Loving: spring edition

First it rained, and I thought the way the clouds were resting on the El Cerrito hills was especially pretty.

Me and Reggie just hung out and knit for a while.

I whipped through the second Hunger Games book. I actually thought it was pretty good.

Mike and I enjoyed spring rolls at our favorite Vietnamese place, Nong Thon.

I also finally broke down and bought some dried billy buttons to put around the house. They just belong in that little vase.

When the sun finally came out, my outdoor flowers were so happy. The gerbera daisy fully opened, revealing a bright orange flower.

The rest of the daisies in the ammo box and pretty irises opened, too.

Sadly, something ate my mint. But I did decide to move both the tomato plant and the orange tree into the sunniest spot in our front yard garden. They both really seem to like the extra light.

Sadie has been doing this thing where she plops down in a sunny spot next to the house and refuses to come inside. Such a diva.

The best thing that happened this week, though, was an impromptu barbecue we had in our tiny backyard. We invited our next door neighbors, so I thought it would just be four of us. But it ended up being nine people and three dogs!


Party people. 🙂


This is Monkey. He lives next door.

Mike made lamb burgers with caramelized onions and feta cheese.

I mixed up a little vinaigrette for heirloom cherry tomatoes.

I also made strawberry shortcake for dessert. I’m still using the same perfect recipe.

We strung up the lights from our wedding throughout the yard, and that really transformed the space into a great spot for entertaining. Now we definitely want to get more furniture and a firepit so we can do this again.


Fun times!

Fiesta!

So we celebrated our engagement and my career change with some of our favorite foods. And sangria.

There are a million ways to make sangria, but basically it’s wine and fruit. I made mine with two bottles of rose, a green apple, an orange, half a pound of strawberries and fresh mint. To make it fizzy I added a bottle of club soda (not sure the size, maybe a liter?), and to sweeten it I added one batch of simple sugar (1 cup each of water and sugar heated until the sugar dissolves).

I also left it in the fridge overnight so that everything would get good and mixed together. It was wonderful!

Of course I made guacamole.

So much guacamole. Although I ended up getting full on a friend’s mango salsa instead.

Here’s the cake. Heart-shaped, of course.

I used Pioneer Woman’s recipe for Strawberry Shortcake Cake, but substituted a can of cream cheese frosting for the real stuff since we were already cooking so much.

Really, you could do this with a vanilla cake mix, too. Just bake it in two pans and stack the layers. You top each layer with mashed up strawberries that have been sitting in sugar until they start to make juice. Since the cake soaks up the fruit juice it tastes even better a day later.

So the deposit’s paid, the contract’s signed, and we are on our way to having a wedding. I’m hoping to post soon on all the sources where I’ve been finding inspiration — there are some great (free) ones out there!

Le menu

The first year Mike and I lived together we decided the best way to see all of our families for Thanksgiving was to have them meet in Des Moines and have dinner at our house. It was a smashing success, and after cooking for 11 the first year, we invited the grandmas and had 13 the next year.

Some photos from Thanksgiving #1:

This year, we’re a little leaner — just 10 total — but we’re super excited to host and prove, once again, that being vegetarian doesn’t mean you have to miss out.

No one is going hungry at our table.

Being the Martha wannabe that I am, I decided I wanted to steer away from some of the traditional dishes this year and do a bit more gourmet menu. So here’s what we’re having, barring disaster, with family members providing two kinds of pie, brownies, lemon bars, and of course, wine.

Appetizers
Grape tomatoes, carrots, celery, pickles and dip (about where the healthiness ends)
Black bean and rice chips with hummus
Crab and shrimp toasts
Artisan cheeses and fancy crackers with grapes and jam

First course
Curried pumpkin soup

Main
Cranberry Quorn roast
Tofurkey with Shitake mushroom gravy
Caramelized Onion and Cornbread Stuffing
Mashed trio: garlic golden potatoes, butter turnips and cumin sweet potatoes
Green beans with shallots and lemon
Homemade rolls (!!)

Each guest will also receive a mini loaf of zucchini bread (Paula Deen’s recipe) as a takeaway.

For breakfast on Friday we’re doing crepes with Nutella and fresh fruit. I should say Mike’s doing crepes; he’s the expert there.

The only advice I can really give to other cooks is to do as much as you can in advance. Inevitably things will be hectic right before you sit down to eat, but if it’s a half hour instead of 6 hours, you’ll be a lot happier. Cut veggies, bake casseroles, even set up your table the day before. Then open the door, and dig in.