Scenes from 2016

It was quite the year.

And while, by the end of it, I felt as if I were falling to pieces at the rate of pine needs plummeting from our giant, dead Christmas tree–2016 all gave me some beautiful moments, tucked in between the gritty, gruesome monotony of life.

Here’s some bit and pieces.


LA Weekend Scenes


Monday morning at Logan airport, we stepped off a bumpy red eye flight into the blistering cold. We’d had a great weekend in LA– one that went by entirely too quickly and almost without incident.

It was a quick four days of relaxing in our old neighborhood, connecting with our west coast people, and eating the stuff we miss so very much back east. We brought Cakes along, too, since he travels well and we knew he’d like to run around in some sunshine for a few days. I’m so glad we did.
Who knows when we will get out west again, but it certainly won’t be before our wedding in a few months. While it made me nostalgic and sad, I also returned feeling energized and happy.
California isn’t going anywhere. And our people are always just a plane ride away.

Mom’s Beef Stew

It’s been entirely too long since I’ve posted a recipe here. Life has gotten in the way many times over the last few months, but rest assured– I’ve been cooking.

And eating. A lot of eating.

That’s the key to transitioning back to east coast life after a while out west. Throw on a few pounds in the way of lobster rolls, and North End Italian food, and Mei Mei Street Kitchen dumplings…and soon enough you’ll long a little bit less for those tacos of yesterday.

Also, I really like soup. And eating soup when it was like eighty-seven degrees out in February last year seemed ridiculous.

While it’s continued to be pleasantly surprising on the weather front out here, I’ve been making a lot of beef stew for myself, Matty and my parents lately. I’ve filled so many mason jar pints with fresh, hot soup– yet I’m still dying for more as I type this.

Luckily, I froze some before we headed out west, and I think I know exactly what I’ll be doing when I’m done here.



While it’s called Mom’s beef stew, this is definitely an adaptation from my parents’ version. I add wine, for instance. And enough crushed red pepper for my dad to say his ears sweat a little.

But overall? It’s the kind of stuff I grew up with.
And what I’m so happy to eat again, now that I’m back home.

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Mom’s Beef Stew
An updated take on the classic
Ingredients
  • 2 pounds beef chuck, cubed
  • 1 large, or 1.5 cups chopped yellow onion, diced
  • 5 stalks, or 1 cup chopped celery, diced crosswise
  • 4, or 1 cup chopped carrots, cut crosswise into rounds
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 medium, or 1.5 cups chopped yellow potatoes, cubed
  • 1 teaspoon each – dried rosemary, oregano and sage
  • 2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • 28 oz can canned crushed tomatoes (I use Pastene)
  • 32 oz carton unsalted beef stock
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • 2 cups green beans, halved crosswise
Instructions
In a large dutch oven, heat a tablespoon of vegetable oil until very hot. Season the beef liberally with salt and pepper on all sides.Working in batches, brown the beef on all sides, about 2 minutes per side. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat until all beef is browned, then remove pan from heat and allow the smoke to subside.Return the pan to medium-high heat and add the onions and celery, stirring frequently. Cook for 3 minutes, until the onion begins to soften. Continue stirring and add the carrots, potatoes, garlic and seasonings (except bay leaf) to the pan. Add the wine to the pan and stir quickly, taking care to scrape the bottom of the dutch oven. Let the alcohol burn off a bit, cooking for another 5 minutes.Pour in the tomatoes and beef broth and stir to incorporate. Tuck the beef back into the pan, ensuring it’s submerged. Add the bay leaves and bring to simmer. Simmer 20 minutes over medium-low heat. Add the green beans and cook another 10 minutes, until tender. Serve with crusty bread and enjoy!
Details

Prep time: 15 mins Cook time: 45 mins Total time: 1 hour Yield: 8 servings

Coast to Coast

It’s been two years since we arrived in LA, ready to start anew on the left coast. Fresh off a mostly snow-laden road trip, we were wide-eyed and optimistic among palm trees.

The 24 months since have gone by in an absolute blur. I put together the video below over the course of weeks and months. With gin on my breath and tears in my eyes, I scoured thousands of photos, hunted down video clips, and listened to song after song on a mission to find what evoked this season of my life.

This piece of history is positively one-sided. I took photos and video when things were good, when I felt happy, when the sun was shining.

Missing from this, are the moments when my knees gave out when I got a phone call about my mother’s health. The minutes spent searching for a flight to Boston that left within the next few hours so I could go home to my dad’s side.

I don’t depict the nights I got out of bed and paced the living room, or the nights it seemed like I was hugging Matt and my friends just a little too often and fervently.

Or the day I got let go from the company I’d spent most of my career with.

I also don’t show the twenty-something fruitless job interviews I embarked on, or the hellish three-day career I had for a flood restoration company that turned out to be a positively weird yet enlightening experience.

I don’t detail the countless “we appreciate your time but have decided to go in a different direction…” emails, or the hours spent figuring out how to apply for unemployment for the first time.

Missing are the moments spent on a cool tile floor in North Hollywood, hot tears streaming down my cheeks, while a sweet little dog kept trying to get me to play fetch.

And missing from this video is the fourth of July last year, when I awoke to find out my dad—my absolute rock through two years of hell—was having a heart attack.

Matt and I were barely on a plane back to Boston when he uttered what we both had been thinking.
“We’re going to have to move back,” he said. He didn’t make it a question, or act like there was anything at all to decide. We were going to do what we could to help my family, and we both knew it from that moment on.

Moving back to Massachusetts was energizing and gut wrenching all at the same time. A second cross-country trip that demonstrated the obvious majesty of this country left me feeling like there’s still so much more to see.

And remind me that wherever we lay our heads, we’re never too far from where we began.

Home is just state of mind.

Bacon & Potato Breakfast Tacos

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Happy Taco Tuesday, everybody!

I called these “breakfast tacos” because the ingredients are obviously morning fare. However, as someone with barely anything in my fridge aside from bacon right now, I can vouch that these would (and will!) make a deliciously hearty dinner as well. This recipe is super simple and could be whipped up on a Saturday morning, or a Tuesday night, or whenever you’ve got a craving for some crunchy bacon and salty, comforting, mashed potatoes.

Also these would obviously welcome some scrambled eggs on top, too, if you’re into that sort of thing. I don’t judge your taco habits.

Anyway. We were talking about bacon, right?
Let’s talk about bacon.
Cooking the rest of the ingredients, especially the tender potatoes, in the bacon grease is paramount here. I don’t have to explain why, right?

I didn’t think so.

bacontacos
Bacon & Potato Breakfast Tacos

Makes 6+ tacos, takes 35 mins


What they’re Made of:

  • 1 package thick-cut bacon, diced
  • 1/2 lb white potatoes
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 jalapeño pepper, seeds and ribs removed, diced (optional)
  • A few glugs of beer (or broth, water, whatever!)
  • 1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
  • Corn tortillas, cilantro, sour cream and hot sauce, for serving

How they’re Made:

  1. In a large oven-proof skillet, cook diced bacon over medium-high heat until some pieces are crispy and done, but the majority are slightly undercooked.
  2. While you cook the bacon, cover the potatoes with water in a pan, salt generously, and bring to a boil. Boil potatoes until fork-tender. Drain and set aside.
  3. When the bacon is ready, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towels to drain. Observe the bacon grease in the pan, and add a dash of cooking oil if it looks like you need it. You should have about 2 tablespoons or so in the pan.
  4. Add the garlic, onions and jalapeños and cook over medium high heat until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the veggies and add to the bacon to drain.
  5. Add a splash of beer (about a quarter cup) to the pan and scrape up any browned delicious bits. Bring to a boil, then turn off the heat.
  6. Add the potatoes to the skillet and roughly mash them with a fork. You want some decent sized chunks. Stir back in the garlic, onion and jalapeño, then sprinkle in the bacon and top with the cheese
  7. Place skillet under the broiler and cook about five minutes, until the cheese is nicely melted and the potatoes are browned in places.
  8. While broiling, throw tortillas over an open flame for a few seconds per side to warm and char them in places
  9. Spoon the bacon and potato mixture into tortillas and top with sour cream, cilantro and hot sauce.
  10. Enjoy with your coffee. Or a beer?

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Meatless Monday – Vegan Snacktime!

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Hey people!
So, it’s June.
When did that happen?
I guess time flies when it’s always sunny and you’re often drunk. Or something?

Speaking of drunk– you should probably crack a beer and make this queso. Doesn’t it look melty and gooey and cheesy and stupendous?
Do you believe it’s vegan? I sure didn’t. And I made it.

A while back I told you about buffalo cauliflower and the wonderful people at Follow Your Heart. Today I’m armed with two more recipes utilizing their products that would be an excellent addition to your next party.

So, I mean, full disclosure here: I’m a carnivore. That won’t be changing anytime soon.
But– I’m also completely able to eat gluten, but a vast majority of what you’ll find on here is gluten free. My fiancé is allergic to wheat, so I plan around him.

If you have a vegan loved one, you should plan around them sometimes. Don’t be a steak-eating-dick and offer them a side of burnt, grilled vegetables when they stop by your barbecue.

Offer them the queso you made for everyone that just happens to be vegan! I can assume they’ll be quite grateful and you’ll have just gone from would-be asshole to party hero. Do it.

You should also make the chipotle bean dip below, too, to further solidify that hero status. This stuff was great for dipping veggies but would also make a great addition to a sandwich, taco, et cetera.

Let’s get on to the snacks, shall we?

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veganqueso3

Vegan Queso

Feeds a crowd, takes 25 mins

What it’s Made of:

How it’s Made:

  • First, drizzle a tablespoon or so of avocado oil in a medium saucepan. Add the soyrizo and brown over medium-high heat. Remove soyrizo with a slotted spoon, set aside to drain on paper towels or in mesh sieve. 
  • Leave about 1 Tbsp of grease in the pan, then add the onion and garlic and cook about five minutes, stirring often, until the onion is translucent.
  • Add in the adobo sauce and spices and stir until effectively combined with the vegetables. Sprinkle in the flour and stir, another 3 minutes or so, until it sticks to the onions and garlic.
  • Pour in the beer and bring to a boil.
  • Reduce heat to medium-low and add the cheese, one handful at a time, until it melts. Stir frequently and use a rubber spatula to prevent it from sticking to the side.
  • After all the cheese is incorporated and melted, stir in the sour cream. 
  • Serve (if possible in a fondue pot or a small slow cooker set to Warm) immediately with tortilla chips!

Next up! This is a super-easy play on hummus, and it takes about two seconds and a food processor to make (okay. You have to roast some garlic first. But you can handle that.)

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veganbeandip1

Vegan Chipotle Bean Dip
Feeds a crowd, takes ~10 minutes

What it’s Made of:

How it’s Made:

  • Combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor and pulse to combine.
  • Stream in up to 1/4 cup of Avocado oil until the dip is smooth and the consistency is to your liking
  • Serve with chopped veggies, chips, whatever dunking vehicle your heart desires!

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My friends at Follow Your Heart provided the ingredients for these recipes. All opinions on cheesy deliciousness are my own.

Thirsty Thursday – Margarita Madness!

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Hey friends!

Memorial Day has come and gone, so I guess it’s unofficially summer. I thought we could all use a cocktail recipe today. Or three. You know, whatev.

Since moving to LA, the land of exceptional Mexican food– whether it be from a fancy schmancy spot that serves duck confit tacos, or a food truck that’s just posted up on my block– I have become a margarita enthusiast. I always enjoyed a little tequila and citrus, but I never sought out variations as much as I have in the last year. Probably because out here, margaritas aren’t composed mostly of sour mix and bartender bitterness. Here, they take that shit pretty seriously.

So I figured I should, too. I also had a hankering for a spicy drink and decided DIYing it for a blog post was probably a better idea than going to a bar at 2PM on a Thursday (still unemployed over here, obviously!)

So, without further ado, here’s three different margaritas made with simple ingredients, a little muddling, and a fair amount of love and booziness. Enjoy!

First up!

strawberrymargarita

What it’s Made of:

  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 ripe strawberries, hulled
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 3 oz tequila (2 shots)
  • 1.5 oz strawberry simple syrup
  • Coarse sea salt, for rimming

How it’s Made:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, add cucumber, strawberries, and half the lemon juice. 
  2. MUDDLE, MUDDLE, MUDDLE SOME MORE. You want to break up the cucumber and extract as much flavor as possible from the strawberries.
  3. Add the remaining lemon juice, tequila and strawberry simple syrup and a few ice cubes, then aggressively shake
  4. Pour salt onto a side plate, rub the rim of a rocks glass with lemon or lime and dip into salt. Fill with ice
  5. Strain margarita into glass, garnish with cucumber and/or strawberry slice

strawberrymargarita

cucumbermargarita

What it’s Made of:

  • 1/2 cucumber, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped
  • Handful cilantro, torn
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 oz tequila (2 shots)
  • 1.5 oz simple syrup
  • Chile lime salt (like Tajin), for rimming

How it’s Made:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, add cucumber, jalapeño, cilantro and lime juice. 
  2. MUDDLE, MUDDLE, MUDDLE SOME MORE. You want to break up the cucumber and extract as much flavor as possible from the jalapeños.
  3. Add the lemon juice, tequila and simple syrup and a few ice cubes, then aggressively shake
  4. Pour chile salt onto a side plate, rub the rim of a rocks glass with lemon or lime and dip into chile salt. Fill with ice
  5. Strain margarita into glass, garnish with cucumber slice

cucumbermargarita2

strawberryjalapeno2

What it’s Made of:

  • 1 jalapeño, ribs and seeds removed, coarsely chopped
  • 2 ripe strawberries, hulled
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 3 oz tequila (2 shots)
  • 1.5 oz strawberry simple syrup
  • Coarse sea salt, for rimming

How it’s Made:

  1. In a cocktail shaker, add jalapeño, strawberries and lime juice. 
  2. MUDDLE, MUDDLE, MUDDLE SOME MORE. You want to break up the berries and extract as much flavor as possible from the jalapeños.
  3. Add the lemon juice, tequila and strawberry simple syrup and a few ice cubes, then aggressively shake
  4. Pour sea salt onto a side plate, rub the rim of a rocks glass with lemon or lime and dip into salt. Fill with ice
  5. Strain margarita into glass, garnish with strawberry and/or jalapeño slice

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Weekend DIY – Instagram Wall

instagram_wall_via_allamongfriends_1

A few weeks ago, we had people over our place on a Sunday evening for drinks, grilled meats, and the usual enjoyment of a Southern California day in our backyard. One of Matt’s friends from school came with his adorable girlfriend, which was a welcome addition to our usual group of six or so.

At one point, I came in from outside to check on the food or something, and I caught our new friend standing in our living room, intently staring at the wall.

“It’s like you live in Pinterest,” she said, studying each individual photograph in the 84 image collage. “It’s so cool.”

“Thanks!” I replied. “It was easy!”

And it really was. I mean, I get it, I suppose. What I think of as a simple little weekend project gives a lot of people anxiety. The fear of a project becoming overwhelming, or worse– terrible once it’s complete– tends to hold people back. I know it does for me.

But I’ve always been one to decorate. I’ve never been the type of renter who throws their hands up and says “nope! Can’t change a thing!” when trying to live somewhere. I usually don’t paint, but I will bang nails in the walls, and cover the cabinets in temporary wallpaper, or sometimes hang fabric everywhere, and occasionally even stick seven dozen photos to the wall with removable adhesive.

It happens.

But the result is always a place that feels like home, whether we live there just a year or longer. I may be thousands of miles from where I grew up, but this little apartment in the San Fernando Valley feels like it’s just where I’m meant to be.

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So anyway. What were we talking about?
DIYing shit! That’s right. I encourage you to do this. If you have an Instagram feed that you’re proud of, there’s nothing like scrolling through the past few years and picking favorites you’d like in a tangible form. I printed way more than these 84 pictures, and I had a tremendously hard time choosing which to put up, but I’m thrilled with the result. I catch people admiring it often, whether it’s their first time at our house or the hundredth.

While you could do this with frames, that would probably quadruple the price. I’d rather just stick them all the wall with removable mounting squares and not worry about aligning eighty four nails. Thanks?

On that note. Let’s do this, shall we?

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What You Need:

  • A level
  • A tape measure
  • Painter’s Tape
  • Scotch Foam Mounting Removable Squares, 1/2 x 1/2 Inch
    • You need four of these per photo, so for my collage I needed 336. I bought the six pack for $29.99 and had 384 to play with.
  • Instagram photos, 4″x4″ size, as many as you want for your collage – I did 84
    • I had these printed at Walgreens and they turned out great. They have a lovely app that lets you scroll through your Instagram feed and select your images, so that took quite a while. I went back pretty far, and tried to select a good combination of people, places and things that were both pretty and captivating.
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What You Do:

  1. First, decide how large you want your photo wall to be. I wanted this to be the only thing on the wall opposite our TV that you see when you enter our house, so I went big. I did fourteen photos across and six down.
  2. Sort your photos. Put people, places, and objects/abstract things into piles, and rank your favorites toward the top of the pile. You’ll undoubtedly shuffle through them hundreds of times as you create, but if you have more than enough photos for your collage (I printed upwards of 200–whoops!) you want to ensure your favorites are featured.
  3. Do the math for your collage. Each photo is 4″x4″, and you’ll have a 1″ border between each photo. I sort of winged this part, to be honest, as I knew I had more than enough photos to fill the space. If you only have the exact amount, though, you’ll want to work from the center out.
  4. Measure a foot or two down from the ceiling with your tape measure, and mark with a pencil. Do the same where you’d like your collage to end, and a few spots in between. Grab the level and the painter’s tape, and run a piece of tape, parallel to the floor, from your first mark to the end, creating the top reference for your collage. 
  5. Place a mounting square in each corner of your first photo, and align it to the top piece of tape, in the left hand corner. Once placed, rip off 5″ pieces of tape at a time, and create a border to the right and below each photo. I worked down and across simultaneously to ensure I didn’t go too far off in one direction.
  6. As you place photos, consider offsetting color with the occasional black and white image, don’t place too much of one thing (babies, dogs, nature) near each other. I also liked to put photos of Boston snow near palm trees, to generally keep things balanced. 
  7. Once all your photos have been placed, carefully peel off the painter’s tape around the photos to reveal your amazing new statement wall!

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What it Costs:

  • Mounting squares: $30
  • Prints (84 @ $0.39/print): $33 (I actually found a half price coupon code online and paid half the usual price – $0.19/print!)
  • Painter’s Tape: $4
  • Total: ~$67

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What to Make this Weekend – Asparagus, Arugula & Mushroom Frittata

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata via All Among Friends

Happy Friday everybody.

I had a weird week. And I’m currently making bacon and potato tacos for dinner, after spending an afternoon frosting cupcakes.

I didn’t see my week going this way, but I’m not mad about it in the least.
Every moment in my kitchen is a pretty delicious blessing, not going to lie.

So I’ll keep cooking, and eating, and telling you all about it for a while.
Cool? Cool. Thanks.

Maybe you’re like me, and buy lots of produce on a Sunday with lofty goals. Maybe, also like me, you buy a dozen eggs because you think I’ll eat hard boiled eggs for breakfast because PROTEIN. Or sometimes I’m going to BAKE something!


But then, sure enough, you wake up Saturday morning and you’re like I have twelve eggs and yogurt and all this green shit that I thought I would eat sooner.

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata via All Among Friends

So that’s when you make a frittata, dear people. I love me a frittata (can you tell?)

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata via All Among Friends

It just so happens to be asparagus season, but this would be great with green peas or any other bright veggies you have on hand. This was a great combination, and we gobbled it up before venturing off for a Surprise Saturday adventure.

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata via All Among Friends

Asparagus, Arugula & Mushroom Frittata

Feeds 4-8
40 minutes:
10 mins prep
30 minutes cook
What it’s Made of:
  • 4 Shallots, minced
  • 2 cups chopped asparagus 
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 8 oz sliced mushrooms, I used shiitake
  • 1/2 cup plain lowfat Greek yogurt
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese
  • 8 eggs
  • 2 cups arugula, roughly chopped
How it’s Made:
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. In a large cast iron skillet, heat a couple tablespoons of olive oil over medium high heat. Add the shallots and asparagus to the pan and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and mushrooms and cook another 5 minutes, stirring often. Season liberally with salt and pepper.
  2. Crack eggs into a mixing bowl, and beat. Stir in yogurt, cheese, and arugula. Pour into hot pan over asparagus mixture, and use a rubber spatula to scrape the sides a few times. Transfer to the oven and bake until set and just barely golden on top, about 20 minutes

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata via All Among Friends

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata via All Among Friends
Happy weekend, happy eating.