Tuesday, April 26, 2011

fresh, fragrant and flavorful

In my opinion, fresh herbs are essential for cooking. Sure, dried ones are appropriate from time to time but you just can't beat the vibrancy fresh ones bring to a dish. I try to cook with fresh herbs as often as I can but buying them at the market can be a bit on the expensive side. So this past weekend my mom surprised me with this:
While it isn't exactly an herb garden, this basket has exactly what I need. Rosemary, thyme and basil (all seen here) are my three favorite herbs. They all have such distinct flavors that they've got me covered for pretty much anything I want to make. 
From a rosemary crusted pork tenderloin, to a simple caprese salad... I can't wait to get cooking!

Saturday, April 23, 2011

the earth laughs in flowers

I think every girl has a love affair with flowers. They just have an inexplicable way of making you smile and brightening up your day, especially when they come from someone special. While I love the brightness sunflowers and the sweet smell of lilies, I simply obsessed with orchids. They're so elegant without being too fussy and perfectly accent any room. My favorite thing about them though, is their resilience.
The pink orchids Quino gave me for Valentine's Day (seen here) lasted well over a month, far longer than any bouquet of flowers ever would have. Though I'm so happy I got to enjoy waking up to those beauties every morning for a while, here's something that really amazes me.
I took this picture today of these stunning orchids Quino gave me for my birthday... 7 months ago! While the flowers did start to fall after a month or so back in October, my mom put the flowerless plant out in the yard and has been watering it weekly ever since. Lo and behold, these enormous flowers appeared last week and it seems like another is on the way!
Here's to spring and its bright, inspiring new beginnings!

Monday, April 18, 2011

fabulous food finds: spris

One of my main reasons for starting this blog was to post about all the fantastic restaurants I frequent and am constantly raving to my friends about. Despite my initial intentions, it's been a few months now and I've only made one restaurant post! Though I attribute that to the shyness I often feel for pulling my enormous D-SLR out in the middle of an upscale eatery, I refuse to let that be the reason I don't follow through.
Spris, a wonderful little Italian place (locations in Coral Gables and South Beach) is absolutely one of my go-to places for a good, cheap meal. Clarissa, Alyssa and I come here constantly to gossip, attempt to study and, of course, eat great food.
One of our favorite things about this place is that everything on the last page of their menu is priced based on the time you order during happy hour. That means, if we order at 5:13, we pay $5.13 for some of our favorite dishes. That's a deal that definitely can't be beat!
We've been here so many times that as our lovely waiter brings over our waters, he always knowingly asks "so, 3 penne alla vodkas and a pizza margarita?", to which we just nod and smile. Not only is the food cheap but it’s delicious too! Every bite reminds me of my trip to Italy (the Laura Pausini music they play and the fresh sunflower on every table help too). On my non-happy hour trips, the food is still fantastic. Their calzone and prociutto panini are among some of my favorites.
{I love how our waiter knows to just leave the bowl of parmesan on our table after sprinkling it over our pasta}
On our most recent visit, we ordered our usual. This time though, we ended our meal with a shared Nutellino that was out of this world! A calzone filled with melting Nutella, who could say no to that?

Monday, April 4, 2011

ladies who lunch

This past Sunday was my grandma's 84th birthday! Crazy, I know. Since she's never been one for big affairs with too many people, we decided to have her over for a little lunch. A few of the other lovely ladies in the family decided to join us and we had a wonderful time chatting over my homemade lunch.

On the menu: 
Crostini with Artichoke and Cannallini Bean Spread
Chicken with a Lemon White Wine Sauce
Risotto Primavera (one of my all time favorites)

I saw this Crostini recipe on Giada at Home a few weeks ago and had been dying to make it ever since. It was really simple, just throw a bunch of ingredients into a blender and let it rip. It turned out to be delicious, I'll definitely be making it again. We actually ran out of baguette before we ran out of the stuff so I ended up dipping pita chips into it for the next couple of days as a snack.
As for the Chicken, I actually don't even have a recipe for it. It came about once when I was making grilled chicken and wanted to top it with a nice sauce. I had some left over Pinot Grigio and a lemon so I used them to deglaze the pan and make this yummy sauce. It's my go-to chicken dish when I want something simple and elegant. 
Last but certainly not list was the Risotto Primavera. I tweaked this recipe by Ina Garten a bit since I'm not the biggest fan of leaks or fennel. The risotto is to-die-for delicious! I love how the rice practically triples in size and gets exquisitely creamy from slowly adding the chicken broth one ladle-full at a time. Add a splash of white wine, parmesan cheese, peas and asparagus and it just takes the flavor over the top! I would make it more often but the process is a bit time consuming, not to mention the fact that risotto isn't the healthiest thing on the planet. 
As you can see, my grandma was quite surprised that we finished the afternoon off with a vanilla and buttercream cake (I love that Publix carries these mini cakes now, they're perfect for little get togethers like this one).
Here's to the sweetness of simple surprises and many more birthdays to come!