Clever Tuesday Tips

Don’t have a pizza cutter on hand? Use scissors to cut pizza!

Photo credit

Amplify phone speakers by putting them in a ceramic bowl

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Can’t quite finish your iced coffee? Put it in the freezer overnight and fill it up with cold-brewed coffee the next day. Voila- just like a coffee ice cube!

Peach & Tomato Summer Salad

Remember when I mentioned that the July section of my Cooking Light cookbook focuses heavily on peaches? After reading that, I stumbled across flats of peaches at Trader Joe’s for $5.99 and decided to pick one up. Mine has 13 peaches in it, so it equals out to about $.46 per peach- not bad!

Now that I’m a wild child who makes sweet and savory salads {like watermelon & feta!}, I decided to try a peach & tomato summer salad from MyRecipes.com. It turned out so well and I would absolutely make it again. It would be the best salad to take to a July potluck!

For exact measurements, see the recipe or just follow my haphazard winging it approach (serves 1).

  • Chopped red onion
  • 1/2 ripe peach, pitted and cut into wedges
  • 1/2 large tomato or a handful or cherry tomatoes
  • A dash of red wine vinegar and extra-virgin olive oil
  • A very small spoonful of honey
  • A dash each of sea salt and ground pepper
  • A small handful of crumbled feta cheese
  • A sprinkling of torn basil leaves
Combine all ingredients and let marinate anywhere just a few minutes or overnight.

Next on my peach agenda? Peach salsa!

A Day in Lafayette Village

My family from Norway is in town for a few days, which meant I had to buckle down and do work on Saturday. Though I’m a Starbucks fiend, I decided to check out Jubala Village Coffee in Lafayette Village, which is a cute European style village in North Raleigh. I don’t remember the first time I found out about the village, but I know it was online.

Jubala was so cute! I loved the atmosphere and the warm but chic decor. It was pretty quiet most of the afternoon, but around 4pm, it got a bit busier. The girls next to me were chatting about weddings and the people across the way were playing board games. All in all, a fun vibe but quiet enough that one can be productive.

The service was fine but didn’t blow me away. I ordered an iced latte with vanilla and almond flavoring, but it was a bit too sweet for me, even though I asked for light syrup.

I would definitely go back. It’s a bit of a hike for me, so I would only go back to work for several hours. I plan to order a plain iced coffee next time!

After I finished my work, I stepped outside for a quick tour of the rest of the village. Unfortunately, most of the stores closed at 5pm on Sunday and I finished right at 5!

I realized I had heard of a few of the merchants but didn’t connect all the dots until I spent an afternoon wandering around!

  • Vinos Finos: They tweeted me awhile back; still need to check out their free wine tastings on Tuesdays and Saturdays!
  • Savory Spice Shop: I also found out about them on Twitter and added it to my “To Try” list on Foursquare! I didn’t get a chance to go in but I will next time.
  • Mavalios: I hadn’t heard of this tea cafe and gift shop, but I peeked through the window and it looks so cute!
  • Henry’s Gelato: Gelato. Enough said.

I encourage you to spend an afternoon at Lafayette Village {let me know if you need a buddy!}. Follow them on Twitter and check out their event calendar.

I also fortuantely/unfortunately discovered that there is a TJ Maxx nearby. I’m a little Maxxinista so I was in budget heaven 🙂

10 Thoughts for Friday

1) Any recruiters out there with experience using Entelo or TalentBin? What are the pros and cons of both of them? Which do you like better? I asked the same question on Quora.

2. Live in DC? Check out Cause, a new philanthropub opening soon. According to Glittarazzi, “Customers will visit Cause to drink and be merry. The money that the bar makes will pay the rent, staff and charity. Different causes will be selected every quarter and customers will get to pick which one they want their money to go towards.”

3. Lifehacker recommends that you look at two lists every morning: a to do list and an avoid list. I’ve recently started doing the same thing to remind myself to not mindlessly look at Twitter, Google Reader, my blog stats, etc throughout the day {only in the morning!}.

4. Here is what I had planned to meet during my “cleaning out the freezer & pantry week.” Here’s what I actually ate: corn taco tostadas; Mexican casserole from the freezer; a hot dog with Indian-spiced onion relish {found it on Edible Mosaic- yum!}, sushi, and other miscellaneous stuff! But I did make a dent in the freezer mess.

5. I think I finally got down my phrasing for when someone I don’t know connects with me on LinkedIn: “Hi x, Thank you for the invitation to connect on LinkedIn! I wanted to check in and see what you were interested in connecting about since I don’t believe we’ve met in person.  Thank you and take care, Cristina.” What do you think?

6. Want to find fun Raleigh events? First, follow the Scintillating Simplicity calendar! But you can also subscribe to the Visit Raleigh Events RSS Feed in your feed reader {I obviously love Google Reader!}.

7. I love the website 1000 Awesome Things and the latest two posts made me laugh: #996 Opening and sniffing a pack of tennis balls and #997: Locking people out of the car and pretending to drive away {my sister and I do this more than I think is normal for 20-somethings}.

8. I absolutely love The Girl Effect, an amazing YouTube video! In related news, apparently this month’s Fast Company is all about female social entrepreneurs! Need to pick up a copy…

9. You’ve no doubt seen the article in the Atlantic, “Why Women Can’t Have It All.” Since the piece came out, there’s been a ton of responses, like “Does Anyone Really Need to Have It All?” and “Why Women Shouldn’t Want to Have It All” and “How Women (and Men) Can Have It All” and lastly, “Men Can’t Have It All Either.” Whew! That’s a lot of conflicting opinions. What do you think? I feel a blog post coming on…

10. And finally, I’m considering making a 23 New Things List to start on my upcoming 23rd birthday, a la Sarah of Yes and Yes. Any suggestions for what I should put on it?

Photo credit: Uploaded by user via Jeanette on Pinterest

On the Menu: Cleaning out the Freezer & Pantry

I keep apologizing to my roommate for the sad state of our disheveled freezer. It’s filled to the brim with gluten-free bread and buns; chicken breasts; hot dogs and hamburgers; and bags of vegetables. I promised her that this week was “Cleaning Out the Freezer” week, but I added in “& Pantry” at the last minute 🙂 I spent too much on groceries last week, so I’m making up for it by polishing off what I have in my kitchen this week.

Leftover shrimp & grits from Poole’s

Leftover mashed potato vegetable pie

Gluten-free ratatouille pizza based on this recipe

Sausage patties

Kale, cannelli bean, & feta quesadilla

Collard green & kale soup

Jambalaya with New Orleans andouille sausage

Spiced tomato chickpea soup

Greek-style chicken

Hot dogs + Udi’s gluten free buns

Burgers + Udi’s gluten free buns

Mexican pizzas

Navel oranges

Carrot sticks

A Fun Foodie Weekend

Note: Reposted in full because WordPress seems to be having some issues this morning! 

Happy Monday! I’ve been feeling less than 100% at work recently, so I’m determined to make this week uber-productive. That means cutting back on mindless internet surfing and checking my blog stats too often; packing healthy, simple lunches; slowly drinking my home-brewed coffee; and knowing that I’ll feel best on Friday if I kicked butt at work all week! What are your goals for the week?

I had a fun combination weekend- part active, part relaxing- with tons of good food! On Friday evening, I braved the rain and met a few girls out at Calavera for a drink. It’s definitely becoming one of my favorite places, even though I can’t really eat the empanadas. My friend saw my spicy pineapple margarita pin on Pinterest and wanted to check it out!

Orderd a mojito this time around

After one drink, we headed to Chuck’s, which is one of Ashley Christensen’s restaurants. I’ll admit that I wasn’t expecting to enjoy it very much. How exciting can burgers be? But everything changed when my friend asked if they could spike our root beer floats. After contemplating with the other staff members, our waitress decided dark rum would be best and let me tell you- make one immediately! For my burger, I chose the small Big House {oxymoron?}:

Amazing! I didn’t end up eating the sorghum-dijon but I did add a ton of ketchup to my burger 🙂 For my french fries, I chose malted vinegar aioli {SO good!}, roasted garlic aioli {also good}, and sampled my friend’s buttermilk herb dressing {just ranch; also very good}.

Next time I’m planning to be adventurous and try the Dirty South burger:

So apparently the answer to my question of how good can a burger be is VERY good! I loved the atmosphere, the service, and everything I ate, so I would definitely go back again.

The rest of the night consisted of a drink at the Hive {my friend introduced me to cucumber vodka + water} and a rap show at Kings. We may or may not have spent the evening hanging out backstage and buying PBRs for one of the rapper’s parents. Haha!

On Saturday, I played a long session of tennis. When I saw my big toe poking through the front of my sneakers, I decided it was finally time to get some new shoes, so I headed to Dick’s for sneakers, tennis ball shorts, and a new racket grip.

On Saturday night, I headed over to Comedy Worx with a group of friends for the late night improv show. It’s always a super fun time and a great alternative to heading straight to the bars. I was surprised by how appropriate Saturday’s crowd was- it usually gets pretty raunchy!

On Sunday I met up with a group of girls for a trip to Poole’s, another Ashley Christensen restaurant and a Raleigh institution. Despite talking about the restaurant several times on here, I had never actually been! It’s quite an experience- I got in line outside the restaurant at 10:45 since the doors open at 11. I had a thermos of coffee and a novel to keep me company, but the time went by quickly. Right at 11, the doors opened and everyone tumbled inside.

All the newbies were confused when we saw a ton of people hovering around a blackboard snapping cell phone pictures. Turns out, that’s the only place where the menu is posted, so people take pictures to avoid having to stand and look at the menu. Who knew!

I was planning on ordering the eggs benedict but the waitress told us about the shrimp and grits at the last minute, so I went for those. Very good!


Overall, I liked Poole’s. We waited awhile for our food, but I was prepared for that. It was a bit dark inside, but that didn’t bother me too much. Luckily we were seated in the corner, because I think the middle of the restaurant may have been too loud for me.

I’m happy that I finally went and I would go back on a random weekend or special occasion.

I finished off my weekend with a round of kickball practice, grilling, pool time, and watching Gattaca in my sweats!

Mexican Chocolate Mini Cheesecakes


Remember when I made Mexican chocolate bark back in the day? I got the idea to recreate a Mexican chocolate {basically cayenne + cinnamon} recipe as cheesecake. A quick Google search gave me a few recipe options but I liked this one best.

I eliminated the crust and used a cupcake tin, so I ended up with gluten-free cheesecake bites! But what I’m most proud of is figuring out that you can replace whipping cream with an equal amount of plain Greek yogurt to make the recipe healthier. That means Chobani will be getting even more business from me 🙂

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Make 12 cupcake-sized cheesecakes.

  • 3/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 1/4 cup plain Greek yogurt
  • 12 oz ( 1 1/2 packages) cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/16 teaspoon cayenne pepper, if desired, adjust to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 eggs

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a cupcake tin.

In saucepan, boil 2 cups of water over medium. Place a heatproof bowl on top and drop in chocolate chips. Melt, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and add in Greek yogurt.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese, sugar, cayenne pepper, 1/4 tsp cinnamon and vanilla with mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Beat in eggs, one at a time, just until blended. Stir in chocolate mixture.

Pour into cupcake tin, leaving room at the top for cheesecake to rise slightly. Sprinkle remaining cinnamon and a dash or two of cayenne pepper over top.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 until the edges are set but the center still jiggles slightly. Turn oven off; open oven door 4 inches. Leave cheesecake in oven 30 minutes. After removing cake from oven, run a metal spatula around the edge of pan. Cool on rack for 30 minutes. Refrigerate 6 hours or overnight.

I’m obsessed! They’re incredibly rich, so I usually eat just half of one at a time.

I’m also loving the interesting combination of chocolate and spiciness- I keep seeing it everywhere. The other day, I read that some celebrity spreads sriracha on her chocolate bars! And Locopops sells Mexican chocolate popsicles and Videri Chocolate Factory sells a chocolate bar with pink peppercorns in it.

Any other Mexican chocolate recipes that you love? What other flavor combinations are you a fan of?

We all know I love salted caramel!

pickled edamame

For the past few weeks, I’ve eaten carrots and cucumbers with ranch dipping sauce for lunch every day. When I reached into my fridge the other day to grab carrots and cucumbers, I had the idea to mix things up by pickling them in a spicy sauce. At the last second, I tossed in edamame and quickly realized that pickled edamame make for an easy, healthy, and spicy snack.


Based on my pickled cucumber recipe

 Place edamame in a Mason jar with the following: several dashes of rice vinegar; a teaspoon or so of minced garlic; a touch of grated ginger; some chopped onion; a sprinkling of paprika {for color}; and a pinch of cayenne pepper (the amount depends on your preference for spiciness). Add a splash of water, shake, and refrigerate for at least several hours. Eat within 2-3 days.

Feel free to combine with chopped carrots and cucumbers, as I did in the picture above! Just remember to place in a bowl with water and salt for several hours, drain water, then combine with the other ingredients. Apparently the purpose of soaking the vegetables is to rehydrate them.

instagrammed meals

I’ve had such a busy week [tennis, meetings, business planning, a field trip to Lake Johnson, Triangle Restaurant Week at Chamas, etc] so I haven’t been cooking very elaborate meals for lunch or dinner. Here’s an overview of some of my simple, thrown-together snacks and meals this week!
Edamame pulled from the freezer, sprinkled with sea salt, and defrosted over night then microwaved for ~30 seconds at snacktime

Sharp cheddar cheese cut into cubes and thrown into an Easter egg!

Cherries from the Dupont Farmers’ Market
A delicious simple summer salad: chopped tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and corn cut off the cob with olive oil, gluten-free soy sauce, sea salt, pepper, dried red chili peppers, and garlic powder
Edamame pulled from the freezer, sprinkled with sea salt, and defrosted over night then microwaved for ~30 seconds at snacktime

Salted tomato slices

Cheddar cheese cubes

Trader Joe’s Organic Foursome vegetable medley

Pan-fried Harris Teeter sun-dried tomato polenta with a scoop of ricotta and sun-dried tomatoes

Round two of sun-dried tomato polenta

Pickled cucumbers, carrots, and edamame {recipe to come}

Green olives

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Also on this week’s list of “gluten-free wins”: I went to a luncheon and was faced with two options: a light salad or a sandwich. I filled up my plate with salad and then grabbed a tuna sandwich; I put the filling of the tuna sandwich on top of my salad and set the bread aside. Yes, it’s wasteful and no, it wouldn’t work for a Celiac but a gluten-free girl’s gotta  be creative!

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In other news!

to my friend Sara D!

recap: a taste of georgetown

My friends knew they wouldn’t be able to spend my birthday with me in July, so they planned a birthday surprise for this past weekend. I knew it involved food but I wasn’t sure exactly what it would be until we grabbed iced coffees from Dean and Deluca, turned the corner, and saw Taste of Georgetown, which is an annual festival with food samples, wine and beer tastings, and live jazz. Seriously? An outdoor festival where I get to eat, drink, listen to music, and hang out my friends?! Best present ever.

My friends got a deal for five food tastings and six drink samples! It doesn’t sound like a lot, but we were stuffed- we had to leave, digest, and come back to finish!

By the way, if you follow my blog for gluten-free inspiration, turn away now. I’m about to really disappoint. But I couldn’t say no to all the amazing offerings!

First up- wine at approximately 10:45am. Our first sample was SkinnyGirl wine, because we love Bethenny!


Next up: my friends each got a different crepe from Cafe Bonaparte and I of course stole a bite of each. The caramelized apple one was my favorite by far.
The next sample was our favorite sample of the day: Belmont Charcuterie {handcrafted cured meat}, Pesto Aioli, and Pickles on Grilled Ciabatta and a little cup of gazpacho on the side from Degrees Bistro {located in the Georgetown Ritz Carlton}.
My first ever Lobster Roll from Georgetown Catering! Probably my second favorite item of the day- it ran out really early in the day, so we were happy we went so early.
I was most excited about the dish from Mie N Yu- Hisho Miso Cold Duck Noodles with House Made Duck Pastrami, Buckwheat Soba Noodles, Toasted Sesame, Japanese Greens, Yuzu Kosho, Aromatic Akamiso Duck Broth, Pickled Daikon, and Crispy Garlic. Unfortunately, it wasn’t quite as great as it sounded, so we were a bit disappointed.
Next up, we all sampled Filomena’s Ravioli Alla Matrimonia: Roasted Meatballs on Baked Cheese Ravioli. Soo delicious!
Dessert was not one, but two Georgetown Cupcakes- molten lava and salted caramel! We loved the salted caramel but I could only manage a tiny bite of the molten lava’s cream cheese frosting.

After a few hours of lounging by the waterfront, we went back for more. The longest line we waited in was for paella from Bodega.
We couldn’t waste our tickets! Here we have Paella and Jamon Serrano, both from Bodega Spanish Tapas & Lounge. I loved the jamon but wasn’t blown away by the paella.
Lastly {thank goodness} we had Veggie Pad Thai from Bangkok Joe’s. Good but not amazing {maybe it was because I was so full}.

Crazy amount of food, huh? I felt a bit gluttonous! We had to digest {part two}, so we found a shady spot on the lawn outside a Georgetown church who openend their gates for the festival.  I ended up giving my drink tickets to my friends, because I couldn’t bear to put anything else into my stomach! I loved this angle:


Thank you for the amazing present, Lindsay and Karrie!