Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fruit Infused White Sangria

This sangria is dangerously good. Dangerous as in you might drink too much of it without knowing until you pass out, fully dressed, on top of the covers. Or so I've been told.

Here's what you'll need:

1 large pitcher

1 750ml bottle of dry white wine

3/4 cup white rum

4 cups lemon-lime soda

2 lemons, thinly sliced

2 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced lengthwise

1 Gala apple, cored and sliced

(Optional: 1 peach, peeled, cored, and diced)

And here's what you'll need to do:

1) Add lemons, strawberries, apples, and peaches (if used) to the pitcher.

2) Pour the wine and rum on top of fruit

3) Cover and place in the refrigerator for a minimum of 4 hours

4) Remove from refrigerator and add the lemon-lime soda

5) Make sure to get some fruit pieces in your glass when you pour!

6) Drink responsibly. Remember, it's stronger than you think (hence its appeal)

    Peanut Butter Banana Morning Energy Smoothie

    This protein-packed and energy-boosting smoothie is the perfect way to start your day! It wakes me up, makes me feel good, and keeps me full until lunch (no easy feat). Plus, it's really quick and easy to make. Better yet? It's absolutely, 100% delicious.


    1 cup brewed coffee
    ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
    1 banana
    1 heaping tablespoon of organic peanut butter
    Roughly 8 ice cubes

    Add all ingredients together in a blender, liquid-based ones first. Blend until ice is completely crushed.

    Drink immediately.


    Thursday, July 25, 2013

    Phoenix Food Friday: La Grande Orange

    La Grande Orange Grocery & Pizzeria
     4410 N 40th St  Phoenix, AZ 85018

    LGO's Famous French Pancakes

    If you're not awake when you enter LGO, you may or may not get trampled. This place is bu-sy. And hip. And trendy. And bustling. 

    There are two parts to La Grande Orange, the grocery and the pizzeria. The grocery is home to a selection of great wines, cute home décor, and unique gifts alongside pastries, coffee, and the breakfast/lunch menu. For breakfast I recommend the Croque Madame or the Famous French Pancakes. Attached but in a separate room is the pizzeria, and I DIE for the Gladiator Pizza (sausage and pepperoni). All of the pizzas have great thin, crispy, and chewy crust.

    I give you...the Gladiator Pizza

     LGO is a fun place to visit, whether you're stopping in for a meal (they have ready-to-takeout meals too--we love the Chopped Turkey Salad!) or picking up a gift. Go, go!

    LGO's Croque Madame

    They have great coffee!

    Their awesome outdoor patio!

    Creamy Avocado & Tomato Pasta Topped with Parmesan Crusted Chicken

    I found the base of this recipe on Pinterest and had to try it right away. Who would've thought you could use an avocado to create a cream-based sauce? If you omit the parmesan crusted chicken, you end up with a dairy-free recipe! The original pasta recipe came from "oh she glows" blog, and I added some of my own touches from there. Happy cooking! 


    For the pasta:

    1 medium ripe avocado, peeled and pitted

    1 medium tomato, chopped

    1/2 lemon, juiced

    2 cloves garlic

    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

    1/4 cup fresh basil

    2 tablespoons EVOO

    10 ounces angel hair pasta (or however much you like--more pasta, less sauce!)

    Crushed red pepper, to taste

    Ground black pepper, to taste

    Grated Parmesan cheese, to taste

    For the chicken:

    2 chicken breasts

    1 clove garlic, minced

    1 tablespoon EVOO

    1/2 cup bread crumbs

    1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

    1 teaspoon dried basil

    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper


    Preheat oven to 350º F. Lightly grease a baking dish.
    In a bowl, blend garlic and olive oil. In a separate bowl, mix bread crumbs, cheese, basil, and pepper. Coat chicken in olive mix and then dip in bread crumb mix.  Arrange chicken in baking dish, topping off with any remaining bread crumbs.

    Bake for 30 minutes in the preheated oven, or until chicken is no longer pink and juices run clear.

    In the meantime...

    Bring a stockpot of water to a boil.

    Blend olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and basil in a food processor (I only have a blender and it worked fine-- but a processor would be better).

    Add avocado, tomato, and kosher salt to the processor (or blender). Blend together until mixture resembles a creamy sauce. (*The original recipe from Oh She Glows only used avocado. I found that the tomato helped add moisture, therefore allowing everything to blend better.)

    Boil pasta. Angel hair will take about 6 minutes, thicker pastas will take longer. Drain and transfer back to pot. Cover with sauce, stir and heat through.

    Serve pasta, top with chicken, fresh grated parmesan, ground black pepper, and crushed red pepper.



    Wednesday, July 24, 2013

    Blackberry Cobbler

    It’s blackberry season! This recipe is foolproof and always yields perfectly scrumptious results. Enjoy!

     1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 1/2 cups white sugar, divided
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
    6 tablespoons cold butter

    1/4 cup boiling water
    2 tablespoons cornstarch
    1/4 cup cold water
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
    4 cups blackberries, rinsed and drained

    Preheat oven to 400º F
    Mix the flour, 1/2 cup sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon in a large bowl. Cut in butter and blend together with your hands. Stir in 1/4 cup boiling water until mixture is evenly moist.
    In a separate bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in 1/4 cup cold water. Mix in the remaining 1 cup of sugar, lemon juice, and blackberries. Transfer to stockpot and bring to a boil, stirring frequently.

    Transfer blackberry mix into baking dish (I used my Le Creuset 10" x 7" heritage baker) while still boiling. Spoon dough on top of mix.

    Bake 25 minutes in the preheated oven, until dough is golden brown.


    Tuesday, July 23, 2013

    New Tradition: Travel Map!

    I think that an integral part of building a new household and family is developing your own traditions. Making my own traditions with Garrett and my other family members as an adult is something that I'm really looking forward to as we get older.

    If I recall correctly, Garrett and I have had one on-going tradition thus far: I get him a bottle of Bailey's Irish Cream every year on his birthday. This started our freshman year of college (God knows how I got my 18-year-old hands on a bottle of Bailey's); we hadn't been dating that long and I was unsure of what to get him. I'm not sure how I settled on the creamy whisky liqueur (there were other small gifts, too), but it stuck. Seven years later, he still receives an annual bestowment of Bailey's come his birthday.

    I wanted to develop a better, more sentimental tradition with my husband than giving him a bottle of booze every year. So, from adapting the ideas of others, I decided that we should make a Travel Map.

    Our Travel Map is exactly what it sounds like: a world map upon which we mark our travel. Garrett came home with a framed map from a garage sale some time ago and it's been hanging in our dining room ever since. It's a good map, but obviously not the most expensive one, and though it's framed, it isn't glassed-in...a.k.a. PERFECT for a DIY project!

    Last night, on the eve of our 1st anniversary, Garrett and I marked all of the places that we had traveled to in our first year of marriage. We decided to use pins (stickers, sharpies, thumbtacks, etc. would work the same) to mark our destinations. It was a little hard to not mark everywhere we'd been in the past almost 7 years of being together, but we opted out on that because this will be one of our new marriage traditions. We used pink pinheads to mark this year's travel (Garrett marked the few destinations he'd been without me with green), and will use a different color for every year of our marriage. I can't wait for the pins on this map to multiply!

    Our Travel Map!

    As you can see, Garrett and I were pretty lucky in our travels this past year. We started with our wedding in Newport, Rhode Island and from there traveled on to Bozeman, Montana, San Francisco and Half Moon Bay, California, Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, back to San Francisco, California, then to Ambergris Caye, Belize, and, finally, to Los Angeles, California. We've also taken advantage of in-state trips to Tucson, Sedona, and Flagstaff. Garrett and I clearly love to travel and I'm glad that we will have this mapping tradition in years to come to reflect on all of the places we've been and how blessed we really are.

    See pictures from our year one destinations below!

    The start of it all...pictured outside of Ochre Court in Newport, RI on our wedding day.

    Garrett fishing off the banks of the Yellowstone River in Montana.

    The two of us in front of Half Moon Bay, photographed outside of the Ritz Carlton.

    Picture taken at a friend's Christmas party in Michigan.

    En route to Ambergris Caye, Belize by way of water taxi from San Pedro.

    At a brewery in Pasadena, California.

    Basil, Artichoke, and Prosciutto Pizza

    This pizza is extremely easy to make and extremely delicious to eat! You still get your crust, meat, and cheese without feeling too heavy after finishing a couple of slices J. There’s a funny story to this particular pizza, too, that I will post soon. In the meantime, whip one up and enjoy!

    1 homemade or pre-made pizza crust (Trader Joe's has awesome dough!)
    1 tablespoon olive oil
    1/4 cup tomato sauce
    1/8 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon black pepper
    3 garlic cloves, minced
    2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese
    1/2 can artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
    10 thin slices of prosciutto
    10-15 fresh basil leaves
    Preheat oven to 425º F
    Allow raw pizza dough to rise before cooking. Place dough on a cookie sheet or pizza pan. Spread a light layer of olive oil over it and cook for about 10 minutes, or until dough is lightly browned and slightly risen.
    Remove from oven and spread tomato sauce over crust. Top crust with garlic, salt and pepper. Add cheese. Place chopped artichoke hearts over cheese. Lay strips of prosciutto side by side over entire crust. Bake until cheese is melted and crust is golden brown, about 10 minutes. Top baked pizza with fresh basil.

    Wednesday, July 17, 2013

    "You're a Redhead. I Dig Redheads..."

    I am a little bit of a romantic. You see, my parents met in a castle. Seriously—a real, 11th century medieval Irish castle, complete with spires, drafty fire places and all. So this was the illusion that I grew up under: you meet your husband in a castle. For me, the plan was always simple: visit a foreign country, meet eyes across the room (said room inside of a castle), fall in love, get married. This was a great plan. Totally attainable. Easy. That plan, however, was interrupted when I met a somebody named Garrett Ruhland on the 4th floor of South Wonders Dorm at Michigan State University.

    I’ll be honest; our meeting was not romantic. In it there was no foreign castle, no eyes being met across the room, no heart palpitations. Well, maybe there were palpitations. Yeah, there were definitely palpitations—but maybe just not the first time we met, as I was under, ahem, certain influences (give me a pass here, it was the first week of college). My first recollection of meeting Garrett came the next morning, when he showed up in a picture taken the night before. “Who’s this?” I asked Shannon (cousin/roommate) of the guy in the back of the photo covering his face. “I think his name is Garrett,” she said, and the picture was passed over.

    Next night: Audrey Garrett kismet meeting take 2. Now this is the night that sticks out in my head. I, the perfect college student, was under no influence. I can’t say the game for Garrett. I can actually say quite the opposite. But I won’t. Anyway, I was in his dorm, sitting at his roommate’s desk. Garrett, all cute and sassy and full of liquid courage, said his first words to me then. “You’re a redhead. I dig redheads. [Insert wildly inappropriate comment here]”. Sorry, kids—what Garrett said to me on that fateful night will not be repeated. But I will tell you this; he made me blush and certainly arrested my attention. Because what he said was so inappropriate yet so amusing, I didn’t know how to respond. My mother would have laughed. My father would have been shocked. And with those words (that cannot be repeated), the fortress walls of my meet-your-soul-mate-in-a-castle fantasy were knocked down. And I sure am happy as all heavens that they were.

    I really liked Garrett. Like, really, really liked Garrett. But we were so young, and he was a wild, charming college boy. So, as to not scare him off, I moved in on him slowly and coolly. So coolly, in fact, that when he told me he didn’t want a girlfriend, I shrugged and said “I didn’t even think of us that way” (and then went to my dorm room and cried). He asked me to be his girlfriend two weeks later. We were engaged in four years, married in six. Monday, July 22nd, will mark our 1 year wedding anniversary.

    So, I didn’t get my castle. But this is what I did get: the love of my life. I got to marry my best friend. I get to laugh with him every single day. I get to wake up excited and happy every morning because of him. I have loved being in love with Garrett Ruhland for the past six years, and I know I will go on loving him every single day of every single year for the rest of my life. I’d say that’s a pretty good toss-up.


    Sunday, July 14, 2013

    One Year Down...


    At brunch with a girlfriend last weekend, I mentioned that my first wedding anniversary with Garrett was coming up.

    "Yes!" she exclaimed. "How has the first year been?"

    "In all honesty, it's been wonderful," I said.

    "Of course it is," she replied, "because you just get to be married."

    I liked that. It's true. We have had no wedding to plan, no child to care for, no big changes--just yet--to deal with. Right now, we're simply enjoying being married. Loving each other, being nice to one another. Traveling, exploring. Having fun. Focusing on us.

    In the almost 7 years of our relationship, we have gone through four years of college, one cross-country move, the start of our careers, and the planning of our wedding. We've been through a lot of change and, though with difficulty at times, have embraced it all.

    "You guys are lucky," my girlfriend said later during brunch, "because you've grown up together. You've gotten to grow into the people you are side by side." (She's very wise, this friend of mine.)

    I think that's one of the biggest keys to our relationship: we've been able to change and grow together. Since we met at such a young age--Garrett eighteen, I seventeen--we really had no choice but to change and grow (see the story on how we met here). It has been the willingness to do it together that's made us last.

    Everybody changes throughout their life; I'm definitely not the same person that I was ten years ago--heck, I'm not the same person I was one year ago. There are parts of me that will always stay the same, yes, but I've grown and adapted and have focused on bringing the parts of me I like forward and pushing the less favorable ones out. Garrett isn't the same, either. When I met him, he lived in a daily pair of athletic sweats, had no desire to ever be in a relationship, and wanted to live in a tent on a beach after college--for the rest of his life. Luckily, all of that just made me love him more. I have never tried to change him and he has never tried to change me. Instead, we support one another as we grow into the people we want to be.

    I really, really value the people that we've become and the relationship that we've built. I can only hope that we continue to evolve well together, to continue to fortify what we have.

    With that, I would like to cheers our first year of being just married. I think we've done a pretty good job at it so far.


    Thursday, July 11, 2013

    I'd Have to Shut My Eyes, Pinch My Nose and Plug My Ears to Forget You

    Nostalgia has been hitting me hard lately, slapping me in the face every once in a while and sending residual tingles to the tips of my fingers and toes. It courses through my blood and pulls on my heart strings, causing me to crinkle my eyes and jut out my lower lip. It's as though nostalgia has become a foe of mine, one that pops up when I least want it to.

    It came last weekend when I attempted my first (successful!) batch of homemade strawberry jam. Washing, smashing, and smelling the berries as they boiled pulled me back to my childhood, to when my mother would can hundreds upon hundreds of jars. She'd bring me along with her to the Pickin' Patch down the road in Avon to pick our own berries: strawberries in the early summer months, blueberries in the later. We would try to get there in the early morning to escape the heat and humidity of a Connecticut summer day and would pick berries for hours under a hazy morning sky.

    After we had filled enough baskets to satisfy my mother's jam making needs, we'd weigh in at the front counter. I liked the weighing in almost as much as the picking, for I was left to peruse the candy jars. A gangly girl with a sweet heart and doting mother, I always left the Pickin' Patch with quite the bounty of rainbow swirl lollipops and candy cane sticks. My heart aches for those gray mornings spent between rows of lush green plants, those afternoons when the aroma of berries filled the house, for those moments when life was utterly simple.
    Photo taken from The Pickin' Patch Online

    In passing stalls of fresh peaches at the Pasadena Farmers' Market last Saturday, I was reminded of driving through the Connecticut country as a child with my parents to Roger's Orchards. We would make the trek out to the Southington farm usually at least once every fall to stock up on brown bags of peaches and apples, of which my mother would make (could you guess?) peach jam, peach pies, apple pies, and apple cobblers. While my parents picked out the best bags of fruit, I headed over to the bakery section. I'd slug a gallon of apple cider from the shelf and grab a couple of bags of apple cider donuts, drop them off to my dad to pay, and head outside to my favorite part of Roger's Orchards: the bunny hatch. My father was always kind enough to remember carrots for the bunnies, so I always had a one-up on the other kids sticking their fingers through the wiring, calling for the bunnies to come. I'd remain there, outside of the hatch scratching bunny ears, until my parents collected me to leave. 

    We would each take a peach from the bag on the way home, using the backs of our hands to wipe the juice from our chins and tossing the pits out the windows onto white-fenced farmland. What I would give to be transported back to Roger's Orchards, to spend a happy day highlighted by sticky peach faces and fluffy bunny tails.  I wouldn't mind a dozen of those apple cider donuts, either.

    Photo taken from Roger's Orchards website

    A breeze recently pushed the sweet smell of a Linden Tree into my nostrils and instantly brought me back to River Farms, the horse barn of my childhood. I remember smelling that sweet scent for the first time as I trekked up the driveway hill to visit a new horse that was being quarantined at the upper barn. To me, that smell belonged to her; it never crossed my mind that it might be a blooming tree. Though I may be wrong, I remember her being called Luna. She was a big, black mare with a white blaze down her face. She was the sweetest-smelling horse I'd ever known and I loved her instantly.

    The upper barn at River Farms always held an air of mystery: it was where new horses moved into, where ponies that were to be birthday surprises for children were hidden, where sick horses were kept to be separated from the herd. To visit the upper barn, you had to be given a task: go turn that colt out, go get that saddle, or go strip and lime the stalls. I loved those assignments and always spent a fair share of extra time exploring the ins and outs of that dark, small barn, meeting all of the horses that I wasn't familiar with. Now, in my more cautious self, I wouldn't dare to perform any act beyond my instruction. I miss that innocent curiosity of a child, when the fruits of exploration paid off more than the possible repercussions. River Farms was the foundation of my childhood happiness; when I was there, it was as though everything in the world was right. I'd love to be able to go back and explore that upper barn, take a few of the cross country jumps, and make a fort out of hay bales. The barn changed ownership years ago and just isn't the same, so I'll forever rely on my memories to bring me back.

    Turning Hopi, the Paint pony that I leased, out to graze (circa 1999).

    These bouts of nostalgia shouldn't pain me, but they do. They're happy memories, after all. And if you know anything about me, you know that I like getting older. I don't miss being a kid or a teenager one bit. Neither do I miss or long for Connecticut; I have no future plans to return soon and I'm fine with that. Maybe it is the sense of family, the feeling of security, the simplicity of life that I yearn for. And it doesn't take much to awaken those yearnings: the stirring of strawberries, the sight of peaches, and the smell of a Linden Tree are few of the triggers that set me off. Though each wave of nostalgia brings a wave of sadness, I'm happy for the memories. I cherish them. My heart may droop in the remembrance, but only because it is full.