Friday, June 27, 2014

Things I Love Lately // 6.27.14

  • Camp Invention ~ Both Jones girls had a blast this week at this national science and engineering camp. If you happen upon a Camp Invention in your area, we highly recommend it! 
  • Our second meal at Lumiere ~ Delightful company, amazing meals! 
  • The French butter dish my friend Sarah gave me ~ I've been wanting one of these for a long time. I noticed she had one and when I commented about it, she promptly handed over an extra one her family had. It's so great! Soft butter, room temperature, no spoiling. Brilliant!
  • Sharing great music with my littles ~ Wish you could hear us all belt out these tunes! 
  • The decade+ set of diaries that my great-grandmother kept ~ My aunt just sent these to me and there is so much pleasure in paging through her memories and experiences. 
  • Pio Pio ~ This is a terrific Peruvian restaurant in our 'hood. I cannot recommend enough the "#5." It's a delicious salad with shredded chicken, a ton of avocado and served alongside a crispy pile of perfect fries. Try it (with the green hot sauce--but watch out; that sauce is very spicy).
  • Chorizo ~ Obviously. But my discovery of Trader Joe's Soy Chorizo has been a revaluation. Almost all the flavor without the bad stats. It's "guilt-free" chorizo. You should really try it!
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Monday, June 23, 2014

Recipe Review | Spicy Grilled Shrimp with Quinoa Salad

Highly recommended by a home cook I admire greatly, I jumped on this recipe as a dinner idea about a month ago. We loved it! So much so, that I made it again this week. While it is something you need to plan a bit in advance for, the prep is worth the payoff. In fact, the second time I made it, I prepared all the components in the afternoon and put it together as a chilled salad for dinner that evening. (If you plan to do this, wait until just before serving to dice and add your avocado.)
Spicy Grilled Shrimp with Quinoa Salad
What you need:
1/4 cup fresh lime juice, divided
10 teaspoons olive oil, divided
2 teaspoons chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot pepper sauce (I used Sriracha)
1/8 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika
4 garlic cloves, chopped and divided
24 large shrimp, peeled and deveined (about 1 pound)
     (The shrimp I found were smaller. One pound ended up being about 35 shrimp)
2/3 cup uncooked quinoa
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
1/2 teaspoon honey
1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup canned organic chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup diced peeled avocado
1 ounce feta cheese, crumbled (I always add more cheese!)
Cooking spray
8-10 (6-inch) wooden skewers 
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
What to do:

  1. Preheat grill to high heat.
  2. Combine 2 tablespoons lime juice, 1 tablespoon olive oil, chili powder, 1/2 teaspoon cumin, black pepper, hot sauce, paprika, and 2 garlic cloves in a medium bowl. Add shrimp; toss well. Marinate in refrigerator 30 minutes. 
  3. Rinse and drain quinoa. Heat 1 teaspoon oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; sauté 3 minutes. Add remaining 2 garlic cloves and quinoa; cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add 1 cup water; bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 13 minutes or until liquid is absorbed (mine takes about 17-20 minutes). Cool. 
  4. Combine remaining 2 tablespoons lime juice, remaining 2 tablespoon olive oil, remaining 1/2 teaspoon cumin, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and honey in a large bowl; stir with a whisk. Add quinoa mixture, tomatoes, chickpeas, avocado, and cheese; toss gently. 
  5. Remove shrimp from bowl; discard marinade. Sprinkle shrimp with remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Thread 3 (or more) shrimp onto each of 8 (6-inch) skewers. Place skewers on grill rack coated with cooking spray. Grill 2 minutes on each side or until done. 
  6. Divide quinoa mixture evenly among 4 plates. Top each serving with 2 skewers. Garnish with cilantro. 
Both times, I served this dish with a big green salad on the side. 
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Thursday, June 19, 2014

Things I Love Thursday // 6.19.14

  • "Debriefing" with Geneva after she finished the Epilogue to Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (the final installment of the Harry Potter series) ~ Such a delight for me to share this amazing story with her and to have the tale come full-circle. 
  • The brilliant idea (Thank you to our friend Kevin Ryan) of paying the girls a nickel for every weed they pulled out of the lawn by the root ~ Not only were they delightfully entertained for 30 minutes this morning, our lawns are now fairly weed-free and it cost me about $3.50/each--which was promptly applied to the lost library book fee and the Kindle edition of another book. Win-win. 
  • Our spontaneous trip to the bowling alley ~ I had to have my car serviced this week. It only took about an hour but the heat was already stifling at 10am and the yogurt shop next door did not open until 11am. We wandered further down the muggy sidewalk to the neighborhood bowling alley (that opened at 9am!) and enjoyed a quick game. Geneva cleaned our clocks and Piper out-bowled me by ONE pin. I could go on and on about the unfair advantage gutter bumpers may have played in the overall performance of the Jones Girls--but I refrain. 
  • Va da Vie, the new gelato shop that recently opened in the 'hood ~ WOWZA! This stuff is absolutely delightful: all natural, locally sourced, exceptionally flavorful… It takes every bit of my willpower to not visit daily. If you're in the area you must try their Bacio (milk chocolate + hazelnut) pronounced, "Bah-ChO". It's outrageous. 
  • Putting an old CD player (with speakers) in the girls' bedroom ~ … and then selecting their access to CD's {wink}. There mayn't be anything more delightful than overhearing the sound of your littles rocking out to James Taylor (Greatest Hits), Michael Jackson (Thriller), Hits of the 80's (featuring Madonna, Run DMC, The Go-Go's, and Tone Loc), DMB (Crash), and most recently the audio CD series for the book, The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie by Alan Bradley. 
  • Watching the girls perform a choreographed routine to their new favorite song, Fire and Rain (James Taylor) which includes a dresser-top interlude (as in: dancing ON TOP OF the dresser)
  • These fantastic beach towels (available now at OKL
  • The fact that So You Think You Can Dance is back for another season ~ This is one of the few primetime shows I can enjoy watching with the girls (+ The Voice). The display of athleticism, strength, artistry, and exceptional TALENT featured on SYTYCD is healthy and breathtaking. 
  • Taking an art class (sip and paint) with local artist Heidi Kirschner ~ This class differed from the "sip and paint" art classes I've enjoyed in the past on several levels: 1. The instructor is a well-loved, successful Charlotte artist; 2. We used oil paints; 3. The wine and delicious food were provided by the studio (the artist's hubby made the scrumptious fish tacos); and 4. I might actually HANG my creation in my home. (Reveal coming shortly.) She offers "Tipsy Canvas" classes twice/monthly. I encourage you to check it out! 
  • Lazy summer mornings ~ There is not a lot I find more delightful than rolling out of bed whenever it suits you. Don't be too shocked; since having children, it is a RARE occasion that I can sleep past 8:30am… But these days, 8:30am is becoming delightfully more commonplace. 
  • Homemade strawberry jam ~ Honestly. Does it get any better? (Thank you, Miss Sarah!)
  • Overhearing my West Coast girl say to her sister, "I reckon he was really scared" ~ I could elaborate on the context--but really, what does it matter?! Priceless.
  • The easy friendship of these lovely ladies ~ Sadly (SO devastatingly sadly) one of them is moving back to her hometown next week. I know from experience that quick and effortless friendships are few-and-far-between. I am both happy--for my dear friend, Carmen, and pitifully sad--for myself--to lose her (and her amazing family) after such a short time. Cheers to your next adventure! (I still suck at selflies.)
  • Teaching Piper how to dive ~ One of my fondest memories of summertime and my golden-sun-kissed mother was her teaching me how to dive: springing forward, legs together, toes pointed, no splash… Geneva mastered it last year and now I've enjoyed passing the experience to Piper. :)
  • Anthropologie's Summer Tag Sale ~ Where I picked up this, this, and this today… 
  • Easy Summer Thursdays at the pool ~ Where the pizza is $2/slice (which means dinner is cheap, easy, and fun when Mr. Jones is traveling)! 

Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Big Chop

Someone around here has been flirting with the idea of a big change for a couple of weeks. With (our super hot southern) summer approaching and her enthusiasm showing no signs of ebbing, I set up an appointment and we set off this afternoon for her little adventure.
She unexpectedly inspired her sister while we were at the salon!
Geneva's wasn't quite long enough to donate this time, but she had checked that milestone off her her bucket list a couple years ago.
Of course, we needed to go out for frozen yogurt to celebrate their new summer hairdos!
Piper is donating her hair to the Pantene Beautiful Lengths program which provides free real hair-wigs to the American Cancer Society's wig banks.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

Things I Love Thursday // 6.5.14

  • Her ~ We finally got around to watching this film over the weekend. It was deliciously uncomfortable and very thought-provoking. Joaquin Phoenix's performance was incredible. Have you seen it? What did you think?
  • THIS spoof of Her ~ Hysterical.
  • Sipping prosecco at the neighbor's house during an impromptu "We Know Your Hubby is Out of Town Tonight--Come on Over with the Kiddos for Dinner" kind of Sunday evening 
  • Watching Pipes run around with all of her friends ~ Because I'm lucky enough to stay home with the kids during this time, I try to relish in the moments that I have the fortune to glimpse. Soon after we moved across the country last year, I was able to volunteer for Geneva's "First Grade End of Year Party" at the park across the street from their school. This year, I volunteered in the same capacity for Piper's class. I marvel at their enthusiasm, joyfulness, and unharnessed zeal. Seven is a magical year. 
  • These wooden jewelry stands from The Foundrie on Etsy ~ I'm sure some of my bobbles would be lovely hanging from these branches when they're not hanging from my wrists. 
  • The anticipation of giving Geneva Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows tomorrow ~ I've held out for many months because the story is quite dark in some places and I thought a little mature for an 8YO. However, she's read a ton of other material since finishing books 1-6 and I think she can handle this last and brilliant part of the story. Tomorrow is special because it marks the start of the girls' SPARK (Summer Program for Arithmetic, Reading, and Knowledge) program at school. I want her to have something she can dive right into! 
  • Hydrangea blossoms 
  • A Letter to My Boys ~ Written by Renee Robinson for her three young boys, this letter is universal and such a terrific reminder of the importance of being "present" and learning to be content in our own skin.   It really struck a chord with me and I hope you take a few minutes to read it yourself.
  • Kitchen progress ~ Slowly, but surely… It's all coming together. Here's a peek. 
  • Reading Little Women to the girls ~ Some time ago, we fell out of the habit of me reading to them at bedtime. We are finally back on track and the three of us are loving our latest story so far. The story is great in itself, but also useful in talking about all of the wonderful ways things have changed for girls over the years. 

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Recipe Review | Chicken with Herb-Roasted Tomatoes and Pan Sauce

This is an incredibly flavorful and simple chicken dish. It is definitely going into the Jones Family Rotation. I served this dish over creamy polenta. It would also be great with rice, mashed cauliflower or potatoes, or even a bed of sautéed spinach. I hope you try it! 
Chicken with Herb-Roasted Tomatoes and Pan Sauce
What you need:
1 1/2 pounds cherry tomatoes or other small tomatoes on the vine
6 tablespoons olive oil, divided
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more
freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 pound skinless, boneless, chicken breasts
1 small shallot, minced
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley leaves
3 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves
What to do:
  1. Preheat oven to 450º. 
  2. Combine tomatoes, 2 tablespoons oil and hermes de Provence in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper; toss to coat. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large, heavy, ovenproof skillet until the oil shimmers. Carefully add tomatoes to pan (oil may spatter). Transfer skillet to oven and roast, turning once, until tomatoes burst and give up some of their juices, about 15 minutes. Transfer to a medium bowl and drizzle with Worcestershire sauce. 
  3. Meanwhile, season chicken on both sides with 1 teaspoon salt and pepper. Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat. Sear chicken on both sides until golden brown, 6-8 minutes. Transfer pan to the oven and roast chicken until cooked through, 8-10 minutes. Transfer chicken to a cutting board and let rest for at least 5 minutes. 
  4. Add remaining 1 tablespoons oil to same skillet you used for the chicken; heat over medium heat. Add shallot and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, about 1 minute. Deglaze pan with vinegar (that just means, add a liquid and scrape the bits of browned "toastiness" off the bottom of the pan); add your tomatoes and their juices and simmer until sauce is just beginning to thicken, about 1 minute. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. (My sauce didn't turn out as saucy as the photo in the original recipe and I'm guessing it was because my tomatoes were not as juicy as they could have been. I used cherry tomatoes this time. Next time, I will try vined tomatoes.) 
  5. Slice chicken; divide among plates (over your accompanying starch?). Spoon tomatoes and sauce over; garnish with herbs. 
    ***Do be careful! If you're like me, and transferring your skillets back and forth from the stovetop to the oven is not a well-practiced drill, remember NOT to grab the handle of the oven-hot skillet at any point.*** I DID remember to use a mitt when I removed the chicken from the oven but when I went to add the tomatoes and finish the sauce, I thoughtlessly placed my hand around the handle and gave myself a pretty decent burn. A good tip is to turn your mitt over onto the metal handle or you can buy one of these.
    Bon appétit!
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