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Friday, January 30, 2015

it's kitten bowl weekend!

lots of people will be watching the super bowl on sunday, but did you know that the kitten bowl will be on the hallmark channel on sunday too?  we watched a little bit of it last year with leko and it was pretty cute.

have a great weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, January 29, 2015

lemon orzo with parmesan and peas

a few months ago, i stumbled across kelsey nixon's blog.  i started watching her show on the cooking channel, and following along with her on instagram.  she is so cute and down to earth (and she lives in brooklyn)!

last week, kelsey posted a few of her family's favorite go-to recipes on instagram.  when i saw her recipe for simple lemon orzo i couldn't wait to try it.

this orzo was so easy to make, and it was so flavorful.  the fresh lemon zest and lemon juice give it such a bright flavor, and the parmesan cheese and half-and-half make it decadently creamy.  the peas give it a great pop of color too.  i served this orzo along side these tuna cakes.  it was a great combination!

lemon orzo with parmesan and peas
prep time: 5-10 minutes
cooking time: 15-20 minutes
yields: 8 servings
adapted from kelsey nixon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion
16 oz. dry orzo
3/4 cup white wine
4 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 lemon (zest + juice)
1 cup frozen peas
1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon ground black pepper

heat the olive oil in a large pan and saute the onion until translucent.  add the dry orzo and the wine.  cook until the wine is absorbed.  add the vegetable broth and bring the mixture to a simmer.  reduce the heat and cover the pan.  cook for 10-12 minutes, until almost all of the broth is absorbed and the orzo is tender.  zest and juice the lemon.  stir in the lemon zest, lemon juice, peas, parmesan, cream, basil, and pepper.  serve warm.

love, laurie

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

tuna cakes with spicy mayo dipping sauce

it's no secret that leko loves tuna.  he goes crazy over it.  but, we're pretty big fans of tuna too.

over the weekend, i was looking for a quick and simple dinner idea, and i decided to make tuna cakes.  these tuna cakes are full of flavor.  they are great on their own, but they are even better with a little bit of spicy mayo sauce spread on top of them.  

if your not a fan of tuna, you could easily substitute salmon.  i used canned tuna for this recipe since it's what i had on hand, but you could easily use fresh salmon or tuna that you bake in the oven and then flake apart into small pieces.

tuna cakes with spicy mayo dipping sauce
prep time: 5-10 minutes
cooking time: 10-12 minutes
yields: approximately 16 cakes
adapted from pancakes

1 teaspoon salted butter
1/2 onion, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
1 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup fresh baby spinach, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried parsley
2 teaspoons dijon mustard
2 large eggs, whisked
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 (5 oz.) cans low-sodium tuna fish, drained
salt and pepper to taste

sauce ingredients:
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon sriracha sauce
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

to make the tuna cakes, melt the butter in a pan and saute the minced onion on medium-low heat until translucent (about 4-5 minutes).  add the minced garlic and saute for another minute.  in a large bowl, combine the sauteed onion and garlic with the breadcrumbs, chopped spinach, parsley mustard, eggs, lemon juice, and tuna.  mix well to combine making sure all of the mixture is evenly distributed and evenly coated.  season with salt and pepper to taste.  scoop 3 tablespoon sized balls of the mixture into the palm of your hands and form into a paddy.  repeat with the remaining mixture.  cook the fish cakes on a lightly buttered skillet or griddle for 5-6 minutes on each side until they are golden brown and cooked throughout.  serve warm with chilled spicy mayo dipping sauce.

to make the sauce, whisk the mayo, lemon juice, mustard, sriracha, and pepper together in a bowl.  refrigerate until ready to serve.

love, laurie

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

sunbathing in january

we woke up to a great surprise on sunday morning . . . the sun was out!!!  it has been so long since we have seen the sun.  i was starting to feel like we were living in perpetual grayness.  

the sun was shining and birds were chirping outside.  it didn't feel like january at all.  it was glorious!  *cue the hallelujah chorus*

it's amazing how great the sun makes you feel (especially when you haven't seen it in such a long time).  we took advantage of the beautiful sunshine while it lasted by bundling up and taking a long walk around our neighborhood.  it was so nice to feel the sun on our faces and to see the freshly fallen snow glistening in the morning sunlight.  it was wonderful!

we weren't the only ones who took advantage of the sunday morning sun.  leko decided to soak it up by sunbathing wherever the sun was shining in the windows.  as the sun moved in the sky, he moved around the house basking in the sunlight coming through each window.  in my opinion, there's nothing as beautiful as seeing the sun rays shine through his gorgeous orange and white fur. the sun made him look like he had a glowing halo around him.  what a cutie!

love, laurie

Monday, January 26, 2015

banana bread pancakes (vegan + gluten free)

we woke up to find six inches of snow on saturday morning.  before we even contemplated bundling up and shoveling, we made a batch of pancakes to start our morning.  priorities.  

we absolutely love banana bread with nuts, and these pancakes taste just like classic banana bread.  they are insanely good!  not only do they taste great, these are some healthy pancakes too!  they are dairy free, egg free, oil free, sugar free, and gluten free.

what's left to put in them?  lots of good stuff!  oats, walnuts, and pecans are ground into a flour to act as the base of these pancakes.  that's combined with ground flax seed meal, baking powder, and a pinch of salt.  then there's almond milk and vanilla.  they get a great flavor from cinnamon and pumpkin pie spice, and of course we can't forget the star of these pancakes: the banana.

we were so pleasantly surprised by how delicious these pancakes were.  especially without any dairy, eggs, oil, sugar, or gluten.  they take a little bit longer to cook than traditional pancakes, but they are very much worth the wait.  grab a fork and dig in!

banana bread pancakes
prep time: 5 minutes
cooking time: 10-12 minutes
yields: 8 pancakes (2 servings)
adapted from wholehearted eats

1 cup old-fashioned oats
1/4 cup walnuts
1/4 cup pecans
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon ground flax seed meal
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened almond milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 banana

in a food processor, grind the oats into a fine flour.  once they are ground, set the oat flour aside and grind the nuts into a flour.  add the oat flour back into the food processor along with the baking powder, flax seed meal, spices, salt, almond milk, vanilla, and banana.  puree the mixture until smooth and all of the ingredients are fully incorporated.

heat a lightly buttered griddle or frying pan on medium heat.  pour 3 tablespoons of batter onto the griddle for medium pancakes.  cook for 5-6 minutes, until small bubbles begin to form.  flip the pancakes when they start to bubble, then cook for 5-6 minutes, until they are golden brown and cooked throughout.  once cooked, transfer the pancakes to a baking sheet and place in a preheated 200 degree F oven to keep warm while you cook the remaining pancake batter.  serve warm with sliced bananas, walnuts, and warm maple syrup.

love, laurie

Friday, January 23, 2015

baby, it's cold outside!

the other day, andrea wrote on instagram that the days feel long but the weeks feel short.  i totally agree.  janaury has been a blur.  the days certainly feel long at work, but it seems like the weeks are flying right on by . . . and somehow it's friday again.  even though this week was only a four-day work week, it was still an exhausting one.  ryan and i both actually have the day off tomorrow and we are looking forward to being able to relax and to catch up on some sleep before things get crazy again on sunday.  the forecast is calling for more snow this weekend.  i certainly hope it doesn't snow (especially on our day off).  i am so over winter.  spring, where are you?

have a great weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, January 22, 2015

almond flavored butter cookies

we're almost done with the leftover christmas cookies at our house.  the end is now in sight.  i swear, i don't know where they all come from!  we made several different types of cookies this holiday, including: chocolate peppermint m&m's cookiesdouble gingersnap cookies, and mocha cookies.  we also made a batch of cut-out cookies too.

although these cookies look like sugar cookies, they're really more of a butter cookie.  these cookies are not at sweet as traditional cut-out sugar cookies.  they have a great almond flavor and a wonderful texture.  they are so tender they just melt right in your mouth!

this dough is soft enough that you could put it through a cookie press to make spritz cookies.  however, you could roll it out to make cut-out cookies like we did.  we cut our cookies in the shape of snowflakes and decorated them with royal icing.  if royal icing isn't your cup of tea, you could leave these cookies plain or you could decorate them with sprinkles or colored sugar.  this recipe is so simple and takes no time to make.  the dough also does not need to be chilled before it is rolled out.  nice and easy!

almond flavored butter cookies
prep time: 10 minutes
baking time: 10-12 minutes
yields: approximately 30 cookies
adapted from very merry cookie party

1/2 cup (1 stick) salted butter, softened
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder

preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  cream the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  add the sugar and beat well until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  beat in the egg yolk, almond extract, and vanilla extract.  in a separate bowl, sift together the flour and baking powder.  gradually add the sifted flour mixture to the cookie dough.  turn the dough out onto a floured surface and form it into a ball with your hands.  roll the dough out with a rolling pin (about 1/4 inch thick) and cut it into shapes using cookie cutters.  place the cut-out shapes onto the cookie sheet and bake for 10-12 minutes.  once baked, allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.  decorate as desired.

love, laurie

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

steamtown national historic site

since we had the day off work on monday, ryan's parents came up to visit.  we went out to lunch, and then we went to check out the steamtown national historic site.  steamtown is an old railroad yard that has been turned into a historic site operated by the national park service.  since it was a holiday, steamtown was offering free admission!

it was a cold day outside, so we decided to take advantage of the free admission and take a (mostly) indoor tour of steamtown.  we saw several different types of trains, learned some history about them, and got to see where the trains are repaired, rebuilt, and restored.  it was really neat to see the trains up close and to learn about them.  we are looking forward to going back again in warmer weather to see more of the trains that are outside, and to be able to take a ride on one of the trains too.

love, laurie

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

sunday morning bowling date

we had a little bit of free time on sunday morning before ryan had to go to rehearsal for the show that he is currently working on, so we decided to go bowling.  it has been a year since we last went bowling, and we were over due for a little date.  there was hardly anyone at the bowling alley, we practically had the place to ourselves.  we bowled two games, and of course ryan won both.  he's much better than me when it comes to bowling.  it was such a nice little sunday morning date, and a nice inside activity since the weather was so cold outside!

love, laurie

Monday, January 19, 2015

my sleepy little helper

i sat down over the weekend to sew one of the ribbons on my pointe shoes that had come loose during ballet class.  of course leko was right there on my lap to help me.  he just can't resist an opportunity to play with string or thread.  he always gets excited when he sees me bring out the sewing kit.  (he was a huge "help" last spring when i was sewing a set of pot holders.)

all of the sewing must have worn him out, because before i knew it he was passed out on the blanket on my lap with his little turtle catnip toy.  i couldn't resist the cuteness.  luckily i had my phone nearby to snap a picture of him while he slept there so peacefully.

we're excited to have the day off today and leko sure is happy that we're not at work!  hooray for three-day weekends!

love, laurie

Friday, January 16, 2015

fun links

hip hip hooray!  it's friday and it's a three-day weekend!  this past week sure has been busy, and our weekend is pretty busy too, but we are looking forward to having the day off on monday!

here are a few fun links that i found around the internet recently:

1. this 10 minute workout is intense.  i tried it and my muscles sure felt it the next morning!

2. people posing with statues.  i remember when ryan posed with a statue of a girl dancing when we were in hawaii.  so funny.

3. i made these granola bars this week and they were so good, we both loved them.  only three ingredients!

4. technology is insane.  now, you can be someone else's eyes.

5. ship your enemies glitter is a new company that mails an envelope full of glitter to the people you hate.  stupid or genius?  you decide.

6. ryan's mom has made several d.i.y. catnip toys for leko over the years and he absolutely loves them.  these d.i.y. cat toys are cute!

7. are you brave enough (or crazy enough) to do this?

8. remember the movie wet hot american summer?  the original cast is getting back together to make an 8-episode netflix series!  (fun fact: that movie was filmed in northeastern pennsylvania in just 28 days, and my brother and i were extras in the movie when we were in high school!)

9. this was by far the best thing i heard all week.  enough said.

have a great weekend!
love, laurie

Thursday, January 15, 2015

mocha cookies

we're still eating leftover christmas cookies at our house.  we're almost done with them.  i think cookies must multiply around the holiday season.  i don't know where they all come from!

these mocha cookies were one of the types cookies that we made for christmas this year.  they are specked with grated chocolate and espresso granules which makes them both delicious and pretty.

these cookies came together in no time.  they were so easy to make, and they were so good!

mocha cookies
prep time: 10 minutes
baking time: 8-10 minutes
yields: approximately 60 cookies
adapted from very merry cookie party

1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup grated bittersweet chocolate
1 tablespoon instant espresso granules
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon milk

preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  cream the butter in the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment.  add the sugar and beat well until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes).  beat in the egg yolk and vanilla.  mix in the grated chocolate and espresso granules.  gradually mix in the flour and the milk.

scoop 1 teaspoon sized balls of dough and roll them between your hands to make balls.  place the balls of cookie dough onto the cookie sheet.  bake for 8-10 minutes, until they are golden.  once baked, allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheet for 5-10 minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to finish cooling completely.

love, laurie

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

three years with leko

january 4th marked three years since we adopted leko.  it's hard to believe that it has already been three years since we brought home our little furry baby.  we absolutely love having leko in our lives, and we can't imagine our lives without him.  he is such a lover, and we sure are proud kitty parents!

if you are in the market for a pet, we highly recommend adopting an animal from a shelter.  there are so many amazing animals out there in need of a good home.  adopting leko was one of the best decisions we have ever made.  he certainly has changed our lives for the better!

love, laurie

. . . 

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

a winter walk along the river

the weather has been ridiculously cold and gross lately.  on sunday the temperature "warmed up" to 30 degrees.  it felt nice compared to the single digits that we have endured recently.  to keep ourselves from going stir crazy indoors, we bundled up and took an evening walk along the nearby river before the sun went down.  everything was icy and snowy.  it was so calm and peaceful.

for my birthday last week, ryan bought me a new camera lens!!!  i have had my eye on this lens for such a long time, but never thought i would be able to get it, so it was an amazing surprise when i opened it up on my birthday.  (that husband of mine is good, i'll tell ya!)  he got a great deal on the lens and he even got several cool accessories to go with it, including a set of lens filters and a lens hood.  it was such a great surprise!  even though it was overcast and dreary, i was excited to try out my new lens, one of the filters, and the hood as we walked along the river.  i can't wait to play with everything more and to learn more about it!  i already told leko he is going to be my test subject as i learn how to use my new lens and accessories.  luckily he is a really photogenic kitten!

today the temperature is back down in the teens in our area.
stay warm!

love, laurie

Monday, January 12, 2015

vegetarian shepherd's pie

the weather outside is frightful.  truly it is.  temperatures have been in the single digits and the wind chill has been below zero!  january is here and the weather is numbing.  cold days call for warm and hearty comfort food.  when i think of comfort food, one of the things that comes to mind is shepherd's pie.

i was delighted when i found a recipe for a vegetarian version of shepherd's pie.  brown lentils take the place of traditional ground beef.  the lentils are packed full of nutrients and protein.  they are also inexpensive and cook up in no time.  that's a win-win.  the lentils come together with mixed vegetables and everything is covered in a layer of fluffy mashed potatoes.  yum!

this vegetarian-friendly shepherd's pie is both hearty and filling.  it's going to be a staple in our house this winter for sure.

vegetarian shepherd's pie
prep time: 10 minutes
cooking time: 40 minutes
baking time: 10-15 minutes
yields: 6 large servings
adapted from minimalist baker

6-8 large baking potatoes
2 tablespoons salted butter
2 tablespoons cream
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups uncooked brown lentils, rinsed and drained
4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 (16 oz.) bag frozen mixed vegetables (carrots, corn, peas, and green beans)
2 tablespoons cornstarch
salt and pepper to taste

peel and dice the potatoes, then place them in a large pot filled with water (so that the potatoes are covered).  bring the water to a boil and cook for 15-20 minutes until the potatoes are tender.  drain the water and add the butter and cream to the potatoes.  beat with an electric hand mixer until smooth.  season with salt and pepper to taste.

while the potatoes are cooking, preheat your oven to 425 degrees F and lightly grease a 9x13 inch baking dish.  in a large soup pot over medium heat, saute the onions and garlic in olive oil until translucent.  add the lentils, stock, and thyme.  bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and allow the mixture to simmer until the lentils are tender (about 35-40 minutes).  stir in the frozen vegetables.  scoop out 1/4 cup of the liquid and whisk it into the cornstarch.  return it to the pot to thicken the mixture.  season with salt and pepper to taste.

pour the mixture into the baking dish and evenly spread the mashed potatoes on top of the mixture.  place the baking dish on a large baking sheet and bake for 10-15 minutes until the mashed potatoes are lightly browned on top.

love, laurie

Friday, January 9, 2015

Thursday, January 8, 2015

celebrating thirty

birthdays should be celebrated for at least a week.  if that's not a rule, it should be!  this year we started celebrating my birthday on january 1st and we've been on a role ever since . . .

on thursday (new year's day), i kicked off my birthday week by opening birthday presents from ryan's parents.

on friday, we went out for a dinner date at red robin so that i could get my free birthday (veggie) burger.

on saturday, we baked and decorated an epic birthday cake.

on sunday, we got together with our parents for a birthday party and i opened birthday presents from my parents.  (sunday was also a special day because it marked 3 years since we brought leko home!)

on monday, ryan surprised me with beautiful yellow calla lilies.  we curled up in bed with leko and slices of leftover birthday cake to watch shows we had taped on the dvr.

on tuesday (my birthday), a sweet co-worker made me vegan chocolate cake and brought it to work.  ryan and i went out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants.  (i had had salmon in a ginger sauce and it was so good!)  after dinner, i went to ballet class and later in the evening i opened my birthday presents from ryan (with a good deal of help from leko too)!

on wednesday, last night, the weather was brutal.  temperatures were in the single digits and the wind chill was well below zero!  we came home after work and enjoyed leftover eggplant rollatini and pasta from my birthday party.  then we curled up in bed with leko and the last slices of leftover birthday cake and we watched a movie.

we're still in birthday week mode at our house, and we're continuing the birthday celebrations straight through the weekend.  there are so many stores and restaurants that offer free birthday coupons and promotions during the month of your birthday, so we are looking forward to using them!

love, laurie