Thursday, February 28, 2013

Neighborhood Finds: The Park Cafe

I love Salt Lake City.  I've lived in Salt Lake for around four years now, and I'm still finding new and fascinating and beautiful places to explore all the time.

So, welcome to Neighborhood Finds!

The Park is not a new find for me, but it's one that Husband had not yet been to.  Let's consider this installment his new find. (And an old favorite of mine.)

It's situated on the south end of Liberty Park, my favorite place for summer runs, duck watching, and evening picnics.  So the location is beautiful (even in the wet and muddy February/March time frame.)

The menu is full of omelets, scrambles, and sandwiches, with a new daily special always posted.  Today's daily special is the Don Juan burrito, and it's chock full of as much Mexican goodness as you can imagine.  Yum.

But today, I ordered the Michigan Hash (my faaaaavorite) with pancakes, and Ray got a steak.  Because of course he did.  He is the man who eats 4-pound burgers for fun.  I should have known he'd be the "steak for breakfast" type of guy early on.

And promise me if you go, you'll order the bacon.  Everything there is top notch; especially the pancakes.  But the bacon? is insane.  The most juicy, flavorful bacon I've ever had.  And perfectly cooked.

The decor is also beautiful.  Menus under table glass, hilarious syrup bottles, a light airy space, and wall art that constantly changes according to which local artists The Park is sponsoring.  Right now, ir's adorable owl work. (And if you're there while we are, you'll catch Husband mugging for the camera.)

You should go!  And prepare yourself for plenty of leftovers.
Unless you're like Husband, and can eat an entire steak for breakfast.

And lastly, P.S., according to that first picture clear up there, today is a beautiful sunny day!
It's also deceivingly cold, but I dress for looks, not for the feel.

Happy almost Spring!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

cheap-o wall decor.

so living with roommates and living with your husband are fairly different experiences. (duh) living with roommates you really only get to decorate your own room and the living areas just become a hodge podge of everyone's stuff.
so when i suddenly had all the walls of an apartment to decorate, the first thing i thought was "hey awesome" followed by an "oh crap" after realizing we don't have much money to spend on things like wall decor. here are some of the ways we've covered wall space with minimal financial distress.
we just put this up on sunday and i am in love with it. you can purchase the pdf for this (and lots of other pretty posters) at caravan shoppe for the low price of 5 dollars. then it's just a quick trip to staples to get it printed and bam! giant wall art for around $13. an even cheaper option is printing one of your own photos in black and white. ashley did this with some wedding photos and they look awesome.
i originally used this clothesline to hang up christmas prints. sometime in january i decided maaaaybe i should switch it up so i hung up the polaroids from our wedding day. (also i know i should take my glitter tree down. but i just love it so much)
finally, we used these $1 hangers from ikea to hang up brian's beloved National posters. i would love to do a couple rows like this with colorful prints in a baby's room. (in a couple years. calm down mom)
a collage wall of the various art things we've collected is in the works. and by in the works, i mean i have a pile of prints that i need to arrange somehow and i haven't done it because i'm lazy. real life.
we'll see how it goes.
[all photos taken by brian while i sat on the couch and watched the oscars]

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Seared Chicken with Mushroom Gravy

Need a yummy and comforting dinner plan for tonight?  Husband and I were hungry this past Sunday, and since we don't shop on Sundays, we had to work with what we had on hand.  Because he likes to cook meats, and because I like to cook up things like sauces, this is what we made.

If you keep chicken, mushrooms, and rice on hand, you are set to make this dinner right away!  I mean, you also need to have milk and flour.  And spices.  And maybe some chicken stock (but not necessarily). And olive oil...  But that's it!

Mmmm, white gravy.  Okay, I know some people don't like mushrooms.  I'm not sure I can quite understand them.  Is it the texture?  The taste?  Those happen to be two things I love about mushrooms!  They add a certain earthiness to meals, and if you can get them properly sauteed, with that rim of deep brown?  Forget about it!

We used chicken thighs.  Here's the thing about chicken thighs.  They're about 80% more flavorful than breasts, but all that flavor is coming from the considerable amount of fat in that area of the chicken (hey, chickens, they're just like us, right?  Or me, at least.)  So if you're counting calories, it might be smarter to go the breast route.  But, I'd say to be sure to pound them out flatter and season them well.  You'll need a little olive oil to cook them.

Seared Chicken with Mushroom Gravy
Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are)

1 c. Rice
2 c. Chicken stock or water
6 Crimini mushrooms, sliced
2 c. Milk (I used whole)
2 T. Flour

4 Chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
Olive oil
Salt & Pepper

Pour chicken stock or water, and rice, into a pot and set over high heat until it comes to a boil.  Then cover and reduce heat to low.  Let simmer for 15-20 minutes, until rice absorbs liquid.

Meanwhile, heat oven to 350 degrees.  Season chicken thighs well with salt, pepper, and thyme.  Sear them in a large pan over medium-high heat, about 3-5 minutes per side, until you get a nice golden crisp on the outside.  Transfer them to a baking sheet, and cook through in the oven.  It shouldn't take too long to finish them up.

Back in the pan over medium heat, add a couple tablespoons olive oil, and the mushrooms.  (You may need to cook them in two batches.  Be sure not to overcrowd the pan, or else the mushrooms will steam rather than saute.)  Season well with salt and pepper, and saute until the edges are golden brown. While you saute, if the mushrooms drink up all the olive oil and look dry, drizzle a bit more over the top and keep cooking.  Once browned, put half the mushrooms on a plate, and keep the other half in the pan.

Scoot the mushrooms to the side of the pan, and on the other side (tilt pan a little if necessary), add a tablespoon of oil and the flour.  Combine with a fork until a paste is formed and cook for about 30 seconds.  Pour in the milk slowly and mix to combine.  Add a pinch of nutmeg, and a bit more salt.  Let milk come to a simmer and thicken up to a good gravy consistency.  This should take just 3-5 minutes of cooking.*

Now you're ready to assemble!  We like bowls in our house.  Put a serving of rice in the bottom, your seared chicken on top, and spoon the gravy over top.  Finish with the reserved sauteed mushrooms and a crack of pepper.  I'd also suggest a sprinkling of chopped fresh parsley if you have it!

*If milk does not thicken, you can use a cornstarch slurry.  Mix 1 T. corn starch well with 1/4 cup cold water; pour a spoonful into gravy and let cook for a minute.  If it doesn't begin to thicken,  add just a bit more.  You don't want to pour it all in at once or it will turn into a thick gloopy mess!

Monday, February 25, 2013

stripes and pinterest.

admitting you're addicted to pinterest is kind of along the same lines as saying you like ice cream or the beatles, right? none of those are shocking revelations and kind of go without saying.
but i'm going to say it anyway. i love pinterest. it helps me cook dinner and find more cookies to eat. it shows me what my apartment would look like if we had any money. and it helps me get dressed.
like this pin. which inspired the outfit below. (sadly, with infinitely worse photographs. anyone else as sick of these mirror shots as i am? this is my official request to my husband to start taking some of my outfit pictures)
i already had all of these things, but i never think to wear more than two layers. it also only rarely occurs to me that i can wear my button up shirts unbuttoned. thanks pinterest!
also that hairstyle is called "brush out a two-day-old side braid and call it good."
i also saw this pin and turned it into this.
seriously, these mirror pictures are becoming a problem.
also can we talk about how crazy similar those floral patterns are? the biggest difference is probably that the pinned skirt is probably new and expensive, and my dress was purchased for $15 from delias in 2006. otherwise....identical.
happy monday and happy pinning!

Friday, February 22, 2013

friday favorites.

guess what! it's friday again! i'm super looking forward to sleeping in, having time to organize some things and probably ending up baking something while the husband studies. here are some favorite things i came across this week!
maybe i should just plan on always having something cat related to share? this chart is pretty accurate. especially the cat depression. i consistently worry that oskar is depressed. that cat feels emotions hard.
milk glass! i love it. i have a singular vase that i got from my great grandma, but i hope to have more someday. so so pretty.

this guy.

 i am crushing hard on these fish tacos. i hope they are in my life soon.

after the kissing scene (i'm such a sucker for a kissing scene..) this might be my favorite part of the movie.
i read this post by thoughts from the girl next door at least three times in a row. it's a really good reminder of what's actually important. as opposed to the stuff i often get so caught up in. (like having the apartment dusted before people come over. seriously?)
also this post by the wild and wily ways of a brunette bombshell about how she takes care of herself was great. maybe i'll write my own someday.


Hey-oh.  Happy Friday, happy weekend!


This xkcd post makes me giggle. (And pretty much all other xkcd comics.)

I'm obsessed with 3D printing, and this 3D pen is just mind blowing.  Watch it being done here.

Iced honey mascarpone and almond cake with fig salad

The Gourmet Traveller recipe index is just a wealth of incredible recipes.
I'm currently jonesing over the beauty and combination of flavors of this honey mascarpone almond cake with figs.

I'm sorry I said 'jonesing.'  But I can't promise it won't happen again.

This gorgeous brick stairwell topped with a chandelier,
and basically the entire house as well.

This article about the importance of having pictures of yourself, no matter how fat or self conscious it makes you feel.

And a little JT for your weekend.  (How is he so cool?)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Almond Chocolate Kringle

You. guys.

I just... I can't even explain the beauty of kringles.  And the magic (and danger) of finally learning how to make laminated dough pastries.   I can make my own croissants!  Croissaaaaaaants.

And kringle.  You can learn all about kringle from Joe Pastry right here.  He has quickly become my favorite baking intellectual and among the top of my list for food bloggers.  His blog is smart.  He just spells out the WHYS of baking and pastry making.  Why you have to knead and roll, how to do it, which way to turn the dough.  He's brilliant.

Alright, so clearly, my pastry is not as beautiful as Joe's. But the flavor is buttery and rich, and the texture is crisp and flaky.  I never knew I could do this in my home kitchen.

The dough is pretty standard.  You've got your milk and yeast; flour, eggs, sugar, and salt.  Make it into a good dough ball (not like that shaggy mess above.  That's only halfway done.)

Ooh, but the fun part comes with the butter.  See the picture above on the bottom right?  That.  is butter and flour, pounded together with a rolling pin.  You take all your aggression out til your butter is a near play-dough consistency from the flour being incorporated.

And THEN you fold the giant butter pat into your dough.

Isn't that cool?  That right there, plus a whole lot of rolling and folding to follow, is how your croissants and flaky pastries get so flaky!  I love the chemistry and science of the kitchen.

Joe fills his kringle with a raisin filling, but in this house, we're more of a chocolate family.  But you can't put straight chocolate into a pastry that needs to be baked so long!  It'll seize up.  So that creamy layer you see?  That's an almond cream.  And I topped that with mini semi-sweet chocolate chips.  It was the perfect combination for our tastes.

Joe also tops his kringle with sliced almonds, which is beautiful.  But we didn't have them.  So the first time around, I went with a simple streudel.

Look at this crisp, flaky, almond-cream-filled, chocolatey beauty!

And guess what's awesome?  Joe's recipe makes enough dough for TWO kringles.  Because we so quickly finished the first kringle, I made the second a mere few days later.

And we topped the second one with a simple mixture of ground toasted almonds and walnuts.

I could eat this every. day. for the rest of my life.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013


i'm considering doing a monthly wish-list feature. we'll see how it goes. [ashley, feel free to join in.] this list looks pretty summery and that's no accident. i'm longing for warm sun, outside walks, and breathable air.

1. i have an obsession with cross-body bags. i hate carrying a purse on my arm, especially in the winter when the bulk of my coat makes it more likely to slide down my arm. i've had some issues finding a good replacement for the urban outfitters that lasted for two whole years (it looked real sad by the end) and i think this might just be the perfect one. just waiting for that tax refund to take the plunge.

2. i have three or four decent phone cases, so this fancy wood print case is probably not something that will get purchased. but it's just soooo pretty.

3. i have decided i want to learn how to play the ukelele. for reasons.

4. the justification for purchasing these saltwater sandals are twofold. first, i already have a red pair and they are crazy amazing and still look great after two summers of wear. and second, i've been needing a pair of black sandals since my favorite (and only) pair bit the dust. (they had so much life left to live!)

5. Not Your Mothers makes my very favorite dry shampoo, so i really want to try out their sea salt spray. i'll let you know if it lives up to my high expectations.

6. a juicer! ashley and i did a juice cleanse over a year ago. and while it was maybe the grumpiest three days of my life, i do miss the juice sometimes. especially the green juice.

i just realized it's forecasted to snow three days this week. it's going to be a while before i bust out any kind of footwear that doesn't require socks. boo.

Friday, February 15, 2013

(Delay on) friday favorites.

We're both out on vacay today!
So no extensive list of friday favorites.

But in the mean time, do enjoy these driving dogs for charity

and my current favorite Blind Pilot song, The Story I Heard:

Israel Nebeker's voice makes me want to curl up in a blanket inside of his vocal chords and have the most peaceful, enlightening slumber of my life.

I'm sorry if that's weird.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Happy Valen-Dean's Day

We're big fans of Community over here on Simple Flavors are Key.

Enjoy these Community valentine Halloween-themed cards.

This season's Halloween episode happens to fall on Valentine's day because of the delay in the season's scheduled opening date, and this has been a brilliant way to tie the two together.

 Don't forget to watch Community TONIGHT!  And every Thursday thereafter.

A Sweet (and quick) Breakfast

Happy Valentine's Day!

I'm one of those people that loves Valentine's Day.  And not because I love being with a significant other, although that's a plus these days.  But one of my most memorable Valentine's Days was a few years ago.  I took the day off work.  I got a dozen roses and gave one to each of my roommates, and two to each of the women in my family.  I spent the day visiting with my mom, meeting my sister at her kids' elementary and playing tag at recess with the kids, driving an hour to see my other sister at work and deliver her flowers (along with a Pepsi).  That evening, I got ice cream and enjoyed the crap out of a RedBox movie.  It was a beautiful day.

And when I'm not celebrating on my own, I'm celebrating at work!  We always do a Valentine's Box contest, and this year, I made Heart2-D2, the Valentine's Robot.  He's a charmer.
(And yes, I was watching Hope Floats in the background.)

BUT!  This year, I DO have a significant other to celebrate with, namely Husband.  I let him know I'd be making breakfast for us before work, and while Husband slept (he was up working til 1:30), I headed to the kitchen to prep breakfast.  And I found this gorgeous bouquet.

He done good.  I was just sad I couldn't take it into work with me.

Breakfast consisted of bacon (Husband's favorite) and fresh pink grapefruit juice:

Granola and raspberries (and a surprise letter):

And sausage, egg, and cheese breakfast biscuits, which I totally forgot to take a picture of.  But here's a smart idea for those on a busy morning--put pre-cooked sausage patties in the bottom of a greased muffin tin, crack an egg over the top, and bake it at 350 for 10-15 minutes til the egg is at your desired doneness.  It saves a lot of dishes and prep time!

Hope your day is filled with love; for family, friends, yourself, and just maybe a significant other as well!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

to haircut. or not.

in the spring of 2009 i got the sudden urge to chop my hair off. i was fresh off a break-up that had been a long time coming. (like pretty much since our first date, since he was really just a rebound from my last boyfriend. a boyfriend who happened to be his friend/roommate. but that's really another story...) so probably a week after the thought first occured to me, i was sitting in a swively chair wearing that uncomfortable apron and reading a people magazine so i wouldn't have to talk to the hairdresser. i really hate small talk guys. more than almost anything.
i came away with this.

i first need to address my ridiculous self portrait and remind you that it was a simpler time then. and that i really favored the high contrast color edit (i actually had to lighten it up a lot it so you could actually see the haircut). also i wish i could say that i found this picture buried away in the depths of my computer, but actually it's just an old facebook profile picture. we learn and we grow.
so the point of all this rambling is that i am again struck by the notion of cutting my hair off. something in this family.

yes, i am obsessed with alexa chung. hopefully in a not-creepy way.
so i guess my only hang-ups about hair decision 2013 are as follows. first, i've been growing my hair out since regretting the last big chop. i don't really want that to happen again. second, my hair is real easy to do now. like, i basically shower, half dry it and then go to sleep. wake up, brush, go. short hair is usually more upkeep. and thirdly, i don't want to fall into the stereotype of the girl who gets married and suddenly chops off her hair and stops wearing make-up. that's a stereotype right?

... (Ashley's chiming in)...

If it's a stereotype, then it's apparently one I've fallen into.  Lo and behold, my new hair cut:

I mean, it's not that short.  And to be fair, I was already planning on chopping my hair (considering a pixie cut?) pre-marriage.  That may still occur come spring/summer time.  But the no makeup thing?  Double check.  Add to that list a total lack of outfit accessorizing, and you've got me pegged.
we will keep you posted as our hair decisions progress.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Crock Pot Chicken Stock

By the dock. Ready to rock. On the clock. Pop and lock.

I'm sorry.  I was on a roll.  Did you know I used to write poetry a lot?  I mistakenly told Husband that I once wrote a rap.  Like, I thought I was going to be the first blonde white girl from Taylorsville, UT to be a RESPECTED rapper.  He's fond of mocking me for it.  And it's okay, because I deserve it.

Alright, back to the chicken stock.  Have you made a roast chicken recently?  Of course you have, because it's fast, easy, and a genius way to keep protein in the fridge all week.  That guy above these words was made according to this recipe, which is genius.  Like, crazy delicious. But when I need my roasted chicken to be fast and nearly completely hands off, I riff off this recipe to cook the chicken right in the crock pot.  I seriously do this nearly once a week.

Husband loves it so he can eat chicken on toast, sometimes with cheese melted on top (gross, right?)  I love it to make actual chicken salads and chicken sandwiches and BBQ chicken pizzas and to have ready made protein for quick pastas and soups.

Okay, so if you've made the crock pot chicken, the idea is that once you take all the meat off the chicken, you throw the carcass and bones/skin back into the crock pot (I hate the word carcass, and I'm sorry it has to be used.)  In the crock pot already is the chicken drippings and onions on top of which the chicken has cooked.  Add some veggies and a lot of water and some seasonings, and let it simmer on low overnight, or up to 10 hours.  In the morning, remove all the large chunks you can, and throw those away.  All their essence is in the beautiful stock! 

Strain your stock into tupperwares or jars.  This can get messy, so I always do it over the sink.  Do whatever works for you!

And you, too, can have healthful, homemade chicken stock!  See, easy peasy.  I use it in so many applications.  Soups, sauces, pastas... You'll be amazed how often you use it up.  Also, see how it's gathering that layer of fat on top?  That's okay!  You can spoon that off if you'd like, but even better is to let it harden in the fridge.  Then, when you go to use the stock, removal is simple.  Just break the surface and scoop it right out.  Bonus:  that layer of fat helps keep any bacteria from getting to your stock.

Crock Pot Chicken Stock
(makes about 8-10 cups, depending on crock pot and chicken size)

1 chicken carcass (skin, bones, tough meat)
Chicken drippings, including 1 onion, roughly chopped
2-3 carrots, roughly chopped
2-3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
1-2 Bay leaves
1-2 teaspoons Thyme
Salt and Pepper, to taste

Put chicken carcass, drippings, veggies, and seasonings into crock pot.  Add water, filling crock pot to about one inch below the pot lip.  Set the crock pot on low for 10 hours, and let simmer.
After 10 hours, use a slotted spoon to remove bones, veggies, etc.  Put these into a plastic bag to be thrown away.  Set a mesh strainer/sieve over a tupperware or glass jar.  Using a measuring cup or bowl, scoop out stock and pour through strainer into tupperware.
Store in the refrigerator for up to a couple weeks.
Before using stock, be sure to spoon fat off the top.  Any seasonings that might get through the strainer are fine, but will settle to the bottom of your jar, so just be sure to not use that last tablespoon or so of dregs.

P.S.  If you're vegetarian, you can totally use this same method.  Except instead of using a chicken carcass and drippings, just throw a ton of veggies/veggie scraps (like peels) into the crock pot with all that water.