Sunday, March 29, 2015

Spring Mantel & Zingerman's Roadhouse

For the first six months of living in our house, our mantel was just a place to store the remote.  When we were volunteered (thanks sis, hehe!), as the newlyweds and new homeowners, to host our families for the holidays I decided we had to spruce it up a bit!

Since our kitten was only four months old, we couldn't have a tree or ornaments anywhere so I bought a fresh Boxwood wreath for our front door (I LOVE the bright green!  I wish I took a photo) and did what I could to festive-fy the mantel:  a round vase stuffed with pine cones, some shiny decorative balls, candles, a little gold wreath and a white ceramic reindeer.

But it's nearly April now, and the holidays are long gone, along with our festive-ish knick knacks.  And I am on a new mission to shop for some Spring mantel decorations!

Since it is never good to shop while you're hungry (read The Impulse Buy), we decided to go shopping downtown after a glorious breakfast with our family at Zingerman's Roadhouse.

My adorable nephew showing off his car artwork.  Gah!  His facial expression, what a love <3 <3

Pulpy goodness!  I only drink OJ when I have to chew it, mmm

My wonderful parents-in-law <3

Eggs Benedict

With fully bellies we headed downtown to Bed & Butter, a new store that opened on Main Street last fall.  I hadn't been in yet but the window arrangement is inviting and right up my alley.

Check out this interesting pyramid dude!

These animals would be cute in a kid's room

I've seen these diptyque candles in various photos lately and was curious what they are all about.  I learned that they are made in France, they burn for 50 to 60 hours and are very, very expensive for a candle.  So I sniffed up what I could of this scrumptious Feu de Bois, took a photo and moved on.

True story

Interesting and cute little geometric dish with a lid

Odd-shaped, sort of charming sugar dish

Those colors look familiar and cozy

I love the pop of color on the inside of these brass bowls!

Fun mini candles display!  I liked the way they looked but the scents didn't do anything for me unfortunately

Since I knew I wanted a candle, I was very happy when I came across this Sydney Hale hand-poured eucalyptus + sage one.  It burns 50 to 60 hours and 10% of profits of the company are donated to a dog rescue.  It is warm and crisp and everything I was looking for!

After I walked back and forth in the store for a good hour, I was ready to get my new treasures home to see what I could do to make our mantel feel more like Spring!!!

Fresh flowers are a must these days!  It is the easiest way to brighten up a room.  And it turns out this is the only place that Jules can't reach (and eat) the flowers.  The soft pink and green flowers looks good with the little gold dish!  

This green branch is actually a stalk of a house plant that Jules tore off.  It has survived on our mantel for at least a month at this point!  An odd item to decorate with but I think it is wonderful :)

Although our Spring mantel is still a bit sparse, I don't want to force anything!  I think a larger framed something would look really nice eventually and I'm sure I'll find items throughout the summer to swap in or add to these ones, but for now, I'm really happy with how it turned out!  

Doesn't this slab of wood just scream with how rustic we are? ;)

And finally the big picture, complete with a crazy kitten tearing through the room!  

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Cast Iron Carrots with Curry

This Cast Iron Carrots with Curry recipe is one of my favorite quick and healthy side dishes.  With only a few ingredients, I almost always have them all on hand.

Plus I love using my cast iron skillet when I can.  I'm new to cooking on cast iron and I'm not very good at it yet but I'm working on it!  The whole not 'cleaning' process has been interesting.  I just rinse immediately and wipe down with more coconut oil before it goes back into the cupboard.  I've only tried this recipe and a frittata with this skillet but I'm hoping to try a new one soon.  Maybe I'll try a dessert!  With cherries and crumbly butter topping...yes...

For now, back to these carrots!  The coconut oil and curry give the carrots a glazed sweetness, combined with the salt and pepper and you have yourself a side dish that can hold its own and have you going back for seconds.  I even like making these for a snack on the weekends.

And look at that, its Saturday - happy weekend everyone!

Cast Iron Carrots with Curry


1 tbsp coconut oil
5 to 8 medium sized carrots peeled and sliced 1-inch thick
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1 tsp curry powder


Heat your skillet over medium-high heat and add coconut oil.  When the oil is hot add the carrots in an even layer to maximize contact with the pan.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and fry the carrots, turning ever 3 to 4 minutes until they have dark caramelized spots, about 8 to 12 minutes total.  Add the curry powder and mix to combine.

Serve hot or at room temperature - both are great!

I think it is worth bringing up that the original recipe called for 1/4 chopped cilantro because it does add something to the dish.  It is certainly prettier - bold, bright green on the crispy, glazed orange and yellow - and it adds a freshness and lightness to the cooked carrots.   However, cilantro can sometimes be a hassle since it is usually sold in a huge bunch.  I hate to waste so I end up having to get more ambitious than I probably want to and I have to plan a few days worth of meals to include cilantro in one form or another.

I think the solution here is to plant another cilantro to put in my kitchen window and try to get my husband to keep it alive for me!

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Cafe Spiaggia and Carriage House - Chicago

TGIF!  Toronto in Chicago
Andy and I went to Chicago for our friend's wedding a few months ago and we decided to make a weekend of it!

After a 5-hour drive from Ann Arbor and checking into our The Westin Chicago River North we quickly got ready to meet our other friends, Matt & Lauren, who were also in town for the wedding.  They made reservations for the four of us at Cafe Spiaggia!

(Before I get to far, I have to tell you what the bride & groom did for their guests staying at the hotel.  When we checked in, they gave us vouchers for breakfast on the day after the wedding - what a cool idea!!!  Totally unexpected, generous and so convenient, and the breakfast was delicious.)

We met our friends in the lobby of the hotel and Uber'ed to Cafe Spiaggia.  Andy and I were ready for a drink by now, it had been a long work week and a long enough drive!

This Toronto cocktail had me at rye whiskey ;)

We ended up waiting an extra 45 minutes at the bar for our table even though we had reservations so when we finally sat down for dinner they brought us all these extra goodies, on the house!  What a nice surprise because we don't normally order 4 appetizers on top of our mains.  It was a lot of food but wow was it good!

Our friends are vegetarian and we don't normally eat beef but this Carpaccio with horseradish, sunchokes and Grana Padano was divine!  The Polpette with San Marzano tomato and pecorino Romano was rich and succulent; the perfect combination of salty, acidic and meaty, rarr.

Luckily our vegetarian (pescetarian is more accurate I suppose) friends had some nice options too!

Burrata with apple mostarda

Andy went with the half chicken, Brussels sprouts, butternut squash and leeks

Three drinks in and plans to meet our other friends at the bar after...Bucatini Carbonara hit the spot!

Thanks for letting me photograph your food, Lauren!  ;)

After dinner we met up with Kara and Ben, whom we also got to see at our wedding two months before!  It's always fun to hang out with this little lady!  (Fun fact, Kara and I went to Cafe Spiaggia during our internship during the summer of 2007.  I remember loving it then, I was so excited that it was just as delicious, if not better this time!)

Slightly hungover and sleep deprived, the next day we met up with my other Chicago girl friends Rochelle and Katherine for brunch at Carriage House in Wicker Park.  Oh my goodness, this place was outstanding!  When I used to live in Chicago I remember being too lazy to leave my neighborhood, Old Town, for brunch.  How naive I was.  If you are in Chicago and need food, this place will not disappoint.  I can't wait to go back!

Chicken and biscuit with pimento and sausage gravy

Classic fried eggs and bacon to bring me back to life

This was by far my favorite dish.  The fried green tomatoes with yellow pea salad, hot sauce vinaigrette and buttermilk aioli yummmmm

My lovely Chicago friends <3  By the way, Elizabeth Olsen was DEFINITELY sitting right next to us!

Coach & Biddy's pretty ceremony at Kendell College!

The bride & groom got creative and swapped out the champagne toast for a Malort toast.  Apparently it is Chicago's polarizing cult liqueur, whatever that means.  Have you had Malort?  I wanted to be a good sport even though the smell of it was shocking to say the least.  Oooh boy.  You should try it sometimes.  Just to say you did.  No other reason.

The bride and groom were adorable and charming and the wedding was beautiful!  What a fun and memorable weekend!