When we moved into our condo last year, the weather was just starting to turn cool. I’d slip out onto the deck in the morning with a hot cup of tea, grateful to have a little outdoor space of our own. On winter days when I was feeling especially brave, I’d take my coffee out there, watching the snow fall along the water. Now that warmer days have (finally) arrived, it’s time to switch up our deck drinks.
This post brought to you by Organic Choice. All opinions are 100% mine.
When Nick and I started looking for a new condo (we were expecting Grace and I imagine she was expecting… to not share a room with her parents and dog), outdoor space was at the top of our wish list. With spring in sight (sort of… right?), I can’t wait to make the most of our new patio, which is conveniently located just off the kitchen. While bundled up in sweaters, layered with other sweaters, I’ve been day dreaming about growing our own herbs, vegetables and flowers.
Nothing says “Adios, polar vortex!” quite like homegrown produce.
I recently learned about Organic Choice, Scotts’ line of fully organic gardening products, and look forward to incorporating their products into my plans. Better for the environment than conventional products, Organic Choice is perfect for edible gardening and is available at major retailers.
We’ve always taken advantage of my parents’ garden, making spicy gazpacho, salsa, polenta pizzas topped with fresh herbs, summer rolls and crisp salads with their tomatoes, greens, and vegetables. I am hoping I can convince my dad to help keep our patio plants alive… perhaps in exchange for some of that gazpacho?
3-4 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
1/2 large red onion, diced
1 English cucumber, peeled and chopped
1 bell pepper, chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic
1 handful of fresh cilantro
1 handful of fresh parsley
Red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Add tomatoes to the bowl of your food processor or blender and pulse until nearly smooth.
Add cucumber, onion, garlic, cilantro, and a drizzle each of olive oil and red wine vinegar and blend until you reach desired consistency.
Season with salt and pepper.
Be thankful winter is nearly over.
Time to peel off a layer of sweaters, finish off a bowl of gazpacho, and start putting those gardening plans into action.
Also On Tap for Today:
Looking forward to the Boston Flower and Garden Show this week
Wearing flip flops (indoors… but they’re flip flops nevertheless)
Update: Congrats to Sophie @ Life’s Philosophie! And many thanks to all who entered. This giveaway is now closed.
Late last year, I received a complimentary copy of The SparkPeople Cookbook. I was familiar with the SparkPeople website and lovetheir Instagram account, and had heard great things about that community from friends looking to lose weight or maintain a healthy lifestyle. After spending some time enjoying the cookbook and perusing the hundreds of searchable recipes (including a special section for parties and seasonal dishes) on SparkRecipes, I’m hooked.
I’ve never been much of a meal planner. While pregnant, I stuck with small, frequent meals and seemed to experience new food aversions daily (root beer, raspberries, mashed potatoes and cucumbers… those were my safe foods hahaha). I’m still eating round the clock (and often with one hand), but have been so happy to crave actual meals again. Whenever I get a new cookbook, I seem to spend hours marking pages that whet my appetite. That way I can easily find meal inspiration when I’ve grown sick of, welp… raspberries and root beer. (Bodies are so weird.)
The SparkPeople Cookbook is full of healthy recipes, along with really helpful instructions for healthy cooking techniques, inspirational stories from the SparkPeople community, ideas for ingredient swaps, and other educational content.
It’s the kind of cookbook you’ll want to actually read.
The lovely folks at SparkPeople are offering a copy of The Spark People Cookbook to one On Tap for Today reader in the U.S. To enter, simply leave a comment below. I will choose a winner (using random.org) at the end of the day on Monday, February 17th.
Full monty disclosure: I received a complimentary copy of The Spark People Cookbook. I was not compensated for this review or giveaway. As always, I’m happy to share my honest thoughts on products I enjoy. Also, it’s been two weeks since my last sip of root beer.
While I love giving thanks, I don’t love the whole turkey thing. Mashed potatoes? That’s another story.
I found the perfect vegetarian turkey this year, one that doesn’t require any oven space and only takes five minutes to prepare. And if you’re anything like me, four of those five minutes will be spent laughing your tail feathers off.
Open the can.
Inflate the bird.
Serve at room temperature. Or, like… whatever.
If my hilarious, hilarious prank goes according to plan, by the time you read this, I will have served an inflatable turkey to my family. Details to follow.
Also On Tap for Today:
Thanksgiving Day WOD with Nick at CrossFit Southie
If I had my way, we’d skip from summer to winter, mostly so that I’d have reason to decorate for Christmas in early September. Since moving to our new place, though, I’ve had a chance to crunch through the fallen leaves with Clark each day and I am beginning to think that fall isn’t so bad after all.
While I am still counting down the days until I pull our twinkle lights, glittery wreaths and sparkling ornaments out of storage, I am passing the time by embracing a taste of fall.
Nespresso Spiced Apple Coffee
This festive fall drink is perfect for warming up family and friends. And for keeping small children awake for six days. Just kidding. Don’t serve this to children. And pretend I didn’t suggest that.
1 caffeine free cinnamon apple spice tea bag (the original recipe calls for apple and ginger tea, but this was what I had on hand — so delicious!)
2 teaspoons of maple syrup
3 tablespoons of milk froth
A pinch of ground cinnamon
Place the herbal tea bag in a Cappuccino cup and prepare your Grand Cru directly over it
Allow the tea to infuse for 4 minutes, then remove the bag
Add the maple syrup to the coffee and set aside
Prepare the milk froth using the steam nozzle of your Nespresso machine or the Aeroccino milk frother
Place 3 tablespoons of frothed milk on top of the coffee and sprinkle with ground cinnamon
Recipe provided by Nespresso
Boots and tall socks
Finding normal-ish maternity clothing should be an Olympic sport. I am not sure who decided that pregnant women want to look weird for nine or ten months, but I’d prefer to look like… myself. I don’t like wearing wool, which eliminates 98.4% of all cozy, fall sweaters on the maternity market. Fortunately, my tall socks and boots still fit (knock on wood, but the feet swelling thing hasn’t happened yet). So there’s that.
Fearing it might be too soon to break out the Christmas Yankee Candles (they are like a gateway drug for overzealous holiday decorators like myself… light one candle and the next thing you know, you’ve chopped down your neighbor’s decorative fir tree and have hauled up to your condo to adorn with lights and garland), I borrowed this idea from BuzzFeed’s list of holiday party hacks. Citrus, rosemary and vanilla seems to strike a balance between fall and winter.
All things apple
Apple crisp (easily made gluten free with the use of these oats), apples with nut butter, the limited edition apple cider Chapstick I hoarded from Target last year… I can’t get enough apple.
This post was just a ploy to distract you all while I download a few new Christmas jams and start tacking up the Advent calendar.
My fear of the dentist and avoidance of most Halloween candy are not unrelated (which is to say… they are related… like, blood related). While I enjoy dessert every once in a while, I think I either broke my sweet tooth in the pool when I was ten (I will spare you the details), or it got extracted along with my other wisdom teeth when I was eighteen (that procedure resulted in lots of the aforementioned blood, two black eyes, and the discovery that Elizabeth + laughing gas = no laughing, just crying).
I think I probably enjoyed candy corn as a kid, but I also clearly took some sort of PSA about Halloween and dental health to heart. These days I am grateful to work in a small office devoid of candy dishes and thankful to live in a neighborhood where trick-or-treaters are few and far between. In fact, we have yet to buy any candy at all… perhaps we can give out bananas? Or kitchen utensils?
In an effort to get in the holiday spirit while minding my canines, I whipped up a candy corn-esque parfait for breakfast this morning, using the Smari Icelandic yogurt that Designer Whey recently sent my… well, way.
This protein-packed cup was a fantastic breakfast. I was running out the door in a tizzy this morning– nothing new– and wished the parfait was a bit more portable, though. And less likely to spill all over my car. And me. So when I got home, I did a little experimenting with the blender and whipped up a commuter-friendly version. While it lost its candy corn appeal, the smoothie tastes amazing and would be a great post-workout treat, too.
Happy Halloween… smoothie
1 serving Smari pure yogurt
1 scoop Designer Whey vanilla almond protein powder
1/2 cup Clementine pieces (or oranges)
1/2 cup pineapple, cubed
A splash of unsweetened almond milk
1 handful of ice cubes
(Super obvious) directions:
Add ingredients to blender, beginning with liquid and ending with dry ingredients (powder).
Pulse until you reach the desired consistency, and additional ice or almond milk as needed.
Slurp through your favorite straw.
Smari is organic, gluten free and Kosher. It’s low in sugar and high and protein (with more protein per serving than any other yogurt available in the US), and is available in four flavors (pure–not plain, vanilla, blueberry and strawberry) — all of which I found at my local Whole Foods Market (on sale for $1.69 per carton last week). Icelandic yogurt is a bit thicker and creamier than its Greek counterpart, with a nice tang. I’m looking forward to using it in a few more recipes and baking projects this week.
Whew. We are all moved in (unpacking is another story… but we’re getting there) and settling back into normal life. One that doesn’t involve Comcast coming over for tea to break and fix things three days in a row. We were excited to share our new home– and dinner and drinks– with a few friends last night. I’ve got a super easy, football-friendly recipe to share, but first… a little tour.
I am tempted to say the kitchen is my favorite part of our new condo, but I’ve pretty much fallen in love with it all. Perhaps I will quit my job and start filming a cooking show from our new kitchen. My target audience would be people who like lettuce and Cheez-Its (but not together). It would soon be canceled for one of two reasons:
No one would watch it (highly likely)
I would start a fire while cutting off a finger (equally likely)
I still can’t believe we found such a perfectly us home.
I love a good divided recycling and trash center. Thank you, Jesus. And the Container Store. #nerdalert
Unpacking our kitchen boxes was surprisingly fun. There is the perfect place for everything, including our entire wedding registry. We had put many of our gifts in storage, as space was at a premium in our first condo. Opening everything for the second time reminded me how lucky we are to have such wonderful friends and family. I wish we could get everyone together again, eat some cake pops and dance to DJ Sheldon’s jams until we get kicked out th’ building.
Just off the kitchen is our deck. We have great sunset views and Clark has plenty of people to creep on. He is a one man dog neighborhood patrol. We’ll likely wait until next spring to um… spring for new deck furniture, but for now, we’re making do with a pair of old camp chairs and a gas grill (which Nick has used every night since we moved in).
We had a shared roof deck at our first condo, which was lovely, but being able to step out onto the deck each morning with a cup of decaf tea (for me) or Nespresso (for Nick) has been such a great change. Clearly, the Frenchie approves.
The new kitchen (and the disappearance of morning sickness, hallelujah) has motivated me to spend a bit more time cooking, baking and creating. Last night, I whipped up a really easy black bean dip to share with Matt, Pam, Tina and Mal, who joined us for dinner. I grabbed a few ingredients we always seem to have on hand, sort of measured, and threw everything in the food processor. The result? A really tasty appetizer and the perfect tailgate snack. It only takes a few minutes to prepare, and can be refrigerated for a day or two in advance.
Easy, gluten-free and vegan black bean dip
1 can or carton organic black beans, rinsed
1 small yellow onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
juice from half a lime
1/4 cup fresh cilantro, chopped
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper to taste
Add all ingredients, except for the salt and pepper, to your food processor and blend until smooth.
This is a really important step: Pretend that the blended mixture doesn’t look like poop.
Taste, and season with additional spices, plus salt and pepper, if desired.
Garnish with a sprinkle of cilantro and serve with vegetables and tortilla chips.
The bad news: It’s September. The good news: It’s Tuesday. I spent much of Labor Day Weekend laboring at our new condo, unpacking boxes and making poorly timed visits to Target during move-in weekend in Boston. There was still plenty of time for long walks with Nick and Clark, visits with family, baking, bubble baths and juice on the deck.
Athleta sent me a generous gift card in celebration of National Yoga Month (more on that this week), so I stopped by their Newbury Street store with my sister and found the coziest, most comfortable pullover. I live for thumbholes.
While unpacking, I came across a box of festive umbrella straws. They were in the same box as my Mexican flag toothpicks and an exploded jar of margarita salt. Who knows. The straw added a little late summer flair to Saturday’s juice.
Nick’s parents came down for lunch on Sunday. While he grilled up a bunch of vegetables, steak and chicken, I went to work on appetizers, a green salad with a lemon vinaigrette, orzo salad, and a big bowl of fruit. Clark helped by eating his body weight in watermelon. I love having more room to entertain. Almost as much as Nick loves having his own grill right off the kitchen.
I’d been itching to bake since we moved in last week and had great luck with this recipe for banana muffins. I made a few changes, swapping the flour for a mix of almond meal and gluten free baking mix, cutting the sugar in half and adding a heaping teaspoon of cinnamon. They were perfectly baked after 20 minutes… and lasted almost that long on our counter before being gobbled up.
What better way to wind down a day than a hot bath? I can’t wait to share photos of the rest of our condo soon, but this giant soaking tub in the master bath is definitely a highlight. I used a lavender and vanilla bath bomb from the Whole Body section at Whole Foods and soaked until my finger tips wrinkled.
Have you seen the Self Care for September Challenge that Kristi and Erin hosting? They’ve teamed up to create a month-long campaign filled with daily challenges to help encourage and inspire us all to develop our own self-care practices. One of the suggestions on their list, which happens to be a favorite of mine? Bring home fresh flowers for yourself. Other suggestions include journaling, meditation, and…. bubble baths.
Clark makes a lovely pillow.
Nick and I hadn’t been to the movies in the theater ages, and while I love the actual movie-viewing part, I sort of hate the movie theater part. The sticky floors, people gabbing away on their cellphones, and the risk of my elbow getting touched by a stranger’s elbow are enough to compel me to wait for a movie to hit Netflix. I really wanted to see The Butler, though, so I checked out our options and landed on the Showcase SuperLux in Chestnut Hill. The tickets were pricey, but I am glad I splashed out a little because Lord, have mercy… we may never go to a regular theater again. We sat in the “superlux” section and enjoyed fully reclining leather seats, food and beverage service throughout the movie and complimentary popcorn. The only thing that would have made the experience better: a bottomless supply of tissues. I’d like to blame the pregnancy hormones, but if you’ve ever witnessed me reading a Jonathan Kozol book for the fourteenth time, you know once I start crying I don’t stop. Awkward sobbing aside, the movie was really, really great.
We’re moving in less than a week, so I am basically coming to you live from inside one of the many packing boxes currently overwhelming our condo. We have very little left to pack, just the linens on our bed, the six towels I used to dry my hair this morning, and a few cabinets full of food. Tonight’s m.o.: If I eat it, I don’t have to pack it. (Tomorrow’s m.o.: Please grow a brain.)
As you know, Lazy vegetarian chili is one of my favorite meals to make. It’s hearty, but not heavy, and unlike other hot dishes, it doesn’t require having the stove top on for fourteen hours. I almost always have all the ingredients on hand, it doesn’t take much effort, and the leftovers make a tasty lunch. If you’re not sold now, you’ll never be. And that’s okay.
If it seems sort of wrong to cook from a can when fresh summer produce (I am speaking specifically about tomatoes, which I eat like apples this time of year) is so readily available, I’ve got you covered. But first I need to find the box that contains my little food processor.
While we don’t have garden space of our own in the city, we’re lucky enough to take advantage of the fact that my dad is the tomato whisperer. Every time I visit my parents, I find myself returning to the city with a bag full of red, yellow, green, and striped tomatoes from their garden. They are so good with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper, but also make for a lovely, lazy salsa — the perfect compliment for a bowl of lazy vegetarian chili.
Lazy summer salsa
3-4 large tomatoes (the uglier, the better), roughly chopped
1/2 large red onion, roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic
2 cups of cilantro, roughly chopped
1 jalapeno, seeded
Juice from half a lime
Olive oil, salt and pepper to taste
Add tomatoes to the bowl of your food processor or blender and pulse until nearly smooth.
Add red onion, garlic, cilantro and jalapeno and blend until you achieve the desired consistency (I like it real smooth).
Move salsa to a bowl or jar and top with a squeeze of fresh lime juice, a touch of olive oil, and salt and pepper – if desired.
Eat with a spoon. Or, like… a tortilla chip.
You could add cucumbers to make it more gazpacho-esque, or add beans to beef amp it up a bit and serve as a soup. If it feels good, do it.