barbecue chicken salad

Photo May 04, 5 38 09 PM

I told you summer is back in full force here in Florida. I can't get enough of easy summer salads. This one came about because I had a rough day at work and really wanted to avoid cooking. We had some leftover shredded chicken from the weekend and I used whatever we had in the pantry to create this. Throw in whatever you have to customize! Tortilla chips would be great with this.

barbecue chicken salad

shredded chicken (no measurement because I just used whatever I had left)
2-3 cups spinach
about 2/3 cup corn
about 2/3 cup black beans
1/4 cup diced red onion
about 1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1/4 cup ranch dressing
about 1/3 cup barbecue sauce (we used Archer Farms' Molasses and Cayenne sauce)

If you're using canned corn and beans, rinse before adding to the salad. This helps minimize the added sodium. Like any other salad, combine everything in a bowl and serve. You can try to make it look pretty before serving, but we're usually too impatient for that.

This is probably my new favorite post-work meal. As long as there is chicken ready to go this comes together in under five minutes.

coffee two ways

If I haven't made this clear before, I love a good cup of coffee. It's even better when made at home. After years of mediocre drip coffee, I've started experimenting with different brewing systems: french press, espresso, Chemex, and others.

Johnny let me pick out my anniversary gift this year. I had been thinking about getting a Chemex coffee maker, so I took him up on the offer and got one. At the same time, I had some major credit card points burning a hole in my pocket and also bought an iced coffee maker off of Amazon. Suddenly we're fancy coffee people.

Chemex coffee

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There are coffee guides floating around on the internet that detail this whole process (I've been partial to this one). We don't have a kitchen scale, so I've been converting grams to cups and hoping for the best. For my naive tastebuds this process works just fine. I've been using Caribou Coffee's caribou blend beans while I test out my method, but we have a nice Ethiopian roast from a local roaster to try.

Immediately I noticed that my coffee had less oils and a way less bitter taste. Caribou's medium roast is my go-to in K-cups and for iced coffee, but I notice a bitterness to it. With the Chemex, I find myself wanting to drink more than one cup because it's so smooth. I would recommend this just to get rid of the bitterness and oils found in most commercial coffees. The whole process takes around 5 minutes for us, from grinding beans and boiling water (we use this electric kettle) to having a cup ready to drink.

Hario cold brewed coffee maker

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Image source

Before purchasing this, I was making my cold brewed coffee in my french press (this method) and storing it in a mason jar in the fridge. This method was working just fine, but I wanted to make more concentrate in something that fit better in our fridge. This is a pretty straightforward process. I grind enough beans to fill the filter container and pour in cold water until the container is full. I let the coffee sit for 18-24 hours, but this is ready to drink in 12.

I've noticed that my cold brewed coffee concentrate is less strong and smoother than what I was getting from the french press. This is actually better for me because I can use more coffee and less additions, which saves calories. I also don't get any leftover grinds in the concentrate. For $18, this coffee maker was a good purchase for me.

We still use our Keurig and espresso maker constantly, but these give us two new ways to enjoy our coffee on the weekends. 

What is your favorite way to make your coffee? Do you change your methods between weekdays and weekends? Let me know in the comments! Coffee is one of my favorite things to talk about.

strawberry farro salad

I don't know about you, but it's feeling a whole lot like summer here (complete with our daily thunderstorms). My go-to meal during the summer is grilled meat and a salad. I love making hearty and refreshing salads quickly after work. It's a blank canvas just waiting to becoming something amazing.

Photo Apr 29, 6 44 08 PM

This salad definitely fit the bill. I had a vision of strawberry, basil, and balsamic vinegar but ran out of balsamic before this salad. I would highly suggest using a balsamic vinaigrette to complement the strawberry, feta cheese, and basil. It was the one thing missing from ours that would have made it perfect.

As always, this is meant to serve 2-3 people and all measurements are approximate and to taste. If you don't like something, leave it out or sub with something else. Cooking is all about appealing to your tastes.

strawberry farro salad

2-3 cups fresh spinach.
about 1 cup cooked farro
1.5 cup sliced strawberries
1/2 cup toasted walnuts
8-10 basil leaves, torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
balsamic vinaigrette, to taste
salt and pepper, to taste

This is so easy. Combine everything in a bowl and serve. We had ours with a citrus and herb roasted cod from Target (look for Simply Balanced in the frozen aisle). It's so hearty and filling, but light and refreshing at the same time. Welcome back, summer meals.

my first knitting project

Photo Apr 29, 7 37 32 PM

I decided to pick up some yarn and knitting needles a few months ago on a whim. I didn't know what I wanted out of this impromptu purchase, but I was watching a lot of Netflix and wanted to feel like I was being a little more productive than I really was. Enter knitting…

Photo Apr 30, 8 12 28 PM

This is technically my second project, but it was the first one I finished. It's nothing fancy. It started as a swatch to practice my purl stitch and ended up being large enough to be a potholder/thing I use when my bowl of soup is waaaaay too hot to handle. I used size 8 needles and cast on 24 stitches of this random yellow yarn I found on clearance. I did four rows of garter stitch before switching to a k2p2 pattern and finishing on another four rows of garter stitch. I didn't get ribbing because the amount I cast on was off for that pattern. I was adding stitches at some points and I lost count more than a few times. It's not perfect, but it is the first thing I've finished since school ended. 

The practice I got on this project really helped. I now know two different stitches and how to cast off. I also understand what I need to do to get a basic ribbing pattern. But more than just practice, this project is the first thing I've completely follow-throughed on in 2015. It's so cool to use something that I created, no matter how basic it may be. I created this, and that was the kickstart I needed

Photo May 02, 9 00 14 PM

What was your first breakthrough on a new hobby or project? Do you have any tips for the beginning knitter? I still have a scarf that's sitting on my table to finish, so any tips are created appreciated.

overcoming post-graduation paralysis

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When I graduated in December, I made all of these grand plans for my newly found free time. I was going to run everywhere, cook up a storm, save all the money, and generally work on this blog. None of that happened. Instead, I chose to sit in front of the tv and binge on Netflix. I really did nothing productive for my first four months. I needed that, but I took it to an extreme. I was paralyzed. I've been working towards huge goals my whole life (usually of the graduation persuasion), and I didn't know how to handle not having that. I shut down.

I have to work harder now to fill my time and feel fulfilled with what I'm doing. I wasn't expecting that. I expected my time to just fill up like it always had, no effort needed. And it's amazing how easy it is to fall into this trap of doing nothing. It's almost like an endless cycle until you make the effort to break it.

I've finally started that effort. I'm finally comfortable trying new hobbies. I'm picking back up old hobbies (see: me posting again). I'm searching for things outside of my (very small) comfort zone to make me happy, and I'm finding things. It just takes trying new things to get out of that paralysis. I'm done wasting my time.

Finally.

PS: I have a backlog of posts ready to go very, very soon. I'm in the middle of a redesign and don't want to post anything picture-heavy until I know my new dimensions.