome sunburst mirror (I just love those) to go over the roll top.  Oh yeah, did I mention my parents have an incredible roll top desk?  It’s beautiful and so classic.  I love it.  As kids, my brother and I did what anyone would do with a roll top…climbed in, shut each other inside and pretended it was a time machine.  Naturally.

I came across this recipe and tried it out for the first time last month actually and just got around to blogging about it.  It’s as easy and summer-y as it gets.  While tomatoes are at their peak, now is the time to eat them before fall comes.  Which, by the way, I am so incredibly ready for.  Sweaters, boots, football, all things pumpkin…ahhh!  I’m still completely enamored with getting a real autumn since moving to North Carolina.  But before we get ahead of ourselves, let us enjoy sweet, bright summer produce before it goes into hibernation for another year.

Tomato Toast with Basil Butter (from the blog Not Without Salt)

  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • toasted bread
  • tomato slices, thickly cut
  • sea salt and pepper

In a small bowl, combine the basil and softened butter.  Spread on top of warm toast.  Top with tomato slices and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Basil butter might be one of the best things on the planet.

Ok, so green tomatoes are so much firmer than red or yellow tomatoes!  This particular one was almost like biting into an apple.  I guess that’s why it’s green tomatoes that are always fried.  Major light bulb.

And for your viewing pleasure:

We painted this chair and the lamp shade.  I love the graphic, tribal-looking rug we found for a whopping $17.  We really loved this rug and I liked this one, but they were too big and expensive.  Look how amazing the black and white stripes look on the floor here!  It’s a shame the white curtains aren’t showing up because of all the light, but trust me, they’re perfect.  And we made a “side table” out of stacked books.

The roll top.

I’m so happy we found a sunburst mirror to go over the desk.  It’s just what I pictured.

I imagined more thin, gold frames in the gallery wall, but overall I’m happy with the way it turned out.  We can always add to it in the future.

We put this long, black table in the office for my mom to have a workspace where she can do scrapbooking or schoolwork instead of using the dining room table.  We reupholstered the seat of the chair on the right with chevron fabric and painted the back grey.  As you can see, we still have to do the other chair.

The desktop computer is on the desk opposite the roll top (yes, there are three desk/tables in the room).  We’ll probably replace that lampshade with a white one.  We thrifted an awesome gold-framed mirror and replaced the mirror with poster board and chalkboard paint to go above the computer, adorned with my mom’s favorite quote these days.  She thinks it’s so funny.

Rosemary Lemonade with Cherries

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Holy cow, this stuff is good.  Rosemary can be such a strong flavor that I was a bit wary of making this lemonade, but it really is just a slight piney flavor in the background.  Just enough to make it more interesting than plain lemonade.  And beside the fact that the cherries make the drink look pretty, they are a sweet, slightly tart treat to snack on when you’re finished drinking.

Rosemary Lemonade with Rainier Cherries (from the blog Not Without Salt)

Makes about 2 1/2 quarts

  • ½ cup honey (use a light flavored honey such as clover)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 2 cups water
  • 3 sprigs rosemary
  • 2 cups fresh lemon juice
  • about 5 cups water (more or less depending on desired sweetness and tang)
  • Rainier cherries (or whatever variety you have on hand)

Anything that starts with ingredients like these has to be good.

Combine the honey, sugar and 2 cups of water in a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Turn off heat and stir to make sure the sugar is dissolved.  Add the rosemary.  Let the mixture steep until cool.

Juice enough lemons for 2 cups of lemon juice.  Either strain out the pulp or add it back in if you like some pulp in your lemonade.

Combine the cooled syrup with the lemon juice in a pitcher or carafe.  Add about 5 cups of water to the mixture, more or less depending on how tart or sweet you want it to be.

Pour over ice and halved cherries.

I think cherries are the most visually interesting fruit.  It’s the stems.  They’re nature’s little handles.

I discovered during this process how much I prefer Rainier cherries to Bing cherries.  They’re lighter tasting and I don’t know, just better.  It’s hard to describe.  I think the fact that they’re prettier has something to do with it…

Cold, tart, earthy and slightly sweet, these little drinks are immensely satisfying.  And the cherries soak up the flavors of the lemonade and taste exactly 1,000 times better – not that cherries even need any help, especially Rainier cherries, but you know what I mean.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

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Couscous, hummus…I seem to have a Mediterranean theme going.  Over the last several years, I’ve developed a love for Mediterranean food, especially Greek.  It’s all just so fresh and healthy and delicious.  Gyros, pita bread, feta cheese, Greek yogurt, tzatziki sauce (oh. my. gosh.), baklava, Greek pizza (not technically Greek, but still good – and if you’ve never had the Greek pizza at California Pizza Kitchen, there’s something seriously lacking in your life).

By the way, Tarpon Springs, Florida is the largest Greek community in the country and has the best pita bread, tzatkiki sauce, baklava and Greek dressing I’ve ever tasted.  Go there.  Just do it.

And then there’s hummus.  Hummus is where it all started for me.  I lived in a very interesting/adventurous foodie household my junior year of college.  We went on a fiber binge for a few months until realizing we were consuming about a 40-year-old man’s daily amount of fiber each day…whoops.  We had fondue parties.  We ate McDonald’s every day (sometimes more than once a day) for a few weeks trying to win a Monopoly.  (Gross, I know.  And we didn’t win anything.)  We made cookies for our neighbors and sometimes just because.  We would go grocery shopping and only use British accents.  Somewhere in all this craziness, I tried hummus for the first time.  Oh and it was heavenly.  There’s really nothing else like it.  Smooth or just a bit grainy, garlicky, fresh, slightly nutty.  And somehow I never made it at home until today.

Roasted Red Pepper Hummus

  • 1-14 oz. can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons Tahini (sesame paste)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 roasted red pepper
  • 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sprinkle of paprika (optional)

To roast the pepper, preheat the broil setting on the oven and line a baking sheet with foil.  Rub about a teaspoon of vegetable oil over the pepper and place under the broiler.

Watch until it starts to blacken and keep turning the pepper until the top is blackened and the sides are slightly blackened, about 5-10 minutes.

Take it out of the oven, place it in a bowl and cover tightly with plastic wrap or foil.  Leave it until it’s cool to the touch, about 20 minutes, and peel off the skins.  Remove the pepper from the stem and scrape out the seeds.

For the hummus, place the garlic in a food processor and whir until minced.  Add the remaining ingredients and process until you reach the consistency you want.  If you want it smoother, you may want to add more lemon juice and/or olive oil.  Sprinkle with paprika and serve.

And I saw this cartoon a while ago and just died laughing.

I don’t even know why it’s so funny.  Maybe because I imagined the poor brontosaurus saying he brought hummus in a forlorn, slightly nerdy voice.  I am so that weirdo who would bring the hummus!

Cauliflower Couscous

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All this trying to eat healthy – no processed foods, no refined flour, more raw foods and properly combining what I eat – means saying no to a lot of things.  And I really am ok with that 95-ish percent of the time.  It’s really not that hard when I consider how much better I feel when I eat the good stuff.  But every once in a while, an inexplicable craving strikes, and gosh darn it if I don’t give in if I have the opportunity.

Alas, such an occurrence happened yesterday.  We were driving around an area I happened to know had an Einstein’s Bagels, and there are very few bagel joints around these parts.  I got a serious a craving for a whole-wheat bagel with honey butter, a delicacy I hadn’t had in roughly 7 years.  Bagel shops and wonderful deli places are on every corner in South Florida.  In fact, just before I moved down there from a smaller town on the west coast, my Jewish elementary school art teacher said I was lucky because Fort Lauderdale had lots of great bagel shops.  That meant nothing to me at age 10, but only later would I realize you can’t get a good bagel just anywhere.  (Hint: if it’s a Jewish or New York deli, you’re pretty much guaranteed a good bagel.) They had Einstein’s in the town where I went to college, but somehow they never had honey butter.  Madness.  So I had to settle for strawberry schmear.  Needless to say, I gave in yesterday.  It wasn’t exactly the same, but close enough.  It’s interesting how something that used to be somewhat of a staple in my life is now such a novelty.  Life is funny.

Whew.  I applaud you if you had the patience to read through my ode to a good bagel!

Onto the cauliflower couscous…all I can really say is that this is a brilliant beyond brilliant idea, especially if you eat a grain-free or grain-limited diet.

Cauliflower Couscous (from the blog Roost)

  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 cup diced yellow onion (about 1/2 of an onion)
  • 2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
  • 3/4 cup basil, chopped
  • 3/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 tablespoon lemon zest
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tablespoon ghee or butter
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • freshly ground pepper

Cut the cauliflower into small chunks (stalk discarded) and place in a food processor.  Pulse until it resembles small grains of rice or couscous. (It’s amazing how much it really does look like couscous!) Set aside.

Heat ghee or butter in a dutch oven or large pot over medium heat.  Add diced onion and cook until translucent, about two minutes.

Add tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.  Turn heat off and add cauliflower, herbs, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper.  Stir until everything is combined.  Place lid on pot and set aside.

Here again is another fresh, bright, (nearly) raw summer dish.  It’s a nice complement to chicken or fish.  By the way, doesn’t Caitlin’s pan-roasted red snapper with that aioli look delicious with the couscous?!  I’ll have to attempt that sometime.

I have no office pictures this time.  We finished painting the chair, but my pictures didn’t turn out too well.  And we haven’t put up the curtains we were going to frame the window with behind the chair, so I figured I’d wait until that whole little corner was done.

And we are almost finished framing everything.  So. Exciting.

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken

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When thunderstorms strike and grilling no longer becomes a dinner option, creativity must ensue.  As bummed as I was not to get grilled chicken, it forced me to stretch my cooking muscles and try something new.  And new chicken recipes are always welcome.  I was ecstatic to discover this lighter version of one of my favorite Chinese take-out dishes.  And as luck would have it, I had (almost) all the ingredients on hand.

So sorry about the yellowish quality of the pictures.  I really need to quit making stuff at night.

Lighter General Tso’s Chicken (recipe from Martha Stewart)

  • 1/4 cup cornstarch
  • 1 pound snow peas, trimmed and halved crosswise
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 2 teaspoons fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 3 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (I didn’t have these so I used cayenne pepper.  Word to the wise: use 1/4 teaspoon cayenne instead of doing an even swap.  I did not think this through and my chicken was burnin’ hot.)
  • 2 large egg whites
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts or tenders, cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

In a large bowl, stir together 1 tablespoon of cornstarch and 1/2 cup of cold water until smooth.  Add snow peas, garlic, ginger, sugar, soy sauce and pepper flakes or cayenne; toss to combine and set aside.

In another bowl, whisk together egg whites, remaining 3 tablespoons of cornstarch, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.  Add the chicken and toss to coat.

In a large nonstick skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over medium-high heat.  Put half the chicken in the skillet in an even layer, shaking off any excess of the egg white mixture.  Cook, turning occasionally, until golden, about 6-8 minutes.  Transfer to a plate and repeat with the remaining chicken.  Set aside and reserve the skillet.

Add the snow pea mixture to the skillet.  Cover and cook until snow peas are tender and the sauce has thickened, about 3-5 minutes.  Return the chicken to the skillet, with any juices, and toss to coat.

Beside the fact that my mouth practically ignited in flames with every bite from all the cayenne, this dish was so good.  It tasted just like take-out General Tso’s, just not deep fried.  Only an egg roll, a glorious, deep-fried egg roll, would have made the experience better.

Office update: We painted all the walls, made a trip to IKEA (where I had a full cup of coffee for the first time in months – free coffee and tea if you have an IKEA card! – and enjoyed every drop) and are working on the gallery wall configuration.

Not the greatest picture, but you can get an idea of what the greys look like.

This one is my favorite so far.  I’m in love with the fonts.  It looks like an old circus or carnival ad.

Today we painted an upholstered chair that was already in the room.  That’s right…we painted fabric!  Thank you once again, Pinterest.  We still have the second coat to do, so hopefully the finished product will make it into my next post!

Summer Vegetable Spaghetti + An Office Makeover

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I got the worst (food-related) news at the farmers’ market last week.  Strawberry season in North Carolina is over.  Over I tell you!  I’ve had exactly one quart of local strawberries this season and now there are none to be had.  Apparently this hot weather from Hades affected the normal harvesting season.  My strawberry lady at the market said they had them from Mother’s Day until about two weeks ago – of course during the time I rarely made it to the market.  I waited all year for those sweet, ruby morsels.  Summer is really not my favorite season, but I live for summer produce.  Now I’m settling for Florida strawberries (which are much better if you actually buy them in Florida since they don’t have to travel) because there’s no way I’m settling for a strawberry-less summer!

On a much happier note, I currently have a redecorating project going on that I’m super excited about.  I’m helping my mom redo their office/guest room into just an office since my dad is doing a lot of work from home now.  I can finally put some of my Pinteresting ideas (see what I did there?) into action.  I’ll share our progress on the blog just for fun, although I think I’ll omit the before pictures since it’s quite the disaster zone right now.

Anyway, onto this wonderful summer spaghetti…

At least there’s still summer veggies to be enjoyed.

Summer Vegetable Spaghetti

For the spaghetti:

  • 8 ounces spaghetti (I used a whole-grain variety this time but I’ve used regular spaghetti before)
  • 1 large zucchini, seeded and diced
  • 1 large yellow squash, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium eggplant, diced (I actually used 3 baby eggplants)
  • 1/2 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, cut in half

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 1 1/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • kosher/sea salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Slice the eggplant first and sprinkle salt on the slices and “sweat” them out for about 30 minutes.  Wipe off the liquid and dice.  (Getting the liquid out ensures the cooked eggplant isn’t rubbery.)  Dice the zucchini and squash and sauté for about 5 minutes in a little butter and olive oil until softened.  Halve the tomatoes and toss them in with the veggies.

Cook your spaghetti to al dente according to package instructions.  Meanwhile, heat the butter and olive oil in a large pan over medium heat.  Mince the garlic and sauté in the butter and oil until soft and fragrant.  Add the flour and cook for a minute.  Add the stock and simmer until thickened, about 5-10 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper.

Toss the spaghetti and vegetables in with the garlic sauce and toss.  Finish with fresh basil and parsley.

And don’t be like me and forget to put in the herbs before pictures are taken.

So fresh and so light – quintessential summer food.

Ok so, I have to share our ideas for this office project.  My dad has a collection of old magazines from, well all sorts of decades, but we were inspired by the ones from the 50s and 60s.  They’re mostly sports magazines, and loathe as I am to use sports – as much as I love sports – as the theme for decorating a room, these magazines have some amazing graphics we wanted to use.  Photos back then looked more like paintings, and the ads look wonderfully vintage.  So we decided to go with a mid-century modern look with these old sports covers and magazine ads being the focal point in an eclectic wall gallery.  We’re painting the largest wall (the gallery wall) a medium grey color and the gallery will be a mix of different frames and magazine pages on canvas boards (with the sides painted orangey-red for a pop of color!)  The other walls we’ll paint a very light grey.  Here are some photos that inspired us:

I liked the idea of gold frames on a dark wall.  My mom was a little skeptical of such a dark color though, so we went with a more medium grey.  I’m hoping it’s just as striking as the darker color.

Eclectic/random frames and different-sized matting for photos and art.

This is where I got the idea for a surprise pop of red on the sides of the canvas boards.

My dad knows we are redoing the room, but we’re surprising him with all the details.  I think he’ll love how we’re using all his old magazines.

In my next post, I’ll put up some pictures of the magazine pages and covers we’re planning on using!