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Spring

you know how they say that winter is all about nesting? how we all gain those extra 5-10 pounds courtesy of meat sauces and carbs and other such comfort foods? well, while i definitely gained my “winter weight”, i haven’t exactly been nesting. or, maybe i’ve been nesting, but i haven’t been cooking nearly as much as i did last winter. i got this amazing giant dutch oven from sur la table for hanukkah, and i’ve used it once. ONCE! that is a travesty.

i’m not sure what got into me this winter. i could use the easy excuse and say i was too busy for heavy duty cooking, but i think the true reality is that i just got lazy. but suffice it to say, my kitchen has not been seeing enough action (you and me both, kitchen), and it’s time to whip my ass back into shape.

this weekend marked the first time that it actually felt like spring here in new york, and i celebrated it with a stroll through the union square greenmarket on saturday afternoon. i only came home with flowers – the best of the produce isn’t out yet – but as i walked through, i was reminded of just how much i love picking up a bunch of fresh vegetables and herbs, coming home, and making magic out of them. spring is one of my favorite cooking seasons – hellooo, sugar snap peas and asparagus – so it’s high time that i get my booty in gear.

as a little inspiration, here are 5 easy weeknight meals i’m vowing to whip up over the next 2 weeks. first up is tonight’s meal: easy weeknight chicken tacos. YES PLEASE.

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other recipes i’m dying to try:

this rigatoni with asparagus pesto and ricotta salata (i heart pesto)

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this roasted harissa salmon with lemon couscous

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this slow cooker healthy chicken tikka masala (i am forever on a quest to make good tikka masala)

NOTE: slow cookers aren’t exactly quick, but they are easy. pile the stuff in before you leave for work, come home, and voila! dinner is served. 

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and last but not least, this creamy corn chowder. i LOVE corn chowder, but never thought to blend it. genius!

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|click here to listen|

yesterday was one of those perfect spring sundays. the city came alive, the sun came out to play, and everywhere you looked, bare legs saluted the warm air in shorts and sandals. nothing compares to new york city in the spring, i tell you. the trees begin to bud, and the flowers spring up around us, and just like that, our bitter, cranky, winter-hating hearts are thawed and we’re all happy again. i get such a kick out of walking around the city in the 70 degree weather, earbuds in and music cranked up. this music, to be precise. above is my spring playlist – a mishmash of new to me music, and oldies but goodies that i can never get enough of once the weather warms up (dispatch, i’m looking at you). happy listening!

closetcleanout

 

when i first moved to new york, i shopped at goodwill and salvation army quite a bit. i was on budget, and there was many a vintage gem to be found within those racks. i was happy to find blazers for $7, an insane sequin minidress for $14. i shopped there for the thrill of the hunt, for the fun of it.

that being said, every time i stepped foot into a salvation army or a goodwill shop, i did so with the knowledge that what was for me a “budget fashion” adventure was for others a necessity. shopping at a discount store was something i could choose to do. i had the means to shop elsewhere.

for many, there is no elsewhere. someone else’s used belongings are the only option, they’re all they can afford.

i’ve grown up fortunate; rarely in my life have i had to worry about money. of course, i budget, and i think about my finances, but i’ve never had to worry about whether i can eat, or afford a nice outfit for an upcoming interview, or pay my rent (okay, maybe i’ve worried about that last one a few times, dammit new york). i have a safety cushion, a family that will support me if i were to truly need the help, and a career that helps me afford not just the things i need, but the things i love and enjoy. i am damn lucky to be in that position, but i know quite well that many people are not that fortunate.

since i was young, my parents have instilled in me the importance of giving back to those less fortunate. i grew up volunteering at the local soup kitchen, working as a candy striper at the local hospital, and doing a family-wide closet cleanout multiple times a year (toys and all). we regularly donated our lightly used belongings to the local homeless shelters, our televisions and books went to the library, or to whatever school i attended at the time. for all of their bounty, my parents believe deeply in taking care of those around them, especially when those people have less than they do.

it’s not that i think donating my used clothes to goodwill is equivalent to doing some big mitzvah. it’s not like i believe my worn blazer will help someone afford their rent next month. but here’s what i do know: feeling good in your clothing is a luxury that should be available to ALL. feeling good in what you wear isn’t about how much you spend, or the name stitched into your sweater. it’s about putting something on and feeling like yourself. feeling like you can take on the world. it’s about feeling smart, feeling strong, feeling confident, feeling beautiful, or pretty, or badass, or whatever you want to feel on a given day. there is power in a good outfit.

and a good outfit is something everyone deserves – no matter what their budget.

perhaps its naive to think that my closet cleanout each season helps someone feel powerful, or strong, or beautiful. but why not give the clothes that once brought me joy a second chance at happiness? why not donate them to someone who might need them? who might love them? who might put them on and think, damn, i look good today?

even the smallest little acts of kindness matter. i’ve been raised to believe that when you have, you give. and so when i find that i have a surplus of anything – be it clothing, or shoes, or sheets, or food – i do my best to find a way to give it to someone who doesn’t. i don’t kid myself into thinking i’m changing the world, here, but i do like to think that maybe, just maybe, the things i do, and the items i donate, make someone, somewhere, smile. that has to count for something, right?

if you’re looking to donate your clothing, this list from elle should help.

MY TOP TIPS FOR CLEANING OUT YOUR CLOSET

1. if you haven’t worn it in 6 months, give it away. it’s a fact: no one wears everything in their closet. most of us wear about 1/3 of what we own. if you haven’t worn it in a while, it’s time to let someone else have a turn. it’s okay to hold on to pieces that have sentimental value, but if you don’t wear it often, chances are, that’s not going to change anytime soon. 

2. try things on, especially if you haven’t worn them in a while. weights fluctuate, trends change, things that used to look amazing no longer look so great. just because it no longer looks incredible on you doesn’t mean it won’t look amazing on someone else. try things on to ensure they still fit, and even more importantly, that you still like them. things that look good on the hanger can look positively ridiculous on.

3. if it’s disgusting, don’t give it to someone else. as stated above, i’m ALL for donating your lightly worn clothes/shoes/etc. but no one wants your raggedy gym t-shirt with pit stains. if it’s gross, don’t donate it. no one will want it, and it’ll just go to waste. instead, tear up your old tshirts/sweatshirts, and use them as cleaning rags. used towels and sheets can be donated to local animal shelters. here in new york, kittykind (where i volunteer every so often) repurposes old sheets and towels as padding for beds for the cats we rescue. 

4. you don’t need that many coats. new york cares does a coat drive each season, and i’m sure your city/town does as well. for those that live outside, especially on the east coast, winters are brutal, and a nice warm coat can help the homeless survive in the frigid temperatures. consider keeping a coat or two for your own purposes, and donating all the others (you know you’ve got a few old coats sitting in your closet) to those that need them.

5. be honest with yourself. that shirt you bought on sale that you’ve literally NEVER worn? you’re never going to wear it. that gift you never returned because maybe someday you’d like it? time to let it go. keep the items you truly love, wear often, and make you feel your best. donate the pieces that don’t make you feel like a million bucks (again, apply the “be honest” rule here). 

remember:

be sure to wash and fold all of your items for donation. when you can, donate to a local homeless shelter or, if applicable, animal shelter, instead of a giant like goodwill or salvation army. happy cleaning!

 

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i read this post the other day, about the pervasiveness of the boring blog, which got me thinking about whether my little corner of the internet has any real worth, about whether anything i’m doing is original. here’s where i landed: very few things are truly original these days. what is original about something – be it a recipe, or a moodboard, or a story – is that its yours. that it’s told in your own voice, which is a voice no one but you can convey.

take, for example, the above recipe for strawberry scones. i riffed off this one, from annie’s eats. for all intents and purposes, it’s annie’s recipe, not mine. but when i made it, i added vanilla. i squeezed a bit of extra lemon juice into my batter instead of just adding zest. i used my hands to cut my butter into the flour mixture, instead of putting it into the food processor (a tip my mother taught me long ago). do those few things make it “mine enough” to warrant a post? i suppose that’s up for debate.

what i do know is that i made this recipe, and made it my own. and it was delicious, so i’d like to share it with you. it’s as simple as that.

so, let’s do this, shall we?

scones are one of those foods that people seem to imagine are difficult to make (i put risotto into this category as well). in fact, when i made these on saturday, the first thing my roommate said was, “scones? aren’t those really hard to make?”

guess what? they’re not. scones are actually uber SIMPLE to make. which is what makes them so magical. they’re a breakfast/brunch standby, and you can whip them up in under 30 minutes. generally speaking, it’s likely that you already have all the ingredients you need on hand, which is always nice. these ones, which are spiced with a hint of lemon zest and feature fresh strawberries, are like a pop of spring in your mouth, which is a good thing on a sunny day when it feels like mother nature is finally letting go of her grasp on the warmer weather we were promised almost a month ago.

what you’ll need:

1 large egg

¼ cup greek yogurt, plain (i used chobani)

½ cup milk

1 tsp. of vanilla extract

1 tsp. lemon zest + the juice of 1/2 of your zested lemon

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup sugar, plus more for sprinkling

1 tbsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

8 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

1 heaping cup diced fresh strawberries

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what you’ll do:

preheat your oven to 425.

in a small bowl, whisk together your yogurt, milk, vanilla extract, lemon zest, and lemon juice.

in a larger bowl, mix your dry ingredients. set aside, and cut up your butter. i like to cut mine into sliced (the way you’d slice up cheese), then quarter those slices.

add your butter to dry ingredients. with clean, dry hands, begin to smush the little bits of butter into the flour. you can use a pastry cutter, or a food processor, or even two forks, to do this, but i find using your hands is a) most effective and b) most relaxing.

{the warmth of your hands helps to melt the butter ever so slightly, and there’s something incredibly calming about running the mixture through your fingers, smoothing the lumps and turning the ingredients into a crumbly bowl of goodness. my favorite thing about baking is how tactile it is, whether you’re measuring flour or kneading dough. whenever you can, choose to do things with your own hands, instead of letting a machine do them. it’s worth it, i promise.}

once the butter has been mixed into the flour (it should resemble pea-sized crumbs), toss your strawberries into the mixture. {this is an important step! coating the berry bits with flour ensures that they won’t get too mushy.}

once you’ve folded in your strawberries, add the wet ingredients to the dry, and mix lightly with a spatula or wooden spoon, until all the wet has been incorporated into the dry. {don’t stir vigorously, you’re not trying to mix concrete here. over-mixing your batter is the biggest mistake you can make in baking. big mistake. HUGE.}

transfer your dough to a well-floured surface (i like to use these cutting board mats), and pat it down to flatten a bit. if you’d like, you can shape your dough into a circle, and cut into wedges. i got these cute biscuit cutters at the williams sonoma outlet last year, so i always opt to put some nice fluting details on my scones when i can. what can i say? i’m fancy like that. anywho, you can basically shape your scones however you damn please, so long as you make them all somewhat equal to ensure even cooking.

to bake, place your scones on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or silpat, if that’s your jam) for 13-15 minutes. they should be golden around the edges, and have risen considerably. when your kitchen starts to smell like fruity spring goodness, they’re done.

eat ’em as soon as you can, because sadly, the strawberries get a bit mushy after a day or so. eaten hot out of the oven, with a pat of butter, these are positively stuff your face delicious. happy eating!

*i packaged most of mine up and dropped them off to my ladies at blackstones – my favorite hair salon in the city – as a thank you for prettifying me and giving me some serious blonde ambition the night before.

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sometimes i think about how skinny i’d be if i didn’t eat carbs, or really, pasta in particular. i love rice, but i could give it up. i’d miss bagels, but i could do without them. i could care less about traditional bread; i’m not a sandwich girl. but pasta. pasta i could not live without. those paleo folks who shred zucchini and call it pasta? kudos to them, but i ain’t buying that shit. pasta is pasta, and i’m not going to cut up some veggies and call it a carb. hells to the N-O. i eat more pasta than i should, that’s for sure – so when i do eat it, i try to make sure it’s relatively healthy, and not doused in some disgustingly fattening sauce (alfredo, i’m looking at you). i always toss my pasta with a) homemade pesto b) homemade meat sauce or c) fresh veggies and herbs. the canned stuff makes a rare occurrence when i’m feeling uber lazy, but i do my best to ensure that if the pasta is boxed, whatever goes on top of it is fresh.

such is the case with this easy-as-pie recipe, for lemon parsley spaghetti with garlic and parm. when i made it the other day, i was craving greens, so i tossed some broccoli in as well. all you need are lemons, garlic, butter, italian flat leaf parsley, olive oil, parmesan, and spaghetti. that’s IT. and trust, this stuff is good. you could whip it up for a dinner party and impress your guests.

what you’ll need:

  • 3/4 lb spaghetti (you could sub linguine or any other thin pasta here)
  • 4-5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil ( i use trader joe’s)
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped (make sure you don’t get the curly kind! italian parsley is flat leaf)
  • 2 tablespoons lemon zest, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • salt + pepper
  • parmesan cheese

what you’ll do:

boil water for your spaghetti. while it boils, slice and dice all your goodies. grate the parm, chop the parsley, dice the garlic, zest your lemons, and squeeze ’em of their juices.

once your water is boiling, toss in your spaghetti with a pinch of salt. while the pasta cooks, throw your butter and olive oil into a skillet, and let the butter melt. turn the heat down to medium, and throw in your garlic. saute for a few minutes, until your entire kitchen smells like garlicky goodness (the best smell on earth). when garlic browns, turn off the heat.

drain your pasta, and toss is with the garlic/olive oil mixture. next, mix in your lemon zest/lemon juice/parsley. top with parm, season with a bit of salt and pepper, et voila! a delicious, easy, springy and oh-so-pretty meal!

ps: if you wanted to add protein, some lemony shrimp would be perfection on top of this dish.

pps: if you wanted to add veggies, simply chop them up and throw them into the pasta water for the last few minutes to cook them up, then drain them with your spaghetti.

feeling springy

tibi neon and gray sweater | madewell hoops | loeffler randall mint satchel | j.crew sun hat| otte silk tank | deborah lippmann polish | gap chambray dress | illevesta sunnies | j.crew soludos | nars angelika | loeffler randall starla sandals | madewell neon lace skirt | rebecca taylor lace crop top | old navy striped hoodie | diptyque rosamundi candle

in honor of the first day of spring (and man, is it lovely in new york today. helllooo, sunshine!), here are some picks (click the link to shop on polyvore!) on my wishlist for the new season.

ps: i already splurged on the candle, and let me tell you, it was worth every penny. it makes my room, and pretty much everything i own that sets foot in my room, smell insanely delicious. light, fresh, but still a little bit sexy (dare i call a candle sexy?), it’s the perfect spring scent.