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Guest Post on Leaner by the Lake

mindful health rise with intention









Good morning everyone!

You know when you find a blog, get really excited, and spend hours combing through its archives to read every post ever? I’ve had this feeling recently with the blog Leaner by the Lake. Eileen lives in Chicago too, and she writes about health, clean eating, body image, home decor, and this whole “being a grownup” thing that I sometimes pretend to be figuring out too. I was honored when she asked me to write a guest post for her Mindful Health series, and I’m excited to share it with you all today!

This series is dedicated to discussing health and wellness and to sharing ways to promote these goals in our own lives. I wrote about using journaling to begin the day with reflection, leading to a positive and centered peace throughout the day. Head over to Leaner by the Lake to check out my post and others in the Mindful Health series.

Thanks to Eileen for inviting me to share!

Autumn Crostini

Crostini means “little toasts” in Italian.

I recently made this Ricotta Squash Crostini for an appetizer party and it was a favorite.  There are so many crostini varieties and you can be very creative with your toppings, especially by choosing seasonal ingredients.  This crostini is fall themed and uses fresh herbs.

Ricotta Squash Crostini Serves 6-8

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 10-15 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
16 slices baguette
Salt and pepper
1 garlic clove

1 acorn squash, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed,
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Fresh rosemary
7 Oz ricotta cheese
Fresh thyme

First, begin by brushing on olive oil to each side of the sliced baguette.  Cook on baking sheet for 10-15 minutes or until golden at 400 degrees.

Next, peel the acorn squash.  Use a sharp knife as this peel is quite tough.  Cut the squash into cubes and toss with olive oil, garlic, lemon zest, rosemary, salt, and pepper.  Bake until tender, about 35 minutes.  To make the ricotta mixture, mix ricotta, thyme, and a little lemon juice.  Top each crostini with a generous amount.  Top with roasted squash and garnish with rosemary.

4K for Cancer: Breakfast for 30 People

Way back in May, I made my biggest cooking commitment yet. My friend Yoshi was biking across the country from Baltimore to Portland with 4k for Cancer and needed someone to make breakfast for his team of 30 participants.

The 4K for Cancer is a program of the Ulman Cancer Fund for Young Adults. We are a non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing lives by supporting, educating and connecting young adults, and their loved ones, affected by cancer. Since 2001, groups of college students have undertaken journeys across America with the goal of offering hope, inspiration and support to cancer communities along the way.

In 2012, 88 4K for Cancer participants traveled across America and were able to raise nearly $500,000 to support young adults affected by cancer.

He and his team were looking for overnight hosts as well as people to provide breakfast or dinner during their stop in Chicago. Feeding people is probably my number one favorite activity, so how could I resist cooking breakfast for a group of people doing something so awesome? With the help of a friend, I made everything the night before, drove down to the city with a car full of casseroles, and reheated the food in the ovens there.

4k for cancer breakfastLook how excited we are to see each other (and eat)! It was awesome to see a friend for the first time in maybe two years, and to be able to offer everyone riding for this great cause a vegetarian breakfast. On the menu:

  • 3 French Toast Casseroles- I turned to someone with experience feeding 20-30 teenagers for this recipe, and these sweet casseroles with crunchy topping were a huge hit.
  • 1 Cheesy Potato Breakfast Casserole with Cheddar and Sundried Tomatoes from The Kitchn
  • Two big trays of potato and sweet potato wedges
  • Mini Frittatas with spinach and onions
  • Bananas
  • Coffee
  • A huge array of condiments- I figured that if I were riding across the country, I would miss Sriracha.

4k for cancer breakfast 2

My secret goal was to have enough food that there would be leftovers for people to snack on during their rest day exploring the city. Success! Not only was it fun to cook so much food at once, but it was a blast catching up with Yoshi and hearing his stories about the trip so far. If you’d like to read about his adventure or donate to 4k, check out his personal page on the 4k site.

Chicago Noms #1

A few weeks ago, some co-workers and I ventured on a food tour of Chicago! In addition to seeing more of the city, I tasted some delicious foods and naturally, felt extremely full and satisfied by the end of the day.  After 8 hours of walking, eating, and enjoying, I came away with a few favorites and wanted to share some with you.

#1 Enoteca Roma.  Located in the heart of Wicker Park on Division street, this Italian restaurant has a quiet ambience, with a front patio, and rich food-could it get any better?  We tasted the Pear Ricotta Ravioli with walnut cream sauce and gorgonzola-it was phenomenal! The pear added just a touch of sweetness to a usually savory dish.  As the fall approaches make sure to indulge in dishes with pear, squash, pumpkin, and apple!


Wilbur the Garden Gnome and his pet frog just moved into my raised bed garden, where they are chilling out with some leafy green seedlings. Up close we have spinach, next broccoli, and way back in the distance, chard!

Spring in Pictures

Wind power on the drive through Indiana

Sometimes I have days, weekends, and weeks where I barely cook at all. With all the travel I’ve been doing recently for work and pleasure, I’ve seen a lot of sights but haven’t spent much time in the kitchen. Instead of posting a recipe today, I have a few snapshots of springtime things that are brightening my days. While I was traveling, I got to catch up with my elementary school friend Claire. I loved sipping tea and catching up in the warm, colorful cafe she manages.

After I got home from a whirlwind week of travel for work, I got to celebrate the birthday of one of my favorite people! I made a flourless chocolate cake that was kind of a mess…there was a frantic phone call to Kerry and her mom, accompanied by a text of “Cake emergency please help call me!” Thankfully what matters more than the look of the cake is how it tastes, and this cake tasted amazing (I think that tends to happen when the ingredients are dark chocolate + butter + eggs + coffee.) We served it with a homemade coconut milk ice cream made with pumpkin, honey, pie spices and cayenne pepper.

Flourless chocolate cake with spicy pumpkin pie coconut milk ice cream

I also made an edible bouquet…

Guess what these roses are made of...

Two dozen bacon roses! They were a nice decoration, but an even better snack and breakfast accompaniment. The next weekend I was traveling again, this time to visit my alma mater. While I watched my friends beat each other up on the rugby pitch, I got to hang out with this gentleman.

Handsome, impeccably behaved, and a total chick-magnet.

It was wonderful to spend a few days this spring driving through the Midwest and New England, but I’m happy to be settling back in chez moi. My seedlings are blooming, spring storms are giving way to warmth, and I’m starting a Whole30 today (see the new link on our top navigation bar.) The only thing that would improve these moments would be if I could watch them from a porch swing like this one!

My house would be infinitely improved by a garden full of tulips and a porch with a swing.

Sangria Punch

As you’re enjoying some rays outside, hosting a summer bbq, or just want to try a specialty drink for dinner one night,try this!  Reach for this Sangria Punch as you open your refrigerator.
You can add in any fruit; it’s super easy, yummy, and of course, eye candy!
Directions-Serves 9 cups
Prep time: 20 minutes, divided
Cook time: none
4 cups cold cranberry juice cocktail
1 cup cold orange juice
1 tbsp. fresh lime juice
3/4 cup pink lemonade mix
3 cups cold club soda
2 oranges, sliced
2 limes, sliced
Mix the cranberry juice, orange juice, lime juice, and lemonade mix. Stir and refrigerate until ready to serve.

When ready to serve, mix in club soda and fruit.

Recipe from

Queen’s Own Scones

Though the Queen of England did divulge her family recipe for scones in 1959, today’s recipe was created on this side of the pond. First published by America’s Test Kitchen and adapted by Deb of Smitten Kitchen, its most recent incarnation took place in my kitchen last weekend. I whipped up two versions for the queen of the day…Karly: a friend, housemate, and bride-to-be!

Please admire Karly's silver and hot pink tiara.

This past Sunday, I hosted a bridal tea for Karly with our friend Megan and with lots of help from Kerry. Karly ruled over the shower not with an iron fist, but with a plate of tiny sandwiches. Also piled high on everyone’s plates were deviled eggs, cookie bars, trifle, Kerry’s cupcakes, and these miniature scones.

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Pakistani Kima (Beef Curry)

I was originally planning to post a recipe for Paleo pizza today, but I got sidetracked by an amazing dish and just had to share it. This recipe for Pakistani Kima has a wonderful curry flavor and is full of nutritious vegetables. Spicing up your weeknight dinners doesn’t have to involve dining out or washing sinks full of dishes–one-pot meals can save time and money. While I chose to make a Paleo, low-carb version of this dish, you can easily adapt it to fit a vegetarian/vegan diet by substituting beans or TVP for the ground beef.

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