Thrifty Thursdays: Portobella Paninis w/ herb cream cheese & root-veggie chips, sweet po' fries!

Much to my dismay (and yours too, right?) Thrifty Thursdays have been missing for a few weeks straight. So much for discipline; so much for creative cooking at home; so much for time to post detailed instructions for my faithful readers! Ugh... there's no excuse other than that life happened...at an overwhelming pace in the past few weeks! We have been juggling two crazy (conflicting) work schedules, a non-potty/leash trained (accidental) puppy, a major (ongoing) landscape renovation, a bath/shower remodel (in our only full bath), constant pounding in the condo above us (it's being renovated to sell), etc... not to mention all the fun stuff  (family visits, bbq's, baby showers, concerts!) we have packed into the first few weeks of summer. I am definitely going to be ready for life to start settling down a bit soon.

Needless to say, all of the aforementioned chaos makes for hasty dinners and makeshift meals thrown together with whatever's in reach some nights. Sometimes they turn out great (like this one!)...and other times they look like a poor-man's potluck. So here's this week's T.T. "recipe" (I feel like I'm am defiling the word)...   savory Portobella Paninis with all the fixin's and some guilty pleasure sides.  Documenting the process was definitely an after-thought on this one, but at least the few photos below capture the colorful cornucopia that was the end result!

Portobella  Paninis w/ herbed cream cheese
& root veggie chips, chipotle sweet potato fries
$8 for 2

4 slices sourdough (we had rosemary sourdough from W.F., yum!)
2 large portobella caps, pitted and sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp chopped herbs (rosemary, oregano, marjoram, parsley)
Pinch of garlic powder
salt and pepper
2 tbsp cream cheese
1 tbsp mayo
Cheese, spinach, tomato, onion, etc. to top!

1. Heat olive oil in a med. pan, add 1/2 of the chopped herbs, salt and pepper as you like. Add sliced portobella, cover and sautee for about 6 minutes, turning often with spatula.
2. Mix cream cheese, mayo, and other 1/2 of herbs. Spread evenly on 4 slices of bread.
3. Slice toppings so they're ready to go.
4. In a panini press (or on the grill, or in the toaster oven, george foreman, etc...) place one slice bread (per sandwich) top-down (duh) and pile with onion, portobella, cheese (in that order...onions get slightly cooked, cheese melts and makes everything stick). Grill until begins to slightly char.
5. Top with tomato, spinach, other slice of bread. Flip. Grill the same.
6. * serve with chips & fries! (we cheated on both... Terra chips and Alexandria fries) but if you have the time/inspiration to make your own from scratch, here are two helpful recipes!
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/sandra-lee/sweet-potato-fries-recipe/index.html  (just add chili powder, cayenne, garlic to make your own 'chipotle' seasoning)

colorful & delicious! 


Table~Top Terrariums!

This afternoon I finally put together a cute pair of terrariums for the little, awkward 'shelves' on either side of our 'front' door.  I picked out a few pretty succulents from a local nursery last week and found the glass hurricane containers on sale at Crate&Barrel this morning. We aren't usually able to have flowers/plants in the house because Logan (the cat) destroys and devours them in minutes, but I thought succulents would be safe because they don't have a scent or any fun petals or leaves to play with. Unfortunately, Logan discovered the plants last week and proceeded to knock all of them over onto the floor...twice. Despite their poor state, I'm hoping these little guys make a quick recovery and thrive in their sunny new homes!

Table-Top Terrariums: 
succulents: $12 for 3
hurricane glass jar: $12 
and a few handfuls of soil and spanish moss, so easy!

sad little succulents missing some limbs and leaves 

Cacti are hardy little things... hopefully they bounce back to life soon!


Wedding Watch: Organic Love!

Another great trend that is sprouting up in the wild world of weddings is the use of organic, natural elements in everything from dresses to decor. Organic textures, colors, patterns, shapes, and objects are finding favor over the ordinary, every-day, mass-produced nonsense that seems to be bane of every bride. 

There is good news! Step away from the floating-candles-in-a-fish-bowl, silk-flower arrangements, and tacky tulle everywhere... there are creative and cost-efficient solutions for every style, that all begin with one simple step: use what is available and beautiful on it's own! Stay away from over-the-top 'fluff', intricate patterns on every surface, and gobs of gaudy garb that distract from the simple, organic elements you can find all around you. Browse through this great set of photos below and get ready to take a walk on the wild side!


Wedding Watch: Flirty Feathers!

There is a fabulously-fowl trend fluttering around at the moment that I just cannot get enough of! Fluffy, flirty feathers are making their mark on the fashion scene - and as a result, the wedding world- adorning everything from subtle hair accessories to surprising centerpiece displays. What a playful, yet chic, way to add a touch of romantic flair to any occasion without letting the decor steal the show! 


Monday's Music to My Ears: Crazy

To say that I am a little excited for the Ray Lamontage/ Brandi Carlile show at RedRocks this coming Friday is the understatement of the year! It will be my fourth time hearing Brandi live, and seeing Ray perform has been one of my heart's desires for over half a decade! There will be joy, there will be tears, there will be love, there will be cheers...  Alas, Friday is still four full days away, which means today is Monday and this beautiful rendition of Gnarles Barkley's "Crazy" (yup, you heard me!) by Ray is simply beautiful Music to My Ears! If you are like me and struggle with practicing self control, you won't be able to stop at just one video...so to spare the restless searching, I've added a bonus vid. of Ray and Damien Rice performing "To Love Somebody" (Janis Joplin) live! You're welcome. Happy Monday to you all!

"Crazy", Ray Lamontagne
(covering Gnarles Barkley)

"To Love Somebody", Ray Lamontagne & Damien Rice
(covering Janis Joplin)


Monday's Music to My Ears: Elias

This past Saturday night we saw another amazing performance at the incredible RedRocks Amphitheater. We packed a picnic, put the top down, turned the tunes up and headed out to the foothills where we gathered with thousands of other fans to see the long-awaited return of Dispatch. Few bands rekindle nostalgia for the easy, care-free coastal lifestyle I grew up with like they do. I still have the mix-cd I burned (mostly from Napster...but I've made up for it, iTunes!) of their music in 8th grade, that was later a resident in my '97 magenta VW cabrio throughout highschool.  They played all of their "hits" and a few newer songs that have sneaked out during the past ten years that they were officially/unofficially "broken up".

 Although they took time away from the music scene, the Dispatch guys continued pursuing their humanitarian efforts worldwide, particularly, with communities in Africa. While working in Zimbabwe, they met up with a group of rhythm-loving African boys who call themselves Bongo Love, and have since collaborated on recordings, concerts, and fundraisers, including their epic performance at Madison Square Garden (from whence the following youtube video came). 

Funny story: A few years ago, we were renting a little crappy house in fabulous Lafayette, Colorado, just a few blocks from the little "Rocky Mountain Center for Musical Arts", which is a big name for a tiny, old church that was 'renovated' into a music-education center off the main road. While driving home, I read their billboard that said "Bongo Love: Saturday, 7pm", so we decided to walk over and check it out. We paid $5 at the door and another $5 for a cd in a paper case, and saw an amazing show. A year later, we were flipping through channels on tv and saw a live concert by Dispatch from 2007 (at MSG), in which they were accompanied by the very same Bongo Love group we saw with 30 people in little Lafayette, cool! Funnier still, the only reason we recognized them was by the white fringed pants the entire band was wearing. 

So here's a taste of the Dispatch we got to see this past Saturday night at Red Rocks, and the awesome bongo-beating band we stumbled upon a few years back. The song, "Elias", is dedicated to a man that the band members (from D.) met while they were in Zimbabwe. When they played him this video of them performing his song at MSG, he asked, "Wow, does the whole world know my name!?"... and that's just rad. 


Thrifty Thursdays: Wild Mushroom & Goat Cheese Lasagna with Lemon-Garlic Sherry Cream Sauce, Boiled Asparagus & Artichoke-Parmesan Spread on toasted baguette!

If the title of this Thrifty Thursday post isn't enough of a mouthful, the delicious meal it describes certainly is! If your mouth has already begun to water, I suggest you step away from the computer- walk into the kitchen, remove a bottle of white from that neat wine rack you purchased for your first apartment as a real adult- and stick it in the fridge... don't come back until you do. 

Phew. Now that the wine is chilling, get ready to prepare a savory summer-time feast for you and yours. Mine, in this case, were two awesome gals who helped top off our girl's night "in" with a homemade lemon tart (below!) and a viewing of "Confessions of a Shopaholic". Just try to tell me this doesn't sound like an amazing night! Thrifty Thursdays: Bringing good food and great friends to a table near you! 

Wild Mushroom & Goat Cheese Lasagna with a Lemon-Garlic Sherry Cream Sauce
& Boiled Asparagus
w/ Artichoke-Parmesan Spread on Toasted Baguette
$20 for 3 servings

1 package of lasagna
8oz goat cheese (herbed or plain)
2c wild mushrooms, chopped
8 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
2c parmesan cheese
1 small jar marinated artichoke hearts
1/2c olive oil
2tbsp italian seasoning (1/4c if using fresh herbs)
2 lemons
8oz heavy cream
1/4c Sherry
1 bunch fresh asparagus (5-6 stalks per person)
salt, pepper
Rosemary, pine nuts, "bacon" bits for topping, as you'd like!

1. Preheat oven to 400'. In a small baking dish, toss garlic with olive oil, place in oven while preheating to lightly roast. Cook lasagna al-dente, drain, set aside.
2. In your food processor, blend artichoke hearts, 1/3 of the roasted garlic, juice of 1/2 lemon, 2 tbsp olive oil. Mix in 1c parmesan, pulsing lightly til mixed. Salt and pepper to taste. Slice baguette, drizzle with olive oil, toast and serve immediately with spread.
3. While noshing on dip, mix goat cheese, mushrooms, 1tbsp herbs/seasoning. Cut lasagna in half. Layer in a baking/casserole dish, layering goat cheese filling as you go.
4. In your food processor, blend cream, juice from 1 lemon, sherry, remaining garlic, olive oil, 1tbsp seasoning. Pour over lasagna. Top with parmesan, bake for 20 mins until edges are slightly golden.
5. In a medium pot, bring 6cups water to a boil. Cook asparagus for 6-8 mins until soft. Drain. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, lemon juice.
6. Top lasagna with pine nuts, rosemary, "bacon". Serve with that chilled bottle of wine we talked about earlier!

Mmm, savory!

For dessert, I used a recipe from my Vegetarian cook book for a "Lemon Almond Tart"...delish! It calls for:

2 eggs
1/4c sugar
4 lemons, juice and zest
1/2tsp vanilla extract
1/2c ground almonds 
1/2c cream
2tbsp confectioner's sugar

I used a store-bought pie crust, since the recipe called for a few crazy things like spelt flour and baking beans...and wine & adventurous baking don't mix well for me.

1. Bring oven temp down to 350.
2. In a medium bowl, whip eggs and sugar until they leave a 'trail'. Stir in lemon zest, juice, vanilla, almonds, cream. Pour into pie crust, bake for 25 mins until set. 
3. Dust with confectioner's sugar, broil on high until caramelized. Serve warm or cold! (a la mode, too!)

Absolutely delish!!