B is for B’s Birthday!

This weekend was a fun-filled, pre-planned celebratory weekend for B! Why? Because B had a milestone birthday. I’m not going to say how old … but I’m sure you can figure it out :)

Anyway, we started off the celebrations somewhat early – Thursday night, I planned a night to Hilarities to see one of B and my’s favorite podcast stars – Pete Correale. I also invited some of B’s friends AND family to join us in the celebration! We had people over before the show for drinks, sliders and pulled pork (thanks to B’s mom!), and some snacks I prepared like buffalo chicken dip, hummus, chocolate cupcakes, chocolate chip cookies and buckeye brownies (recipe is coming soon!).

thursday night

After the show, we got a chance to say hi to Pete and even get a picture – he was such a nice guy and none of B’s friends were familiar with him but I’m sure they’re fans now; he put on a great show!

pete correale

Friday night I let B decide how he wanted to spend the evening and what he wanted for dinner – so of course, we ended up at Parnells for drinks and then Superior Pho! After dinner we walked around and caught some of the outdoor movie playing downtown – a Cleveland classic, Draft Day. And of course we enjoyed some leftover cupcakes for dessert.

superior pho

outdoor movie night!

outdoor movie night!

Saturday was another awesome day where I basically told B that we could do whatever he wanted. Because he’s the best, the day started with him making me breakfast and cleaning the apartment while I worked out (I know – he cleaned our apartment while I got to work out … he knows the way to make me happy). After that, we picked up our CSA and then headed to the Cleveland Flea! I love the Flea and it was a cool fall-like day – perfect for walking around and grabbing a few drinks.

B @ the Flea

B @ the Flea

Then, B chose to hit the driving range. We each hit a bucket of balls – and I didn’t do that bad.

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After the driving range, we went out to the lake. It had started to get cloudy – and windy – and it was fun to see the water so rough. Hard to believe last year on this same day we were on the beach in LA!

For dinner, B decided he was craving buffalo chicken wings. Wings and beer – not too bad for a birthday I suppose. And then after dinner, it was time for the next part of our plans – another comedy show! Jim Jefferies, another comedian I was introduced to from a podcast, was in town after canceling his show in June and playing in one of the local theaters. He was awesome – he put on a nearly TWO HOUR performance and it was so much fun to see him in real life after listening to his cast and watching him on TV (he used to have a show, Legit).

Buff chick salad!

Buff chick salad AND a PUMPKING (aka my favorite fall brew)

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Sunday was another great day – it included watching the Browns WIN their home opener (probably because B was wearing his birthday gift – the Brian Hoyer jersey), some meal prep for the week and a 5 miler with B. Not a bad way to end a birthday weekend – hopefully B agreed!

Some questions for you:

  • Do you watch Sunday football? Who do you root for? Sometimes – I didn’t grow up watching football but if it’s on and I can multi-task (a.k.a. I don’t have to ONLY watch it) I’ll root for the Browns.
  • Meal prepping – do you do it? Yes, if I get a chance to, I love working with my Fresh Fork finds and preparing lunches in advance. It makes my week so much better and there’s something so relaxing about preparing food. I find it therapeutic! 
  • Any favorite comics? Do you like podcasts? Which do you listen to? I like to listen while working out, especially if I’m indoors – I go for the Pete & Sebastian show or Stuff You Should Know.
  • What would your birthday meal of choice be?

Why Do Weekends Have To End?

What a great weekend! It was definitely another one of those great weekends where Sunday night I was sitting on my couch, looking through photos, writing a recap and just thinking – wow. Why does it have to end?

Friday afternoon started off with a block party in my neighborhood! That’s right, there was a party for downtown residents in my ‘hood that included free food, drinks, live music and more. The food was great – it was a compilation from some of our neighborhood chefs and restaurants – so there was chicken salad from Rothschild Farms, kale salad and more from Phuel, full size sausages, salmon sliders from Chris Hodgson, meatballs from Cibreo, some spicy chicken from Sung’s House and more. Seriously good stuff.

As part of the party, we got to take a tour of the new Hofbrauhaus that is going into our neighborhood! B has been counting down the days until this new beer hall opens. Unfortunately it looks like it won’t be ready in time for his birthday – but we are keeping our fingers crossed that it does, indeed, open this month. It looks like they do have some work to do though.

hofbrau

After the tour of the Hofbrauhaus B and I decided to grab a beer and watch the BC home opener at Parnell’s. Sadly, we lost. Ah well – hopefully another game will be on TV this season.

Parnells - always the perfect pour.

Parnells – always the perfect pour.

Saturday started with an easy workout while B cleaned the apartment. Yes, I am that lucky (he cleans while I get to workout). Then it was my favorite event of the month  (maybe an exaggeration) – Ladies Craft Beer Society! A few ladies meet up once a month to drink craft beer, eat goodies (wish I had taken a pic of the food – this month everyone went all out it seemed!) and do something crafty. This month? We made lemoncello!

in one month this will be lemoncello!

in one month this will be lemoncello!

Saturday night was AWESOME. Our friend Joey had scored tickets to The Black Keys homecoming concert (they’re from Northeast Ohio) and not only were they free tickets – but they were suite seats. So even though I wasn’t a hardcore Black Keys fan, I made sure to listen to a bunch of tunes last week and get in the spirit.

The Black Keys!

The Black Keys!

They put on a great performance and I had so much fun. It really did amaze me how different my concert experience is in my late twenties – compared to in high school. In high school I was really into punk shows and went to concerts monthly it seemed. I was always standing, always on the floor, with mosh pits and crowd surfing. It’s funny to see how things have changed, isn’t it?

Apologies for the big blurry mess that is the stage in the following video. But at least the sound is great

Sunday was pretty laid back. The morning started off with an spontaneous seven mile run with B. It was nice not to have a route planned, or any mileage – instead we just enjoyed the weather and the scenery.

After our run, we enjoyed brunch at Phuel. I LOVE their food and typically go for their granola and yogurt parfait, but it was nice to get lunch food.

Tabbouli, lentil soup and kale salad for brunch at Phuel.

Tabbouli, lentil soup and kale salad for brunch at Phuel.

And then we hit up the North Union Farmers Market in Ohio City. We had gone to check out the Cleveland Kraut stand, but unfortunately they weren’t there. It’s okay – we ended up getting some apples, salsa and beef jerky.

Sunday evening included some cookie baking and dinner with B’s family. Not a bad way to end my weekend, if I do say so myself.

chocolate chip cookie recipetesting

chocolate chip cookie recipetesting

Some questions for you:

  • How was your weekend?
  • Did you go to concerts in high school? What kind of music did you like? Have your tastes changed? Yes, I lived for concerts in high school. Favorite bands I saw in concert were probably Dropkick Murphys, Taking Back Sunday, The Starting Line, Weezer, Midtown, Saves the Day, NOFX … the list goes on and on. My tastes haven’t realllly changed today – they’ve just broadened. I still love some good old school punk and even today’s somewhat pop punk, but I’m a fan of so many other kinds of music today.
  • Which do you prefer – following a running schedule or keeping up with unplanned runs? Do I have to decide?
  • Do you know the Black Keys? Favorite song?
  • What recipe could you make over. and over. and over again? Chocolate chip cookies or chocolate chip blondies. They’re a staple!

Meatless Monday: Summery Kale, Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

I realllly wanted to call this salad The Best Summer Quinoa Salad Ever, but that was too ambiguous. Or even Quinoa, Kale, Black Bean, Avocado, Tomato, Onion, Hot Pepper, Corn Salad with a Lemon Vinaigrette but that just seemed like too long of a name and you would probably would have stopped reading then. So just go with it.

Anyway, I love a good summery salad. Something with a good light vinaigrette, add in corn and avocado and I’m sold. So when I realized we had pretty much all of my favorite ingredients for a salad thanks to our Fresh Fork CSA and some farmer’s market finds, I knew I had to just put it all together and make the best summer salad ever. Add in some quinoa and a can of black beans and it was perfect for a vegetarian main meal. Oh yeah – even B ate it as a main dish without meat. That’s how I know it’s a success.

Don’t be fooled by the name, I may just be making this salad this fall and winter too. Because we all need some summer meals all year round, don’t we?

kale, quinoa, black bean and avocado salad

Kale, Quinoa and Black Bean Salad

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil and 1/3 olive oil (divided)
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely diced
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 hungarian hot peppers or jalapenos, diced
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 cup water
  • 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 3 c. thinly chopped raw kale leaves
  • 1 c corn (approximately one giant cob)
  • 1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 medium tomato, diced
  • 1 avocado, chopped into cubes

Here’s what you do:

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large skillet over medium to medium-high heat. Add garlic, onion and hot pepper, and saute for about 3-4 minutes. I also added a few slices of kale, but feel free to use all the kale in step #4 and keep it raw.
  2. Add quinoa and two cups water.  Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until quinoa is cooked through, about 15-20 minutes.
  3. While quinoa is cooking, prepare the rest of the ingredients for the salad. First prepare the dressing. Mix 1/4 c lemon juice (about one whole lemon) with 1/3 cup olive oil and cumin.
  4. Finely chop the kale (remove the large thick middle stems from the leaves and then roll up kale into rods before finely chopping) and add to the salad dressing. Coat kale thoroughly in dressing. Add in corn and black beans.
  5. By now the quinoa should be nearly done cooking. After letting cool for a minute, add cooked quinoa, onion and pepper to kale, corn and tomato. Mix well.  Gently add in chopped tomato. Just before serving, add in avocado.
  6. Enjoy! Mine made 3-4 vegetarian main dishes.

kale, quinoa, black bean and avocado salad

French Toast Casserole

I have a confession to make. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – I’m not reallllly a brunch person. I’m picky about my breakfasts. I don’t really like pancakes. I’m not a huge french toast fan. Waffles? Could do without them. Eggs? Only if they’re very runny, or just the white. Granola? Love it – but I’m used to my mom’s homemade kind so it better be close. Orange juice? Ick. Cereal? Absolutely – as long as I can have 4 to 5 different kinds and can mix them together and eat it dry (without milk). I know – it’s like a crime for a girl in her late 20s to not be a fan of brunch. What can I say – I’m special?

Anyway, I know I’m in the minority. I know most people love brunch and wouldn’t rather be eating a salad, turkey chili  or chicken for breakfast so I compromise. So when B suggested we have some friends from out of town over for brunch I happily obliged. And as you do know, I LOVE baking. So of course I got excited at the prospect of baking for brunch – baking a French Toast Casserole!

This recipe turned out reallly realllly good. It was so easy to prepare (you do most of the work the night before) and made our apartment smell amazing. If you have brunch plans anytime soon, I highly recommend you make this. We served ours with champagne, a fruit salad, scrambled eggs and nitrate free bacon. Cheers!

french toast casserole-ictw

Overnight French Toast Casserole

Here’s what you need:

  • 1 (1 pound) loaf French bread, cut diagonally in 1 inch slices
  • 6 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup half-and-half
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 1 1/3 cups brown sugar
  • 3 tablespoons light corn syrup or maple syrup

Here’s what you do:

  1. Spray a 9×13 inch baking dish with nonstick cooking spray. Arrange the bread slices, layered, throughout the dish.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together eggs (beaten well), milk, half-and-half, vanilla and cinnamon. Pour liquid over bread and refrigerate, covered, overnight.
  3. The next morning, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. While oven is preheating, in a small pot over medium-high heat, combine butter, brown sugar and syrup. Stir well and heat until the mixture just starts to boil and bubble. Pour over bread and egg mixture.
  4. Bake in preheated oven, uncovered, for 40 minutes. Enjoy warm. B topped his with syrup, I thought it was sweet enough without it.

french toast casserole-icrashedtheweb

Still Summertime To Me

Well, the unofficial end of summer has come and gone. Another glorious, perfect, just-what-I-needed three-day weekend is in the books. It was filled with fun, (lots of) food, drinks, friends and great weather. While I refuse to believe that summer is coming to an end, we sure celebrated as if it were.

Friday started out with a 10 mile run before work. I finally found someone as crazy motivated as me to go out for a double digit run during a weekday. Don’t get me wrong – Nicole and I won’t be doing 10 milers every Friday, but a few here and there? Why not.

10mi

Friday night was pretty relaxing. B and I didn’t have concrete plans, so we opted for patio beers and pizza.

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So much meat on the pizza. (and so blurry)

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Saturday morning B and I opted for a 4 mile run, before relaxing with some coffee and a croissant before picking up our CSA. Oh yeah, there was cheese inside that croissant.

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And no Saturday would be complete without a trip to the West Side Market.

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Saturday afternoon we got a chance to hang out with our friend Eric, who was in town with his wife for a wedding. We went to Eric and Julia’s wedding earlier this summer, and it was great to see the newlyweds in Cleveland!

winking lizard

Brian and Eric. They were roommates in Boston and Eric is seriously one of the nicest, most considerate guys I know.brian and eric

 

Oh yeah and the last time Eric was in town? 2008 Labor Day Weekend when BC played Kent State at Browns Stadium. How’s this for a throwback photo?

laborday2007

Anyway, dinner was at one of our old favorites – Noodlecat! We hadn’t been here in a while and feasted on steam buns and of course, noodles.noodlecat steam buns noodlecat noodles

Sunday morning, we invited Eric and Julia over for a champagne brunch in our apartment. We rarely do brunch so B was pretty pumped. He made some eggs and bacon from our CSA (farm-fresh bacon and eggs are pretty amazing) and I prepared an overnight french toast bake. I’m going to be sharing the recipe because it was super tasty, but also delicious.

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The rest of the day was pretty relaxing and productive. I got in a run, a cross training workout, some meal prep, some work and more.

Monday we had off. It was so nice to sleep in and go for a relaxing run with B and his sisters. We ended up doing around 4 1/2 throughout the flats, Tremont and a few other fun neighborhoods.

After our run, B and I met up with his brother and sister-in-law and our niece and nephew to watch the air show. Every Labor Day in Cleveland, the air show comes to town and people flock downtown to watch the planes. We had a great viewing spot and enjoyed part of a picnic with the kids. Then, we met up with some friends who have a rooftop to watch the Blue Angels. They put on a pretty good show and it was a gorgeous day.

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Monday evening, I was pumped to have enough time to cook dinner and dessert for a great end-of-weekend meal. We had gotten some great hot peppers at the market on Saturday, so (inspired by B) I made some homemade spicy tomato sauce. Using that, we had a meatless Monday dinner – stacked baked eggplant with spaghetti squash. And mini blueberry cakes for dessert. A perfect end to a perfect weekend.

eggplant stacks

Some questions for you:

  • How was your long weekend?
  • Do you like spaghetti squash?
  • Do you enjoy meatless Mondays? What’s your go-to dish?
  • If you had to choose – French toast or pancakes?

Loving The Weekends: Comedy, Running, Burgers, Pho and the Beatles

What a GREAT weekend! I would have to say that this may have been one of my most favorite weekends of the summer. The weather was perfect, the food was good, B and I had a nice long run AND my parents were in town. Can’t really think of a better way to spend the weekend, can you?

The weekend, in photos:

My parents came in Friday late afternoon and we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy dinner outside. The weather was great, so we picked up beer and burgers at Dynomite before heading to a comedy show.

Check out my dad’s shirt :)

familyfriday

My veggie burger. SO good. SO big. And yes, I ate it all (fries not pictured).

dynomite veggie burger

After the meal, we headed to Hilarities for a free comedy show. I had won tickets earlier in the week and we were able to see Alonzo Bodden. B and I had seen him at the Laugh Factory in LA and were looking forward to seeing him in Cleveland. Here’ s a clip from one of his shoes from this winter (not this weekend). He was great! My parents loved him!

Saturday morning started early with a 9 mile run with B. Honestly, I was NOT feeling it for the first 5 miles. Yes, 5 miles. But after a short water break at mile 5 I felt so much better and the last 4 were great! Who knows why – sometimes it takes me 2 … or 5 I suppose … miles for my legs to warm up.

9 miles

 

I bought new shoes! I was super pumped to model them (pardon the cheesy pic).

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Post-run, we met up with my parents and headed to Tremont to enjoy some lunch and then the West Side Market for some fresh produce. Of course we had to stop off for tea in the afternoon at our favorite place, Cleveland Tea Revival.

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My mom and I both got some iced tea – ginger and peach. Yum!

my favorite tea

Saturday night, we took my parents to Superior Pho. Since there were four of us, we got a feast! Not everything is pictured. We got a chicken cabbage salad, Bahn Mi,  the spicy pho, egg rolls AND spring rolls.

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I think my dad enjoyed his pho!

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But of course we saved room for dessert. We took a post-dinner walk and  got frozen yogurt at Lemonberry. Confession – you may not be able to see the froyo because I may have taken a little of every candy they had.

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Saturday night after my parents left/went to bed, I decided to use up some of the blueberries we had and made these buttermilk blueberry scones again. Because Sunday mornings with blueberry scones for breakfast = amazing. You should probably make the recipe sometime – it’s very easy and really yummy!

scones

Sunday after my parents got back on the road to NY (sadness!) B and I took a walk around downtown. It was a GORGEOUS morning! We stopped at my favorite fountain. I don’t know why but I LOVE this fountain – it’s a war memorial as well.

walking

And then we walked to the harbor. It was SO pretty out! I’m glad we went for a walk – I get sad to see my parents go, and B knows this – I think that’s why he decided to take my mind off them leaving and instead get me a ginormous coffee (I will be drinking it for 3 days) and take me for a walk.

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Sunday afternoon I got in an easy workout (I’m trying to be REALLY good and not run too many miles and days in a row and stay injury free this year!) while B golfed with his family.

After a little work, B and I spent the evening at Blossom! This is my second time this summer going and we this time we sat on the lawn, enjoyed some wine and cheese AND Beatles music. I LOVE the Beatles – they remind me of car trips with my family growing up (The Long And Winding Road has multiple meanings for me – I swear it always came on as we were driving through the long and winding roads of upstate NY) and hearing the Cleveland Orchestra play the songs was awesome. And it was another beautiful night, so we packed a picnic dinner of a great salad, wine and cheese. I had an AMAZING time and seriously almost cried of happiness. Yes, it was that good.

I can’t get enough of the amazing weather we’ve been having. Can’t summer just stay forever?

So this weekend was just what I needed after last week. And now I’m off to start a crazy week –  this week entails some travel for work, some super early morning meetings and even an event for a board I’m on. Yes, I’ll be counting down until Labor Day!

Some questions for you:

  • Do you have a favorite comic? Do you go to comedy shows?
  • Did you get in a run this weekend?
  • Just got new running shoes! What shoes are you running in these days? Loving my new sneakers!
  • What’s your go-to Vietnamese food item? I can never decide between pho or bun!
  • Did you do any baking this weekend?
  • Favorite Beatles song?

Peanut Butter Banana Bread (a.k.a. GLORIOUSNESS)

Apparently this is the summer of me baking breads. It started with strawberry bread. And then blueberry lemon bread. And this week? Peanut butter banana bread. That’s right – peanut butter + banana, baked into a dessert-like bread.

It tastes as good as it sounds (but not was good as it looks – sorry the pictures are not that good. The bread is just not photogenic with my phone camera).

If you like peanut butter and/or bananas, this bread is for you. Even if you don’t really like bananas, but enjoy dessert/quick breads, this is for you. It’s moist (#sorryimnotsorry) and dense, with  the perfect amount of sweetness to make it a great snack, breakfast, or dessert. Promise me you’ll try it out sometime, okay?

 

peanut butter banana bread_i crashed the web

Peanut Butter Banana Bread

Here’s what you need:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperatre
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 4 overripe bananas, mashed
  • 1 1/2 cups flour (+1 Tbs flour, which you’ll use below)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup peanut butter chips, tossed in 1 Tablespoon flour

For glaze (optional):

  • 1/3 cup powdered sugar
  • 1-2 Tablespoons milk (I used a little over 1 TB to achieve the consistency I liked – an I had only coconut almond milk on hand and it was perfect!)
  • 1 tablespoon  peanut butter

Here’s what you do:

  1. Cream together butter, peanut butter and sugar.
  2. Add eggs and mashed bananas. Combine with an electric mixer.
  3. Sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add to creamed mixture.
  4. Mix in peanut butter chips tossed on flour
  5. Spray loaf pan with Pam or other cooking spray. Pour banana batter into greased loaf pan.
  6. Optional – sprinkle additional peanut butter (or chocolate!) chips on top of uncooked loaf.
  7. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.
  8. To add glaze, let cool for 30 minutes or until cool to the touch. Whisk together sugar, milk and peanut butter and drizzle on top of bread. Enjoy!
peanut butter banana bread_i crashed the web

enjoy!