Friday, October 18, 2019

Recipe Review | Milk Street's Southeast Asian Chicken Salad with Cashews & Coconut

I've blogged a little about my subscription to Milk Street Magazine because the publication is excellent. Not only is it full of terrific, global recipes covering the spectrum from simple to exotic (ingredients, preparation, flavors), it is absent of ads and packed with super "readable" content. I love sitting down with a new issue and simply reading it from cover to cover. Today, I'm sharing a recipe that has become a family favorite: Asian Chicken Salad with Cashews & Coconut. This brightly flavored salad is well suited for warmer days but the rich flavors, generous portion of tender chicken, and easy of preparation make it a regular feature around here no matter the season. I hope you'll try it too.

Southeast Asian Chicken Salad with Cashews & Coconut
via Milk Street, July-August 2019
25 minutes, Serves 6-8
What you need:
1/3 cup unsweetened wide-flake coconut
2 Fresno or jalapeƱo chiles, stemmed, seeded and thinly sliced (you can see from the pics above that I used jalapeƱos instead of the red Fresnos)
3 medium garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1/3 cup lime juice
1/4 cup fish sauce
2 1/2 teaspoons white sugar
2 medium shallots, halved and thinly sliced
3 cups shredded cooked chicken (rotisserie)
1/4 medium head green cabbage, cored and shredded (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup roasted cashews, roughly chopped
2 cups lightly packed fresh basil, torn
2 cups lightly packed fresh cilantro leaves
What to do:
  1. In a small skillet over medium, toast the coconut, stirring frequently, until light golden brown, 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside.
  2. In a blender, combine half of the sliced chilies, the garlic, lime juice, fish sauce and sugar. Blend until smooth, about 1 minute. Transfer to a large bowl, mix to coat the shallots and chicken and let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the cabbage and toss with your hands to combine, gently rubbing the dressing into the shreds. Add the remaining sliced chilies, the cashews and coconut, then toss. Add the basil and cilantro and gently toss again.

Thursday, October 17, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 10.17.19

  • This moment - On the back porch on a late Sunday afternoon, listening to the rain, enjoying a book, sipping wine, in my cozies, with a lap full of Geneva. Bliss. (And totally wearing the Athleta sweatshirt AGAIN... Also wearing some new leggings from Zyia that I'll test a few more times in my workouts before deciding if I'll recommend them here. So far, they're excellent for lounging!)

  • Date Night at Dogwood - Located in Sharon Square by Southpark Mall, this is one of our favorite spots to end the evening (or spend all evening) when we have a date night. I have enjoyed dinner in the restaurant a few times and lunch on the patio once --but nothing comes close to bellying up to the bar and letting Bryan Lorusso make you a cocktail (or many) designed to delight specifically YOU and based on your preferences. You might consider taking an Uber or taxi --I'm confident you'll want to sample several creations.

  • St. Anne Tote - I got this Barrington bag (first photo) at Christmastime in 2016 and blogged about it before. Now, almost 3 years later, I continue to use it OFTEN. (I added the tassel from Noonday Collection. No longer available but similar here and here.) It has held up so well. It looks like fur but it's not. The print is vinyl and the straps and bottom are leather. This bag is a workhorse. I take it on every trip because it's a great carry-on that I can fit tons inside: magazine, kindle, light sweater, beverage --in addition to all of my regular purse items. I have been tempted in the past 3 years to order another. There are so many variations on the website and you can customize and create the exact style you like. This new print (second photo) has me so tempted but I haven't seen it in person yet so... still undecided. I like that it's similar to what I already have but not the same. Would be a great option for you if you've been thinking of getting "The Bambi" but haven't pulled the trigger. What do you think?

  • The sound of a candle with a wood wick - Have you ever burned a candle with a wood wick? I only recently found out this is a thing. (Am I totally late to this party?) I have to say, I find the gentle crackling noise really suits the cooler weather we've been enjoying. It's literally adding another layer or texture to the enjoyment of a lit candle: scent, warm glow, and a natural sound effect too! Bonus. I made mine at The Candle Bar in Charlotte but you can find wood-wicked candles almost anywhere (again, late to this party) so choose your scent and let me know what you think. Amazon, Target, Walmart 

  • Merida Flounced Midi Skirt - This skirt from Anthropologie is just right to transition into fall. I love the colors and the print. The camel/beige and wine colors against the navy background are perfect and I love the birds. (It's also available in a black, textured, "window-pane" fabric that looks cool.) The skirt is lined and moves well. I think it's feminine and flattering. You could dress it up with a blouse and heels or dress it down with a chunky sweater and booties or boots. I think it would even be great with a white T and sandals, come spring. I happened upon it in the mall --giving me the advantage of trying it on before purchasing which is good because it does not have an adjustable waist. I found the skirt to be "true to size." As I've mentioned before, I'm 5'6" and 140ish. I typically wear an 8 in pants but can size up or (much less often) down depending on the fit and maker (sorry that's not super helpful). I have a smaller waist and generous hips. In A-line dresses and skirts, I'm usually a 6 (because "Pencil" or slim-fitting is not my jam). I bought the 6 in this skirt and it fits great. Check out the reviews at the link to see what others had to say about the fit. And BEST: it's on sale for $80 and they're offering 25% off that price ("for a limited time") bringing it down to $60! As of today, they have it in sizes 2-14.

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

What I've Read Recently // September 2019

Here's a list of what I finished in September. Cheers to all the book-lovers who are as excited as I am that the cooler temperatures might be calling for more time cozying up with a delightful sip and a good story! 

The Most Fun We Ever Had, by Claire Lombardo
From Goodreads:
A dazzling, multigenerational novel in which the four adult daughters of a Chicago couple--still madly in love after forty years--recklessly ignite old rivalries until a long-buried secret threatens to shatter the lives they've built.
What I thought: 6.5/10
While I thought the characters were mostly interesting and I loved reading about an older couple who were still crazy in love with one another after decades of marriage and raising four daughters, the pace felt a little slow at times. This was a big undertaking --the story includes tons of dysfunction, a lot of back and forth between characters at various times, and deals with important/heavy themes (grief, depression, secrets, illness, alcoholism, infidelity). I felt the toxicity of the relationships between nearly every family member was overdone. Other reviewers compared the book to binge-watching a family drama series and I find that analogy hits home with me. I was engaged and invested in finding out how all of these people end up muddling through their challenges but this book might be too much drama and not enough fun for a lot of people.

The Cactus, by Sarah Haywood
From Goodreads:
For Susan Green, messy emotions don't fit into the equation of her perfectly ordered life. She has a flat that is ideal for one, a job that suits her passion for logic, and an "interpersonal arrangement" that provides cultural and other, more intimate, benefits. But suddenly confronted with the loss of her mother and the news that she is about to become a mother herself, Susan's greatest fear is realized. She is losing control.
What I thought: 7.5/10 (Listened on Audible)
The narrator was excellent and I enjoyed the story very much. It felt a LOT like Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine; however, the plot was significantly different. The metaphor of the cactus was a nice touch. If you read and enjoyed Eleanor, I think you'll like this too --but probably not as much. If you think you might just read one, I would strongly suggest you read Eleanor over Cactus. If you haven't read either but would like to read both, start with Cactus and then read Eleanor. {Geez. Tammy is so bossy.}

Rust & Stardust, by T. Greenwood
From Goodreads:
Camden, NJ, 1948.
When 11 year-old Sally Horner steals a notebook from the local Woolworth's, she has no way of knowing that 52 year-old Frank LaSalle, fresh out of prison, is watching her, preparing to make his move. Accosting her outside the store, Frank convinces Sally that he’s an FBI agent who can have her arrested in a minute—unless she does as he says. 
What I thought: 6.5/10
This was a difficult read. Having two young teens made it hard to turn the pages at times. I found out about halfway through that the story was true. The brutal details about what happened to Sally Horner would haunt anyone. I thought the writing moved well through the account of what happened --it was compelling and strong. However, as mentioned, the content was challenging because it was so exceptionally heartbreaking. 

Three Women, by Lisa Taddeo
From Goodreads:
It thrills us and torments us. It controls our thoughts and destroys our lives. It’s all we live for. Yet we almost never speak of it. And as a buried force in our lives, desire remains largely unexplored—until now. Over the past eight years, journalist Lisa Taddeo has driven across the country six times to embed herself with ordinary women from different regions and backgrounds. The result, Three Women, is the deepest nonfiction portrait of desire ever written.
What I thought: 4.5/10
Ugh. Where to begin? After finishing this book, I'm left wondering, what was the point? Because I had read a few critical reviews of this book before jumping in and I understood that it was the result of eight years of research, I was under the impression it would be an examination of the female perspective from different experiences and points of view --and that somewhere in the storyline/re-telling of at least one of the three women featured, the reader would be able to identify, connect, or empathize with her sexual desire. Not so.
When I could get past the overtly graphic details and into the thoughts/motivations/justifications of these women, I ended up feeling sorry for them --which made me feel like an asshole for somehow missing the meaning and worse, judging them. Thankfully, with Maggie's story, there was more to grab ahold of --details that elicit a response that makes sense. She was a kid. Knodel was a needy, insecure, adult in a position of power who, to varying degrees depending on in whose story you find more truth, did more than "take advantage of" but definitely victimized Maggie. His crime has gone unpunished.
The writing is good at times with imagery and a turn of phrase that strikes home --but it's also confusing because the distinction between whose voice is on the page is blurred beyond any clarity. Is it Sloan/Maggie/Lina telling their story? --Or is it Taddeo shaping the narrative and projecting her agenda on the reader? If you pick this one up, I'd love to know your thoughts!

The Girl He Used to Know, by Tracey Garvis Graves
From Goodreads:
What if you had a second chance at first love?
Annika Rose like being alone. Except that, actually, she doesn't like being alone at all. The Girl He Used to Know is an uplifting novel full of surprising revelations that keep you turning the page. Perfect for fans of Jojo Moyes, Gail Honeyman, Jill Santopolo and Sliding Doors.
What I thought: 8/10
I really enjoyed this book. Though it used a well-loved storyline trope (first love, rekindled), I found the protagonist to be original and her perspective made the story feel fresh, interesting, and endearing. The detail of the setting added an emotional touchstone that made the story resonate more deeply and seriously for me --especially having read it in September. If you're looking for a quick and enjoyable love story, add this one to your list!

Thursday, October 10, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 10.10.19

  • The Pumpkin Patch - The girls and I took advantage of a teacher work day this week and made the haul (30 minute drive) south to go to Hall Family Farm for some pumpkins and fall treats. Turns out everyone else in Charlotte had the same idea and it was super crowded. While the lines did not move quickly, the smiles, sunshine, and breeze made waiting feel almost effortless. The girls declared that trip was worth it for the Apple Cider Donut Sundae and the Apple Cider Slushy. I think it was worth it for my bright green pumpkin with the fresh-leaved vine attached! The girls were great sports too, letting me take cheesy pictures of them at every turn. We had a relaxing and fun afternoon. The farm has 2 corn mazes, a playground, lots of photo-ops, a hayride, a small gift shop, pedal cars, and corn hole. (I might be forgetting something... face-painting?) Anyhoo... lots to do. But you better visit before this season is over. They've sold the property and will relocate/reopen in 2021 even further South of Charlotte.
  • Swiss Cheese Plant - This is the newest member of our plant family and I love her more than I love Swiss cheese --which is saying a LOT. Her "fancy name" is Monstera Adansonii. Thanks to my enormously talented friend, Laura of City Stems here in Charlotte, this lovely now graces our living room where she can quietly drink in the filtered sunshine and bring joy to my heart.
  • Family Date Night - at the USWNT soccer match in Uptown vs. South Korea. The weather last Thursday was still on the "very warm" side but the game didn't start until 8pm so we were not too melty. It was exciting to watch this team live and the energy in Bank of America Stadium was incredible. I think it's very special that this team has come along at this time in our lives and I especially love watching my girls cheer for them! 

    {photo via}
  • Peter Pan - On stage at Children's Theatre of Charlotte through November 3rd, this show will knock your socks off! It's a big production with flying, sword play, exceptional talent, and so much more. G and I had the pleasure of ushering during opening weekend and the wide-eyed delight of both kids and adults exiting the theater was so fun to be a part of! Tickets here. (If you're in Charlotte and interested in ushering or volunteering at CTC, let me know!)
  • The NY Butcher Shoppe & Wine Bar (Charlotte) - This gem just opened off Park Road. They have a generous butcher counter, a wine bar, outdoor seating, and a huge offering of prepared meals to grab-n-go in a pinch. We headed straight over after a late-evening soccer game on Sunday and I'm so glad we did! We selected marinated chicken breasts, lobster ravioli, alfredo sauce, loaded mashed potatoes, salad fixings (mixed greens, fresh tomato, and avocado), and French baguette. Loaded mashed potatoes might sound a bit out of place but P was shopping with me and having just played an intense soccer match, she was starving and shopping with her stomach. Turns out, they were amazing and must be one of the best deals in Charlotte. Four generous servings was only half the container and the whole container was $7! 

Thursday, October 3, 2019

Things I Love Thursday // 10.3.19

  • Celebrating 17 - On a lovely fall evening in 2002, I married my best friend. I was barefoot in a simple, perfect, borrowed dress among family and friends seated and standing with us in a public rose garden. Post-reception, we drove ourselves to our wedding-night hotel room (Embassy Suites) in the red Volkswagen Jetta he was forced to finance at 19% interest straight out of college. We laughed about how he struggled to locate the gear shift under the billowing layers of my dress which overflowed across part of his lap as we traveled those very first miles as husband and wife. At the time, I had little idea of what our life would look like this many miles into our journey but I felt confident that we would always be on each other's team and doing our best to enjoy the ride. Our adventure has lead us to different places we've called "home" and into so many more friendships, experiences, and opportunities. Today and (nearly) everyday, I am grateful for our partnership and feel so so lucky to have found "the one." Cheers to the next 17, the 17 after that, and all of the 17s to follow!

  • Keychain - {abrupt change of tempo} What I would really love is a variegated monstera plant... but since I probably will never find one --and even if I do, monsteras and I don't get along all that well so it will probably die --I found this super cute keychain version from Helema to bring a smile to my face daily. In addition to keychains, they make adorable pins, himmeli and sell air plants too. Check them out on Instagram or visit their online store.

  • Truvani Protein Powder - Realtalk y'all: I am not someone who has ever felt it necessary to regularly drink smoothies, juices, protein shakes, etcetera. I have no problem filling myself with "real" and chewable food. In fact, I excel in that department. *It's not bragging if it's true.* However, when my friend Annie (badass spin instructor and supermom) introduced me to this product earlier this year, my whole family fell a little bit in love. The Truvani company is special because of what they leave out of their products (you can read more about that here) but what we found most impressive was how great smoothies made from both the vanilla and chocolate (our fav) powders tasted and made us feel. The "stats per serving" are incredible (if you're into that sort of thing): 20g protein, 3g fat, 5g carbs, 2g fiber, 2g sugar... For our busy family, we regularly enjoy a smoothie for breakfast, after school and before soccer practice, before a soccer game, or after a workout. The recipe is usually some version of this (which I share between the girls at 10g protein each --or serve to Greg as listed): 1 scoop powder, 1/2 avocado, 1 banana, 2 cups fresh spinach, 1 heaping tablespoon peanut or almond butter, 1 tablespoon flax, and 2 cups unsweetened vanilla almond milk. It IS pricey at between $50-$60/20-serving bag, depending on if you subscribe for delivery or order one at a time (on the website or on Amazon) --BUT... our bag, when split "kid servings" are factored in, makes about 30 smoothies and even at the higher price, is only $2 each. And they LIKE it... which for your family might be priceless? {I blogged about frozen avocados a few weeks ago and if you haven't already, DO give them a shot!}

  • Gap Cords - Wide-legged, cropped, fall pants alert! I just discovered these new cords from Gap last week and they are super comfortable and flattering. The colors are perfect for fall (even if the weather is not). I found them to be true to size: I ordered the tan and the navy in an 8 (I'm 5'6", 140ish, with a smallish waist and generous hips). The cropped style is only available online but they come full-length and "flared" as well which might be your jam. 

  • Paper-Source Calendar - I've mentioned my favorite calendar before but it's worth mentioning again. I absolutely love the "Wall Art Calendar" by Paper Source. The 2020 version is available now in case you want to get a jump on your holiday shopping. Just look at October of this year! The other bonus with this calendar is that the back side of every page has a template for repurposing the vibrant and colorful designs into file folders, pillow boxes, book markers, or post cards.

  • Creative/Bullet Journaling - This is a creative and completely adjustable way to create a place to organize and catalogue my schedule for the week and/or month, plan and track projects, and articulate goals and thoughts. I've been playing with and utilizing this process off and on for the past three years. As someone who enjoys hand lettering, doodling, lists, and crafts, creative journaling is right up my alley. There's a simple explanation of the format offered here in video form a multitude of ideas and examples if you search through Pinterest, and hundreds of delightful Instagram accounts and hashtags to follow if you want to learn more (like this one, this one, or this one).