a weekend getaway

Every now and then, it’s electrifying to pack your bags and head out of town for a weekend. To experience new things, new flavors, new places, and all that the excitement of travel has to offer. I recently did just that and met up with the lovely Jess, one of my most adored friends and fellow blogger over at Hello to Fit. Check out her awesome fitness and wellness blog – it’s inspiring and filled with great ideas on getting toned, keeping things fresh, and living a healthy lifestyle. Sounds pretty great, right? Here’s a glimpse at the weekend we enjoyed together – naturally, filled with fantastic eats, drinks, and making the most out of the beautiful sunny spring weather.

Without a doubt, one of the best lunches that I’ve ever had – this White Prawn Escabeche was fresh, light, and so stunningly presented. Complete with delicate microgreens and edible flowers, it was as lovely to look at as it was to eat. To top it off, I enjoyed this with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc overlooking the hills of the winery. Sun streaking over the patio made for such a delightful afternoon.

To finish lunch on a more indulgent note, we shared these gorgeous little bites: Petit Verdot Chocolate Cupcakes with creamy thyme-scented frosting and a drizzle of Chambourcin reduction on top. These dark chocolate little bites were heavenly – rich, yet well balanced. Red wine and chocolate gets me every time.

We had an incredible Lemon Goat Cheese Cheesecake with Raspberry Coulis at a local tapas bar. Aside from the garlicky toast with tuna tartare, the aged Manchego with hearth-baked bread, and the Medjool dates roasted inside of smoked bacon, this cheesecake made a dessert that was nothing short of fabulous. Slightly tangy and ever so creamy, this cheesecake made my knees weak.

Just some morning warm water + lemon. One of my favorite ways to start the day, a simplified version of my beloved version with turmeric. Refreshing, energizing, and hydrating – it’s a lovely way to slip into the morning and begin the day.

Simple, colorful, and sunny – it was a delightful weekend to share with a friend. Where are you headed next? Which place is one in which you long to visit again? I have quite a few places I want to experience – many of which are on the opposite side of the globe. So many destinations, so little time, yes?

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cinnamon raisin bread

cinnamon raisin bread

We all know that there is nothing like freshly baked bread in one’s apartment/house/condo right? I’ll take that one step further: it’s even better when the work involved is essentially nil. Breadmakers are a tremendous invention because all you really need to do is measure your ingredients and press start. Then carry on with your day, and perfectly baked bread is in your immediate future. Pretty remarkable, eh? I suppose the regard that some hold for slow cookers is what I hold towards breadmakers. Of course, freshly baked bread is near and dear to my heart. Read: carb lover, I am. Here is one of my favorite bread maker recipes – Cinnamon Raisin Bread. Scented with cinnamon and ever-so-slightly sweet, it’s a crowd-pleasing favorite and wonderful for breakfast, snacks, and any other times of day where hunger pangs strike.

bread ingredientsraisinsready to bake

Let’s talk breadmakers. I was lucky enough to be gifted one by my boyfriend’s family, and it’s been a fantastic introduction into the world of breadmakership. It’s classic and has produced delicious, reliable loaves each and every time. There are a ton of versions on the market – and if you’re looking for a wonderful starter one, I whole-heartedly suggest mine. The great thing about this recipe is that it will succeed with the sturdy and trusty breadmakers of past generations, and also the fancy ones that keep me up at night. It’s normal to dream about appliances, right? This bread is lovely straight out of the bake cycle, but it’s also quite wonderful toasted and spread with a bit of salted whipped butter [of course.]

cinnamon raisin breadcinnamon raisin bread slice

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cinnamon raisin bread

Breadmakers are a fabulous thing; they take much of the work out of breadmaking and produce reliable results.
Measurements are critical here, so do not rush through it. For newer breadmakers that have an ‘add-in’ beep, announcing when to add items like raisins, do so at the indicated cue. For older breadmakers, add the raisins 2-3 minutes before the knead cycle ends to keep them relatively intact. You could add them at the beginning if so desired, but the raisins will be chopped up before baking.

Makes 1 medium-sized loaf

3 3/8 cup bread flour, or unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon honey, or granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons water, lukewarm (about 110 degrees F)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1 1/2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 1/2 cups water
2 teaspoons dry active yeast
1 cup raisins, added at the ‘add-in’ beep, or 2-3 minutes before the knead cycle ends

Add all ingredients to the breadmaker basket in the order listed.

Initiate the bread bake sequence for a standard medium-sized loaf.

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kale and brussels sprouts salad

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A little salad variation is the spice of life. Alright, maybe not the spice of life, but certainly one worthy of mention. Those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile probably already know how I feel about non-intriguing salads, which means I’m always on the lookout for new, flavorful, and inspiring variations for raw leafy greens. I truly wish I could say that I find the idea of munching through leaves of raw romaine entirely appealing, but alas, I’m not quite there yet. Until then, flavorful ingredients and salad accompaniments to the rescue.

kale and brussels sproutsbrussels sproutsshredded brussels sprouts + ribboned kale

The concept here is quite simple. The salad starts with ribboned kale and shredded brussels, providing great ‘coleslaw meets salad’ texture. Alongside beefy wedges of tomato, the greens are then sprinkled with a generous handful of salty parmesan, a dusting of sea salt and cracked black pepper, and a drizzle of garlic and shallot vinaigrette. Because nothing in the salad is too assertive, the salad would work well alongside a variety of meals. Versatile salads are such lovely things to work with.

dressing ingredientsdressingtomato + lemon

I love the thick wedges of tomato alongside the salad – it really turns a simple side salad into something much more. A quick juicing of lemon over the salad immediately before serving completes the dish – adding brightness and vibrancy. Textures, colors, and flavors galore – what’s not to like?

kale and brussels sprouts salad

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kale and brussels sprouts salad

Adapted from Shutterbean
Serves 8

For the salad:
1 pound Brussels sprouts, shredded [I use the coarse grating disc in my food processor]
1/2 small bunch lacinato kale, tough stems removed, and leaves ribboned
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, or more to taste
2 large tomatoes, sliced in thick wedges
Lemon quarters or halves, for serving [use halves if your lemons are quite small]

For the vinaigrette:
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon dry champagne, optional, but suggested
1/2 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 large clove garlic, minced
1/2 shallot, minced
Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste

Combine the brussels sprouts and kale, and set aside.

Vigorously whisk the vinaigrette ingredients together until emulsified. Set aside.

Serve the salad immediately with a lemon half or quarter, a few wedges of tomato, a generous sprinkle of parmesan, and a dusting of sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Drizzle with vinaigrette. I also suggest juicing the lemon quarters/halves over the salad just before eating – it really brightens up the entire dish.

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fresh green juice

fresh green juice

Fresh juice has become something that I’ve really become quite passionate about. It’s a delightful way to incorporate fresh, wholesome, and incredibly nutritious fruits and vegetables into your day. I find it to be one of the most delicious ways to enjoy raw produce, too. Just one glass of fresh juice is a wonderful addition to your daily diet. Because pure fruit juice is high in sugar, I typically balance out my juices with a decent amount of vegetables. My favorite go-to blend is fresh green juice.

greensapples

So I’ll be honest – I love vegetables, but I can’t quite get to the point where I’m snacking on handfuls of raw spinach and kale. Neither can you? Rest easily – fresh juice made from these greens is heavenly. Blended with the sweetness of fresh apple juice and the brightness of lemon juice, the greens shine so beautifully. It’s a juice so delicious that I can’t get enough of it! I find myself rationing batches of fresh juice throughout the day because I know once it’s gone, I’ll be disappointed. It’s so refreshing, so fruity, a bit tart – all things I adore. [Note that if tartness isn't a flavor you cherish as much as I do, you can certainly scale back on the lemon. I find the lemon to add a 'green lemonade' effect - which makes me love it even more.]

lemonlemon

Juicing is really gaining popularity – you can now find several bottled juices at your local supermarkets. It’s much more affordable to make your own at home, though. There are two types of juicers – centrifugal and masticating. Both have their advantages, but I find centrifugal juicers much more practical. I’ve used both, and to be quite honest, the masticating juicers are so tremendously arduous to use and clean, that I find them to be not worth the effort. I am much happier with my centrifugal juicer. If you’re looking for a juicer, a great place to start is this one. It’s incredibly quick to juice with, it’s easy to use, and it’s a cinch to clean. It’s a high quality appliance and an affordable entry into the world of juicing. Thanks to inspiration from Lora Krulak, I’m now totally in love with juicing, so now it’s my turn to share the inspiration. Try it – you might become just as fond of juicing, too!

fresh green juice

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fresh green juice

Invigorating and slightly tart, this is my favorite drink. It instantly energizes me and provides incredible nutritional benefits. Dial up or down on the apples and lemons, depending on how sweet and tart you prefer your juice to be.

Serves 2

Juice the following:

1/2 bunch kale
1 small bunch swiss chard (about 5 stalks and their leaves)
3 stalks celery
1 large cucumber
2-3 apples, depending on the level of sweetness desired

Add the juice of 1-2 small lemons (depending on how tart you like your juice,) stir, and enjoy immediately.

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dill yogurt dip

dill yogurt dip + crudités

As warmer weather becomes more prevalent, as does my desire for light and refreshing snacks. This Dill Yogurt Dip was inspired by an incredible dill sauce that I enjoyed while I was in Lithuania last spring, amongst many other fantastic dishes that I loved there. Well-herbed with flecks of dill, it also had a slight tang to it – but above all, it was refreshing, creamy, and light. I knew I had to re-create it at home. It’s a cinch to bring together, and it pairs well with various crudités, pretzels, crusty bread, and much more. Effortless and tremendously customizable is a well-liked combination lately.

dill yogurt dip ingredientsdilldill yogurt dip

You may not have a preference for a specific Greek yogurt, and if so, I really suggest Fage Greek Yogurt here, as other brands that I’ve tried so far don’t seem to obtain the creaminess and richness that Fage has. I don’t have an affiliation with Fage – I just really love their brand of yogurt! I use Total or Total 2%. If you already have a brand you love, then proceed with that. After all, the last thing I would want to do would be come between you and your long-term relationship with the one and only yogurt for you. I think you’ll find this dip to be a lovely afternoon snack with crudités of choice, a handful of pretzels, or some thick crusty bread.

dill yogurt dip + pretzelsdill yogurt dip + pretzelspretzels and dill yogurt dipdill yogurt dip + crudités

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dill yogurt dip

Refreshing and healthy, this dip makes a perfect snack or appetizer alongside your favorite crudités, pretzels, crusty bread, and more.

1 cup Fage Plain Greek Yogurt [I suggest either Fage Total or Total 2%]
2 1/2 teaspoons dried dill
1 tablespoon white vinegar
3-4 tablespoons milk, or more as needed to bring the dip to desired consistency [I used almond milk]
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
Sea salt, to taste, if desired

For serving:
Pita Crisps, pretzels, crusty bread, etc.
Crudités: carrots, cucumbers, radishes, bell peppers, celery, cherry tomatoes, etc.

To make the dip, fold the Greek yogurt, dill, and vinegar together until combined. Add milk to achieve the desired consistency. Season with black pepper and sea salt, to taste, if desired. Keep chilled. Stir the dip immediately before serving. Enjoy with various crudités, pretzels, crusty bread, etc.

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pasta salad

pasta salad

Nothing screams ‘picnic season’ like a generous side of pasta salad. Arguably, no picnic is complete without some type of cold pasta dish. Alongside something barbecued and a pile of baked beans, pasta salad is one of my favorite warm weather accompaniments. Little bits of crunchy, colorful vegetables, a tangy dressing, and al dente rotini – pasta salad speaks to me.

ingredientscooked pastasliced bell peppersdiced peppers

This salad is incredibly easy to bring together – a simple boil of the pasta and dice of the vegetables, then toss it all together in an olive oil and vinegar marinade. The pasta salad is beautifully flecked with Italian seasonings and big chunks of salty feta cheese. The entire dish is tangy, fresh, and so satisfyingly savory. The great thing about this pasta salad is it keeps well at room temperature, making it a great pick for warm, sunny days where keeping a dish in the refrigerator is simply out of the question. Plus, it’s one of the most budget-friendly dishes, too.

pasta + peppers and onions + dressingcreamy, dreamy fetapasta salad + feta

Feel free to kick up the seasonings a bit, add a few more splashes of vinegar, and so forth – make it your own. But take caution; only make these adjustments a few hours after the pasta is initially made and has a chance to absorb the marinade. The flavors of the salad will develop together as it chills in the refrigerator. If you plan on making the salad significantly ahead of time (the day before, for example), just scale back on the dressing a bit and add a bit more the day you plan to serve the salad. Remember to give the salad a toss before serving. Easy, delicious, and simple – such a lovely combination. Enjoy!

pasta saladpasta salad

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pasta salad

A picnic favorite, pasta salad is a fresh and easy side to throw together. It keeps well and becomes even better as it sits, as the flavors will meld together.

1 pound rotini pasta
1 red bell pepper, diced finely
1 green bell pepper, diced finely
1/4 red onion, diced finely
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons dry Italian seasoning mix
Freshly cracked black pepper, to taste
1 cup feta, crumbled

Boil the pasta according to package directions, removing the pasta from heat about a minute before the suggested window. Immediately drain the pasta and rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process. Set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, toss the diced bell peppers and onions. Add the pasta and toss. Pour the red wine vinegar and olive oil on top of the pasta, and toss well to coat. Add the Italian seasoning mix and toss well. Season with freshly cracked black pepper, to taste. Add the feta, and gently fold into the salad. Let chill for a minimum of 4-6 hours, preferably overnight. Taste the pasta salad after it has chilled and adjust any seasonings, if necessary. Toss before serving.

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market freshness

kale + brussels sprouts

With the coming of spring, my excitement heightens for freshly-picked, wholesome produce. Perhaps it’s the revival of color around me, or the warmth that slowly wakes me from near-hibernation status; but I seem to crave freshness unlike any other time of the year. Naturally, I get pretty excited when I visit the market and see all that there is to offer. Needless to say – my cart always ends up being filled to the brim with a wide selection of the colorful freshness that spring has to offer. I’m like a kid in a candy store, really.

swiss chard + spinach

Greens are a must for my weekly cart – you can’t beat the nutrition that comes with them. I change it up from spinach, kale, swiss chard, collard greens, and so forth – they each have their own unique tastes and nutritional profiles. They’re essentials for my fresh-pressed juices and smoothies. I’ll be sharing one of my favorite fresh green juices soon – stay tuned! Until then, check out my spring green smoothie recipe.

radishes + tomatoes + avocadoes

I like to try new ingredients and change up my standard produce selections, too. Avocadoes, of course, are a necessity. I generally have at least 2 or 3 on hand, as I eat them regularly – especially now that I have a new favorite avocado toast with fried egg breakfast featuring the decadent fruit. Tomatoes were also an alluring pick this week – they were so ripe, I could smell their sweetness before I even picked one up to inspect. This week’s trip also featured a bunch of radishes, which drew me in with their rich, red coloring. I’ve been enjoying them throughout the week, and developed a new recipe to enjoy them even further. I will be sharing it soon!

cucumbers + pears + grapefruits

Cucumbers are a staple when I make my freshly-pressed juices and smoothies, so they are usually a standard weekly purchase. I love fresh fruit as afternoon snacks – they are so vibrant and provide such a great burst of energy. I’ve loved pears ever since I was a little girl. Grapefruits, especially perfectly ripe and juicy ruby-red ones, have always been such a special treat. I love that wonderfully tart and sweet flavor. Fresh-pressed grapefruit juice is one of my very favorite things in the world!

lemons + kiwi + sweet potato + carrots + shallots

Lemons are also a staple for my morning turmeric and lemon infused water. Kiwis make for lovely afternoon snacks, as well, and they bring such a tropical note to your day. Sweet potatoes, carrots, and shallots went into the cart, as well – you can never really have enough of these on hand, can you?

Flashback to the produce-selection process: remember the two camps of people I talked about in my chocolate drizzled strawberries post? Do you throw the items into your cart immediately, or wait for one to speak to you?

Cheers to the freshness of spring and all the color it brings into our kitchens! What’s in your cart this week?

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