Rhode Island in Autumn

IMG_1969Autumn is our favorite time of year, and New England is one of the best places to take in the colors of the foliage. We just returned from a Thanksgiving trip to my home state of Rhode Island, and we had a wonderful time admiring the sights of the season. Here are some photos from the autumn trips that we have taken over the past few years.

IMG_1972IMG_1959Downtown Providence, as well as the campus of my alma mater, Brown University, are great places to take a leisurely stroll along tree-lined streets.

IMG_1931IMG_1928Of course, the best way to experience the foliage is to go for a walk in the woods. Hearing the distinctive crunching sound of the dead leaves under your feet is always a delight.

IMG_1923The color green isn’t entirely absent. The mossy texture on some of the fallen trees compliments the browns and reds around it.

IMG_1327IMG_1922IMG_1914My parents have a house with a large wooded area on the property, and some of these logs fueled the wood oven for our Thanksgiving meats.

IMG_6142IMG_6147The Newport Mansions are a sight to behold at any time of year.

IMG_1952When I think of the Rhode Island of my youth, I will always picture it with the colors of autumn leaves, and the feeling of the light chilly wind blowing in my hair. That window of time after the humid summers, and before the brutal winters, is New England at its best.

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White Bean and Rib Stew

IMG_1909Beans were my very first solid food, and to this day have remained one of my very favorite foods. There isn’t a type of bean I don’t like, and going more than a few weeks without having some form of them is rare for my family. When it comes to white beans in particular, this flavorful and hearty stew beats out all other recipes for this legume.

IMG_1903The stars of this dish are of course the beans themselves, and the dry guaque chiles that give it it’s rich and moderately spicy flavor.

Ingredients: 1 lb white beans, 1 lb pork ribs, 1 1/2 guaque chiles, 3 tomatoes, 1/2 red bell pepper, 1/2 yellow onion, 4 small tomatillos, 3 garlic cloves, 1 bay leaf, 4 sprigs thyme, 2 tsp ground cumin, 1 Tbsp dry oregano, salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_1905Instructions: Slice the tomatoes, tomatillos, onion, and peppers, and place on a hot griddle along with peeled garlic cloves. Turn over after 2-3 minutes, allowing the undersides to slightly char and soften. Add grilled vegetables to a blender with a cup of water and blend until smooth.

IMG_1906Add the beans, ribs (cut into smaller pieces), bay leaf, thyme, cumin, blended ingredients, salt and pepper to taste, and enough water to just cover everything to a pressure cooker. Cook for about 45 minutes, and slowly allow pressure to release. Add the oregano and stir. If you would like to thicken the stew you can take out some of the beans, blend, and re-add to the stew.

IMG_1908Serve hot with rice, and garnish with cilantro.

 

 


Autumn Biscotti

IMG_1893October is nearing its end and we are embracing autumn and all of the treats that go with it. To welcome the new season I made these autumn spiced biscotti with an apple cider glaze that felt just right. They’re not too heavy, but still have a warm and comforting spiced flavor. An Italian biscotti recipe from James’ grandmother’s collection served as my starting point, and I then added some classic autumn spices and mixed nuts to make it my own. The apple cider glaze is the perfect touch to complete the flavor profile, and enjoy with warm apple cider.

IMG_1894Ingredients:

For the biscotti: 3/12 cups flour, 1 cup sugar, 3 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg, 1/2 tsp ginger, 1 tsp cinnamon, 6 eggs, 3/4 cup vegetable oil, 3/4 cup chopped mixed nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans)

For the apple cider glaze: 1 cup spiced apple cider, 2 Tbsp butter, 3/4 cup powdered sugar, pinch of cinnamon

IMG_1886Instructions: Pre-heat oven to 400F. Mix all of the dry ingredients in one bowl, and the eggs and oil in a separate bowl. Whisk the eggs and oil to break up the egg yolks, then add to the bowl with dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. Add nuts to mixture and stir to combine.

IMG_1891Scoop out the mixture onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to form two loaves, then bake for 25 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Slice thin slices from each loaf and lay each piece flat on the baking sheet. Return to oven to toast for another 5-10 minutes, until lightly browned.

IMG_1895Add apple cider to a small saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes, until it has reduced by half. Add remaining ingredients, and continue to simmer for another 5 minutes until glaze has thickened to a syrup like consistency.

Once the cookies have cooled, lightly drizzle each with the apple cider glaze. Serve with apple cider for a perfect autumnal treat.

 

 


Bathroom Refresh

IMG_1856aOur master bathroom is currently a very tight space that fits just the essentials. There is a closet right next to it that we plan to demolish someday to expand the bathroom to fit a double vanity and a bit more space. However, with a baby coming (not to mention the mental fatigue of home remodeling after the past year of large projects), we decided to hold off on making any big structural changes in this room. Instead, we have been making some relatively simple changes to improve upon the unsightliness from the previous owners. Overall, it’s functional and pleasant enough to hold us over for the next few years.

img_0945bPreviously, the floor tile was a hideous speckled blue, so we knew that was one of the first things that needed to change. We were not going through the massive undertaking of replacing the floor tile, so the only option was to paint it. We used colors that we had already been using elsewhere in the house, and placed a stencil on every other tile.

IMG_1857We painted the cabinet doors a color that would compliment the moulding and floor, and changed the lighting fixture and switch plates. On the mirror, we glued four little metal rosettes to the corners to give it some presence.

IMG_1859IMG_1861After the major work, we decorated with items such as new curtains, bath mats, and some small frames that would fit the space. Introducing a bamboo shelf and wicker baskets gave us more space for storage and easy access to every day toiletries. Though these changes have been small, it has made a world of a difference.

 

 

 

 

 


San Francisco

IMG_1807To celebrate our anniversary this year, we decided to take a weekend trip to San Francisco. We’ve made the drive up many times over the past few years. In fact, it was the first weekend getaway that we had together a few months into our relationship. Each time, we visit old favorites, and enjoy discovering something new as well. We realize that it will probably be a while before we take another trip without children, so we especially cherished these moments as a couple. Here are some of our favorite spots around the city from over the years.

IMG_1806The first time that we visited the Golden Gate Bridge, it was completely consumed by fog. We could only hear the sounds of traffic while looking up into a blanket of white. Fortunately, we have now been able to see it on a clear day, and it is certainly a beautiful sight.

IMG_1711Eating some tasty treats at the Ferry Building is a must during a pleasant stroll along the Embarcadero.

IMG_1714In a city full of hills, Coit Tower makes Telegraph Hill outshine them all.

IMG_1237We have not yet visited the California State Capitol in Sacramento, but it’s hard to imagine that it would live up to the grandeur of San Francisco City Hall.

IMG_1750IMG_1757The architecture of San Francisco is definitely not afraid to embrace color. The painted ladies around Alamo Square are the quintessential examples of this. It’s fun to think about what color schemes we would use if we were painting some of them.

IMG_9048IMG_0033The 49ers have been James’ favorite team since he was a baby. A few years ago we were able to make it to Candlestick Park during the 49ers’ final season there. It was not a very good stadium, but we were glad to see it before demolition.

IMG_1813IMG_0021Of all the beautiful sites in the city, the Palace of Fine Arts is our favorite. The landscaping around the lagoon frames the monumental architecture quite nicely.

IMG_1728The striking shape of the iconic Transamerica Pyramid makes the San Francisco skyline instantly recognizable.

IMG_1782IMG_1776IMG_1781It’s wonderful that the cultural identity of Chinatown has been maintained for more than a century. The pagoda roofs, lanterns, and neon signs give this neighborhood such a dynamic energy.

IMG_1765We enjoy visiting San Francisco often, but of course, we will be taking a hiatus for the next couple of years. Once our baby is old enough to roam the hills with us, we hope to bring it back as a frequent destination.


Mocktails

Over the past few months of pregnancy, I have begun to embrace mocktails: delicious non-alcoholic beverages made with a variety of ingredients, much like a regular cocktail. This way, I can still have a drink with nuanced flavor, while feeling like I’m part of the festivities during social gatherings.

IMG_1707Blackberry and green plum spritz: For this drink I used a Korean green plum extract to give the drink some sweetness and extra flavor. Paired with muddled blackberries for tartness and just a splash of sparkling water, it makes a refreshing drink that isn’t too sweet.

Instructions: Muddle 4 blackberries with 1 oz of green plum extract in a glass. Add ice and top with sparkling water.

IMG_1709Mocktail Moscow Mule: This drink follows a basic Moscow mule recipe, but without the vodka. I like to add lots of lime juice, which is not only tasty but has also been a great aid with morning sickness the last few months.

Instructions: Juice a small lime and add to a copper mug along with a few sprigs of fresh mint. Add ice and fill mug with ginger beer of choice.

IMG_1710Coconut and pineapple daiquiri: I love tropical fruits, and tiki cocktails are some of my favorites. Most tiki drinks are made up of fruit juices and syrups with the addition of rums.

Instructions: 1/2 cup frozen pineapple pieces, 1/2 cup coconut milk, 1.5 oz orange juice, 1 oz grenadine, 1 oz almond syrup (can be made by making a 1/4 cup of simple syrup with 1tsp of almond extract). Add all of the ingredients to a blender and blend until smooth.

 


Pregnancy Announcement

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We are thrilled to announce that a new Baby Dastoli will be arriving in March!


Coconut Rice

IMG_1695I remember going through a phase as a child when I didn’t like coconut at all. I don’t quite remember when that changed, but it’s safe to say that I now love all things coconut flavored, sweet and savory. Though savory coconut is not as common, this coconut rice with red beans and a little bit of jalapeño spice is one of my favorite rice side dishes.

IMG_1696Ingredients: 1 1/2 cups white rice, 1 jalapeño, 5 sprigs of thyme, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 can coconut milk, 1 can red kidney beans, salt and pepper to taste.

IMG_1684Instructions: Add olive oil to a pot with lid or dutch oven over medium heat. Remove seeds from jalapeño and slice, add to pot along with thyme and lightly sauté. Add rice and mix until rice is lightly coated with olive oil. Sauté rice until just starting to get toasty and aromatic.

Add can of coconut milk, about half the can worth of water, beans, salt and pepper. Stir gently to combine ingredients, cover, and lower heat. Cook for about 35 minutes, until liquid is gone and rice is cooked through.

IMG_1691You can serve it as a side to any meal, but I especially love pairing it with a hearty meat dish and relaxing on the patio on a summer evening.

 

 


Mushroom Ravioli

IMG_1683Ever since getting the pasta attachment for my stand mixer, I have been dabbling in making homemade pasta. I especially love preparing fresh pasta for guests, or for a romantic date night in. Ravioli in particular can be a perfect special dinner for two without spending the money on going out to a restaurant. This mushroom ravioli, stuffed with a creamy mushroom filling and covered with an herby mushroom sauce, is one of our absolute favorites.

IMG_1670IMG_1673For the pasta: 5oz flour, 1/2 tsp salt, 1 whole egg, 2 egg yolks (reserve one egg white for later).

Add all ingredients to the bowl of a stand mixer with dough hook and mix for about 10 minutes. All of the ingredients will come together to form a ball and hook will knead the dough until it is smooth and shiny. Wrap dough in plastic, and let sit for at least one hour. When dough has rested, cut in half and roughly shape each piece into rectangles, flattening with the palm of your hand, and lightly dust with flour. Run each piece of dough through the pasta attachment, starting on setting 1 and gradually making your way to 5. I like to run the dough through each number about 3 times. Once each piece has gone through setting 5 at least twice, cut each strip in half and rest on a baking sheet lightly dusted with flour until ready to use.

IMG_1675For the filling: 1 tsp olive oil, 2 1/2 cups roughly diced mushrooms (any kind and combination you’d like), 1 small diced shallot, 2 diced garlic cloves, 4 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 tbsp butter, 3/4 cup ricotta cheese, 1/2 cup parmesan cheese

While the dough is resting you can start making the ravioli filling. Heat olive oil in skillet and add shallots and garlic. Sauté shallots and garlic until starting to lightly brown, then add mushrooms and thyme. Lower heat to low and let simmer gently until mushrooms are cooked through. Add butter and salt and pepper to taste. Remove the thyme sprigs and let the mushrooms cool, then add to a bowl with ricotta and parmesan cheeses. Mix until thoroughly combined.

IMG_1676IMG_1677To make the ravioli, lay out the sheets of pasta and place about a tablespoon for each ravioli of mushroom filling along the sheet. Brush with egg whites along the edges of the filling. Cover with the second half of the pasta, then gently press around the edges of the filling to seal each ravioli and remove air.

IMG_1678Using a ravioli stamp press each ravioli along the edges to give them their proper shape. Gently pull each ravioli apart and set aside. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook ravioli for about 3 minutes, until they all float to top. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on plates.

IMG_1681For the sauce: 1 tsp olive oil, 1 garlic clove, 1 cup sliced mushrooms, 1 cup chicken broth, 2 tbsp minced parsley, 1 tbsp butter

Heat olive oil in skillet and add garlic. Add mushrooms and sauté for a couple of minutes, until mushrooms start to lightly brown. Add chicken broth and parsley and let simmer until broth has reduced by about half. Add butter and salt and pepper to taste, mix well.

IMG_1682Drizzle mushroom sauce over freshly made ravioli, and garnish with fresh parsley to complete the dish.