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One Outfit: Winter to Spring

The weather here in DC has been playing with all of our minds and closets.  On Saturday, it was a gorgeous 60 and sunny and we took a long family walk in just our shirtsleeves.  And then today it snowed.  I was more than a little bitter (although I started to forgive it just a little for at least being those big, gorgeous, soft snowflakes).

Since this time of year is so fickle, I like to think of outfits that can easily bridge the seasons.  Here's one example!



WINTER
 

Shirt: J.Crew Factory; Vest: Land's End Girls' Vest; Jeans: Forever 21; Scarf: H&M (similar); Purse: J.Crew (similar); Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington; Socks: Uniqlo; Shoes: Old Navy


For the winter version, I buttoned up the vest and added some decidedly cool-weather colors.  Burnt orange socks, chunky mustard scarf, booties, and a warm leather bag are perfect for colder temperatures.


SPRING


Shirt: J.Crew Factory; Vest: Land's End Girls' Vest; Jeans: Forever 21; Necklace: c/o ShopBlueBirdBride; Purse: J.Crew Factory (similar); Bracelet: Old Navy (similar); Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington; Shoes: Tretorn (similar)


To take the same outfit into springtime, I basically took the brighter, springier versions of all the colors.  Burnt orange became coral, mustard became sunshine yellow.I rolled up the sleeves, opened the vest, and added a bright, fun necklace.


How do you take your outfits from winter into spring?

Top 10 Essentials of a Vegetarian Kitchen

When we were putting together our registry before getting married, I was inexplicably thrilled to register for a melon baller.  I have no explanation for this.  In the nearly 6 years we've been married, I think I've used that thing once.  And that was only because I felt guilty.

Even with cooking most days, I find I tend to use the same instruments pretty frequently.  Here's a little list of some of the things I find most useful, not including staples like can openers and measuring cups/spoons.

You'll note that my beloved Kitchenaid is not on there.  Especially since I make my pizza and bread dough by hand, I really don't use it much for cooking, and mostly just for baking.

Another glaring omission: my food processor.  Reason?  I forgot.  Until after I'd put everything together, and it was nearly midnight.  I'm sorry.  But just know - I LOVE MY FOOD PROCESSOR.  I had (have) a mini prep that, for years, I thought to be sufficient (and it it is perfect for pesto and such).  But my food processor!  I just got it maybe 6 months ago and it has improved the quality of my kitchen life immeasurably.  Grating cheese?  A breeze.  Putting together a quick pie dough when I don't feel like crumbling the butter by hand?  Takes two seconds.  It's the best.

Without further disclaiming, the top 10 essentials of my vegetarian kitchen:





1. Wusthof Santoku Knife - If I could pick only one kitchen item to keep, it would be this knife.  Although I have several other excellent knives, this is the one I reach for 90% of the time.  If you only have one knife, get a great chef's knife.  Beyond that, I'm rather fond of my small serrated knife, paring knife, and bread knife, all from Cutco.  I also love this big ole cutting board from Ikea.  Plenty of room for all my veggies and all the scraps.

2. A Roasting Pan (I think this one is pretty, although mine is some random old metal one) - Not just for carnivores.  Because what else do you do with all those random CSA veggies but roast them to death?

3. A Pizza Stone and Peel (again, not ones I own but look nice) - With how often we eat homemade pizza, it's really nice having these on hand.

4. A Microplane Grater - Grating cheese is, by far, my least favorite kitchen task.  I loathe it.  The good stuff always breaks and you always have that little nubby end and always are thisclose to tearing apart your fingers.  I finally got one of these about a year ago and I still don't like it, but it is SO much more tolerable.

5. A Large Pot - Nothing is worse than realizing halfway through cooking that your pot is too small. This All-Clad 4-qt. one is almost always big enough and has been my bread and butter.  It is almost always the one I reach for and still looks brand new.  It's the best.

6. A Cast Iron Pan (similar to ours) - A random old cast iron is one of the very few kitchen things that survived from Dan's bachelor days.  The great thing about cast irons is that they need not be fancy or expensive.  Any cheapo version is probably fine if you season it well yourself, and they just get better and smoother with age.  I love our 12" one, and it's great as a nonstick pan or for caramelizing onions or, my favorite, for making crispy grilled cheese.

7. Kitchen Shears - Not sure where kitchen shears had been all my life, but they come in handy in so many ways I never realized.  Cutting up clementines for the baby, cutting greens/herbs, etc. etc.

8. Spatulas (don't you love the yellow?)- Somehow, no matter how many I have, I never have enough spatulas.  I love having a big ole wide one for flipping things, a metal one for heavier duty jobs, a small cookie one, and several silicone ones for stirring and sauteeing various veggies (I prefer the inflexible ones to the bendy ones both for veggies and baking).

9. Blender and Immersion Blender - Look, if you made me choose, the immersion blender will always win.  It's just the best for soups and that's slightly more important than smoothies.  BUT!  We make a lot of smoothies and I don't really prefer making them in single serve portions.  So I looove having a really terrific blender, as well.  We had that immersion blender up until a few months ago when it gave up the ghost and we got a slightly cheaper model of the same brand.  It's WAY less powerful and I will probably go back to my beloved standby soon enough here.

10. Slow Cooker - My fave.  Love her.  Also, loved paying $20 at Target on Black Friday for it.


What are your favorite kitchen gadgets?

8 Blazer Looks (for outside the office)

For the longest time, every time I put on a blazer, I felt like an imposter.  I knew in my head that they were chic and stylish, but I just couldn't get over feeling like I looked like I was masquerading as some high-powered businesswoman (probably with crumbs on my face. Nothing says C-suite like pizza lunch remnants).

I was at my second home a few weeks ago and grabbed this ponte knit blazer.  If you've known me for about 4 seconds, you'll know that I basically NEVER buy anything for full-price.  But this blazer I grabbed and purchased without even taking it to the dressing room.  The knit material makes it a lot easier to dress down, and it's super comfortable and soft.  If you're in the market for a ponte blazer, I highly recommend this one.

(Not being paid in the least to say this, I just love this blazer.  Although, Target, if you're out there and WANT to send me money, I would not turn you down.)

Here are a few ways I've found to help it feel decidedly un-office-y:





1. With an A-line skirt.  There's no better way, in my opinion, to mitigate the professionalism of a blazer than with a pretty floral A-line skirt and some bright tights.  It's business on top, but all fun on the bottom.




Skirt: Downeast Basics (similar); Shirt: Forever 21 (similar); Tights: Target; Necklace: Ann Taylor (similar); Shoes: Target (very similar)


2. Over a knit sweater and sequins.  Sparkle, softness, structure, it's all here.  I love the blazer layered over a sweater, and those calm and collected basics are perfect with a bit of glam.


Sweater: H&M (similar); Skirt: Forever 21 (similar); Tights Old Navy; Wedges: Target (similar); Necklace: Ann Taylor (similar); Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington


3. Under a vest with bright pants.  Also is a great way to winterize those colored skinnies.


Vest: Land's End; Pants: Target (similar); Shirt: H&M (similar); Booties: Payless


4. Over a sweatshirt.  Few things scream casual more than a sweatshirt.  Throwing a blazer on top is the perfect way to give a sweatshirt some structure and make it look a little nicer.


Sweatshirt: Banana Republic (similar); Jeans: Forever 21; Belt: J.Crew Factory (similar); Ankle Boots: Old Navy; Socks: Uniqlo


5. Over some bold pattern-mixing.  I tend to gravitate toward pattern mixing in smaller doses.  Going bold can be fun, but a little intimidating.  I toned down the statement-making stripes and plaid with this easy basic.


Flannel shirt: Target (similar); Skirt: Old Navy; Sweater tights: Target; Ankle Boots: Old Navy; Necklace: c/o Eclectic Ornaments; Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington


6. Over a Dress.  I love the juxtaposition of the flowy and girly dress with the slightly masculine blazer.

 

Dress: Downeast Basics (similar); Shoes: Target (very similar); Sweater tights: Target; Necklace: Ann Taylor (similar); Watch: c/o Daniel Wellington


7. Over patterned pants. I often struggle styling these pants, so neutralizing them and making them seem a little less tweeny with a structured-but-not-too-much blazer is just right.


Shirt: Forever 21; Pants: Target (similar); Ankle Boots: Old Navy; Scarf: from India


8. Over layers.  Button down, sweater, blazer.  Perfect layering, in my opinion.  Especially with a bit of gingham peeking through.


Shirt: J.Crew Factory; Sweater: Old Navy; Jeans; Forever 21; Necklace: Ann Taylor (similar); Socks: Uniqlo


Linking up with The Pleated Poppy

A Last Minute Valentine (with Glow-in-the-Dark Stars!)



I somehow got it into my head that glow in the dark stars needed to make their way into nat's preschool valentines. And then...Target let me down. They didn't have them! Not did walmart, and Amazon would've taken too long.

Thankfully, our local and adorable toy store had them and we managed to whip these out in about half an hour. I just cut out the hearts and wrote the note while nat wrote his name and stuck in the stars with the included putty. I'm sure you could make them a lot more professional looking by printing out hearts and typing words or something, but this way was cute, easy, and quick!

Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Pancakes


Until this weekend, I'd never before put chocolate chips in my pancakes.

It was...life changing.

I mean, HOW had I not put chocolate chips in my pancakes?  Maybe not the brightest crayon.

These were delicious.  A little lighter than with pumpkin, and not super fluffy but not too dense.  Does that make sense?

Either way, THEY HAVE CHOCOLATE CHIPS.  Maybe this amazes no one but me, but either way - go make them.



Sweet Potato Chocolate Chip Pancakes
adapted liberally from Mark Bittman's How To Cook Everything Vegetarian

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
6 teaspoons baking powder
3 tablespoons sugar
1.5 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
10 tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup milk
 4 eggs
1 medium cooked, peeled and mashed sweet potato
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon oil
1 cup chocolate chips, not optional
3/4 cup toasted and chopped pecans, somewhat optional

1. Whisk together butter, milk, eggs, sweet potato, vanilla and oil together.

2. Whisk together flours, baking powder, sugar, salt, and cinnamon.  Gently whisk wet ingredients into dry ones until just combined.  Fold in chocolate chips and pecans, if using (which you should be).

3. Cook on greased skillet on medium heat until bubbles start to break the surface.  Flip and cook until other side is golden.  Serve with fruit and maple syrup.


A Chocolate-Themed Vegetarian Valentine's Menu

This afternoon, I finally sat down and constructed my Valentine's Day meal plan.  I'm kind of ridiculously excited to steal Mel's idea this year of having a little family candlelit dinner.  I think the kids will be stoked.

There's a restaurant in DC that structures all of its food around chocolate.  I thought that would be a fun theme this year, so I came up with a little chocolate-inspired vegetarian Valentine's menu.

No recipes, because these are all experiments.  Experiments that are too nice/time consuming/pricey to test out twice in the same week, so you'll be getting a full report after the fact.  In the meantime, here's what I'm planning:



Baked Citrus & Pine Nut Brie with Shaved Chocolate

Spinach/Pear/Cranberry/Pecan Salad with Feta and Chocolate Fig Balsamic Vinaigrette

Pasta di Cacao with Creamy Mushroom & Artichoke Sauce (inspiration)
Roasted Beets with Cacao Nibs
Cocoa Buttermilk Biscuits (inspiration)

Chocolate Lavender Fondue

Equilibrium

Re-found this clip of Nat from about a year ago and I can't get over how little and darling he was. Also, I remember thinking how AMAZING and CLEAR his speech was and how i couldnt believe anyone couldnt understand him perfectly. I think we can all agree I was spot on and we're raising a prodigy. Because prodigies say "tain tation."



Hey, life is totally not perfect but I feel like we're at a bit of an equilibrium right now and it's nice. Nat started preschool a couple of weeks ago and is totally loving it. And I'm loving the extra time to...sit on the couch and read.

(A few days after Nat started I was talking to a lady who commented how hard that transition is and how it ws so sad for her and her kid. And I was all.....yeah, no. Free time! Letter crafts! Yippee on all counts! Installing heartlessness in the next generation, one kid at a time. See also: guilt for not feeling sadness/guilt.)

Kina is at SUCH a fun age right now. Too old to be needlessly cranky, too young for tantrums, thinks everything is hilarious, jabbers books to herself.  We'll keep her.

I know I'm just asking for a meteor to crash into our house or perhaps the winter to never end, but life. It's pretty good right now.

Citrus & Coconut Oil Snickerdoodles


A couple of weeks ago, I was attending a bridal shower.  We had a few errands to run in the morning, but I figured we had plenty of time until the afternoon shower.  Until I remembered I had offered to bring a dessert and I had NO idea what to bring.  Also, the bride is not a huge fan of chocolate (I KNOW).  Stress.

Admittedly, I'm not usually a giant fan of snickerdoodles.  I paged through about a gazillion recipes hoping to find something else suitable (I considered biscotti, but thought it would take a little too long...for all the time I spent looking through recipes, I could've just made the dang things), but nothing else was quite as quick and as undemanding in terms of ingredients.  So, snickerdoodles it was.

I'd already started creaming together the butter and sugar when I realized, ACK!  It calls for shortening!  Shortening kind of skeeves me out, so I rarely have any on hand.  I'd been wanting to try substituting shortening for coconut oil (since they're both solid at room temperature) and decided to just go for it.  Of course, citrus seemed like a nice complement to the coconut, so I threw some of that in, too.

And these were DIVINE.  I mean!  I liked a cookie that didn't involve chocolate.  Pretty sure that spells victory.  They also got rave reviews from everyone at the shower, and while I don't bake solely for the compliments, it is 90% of the reason.

So.  Go take 10 minutes and make these!




Citrus & Coconut Oil Snickerdoodles
Adapted from here

Cookies:
2 1/2 cups AP flour
2 teaspoons cream of tartar
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon of citrus zest (I used the zest from about 3 smallish clementines)

Coating:
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup granulated sugar

1. Preheat oven to 375F.  Lightly coat 2 cookie sheets with cooking spray (or use parchment paper or a silpat liner).

2. Whisk together the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  In the bowl of a stand mixer (or in a large bowl by hand), cream together butter. granulated sugar, and coconut oil until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 2 minutes.  Add in eggs and zest mix until well combined.  Reduce the speed of your mixer and add in flour mixture, mixing until just combined.

3. In a small bowl or plate, combine cinnamon and sugar for topping.  Roll the cookies into 1 1/2 inch balls and roll in cinnamon sugar to coat.  Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on baking sheets.  Bake until the edges are light golden brown and the centers are soft and puffy, about 9-11 minutes.  Remove cookies to a wire rack to cool completely.



Linking up with the winthrop chronicles