what’s on my kindle, part 10

Modern Romance by Aziz Ansari. I listened to this audiobook, partially because it was all my library had available and partially because I find Aziz’s squeaky voice irresistible. It’s basically about how dating, marriage, relationships, etc. have evolved in the modern world. He talks about online dating, how technology impacts the way we date and communicate, and highlights the dating culture in a few international cities. It was pretty interesting, and funny because his personal thoughts and commentary are interjected. It’s a really quick read, too.

Here’s to Us by Elin Hilderbrand. I was excited to read this in general but especially once I found out that it featured recipes from How Sweet It Is. Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed. There’s only two recipes from Jess and while they’re both fine, they don’t seem realistic as coming from the main character who is a classically trained celebrity chef. The book is about this famed chef passing away and how his three former wives have to reunite in Nantucket to spread his ashes. Not her best, but I finished it in less than a day.

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tuna tartare with glorified potato chips for the win

Brooklyn by Colm Toibin. You know this as the Oscar nominated movie starring Saoirse Ronan (my red carpet fave). I haven’t actually seen the movie but I’ve heard great things about it so I decided to listen to the audiobook. It was kind of blah. A nice story, I guess, and I’ll probably see the movie because everyone raved about it, but pretty regular.

Sweetbitter by Stephanie Danler. It was an interesting experience to read this right after Brooklyn, because it’s also about a young girl who moves to Brooklyn alone. It just takes place 100 years later. And instead of making sweet mistakes like falling in love with an Italian boy instead of an Irish boy, the protagonist in Sweetbitter works in a restaurant as a glorified busboy and does some recreational drugs. It’s a little dark, but the writing is really incredible.

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The One-in-a-Million Boy by Monica Wood. This is about an 11-year-old Boy Scout who is assigned a service project to help an elderly woman with chores around the house. When the boy passes away unexpectedly, his estranged father takes on the commitment to the old lady. I wouldn’t call it riveting, but it’s a sweet story and I can easily see it being turned into a popular Indie flick. Hopefully starring Jacob Tremblay.

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ombre drinks in Montauk on the beach

Euphoria by Lily King. This is loosely based on Margaret Mead, who I know nothing about, so I’ll try not to judge the quality of her life from this book alone. Not a fan. It’s about a love triangle between three anthropologists studying native communities in New Guinea in the 1930s. After typing the description, I can’t quite recall why I thought I would like this. But I didn’t.

No One Knows by J.T. Ellison. This was pretty regular. It held my attention but the writing was kind of amateur-ish, and it went from being an interesting suspense/mystery to just completely crazy with secret siblings and drug rings and sex scandals.

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That time I walked to yoga in the sunshine and left in an impending monsoon. But stopped to take a picture first.

Pretending to Dance by Diane Chamberlain. This is about a young social worker in North Carolina in the 1960s who starts working in a rural community and gets overly involved with one of the families. I’ve talked about Diane Chamberlain’s books before and how I love (most) of them, and this was no exception. It’s a little slow to start but then I couldn’t put it down.

The Versions of Us by Laura Barnett. This took me forever to finish but I’m so glad I read it because I’ve never read anything else like it. Basically it starts with a guy and a girl running into each other on the street, and there are three different versions of how it turns out (him walking away, him asking her out, etc.) And then there are subsequently three different stories of how their lives turn out based on that first day. It’s definitely a little slow but I kind of loved it.

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Rich and Pretty by Rumaan Alam. This  is about two 32-year-olds who have been best friends since middle school and are both living in NYC. It’s not all that eventful, but it just struck me as being very REAL. One is engaged and on track to be a charmed housewife, while the other is single at a crappy job with a crush on the temp. Their lives aren’t really aligned anymore but they try to stay friends for old times sake. Again, not really a page turner but it’s so well-written that I would recommend it anyway.

The Woman Upstairs by Claire Messud. This is one of the worst books I have ever read or listened to. I was hustling out of a clinic to get in my car for a 5 hour trip to Baltimore and realized I only had about 40 minutes left in Rich and Pretty, so I literally downloaded the first audiobook that popped up in Overdrive. It’s about a 3rd grade teacher who becomes obsessed with one of her students and his parents. The only reason that I kept listening to it aside from being stuck in the car was because I thought she was finally going to crack and kill them all. But she doesn’t. It’s simultaneously creepy and boring.

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New breakfast habit: Chia pudding with blueberries.

Seriously… I’m Kidding by Ellen DeGeneres. I mean, it’s Ellen. I wouldn’t say she’s at her funniest in this and it definitely would have been less funny had she not been narrating it. But it was only about 3 hours long so it kept me company on one of my drives. I think I like her best when she’s on her show laughing at other people.

I have two more books going right now but needed to cut myself off somewhere. What are you summer reading?!

caprese burgers

Enter: my new favorite burger.

This is such a simple concept I can’t believe I didn’t think of it sooner. I think these would also be adorable as appetizers at a summer party in slider form.

In this case, the four of us ate them for Sunday dinner at like 9PM after playing 9 holes of golf. As someone who usually eats dinner as close to 5PM as possible, this was a struggle. And probably also the reason that the last picture is slightly blurred. I think I was in a daze and going in for my next bite.

I think the couples golf outings should be a regular thing, though. As you can see, we take ourselves very seriously.

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Originally we thought we would just play a friendly 4 ball scramble. For you non-golfers, that basically means that everyone tees off, and then everyone plays their 2nd shot from the location of the best drive, and so on.

This wasn’t competitive enough for Aaron, so we played two on two. The GS and I took home the victory, and Kelly reported that she simultaneously hated the experience and had fun. So yeah, it will be a weekly thing.

And after all of our stiff competition and walking, we feasted!

Caprese Burgers (makes 8 burgers)

1 lb ground beef

1 lb ground chuck

1 loaf ciabatta bread (or ciabatta rolls- my mom gets the Torta rolls from Costco)

2 tomatoes, thinly sliced

pesto, either homemade or store bought

fresh mozzarella

basil leaves

olive oil, salt & pepper

Combine the ground beef and chuck, or use all of one or the other. Don’t overwork the meat. Form into 8 patties, slightly indented in the center. Grill to desired done-ness, adding a slice of mozzarella at the very end.FullSizeRender_1

Brush the ciabatta with olive oil and grill for a few minutes until lightly browned. Season with salt and pepper, and with a little garlic if you’re in the mood. Slice into sections for “buns”.

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Serve with pesto, tomatoes, and extra basil leaves and assemble your burgers!

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These were so good. The GS said he never wants to eat another burger on a regular bun. Ciabatta only from now until forever.

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I can’t help myself. This was a hole-in-one.

zucchini lasagna

Holy moly I’ve let this get away from me.

Work has been INSANE and therefore I haven’t been cooking anything new. Going to all my old standby recipes, or eating cereal for dinner. Shit happens.

Over the 4th we went to Rhode Island to get some R&R and hang with the GS’ family. I always have the best time when I go there, because it’s beautiful and his family is really fun.

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The only problem with spending a long weekend with a big Italian family is that they want to feed me constantly. And the food is always so good that it’s hard to say no.

We celebrated his birthday, too! The carrot cake reminds me of this throwback post.

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The main reason for this lasagna is because they sent me home with a bunch of leftover cheese. I got burrata, too, and that’s not even in this recipe. I’m probably going to resurrect this dinner on Sunday.

So I think the purpose of doing a zucchini lasagna is typically twofold: 1) make it vegetarian and 2) make it low-carb. I’m really not trying to do either of those things, and I added turkey meat. You can totally leave it out.

Zucchini Lasagna

2 medium zucchinis, thinly sliced

4 medium tomatoes

1 small eggplant

3 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 medium sweet onion

1-2 cups ricotta cheese

1 lb ground meat (I used organic turkey, chicken or beef would work too)

2 cups baby spinach

1 tsp Italian seasoning

mozzarella (fresh from RI relatives!)

olive oil, salt, and pepper

Start with the sauce. I quartered the tomatoes, peeled and chopped the eggplant, and chopped up the onion. I roasted them with olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic at 425 for about 20 minutes and then threw it all into the blender. Sauce!

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While that’s roasting, thinly slice the zucchini. This would be a whole lot easier with a mandolin, but I did it with a knife and they came out mostly even.

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Brown the turkey. Lower the heat, and add the spinach. Stir around until wilted. Add the Italian seasoning (you could also use any combination of herbs you like). Set aside.

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Then we layer! Start with a thin layer of sauce or olive oil on the bottom of the pan so it doesn’t stick, then layer some of your zucchini noodles.

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Layer the sauce, ricotta (I also added some chopped fresh herbs to my ricotta, because they were on my windowsill), and turkey. You know how to build a lasagna.

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If your lasagna doesn’t look pretty (they rarely do) you can quickly fix that by adding your mozzarella to the top layer.

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I find that adding a second cheese to any dish immediately makes it beautiful. Let’s get #cheesegoggles trending.

Bake at 375 until it bubbles around the edges!

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It may not be the prettiest dish I ever made, but it tasted damn good.

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Five veggies on that plate and all I can see is cheeeeeeeeeeeeeeese.

smoky shrimp burgers

This week the GS and I celebrated our 4 year anniversary!

It’s kind of crazy that he’s tolerated me for this long. I said something outrageous on Sunday and he just looked at me and said “Sometimes I wonder about the things that go through your brain that you choose NOT to say.”

He doesn’t want to know.

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Every year we’ve gone back to the same restaurant we went to on our first date. It’s a relatively upscale seafood place in Fells Point that has always had beautiful outdoor seating and great service.

…until now. (dun dun dunnnnn)

Apparently they’re trying to change to more of a “tavern” vibe now, but they’re doing it all wrong.

For starters, they haven’t changed the name of the restaurant. So a bunch of people (GS and myself included) showed up expecting the same fancy fair and were semi-distressed to see the waitress wearing Hollister jeans, a white wife beater, black bra, and sparkly silver stilettos.

To be fair, the food was still good. But long gone are the detailed, leather bound menus. Now they hand you a yellow piece of paper where all the entrees are $19.95.

Really, though. You can get lobster ($19.95) or you can get lobster stuffed with crab meat ($19.95).

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Also we each ordered a beer, and while mine was delivered to me filled to the brim, the GS’ was about 1/3 empty. As if the waiter might have gotten thirsty on his walk over to us.

Luckily we still had a good time, and all was right with the world once I got my toasted coconut ice cream from Kilwin’s for dessert. Not pictured because I inhaled it.

Yesterday was our real anniversary so I made dinner and yummy bars and brought them to DC!

Smoky Shrimp Burgers

inspired by HowSweetEats

12 oz shrimp (I bought them frozen and let them thaw out)

1/2 cup seasoned breadcrumbs

2 cloves minced garlic

3 tbs adobo sauce

2 tbs chopped cilantro

1 avocado, sliced

red onion, sliced

burger buns

You can either put your shrimp in a food processor, or chop them up pretty good. I chose to chop because our Ninja is a pain to clean and I really didn’t want my smoothies tasting like seafood.

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Combine shrimp with breadcrumbs, garlic, adobo sauce, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Refrigerate for at least an hour.

Form into patties and cook in a skillet with vegetable oil until golden brown on both sides- about 3-4 minutes.

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Serve with avocado, red onion, and cilantro. I meant to bring some plain Greek yogurt to throw on there too, but forgot it.

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We decided if the place continues down this path, it probably won’t exist anymore when we hit 5 years. We’ll look for another spot with a classy hostess and thirsty servers.

dinosaur cornbread

If you’re not from Syracuse, you’re wondering if I made you cornbread in the shape of a dinosaur. Like the dinosaur chicken nuggets from elementary school! Because everything tastes better when it’s in a bizarre shape, right?!

No. Just a copycat Dinosaur BBQ cornbread recipe that I was given by my home cook idol/second mother, Nicky.

This time of year always makes me crave Dinosaur. I think it’s because 9 years ago I ate it 47 times a week while bouncing around to various graduation parties where everyone had the same display of pulled pork, cornbread, and fruit salad.

That’s right, 9 years out of high school. 5 years out of college!

We had our 5 year Loyola reunion last weekend and it was basically the best thing ever. They let us stay in the dorms and frolic around the campus and essentially pretend we were 20 again.

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Sheila and I have now decided that our 10 year high school reunion should involve gathering in the halls of the high school with alcohol. As the former class president, it’s my job to plan the event. As a former ass-kisser, I may have a decent shot at convincing the school to let me do it.

In my wave of nostalgia, I even made pulled pork! I could never hope to mimic Dinosaur in this regard, but it came out pretty good! Seared a Boston butt on all sides and threw it in the crockpot with a bunch of barbecue sauce and a beer. Cooked on low for about 8 hours. Forked it apart. Topped it with more barbecue and this broccoli slaw, just for kicks.

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Copycat Dinosaur Cornbread Recipe

slightly adapted from The Post Standard

1 1/4 cups yellow cornmeal

1/4 cup sugar

3/4 cup flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp Kosher salt

1 cup buttermilk

2 eggs, slightly beaten

1 tsp vanilla extract

6 tbs melted butter, divided

3-4 tbs honey

Preheat oven to 35o degrees. Grease a small baking dish (I used 7×11) and place in the oven.

Whisk together cornmeal, flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl.

Combine 4 tablespoons melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and buttermilk. Pour into dry ingredients and stir until just combined.

Pull the heated dish out of the oven and pour in the batter. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Combine 2 tablespoons melted butter with 3-4 tablespoons of honey, and pour over the top of the bread.

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Let it rest for 10 minutes before cutting into it.

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I wonder if Dinosaur will cater our evening of running rampant around the cafeteria? I’ll get my VP on it.

what’s on my kindle, part 9

Eligible by Curtis Sittenfeld. You know this author from Prep, that white book with the green and pink belt on the cover. At least, that’s how I know her. Eligible is a modern re-telling of Pride and Prejudice, which I don’t remember particularly liking when I read it in high school (or apparently not as much as I liked Prep), but I LOVED THIS BOOK. I seriously could not put it down. It’s hilarious and relatable, and makes me think I may need to go back and give Jane Austen another shot. Favorite thing I’ve read in a long time.

We Never Asked for Wings by Vanessa Diffenbaugh. This is the same author who wrote The Language of Flowers, which I really liked. I thought this one was equally good. It’s a quick, easy read, and gives a really heartbreaking but (I think) realistic portrayal of what it’s like to illegally immigrate to the US from Mexico. Maybe Trump should read it instead of sending grammatically incorrect tweets about building walls? Just a thought.

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THIS SALAD. Spinoff from HowSweetEats and so so delicious.

The Girl You Lost by Kathryn Croft. This is a relatively sick and twisted thriller. If you read Pretty Girls (mentioned in this post), you would probably like this book. It’s a little Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-esq. It took me a bit to really get into it, but the last third of it I couldn’t put down.

The Nest by Cynthia D’Aprix Sweeney. I listened to this audiobook, wooed by Amy Poehler’s praise on the cover. It started out looking really promising- a dysfunctional family, four adult siblings thrown into a tailspin when they find out their huge inheritance no longer exists. It got a little boring as it went, but held my attention for the most part.

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Played 18 holes few weeks ago with the GS. I kind of expected all of my high school talent to come rushing back. It didn’t.

Ripper by Isabel Allende. This started out reallyyyyy slow. But then it gets so good at the end! Kind of a thriller, mystery, Silence of the Lambs vibe toward the end. But it takes a while to get there so you’ll have to be patient. My Aunt Pat who is the reading guru really likes her books, so I’ll definitely read another one.

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My all time favorite iced coffee- it’s nitrogen infused and from Compass Coffee in DC

The Hot Zone by Richard Preston. This is the true story of the discovery/outbreaks of the Ebola virus. It’s really interesting but INSANELY graphic. So if you’re somebody that covers your eyes a little bit during Grey’s Anatomy, this is not the book for you.

Furiously Happy by Jenny Lawson. I haven’t laughed this hard at a book since I read Bossypants. The day I started it, I had been telling my family about reading The Hot Zone and how intense it was. And then I finished that and started reading this, and my family was looking at me like “Hey weirdo, what’s funny about Ebola?”

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Tried an Orange Theory class in IL and LOVED it. Too bad it’s stupid expensive in DC (like, $30 a class. Wah wah.)

The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins. Yes, I had already read this. But when I saw the movie trailer (coming in October!!) Sheila and I were discussing how we needed to read it again. She suggested that I listen to the audiobook and I’m so glad I did. It is SO well done and now I’m even more excited for the movie.

The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I was a Kristin hater for a little while because I read one of her books in college and found it to be so unbelievably corny that I couldn’t stomach the idea of another one. BUT after a glowing review of this book from my friend Maura who I trust would have also hated the epic tale of friendship with a 65 page death scene, I decided to give the author another shot. And this was really really great. It’s about two sisters living in France during WWII and I loved it. You’ve redeemed yourself, Ms. Hannah.

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The “Southern Charcuterie” at Mulebone in DC. 

The Heavy by Dara-Lynn Weiss. If you’re a Vogue reader (I’m not) you may know about this story of a woman who put her 7-year-old on a diet. I didn’t necessarily agree with her method for said diet or with all of her views on weight loss (she doesn’t believe in exercise- be still my heart), but I couldn’t put it down. I think she’s a good writer and the only exception to that was the “quotes” by her daughter, which no 7-year-old could realistically articulate. But other than that, worth reading.

What She Knew by Gilly MacMillan. This audiobook kept me company during a recent trip to West Virginia. It was just okay. It’s about a child abduction and is told from the perspective of the mother and from the chief investigator. I would say it was predictable, but I wanted it to have a few more twists and turns. Like The Good Girl!

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Amazing movie theater in DC. Craft beer, recliners, and no other patrons? Sold. We saw The Big Short– loved it.

Hopefully this kicks off your summer reading! You can always search “kindle” in the search bar to look at the first 8 Kindle posts!

beer battered onion rings

Last week Kelly, Aaron and I did a 3 day cleanse. It’s one I did before Thanksgiving last year, and I actually like it. Aaron lost 9 pounds even after completely cheating the last day and eating a reuben and a flatbread pizza for dinner. For reference, we were supposed to be eating green beans.

Then the long weekend completely reversed any progress made by eating my face off with all the summer foods.

Our MDW included our first trip to the pool, where I learned that expiration dates on sunscreen are real.

Luckily I had different sunscreen on my face, but now I feel slightly guilty for laughing at the dermatology resident when she asked me if I always wear long sleeves and a hat every time I’m in the sun. Ummm, no. Because I’m a normal human. Who wears sunscreen.

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Soon after this picture was taken, the boys decided to ruin any photo ops for our planned date night on the town by shaving disgusting mustaches.

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They thought it was funny to tell everyone that they had just graduated from “trooper school.” Kelly and I felt this was insulting to law enforcement officials everywhere.

The following day we grilled burgers and had bean dip and it was wonderful. I decided to make these onion rings at the last minute and now I will probably make them at least once a week.

Beer Battered Onion Rings

2 yellow onions, sliced in 1/2 inch rounds

1 1/2-2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 tsp pepper

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp sea salt

12 oz beer- you can use anything but preferably something a little darker

Heat a few inches of canola oil in a sauce pan.

While the oil is heating, whisk together the dry ingredients. Feel free to add more seasonings here- I was just trying to keep it simple. Slowly pour in the beer and whisk until combined and smooth.

Toss the onions in the batter. Make sure you’ve got a thin coating, and drop them in the oil a few at a time. You don’t want too many because you don’t want them to stick together or drop the oil temp.

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By the way, I am not a master fryer. Giada and her Nutella-filled wontons would probably die over the fact that I don’t even have a thermometer for frying. But it was really fine. No fires in the kitchen. Just make sure you use canola or peanut oil- something with a high smoke point.

If you’re not sure about your oil temp, just drop in a tiny bit of the batter and see how it reacts. Mine took me 2-3 minutes per side to get golden, and then I flipped them.

As soon as you pull them out of the oil, place them on a tray or in a basket lined with paper towels, and SALT LIBERALLY. This has to happen right after they fry so that the salt sticks to the batter.

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These can be served on their own as a side dish, or as a burger topping. Our crowd did both. The GS said they were the best onion rings he’s ever had.

So I ended up making another batch last night.

The first night I used a Sam Adams Boston Ale, and last night I used a rogue Brewer’s Art Resurrection that has been in our fridge for months. Sounds appetizing, right? They were all delicious.

Now I just need to find a cleanse that includes onion rings and beer!