I’m currently bike riding along Venice Beach with two college besties en route to the adorable Rose Café. I can’t wait for this getaway to start my summer refreshed for all the fun that’s in store. Here are some weekend reads to help you get into R&R mode, especially all you moms who deserve it most.
If you can’t get to California any time soon, here are five spots to taste wine that aren’t Napa.
In honor of Cinco de Mayo, we teamed up with the fabulous Marcia from Smart in the Kitchen to bring y’all some festive recipes for your party weekend! Today’s collaboration started when I offered to host my daughter’s class at our house for dinner a few weeks back. I love throwing parties and host often but have never hosted anything for a group this size (20 or so people) that requires dinner. For bigger groups, I typically outsource the food aka order pizzas (ha!) or do easy appetizers. But dinner for 20, I was in over my head.
I immediately called Marcia and asked for ideas. Clueless in the Kitchen meet Smart in the Kitchen! She had me at kale guacamole! Marcia was also working on a post for fajitas for a crowd and promised it was SUPER easy. If you’ve got a grill (check!) and have a Trader Joe’s nearby (check!), you too, can rock some delicious fajitas for a big group. I did cheat and pick up some rice and beans from my favorite Mexican restaurant. That’ll be our little secret though. Another secret I’ll share, the bagged salads at Whole Foods. That’s right, salad in a bag folks. The Taylor Farms organic Sirancha ranch chopped salad is delish. It comes with tortilla strips that aren’t soggy, sunflower seeds and shredded parmesan cheese. Yum. And add in some avocado and it screams made from scratch. For an appetizer I threw out some crudités with Marcia’s homemade ranch dressing. And served her margaritas for a crowd, another super simple recipe (3 ingredients!) that can be made ahead! After a few refreshing margs, the entire crowd will think the meal was fantastic no matter how it turned out anyway. Ha! Happy Cinco de Mayo, y’all!
If you use a food processor to make this, there’s no need to chop the kale fine. If you aren’t using a food processor, be sure to chop the kale and onions very well.
Juice of 2 limes (about 2 tablespoons)
4 small Lacinato kale leaves, stems removed and roughly chopped
½ cup white or yellow onion, chopped (or less to taste)
¼ cup cilantro leaves
1 small Serrano or jalapeno, deseeded and chopped
3 large ripe avocados, halved, pitted and peeled
½ teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
In the bowl of your food processor, combine the lime juice, kale, onion, cilantro, Serrano and salt. Pulse until combined.
Add the avocado and pulse until you reach your desired consistency.
Taste for seasoning and add salt or lime juice if necessary.
If you do not have a food processor, make sure the kale and cilantro is well chopped and combine ingredients with a potato masher or mash well with a fork.
This easy salsa verde will save for a week stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Use it on scrambled eggs, tacos, chicken and grilled flank steak. Tomatillos contain natural pectin, so don’t be surprised if the consistency of the salsa thickens after it’s refrigerated.
1 pound tomatillos
¼ teaspoon salt
Fresh ground pepper
1 serrano pepper, seeds and ribs removed and finely chopped (this amount can be halved or quartered to taste)
½ white or yellow onion, chopped (about ¾ cup)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped
Juice of 2 limes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Remove husks and place tomatillos on a half-sheet pan lightly coated in oil. Roast in a preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until soft and browned.
Place the roasted tomatillos and the remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor and pulse until the salsa comes together. Be careful when lifting the lid because of the steam.
Quick Pickled Red Onions
Pickled red onions take only 10 minutes to put together, but they are better after sitting for 3-4 hours. In her book, Tacolicious, Sara Deseran makes these with the addition of Mexican oregano which adds a nice flavor.
1 cup rice vinegar or white wine vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons dark brown sugar or coconut sugar
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 red onion, cut in half and sliced very thin into half moons
In a medium sauce pan, bring to a boil the vinegar, water, sugar and kosher salt.
Place the sliced red onion in a glass or ceramic bowl and pour the warm rice vinegar mixture over the onions. Cover and soak for 3-4 hours.
I’m going to LA in two weekends to visit my friend Mimi who lives in Malibu. It was a last minute decision, but I’m so glad I made it. It will be a girl’s weekend through and through, and I can’t wait to kick off summer on the coast of California.
So, you can imagine my intrigue when the necktie trend took off. I got my first in San Francisco when I fell in love with a spin-off of the classic bandana pattern in a forest green, pale pink and marigold colorway.
I wore a yellow denim jacket as a bright addition to my Easter ensemble. Apparently, it’s the it color of spring, so I can’t wait to stock up on more.
My best friend found herself in a similar spot I did last year where she felt her job was robbing her of a great deal of daily joy. I feel fortunate enough to have found my dream job, and she just did too! Fill out this questionnaire to guide you toward yours.
Some of my best writing stints have been spurred by traveling to new cities. As summer approaches, plan a trip and perhaps you’ll find that putting pen to paper never felt so natural.
The name Elisabeth Epperson, a blonde baking blogger, will be one to know sooner rather than later.
My mom’s favorite holiday is Easter, and it’s hard to blame her. With winter behind us and the sunshiney seasons ahead, it seems like the best of 2017 is still to come. Here are some good reads while you unwind with your family over the long holiday weekend:
Quotes considered cliché likely have grains of truth for all of us. “Be present” is one we hear often, but I find it difficult to apply as a future-focused 24-year-old. But then this morning, I read someone write about it as their mantra, explaining the importance of their present moments in paving their future. This article teaches that lesson: what you do today will make for a better tomorrow. Below are four other fun links to read this weekend!
I live in a pair of cotton drawstring pants I got from a street vendor in Paris, so I’m eyeing this chambray version.
This Aquazzura meets de Gournay collaboration has me pining for spring.
Healthy eaters weigh in on their habits. My favorite: the Frenchies.
Hey y’all! If you haven’t had enough decadence in your life post-Valentine’s, allow us to add a little more. Today, we’re stoked to collaborate with one of my favorite Houston chefs, Marcia Smart. Marcia is a food writer and cooking instructor who also works full time as a mother of three. She’s written recipes for Cooking Light and has also done freelance writing for Robb Report and Parenting Travel magazine. She recently started her own cooking website, Smart in the Kitchen, which focuses on helping busy moms menu plan with new crowd pleasing recipes for the entire family. I’m a huge fan of Marcia’s and am stoked that she’ll be joining L. Avenue from time to time with recipes, busy mom menu prep and entertaining tips.
Here’s what Marcia has to say about pulling off the ultimate cheese board….
How To Pull Off the Ultimate Cheese Board
There’s nothing easier than unwrapping some cheese and sticking a knife in it, but let’s show some effort, shall we? A well-appointed cheese board, with all the sweet and savory nibbles and condiments to accompany it, can sustain a chatty cocktail crowd for hours. Book club? Check! Cocktail party? Check! Retro cheese and chocolate course after a dinner party? Super double check! The key to keeping things both interesting and delicious? Mix it up…
Variety is the Spice of Life
Start by choosing a variety of cheeses from different milks (cow, sheep and goat). And be sure to vary the textures, some should be creamy and runny and others firm and grainy. And even if you’re not a fan of veiny bleu cheese, there’s nothing like a wedge of creamy gorgonzola dolce and a glistening square of honey comb to get your appetite stirring (which are delicious eaten together, by the way).
If you’re shopping at a good gourmet grocer, look for Humboldt Fog goat cheese, Laura Chenel chevre, St. Andre triple cream cow’s milk brie and Mimolette (an aged raw cow’s milk cheese), aged gouda, Manchego or Pecorino Toscano. If you’re shopping at Trader Joe’s, most of the cheeses are packaged under their brand. A good mix would be their 1,000 Day Gouda, mini Basque, Manchego Anejo, Blue Stilton or any of their Toscano cheeses. I also like to “mess up” the cheeses a little, so people aren’t afraid to jump in. Hard cheeses, like gouda, can be pre-sliced with a sharp knife and fanned out on the board to make them more manageable.
The Homemade Touch
Even if you just choose a couple different cheeses — say a Manchego and a soft goat cheese — you can add a homemade touch by drizzling garlic- and rosemary-scented olive oil on the chèvre (recipe here) For warm, delicious olives, rinse off the brine your olives are packaged in and warm them in good quality olive oil (look for a cold pressed, extra virgin olive oil that’s a rich green color) with red pepper flakes, lemon rind and a bay leaf (recipe here).
Here’s a cheat sheet to help you keep your eyes on the prize. Choose your cheese and 2-3 “extras”:
3-5 cheeses (3 is absolutely fine, unless you have a crowd)
Charcuterie (prosciutto, hard salami or French ham torn in to thin, uneven pieces)
Crackers and flat bread (Sardinian flat bread, sliced baguette, seeded crackers, as well as rice crackers or endive spears for gluten-free friends)
Dried or fresh fruit (blackberries, fresh figs, dried cherries, dried apricots or dried wild blueberries)
Nuts (toasted pecans, pistachios or Marcona almonds)
Condiments (fig jam, quince paste, and mustards for meats, if serving)
Living in Houston has me waaaay excited for this year’s Super Bowl. I have to admit, most years I tune into the big game strictly for the nachos and commercials. But this year, we’re hosting in mine and Molly‘s (the face behind the Friday Five) hometown, so we actually know the teams playing. Even more, we’re pumped for the festivities leading up to this Sunday’s main event. In case you’re in town for the Super Bowl, here is a quick comprehensive BEST of Houston guide. Enjoy!
The Dunlavy:: A family friendly brunch spot with the best views in town of our Buffalo Bayou. Bike it before or walk it afterwards: it starts on the border of historic River Oaks and extends all the way into downtown.
B&B Butchers :: Of all of the dinner spots in town, my money is on this spot being the best celeb sighting scene. This upscale steak house is perched just outside of downtown and the dinner menu is to die for. If you’re lucky enough to snag a ressie, go big or go home and get the Chef Tommy’s Bacon. You’ll thank me for one of the most delicious dishes I’ve tasted. Ever. Post dinner, head to Social 51 next door, an upscale pop-up bar created just for SuperBowl.
State of Grace:: Pull up a seat in the pearly oyster bar for cocktails and coastal fare or dive into the dining room where beautiful leather booths lie beneath the impressive deer mounts for true Texas decor.
Underbelly :: At minimum, visit the wine bar at this Montrose establishment or find brews at Hay Merchant next door. Stay for supper served by star chef Chris Shepherd. The goat dumplings are his original creation and out of this world.
Julep :: Their namesake is their signature drink, but they’ve got plenty more where that came from. A stone’s throw from downtown on Washington, my favorite to sip on is the Whispering Mathilda since gin is my spirit of choice.
SHOPPING & BEAUTY
Tootsies :: A Houston establishment, the chicest Houstonians shop at Tootsies. Carrying a beautifully curated collection of both contemporary and designer styles, this boutique is a must-shop.
Biscuit :: I’m biased, but this shop is a hop, skip and a jump from several of our other hot spots and is home to a Houston designer’s original bedding line and great gifts for your Houston hostess for the weekend.
Whim :: Houston’s newest contemporary boutique located a block away from Tiny Boxwoods. Brunch and shopping sounds like the perfect Houston Saturday game plan.
Full Blown :: This boutique blow dry bar has a full cocktail bar and couture fashion show coverage on a big screen. They sell R & Co. products, and you’ll be in walking distance from Brasserie 19 when you’re done.
More big baby news for L. Avenue! My brother and sister welcomed a little girl into the world this Wednesday. We love Eloise Jane already, and I can’t wait to watch her grow up with her big brother, Max. Here’s five links for reading this weekend:
Decorate :: Eloise will have a Palm Springs inspired nursery with this crib sheet. Seeing this girl’s room makes my imagination go wild for all the magical ways her room can evolve with this theme and color scheme.
Go :: I’m already salivating for a boozy brunch at Leo’s Oyster Bar on the San Francisco Bay for my birthday, but my next stop may be this whimsical café on the other side of the world.
Browse :: I feel as though I’ve found my British kindred spirit in Louise Roe, budding lifestyle blogger who happens to reside in the same city as my top two faves, Garance Doré and Emily Schuman. May have to pay a visit to LA!
Eat :: I recently discovered acclaimed Houston chef Chris Shepherd’s curated list of his favorite spots around town. WD and I tried London Sizzler, and it satisfied my saag paneer craving big time.
Shop :: I love the feminine edge of this biker jacket, and for the price, I wouldn’t feel bad for only wearing it on occasion in the mild Houston weather.
Looking forward to volunteering at tonight’s A Couture Cause and meeting some of you. Don’t be shy, and please say hi!
rainbow brunch at Houston’s Pondicheri :: beet pancakes and fresh squeezed OJ all day
At work, we’ve started a wellness challenge to put our best foot forward before we press rewind as we fa-la-la-la-la through the holiday festivities. So, today, the Friday Five is broken down into the five categories we’re competing with each other (and mostly ourselves) on daily:
Step It Up :: Reach 10,000 steps.
Never have I ever had a FitBit, so I’m finding out the hard way how difficult it is to hit the recommended ten thousand steps a day. These 13 tips should help, starting with shopping a little more and parking farther from the store!
Heartbeat High :: Increase your heart rate for 20 minutes.
My personal goal is to go to a workout class three times a week. I’ve found my favorite instructor at my gym, which I’ve found to be a game-changer in motivating me to show up. If you don’t have a gym membership, here’s ways to shake up your exercise routine.
Waterlogged :: Drink a gallon of water.
What I’m finding even harder is to guzzle a gallon of water a day. Read this honest testament about how more water makes for more energy and fewer face blemishes.
0% Alcohol :: Consume zero alcohol.
What helps increase my water intake is decreasing my alcohol consumption. But, when I need a change of pace, I reach for things like prickly pear Kombucha at Local Foods. Its fuchsia color few me to the fermented drink, so here’s why we should all indulge in the most colorful foods.
How Sweet Homecookin’ :: No eating out allowed.
No UberEatsing or Favoring fast food for us; we’re prepping all our meals at home, people. Here’s how the girls at Cupcakes + Cashmere make their favorite restaurant meals at home. I can’t wait to try to copy the Sway Thai‘s Tom Kha Gai now that it’s cold outside.
Join us if you’re so inclined, but keep in mind, we push the pause button for Friday and Saturday. We’ll reset Sunday, so treat yourself. It’s the weekend!