Zuppa Toscana

Hey friends! It's time for a pupdate (pup + update = pupdate!) I've always considered myself a homebody, but ever since we adopted Neville, our sweet pug, the homebody in me has really come out to play. My days pretty much consist of waking up, cuddling the pup for as long as humanly possible before I roll out of bed and pout while I get ready. I go to work and catch myself having thoughts about Neville throughout the day because, of course, he is now my computer screensaver, phone background and office art so obviously I am going to think about him 24/7. "Is he taking a nap? Is he hungry? Does he like it here? Is texting with your dog a thing?" These are actual thoughts that have crossed my mind you guys, no big…

I reach the end of the eight hour work day and what do I do? Go out for happy hour? Go shopping? Engage in any other form of extroverting and/or socializing? No, silly! I go home to my long-lost love bug and cuddle the literal poop out of him the rest of the night. Case closed. 

So yes, one might consider my life to be pretty "uneventful" lately. But you know what? I absolutely love it. This homebody wouldn't have it any other way! 

Along with a cute pup, a homebody's best friend is a big bowl of soup. Hands down. Because if I virtually make plans to not have plans, 9 times out of 10 I'm going to plan on whipping up the best, quick-and-easy, delicious dinner I know how to make: soup. Plus, when it's chilly and grey like it has been this fall, there is quite possibly nothing better than warming up to a comforting bowl of soup!

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Easy Stovetop Mac and Cheese

I'm a firm believer that comfort food is better than a hug. Whenever I'm feeling down, in need of a pick-me-up or just need to "lean in" to the dark, grey weather, my mind goes to comfort food for an emotional hug. That's a thing, right? Ok, cool. 

If you ask me, there's no other food in the world that screams comfort food quite like mac and cheese. And I'm not even a mac and cheese snob – I am down for any and all varieties of cheesy noods. Be it the classic, guilty pleasure Kraft variety, Annie's white cheddar shells or even the super guilty pleasure Velveeta shells, I'm always in for cheesy, ooey, gooey goodness. But what hits the spot even more than the boxed variety, even if they are supes tasty and easy if you're feeling lazy, is making your own stovetop version from scratch. 

Just hearing the words "from scratch" might make this sound rather daunting, I know. But I'm here to assure you that there is probably no easier task than making an impressive homemade mac and cheese. If you can boil water and add milk, butter and contents of a sauce packet to some noodles, then you're pretty much capable of making heavenly, scratch-made mac and cheese. 

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Beer-Braised Brats with Onions and Kraut

You all know that my first love is food. I mean, obviously. But what you maybe might not know is that my close-second love is beer. 

I attribute my love of beer to my dad. Like any college kid, I lived off of a steady diet of pizza and cheap beer (Go Dawgs!) and while I could toss back a number of Bud Lights back in my day, I didn't start to appreciate good beer until my dad handed me a Ninkasi Total Domination IPA one day. For fellow IPA lovers, you're probably thinking, whoa – nothing like going from 0-60 with that choice! But apparently the pallette wants what the pallette wants because upon first sip, I was hooked on that sharp, super bitter flavor of good, craft beer and thus, a true beer lover was born. 

I love beer so much today that it's practically running through my veins. From the aroma of the hops to the crisp, cold taste, I adore everything about it. But the thing I probably love most about beer isn't just the taste and the way it makes me feel, it's the camaraderie of drinking good beer and eating good food with family and friends. That's what living the good life is all about! 

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Crunchy Broccoli Chicken Stir-Fry

When Cole and I first started dating over five years ago, we quickly adopted the date night ritual of cooking together. It was quite natural, really. We both liked food, cooking and, most importantly, we both liked eating. It was a no brainer to cook most of our meals together! It's a good thing that turned out, am I right? 

There are a lot of dishes that come to mind when I think about the early stages of our relationship. Pasta bakes were on the menu almost once a week as were frittatas and anything with pesto in it, but the one dish that gives me serious nostalgia is stir-fry. 

Because deep down we're both just a couple of nerds in love (who also enjoyed watching Archer back in the day), we didn't just make stir-fry frequently when we first starting dating, we made an event out of it which soon came to be known as Stir-Fry Day. It was a day we came to know and love and would look forward to celebrating for obvious reasons. Because, admit it, stir-fries are fun! They're also quick, easy, cheap and darn tasty. 

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Teriyaki Chicken Burgers

Not many people know that my love for food has an even deeper connection because the first jobs I had starting from the age of 16 were in restaurants. From bussing tables to serving people fish and chips and burgers, I've seen it all and have a few too many horror stories to tell if you've got the time. But I'll spare you…for now! 

In college I worked at Red Robin (or, as we affectionately called it, The Dirty Bird) because, well, I needed to support my drinking habit like any good college student. Oh, and I guess pay the rent. Priorities! As you can imagine that Red Robin life was not entirely glamorous. We're talking dealing with inconsiderate tourist, singing that infamous happy birthday song more times than you can imagine and coming home after 12 hour shifts smelling like ranch and campfire sauce. Ah, the glory days! 

Even though I wouldn't jump at the opportunity to relive my time at the Dirty Bird, I still, to this day, find myself craving their food. It's not often, but sometimes I get a mean hankering for some fries with ranch and campfire sauce or a bleu ribbon burger. I know it's nothing fancy, but there's just nothing better than the taste of nostalgia. 

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Lamb Naan Pizzas

The one caveat to moving into a grown-up house this summer has been our wallets have taken a teeny, tiny hit. Indeed it is sad that going out to try new restaurants, one of my favorite hobbies, isn't high on the priority list. Then again, our house looks supes cute so I'd say it was a fair trade-off!

But just because we're not going out as much doesn't mean I'm not trying to whip up some tasty eats at home. And it's definitely a good thing I like bringing the restaurant home with new recipe testing!

When we do go out to eat, one of our favorite restaurants is a place we discovered a few years ago, Mioposto. It's this quaint neighborhood Italian bistro that you could easily miss. We really only discovered it from taking a drive in this area while looking for apartments. We finally decided to try it last year for a date night and we've been going back ever since. 

What we ordered the first time became our order every other time we have gone because why mess with perfection? We get the ceci, roasted chickpeas with fried garlic and sage, oven roasted Hood Canal clams with white wine, butter and garlic, served with their housemade oven baked Mio bread (essentially like pizza dough-esque bread for sopping up all the juice), Caesar salad, a perfect rendition of a classic, and, the pièce de résistance, the spring lamb pizza. 

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Greek Chicken Pitas

Here we go again with this summer heat wave! If you're like me you're probably in a constant state of trying to keep cool at all costs. Cold showers at night? YUP. Wearing dresses to work on the daily? Oh yeah. Sticking my head in the freezer like a weirdo? Mmmhmm. Hey, whatever it takes, right??

But what's even higher on the priority list for me when it comes to keeping things cool as a cucumber is what's on the menu for dinner. I pretty much live by a golden rule that when the temperature rises about 75 degrees (aka my boiling point) dinners must be kept easy, quick, light and, most importantly, out of the oven. Because when it's too hot to move, let alone cook, the last thing I feel like doing is turning up the heat. 

My new favorite meal for hot summer nights that checks these boxes and more is my Greek-inspired chicken pitas. What I love about these pitas first and foremost is how little effort they require. Lemon juice, lots of fresh garlic, olive oil and oregano create the simple yet flavorful chicken marinade in a matter of minutes. Then its up to the grill to do the rest of the work. 

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Coconut Curry Chicken

You may have seen if you follow my personal Instagram or read from a recent post that Cole and I just spent the last week moving into our very own house! Granted, we are still renting it but does it even matter?! You guys, this house is a literal dream. We keep talking about how we don't feel like we actually live there yet and we're just guests in a cute little Airbnb. But nope. I keep waking up each day to this cozy, cute "vacation home" and it's apparently ours!  

Arguably the best part of this house (even though it's seriously hard to choose a "best" part because I have 12,000 favorite parts of the house) is the backyard. This beautiful, magical, perfect backyard down below. 

Is that not the prettiest picture you've ever seen? All it's really missing is me in it with a glass of rose in hand and Cole firing up the grill for some grilling and chilling. 

Speaking of grilling and chilling, I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that this backyard is the perfect setting for such activities! While we've had our grill for a few years, a tiny balcony is no place for a grill and chill sesh. With this new backyard, our grill has been born again and I'm all sorts of ready to prep some tasty foods for some backyard barbecue action. 

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Corn, Heirloom Tomato and Burrata Pizza with Basil

Whenever I need cooking inspiration, I like to get myself out of the kitchen and into someone else's aka a restaurant. That's right, not only does going out to eat please my belly and spirits, but it doubles as a prime research opportunity! Multi-tasking at it's finest. 

My latest dining out slash research venture was made possible by a recent work trip down to LA. I ate so much amazing food, thanks to my impeccable Yelping skills and the natural ability to seek good restaurants in a new place (because there's nothing I hate more than wasting time or money on a bad meal). And while there are many dishes I had that left an imprint on my mind, it was burrata and I that really began a love affair. From having it served cold with marinated apricots, shiso and grilled bread to melted and bubbly on a wood fired pizza with squash blossoms and heirloom tomatoes, I knew burrata and I were going to become BFFs real soon after our encounters in LA. 

While I'm still on a mission to recreate the burrata with marinated apricots and shiso with smoky, grilled bread (because it was absolutely amaze balls), I knew immediately I wanted to recreate a burrata pizza at home using my mad pizza making skillz. The squash blossom pizza in LA was dynamite, to say the least. But I knew I wasn't easily going to get my hands on squash blossoms or a wood fired pizza oven anytime soon (wah wah). However, the creamy, mild burrata would also accentuate fresh, summery flavors like heirloom tomato, grilled corn and fresh basil. And just like that, I had my next all star homemade pizza recipe in the bag, courtesy of eating out in sunny Los Angeles. 

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Carne Asada Tacos

It's safe to say that tacos are one of my favorite foods. No matter how hard I try to shake up my weekly dinner routine, tacos somehow end up in the rotation in some way, shape or form. But that right there is the beauty of tacos! There are infinite ways to cook and eat them that you could quite possibly never end up bored. 

When it comes to finding my next favorite taco recipe, my mind wanders to the authentic tacos I've tried straight out of taco trucks. To me, there's really nothing better than having some greasy, delicious tacos from something as modest and simple as a food truck. Some of my favorite tacos are carne asada tacos served simply with lime juice, white onions and cilantro on a corn tortilla where the juicy, flavorful carne asada is the true star. Served on a paper plate with a horchata to wash it down, it's best enjoyed standing up and in a convenient store parking lot. 

While I wish I could eat straight from a food truck every day of the week (because I honestly could), I thought I'd bring the food truck home in my next taco making venture with my own spin on juicy carne asada tacos. 

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